Friday, September 30, 2022

Nine top stargazing books

At B&N Reads Brittany Bunzey tagged nine of the best stargazing books, including:
The Milky Way: An Autobiography of Our Galaxy
Moiya McTier

A bit Bill Bryson, a dash Mary Roach, the canvas of Neil deGrasse Tyson, and all the excitement of a Ms. Frizzle Magic School Bus field trip. With an expertise in astrophysics and folklore, Moiya McTier is the perfect tour guide for all of us to have gazed transfixed at the heavens, full of wonder and questions. The Milky Way is a delightful and constantly surprising treat! Thrilling, eye-opening, and just plain fun.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Alena Pirok's "The Spirit of Colonial Williamsburg"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Spirit of Colonial Williamsburg: Ghosts and Interpreting the Recreated Past by Alena Pirok.

About the book, from the publisher:
On any given night, hundreds of guests walk the darkened streets of Colonial Williamsburg looking for ghosts. Since the early 2000s, both the museum and private companies have facilitated these hunts, offering year-round ghost tours. Critics have called these excursions a cash grab, but in truth, ghosts and hauntings have long been at the center of the Colonial Williamsburg project.

The Spirit of Colonial Williamsburg examines how the past comes alive at this living-history museum. In the early twentieth century, local stories about the ghosts of former residents―among them Revolutionary War soldiers and nurses, tavern owners and prominent attorneys, and enslaved African Americans―helped to turn Williamsburg into a desirable site for historical restoration. But, for much of the twentieth century, the museum tried diligently to avoid any discussion of ghosts, considering them frivolous and lowbrow. Alena Pirok explores why historic sites have begun to embrace their spectral residents in recent decades, arguing that through them, patrons experience an emotional connection to place and a palpable understanding of the past through its people.
Follow Alena Pirok on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: The Spirit of Colonial Williamsburg.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: J. Todd Scott's "The Flock"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Flock by J. Todd Scott.

About the book, from the publisher:
From J. Todd Scott comes a chillingly engrossing thriller about a cult survivor who must confront the horrors of her past to ensure the safety of the future.

Ten years after a fiery raid kills her family, former cult member Sybilla “Billie” Laure has a completely new identity. She’s settled in rural Colorado with her daughter, hoping for a quieter life. But the world has other plans.

With wildfires raging and birds dropping from the sky, Billie wonders if her cult leader father’s apocalyptic predictions are finally coming true. When an intruder murders her husband and kidnaps her daughter, Billie has no choice but to confront the secrets of her past. But Billie’s journey has other perils, too―namely, a police chief hot on her trail, determined to expose the dangers of the defunct doomsday cult.

To save her daughter, Billie will have to go back to where it all began―to the ruined compound in New Mexico where the real threat is the truth.
Visit J. Todd Scott's website.

The Page 69 Test: High White Sun.

My Book, The Movie: High White Sun.

My Book, The Movie: This Side of Night.

The Page 69 Test: This Side of Night.

Q&A with J. Todd Scott.

The Page 69 Test: Lost River.

The Page 69 Test: The Flock.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Q&A with Lygia Day Peñaflor

From my Q&A with Lygia Day Peñaflor, author of Creep: A Love Story:

About the book, from the publisher:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

There couldn’t be a more perfect title for this book. Creep: A Love Story sets the stage immediately. We have our narrator Rafi: a creep. And we have Laney Villanueva and Nico Fiore: a love story. When the popular couple walks into the Holy Family High School attendance office, where Rafi works at the front desk, she is instantly obsessed with them.

“Creep” by Radiohead was a huge inspiration for this novel. Those who know the song will pick up on its dark, desperate tone from the title. The words “weirdo” and “I don’t belong here” will come to mind, too, which are perfect ways to describe Rafi and her place in Laney and Nico’s lives, as her behavior escalates to full stalking mode. This title understood the assignment.

What's in a name?

I used the name Holy Family High School to emphasize...[read on]
Visit Lygia Day Peñaflor's website.

Q&A with Lygia Day Peñaflor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten nature memoirs

Sarah Thomas is a writer and documentary filmmaker with a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies. She is committed to work that explores our entanglements with the living world. Her films have been screened internationally. She has been a regular contributor to Dark Mountain journal, and her writing has also appeared in the Guardian and the anthology Women On Nature edited by Katharine Norbury. In 2020 she was nominated for the Arts Foundation Environmental Writing Award. She was longlisted for the inaugural Nan Shepherd Prize and shortlisted for the 2021 Fitzcarraldo Essay Prize.

Thomas’s debut memoir, set in Iceland, is The Raven’s Nest.

