Monday, October 31, 2022

Top ten horror short stories

Simon Crook has been a film journalist for over twenty years, visiting film sets and interviewing talent for Empire magazine. A new and exciting voice in domestic horror, he is perfectly placed to translate the recent successes of the genre from the silver screen to the written word – while adding something new and wholly his own.

Crook's new story collection, Silverweed Road, is "[s]et on a cursed suburban street, the horrors lurking behind each door unlock tales of were-foxes, predatory swimming pools, vengeful urns and a darts player’s pact with the devil."

At the Guardian Crook tagged ten top horror short stories, including:
"Survivor Type" by Stephen King

Of King’s 200-plus stories, I always come back to this one. Offering a day-by-day narrative drive, the diary is perfect for short stories. In Survivor Type, disgraced surgeon turned drug smuggler Richard Pine finds himself marooned on a barren island. As he awaits rescue, entries in his lifeboat logbook pass the time. Nobody comes. There’s nothing to eat. He sharpens a knife and looks at his leg … Oh boy. No ghosts, aliens, or killer clowns. Just auto-cannibalism and stark human horror. King at his most transgressive, and best consumed on an empty stomach.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Denise Gigante's "Book Madness"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Book Madness: A Story of Book Collectors in America by Denise Gigante.

About the book, from the publisher:
The fascinating history of American bookishness as told through the sale of Charles Lamb’s library in 1848

Charles Lamb’s library—a heap of sixty scruffy old books singed with smoke, soaked with gin, sprinkled with crumbs, stripped of illustrations, and bescribbled by the essayist and his literary friends—caused a sensation when it was sold in New York in 1848. The transatlantic book world watched as the relics of a man revered as the patron saint of book collectors were dispersed. Following those books through the stories of the bibliophiles who shaped intellectual life in America—booksellers, publishers, journalists, editors, bibliographers, librarians, actors, antiquarians, philanthropists, politicians, poets, clergymen—Denise Gigante brings to life a lost world of letters at a time when Americans were busy assembling the country’s major public, university, and society libraries. A human tale of loss, obsession, and spiritual survival, this book reveals the magical power books can have to bring people together and will be an absorbing read for anyone interested in what makes a book special.
Learn more about Book Madness at the Yale University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: The Keats Brothers.

The Page 99 Test: The Keats Brothers.

The Page 99 Test: Book Madness.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Nev March reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Nev March, author of Peril at the Exposition: A Mystery.

Her entry begins:
While taking a break from revising book 3 of my Captain Jim and Lady Diana series, I had an epiphany: These days, a female protagonist who's independent and also committed to a relationship might be a rarity in the crime genre. I've loved many books with dynamic female characters (for example, Sujata Massey's Pervin Mistry series, Victoria Thompson's Gaslight mysteries,) but frequently they were 'single' to allow for potential relationships with folks they encountered in their adventures. This gave the impression that being married was somehow 'boring'!!! Romance novels usually end with couples getting together. For me, that is the start of the story! What a lot of change and conflict one must navigate in a relationship! So in my series, Diana and Captain Jim will likely investigate more mysteries in the 1890s, but may also discover the many challenges and surprises of couple-hood.

I've just finished reading a political thriller, Phoenix in the Middle of the Road by JR Bale, which kept me glued to the pages. This insider view of politics is both realistic and riveting, echoing the feel of hit TV series like West Wing and Designated Survivor. While there were a lot of characters to keep track of, the story evolved in gripping short scenes, brilliantly etched and...[read on]
About Peril at the Exposition, from the publisher:
Captain Jim Agnihotri and his new bride, Diana Framji, return in Nev March's Peril at the Exposition, the follow up to March's award-winning, Edgar finalist debut, Murder in Old Bombay.

1893: Newlyweds Captain Jim Agnihotri and Diana Framji are settling into their new home in Boston, Massachusetts, having fled the strict social rules of British Bombay. It's a different life than what they left behind, but theirs is no ordinary marriage: Jim, now a detective at the Dupree Agency, is teaching Diana the art of deduction he’s learned from his idol, Sherlock Holmes.

Everyone is talking about the preparations for the World's Fair in Chicago: the grandeur, the speculation, the trickery. Captain Jim will experience it first-hand: he's being sent to Chicago to investigate the murder of a man named Thomas Grewe. As Jim probes the underbelly of Chicago’s docks, warehouses, and taverns, he discovers deep social unrest and some deadly ambitions.

When Jim goes missing, young Diana must venture to Chicago's treacherous streets to learn what happened. But who can she trust, when a single misstep could mean disaster?

Award-winning author Nev March mesmerized readers with her Edgar finalist debut, Murder in Old Bombay. Now, in Peril at the Exposition, she wields her craft against the glittering landscape of the Gilded Age with spectacular results.
Visit Nev March's website.

Q&A with Nev March.

The Page 69 Test: Murder in Old Bombay.

My Book, The Movie: Murder in Old Bombay.

Writers Read: Nev March.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Seven novels set during the COVID-19 pandemic

Bekah Waalkes is a writer and PhD candidate in English Literature at Tufts University. Her work has appeared in Real Life, Cleveland Review of Books, Bon Appétit, Longreads, and the Ploughshares blog, among others. She is an editorial intern at Electric Literature.

