Sunday, July 31, 2022

Pg. 69: Ruthanna Emrys's "A Half-Built Garden"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: A Half-Built Garden by Ruthanna Emrys.

About the book, from the publisher:
A literary descendent of Ursula K. Le Guin, Ruthanna Emrys crafts a novel of extraterrestrial diplomacy and urgent climate repair bursting with quiet, tenuous hope and an underlying warmth. A Half-Built Garden depicts a world worth building towards, a humanity worth saving from itself, and an alien community worth entering with open arms. It's not the easiest future to build, but it's one that just might be in reach.

On a warm March night in 2083, Judy Wallach-Stevens wakes to a warning of unknown pollutants in the Chesapeake Bay. She heads out to check what she expects to be a false alarm—and stumbles upon the first alien visitors to Earth. These aliens have crossed the galaxy to save humanity, convinced that the people of Earth must leave their ecologically-ravaged planet behind and join them among the stars. And if humanity doesn't agree, they may need to be saved by force.

But the watershed networks that rose up to save the planet from corporate devastation aren't ready to give up on Earth. Decades ago, they reorganized humanity around the hope of keeping the world liveable. By sharing the burden of decision-making, they've started to heal our wounded planet.

Now corporations, nation-states, and networks all vie to represent humanity to these powerful new beings, and if anyone accepts the aliens' offer, Earth may be lost. With everyone’s eyes turned skyward, the future hinges on Judy's effort to create understanding, both within and beyond her own species.
Visit Ruthanna Emrys's website.

The Page 69 Test: Deep Roots.

Writers Read: Ruthanna Emrys (July 2018).

Q&A with Ruthanna Emrys.

The Page 69 Test: A Half-Built Garden.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Aaron Skabelund's "Inglorious, Illegal Bastards"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Inglorious, Illegal Bastards: Japan's Self-Defense Force during the Cold War by Aaron Skabelund.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Inglorious, Illegal Bastards, Aaron Herald Skabelund examines how the Self-Defense Force (SDF)—the post–World War II Japanese military—and specifically the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF), struggled for legitimacy in a society at best indifferent to them and often hostile to their very existence.

From the early iterations of the GSDF as the Police Reserve Force and the National Safety Force, through its establishment as the largest and most visible branch of the armed forces, the GSDF deployed an array of public outreach and public service initiatives, including off-base and on-base events, civil engineering projects, and natural disaster relief operations. Internally, the GSDF focused on indoctrination of its personnel to fashion a reconfigured patriotism and esprit de corps. These efforts to gain legitimacy achieved some success and influenced the public over time, but they did not just change society. They also transformed the force itself, as it assumed new priorities and traditions and contributed to the making of a Cold War defense identity, which came to be shared by wider society in Japan. As Inglorious, Illegal Bastards demonstrates, this identity endures today, several decades after the end of the Cold War.
Learn more about Inglorious, Illegal Bastards at the Cornell University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Empire of Dogs.

The Page 99 Test: Inglorious, Illegal Bastards.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight top unconventional coming-of-age horror novels

Born in North Carolina, raised in Arizona, and now residing in New York, Nat Cassidy in an award-winning playwright, director, actor, musician, and author.

His new novel is Mary: An Awakening of Terror.

At CrimeReads Cassidy tagged eight "coming-of-age horror novels that aren’t about teenagerhood." One title on the list:
The Changeling, by Victor LaValle

Not everyone becomes a parent, and not everyone who does becomes a committed parent, but those that do are likely to agree that once it happens, your life gets divided into two distinct halves: Before and After. Perhaps LaValle’s brilliant, phantasmagoric, fantasy-horror epic isn’t exactly a coming-of-age story as it is a coming-into-a-new-identity story—but that’s what every new “age” is for us, isn’t it? Apollo Kagwa grew up without a father and, as such, he’s extra determined to be there for his baby son. For an all-too-brief moment, it seems like all Apollo’s dreams have come true. He has the perfect love, the perfect life … and then it all goes to hell. If there’s one thing every coming-of-age story has, it’s that moment where you finally have to reassess everything you thought you knew. This book has that in buckets. It’s a book about grief and dizzying fear and instability and discovery, but also about forgiveness and revelation and being unable to see the world in the same way once you learn some hard—even impossible—truths.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Changeling is among Benjamin Percy's top five novels about dangerous plants, James Han Mattson's five top dark and disturbing reads, A.K. Larkwood's five tense books that blend sci-fi and horror, Leah Schnelbach's ten sci-fi and fantasy must-reads from the 2010s, T. Marie Vandelly's top ten suspenseful horror novels featuring domestic terrors and C.J. Tudor's six thrillers featuring missing, mistaken, or "changed" children.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Q&A with Ruthanna Emrys

From my Q&A with Ruthanna Emrys, author of A Half-Built Garden:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I wrote this entire novel under the working title of The Fifth Power – a reference to how the people of 2083 think about themselves. They see the dandelion networks – which integrate human opinion with AI advocates for rivers and prairies and trees – as improving on four earlier forms of power (nature dominating humans, religion, nation-states, corporations).