At the Guardian she tagged ten "books, many with a focus on the far north and spanning nearly a century, [that] have inspired how I explore this interplay between place, people, living, thought and the body." One title on the list:
Soundings by Doreen Cunningham

A failed relationship and resulting professional and financial ruin compel former climate journalist Cunningham to make a bold move. Taking out a bank loan, she travels with her young son along the migration route of the grey whales, from Mexico to the Canadian Arctic, back to a family of Iñupiaq whale hunters who took her in as one of their own years earlier on a research trip. Cunningham’s honouring of the hunters’ culture is nuanced by this entanglement, and the endless wait of the whale hunt is made fascinating by her quiet observations. The protagonists make a deeply refreshing triad: a single mother travelling with her child, learning from the whales how to parent.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Minh-Ha T. Pham's "Why We Can't Have Nice Things"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Social Media’s Influence on Fashion, Ethics, and Property by Minh-Ha T. Pham.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 2016, social media users in Thailand called out the Paris-based luxury fashion house Balenciaga for copying the popular Thai “rainbow bag,” using Balenciaga’s hashtags to circulate memes revealing the source of the bags’ design. In Why We Can’t Have Nice Things Minh-Ha T. Pham examines the way social media users monitor the fashion market for the appearance of knockoff fashion, design theft, and plagiarism. Tracing the history of fashion antipiracy efforts back to the 1930s, she foregrounds the work of policing that has been tacitly outsourced to social media. Despite the social media concern for ethical fashion and consumption and the good intentions behind design policing, Pham shows that it has ironically deepened forms of social and market inequality, as it relies on and reinforces racist and colonial norms and ideas about what constitutes copying and what counts as creativity. These struggles over ethical fashion and intellectual property, Pham demonstrates, constitute deeper struggles over the colonial legacies of cultural property in digital and global economies.
Visit Minh-Ha T. Pham's website.

The Page 99 Test: Why We Can't Have Nice Things.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Sofie Kelly reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Sofie Kelly, author of Whiskers and Lies (Magical Cats Mystery Series #14).

Her entry begins:
I just finished reading Bad Scene, the third Colleen Hayes mystery by Max Tomlinson. I recently discovered the first book in the series, Vanishing in the Haight, and I was hooked. In my opinion, Bad Scene is the best in the series so far, and that’s saying a lot because the first two books were very good. The stories are set in San Francisco, in the late seventies. Maybe part of the reason I like them is because I’m old enough to remember that time. Colleen is a private detective, on parole after serving prison time for killing her abusive husband. In Bad Scene she learns that neo-Nazis are talking about killing the mayor. She also discovers that her estranged daughter has joined a cult reminiscent of Jim Jones and the People’s Temple. Colleen is desperate to get to South America and save...[read on]
About Whiskers and Lies, from the publisher:
Librarian Kathleen Paulson is always willing to help a friend, but to save one from a wrongful arrest, she’ll need magical backup from her affectionate cats in the newest installment of this New York Times bestselling series.

Baker Georgia Tepper has been hired to provide delicious and spooky cupcakes for the Reading Buddies Halloween Party at the library, and she and Kathleen are meeting to finalize the menu of festive confections. Unfortunately, once Georgia’s former mother-in-law ambushes her at the library and threatens Georgia with legal action, the afternoon of fun is soured.

When Georgia’s litigious in-law is later found dead and the friendly baker is implicated, Kathleen is eager to help prove her innocence. Luckily, Kathleen and her intrepid magical cats, Hercules and Owen, have solved their fair share of mysteries. As a result, she knows that in life as well as crime solving, it is all relative, but with hard work, she can make sure the right criminal is booked.
Visit Sofie Kelly's website.

My Book, The Movie: Curiosity Thrilled the Cat.

Writers Read: Sofie Kelly (October 2015.

The Page 69 Test: Faux Pas.

Writers Read: Sofie Kelly.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Five mysteries that don't sacrifice the whodunit for the whydunit

Joy Jordan-Lake is the #1 Amazon bestselling author of the just-released historical mystery A Bend of Light, and ten other books, including Under A Gilded Moon; A Tangled Mercy, an Editors’ Choice recipient from the Historical Novel Society; Blue Hole Back Home, winner of the Christy Award for Best First Novel; and two children’s books. Raised in the foothills of the southern Appalachians, she lived nearly a decade of her young adult years in New England, which she still misses—and jumps at every chance to visit. She holds two master’s degrees and a PhD in English and has taught literature and writing at several universities.

At CrimeReads Jordan-Lake tagged "five mysteries that include all the twists we expect of a good whodunit, while also diving deep into what it means to be human, and the ways in which the inequities, privations and privileges of our own cultures can shape us." One title on the list:
Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara

Hirahara spent thirty years researching this novel, and it shows in all the best ways. A New York Times Best Mystery of the Year, Clark and Division refers to the area of Chicago where the Ito family is relocating after being released from Manzanar, the U.S. government’s detention camp for Japanese citizens during WW2. As twenty-year-old Aki Ito searches for answers about her revered older sister’s death, which authorities have labeled a suicide but Aki suspects was murder, the story unfolds in multiple layers. Hirahara’s own parents were survivors of the Hiroshima bombing, and perhaps partly because of her family’s story, the author explores history not as dusty old facts but as mystery, crevices of human experience we’ve not always explored fully or well. In Clark & Division, she has woven a story that is both captivating historical fiction and thriller.
Read about another entry on the list.

Clark and Division is among Brittany Bunzey's fifteen top books that take place during or around World War II.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Richard Kieckhefer's "The Mystical Presence of Christ"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Mystical Presence of Christ: The Exceptional and the Ordinary in Late Medieval Religion by Richard Kieckhefer.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Mystical Presence of Christ investigates the connections between exceptional experiences of Christ's presence and ordinary devotion to Christ in the late medieval West. Unsettling the notion that experiences of seeing Christ's figure or hearing Christ speak are simply exceptional events that happen at singular moments, Richard Kieckhefer reveals the entanglements between these experiences and those that occur through the imagery, language, and rituals of ordinary, everyday devotional culture.