At Electric Lit Waalkes tagged seven "novels [that] refuse to recount lockdown on its own, instead thinking about what we learn about people and their breaking points, what the pandemic made possible for people like us, and, of course, what it took away." One title on the list:
Violeta by Isabel Allende

In true Isabel Allende style, Violeta is a sweeping story that follows one woman, Violeta del Valle, from her birth in 1920 to her death in 2020—her life bookended by two pandemics, the Spanish Flu and COVID-19. Her letters form the whole of the novel, detailing a life that’s been subject to many regimes, many waves of feminism, many tragedies and joys. There’s a lot in between these two pandemics, but there’s also an eerie similarity that Violeta herself reflects on.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Natalie Lund's "The Wolves Are Watching"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Wolves Are Watching by Natalie Lund.

About the book, from the publisher:
A fresh, compelling, and eerie exploration of small-town living, stolen children, and wolves that watch in the woods.

The night little Madison disappears from her crib, Luce sees a pair of eyes–two points of gold deep in the forest behind her house–and feels certain they belong to a wolf. Her town, Picnic, Illinois, is the kind of place where everyone knows one another and no one locks their doors. It’s not the kind of place where a toddler goes missing without a trace, where wolves lurk in the shadows.

In town, people are quick to blame Madison’s mom. But when Luce’s English teacher shares an original script about the disappearance of another little girl in Picnic back in 1870, Luce begins to notice similarities that she can’t ignore. Certain that something deeper is going on, Luce tracks the wolf she saw into the woods and uncovers the truth about her town: magical animal-women, who have remained hidden in shadows for centuries, have taken her cousin for their own purposes–and they have no intention of bringing her back.

A chilling mystery that weaves elements of magical realism, drama, and folklore into a story of one teen’s bravery as she confronts her town’s past and tries to save the future.
Visit Natalie Lund's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Wolves Are Watching.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Abigail Perkiss's "Hurricane Sandy on New Jersey's Forgotten Shore"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Hurricane Sandy on New Jersey's Forgotten Shore by Abigail Perkiss.

About the book, from the publisher:
Hurricane Sandy on New Jersey's Forgotten Shore brings to life the individual and collective voices of a community: victims, volunteers, and state and federal agencies that came together to rebuild the Bayshore after the Superstorm Sandy in 2013.

After the tumultuous night of October 29, 2012, the residents of Monmouth, Ocean, and Atlantic Counties faced an enormous and pressing question: What to do? The stories captured in this book encompass their answer to that question: the clean-up efforts, the work with governmental and non-governmental aid agencies, and the fraught choices concerning rebuilding. Through a rich and varied set of oral histories that provide perspective on disaster planning, response, and recovery in New Jersey, Abigail Perkiss captures the experience of these individuals caught in between short-term preparedness initiatives that municipal and state governments undertook and the long-term planning decisions that created the conditions for catastrophic property damage.

Through these stories, Hurricane Sandy on New Jersey's Forgotten Shore lays bare the ways that climate change and sea level rise are creating critical vulnerabilities in the most densely populated areas in the nation, illuminating the human toll of disaster and the human capacity for resilience.
Visit Abigail Perkiss's website.

The Page 99 Test: Hurricane Sandy on New Jersey's Forgotten Shore.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Six of the best books to read in a secluded cabin in the woods

Lisa Unger is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of twenty novels, including Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six (coming November 8), Last Girl Ghosted, and Confessions on the 7:45 — now in development at Netflix, starring Jessica Alba.

With books published in thirty-two languages and millions of copies sold worldwide, she is regarded as a master of suspense.

At Zibby Mag Unger tagged six of the best (or worst!) books to read in a secluded cabin in the woods, including:
The Long Weekend by Gilly Macmillan

Three women arrive at Dark Fell Barn in the English countryside for a girls’ night prior to their husbands’ arrival the next day. All of them are hauling lots of baggage in the forms of secrets, lies, and hidden resentments. And things are off to a rocky start when the welcome gift includes a note claiming one of their husbands has been murdered. What I love most about Macmillan’s atmospheric thriller is the deep characterizations of each woman, the total sense of isolation she creates, and the mysterious property on which Dark Fell Barn sits. It clearly has a history of its own! Save this one for your next visit to the moors, where there’s a strange light blinking off in the distance. And was that a howl?
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with T. Greenwood

From my Q&A with T. Greenwood, author of Such a Pretty Girl:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

This novel is very much about the commodification of beauty, and so the title - which my editor recommended - captures that. It's also about the sexualization of young actresses in the 1970s: think Brooke Shields, Jodie Foster, Tatum O'Neal. The 1970s were a time when there seemed to be no protections in place for girls in this industry, and it was with horror that I poured over articles written about these young women. But what I really wanted to explore was the complicity of those people closest to these actresses - in Ryan's case, her mother. I wanted to examine how one's moral compass begins to lose direction when ambition is involved.

What's in a name?

In the 1970s, my parents used to...[read on]
Visit T. Greenwood's website.

My Book, The Movie: Rust and Stardust.

The Page 69 Test: Rust and Stardust.

Writers Read: T. Greenwood (August 2019).

The Page 69 Test: Keeping Lucy.

My Book, The Movie: Keeping Lucy.

Q&A with T. Greenwood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Briana Una McGuckin's "On Good Authority," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: On Good Authority: A Novel of Suspense by Briana Una McGuckin.

The entry begins:
On Good Authority is a Victorian Gothic/Romantic Suspense story in which a lady’s maid called Marian Osley must teach a terrible master the difference between servitude and surrender—and confront her dark desire for the footman, Valentine Hobbs, along the way.