My editor hated that title, though, so I ended up with a whole page of ideas riffing on images and ideas that were important to the story. These ranged from Bring Us To This Season (emphasizing the Jewish characters with a prayer about survival through hard times), to The Reach and the Grasp (referring to the alien Ringers’ obsession with symbiosis), to about two minutes of consideration for Symbiosis and Synthesis. I do think first contact is a kind of novel-of-manners, but this isn’t actually an Austen riff and I’m the only one who’d get the joke.

I finally chose A Half-Built Garden as a metaphor that works for all the conflicting groups in the book. They’re all in the middle of some great effort, whether it’s keeping Earth habitable or building a Dyson Sphere, and for all of them success depends on...[read on]
Visit Ruthanna Emrys's website.

The Page 69 Test: Deep Roots.

Writers Read: Ruthanna Emrys (July 2018).

Q&A with Ruthanna Emrys.

--Marshal Zeringue

Andrew Doig's "This Mortal Coil"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: This Mortal Coil: A History of Death by Andrew Doig.

About the book, from the publisher:
Causes of death have changed irrevocably across time. In the course of a few centuries we have gone from a world where disease or violence were likely to strike anyone at any age, and where famine could be just one bad harvest away, to one where in many countries excess food is more of a problem than a lack of it. Why have the reasons we die changed so much? How is it that a century ago people died mainly from infectious disease, while today the leading causes of death in industrialised nations are heart disease and stroke? And what do changing causes of death reveal about how previous generations have lived?

University of Manchester Professor Andrew Doig provides an eye-opening portrait of death throughout history, looking at particular causes – from infectious disease to genetic disease, violence to diet – who they affected, and the people who made it possible to overcome them. Along the way we hear about the long and torturous story of the discovery of vitamin C and its role in preventing scurvy; the Irish immigrant who opened the first washhouse for the poor of Liverpool, and in so doing educated the public on the importance of cleanliness in combating disease; and the Church of England curate who, finding his new church equipped with a telephone, started the Samaritans to assist those in emotional distress.

This Mortal Coil is a thrilling story of growing medical knowledge and social organisation, of achievement and, looking to the future, of promise.
Follow Andrew Doig on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: This Mortal Coil.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten indispensable black, queer, & feminist coming-of-age stories

Mecca Jamilah Sullivan is the author of The Poetics of Difference: Queer Feminist Forms in the African Diaspora (2021), the short story collection, Blue Talk and Love (2015), winner of the Judith Markowitz Award for Fiction from Lambda Literary, and the new novel Big Girl.

Sullivan is Associate Professor of English at Georgetown University, where she teaches courses in African American poetry and poetics, Black queer and feminist literatures, and creative writing. She lives in Washington, DC.

At Publishers Weekly she tagged ten "indispensable stories of Black, feminist, and LGBTQ+ coming of age," including:
Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon

Laymon’s acclaimed memoir tells the truth about growing up in a fat Black body in 20th-century America. In sharp and often devastating prose, Laymon reveals the links between racism, classism, and patriarchal violence that constrain our bodies and the language we use to understand them. Heavy gives us the kind of frank, vulnerable narrator we fall in love with in coming-of-age fiction, bringing a novelistic sense of character and connection to a story of becoming that’s urgently true.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 29, 2022

Pg. 69: Zac Topping's "Wake of War"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Wake of War: A Novel by Zac Topping.

About the book, from the publisher:
“I just hope I’m on the right side of history.”

The United States of America is a crumbling republic. With the value of the dollar imploding, the government floundering, and national outrage and resentment growing by the hour, a rebellion has caught fire. The Revolutionary Front, led by Joseph Graham, has taken control of Salt Lake City.

In a nation where opportunity is sequestered behind the gilded doors of the rich and powerful, joining the Army seemed like James Trent’s best option. He just never thought he’d see combat. Now Trent finds himself on the front lines fighting for something he doesn’t even know if he believes in. Destroying innocent lives wasn’t what he signed on for, and he can feel himself slipping away with every casualty.

Sharpshooter Sam Cross was just fourteen when American soldiers gunned down her parents and forced her brother into conscription. Now, five years later, retribution feels like her only option to stitch the wound of her past. She has accepted Joseph Graham’s offer to be his secret weapon. His Reaper in the Valley. But retribution always comes at a cost.

When forces clash in Salt Lake City, alliances will be shattered, resolve will be tested, and when the dust clears nobody will be able to lie to themselves, or be lied to, again.
Visit Zac Topping's website.

The Page 69 Test: Wake of War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Michele Moody-Adams's "Making Space for Justice"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Making Space for Justice: Social Movements, Collective Imagination, and Political Hope by Michele Moody-Adams.

About the book, from the publisher:
From nineteenth-century abolitionism to Black Lives Matter today, progressive social movements have been at the forefront of social change. Yet it is seldom recognized that such movements have not only engaged in political action but also posed crucial philosophical questions about the meaning of justice and about how the demands of justice can be met.