Kieckhefer begins his book by reconsidering the "who" and the "how" of Christ's mystical presence. He argues that Christ's humanity and divinity were equally important preconditions for encounters, both exceptional and ordinary, which Kieckhefer proposes as existing on a spectrum of experience that moves from presupposition to intuition and finally to perception. Kieckhefer then examines various contexts of Christ manifestations—during prayer, meditation, and liturgy, for example—with attention to gender dynamics and the relationship between saintly individuals and their hagiographers. Through penetrating discussions of a diverse set of texts and figures across the long fourteenth century (Angela of Foligno, the nuns of Helfta, Margery Kempe, Dorothea of Montau, Meister Eckhart, Henry Suso, and Walter Hilton, among others), Kieckhefer shows that seemingly exceptional manifestations of Christ were also embedded in ordinary religious experience.

Wide-ranging in scope and groundbreaking in methodology, The Mystical Presence of Christ is a magisterial work that rethinks the interplay between the exceptional and the ordinary in the workings of late medieval religion.
Learn more about The Mystical Presence of Christ at the Cornell University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Mystical Presence of Christ.

--Marshal Zeringue

Kathleen George's "Mirth," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Mirth by Kathleen George.

The entry begins:
One reason I would love to see a movie of Mirth is that I could fall in love with ... yes, three actors who play the role. Could it be two? Possibly. But there is a sixty year timeline and three phases of life--youth, middle age, old age. Alas, the timeline will get in the way of the movie's actually being made. But wouldn't it be lovely? I can't cast the whole thing because even though I study actors all the time, I don't have an immediate name for the current Albert Finney type as middle aged man or Peter O'Toole as a gorgeous older man. But I can say...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Kathleen George's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Blues Walked In.

Writers Read: Kathleen George (May 2018).

My Book, The Movie: The Blues Walked In.

Writers Read: Kathleen George (September 2022).

The Page 69 Test: Mirth.

My Book, The Movie: Mirth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Five top SFF books about strange houses

Rachael Conrad is the Event Coordinator, Social Media Manager, and a Frontline Bookseller for Print: A Bookstore in Portland, Maine. She was a 2021 Publishers Weekly Star Watch nominee for her bookselling.

At she tagged five SFF titles about strange houses, including:
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

If you’re in the mood to read a deeply unsettling murder mystery that has a sinister, time traveling house at the center of its story then The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes is the perfect book for you. I have yet to find another that kept me awake at night the way The Shining Girls did, which is both a blessing and a curse.

The Shining Girls (a title that is, no doubt, a nod to Stephen King) kicks off in depression-era Chicago when Harper Curtis discovers a strange and alluring house that allows him to travel to different periods of time. Harper’s unbelievable discovery comes at a steep price. The house, through malevolent means, begins to show him the girls that he has yet to kill throughout time and consequently allows him to slip in and out of different time periods to spy on, talk to, and eventually murder his victims. He’s brutal, efficient, and impossible to track down until he finally meets his match in 1989. By some miracle Kirby Mazrachi survives Harper’s attack and begins to unravel the mystery of how Harper can do what he can.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Shining Girls is among Rebecca Jane Stokes's seven books for people who loved The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Bidisha's ten best books about women.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Trevor Price's "Ecology of a Changed World"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Ecology of a Changed World by Trevor Price.

About the book, from the publisher:
An increasing amount of usable space on our planet is crowded by humans. Whether we are using the space for permanent homes, vacation homes, travel accommodations, farming, public recreation, transportation, or office buildings, our chronic overuse of Earth's resources is pushing our ecosystem into uncharted territories. This has spurred many species extinctions, and we can expect the losses to continue to grow.

Ecology of a Changed World outlines the importance of species conservation relative to human existence. The book breaks down ecological principles and explains six threats to biodiversity in terms anyone studying ecology, evolutionary biology, environmental science, or environmental justice will understand. Ecologist Trevor Price begins the book by breaking down population growth, food webs, species interaction, and other ecological principles. He draws on examples from agriculture, disease, fisheries, and societal growth throughout each chapter, offering insight into the relationships between demographic transitions, monetary exchanges, and ecosystems.

Price focuses on six threats to biodiversity--climate change, overharvesting, pollution, habitat loss, invasive species, and disease--and offers the history, current status, and economic as well as environmental impacts of each of these. He ends the book with a rigorous review of the importance of species diversity, outlining the ways losses to our ecosystem will be a detriment to public health and global wealth.

Taking readers through competition, predation, and parasitism, Ecology of a Changed World helpfully traces what has occurred on our planet throughout history, why these things happened, and how we can use this information to determine and shape our future.
Learn more about Ecology of a Changed World at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Ecology of a Changed World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Kathleen George's "Mirth"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Mirth by Kathleen George.

About the book, from the publisher:
Mirth chronicles the struggles of a writer, Harrison Mirth, a romantic man who writes about love and tries to find it through three marriages, in three cities, and always with renewable hope. Amanda is first—New York city and youth. Maggie is second and spans the middle age years—Upstate New York. Liz is third—Pittsburgh and the senior years. Harrison Mirth doesn’t say much to Liz about life before her—a thoughtful comment here and there, funny stories, very little casting of blame. But like a quilt maker, Liz puts these scraps together to make a story—how she thinks he was—a boy, then a man sheltering a secret lake of sadness, but somehow always upbeat, cheerful, a willful optimist, forever innocent. To her, that is irresistible. She wants him, all in all.
Learn more about the book and author at Kathleen George's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Blues Walked In.

Writers Read: Kathleen George (May 2018).

My Book, The Movie: The Blues Walked In.

Writers Read: Kathleen George (September 2022).

The Page 69 Test: Mirth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 26, 2022

Twenty-four top mythology retellings

At B&N Reads the editors tagged twenty-four of "the best mythological retellings," including:
A Thousand Ships
Natalie Haynes

In A Thousand Ships, Calliope, goddess of poetry, takes us through the Trojan War — where women become the deserving center of the most epic story ever told. A fresh entry into a burgeoning category of modern retellings, this story collection is a beautiful doorway to the inimitable ancient works. “Natalie Haynes gives a much-needed voice to the silenced women of the Trojan War.”—Madeline Miller, author of Circe
Read about another entry on the list.

A Thousand Ships is among Susan Stokes-Chapman's top ten novels inspired by Greek myths, Jennifer Saint's ten essential books inspired by Greek myth, Deanna Raybourn's six top novels based on historical scandals, and Alyssa Vaughn's forty-two books to help you get through the rest of quarantine.

The Page 69 Test: A Thousand Ships.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Pedro Monaville's "Students of the World"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Students of the World: Global 1968 and Decolonization in the Congo by Pedro Monaville.

About the book, from the publisher:
On June 30, 1960—the day of the Congo’s independence—Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba gave a fiery speech in which he conjured a definitive shift away from a past of colonial oppression toward a future of sovereignty, dignity, and justice. His assassination a few months later showed how much neocolonial forces and the Cold War jeopardized African movements for liberation. In Students of the World, Pedro Monaville traces a generation of Congolese student activists who refused to accept the foreclosure of the future Lumumba envisioned. These students sought to decolonize university campuses, but the projects of emancipation they articulated went well beyond transforming higher education. Monaville explores the modes of being and thinking that shaped their politics. He outlines a trajectory of radicalization in which gender constructions, cosmopolitan dispositions, and the influence of a dissident popular culture mattered as much as access to various networks of activism and revolutionary thinking. By illuminating the many worlds inhabited by Congolese students at the time of decolonization, Monaville charts new ways of writing histories of the global 1960s from Africa.
Follow Pedro Monaville on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Students of the World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Christopher Swann

From my Q&A with Christopher Swann, author of Never Go Home: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I tend to like titles that create an image in a reader’s mind and have something to do thematically with the story. But my Faulkner family thriller series is different. Never Turn Back is the first in that series, and my editor suggested the title. I didn’t know if I was going to turn it into a series, but when I did, I decided the subsequent books all have to be “never” titles—“never” plus a verb plus a third word. I’ll see how many books I write in that series and how many “never’ phrases I can come up with!

What's in a name?

Everything. Even the minor characters’ names matter. In Never Go Home, the first chapter has Susannah Faulkner interacting with a real slimeball, and I wanted to give that guy a slightly unserious name. I settled on...[read on]
Visit Christopher Swann's website.

The Page 69 Test: Never Go Home.

My Book, The Movie: Never Go Home.

Q&A with Christopher Swann.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Pg. 99: Edward F. Fischer's "Making Better Coffee"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Making Better Coffee: How Maya Farmers and Third Wave Tastemakers Create Value by Edward F. Fischer.

About the book, from the publisher:
An anthropologist uncovers how "great coffee" depends not just on taste, but also on a complex system of values worked out among farmers, roasters, and consumers.

What justifies the steep prices commanded by small-batch, high-end Third Wave coffees? Making Better Coffee explores this question, looking at highland coffee farmers in Guatemala and their relationship to the trends that dictate what makes "great coffee." Traders stress material conditions of terroir and botany, but just as important are the social, moral, and political values that farmers, roasters, and consumers attach to the beans.

In the late nineteenth century, Maya farmers were forced to work on the large plantations that colonized their ancestral lands. The international coffee market shifted in the 1990s, creating demand for high-altitude varietals—plants suited to the mountains where the Maya had been displaced. Edward F. Fischer connects the quest for quality among U.S. tastemakers to the lives and desires of Maya producers, showing how profits are made by artfully combining coffee's material and symbolic attributes. The result is a complex story of terroir and taste, quality and craft, justice and necessity, worth and value.
Learn more about the book and author at Ted Fischer's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Good Life.

The Page 99 Test: Making Better Coffee.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top books for coffee lovers

James Hoffmann is the managing director of Square Mile Coffee Roasters, a multi-award-winning coffee roasting company based in East London. He is also the World Barista Champion 2007, having won the UK Barista competition in both 2006 and 2007.

Hoffmann is the author of The World Atlas of Coffee (2014) and How to Make the Best Coffee at Home (2022).

At Shepherd he tagged five books that "inspired my own passion for coffee and I hope they do the same for you." One title on the list:
The Devil's Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee by Stewart Lee Allen

This is the book that started my obsession with coffee. It is really a travel book, using the spread of coffee from Ethiopia through to the rest of the world as its guide. It’s a fun read, and fascinating to see the way coffee was become entwined into so many different cultures in many different ways.
Read about another entry on the list.

Also see: Benjamin Obler's top ten fictional coffee scenes in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Five top relationship-driven mysteries

Susan Richards is the author of the Jessica Kallan mystery series and stand-alone novels of suspense. She strives in each story to create characters who are confronted by circumstances that push them to their limits, test their strength, and challenge their beliefs and integrity—people who would do almost anything to protect the people they love.

Richards’s new novel, Where Secrets Live, was a finalist in the Mystery/Suspense category of the 2018 Daphne du Maurier contest.

[My Book, The Movie: Where Secrets LiveThe Page 69 Test: Where Secrets LiveQ&A with S. C. Richards]

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, she has lived throughout the Midwest and currently resides in Northern Minnesota. She also spent several years in the Pacific Northwest, moving back to Minnesota to be closer to her family. Every winter she wonders what the hell she was thinking.

At CrimeReads Richards tagged five favorite books in which the "author has created that balance in the relationships among the characters that move the story forward, that drive their actions, and ultimately, what makes me care about each person in the novel." One title on the list:
Past Crimes, by Glen Erik Hamilton

Past Crimes is the first book in the Van Shaw series.

When Van’s grandfather, Dono, a career criminal and the man who raised him, calls him home unexpectedly, Van knows something very serious is going on. Dono never asked for help.

Upon his arrival, Van finds his grandfather beaten and unconscious in his house. And as Dono fights for his life in the hospital, Van sets out to find the person responsible for bludgeoning the old man. The story weaves the past and the present together to show the strength of the love between a stubborn old man and the grandson who rebelled against him.

Although, we never meet Dono, we know him intimately through the grandson who is willing to go to any lengths for his grandfather as he seeks to discover what had been going on in the old man’s life that brought him to this place.
Read about another novel on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Remica Bingham-Risher's "Soul Culture"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Soul Culture: Black Poets, Books, and Questions That Grew Me Up by Remica Bingham-Risher.

About the book, from the publisher:
Examines firsthand the lives of legendary Black writers who made a way out of no way to illuminate a road map for budding creators desiring to follow in their footsteps

Acclaimed Cave Canem poet and essayist Remica Bingham-Risher interweaves personal essays and interviews she conducted over a decade with 10 distinguished Black poets, such as Lucille Clifton, Sonia Sanchez, and Patricia Smith, to explore the impact of identity, joy, love, and history on the artistic process. Each essay is thematically inspired, centered on one of her interviews, and uses quotes drawn from her talks to showcase their philosophies. Each essay also delves into how her own life and work are influenced by these elders. Essays included are these:
  • “blk/wooomen revolution”
  • “Girls Loving Beyoncé and Their Names”
  • “The Terror of Being Destroyed”
  • “Standing in the Shadows of Love”
  • “Revision as Labyrinth”
Noting the frustrating tendency for Black artists to be pigeonholed into the confines of various frameworks and ideologies—Black studies, women’s studies, LGBTQIA+ studies, and so on—Bingham-Risher reveals the multitudes contained within Black poets, both past and present. By capturing the radical love ethic of Blackness amid incessant fear, she has amassed not only a wealth of knowledge about contemporary Black poetry and poetry movements but also brings to life the historical record of Black poetry from the latter half of the 20th century to the early decades of the 21st.

Examining cultural traditions, myths, and music from the Four Tops to Beyoncé, Bingham-Risher reflects on the enduring gifts of art and community. If you’ve ever felt alone on your journey into the writing world, the words of these poets are for you.
Visit Remica Bingham-Risher's website.

The Page 99 Test: Soul Culture.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Meredith Hambrock's "Other People's Secrets"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Other People's Secrets: A Novel by Meredith Hambrock.

About the book, from the publisher:
Baby’s down—and could be out for good—when she faces off with forces bent on turning her lakeside paradise into a living hell, for fans of Alissa Nutting and Amy Engel.

Baby’s heart is in the right place, but she’s got problems—namely, a fierce taste for booze and an on-again, off-again boyfriend who can’t commit. She’s living and working at Oakwood Hills, a crumbling lakeside resort, with her friends, Crystal Nugget and DJ Overalls, reeling since her adoptive mother died of a stroke. And now, the return of the local drug kingpin, Bad Mike, is about to throw her already unstable summer into full-blown chaos.

To make matters worse, the owner of Oakwood Hills announces plans to sell the resort to Amelia, her boyfriend’s wealthy twin sister, who plans to renovate it, sucking the life out of the only home Baby’s ever known. Desperate to thwart the sale, Baby and her friends decide to try to recover a sunken treasure rumored to be sitting at the bottom of the lake. But Bad Mike also has his eyes on the prize and when the search gets criminal, Baby will be forced to walk down a road full of hidden secrets that will change how she sees herself—and her life—forever.
Visit Meredith Hambrock's website.

The Page 69 Test: Other People's Secrets.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 23, 2022

Eight memoirs about becoming a classical musician

Martha Anne Toll writes fiction, essays, and book reviews, and reads anything that’s not nailed down. Her debut novel, Three Muses, won the Petrichor Prize for Finely Crafted Fiction. Toll brings a long career in social justice to her work covering BIPOC and women writers. She is a book reviewer and author interviewer at NPR Books, the Washington Post, Pointe Magazine, The Millions, and elsewhere. She also publishes short fiction and essays in a wide variety of outlets. Toll has recently joined the Board of Directors of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation.

[ My Book, The Movie: Three Muses; Q&A with Martha Anne Toll]

At Electric Lit Toll tagged eight memoirs that "recount the authors’ journey to music, what makes them so committed, how they express their love for it, and what happens behind the scenes." One title on the list:
Missed Translations: Meeting the Immigrant Parents Who Raised Me by Sopan Deb

Sopan Deb covers basketball and cultural issues for the New York Times, as well as performing as a standup comedian. In his debut book, a memoir, he embarks on a journey to find his Bengali parents after they separately abandoned him before his early twenties. This, despite what looked on the outside like a typical suburban upbringing in New Jersey. The book is notable for breaking myriad stereotypes about Bengali immigrants in America. One amusing sideline is Deb’s classical piano lessons, which his parents insisted on when he was a young boy, especially once it became clear he had real talent. While not the major theme of the book, Deb writes with wisdom and humor about the torture of practicing for these lessons despite his skill and the pleasure his playing provided to the people around him.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Missed Translations.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Alexandra Horowitz's "The Year of the Puppy"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Year of the Puppy: How Dogs Become Themselves by Alexandra Horowitz.

About the book, from the publisher:
What is it like to be a puppy? Author of the classic Inside of a Dog, Alexandra Horowitz tries to find out, spending a year scrutinizing her puppy’s daily existence and poring over the science of early dog development

Few of us meet our dogs at Day One. The dog who will, eventually, become an integral part of our family, our constant companion and best friend, is born without us into a family of her own. A puppy’s critical early development into the dog we come to know is usually missed entirely. Dog researcher Alexandra Horowitz aimed to change that with her family’s new pup, Quiddity (Quid). In this scientific memoir, she charts Quid’s growth from wee grub to boisterous sprite, from her birth to her first birthday.

Horowitz follows Quid’s first weeks with her mother and ten roly-poly littermates, and then each week after the puppy joins her household of three humans, two large dogs, and a wary cat. She documents the social and cognitive milestones that so many of us miss in our puppies’ lives, when caught up in the housetraining and behavioral training that easily overwhelms the first months of a dog’s life with a new family. In focusing on training a dog to behave, we mostly miss the radical development of a puppy into themselves—through the equivalent of infancy, childhood, young adolescence, and teenager-hood.

By slowing down to observe Quid from week to week, The Year of the Puppy makes new sense of a dog’s behavior in a way that is missed when the focus is only on training. Horowitz keeps a lens on the puppy’s point of view—how they (begin to) see and smell the world, make meaning of it, and become an individual personality. She’s there when the puppies first open their eyes, first start to recognize one another and learn about cats, sheep, and people; she sees them from their first play bows to puberty. Horowitz also draws from the ample research in the fields of dog and human development to draw analogies between a dog’s first year and the growing child—and to note where they diverge. The Year of the Puppy is indispensable for anyone navigating their way through the frustrating, amusing, and ultimately delightful first year of a puppy’s life.
Visit Alexandra Horowitz's website and the Dog Cognition Lab website.

The Page 99 Test: Inside of a Dog.

The Page 99 Test: Our Dogs, Ourselves.

The Page 99 Test: The Year of the Puppy.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Kathleen George reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Kathleen George, author of Mirth.

Her entry begins:
What am I reading? At the moment a few minutes before sleep each night I take in some of Emily St. John Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility which is mind boggling. So there is a future (in two centuries) in which there are still bookstores? Hooray for that! People like Marshal Zeringue, who runs this site, do their author interviews by hologram and the writers take hovercrafts from one continent to another for their book events and other public performances. I’m truly sorry I won’t be around for all that. There is a mysterious other dimension suggested in this book and...[read on]
About Mirth, from the publisher:
Mirth chronicles the struggles of a writer, Harrison Mirth, a romantic man who writes about love and tries to find it through three marriages, in three cities, and always with renewable hope. Amanda is first—New York city and youth. Maggie is second and spans the middle age years—Upstate New York. Liz is third—Pittsburgh and the senior years. Harrison Mirth doesn’t say much to Liz about life before her—a thoughtful comment here and there, funny stories, very little casting of blame. But like a quilt maker, Liz puts these scraps together to make a story—how she thinks he was—a boy, then a man sheltering a secret lake of sadness, but somehow always upbeat, cheerful, a willful optimist, forever innocent. To her, that is irresistible. She wants him, all in all.
Learn more about the book and author at Kathleen George's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Blues Walked In.

Writers Read: Kathleen George (May 2018).

My Book, The Movie: The Blues Walked In.

Writers Read: Kathleen George.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Christopher Swann's "Never Go Home," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Never Go Home: A Novel by Christopher Swann.