I don’t generally cast people in my head as I’m writing, but when the book was done I did happen to see an image on my Google home screen of Timothée Chalamet attending some event in connection with Little Women. He was in a dark vest and white shirt, and I had to do a double-take. I may have said, out loud to no one, “Valentine Hobbs?”

Since, in conversation about who would play the leads in my dreams, I said I would...[read on]
Visit Briana Una McGuckin's website.

Q&A with Briana Una McGuckin.

My Book, The Movie: On Good Authority.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 28, 2022

Fourteen new and upcoming books featuring witches

Molly Odintz is the Senior Editor for CrimeReads and the editor of Austin Noir, forthcoming from Akashic Books. She grew up in Austin and worked as a bookseller at BookPeople, and recently returned to Central Texas after five years in NYC. She likes cats, crime novels, and coffee.

At CrimeReads Odintz tagged fourteen new and upcoming books featuring witches, including:
Sara A. Mueller, The Bone Orchard

The visual creativity of The Bone Orchard is stunning. Charm, a powerful witch and mistress to the kingdom’s aged emperor, spends her days imprisoned in luxury, creating bone ghost simulacra of herself at different ages in life. Together, the bone ghosts serve the refined clients of Charm’s tasteful bordello, and when Charm’s emperor is murdered, she follows his last instructions: to find who has killed him, and to send his dangerous sons far from the throne.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Bone Orchard.

My Book, The Movie: The Bone Orchard.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Shannon K. O'Neil's "The Globalization Myth"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Globalization Myth: Why Regions Matter by Shannon K. O'Neil.

About the book, from the publisher:
A case for why regionalization, not globalization, has been the biggest economic trend of the past forty years

The conventional wisdom about globalization is wrong. Over the past forty years as companies, money, ideas, and people went abroad more often than not, they looked regional rather than globally. O’Neil details this transformation and the rise of three major regional hubs in Asia, Europe, and North America. Current technological, demographic, and geopolitical trends look only to deepen these regional ties. O'Neil argues that this has urgent implications for the United States. Regionalization has enhanced economic competitiveness and prosperity in Europe and Asia. It could do the same for the United States, if only it would embrace its neighbors.
Visit Shannon K. O'Neil's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Globalization Myth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Jason Mosberg's "My Dirty California"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: My Dirty California by Jason Mosberg.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this literary thriller, a young man descends into the Los Angeles underworld to find his family’s killer—aided by a group of strangers with their own shadowy pasts.

When Marty returns to Pennsylvania after living in California for ten years, he’s happily welcomed by his father and older brother, Jody. The joyful reunion is short-lived. Two days later, Jody enters the house to find his father and Marty shot dead as their masked killer flees out the back door. Without any answers from the local police, Jody heads to Los Angeles looking for who murdered his family and why.

Soon, he finds a trove of strange videos recorded by his brother that leads him into the city’s most dangerous corners, where he comes up against drug dealers, crooked cops, surf gangs, and black-market profiteers. As his investigation expands, it also intersects with Pen, a documentary filmmaker who suspects humanity is living in a simulation and that her missing father found a portal to escape; Renata, an undocumented immigrant who might have evidence to support Pen’s theory; and Tiph, a young mother whose desperate efforts to support her only child via a stolen art stash could prove the key to answering all these mysteries.

My Dirty California is a cinematic, suspenseful, intricately plotted thriller that explores the darker side of the glamorous Golden State.
Visit Jason Mosberg's website.

My Book, The Movie: My Dirty California.

Q&A with Jason Mosberg.

The Page 69 Test: My Dirty California.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Q&A with Meredith Ireland

From my Q&A with Meredith Ireland, author of Everyone Hates Kelsie Miller:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Everyone Hates Kelsie Miller is the perfect introduction to the main character Kelsie. She has been ghosted by her friends and her academic rival is the only one speaking to her. I’d first named it The Breakups, which I still like but would’ve worked better if Eric, her nemesis, had a POV.

What's in a name?

For some reason the name Kelsie Miller...[read on]
Visit Meredith Ireland's website.

Q&A with Meredith Ireland.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten very scary books

Emily Temple is the author of The Lightness and the Managing Editor at Literary Hub. She earned her MFA in fiction from the University of Virginia, where she was the recipient of a Henfield Prize.

[My Book, The Movie: The LightnessThe Page 69 Test: The Lightness]

At Lit Hub she and her fellow editors tagged ten books that scared them. Temple's pick:
Susanna Moore, In the Cut

I do not enjoy horror. Look, life is hard enough—why would I go out of my way to have more negative feelings? I know some people find it cathartic, but I just find it unpleasant. When we were in college, my best friend convinced me to go see a movie because it was a “cool indie comedy” and it turned out to be Hard Candy, in which a pedophile and a teenager meet and one of them tortures and humiliates the other in a way that is kind of brilliant in retrospect but also deeply awful and disturbing to watch.

I tease her about it all the time, but I still fell for it when she recommended that I read Susanna Moore’s “cool feminist thriller” In the Cut, which turned out to be a terrifying, upsetting, gut-punch of a book with a devastating ending that I will not give away. In fact, if you haven’t read it, I don’t want to say anything else about it, except that you should only attempt if you have a stronger stomach than I. No doubt the novel is a triumphant work of art, and indeed a cool feminist thriller, but it is one that haunts my dreams. In a bad way. Leave me alone, Bri!
Read about another entry on the list.