Michele Moody-Adams argues that anyone who is concerned with the theory or the practice of justice—or both—must ask what can be learned from social movements. Drawing on a range of compelling examples, she explores what they have shown about the nature of justice as well as what it takes to create space for justice in the world. Moody-Adams considers progressive social movements as wellsprings of moral inquiry and as agents of social change, drawing out key philosophical and practical principles. Social justice demands humane regard for others, combining compassionate concern and robust respect. Successful movements have drawn on the transformative power of imagination, strengthening the motivation to pursue justice and to create the political institutions and social policies that can sustain it by inspiring political hope.

Making Space for Justice contends that the insights arising from social movements are critical to bridging the gap between discerning theory and effective practice—and should be transformative for political thought as well as for political activism.
Visit Michele Moody-Adams's website.

The Page 99 Test: Making Space for Justice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Nine books about the beauty & complexities of chosen families

Gabe Montesanti is a queer, Midwestern roller derby player. She earned her BA in mathematics and studio art from Kalamazoo College and her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Washington University in St. Louis. She has had work published in Belt Magazine, Brevity, The Offing, and Boulevard Magazine. Her piece, "The Worldwide Roller Derby Convention" was recognized as a notable essay in The Best American Essays 2020. Her roller derby memoir, Brace for Impact, came out from The Dial Press in May, 2022.

At Electric Lit Montesanti tagged "nine books, by authors whose sexualities and gender identities span the gamut, [that] portray the beauty and complexity of chosen family," including:
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

Torrey Peters’ debut novel centers three characters: Reese, a trans woman, Ames (formally, Amy, who recently detransitioned), and Katrina, Ames’ boss, who is pregnant with their child. Peters, who came out as trans at 26, said she was inspired to create Ames’ character after an experience in 2016 in which she dressed in a suit to avoid probing questions from customs agents about her male passport. Not only does this story describe the process of intentionally finding family in the trans community, it also addresses how chosen family can do as much harm and good as blood relatives.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 28, 2022

What is Paula Munier reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Paula Munier, author of The Wedding Plot: A Mercy Carr Mystery.

One book Munier mentioned:
Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law by Mary Roach

I read a lot of books on nature, and this one by the author the Washington Post calls “America’s funniest science writer” is as entertaining as it is enlightening. Roach takes us on a trip around the world, to the places where wildlife and humankind overlap—and not in a good way. You meet marauding elephants in India, “nuisance” bears in Aspen, ruinous gulls in Vatican City—and no matter what the offense, you find yourself rooting for the wildlife. At least...[read on]
About The Wedding Plot, from the publisher:
Love never dies a natural death…

When Mercy’s grandmother Patience marries her longtime beau Claude Renault at the five-star Lady’s Slipper Inn, it promises to be the destination wedding of the year. Just as the four-day extravaganza is due to begin, the inn’s spa director Bodhi St. George disappears—and Mercy’s mother Grace sends Mercy and Elvis to find him. But what they discover instead is a stranger skewered by a pitchfork in the barn on the goat farm where St. George lived.

As Mercy tries to figure out who the victim is and where St. George is hiding, the bride and groom’s estranged relations gather for the first of the pre-wedding festivities. Long-buried rivalries and resentments surface—and Mercy realizes that they’re all keeping secrets that could tear both families apart. When Elvis interrupts the escalating melodrama to alert Mercy to an intruder on the estate, she finds a wounded St. George in the cottage where she and Troy are staying. St. George is not who he says he is—but when he escapes from the hospital and disappears again, Mercy thinks he’s gone for good. With the wedding imminent and the families at each other’s throats, she decides finding St. George will have to wait.

The big day arrives—but the danger is far from over. With the families and the festivities still under threat, it’s up to Mercy and Elvis together with Troy and Susie Bear to stop the killer and save the bride and groom—before death do they part.
Visit Paula Munier's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Paula Munier & Bear.

My Book, The Movie: A Borrowing of Bones.

The Page 69 Test: A Borrowing of Bones.

Writers Read: Paula Munier (October 2019).

My Book, The Movie: Blind Search.

The Page 69 Test: Blind Search.

My Book, The Movie: The Hiding Place.

The Page 69 Test: The Hiding Place.

Q&A with Paula Munier.

My Book, The Movie: The Wedding Plot.

The Page 69 Test: The Wedding Plot.

Writers Read: Paula Munier.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Sarah Kay's "Medieval Song from Aristotle to Opera"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Medieval Song from Aristotle to Opera by Sarah Kay.

About the book, from the publisher:
Focusing on songs by the troubadours and trouvères from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries, Medieval Song from Aristotle to Opera contends that song is not best analyzed as "words plus music" but rather as a distinctive way of sounding words. Rather than situating them in their immediate period, Sarah Kay fruitfully listens for and traces crosscurrents between medieval French and Occitan songs and both earlier poetry and much later opera. Reflecting on a song's songlike quality—as, for example, the sound of light in the dawn sky, as breathed by beasts, as sirenlike in its perils—Kay reimagines the diversity of songs from this period, which include inset lyrics in medieval French narratives and the works of Guillaume de Machaut, as works that are as much desired and imagined as they are actually sung and heard.