The entry begins:
Never Go Home is the story of Susannah “Suzie” Faulkner, the survivor of a home invasion that leaves her orphaned when she is ten and her brother Ethan is thirteen. Ethan grows up a bit closed off in his personal life, protective of his privacy and his history, but otherwise he seems to have a good life—he has a house, a dog, and a job he loves as a teacher. Suzie, by contrast, is angry and vengeful, and as a teenager decides she is going to hunt down and kill the man who shot her parents. In my first Faulkner family thriller, Suzie finally confronts that man. That situation resolved, Suzie now has to figure out what to do with the rest of her life, with a skill set that includes skip tracing, firearms, and martial arts. At the start of Never Go Home, she is working to find a missing teenage girl, but when her brother reaches out to her, she flies home to Atlanta to find her uncle in the hospital and a dangerous figure from her father’s past lurking in the shadows, threatening what family she has left.

I tend to write scenes you can visualize fairly easily, so I love the idea of Never Go Home as a movie. Or a miniseries on a streaming service. I’m not picky.

Suzie is a glorious hot mess of a character who struggles with her mental stability and reacts quickly and violently to any perceived injustice or cruelty. She is extremely smart but impulsive, fierce and flawed. She is also sexually fluid, attracted to both men and women. Any actor would need to capture all those traits along with her general quirkiness and occasional active ignorance of social norms. Florence Pugh with dark hair would be a fantastic Suzie. Hailee Steinfeld would be a close second, although...[read on]
Visit Christopher Swann's website.

The Page 69 Test: Never Go Home.

My Book, The Movie: Never Go Home.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Colin Woodward's "Country Boy"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Country Boy: The Roots of Johnny Cash by Colin Woodward.

About the book, from the publisher:
Because Johnny Cash cut his classic singles at Sun Records in Memphis and reigned for years as country royalty from his Nashville-area mansion, people tend to associate the Man in Black with Tennessee. But some of Cash’s best songs—including classics like “Pickin’ Time,” “Big River,” and “Five Feet High and Rising”—sprang from his youth in the sweltering cotton fields of northeastern Arkansas.

In Country Boy, Colin Woodward combines biography, history, and music criticism to illustrate how Cash’s experiences in Arkansas shaped his life and work. The grip of the Great Depression on Arkansas’s small farmers, the comforts and tragedies of family, and a bedrock of faith all lent his music the power and authenticity that so appealed to millions. Though Cash left Arkansas as an eighteen-year-old, he often returned to his home state, where he played some of his most memorable and personal concerts. Drawing upon the country legend’s songs and writings, as well as the accounts of family, fellow musicians, and chroniclers, Woodward reveals how the profound sincerity and empathy so central to Cash’s music depended on his maintaining a deep connection to his native Arkansas—a place that never left his soul.
Visit Colin Woodward's website.

The Page 99 Test: Country Boy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about cleaners

Amanda Craig is a British novelist, short-story writer and critic. Born in South Africa in 1959, she grew up in Italy, where her parents worked for the UN, and was educated at Bedales School and Clare College Cambridge.

The heroine in Craig's The Golden Rule is "a graduate and an impoverished and abused single mother who gets suckered by a rich woman into a plot to murder each other’s husbands. She discovers a very different story as a result of cleaning her intended victim’s home."

At the Guardian the author tagged ten top books on cleaners, "undervalued workers and their sharp perspectives on those they tidy up after." One title on the list:
Mrs Harris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico

Novels about cleaners are usually variants of Cinderella. In 1958, Mrs Harris works for “human pigs” in Belgravia, and longs for a Dior dress. When she wins the football pools, she goes to Paris to buy one. Being very much of its time, she is an innocent abroad but the charm of Gallico’s depiction of the doughty cockney going into battle with the snooty French is winning. Though Gallico was best-known for novels such as The Snow Goose, Mrs Harris became one of the author’s best-loved comic creations; she reappears in three subsequent books, even becoming an MP.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Q&A with Martha Anne Toll

From my Q&A with Martha Anne Toll, author of Three Muses:

The entry begins:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I consider titles tremendously important. Three Muses frames my entire book. These mythical women are Song, Discipline, and Memory, and those three concepts braid the book together. For about nine of the ten years that I was writing this book, I called it "The Three Muses." Then one day I woke up and realized there was power in removing the article. Too often "the" gets in our way! The title as it is now, is meant to take readers right into the novel.

What's in a name?

I gave my male protagonist the name "John," because...[read on]
Visit Martha Anne Toll's website.

My Book, The Movie: Three Muses.

Q&A with Martha Anne Toll.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Christopher Swann's "Never Go Home"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Never Go Home: A Novel by Christopher Swann.

About the book, from the publisher:
She’s a weapon forged in the fires of her past—but this time, the flames could consume her in Critically acclaimed Southern mystery novelist Christopher Swann’s followup to Never Turn Back, perfect for fans of Linwood Barclay and David Swinson.

Orphaned at age ten by a violent home invasion, Susannah Faulkner grew up wild, her stubbornness the only thing harder than her heart. Since then, she’s used her skills to put a boot in the faces of those who deserve it. She knows she’s wired wrong and living a dangerous and violent life, but she’s determined to wring something decent from the world before she leaves it.

Then she gets word her brother Ethan needs her help and returns home to Atlanta. But in the airport, she finds her Uncle Gavin suffering a heart attack. Before he is rushed to the hospital, Gavin whispers a single word to Suzie: Peaches. She’s determined to uncover the meaning behind the cryptic message, but Ethan is also deep in trouble. An ex-soldier and ex-con named Finn appeared on his doorstep with a disturbing story: fifteen years earlier, Finn served with their father in Iraq, where they stole millions in cash. Now the money is missing, and Finn wants his share—or else.

A gang war threatens to explode on Atlanta’s streets. Uncle Gavin clings to life in the hospital. Finn is bent on finding his missing millions. And now, Suzie will be tested as never before in a crucible of violence where all that she holds dear is on the line.
Visit Christopher Swann's website.

The Page 69 Test: Never Go Home.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Michael Verney's "A Great and Rising Nation"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: A Great and Rising Nation: Naval Exploration and Global Empire in the Early US Republic (American Beginnings, 1500-1900) by Michael A. Verney.

About the book, from the publisher:
A Great and Rising Nation illuminates the unexplored early decades of the United States’ imperialist naval aspirations.

Conventional wisdom holds that, until the Spanish-American War of 1898, the United States was a feeble player on the world stage, with an international presence rooted in commerce rather than military might. Michael A. Verney’s A Great and Rising Nation flips this notion on its head, arguing that early US naval expeditions, often characterized as merely scientific, were in fact deeply imperialist. Circling the globe from the Mediterranean to South America and the Arctic, these voyages reflected the diverse imperial aspirations of the new republic, including commercial dominance in the Pacific World, religious empire in the Holy Land, proslavery expansion in South America, and diplomatic prestige in Europe. As Verney makes clear, the United States had global imperial aspirations far earlier than is commonly thought.
Follow Michael Verney on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: A Great and Rising Nation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top historical novels about political shenanigans in ancient Rome

Fiona Forsyth studied Classics at Oxford before teaching it for 25 years. When her family relocated to the Middle East, she took the opportunity to write and the world of Lucius Sestius was born.

As well as writing historical novels set in Ancient Rome, Forsyth is recognised as a poet in Qatar.

At Shepherd she tagged five favorite historical novels about political shenanigans in ancient Rome, including:
I, Claudius by Robert Graves

This is the masterclass in the portrayal of the first hundred years or so of the Roman Empire. Graves was a considerable scholar in his own right, providing the translation for the Penguin edition of Suetonius’ “Twelve Caesars”. He was also a poet and novelist, and his picture of the naïve Claudius making his unwitting way to power is probably on most people’s list of all-time great historical novels. What I particularly found striking was just how much work went into running the Roman empire, and one almost has sympathy for Augustus as he tries to mould Roman rule into something that is efficient and fair. The BBC adaptation, in my opinion, did a good job: Sian Phillips as Livia is a complete joy.
Read about the other entries on the list.

I, Claudius also appears on A. K. Blakemore's top ten list of matriarchs in fictionIsaac Mizrahi's ten favorite books list, Tessa Arlen’s top five list of historical novels, Christopher Wilson's top ten list of books about tyrants, Sarah Dunant's six favorite books list, Daniel Godfrey's top five list of books about ancient Rome, Jeff Somers's lists of eight books that make great party themes and six historical fiction novels that are almost fantasy, Tracy-Ann Oberman's six best books list, the Telegraph's lists of the 21 greatest television adaptations of novels and the twenty best British and Irish novels of all time, Daisy Goodwin's list of six favorite historical fiction books, a list of the eleven best political books of all time, David Chase's six favorite books list, Andrew Miller's top ten list of historical novels, Mark Malloch-Brown's list of his six favorite novels of empire, Annabel Lyon's top ten list of books on the ancient world, Lindsey Davis' top ten list of Roman books, and John Mullan's lists of ten of the best emperors in literature and ten of the best poisonings in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Pg. 99: Jesse Olsavsky's "The Most Absolute Abolition"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Most Absolute Abolition: Runaways, Vigilance Committees, and the Rise of Revolutionary Abolitionism, 1835–1861 by Jesse Olsavsky.

About the book, from the publisher:
Jesse Olsavsky’s The Most Absolute Abolition tells the dramatic story of how vigilance committees organized the Underground Railroad and revolutionized the abolitionist movement. These groups, based primarily in northeastern cities, defended Black neighborhoods from police and slave catchers. As the urban wing of the Underground Railroad, they helped as many as ten thousand refugees, building an elaborate network of like-minded sympathizers across boundaries of nation, gender, race, and class.

Olsavsky reveals how the committees cultivated a movement of ideas animated by a motley assortment of agitators and intellectuals, including famous figures such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Henry David Thoreau, who shared critical information with one another. Formerly enslaved runaways―who grasped the economy of slavery, developed their own political imaginations, and communicated strategies of resistance to abolitionists―serve as the book’s central focus. The dialogues between fugitives and abolitionists further radicalized the latter’s tactics and inspired novel forms of feminism, prison reform, and utopian constructs. These notions transformed abolitionism into a revolutionary movement, one at the heart of the crises that culminated in the Civil War.
Learn more about The Most Absolute Abolition at the LSU Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Most Absolute Abolition.

--Marshal Zeringue