In the Cut is among Nicholas Royle's top ten lighthouses in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Devoney Looser's "Sister Novelists"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Sister Novelists: The Trailblazing Porter Sisters, Who Paved the Way for Austen and the Brontës by Devoney Looser.

About the book, from the publisher:
For readers of Prairie Fires and The Peabody Sisters, a fascinating, insightful biography of the most famous sister novelists before the Brontës.

Before the Brontë sisters picked up their pens, or Jane Austen's heroines Elizabeth and Jane Bennet became household names, the literary world was celebrating a different pair of sisters: Jane and Anna Maria Porter. The Porters-exact contemporaries of Jane Austen-were brilliant, attractive, self-made single women of polite reputation who between them published 26 books and achieved global fame. They socialized among the rich and famous, tried to hide their family's considerable debt, and fell dramatically in and out of love. Their moving letters to each other confess every detail. Because the celebrity sisters expected their renown to live on, they preserved their papers, and the secrets they contained, for any biographers to come.

But history hasn't been kind to the Porters. Credit for their literary invention was given to their childhood friend, Sir Walter Scott, who never publicly acknowledged the sisters' works as his inspiration. With Scott's more prolific publication and even greater fame, the Porter sisters gradually fell from the pinnacle of celebrity to eventual obscurity. Now, Professor Devoney Looser, a Guggenheim fellow in English Literature, sets out to re-introduce the world to the authors who cleared the way for Austen, Mary Shelley, and the Brontë sisters. Capturing the Porter sisters' incredible rise, from when Anna Maria published her first book at age 14 in 1793, through to Jane's fall from the pinnacle of fame in the Victorian era, and then to the auctioning off for a pittance of the family's massive archive, Sister Novelists is a groundbreaking and enthralling biography of two pioneering geniuses in historical fiction.
Visit Devoney Looser's website and the Sister Novelists website.

The Page 99 Test: Sister Novelists.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is K. Eason reading?

Featured at Writers Read: K. Eason, author of Nightwatch over Windscar.

Her entry begins:
Slaying the Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons & Dragons by Ben Riggs. I picked up the book because I’m a long-time gamer who remembers the early-ish days of D&D and TSR and the rise of Magic: the Gathering. Riggs weaves timelines and personalities and data together in a narrative that makes you forget you’re reading a (secret) history. I found it fascinating and fun and surprising in many places.

Hate Machine by Stephen Blackmoore. Eric Carter is my...[read on]
About Nightwatch over Windscar, from the publisher:
Set in the universe of Rory Thorne, the second book in this sci-fi series follows unlikely allies who must discover the secrets of ancient ruins.

Iari is good at killing monsters. As a templar in the Aedis, a multi-species religious organization committed to protecting the Confederation, eliminating extra-dimensional horrors is her job. But after she helped stop separatists from sabotaging the entire Confederation, she discovered a new sort of monster: the rogue-arithmancer, political kind.

Promoted and sent north to the tundra of Windscar, Iari leads a team of templars to investigate ancient, subterranean ruins, which local legend claims are haunted, and which have mysterious connections to the dangerous arithmancy used by the wichu separatists. Iari isn’t worried about ghosts. She’s worried about surviving separatists and a fresh attempt to upend the Confederation.

Included in Iari’s team are Char, a decommissioned battle-mecha and newly-joined templar, and Gaer, ostensible ambassador and talented arithmancer. As they delve into the ruins, they find remnants of long-ago battles, bits of broken armor and mechas—which unexpectedly reanimate and attack. It seems there is still dangerous arithmancy in Windscar–but the source isn’t who Iari expected, and they’re far worse than the separatists….
Visit K. Eason's website.

The Page 69 Test: How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse.

Q&A with K. Eason.

Writers Read: K. Eason.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Roger A. Canaff's "City Dark," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: City Dark: A Thriller by Roger A. Canaff.

The entry begins:
City Dark is a legal and psychological thriller set in 2017 New York City, but also tracks the night of the NYC blackout in July of 1977. The protagonist, Joe DeSantos, was abandoned by his mother on that night, leaving him and his older brother Robbie to navigate the city to safety. 40 years later as the story begins, Joe is a brilliant and hard-charging prosecutor but with a terrible drinking problem. He finds himself accused of two brutal murders (including his disappeared mother) and due to alcoholic blackouts has no memory of the nights of the murders. The book tracks both the mystery of Joe’s current situation and the terrible night from his childhood that may be reaching back for him in the present day.

I have envisioned George Clooney to play Joe DeSantos, mostly because Clooney brilliantly played an attorney in a desperate situation in Michael Clayton. Clooney is about the right age, has a similar gestalt, and has a deep, confident voice I imagine would be perfect for Joe. More than any contemporary actor I can think of, Clooney seems to possess the streetwise, city-hardened, but still boyish and charming aura that I think would be perfect for an on-screen adaptation of my protagonist.

Another important character is Aideen Bradigan, a former colleague of Joe’s who takes his case as a defense attorney and struggles to unravel the mysteries of both past and present along with him. For this role I would love to see...[read on]
Visit Roger A. Canaff's website.

My Book, The Movie: City Dark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven books about being stuck in Hell

Claudia Lux is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and has a master’s in social work from the University of Texas at Austin. She lives and works in Boston, Massachusetts.

Sign Here is her first novel.