Kay understands song in terms of breath, the constellations, the animal soul, and life itself. Her method also draws inspiration from opera, especially those that inventively recreate medieval song, arguing for a perspective on the manuscripts that transmit medieval song as instances of multimedia, quasi-operatic performances.

Medieval Song from Aristotle to Opera features a companion website ( hosting twenty-four audio or video recordings, realized by professional musicians specializing in early music, of pieces discussed in the book, together with performance scores, performance reflections, and translations of all recorded texts. These audiovisual materials represent an extension in practice of the research aims of the book—to better understand the sung dimension of medieval song.
Learn more about Medieval Song from Aristotle to Opera at the Cornell University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Medieval Song from Aristotle to Opera.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten stories of modern India

Aravind Jayan is a young writer from India.

His novel Teen Couple Have Fun Outdoors describes the personal and familial catastrophes that unfold after a young man and his girlfriend discover an explicit video of themselves circulating online.

At the Guardian Jayan tagged ten top books on modern India, including:
When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy

Our narrator is trapped in a terrifying marriage. To the outside world, her husband is a university professor and an intellectual
communist. At home he’s a dictator – physically and mentally torturing his new wife in the name of re-education. But the narrator is determined not to break, even as she is battered. What we get is what the subtitle – Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife – promises: a fiercely gripping portrait of herself, marriage, abuse and male ego told in the most clinical, acerbic and relentless voice.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Q&A with Amanda Quain

From my Q&A with Amanda Quain, author of Accomplished:
photo credit: Rosalinda Dauval
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Accomplished is, as a title, going to offer different things for different readers! For the Austen fan, it’s a direct line to Georgiana Darcy (or, if not to her, at least to a very Regency requirement.) Almost every time Georgiana is discussed in the original text, she’s referenced as accomplished – it’s basically her main character trait.

The (very early on) original working title was Georgie Darcy’s Back on Top, which is definitely more obvious, but I absolutely adore Accomplished and wouldn’t change it – it’s an intriguing title for those new to Austen and a nice wink and nod to...[read on]
Visit Amanda Quain's website.

Q&A with Amanda Quain.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six private school thrillers for the grown-up & graduated

Before turning to fiction, Aggie Blum Thompson covered real-life crime as a newspaper reporter for a number of papers, including The Boston Globe and The Washington Post. She lives with her husband and two children, a cat, and a dog in the suburbs of Washington D.C. She is the author of I Don't Forgive You and All the Dirty Secrets.

At CrimeReads she tagged six favorite private school thrillers. One title on the list:
For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing

In this fast-paced and sharply written thriller, Teddy Crutcher is teacher of the year at the Belmont Academy and takes pride in his job. He claims his wife does, too—but no one has seen her lately. And when a popular student, a fellow teacher, and a parent start meddling in his life, he will stop at nothing to teach them lessons for their own good. Once again, Downing displays her ability to get inside a truly diabolical mind that made her earlier book My Lovely Wife such a great read.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: For Your Own Good.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Alice Dailey's "How to Do Things with Dead People"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: How to Do Things with Dead People: History, Technology, and Temporality from Shakespeare to Warhol by Alice Dailey.

About the book, from the publisher:
How to Do Things with Dead People studies human contrivances for representing and relating to the dead. Alice Dailey takes as her principal objects of inquiry Shakespeare's English history plays, describing them as reproductive mechanisms by which living replicas of dead historical figures are regenerated in the present and re-killed. Considering the plays in these terms exposes their affinity with a transhistorical array of technologies for producing, reproducing, and interacting with dead things—technologies such as literary doppelgängers, photography, ventriloquist puppetry, X-ray imaging, glitch art, capital punishment machines, and cloning.

By situating Shakespeare's historical drama in this intermedial conversation, Dailey challenges conventional assumptions about what constitutes the context of a work of art and contests foundational models of linear temporality that inform long-standing conceptions of historical periodization and teleological order. Working from an eclectic body of theories, pictures, and machines that transcend time and media, Dailey composes a searching exploration of how the living use the dead to think back and look forward, to rule, to love, to wish and create.
Follow Alice Dailey on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: How to Do Things with Dead People.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Alanna Schubach's "The Nobodies"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Nobodies by Alanna Schubach.

About the book, from the publisher:
The story of two young women whose friendship offered—and demanded—more than either should share. For fans of Sally Rooney and Claire North.

“Sometimes I wondered if I imagined it,” said Nina. “But deep down I knew I didn’t.”

Jess said, “We did too much damage for it not to be real.”

Jess and Nina, Nina and Jess … to everyone else they’re typical best friends, sharing closeness and confidences in their own little world. But Nina and Jess have a secret. Simply by touching their foreheads together, they can swap bodies.

In Jess’s assertive persona, self-conscious Nina turns bolder, free to say what she’s frightened to voice on her own. Inhabiting Nina, Jess becomes part of the loving, stable family she craves.

Now, in crisis after her father’s death, Jess has reentered Nina’s life following a long separation. Once again they switch bodies, and their worlds begin to mesh. Each deceives the other, confesses, is forgiven. But how deeply can you sink into another’s life before there’s nothing left of you? Set against the vibrant backdrop of New York City, The Nobodies poses questions about the nature of intimacy, the many flavors of betrayal, and the value of female friendships.
Visit Alanna Schubach's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Nobodies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

What is Kathleen Rooney reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Kathleen Rooney, author of Where Are the Snows: Poems.

Her entry begins:
Earlier this year, I read (and reviewed) Nuar Alsadir’s Animal Joy: A Book of Laughter and Resuscitation, a fantastic exploration of how honest, uninhibited laughter connects us to our truest selves.

In it, she mentions Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers by Janet Malcolm, so I’ve gotten around to reading it myself and it’s great. Malcolm’s perceptive, deadpan, voracious critical intelligence makes it a thrill to see her analyses of everything from the cottage industry of writing that’s sprung up around Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell’s Bloomsbury to the poorly-aged 1909 sentimental children’s novel A Girl of the Limberlost.

The title essay alone—in which she really does present 41 possible beginnings of a feature on the postmodernist American painter and 1980s art world superstar David Salle, and which ultimately becomes the whole feature itself—is worth the price of admission. I mean, just...[read on]
About Where Are the Snows, from the publisher:
Where Are the Snows takes its title from the famous refrain of François Villon’s 15th Century poem “Ballad of the Ladies of Times Past.” Like that poem, the book functions, among other things, as an ubi sunt, Latin for “Where are they?” as in “Where are the ones who came before us?”—the beautiful, the strong, the virtuous, all of them? In keeping with that long tradition, these poems offer a way to think about life’s transience—its beauty, its absurdity, and of course its mortality. Allusive and associative, anti-capitalist and unapologetically political, aligned somewhere between comedy and anger, this poetry juxtaposes the triumphs and tragedies (mostly tragedies) of our current age with those of history, and—by wondering “Where are they?”—explores the questions of where we are now and where we might be going.
Learn more about the book and author at Kathleen Rooney's website.

The Page 99 Test: Live Nude Girl.

The Page 99 Test: For You, for You I Am Trilling These Songs.

My Book, The Movie: For You, for You I Am Trilling These Songs.

My Book, The Movie: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.

The Page 69 Test: Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey.

My Book, The Movie: Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey.

Writers Read: Kathleen Rooney.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five of the best books on Middle East military history

Kenneth M. Pollack is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he works on Middle Eastern political-military affairs, focusing in particular on Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf countries.

Pollack is the author of ten books, including Armies of Sand: The Past, Present, and Future of Arab Military Effectiveness, a history of Arab armies from the end of World War II to the present, in which he assesses the performance of Arab armed forces and the reason for their difficulties.

At Shepherd Pollack tagged five of the best books on Middle East military history, including:
Elusive Victory: The Arab-Israeli Wars, 1947-1974 by Trevor N. Dupuy

You cannot understand the military history of the Middle East without understanding the first five Arab-Israeli wars and over 40 years later the best book on the subject remains Dupuy’s touchstone work. Dupuy was a superb military analyst and historian. As an American he is about as even-handed as anyone can be with this ultimate of “Rorschach” tests. Better still, Dupuy extensively interviewed nearly all of the major political and military leaders on both sides of every war. He walked the ground of most of these battles with the combatants themselves. It is why his book remains the single best work on the subject and the foundation on which all later histories rest.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Carolyn J. Eichner's "The Paris Commune"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Paris Commune: A Brief History by Carolyn J. Eichner.

About the book, from the publisher:
At dawn on March 18, 1871, Parisian women stepped between cannons and French soldiers, using their bodies to block the army from taking the artillery from their working-class neighborhood. When ordered to fire, the troops refused and instead turned and arrested their leaders. Thus began the Paris Commune, France’s revolutionary civil war that rocked the nineteenth century and shaped the twentieth. Considered a golden moment of hope and potential by the left, and a black hour of terrifying power inversions by the right, the Commune occupies a critical position in understanding modern history and politics. A 72-day conflict that ended with the ferocious slaughter of Parisians, the Commune represents for some the final insurgent burst of the French Revolution’s long wake, for others the first “successful” socialist uprising, and for yet others an archetype for egalitarian socio-economic, feminist, and political change. Militants have referenced and incorporated its ideas into insurrections across the globe, throughout the twentieth and into the twenty-first centuries, keeping alive the revolution’s now-iconic goals and images. Innumerable scholars in countless languages have examined aspects of the 1871 uprising, taking perspectives ranging from glorifying to damning this world-shaking event. The Commune stands as a critical and pivotal moment in nineteenth-century history, as the linchpin between revolutionary pasts and futures, and as the crucible allowing glimpses of alternate possibilities. Upending hierarchies of class, religion, and gender, the Commune emerged as a touchstone for the subsequent century-and-a-half of revolutionary and radical social movements.
Follow Carolyn Eichner on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: The Paris Commune.

--Marshal Zeringue

Alison B. Hart's "The Work Wife," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Work Wife: A Novel by Alison B. Hart.