At Electric Lit Lux tagged seven "books that address Hell as any lack of escape, which, when combined with the tedium and terror of being left outside of time, sharpens into a pain even the most skilled torturer could never inflict." One title on the list:
Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins

Jitterbug Perfume is an absolute feast for the senses, due to both the drive of the plot and Robbins’ visceral, whacky, and ultimately perfect metaphors. The book follows multiple perspectives, all of which are centered around the search for immortality, this time through scent. Among others, there is a couple who have been evading death for centuries alongside the disappearing goat-god named Pan, who is often mistaken for the devil due to his sulfurous smell and proclivity for wantonness, and an evasive smooth-talking con-man who hopes to profit from it all. This novel captures just how long immortality lasts and what can happen to a soul if the body never gives it up, but the world keeps on changing without them anyway.
Read about another entry on the list.

Jitterbug Perfume is among the top ten books about New Orleans.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Phyllis Vine's "Fighting for Recovery"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Fighting for Recovery: An Activists' History of Mental Health Reform by Phyllis Vine.

About the book, from the publisher:
An essential history of the recovery movement for people with mental illness, and an inspiring account of how former patients and advocates challenged a flawed system and encouraged mental health activism

This definitive people’s history of the recovery movement spans the 1970s to the present day and proves to readers just how essential mental health activism is to every person in this country, whether you have a current psychiatric diagnosis or not.

In Fighting for Recovery, professor and mental health advocate Phyllis Vine tells the history of the former psychiatric patients, families, and courageous activists who formed a patients’ liberation movement that challenged medical authority and proved to the world that recovery from mental illness is possible. Mental health discussions have become more common in everyday life, but there are still enormous numbers of people with psychiatric illness in jails and prisons or who are experiencing homelessness – proving there is still progress to be made.
Visit Phyllis Vine's website.

The Page 99 Test: Fighting for Recovery.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Danielle Binks's "The Year the Maps Changed"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Year the Maps Changed by Danielle Binks.

About the book, from the publisher:
Wolf Hollow meets The Thing About Jellyfish in Danielle Binks’s debut middle grade novel set in 1999, where a twelve-year-old girl grapples with the meaning of home and family amidst a refugee crisis that has divided her town.

If you asked eleven-year-old Fred to draw a map of her family, it would be a bit confusing. Her birth father was never in the picture, her mom died years ago, and her stepfather, Luca, is now expecting a baby with his new girlfriend. According to Fred’s teacher, maps don’t always give the full picture of our history, but more and more it feels like Fred’s family is redrawing the line of their story . . . and Fred is feeling left off the map.

Soon after learning about the baby, Fred hears that the town will be taking in hundreds of refugees seeking safety from a war-torn Kosovo. Some people in town, like Luca, think it’s great and want to help. Others, however, feel differently, causing friction within the community.

Fred, who has been trying to navigate her own feelings of displacement, ends up befriending a few refugees. But what starts as a few friendly words in Albanian will soon change their lives forever, not to mention completely redrawing Fred’s personal map of friends, family, and home, and community.
Visit Danielle Binks's website.

Q&A with Danielle Binks.

My Book, The Movie: The Year the Maps Changed.

The Page 69 Test: The Year the Maps Changed.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Q&A with Jessica Vitalis

From my Q&A with Jessica Vitalis, author of The Rabbit's Gift:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Because The Rabbit’s Gift is a companion novel to The Wolf’s Curse and the stories take place in the same magical world but examine very different themes (The Wolf’s Curse is a twist on Grim Reaper mythology while The Rabbit’s Gift features a French spin on stork mythology), I knew the title before I started writing. And it does give the readers a good introduction to the story in the sense that the book takes place in a country where human babies are grown in cabbage-like plants and delivered by rabbits.

That said, the title might lull reader into thinking that the “gift” part of the title refers to a human baby, but the truth is more complicated than that. The story is told in dual points of view; on one side, we have a scrawny rabbit named Quincy, who is determined to prove himself to his starving warren. The other point of view is a young girl by the name of Fleurine, who longs for a sister to help shoulder the burden of her maman’s impossible expectations. When Fleurine catches Quincy stealing some of her precious gardening supplies, she follows him back to the top-secret warren, setting off...[read on]
Visit Jessica Vitalis's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Wolf's Curse.

The Page 69 Test: The Rabbit's Gift.

Q&A with Jessica Vitalis.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Alexander J. Field's "The Economic Consequences of U.S. Mobilization for the Second World War"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Economic Consequences of U.S. Mobilization for the Second World War by Alexander J. Field.

About the book, from the publisher:
A reminder that war is not always, or even generally, good for long-term growth

Many believe that despite its destructive character, war ultimately boosts long‑term economic growth. For the United States this view is often supported by appeal to the experience of the Second World War, understood as a triumph of both production and productivity. Alexander Field shows that between 1941 and 1945 manufacturing productivity actually declined, depressed by changes in the output mix and resource shocks from enemy action, including curtailed access to natural rubber and, on the Eastern Seaboard, petroleum. The war forced a shift away from producing goods in which the country had a great deal of experience toward those in which it had little. Learning by doing was only a partial counterbalance to the intermittent idleness and input hoarding that characterized a shortage economy and dragged down productivity. The conflict distorted human and physical capital accumulation and once it ended, America stopped producing most of the new goods. The war temporarily shut down basic scientific research and the ongoing development of civilian goods. U.S. world economic dominance in 1948, Field shows, was due less to the experience of making war goods and more to the country’s productive potential in 1941.
Learn more about The Economic Consequences of U.S. Mobilization for the Second World War at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: A Great Leap Forward.

The Page 99 Test: The Economic Consequences of U.S. Mobilization for the Second World War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven top mysteries set in the Midwestern winter

Deborah E. Kennedy is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her debut, Tornado Weather, came out with Flatiron Books in 2017 and was nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe best first novel prize by the Mystery Writers of America. Kennedy has worked as a reporter, teacher, and editor, as well as a cookie packer, ice cream scooper, and children’s baseball coach. She also holds a Master’s in Fiction Writing and English literature from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She currently lives in Forest Grove, Oregon with her mother and young son.

[My Book, The Movie: Tornado WeatherThe Page 69 Test: Tornado WeatherWriters Read: Deborah E. Kennedy]

Kennedy's new novel is Billie Starr's Book of Sorries.

At CrimeReads the author tagged seven page-turners that run red-hot in the deep Midwestern cold, including:
The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf

I would recommend that you not read this book when you’re alone. Or stuck in an isolated farmhouse with only the wind for company. This spooky novel—Gudenkauf’s eighth—straddles the fine line between mystery and horror, balancing both so well you’ll be obsessed with the whodunnit while still trying to get the hair on the back of your neck to go down. The story revolves around true crime writer Wylie Lark, who, still smarting from an argument with her teenage son, retreats to an old house in rural Iowa to work on her newest book. She soon finds herself with more material than she bargained for. Not only were a husband and wife murdered in the house where she’s staying, but a little boy turns up wounded outside her door in the middle of a blizzard. Add a girl who went missing without a trace twenty years ago and a large dose of surprise and you have the perfect way to while away a winter night.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Overnight Guest.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 24, 2022

Pg. 69: Jessica Vitalis's "The Rabbit's Gift"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Rabbit's Gift by Jessica Vitalis.

About the book, from the publisher:
What makes a hero or a villain? Can someone be both—or neither?

When the delicate balance between the people of a small country and the mythic rabbits of age-old lore is broken, putting everyone at risk, a young rabbit and a young girl must overcome their prejudices and learn to trust each other. This vivid and inventive novel from the acclaimed author of
The Wolf’s Curse will captivate fans of Orphan Island and Scary Stories for Young Foxes.

Quincy Rabbit and his warren live a simple yet high-stakes life. In exchange for the purple carrots they need to survive, they farm and deliver Chou de vie (cabbage-like plants that grow human babies inside) to the human citizens of Montpeyroux. But lately, because of those selfish humans, there haven’t been enough carrots to go around. So Quincy sets out to change that—all he needs are some carrot seeds. He’ll be a hero.

Fleurine sees things a little differently. As the only child of the Grand Lumière, she’s being groomed to follow in her mother’s political footsteps—no matter how much Fleurine longs to be a botanist instead. Convinced that having a sibling will shift her mother’s attention, Fleurine tries to grow purple carrots, hoping to make a trade with the rabbits. But then a sneaky rabbit steals her seeds. In her desperation to get them back, she follows that rabbit all the way to the secret warren—and steals a Chou.

Quincy and Fleurine have endangered not just the one baby inside the Chou, but the future of Montpeyroux itself—for rabbits and humans alike. Now, they’ll have to find a way to trust each other to restore the balance.

Told from both Quincy’s and Fleurine’s perspectives, The Rabbit’s Gift will enchant fans of Katherine Applegate, Gail Carson Levine, and Anne Ursu.
Visit Jessica Vitalis's website.

Q&A with Jessica Vitalis.

The Page 69 Test: The Wolf's Curse.

The Page 69 Test: The Rabbit's Gift.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top SFF stories set in academia

At James Davis Nicoll tagged five favorite SFF stories set in academia, including:
Starfarers by Vonda N. McIntyre (1989)

Rather than leave academia behind, the academics who staffed Starfarer convinced a consortium of nations to provide them with a space-going university. Propelled by solar sails, the diverse and brilliant crew will hook on a passing cosmic string, leap past the gulfs of space, and begin the age of human interstellar exploration. That’s the plan.

America provided the lion’s share of Starfarer’s funding. President Distler believes this makes Starfarer American property. America has no particular need for interstellar exploration. A heavily armed orbiting battle-station, on the other, could secure American safety in a divided world. The only thing between Distler and his bold plan to repurpose Starfarer is a collection of unarmed idealists. What are they going to do, steal an entire starship?

Stealing entire starships is such a common development in science fiction that there are good reasons for funding agencies to invest in better locks and keep ignition keys in trustworthy pockets. Starfarers is notable for a dramatis personae unusually diverse for its era, and for having its genesis in a series of convention joke panels about the non-existent Starfarers TV show.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Thomas Suddendorf, Jonathan Redshaw, & Adam Bulley's "The Invention of Tomorrow"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Invention of Tomorrow: A Natural History of Foresight by Thomas Suddendorf, Jonathan Redshaw, and Adam Bulley.

About the book, from the publisher:
A spellbinding exploration of the human capacity to imagine the future

Our ability to think about the future is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal. In The Invention of Tomorrow, cognitive scientists Thomas Suddendorf, Jonathan Redshaw, and Adam Bulley argue that its emergence transformed humans from unremarkable primates to creatures that hold the destiny of the planet in their hands.

Drawing on their own cutting-edge research, the authors break down the science of foresight, showing us where it comes from, how it works, and how it made our world. Journeying through biology, psychology, history, and culture, they show that thinking ahead is at the heart of human nature—even if we often get it terribly wrong. Incisive and expansive, The Invention of Tomorrow offers a fresh perspective on the human tale that shows how our species clawed its way to control the future.
Visit Thomas Suddendorf's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Gap: The Science of What Separates Us from Other Animals by Thomas Suddendorf.

The Page 99 Test: The Invention of Tomorrow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Q&A with Briana Una McGuckin

From my Q&A with Briana Una McGuckin, author of On Good Authority: A Novel of Suspense:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The working title was Morality Play, which was a little more literal than where I ended up. At the center of the whole story is a game that Marian and Valentine play as children, trapped in this Victorian workhouse; it’s like cops and robbers, but they’re acting out their respective parents’ arrests, trying to reconcile ideas of right and wrong, of justice, with the unfair reality of their situation.

This struggle over right and wrong follows Marian into adulthood, where she must serve as lady’s maid in a house with a terrible master who tries to take advantage of her—and also confront her own dark, kinky desire for adult Valentine, when he’s hired as footman in the house.

I think On Good Authority is a pretty opaque title—even misleading, because we use the phrase for when we have reason to believe information is true. But I mean the phrase in the way that the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre meant On Being and Nothingness: straightforwardly. This book is about what good authority looks like—especially in consensual BDSM--and...[read on]
Visit Briana Una McGuckin's website.

Q&A with Briana Una McGuckin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Danielle Binks's "The Year the Maps Changed," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Year the Maps Changed by Danielle Binks.

The entry begins:
Since my book is Middle Grade and there's a lot of kid-characters, I'd love to do an open-casting call and find some new talent. It still boggles that they did that for To Kill a Mockingbird and found *the* Scout in Mary Badham! As for Luca, Fred's father - I have this idea that he is very much Eric Bana. Hands down. I think the fact that Eric Bana's father is Croatian means he'd also have a lot of background knowledge about the unrest in Eastern Europe during the 80s and 90s, and the Kosovo War conflict borne out of the dissolving of the former Yugoslavia. That background I think would really open the role up for him, even as he's playing the local police officer of the small Australian town where Kosovar Albanian refugees arrive - I think he'd bring some critical empathy underlying to the character.

And as for directors? I could go...[read on]
Visit Danielle Binks's website.

Q&A with Danielle Binks.

My Book, The Movie: The Year the Maps Changed.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight books for the recovering nice girl

Mia Mercado is a humor writer. Her second book, She's Nice Though: Essays on Being Bad at Being Good is now available Her debut collection of funny non-fiction essays is Weird but Normal.

Mercado is currently a contributor to The Cut and writes a weekly column called I Can’t Shut Up About, providing shallow dives in her latest online obsession.

At Electric Lit she tagged "some required reading for fellow nice girls who are learning to spread their nasty little wings." One title on the list:
Little Weirds by Jenny Slate

Weird girls and nice girls have a symbiotic relationship. For those of us who followed the rules to our own demise, there is an undeniable charm to someone who eschews cultural mores in favor of their own whimsy. Little Weirds by Jenny Slate is a collection of poems, essays, stories, dreams, and hopeful squeals about the intricacies and oddities of being alive today. “A Letter from the Committee for Evening Experiences,” for example, traces Slate’s confusing, occasionally anxious, and sometimes overwhelmingly mundane dreams. The collection is poetic and dreamy, soothing and intimate, like whispered secrets between childhood friends.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Pg. 69: Kerry Anne King's "Improbably Yours"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Improbably Yours: A Novel by Kerry Anne King.

About the book, from the publisher:
An unusual inheritance leads to a life-changing journey in a novel of romance, secrets, and the treasure of found family.

Blythe Harmon is on the fast track to a life she never wanted. On her thirtieth birthday, just as she’s about to lock herself into a high-powered job and accept a marriage proposal to match, an unusual bequest from her beloved late grandmother, Nomi, offers an escape and an invitation to adventure.

Equipped with Nomi’s urn of ashes and a treasure map, Blythe sets off for a small island in the San Juans where she rents the mysterious and unsettling Improbable House. Secret by secret, clue by cryptic clue, she begins to unravel the puzzle her grandmother has left her to piece together. Her quest is complicated, though, by a powerful attraction to an enigmatic islander and empathy for his orphaned niece, both of whom are inexorably tied to the old house.

Just when Blythe thinks she’s on the verge of solving the mystery, her quest takes an unexpected turn, and she discovers that the treasure she’s really seeking is something that could never be buried in the ground. While she’s on the treasure hunt of a lifetime, the past and the future are coming together in this magical novel by the Amazon Charts bestselling author of Whisper Me This.
Visit Kerry Anne King's website.

The Page 69 Test: Everything You Are.

The Page 69 Test: A Borrowed Life.

Writers Read: Kerry Anne King.

The Page 69 Test: Other People's Things.

The Page 69 Test: Improbably Yours.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jordan E. Taylor's "Misinformation Nation"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Misinformation Nation: Foreign News and the Politics of Truth in Revolutionary America by Jordan E. Taylor.

About the book, from the publisher:
Fundamentally reshapes our understanding of the causes of the American Revolution and the pivotal role foreign news and misinformation played in driving colonists to revolt.

"Fake news" is not new. Just like millions of Americans today, the revolutionaries of the eighteenth century worried that they were entering a "post-truth" era. Their fears, however, were not fixated on social media or clickbait, but rather on peoples' increasing reliance on reading news gathered from foreign newspapers. In Misinformation Nation, Jordan E. Taylor reveals how foreign news defined the boundaries of American politics and ultimately drove colonists to revolt against Britain and create a new nation.

News was the lifeblood of early American politics, but newspaper printers had few reliable sources to report on events from abroad. Accounts of battles and beheadings, as well as declarations and constitutions, often arrived alongside contradictory intelligence. Though frequently false, the information that Americans encountered in newspapers, letters, and conversations framed their sense of reality, leading them to respond with protests, boycotts, violence, and the creation of new political institutions. Fearing that their enemies were spreading fake news, American colonists fought for control of the news media. As their basic perceptions of reality diverged, Loyalists separated from Patriots and, in the new nation created by the revolution, Republicans inhabited a political reality quite distinct from that of their Federalist rivals.

The American Revolution was not only a political contest for liberty, equality, and independence (for white men, at least); it was also a contest to define certain accounts of reality to be truthful while defining others as false and dangerous. Misinformation Nation argues that we must also conceive of the American Revolution as a series of misperceptions, misunderstandings, and uninformed overreactions. In addition to making a striking and original argument about the founding of the United States, Misinformation Nation will be a valuable prehistory to our current political moment.
Visit Jordan E. Taylor's website.

The Page 99 Test: Misinformation Nation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top books about journalism

Margaret Sullivan is an award-winning media critic and a groundbreaking journalist. She was the first woman appointed as public editor of the New York Times and went on to the Washington Post as media columnist. She started her career as a summer intern at her hometown Buffalo News and rose to be that paper's first woman editor-in-chief.

Of Sullivan's new book, Newsroom Confidential: Lessons (and Worries) from an Ink-Stained Life, Molly Jong-Fast wrote: “It's rare that a respected critic writes a dishy, fun book that also packs an important message, but when she does, it's a must-read.” Steve Coll called Sullivan "the critic American journalism requires."

At Lit Hub Sullivan tagged five favorite books about journalism. One title on the list:
Victor Pickard, Democracy Without Journalism?: Confronting the Misinformation Society

Written by a University of Pennsylvania media studies professor, this whip-smart 2019 book is a searing examination of how our broken media system is harming America. It not only lays out the deep problems but presents ways to begin fixing them.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 21, 2022

Third reading: D.W. Buffa on The Collected Works of Thomas Babington Macaulay

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

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

Buffa's "Third Reading" of The Collected Works of Thomas Babington Macaulay begins:
One summer, years ago, wandering into a musty old book store in Manhattan, I discovered two sets of the collected works of Francis Bacon, one bound in an unpretentious plain cloth, the other, five times more expensive, bound in gorgeous green and gold leather. When I asked the bookstore owner why the one was so much more expensive than the other, he gave me one of those looks jaded New Yorkers reserve for out of town idiots and told me there was only one reason why people would buy the leather bound collected works of Francis Bacon or of anyone else: “They don’t buy them to read them; they buy them for the furniture value.”

This seemed worse than murder. Something had to be done; someone had to rescue all these priceless works of the human mind from becoming part of an interior decorator’s overpriced color scheme. When a few years later I discovered in a Chicago bookstore the Whitehall edition of the collected works of Thomas Babington Macaulay, of which only a thousand copies had been printed, twenty volumes bound in gleaming maroon leather, I knew my duty. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Ten volumes contain Macaulay’s masterful History of England, the other ten the essays that made him famous as a literary figure in the early 19th century as well as his speeches. His speech in Parliament on the Reform Bill of 1832, the bill that broadened the franchise to include the middle class and changed British politics forever, is one of the greatest speeches ever given. Reading it, even now, nearly two hundred years later, not only holds your attention, but as the speech draws to its conclusion, makes you think you are there, listening with the other members of Parliament, ready to jump to your feet cheering. Delivered at tremendous speed, it lasted well over an hour, every word spoken from memory. And while it is true that everyone had better memories then, when minds were not, like ours, cluttered with a million different disconnected electronic images and sounds, Macaulay’s memory was truly extraordinary. He had, among other things, memorized...[read on]
About Buffa's recent novel Neumann’s Last Concert, from the publisher:
Neumann’s Last Concert is a story about music and war and the search for what led to the greatest evil in modern history. It is the story of an American boy, Wilfred Malone, who lost his father in the early days of the Second World War and a German refugee, Isaac Neumann, the greatest concert pianist of his age when he lived in Berlin, but who now lives, anonymous and alone, in a single rented room in a small town a few miles from San Francisco.

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

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

Third reading: The Great Gatsby

Third reading: Brave New World.

Third reading: Lord Jim.

Third reading: Death in the Afternoon.

Third Reading: Parade's End.

Third Reading: The Idiot.

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

Third Reading: The Scarlet Letter.

Third Reading: Justine.

Third Reading: Patriotic Gore.

Third reading: Anna Karenina.

Third reading: The Charterhouse of Parma.

Third Reading: Emile.

Third Reading: War and Peace.

Third Reading: The Sorrows of Young Werther.

Third Reading: Bread and Wine.

Third Reading: “The Crisis of the Mind” and A Man Without Qualities.

Third reading: Eugene Onegin.

Third Reading: The Collected Works of Thomas Babington Macaulay.

--Marshal Zeringue