The entry begins:
The Work Wife is a novel, set over the course of one day, that’s told from the perspective of three women in the orbit of billionaire movie mogul Ted Stabler—his personal assistant Zanne, his wife Holly, and his ex-business partner Phoebe Lee. Maybe it’s because I wanted to be a screenwriter before I ever wanted to be a novelist, but I’ve always enjoyed dreaming up who would play my characters in the movie. So let’s give my Hollywood novel the Hollywood treatment!

Zanne’s the hardest for me to cast. She’s Joan Jett without the makeup, Snow White if she were a daddy. Zanne Klein’s a tough nut. She grew up in LA as the only child of a single mother, the product of an affair between a professor and his teaching assistant. When she was thirteen, her mother died, and Zanne was shipped off to Boston to live with a father and a step family she never knew. All of the ingredients are there for her to develop a substance abuse problem, and she does. At 18, she gives the finger to her dad (and the free tuition she could get at the college where he teaches) and heads back to LA to work on a film crew. Zanne was striking even as a child, and never knew what to do with all that attention from men, which felt barbed and hostile. But when she finds herself struggling to make ends meet on the peanuts she’s paid as a production assistant, she picks up extra work as a “model,” paid to attend parties and look pretty, and sliding perilously toward dangerous situations. Eventually, she leaves LA, comes out as gay, gets clean, and by the time we meet her on the morning of this one extraordinary day, she’s built up a hard shell around herself. There are a lot of actresses who could play Zanne, but I picture her like...[read on]
Visit Alison B. Hart's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Work Wife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 25, 2022

Twelve novels about assistants trapped in jobs they’re too good for

Alison B. Hart’s writing has appeared in Joyland Magazine, Literary Hub, The Missouri Review, and The Millions, among others. She co-founded the long-running reading series at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn and received her MFA from The New School. She grew up in Los Angeles and lives in North Carolina.

Hart's debut novel is The Work Wife.

At Electric Lit she tagged twelve novels that "tell the tales of the assistants, temps, apprentices, and unpaid laborers who also smooth the way for others." One title on the list:
Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee

“In a way, it’s tragic when you can do something you don’t like,” says one of the characters of Min Jin Lee’s debut novel Free Food for Millionaires, and it makes a decent thesis for the book. Queens-born Casey Han is a Princeton grad with expensive tastes. When she passes up Columbia Law School to become an entry-level sales assistant at an investment brokerage (a “bullshit job” in the eyes of her new boss), she disappoints her Korean immigrant parents almost as much as she does by living in sin with her white boyfriend. Thrown out of the family home, she’s got to make her own way through the excess of 1990s Manhattan—and moonlighting in the accessories department of a luxury department store doesn’t help, as she brings home more hats than she sells. But she’s poised to rise to the top of either world, if she can just commit to one path. With the same keen eye for emotion that she brings to her National Book Award–nominated epic Pachinko, Lee charts the wants and pangs of a woman on the verge.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Free Food for Millionaires.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Sarah Covington's "The Devil from over the Sea"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Devil from over the Sea: Remembering and Forgetting Oliver Cromwell in Ireland by Sarah Covington.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Ireland, few figures have generated more hatred than Oliver Cromwell, whose seventeenth-century conquest, massacres, and dispossessions would endure in the social memory for ages to come. The Devil from over the Sea explores the many ways in which Cromwell was remembered and sometimes conveniently 'forgotten' in historical, religious, political, and literary texts, according to the interests of different communities across time. Cromwell's powerful afterlife in Ireland, however, cannot be understood without also investigating his presence in folklore and the landscape, in ruins and curses. Nor can he be separated from the idea of the 'Cromwellian': a term which came to elicit an entire chain of contemptuous associations that would begin after his invasion and assume a wholly new force in the nineteenth century.

What emerges from all these memorializing traces is a multitudinous Cromwell who could be represented as brutal, comic, sympathetic, or satanic. He could be discarded also, tellingly, from the accounts of the past, and especially by those which viewed him as an embarrassment or worse. In addition to exploring the many reasons why Cromwell was so vehemently remembered or forgotten in Ireland, Sarah Covington finally uncovers the larger truths conveyed by sometimes fanciful or invented accounts. Contrary to being damaging examples of myth-making, the memorializations contained in martyrologies, folk tales, or newspaper polemics were often productive in cohering communities, or in displaying agency in the form of 'counter-memories' that claimed Cromwell for their own and reshaped Irish history in the process.
Learn more about The Devil from over the Sea at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Devil from over the Sea.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Paula Munier's "The Wedding Plot"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Wedding Plot: A Mercy Carr Mystery by Paula Munier.

About the book, from the publisher:
Love never dies a natural death…

When Mercy’s grandmother Patience marries her longtime beau Claude Renault at the five-star Lady’s Slipper Inn, it promises to be the destination wedding of the year. Just as the four-day extravaganza is due to begin, the inn’s spa director Bodhi St. George disappears—and Mercy’s mother Grace sends Mercy and Elvis to find him. But what they discover instead is a stranger skewered by a pitchfork in the barn on the goat farm where St. George lived.

As Mercy tries to figure out who the victim is and where St. George is hiding, the bride and groom’s estranged relations gather for the first of the pre-wedding festivities. Long-buried rivalries and resentments surface—and Mercy realizes that they’re all keeping secrets that could tear both families apart. When Elvis interrupts the escalating melodrama to alert Mercy to an intruder on the estate, she finds a wounded St. George in the cottage where she and Troy are staying. St. George is not who he says he is—but when he escapes from the hospital and disappears again, Mercy thinks he’s gone for good. With the wedding imminent and the families at each other’s throats, she decides finding St. George will have to wait.

The big day arrives—but the danger is far from over. With the families and the festivities still under threat, it’s up to Mercy and Elvis together with Troy and Susie Bear to stop the killer and save the bride and groom—before death do they part.
Visit Paula Munier's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Paula Munier & Bear.

My Book, The Movie: A Borrowing of Bones.

The Page 69 Test: A Borrowing of Bones.

Writers Read: Paula Munier (October 2019).

My Book, The Movie: Blind Search.

The Page 69 Test: Blind Search.

My Book, The Movie: The Hiding Place.

The Page 69 Test: The Hiding Place.

Q&A with Paula Munier.

My Book, The Movie: The Wedding Plot.

The Page 69 Test: The Wedding Plot.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Q&A with Liz Michalski

From my Q&A with Liz Michalski, author of Darling Girl: A Novel of Peter Pan:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Depends upon the reader. For the Peter Pan fanatic, the word darling will hopefully bring up an echo of the original story and Wendy, Michael and John. But the book is about more than just Peter. "Darling Girl" is a term of endearment, and the story explores the relationship of the Darling women not just with Peter, but with each other. Also if you read it quickly, the title can be misread as Daring Girl, which I like, since my female characters are all quite brave in their own way. It was Darling Girl from the beginning for me.

What's in a name?

Because I wrote a reimagined tale, some of the names — such as Peter, Tinkerbell, Wendy, and Jane — were obvious. Traditionally, Jane’s daughter is...[read on]
Visit Liz Michalski's website.

Q&A with Liz Michalski.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Antone Martinho-Truswell's "The Parrot in the Mirror"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Parrot in the Mirror: How evolving to be like birds makes us human by Antone Martinho-Truswell.

About the book, from the publisher:
How similar are your choices, behaviours, and lifestyle to those of a parrot?

We humans are not like other mammals. We look like them, but we don't act like them. In fact, many of our defining human traits: our longevity, intelligence, monogamy and childrearing, and learning and language, all deep parts of what it means to be human, are far more similar to birds than to our fellow mammals. These similarities originate not from shared ancestors but from parallel histories. Our evolutionary stories have pushed humans and birds to the same solutions. In this book, Antone Martinho-Truswell explores these similarities to argue that we can learn a great deal about ourselves by thinking of the human species as 'the bird without feathers'.

This is also a book about convergent evolution - evolution that drives very different species to very similar outcomes and behaviours. The traits we share with birds but not mammals are the result of similar, specific pressures that demanded similar solutions - and exploring these similarities can help us understand both why we evolved to be the way we are, and also how very unusual some of our behaviours are in the animal kingdom, Drawing on a rich array of examples across the natural world, Martinho-Truswell also demonstrates the ways in which parrots are our biological mirror image; an evolutionary parallel to ourselves. In contemplating what we share with the birds, and especially the parrots, we understand how close nature came to creating another lineage of radical intelligence on Earth, and we also come to better understand ourselves.
Visit Antone Martinho-Truswell's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Parrot in the Mirror.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven novels about wealthy people behaving badly

Lizzy Barber studied English at Corpus Christ College, Cambridge University. After 'previous lives' acting and working in film development, she has spent the last ten years as Head of Brand and Marketing for The Hush Collection, a boutique group of restaurants founded by her brother, Jamie.

Her new novel is Out Of Her Depth.

At CrimeReads Barber tagged seven novels about the lifestyles of the rich and shameless, including:
The Wife Between Us, by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

This domestic noir reads something like a modern day, reverse Rebecca. Vanessa, the jilted ex-wife of successful hedge fund manager, Richard, reminisces about the downfall of her marriage as she observes history repeating itself with his new fiancé, Emma. It’s a carefully crafted, twisty thriller in which Richard embodies the ‘all that glitters’ trope.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 23, 2022

The ten most puzzling impossible crime mysteries

Tom Mead is a UK crime fiction author specialising in locked-room mysteries.

He is a member of the Crime Writers’ Association, International Thriller Writers, and the Society of Authors.

Mead's debut novel is Death and the Conjuror.

[ My Book, The Movie: Death and the Conjuror; The Page 69 Test: Death and the Conjuror; Q&A with Tom Mead]

At Publishers Weekly Mead tagged ten of the best locked-room or impossible crime mysteries, including:
The Chinese Orange Mystery by Ellery Queen

What makes this one brilliant is the puzzle. While there is an impossible/locked-room element to the mystery itself, it is another seemingly unanswerable question that makes this novel a classic: why should an unidentified man be killed in a room in which everything—the furniture, the paintings on the walls, even the victim’s clothes—have been turned backward? Even though this is not a physical impossibility, it seems to be a logical one. And yet, the solution is perfectly, utterly rational… but I bet you won’t see it coming. The Ellery Queen series is one of the definitive achievements of the Golden Age, and The Chinese Orange Mystery represents its authors at the peak of their imaginative powers.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Natasha Warikoo's "Race at the Top"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Race at the Top: Asian Americans and Whites in Pursuit of the American Dream in Suburban Schools by Natasha Warikoo.

About the book, from the publisher:
An illuminating, in-depth look at competition in suburban high schools with growing numbers of Asian Americans, where white parents are determined to ensure that their children remain at the head of the class.

The American suburb conjures an image of picturesque privilege: manicured lawns, quiet streets, and—most important to parents—high-quality schools. These elite enclaves are also historically white, allowing many white Americans to safeguard their privileges by using public schools to help their children enter top colleges. That’s changing, however, as Asian American professionals increasingly move into wealthy suburban areas to give their kids that same leg up for their college applications and future careers.

As Natasha Warikoo shows in Race at the Top, white and Asian parents alike will do anything to help their children get to the top of the achievement pile. She takes us into the affluent suburban East Coast school she calls “Woodcrest High,” with a student body about one-half white and one-third Asian American. As increasing numbers of Woodcrest’s Asian American students earn star-pupil status, many whites feel displaced from the top of the academic hierarchy, and their frustrations grow. To maintain their children’s edge, some white parents complain to the school that schoolwork has become too rigorous. They also emphasize excellence in extracurriculars like sports and theater, which maintains their children’s advantage.

Warikoo reveals how, even when they are bested, white families in Woodcrest work to change the rules in their favor so they can remain the winners of the meritocracy game. Along the way, Warikoo explores urgent issues of racial and economic inequality that play out in affluent suburban American high schools. Caught in a race for power and privilege at the very top of society, what families in towns like Woodcrest fail to see is that everyone in their race is getting a medal—the children who actually lose are those living beyond their town’s boundaries.
Visit Natasha Warikoo's website.

The Page 99 Test: Balancing Acts.

The Page 99 Test: Race at the Top.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Meghan Holloway's "Killing Field"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Killing Field by Meghan Holloway.

About the book, from the publisher:
Annie Between Lodges knows who murdered her sister and why. She has proof. She also knows that if she comes forward with the evidence she has stolen, she will not survive long enough to tell the truth. She needs an ally, someone unflinching and unafraid, someone who knows how to make enemies and remain unscathed. But Hector Lewis is no hero, and one lie catapults her into deeper danger.

Hector has chased his missing wife’s trail of secrets to the end. He has no answers, no job, and no patience for the girl who has been following him. Her claim to be his lost daughter sets the town ablaze and forges an unexpected alliance with his most bitter enemy, his wife’s family. But the girl’s secrets have placed a target on her back. When history repeats itself, Hector is left to grapple with a choice: Can he set aside revenge in order to save the girl whose lies have forced him to confront the past?

Wildfire season has engulfed Yellowstone in flames, and Raven’s Gap is in the crosshairs. As the tension and heat escalate, the truth becomes clear—Betrayal lies far closer to home than Hector could have ever imagined.
Visit Meghan Holloway's website, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

My Book, The Movie: Once More Unto the Breach.

The Page 69 Test: Once More Unto the Breach.

Writers Read: Meghan Holloway (May 2019).

Q&A with Meghan Holloway.

The Page 69 Test: Hunting Ground.

My Book, The Movie: Hunting Ground.

The Page 69 Test: Hiding Place.

My Book, The Movie: Hiding Place.

Writers Read: Meghan Holloway (December 2021).

Writers Read: Meghan Holloway.

My Book, The Movie: Killing Field.

The Page 69 Test: Killing Field.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 22, 2022

Seven books about the wide-ranging cause & effects of climate change

Tajja Isen is the author of Some of My Best Friends: Essays on Lip Service. She is an editor for Catapult Magazine and the former digital editor at The Walrus.

Amy Brady is the Executive Director of Orion. She is also the author of a cultural history of ice in America and the former Editor-in-Chief of the Chicago Review of Books. She holds a PhD in literature from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and has won writing and research awards from the National Science Foundation, the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers Conference, and the Library of Congress.

Brady and Isen are the editors of The World As We Knew It: Dispatches From a Changing Climate.

At Electric Lit they tagged seven books to "inspire readers to see the climate crisis not as a single issue as it’s so often described, but as the wide-ranging, multifaceted phenomenon it truly is—and crucially, feel motivated to do something about it." One title on the list:
The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis by Amitav Ghosh

In The Great Derangement, Amitav Ghosh argues that humanity’s failure to act on climate change is rooted in a failure of imagination. Humans have been unable (or unwilling) to grasp the immense scale of climate change, he argues, because we can’t properly visualize it in our art and storytelling. With The Nutmeg’s Curse, he seeks a solution to that failure by helping readers to see the climate crisis as part of a most surprising narrative. Combining essay, philosophy, and first-person testimony, this book examines how the history of something as inconsequential as nutmeg is shaped by colonialism and exploitation—the very roots, he argues, of the most consequential problem we face today.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue