Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Ten essential books for teens by indigenous authors

Angeline Boulley, an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, is a storyteller who writes about her Ojibwe community in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. She is a former Director of the Office of Indian Education at the U.S. Department of Education. Boulley lives in southwest Michigan, but her home will always be on Sugar Island. Firekeeper's Daughter is her debut novel.

Boulley's second novel, Warrior Girl Unearthed, is due in May.

At Publishers Weekly she tagged ten "must-read books that set the bar for representing Indigenous characters authentically." One title on the list:
Murder on the Red River by Marcie R. Rendon

Technically not YA, but I would not hesitate to share Rendon’s work with teens. Renee “Cash” Blackbear is a 19-year-old Anishinaabe making her way in 1970s Fargo, N. Dak. She drives truck for local farmers and plays (wins) pool for cash. Sometimes she helps Sheriff Wheaton with murder investigations. Rendon is the most underrated author, IMHO. She writes the way Anishinaabe people see the world—crafting rich, sensory descriptions that transport the reader.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Benjamin L. Carp's "The Great New York Fire of 1776"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Great New York Fire of 1776: A Lost Story of the American Revolution by Benjamin L. Carp.

About the book, from the publisher:
Who set the mysterious fire that burned down much of New York City shortly after the British took the city during the Revolutionary War?

New York City, the strategic center of the Revolutionary War, was the most important place in North America in 1776. That summer, an unruly rebel army under George Washington repeatedly threatened to burn the city rather than let the British take it. Shortly after the Crown’s forces took New York City, much of it mysteriously burned to the ground.

This is the first book to fully explore the Great Fire of 1776 and why its origins remained a mystery even after the British investigated it in 1776 and 1783. Uncovering stories of espionage, terror, and radicalism, Benjamin L. Carp paints a vivid picture of the chaos, passions, and unresolved tragedies that define a historical moment we usually associate with “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Visit Benjamin L. Carp's website.

The Page 99 Test: Defiance of the Patriots.

The Page 99 Test: The Great New York Fire of 1776.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Stephen Policoff's "Dangerous Blues"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Dangerous Blues by Stephen Policoff.

About the book, from the publisher:
Dangerous Blues explores a dark yet comic storm of family relationships laced with a buzz of the supernatural, where the fleeting light of the present must constantly contend with the shadows of the past.

Paul Brickner and his 12-year-old daughter Spring are subletting an apartment in New York City. They came to escape the sorrow of their empty house in upstate New York after Nadia, Paul’s wife and Spring’s mother, dies.

Spring quickly takes to her new Manhattan middle school life, including making a new friend, Irina. Through that connection, Paul meets Irina’s mother, Tara White, a blues singer, and perhaps just the spark Paul has been missing.

But Paul begins to fear that he is being haunted by Nadia, who appears to him in fleeting images. Is he imagining it, or is she real? Tara, who grew up in the inscrutable New England cult known as the Dream People, is haunted, too, hounded by her very real brothers to return to the family, and to give back the magical object—a shamanic Tibetan vessel—which they claim she stole from them.

Paul’s cousin Hank, a disreputable art dealer, becomes obsessed with this object. Meanwhile, Paul’s father-in-law, an expert on occult lore, tries to steer Paul toward resolution with Nadia’s ghost.

Driven by Paul’s new circle of odd and free spirited iconoclasts, Dangerous Blues asks the question: when do you let go, and what are you willing to let go of?
Visit Stephen Policoff's website.

The Page 69 Test: Come Away.

My Book, The Movie: Come Away.

Writers Read: Stephen Policoff.

Q&A with Stephen Policoff.

The Page 69 Test: Dangerous Blues.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 30, 2023

Eight books with happy endings to brighten dark January days

Eva Carter is the author of How to Save a Life. Carter is a pseudonym for internationally bestselling nonfiction and rom-com writer Kate Harrison, who worked as a BBC reporter before becoming an author. She lives in Brighton on the English coast and loves Grey’s Anatomy and walking her own scruffy terrier, who regularly volunteers as a therapy dog at the local hospital.

Carter's new novel is Owner of a Lonely Heart.

At Lit Hub she tagged eight books with happy endings to brighten up dark January days. One title on the list:
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

And if you’re a sucker for a castle and an eccentric, impoverished family, this vintage book by Dodie Smith (author of The 101 Dalmatians) will capture your imagination. The opening line—I write this sitting in the kitchen sink—draws you into a world you won’t want to leave.
Read about another entry on the list.

I Capture the Castle is among Claire Fuller's seven top uninhabitable houses in fiction, Sarah Driver's five best sibling stories for children, Gail Honeyman's five favorite idiosyncratic characters, Anna Wilson's top ten embarrassing parents in books, Rose Mannering’s top five books, Diane Johnson's six favorite books, and Sophia Bennett's top ten stylish reads.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Lauren Bialystok and Lisa M. F. Andersen's "Touchy Subject"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Touchy Subject: The History and Philosophy of Sex Education by Lauren Bialystok and Lisa M. F. Andersen.

About the book, from the publisher:
A case for sex education that puts it in historical and philosophical context.

In the United States, sex education is more than just an uncomfortable rite of passage: it's a political hobby horse that is increasingly out of touch with young people’s needs. In Touchy Subject, philosopher Lauren Bialystok and historian Lisa M. F. Andersen unpack debates over sex education, explaining why it’s worth fighting for, what points of consensus we can build upon, and what sort of sex education schools should pursue in the future.

Andersen surveys the history of school-based sex education in the United States, describing the key question driving reform in each era. In turn, Bialystok analyzes the controversies over sex education to make sense of the arguments and offer advice about how to make educational choices today. Together, Bialystok and Andersen argue for a novel framework, Democratic Humanistic Sexuality Education, which exceeds the current conception of “comprehensive sex education” while making room for contextual variation. More than giving an honest run-down of the birds and the bees, sex education should respond to the features of young people’s evolving worlds, especially the digital world, and the inequities that put some students at much higher risk of sexual harm than others. Throughout the book, the authors show how sex education has progressed and how the very concept of “progress” remains contestable.
Learn more about Touchy Subject at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Touchy Subject.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sarah Rayne's "Chalice of Darkness," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Chalice of Darkness by Sarah Rayne.

The entry begins:
It’s an intriguing idea to speculate on actors for a film of your latest book, and the term ‘dream- casting’ opened up a whole world of possibilities for me – most of all that of importing one or two players from the past.

And since Chalice of Darkness is set in the late 19th /early 20th century, and has at its heart a theatre family who also happen to be society thieves, the past offered itself as very rich hunting ground.

However, for the central player, the irrepressible Jack Fitzglen, I’m inclined to favour David Tennant – famous, of course, for his Dr Who years, but also for a great many other roles. I do think he could successfully portray the slightly raffish Jack, master-mind of the family’s various filches, and that he could charm a few ladies along the way.

As for Jack’s dresser and loyal, if sometimes reluctant, assistant – Augustus (Gus) Pocket – I came up with...[read on]
Visit Sarah Rayne's website.

Writers Read: Sarah Rayne (November 2017).

The Page 69 Test: Chord of Evil.

The Page 69 Test: The Murder Dance.

Q&A with Sarah Rayne.

My Book, The Movie: Chalice of Darkness.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Seven top acts of betrayal in literature

Gabrielle Bates is the author of Judas Goat (2023), named by Vulture and the Chicago Review of Books as a "must-read" book of 2023. A Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship finalist, her poems have appeared in the New Yorker, the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, Ploughshares, and American Poetry Review, among other journals and anthologies.

At Electric Lit Bates tagged seven "titles [that] contend with the ugly facts of betrayal as a way to investigate, ultimately, what it means to be human, and what it means to love." One entry on the list:
Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

This novel depicts the childhood and early adolescence of Ruth Anne Boatwright, a fatherless girl in rural South Carolina, in the wake of her mother’s marriage to a volatile, increasingly abusive man. Allison’s prose brings to intense (at times terrifying and painful) life the difficulties of being a child at the mercy of adults and the ways people fail each other. Because the book grapples in a very real way with childhood sexual abuse and includes some racial slurs, readers should proceed, if they choose to do so, with care.
Read about another entry on the list.

Bastard Out of Carolina is among Amy Engel's five top novels in the complicated literature of daughters and mothers, six books that inspired Kristen Arnett's first novel, Stephen Graham Jones's twenty books as great today as they were in the 90s, and Hanna McGrath's five favorite child narrators.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: James E. Cronin's "Fragile Victory"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Fragile Victory: The Making and Unmaking of Liberal Order by James E. Cronin.

About the book, from the publisher:
How the history of liberal order and democratic politics since the 1930s explains ongoing threats to democracy and international order

The liberal democratic order that seemed so stable in North America and Western Europe has become precarious. James E. Cronin argues that liberalism has never been secure and that since the 1930s the international order has had to be crafted, redeployed, and extended in response to both victories and setbacks.

Beginning with the German and Japanese efforts in the 1930s to establish a system based on empire, race, economic protectionism, and militant nationalism, Cronin shows how the postwar system, established out of a revulsion at the ideas of fascism, repeatedly reinvented itself in the face of the Cold War, anticolonial insurgencies, the economic and political crises of the 1970s, the collapse of communism, the rise of globalization, and the financial crisis of 2008. Cronin emphasizes the links between internal and external politics in sustaining liberal order internationally and the domestic origins and correlates of present difficulties. Fragile Victory provides the context necessary to understand such diverse challenges as the triumph of Brexit, the election of Trump, the rise of populism, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Learn more about Fragile Victory at the Yale University Press.

The Page 99 Test: Fragile Victory.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Craig DiLouie's "Episode Thirteen"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Episode Thirteen by Craig DiLouie.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the macabre mind of a Bram Stoker Award-nominated author, this heart-pounding novel of horror and psychological suspense takes a ghost hunting reality TV crew into a world they could never have imagined.

Fade to Black
is the newest hit ghost hunting reality TV show. Led by husband and wife team Matt and Claire Kirklin, it delivers weekly hauntings investigated by a dedicated team of ghost hunting experts.

Episode Thirteen takes them to every ghost hunter's holy grail: the Paranormal Research Foundation. This brooding, derelict mansion holds secrets and clues about bizarre experiments that took place there in the 1970s. It's also famously haunted, and the team hopes their scientific techniques and high tech gear will prove it. But as the house begins to reveal itself to them, proof of an afterlife might not be everything Matt dreamed of. A story told in broken pieces, in tapes, journals, and correspondence, this is the story of Episode Thirteen—and how everything went terribly, horribly wrong.
Visit Craig DiLouie's website.

My Book, The Movie: One of Us.

The Page 69 Test: One of Us.

Writers Read: Craig DiLouie (August 2019).

The Page 69 Test: Our War.

The Page 69 Test: Episode Thirteen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Five mysteries and thrillers about returning to your hometown

Kate Alice Marshall is the author of multiple novels for younger readers. She lives outside of Seattle with her husband, a dog named Vonnegut, and her two kids.

What Lies in the Woods is her thriller debut.

At CrimeReads Marshall tagged five top mysteries and thrillers about returning to your hometown, including:
The Dry – Jane Harper

In Jane Harper’s atmospheric and brutal The Dry, Aaron Falk returns to his drought-plagued hometown after a horrific crime leads to the death of his friend—the same friend who was once Falk’s alibi for another crime long ago. Falk is faced with the daunting task of unraveling the truth of what happened to his friend, as well as what happened all those years ago. It is a masterpiece of small-town secrets and the inescapable weight of the past.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Dry is among Olivia Kiernan's seven modern classics of small town mystery, Sarah J. Harris's top eight mysteries with images that might stay with you forever and Fiona Barton's eight favorite cold-case mysteries.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Eleanor Janega's "The Once and Future Sex"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Once and Future Sex: Going Medieval on Women's Roles in Society by Eleanor Janega.

About the book, from the publisher:
A vibrant and illuminating exploration of medieval thinking on women’s beauty, sexuality, and behavior.

What makes for the ideal woman? How should she look, love, and be? In this vibrant, high-spirited history, medievalist Eleanor Janega turns to the Middle Ages, the era that bridged the ancient world and modern society, to unfurl its suppositions about women and reveal what’s shifted over time—and what hasn’t.

Enshrined medieval thinkers, almost always male, subscribed to a blend of classical Greek and Roman philosophy and Christian theology for their concepts of the sexes. For the height of female attractiveness, they chose the mythical Helen of Troy, whose imagined pear shape, small breasts, and golden hair served as beauty’s epitome. Casting Eve’s shadow over medieval women, they derided them as oversexed sinners, inherently lustful, insatiable, and weak. And, unless a nun, a woman was to be the embodiment of perfect motherhood.

In contrast, drawing on accounts of remarkable and subversive medieval women like Eleanor of Aquitaine and Hildegard of Bingen, along with others hidden in documents and court cases, Janega shows us how real women of the era lived. While often mothers, they were industrious farmers, brewers, textile workers, artists, and artisans and paved the way for new ideas about women’s nature, intellect, and ability.

In The Once and Future Sex, Janega unravels the restricting expectations on medieval women and the ones on women today. She boldly questions why, if our ideas of women have changed drastically over time, we cannot reimagine them now to create a more equitable future.
Follow Eleanor Janega on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: The Once and Future Sex.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Stephen Policoff

From my Q&A with Stephen Policoff, author of Dangerous Blues:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Dangerous Blues was the title of this novel from the moment I first imagined writing it. (Full disclosure: it was originally The Dangerous Blues, because that is the title of the song which helped inspire the novel, but Bill Burleson, my editor at Flexible Press exhorted me to drop The, which he said was clunky and possibly pompous. I profoundly disagreed with him at the time, but now think he was right). Clearly, the title is imagistic rather than direct but I do think it conjures up a fitting picture of what Paul, the main character is going through, and what his eerie world seems to offer. My editor also added kind of a ghost story as a subtitle, which I love, and which I think helps cue a reader into the mysterious atmosphere of the novel. The song, “The Dangerous Blues” is a primal howl of the blues attributed to Mattie May Thomas, who wrote it while incarcerated some time in the 1930s. When the novel was a mere wisp of a thought, I heard that song in a Greenwich Village bar, and it...[read on]
Visit Stephen Policoff's website.

The Page 69 Test: Come Away.

My Book, The Movie: Come Away.

Writers Read: Stephen Policoff.

Q&A with Stephen Policoff.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 27, 2023

Ten essential works in American Indian history

Ned Blackhawk (Western Shoshone) is the Howard R. Lamar Professor of History and American Studies at Yale University, where he is the faculty coordinator for the Yale Group for the Study of Native America. He is the author of Violence over the Land: Indians and Empires in the Early American West.

Blackhawk's forthcoming book is The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History.

At Publishers Weekly he tagged ten essential works in American Indian history, including:
The Sea Is My Country: The Maritime World of the Makahs by Joshua L. Reid

Reid explores the maritime history of the Pacific Northwest through the lens of the Makah Indian nation, whose reservation sits astride the tip of the Olympic Peninsula and has witnessed the only sanctioned whale hunts in modern U.S. history. As Reid outlines, whaling was enshrined into U.S. law in the 1855 Treaty of Neah Bay, a recognition of the essentialness of maritime economics and culture to Makah society and history. A detailed and suggestive study that includes beautiful artwork and an afterword by former Makah councilman and chairman Micah McCarty, this is Indigenous borderlands history at its best.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 99 Test: The Sea Is My Country.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Colin Summerhayes's "The Icy Planet"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Icy Planet: Saving Earth's Refrigerator by Colin Summerhayes.

About the book, from the publisher:
For most people, planet Earth's icy parts remain out of sight and out of mind. Yet it is the melting of ice that will both raise sea level and warm the climate further by reducing the white surfaces that reflect solar energy back into space. In effect, our icy places act as the world's refrigerator, helping to keep our climate relatively cool. The Icy Planet lays out carbon dioxide's role as the control knob of our climate over the past 1000 million years, then explores what is happening to ice and snow in Antarctica, the Arctic and the high mountains.

Colin Summerhayes takes readers to the world's icy places to see what is happening to its ice, snow, and permafrost. He recounts tales from his own visits to these frozen landscapes, shining a light on some of the wonders he has encountered in his travels. He also brings together pieces of the climate story from different scientific disciplines, and from the past and the present, to illustrate how Earth's climate system works. Utilizing geological records of climate change alongside new technologies in ice coring, Summerhayes crafts a detailed and compelling record of Earth's climate history and examines how that can be used as a window into our future.
Learn more about The Icy Planet at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Icy Planet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Martha Freeman's "Trashed!"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Trashed! by Martha Freeman.

About the book, from the publisher:
From Edgar Award–nominated author Martha Freeman comes a compelling middle grade mystery following a young boy working at his family’s secondhand store that is a steal-your-heart story about family and friendship.

Arthur Popper helps out in his family’s Boulder, Colorado, junk store, Universal Trash, a place so full of cool stuff it inspires awe in first-time shoppers. When it comes to ukuleles, peppermills, and rhinestones, Arthur knows what’s what. But unlike his motorcycle-riding grandma and his namesake, King Arthur, he’s not brave or adventurous.

Then Arthur finds a chipped teacup, of all things, and realizes it’s the key to solving the perfect crime—a crime only he knows about.

With help from a supernatural sidekick, his best friend, his annoying little sister, and a sad-faced police officer, Arthur embarks on the hard work of detecting. Everyone knows Arthur is good at customer service. Does he have what it takes to solve a mystery and confront a thief?
Visit Martha Freeman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Strudel's Forever Home.

The Page 69 Test: Strudel's Forever Home.

Writers Read: Martha Freeman (January 2018).

The Page 69 Test: Zap.

The Page 69 Test: Trashed!.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Top ten novels about office jobs

Caroline Corcoran’s first novel, Through The Wall, came out in October 2019. It was a Sunday Times top 20 bestseller and translated into numerous foreign languages. Her second book, The Baby Group, published in September 2020.

As well as writing books, Corcoran is a freelance lifestyle and popular culture journalist who has written and edited for most of the top magazines, newspapers and websites in the UK.

Her newest novel is What Happened on Floor 34?.

At the Guardian Corcoran tagged ten books that put "the workplace front and central to the action." One title on the list:
The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

I was lucky enough not to have encountered a truly awful boss when I first read this, meaning that I could enjoy it solely as the sharp and funny novel it is, about a young woman who goes to work for tyrannical fashion editor Miranda Priestly. By the time I came back to it for a re-read, I had worked in more offices and the Miranda Priestlys of my own life made it resonate in a different way, Priestly stark in her reign of terror. I went freelance shortly afterwards.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Devil Wears Prada is among Jane L. Rosen's top ten books for fans of Sex and the City, Emma Glass's seven best books about burnout, Deborah Parker's ten of the biggest sycophants from literature and history, and Joseph Connolly's ten top novels about style.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Natalie Koch's "Arid Empire"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Arid Empire: The Entangled Fates of Arizona and Arabia by Natalie Koch.

About the book, from the publisher:
A revelatory new history of the colonization of the American West

The iconic deserts of the American southwest could not have been colonized and settled without the help of desert experts from the Middle East. For example: In 1856, a caravan of thirty-three camels arrived in Indianola, Texas, led by a Syrian cameleer the Americans called "Hi Jolly." This "camel corps," the US government hoped, could help the army secure the new southwest swath of the country just wrested from Mexico. Though the dream of the camel corps - and sadly, the camels - died, the idea of drawing on expertise, knowledge, and practices from the desert countries of the Middle East did not.

As Natalie Koch demonstrates in this evocative, narrative history, the exchange of colonial technologies between the Arabian Peninsula and United States over the past two centuries - from date palm farming and desert agriculture to the utopian sci-fi dreams of Biosphere 2 and Frank Herbert's Dune - bound the two regions together, solidifying the colonization of the US West and, eventually, the reach of American power into the Middle East. Koch teaches us to see deserts anew, not as mythic sites of romance or empty wastelands but as an "arid empire," a crucial political space where imperial dreams coalesce.
Visit Natalie Koch's website.

The Page 99 Test: Arid Empire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Allison Brennan

From my Q&A with Allison Brennan:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

While Don’t Open the Door could be taken literally, and likely most suspense readers would see this as a teaser of the suspense (don’t open the door! There’s a bad guy outside!), the title is actually more figurative in the story itself. We all lie to ourselves at different times -- sometimes because we don’t want to see the truth about a friend or situation, sometimes because we don’t want to see what’s really in our heart or mind. Sometimes, we shut the proverbial door to our past in order to be able to survive, especially when we’re dealing with pain, grief, betrayal.

Regan Merritt could leave this door closed — the murder of her son a year ago, the betrayal of her husband when he blamed her, her grief and buried anger. She walked away from her career, moved cross- country, was rebuilding her life. Yet … can she really walk away, shut the door on her past? Because once you open the door, you...[read on]
Visit Allison Brennan's website.

My Book, The Movie: Don't Open the Door.

The Page 69 Test: Don't Open the Door.

Q&A with Allison Brennan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Five books with strong, spirited Southern ladies

Mimi Herman is the author of A Field Guide to Human Emotions and Logophilia. She codirects Writeaways writing workshops in the United States and abroad, and is a Kennedy Center Teaching Artist. Herman lives in a 1925 bungalow in Durham, North Carolina.

Her new novel is The Kudzu Queen.

At Lit Hub Herman tagged five books with strong, spirited Southern ladies. One title on the list:
The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd

Another member of Mattie’s family is Lily Owens, the narrator of Sue Monk Kidd’s beautiful book, The Secret Life of Bees. Lily, like Scout, is pragmatic, sometimes sassy and full of wonder. In The Secret Life of Bees, Lily runs away from an intolerable life of grief, guilt and Martha White grits to find a new home and, finally, family.

Like Lee, Kidd places her story in the uneasy racial crossroads that define the South to most of America, and America to most of the world. It is almost impossible to write a novel set in the South without trying to find an understanding of its complicated and ongoing racial history. And yet this involves risks for a writer: the dangers of stereotyping, of seeing characters and situations through the Vaseline-smeared lenses of sentimentality, and of perpetuating racism even while trying to eliminate it. If either of these books were published today, I think we’d see some changes, but I believe both Lee and Kidd did what every author has to do: They saw—and heard—their characters as clearly and carefully as they could, and were honest and thoughtful in every sentence.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Ewa Atanassow's "Tocqueville's Dilemmas, and Ours"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Tocqueville's Dilemmas, and Ours: Sovereignty, Nationalism, Globalization by Ewa Atanassow.

About the book, from the publisher:
How Tocqueville’s ideas can help us build resilient liberal democracies in a divided world

How can today’s liberal democracies withstand the illiberal wave sweeping the globe? What can revive our waning faith in constitutional democracy? Tocqueville’s Dilemmas, and Ours argues that Alexis de Tocqueville, one of democracy’s greatest champions and most incisive critics, can guide us forward.

Drawing on Tocqueville’s major works and lesser-known policy writings, Ewa Atanassow shines a bright light on the foundations of liberal democracy. She argues that its prospects depend on how we tackle three dilemmas that were as urgent in Tocqueville’s day as they are in ours: how to institutionalize popular sovereignty, how to define nationhood, and how to grasp the possibility and limits of global governance. These are pivotal but often neglected dimensions of Tocqueville’s work, and this fresh look at his writings provides a powerful framework for addressing the tensions between liberalism and democracy in the twenty-first century.

Recovering a richer liberalism capable of weathering today’s political storms, Tocqueville’s Dilemmas, and Ours explains how we can reclaim nationalism as a liberal force and reimagine sovereignty in a global age―and do so with one of democracy’s most discerning thinkers as our guide.
Learn more about Tocqueville's Dilemmas, and Ours at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Tocqueville's Dilemmas, and Ours.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Mary Baader Kaley's "Burrowed"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Burrowed by Mary Baader Kaley.

About the book, from the publisher:
If you had to endure a debilitating condition of body or mind, which would you choose? In this world, everyone suffers.

In the distant future, a genetic plague has separated humanity in two – Subterraneans who live in underground burrows to protect their health, and strong surface-dwelling Omniterraneans.

Zuzan Cayan, a brilliant Subter girl with “light blindness,” is about to leave the safety of her burrow and earn a living. With her low life expectancy, however, her options are slim. That is until she’s offered the chance of a lifetime to study the population’s broken genetic code, fix the divide and reunite the world once again.

But when a new virus turns fatal for the Omnits, Zuzan must find a cure or humanity won’t simply remain separate, it will become extinct.

With enemies on all sides, Zuzan must hold on to the light at the end of the tunnel – or risk the world falling into darkness.
Visit Mary Baader Kaley's website.

The Page 69 Test: Burrowed.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Six top books with embedded narratives

Ana Reyes has an MFA from Louisiana State University and a BA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her work has appeared in Bodega, Pear Noir!, The New Delta Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and teaches creative writing to older adults at Santa Monica College.

The House in the Pines in her first novel.

At CrimeReads Reyes tagged six top stories within stories, including:
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Because I’m a thriller writer, horror reader, lover of all things eerie, this list was destined to skew toward the scary. Home Before Dark by Riley Sager is about a woman named Maggie who returns to the legendarily haunted Victorian mansion she called home for three weeks when she was a child. Her father wrote a hit book along the lines of The Amityville Horror, about the family’s terrifying ordeal there, but Maggie doesn’t believe a word of it. She was too young to remember much of what happened there and blames her father for the long shadow his sensationalized account and the book’s everlasting fame cast over her life. Sager’s novel alternates between her present-day experience in the house and her father’s book, which starts to seem scarily plausible as sinister events unfold. As a reader, I enjoyed searching for clues alongside Maggie as she tries to separate fact from fiction in her father’s pages.
Read about another entry on the list.

Home Before Dark is among James S. Murray's five top books about women fighting their way out and Karen Dionne's eight top thrillers that turn home into a place of mortal danger.

The Page 69 Test: Home Before Dark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Simon Huxtable's "News from Moscow"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: News from Moscow: Soviet Journalism and the Limits of Postwar Reform by Simon Huxtable.

About the book, from the publisher:
News from Moscow is a social and cultural history of Soviet journalism after World War II. Focusing on the youth newspaper Komsomol'skaia Pravda, the study draws on transcripts of behind-the-scenes editorial meetings to chart the changing professional ethos of the Soviet journalist. Simon Huxtable shows how journalists viewed themselves both as propagandists bringing the Party's ideas to the wider public, but also as reformers who tried to implement new ideas that would help usher the country towards Communism. The volume focuses on both aspects of the journalists' role, from propaganda editorials in praise of Comrade Stalin and articles lauding young heroes' exploits in the Virgin Lands, to revolutionary new initiatives, such as the country's first ever polling institute and clubs promoting the virtues of unfettered public debate. Soviet journalism, argues Huxtable, was riven with an unresolvable tension between innovation and conservativism: the more journalists tried to promote new innovations to perfect Soviet society, the more officials grew anxious about the disruptive consequences of reform. By demonstrating the day-to-day conflicts that characterised the press's activity, and by showing that the production of Soviet propaganda involved much more than redrafting orders from above, News from Moscow offers a new perspective on Soviet propaganda that expands our understanding of the possibilities and limits of reform in a period of rapid change.
Learn more about News from Moscow at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: News from Moscow.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Stephen Policoff reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Stephen Policoff, author of Dangerous Blues.

His entry begins:
Like my taste in music, my reading list is extremely eclectic.

I recently read two books by acquaintances of mine. Funeral Train by Laurie Loewenstein is a wonderful, atmospheric mystery set in the Great Depression; I rarely read mysteries but Loewenstein writes such great characters and creates such a vivid picture of life in the Dust Bowl that I was immediately drawn in. Ghosts of the Missing by Kathleen Donohoe is a lovely, elegiac novel about love, loss, and being haunted, subjects of particular interest to me. It’s a beautiful novel and should be better known.

Meanwhile, I have just re-read...[read on]
About Dangerous Blues, from the publisher:
Dangerous Blues explores a dark yet comic storm of family relationships laced with a buzz of the supernatural, where the fleeting light of the present must constantly contend with the shadows of the past.

Paul Brickner and his 12-year-old daughter Spring are subletting an apartment in New York City. They came to escape the sorrow of their empty house in upstate New York after Nadia, Paul’s wife and Spring’s mother, dies.

Spring quickly takes to her new Manhattan middle school life, including making a new friend, Irina. Through that connection, Paul meets Irina’s mother, Tara White, a blues singer, and perhaps just the spark Paul has been missing.

But Paul begins to fear that he is being haunted by Nadia, who appears to him in fleeting images. Is he imagining it, or is she real? Tara, who grew up in the inscrutable New England cult known as the Dream People, is haunted, too, hounded by her very real brothers to return to the family, and to give back the magical object—a shamanic Tibetan vessel—which they claim she stole from them.

Paul’s cousin Hank, a disreputable art dealer, becomes obsessed with this object. Meanwhile, Paul’s father-in-law, an expert on occult lore, tries to steer Paul toward resolution with Nadia’s ghost.

Driven by Paul’s new circle of odd and free spirited iconoclasts, Dangerous Blues asks the question: when do you let go, and what are you willing to let go of?
Visit Stephen Policoff's website.

The Page 69 Test: Come Away.

My Book, The Movie: Come Away.

Writers Read: Stephen Policoff.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 23, 2023

Nine novels about losing (and finding) yourself in work

Josh Riedel was the first employee at Instagram, where he worked for several years before earning his MFA from the University of Arizona. His short stories have appeared in One Story, Passages North, and Sycamore Review.

Please Report Your Bug Here is his first novel.

He lives in San Francisco, California.

At Electric Lit Riedel tagged nine novels about losing (and finding) yourself in work, including:
The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips

Part modern fairy tale, part existentialist thriller, this book lives in the same universe as the TV show Severance, though it was written several years before. The protagonist, Josephine, desperate for money, takes on a data-entry job. But it’s not immediately clear what the purpose of the work is. Only later does the truth about her work begin to take shape in her mind. A workplace novel that captures the surreal psychological isolation of the office worker.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Beautiful Bureaucrat is among Sophie Stein's nine top books to put your job in perspective.

The Page 69 Test: The Beautiful Bureaucrat.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Marion Turner's "The Wife of Bath"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Wife of Bath: A Biography by Marion Turner.

About the book, from the publisher:
Ever since her triumphant debut in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the Wife of Bath, arguably the first ordinary and recognisably real woman in English literature, has obsessed readers—from Shakespeare to James Joyce, Voltaire to Pasolini, Dryden to Zadie Smith. Few literary characters have led such colourful lives or matched her influence or capacity for reinvention in poetry, drama, fiction, and film. In The Wife of Bath, Marion Turner tells the fascinating story of where Chaucer’s favourite character came from, how she related to real medieval women, and where her many travels have taken her since the fourteenth century, from Falstaff and Molly Bloom to #MeToo and Black Lives Matter.

A sexually active and funny working woman, the Wife of Bath, also known as Alison, talks explicitly about sexual pleasure. She is also a victim of domestic abuse who tells a story of rape and redemption. Formed from misogynist sources, she plays with stereotypes. Turner sets Alison’s fictional story alongside the lives of real medieval women—from a maid who travelled around Europe, abandoned her employer, and forged a new career in Rome to a duchess who married her fourth husband, a teenager, when she was sixty-five. Turner also tells the incredible story of Alison’s post-medieval life, from seventeenth-century ballads and Polish communist pop art to her reclamation by postcolonial Black British women writers.

Entertaining and enlightening, funny and provocative, The Wife of Bath is a one-of-a-kind history of a literary and feminist icon who continues to capture the imagination of readers.
Learn more about The Wife of Bath at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Wife of Bath: A Biography.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Allison Brennan's "Don't Open the Door"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Don't Open the Door: A Novel by Allison Brennan.

About the book, from the publisher:
A family torn apart. A botched investigation. She’ll stop at nothing to get answers.

US Marshal Regan Merritt never bought the FBI’s theory that her ten-year-old son’s murder was tied to her job. Yet as leads went cold, she’d had to walk away from the marshals, the case and her now ex-husband, Grant, who blamed her for Chase’s death.

After Regan receives a chilling voice mail from her former boss, Tommy, claiming new information about Chase’s murder, she can no longer stay away from her pain-filled past. Especially when Tommy’s murdered before she can return his call.

Now more than ever, Regan’s determined to find the truth, but the more she digs, the more evidence points to Grant as the killer’s true target. But Grant isn’t talking. As she tries to pin down her ex, Regan discovers something much bigger and far more sinister is at play—and she’s running out of people she can trust.
Visit Allison Brennan's website.

My Book, The Movie: Don't Open the Door.

The Page 69 Test: Don't Open the Door.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Ten books that feed and fray men’s souls

Katie Hafner was on staff at The New York Times for ten years, where she remains a frequent contributor, writing on healthcare and technology. She has also worked at Newsweek and BusinessWeek, and has written for The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Wired, The New Republic, The Washington Post, and O, The Oprah Magazine. She is the author of five previous works of nonfiction covering a range of topics, including the origins of the Internet, computer hackers, German reunification, and the pianist Glenn Gould.

Her first novel, The Boys, was published in July 2022.

At Publishers Weekly Hafner tagged ten books that men love, including:
Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel

In 1995, the year this book came out, it was deemed the perfect gift for the man who has everything. Three generations of the Harrison family developed spring-driven clocks for shipboard use because pendulums didn't work. They finally won a large cash prize. At the same time, the scurrilous Astronomer Royal did everything he could to prevent them from winning because he wanted an astronomical solution to longitude navigation. One friend, a computer scientist, told me he loved this book “because the engineers win in the end.”
Read about another entry on the list.

Longitude is among Peter F. Stevens's top ten nautical books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Mehran Kamrava's "Triumph and Despair"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Triumph and Despair: In Search of Iran's Islamic Republic by Mehran Kamrava.

About the book, from the publisher:
Triumph and Despair tells the dramatic story of post-revolutionary Iran's first four decades, from its establishment in 1979 until today. The revolutionary coalition that overthrew the monarchy was at once democratic, populist and Islamic. The Islamists, and the Khomeinists in particular, were able to capitalize effectively on prevailing conditions on the ground; to frame the new republic's constitution, capture nascent institutions, and consolidate their power by eliminating opponents through a reign of terror. Once the war with Iraq was over and after the death of the new order's charismatic founder, Ayatollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic was consolidated: first by tweaking its institutional arrangements, and then by fostering economic development and post-war reconstruction. A reformist interlude then followed, reversed unceremoniously by a return of populism and a broader authoritarian retrenchment. Today Iran remains at odds with itself, its economy too deeply political to yield meaningful developmental results, its foreign relations too conflicted to allow it a productive place in the community of nations. As Iran's nationalities and its women and youth carve out spaces for themselves in the broader narrative, competing identities-religious, national and otherwise-abound. After forty years, the Islamic Republic remains a country in search of itself.
Visit Mehran Kamrava's website.

The Page 99 Test: Triumph and Despair.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Carole Johnstone

From my Q&A with Carole Johnstone, author of The Blackhouse: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Setting is hugely important in all my books. I always try to write a story that could only be set where it’s set and nowhere else. The setting therefore becomes almost another character, so it’s pretty inevitable that my novels end up being named after that place.

Originally, The Blackhouse was actually titled A Thin Place, but this had to be changed because of another book out around the same time with a very similar name. A thin place is a place where the walls between our world and other worlds are said to be at their thinnest; they are often considered to be very spiritual and important landscapes, such as Stonehenge. The Outer Hebrides were considered in Celtic mythology to be thin places, and the Norse that settled there in the 9th century believed something similar. The Blackhouse is set on a fictional island off the Atlantic coast of the Isle of Lewis and Harris. The Outer Hebrides are wild, isolated, and brimful of legends and cautionary tales. They are islands that are sometimes as frightening as they are beautiful; as dangerous as they are peaceful, and I really wanted the title to reflect that contradiction and otherworldliness.

Equally though, the blackhouse itself is very central to the story. Blackhouses are the traditional domestic dwellings of Hebrideans going back centuries. The titular blackhouse is the place that both main characters, Maggie and Robert live, albeit 25 years apart. As Maggie tries to find out who murdered Robert and begins to uncover the truth about his terrible fate, Robert’s own story is...[read on]
Visit Carole Johnstone's website.

Q&A with Carole Johnstone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Nine of the best killer dolls & puppets in books

Grady Hendrix is an award-winning novelist and screenwriter living in New York City. He is the author of Horrorstör, My Best Friend’s Exorcism (which is being adapted into a feature film by Amazon Studios), We Sold Our Souls, and the New York Times bestseller The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires (currently being adapted into a TV series). Hendrix also authored the Bram Stoker Award–winning nonfiction book Paperbacks from Hell, a history of the horror paperback boom of the seventies and eighties, and the non-fiction book These Fists Break Bricks: How Kung Fu Movies Swept America and Changed the World.

Hendix's new novel is How to Sell a Haunted House.

At CrimeReads he tagged nine of the fictional "dolls and puppets you should go out of your way to avoid," including:
Fats (Magic, William Goldman)

Every time a killer puppet listicle pops up, William Goldman’s homicidal dummy makes an appearance, so I hate including him here. However, this book is so delightfully unpleasant that it’s impossible to leave off. Magic is more talked about than read because the opening 30 pages are deeply disorienting, and if you make it off the beach there are still a couple of confusing time jumps to come, but hang in there, because it all comes together in the end like two steel jaws snapping your hand off at the wrist. The body count is low, but the emotional stakes get driven right through your heart.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Samantha Muka's "Oceans under Glass"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Oceans under Glass: Tank Craft and the Sciences of the Sea by Samantha Muka.

About the book, from the publisher:
A welcome dive into the world of aquarium craft that offers much-needed knowledge about undersea environments.

Atlantic coral is rapidly disappearing in the wild. To save the species, they will have to be reproduced quickly in captivity, and so for the last decade conservationists have been at work trying to preserve their lingering numbers and figure out how to rebuild once-thriving coral reefs from a few survivors. Captive environments, built in dedicated aquariums, offer some hope for these corals. This book examines these specialized tanks, charting the development of tank craft throughout the twentieth century to better understand how aquarium modeling has enhanced our knowledge of the marine environment.

Aquariums are essential to the way we understand the ocean. Used to investigate an array of scientific questions, from animal behavior to cancer research and climate change, they are a crucial factor in the fight to mitigate the climate disaster already threatening our seas. To understand the historical development of this scientific tool and the groups that have contributed to our knowledge about the ocean, Samantha Muka takes up specialty systems—including photographic aquariums, kriesel tanks (for jellyfish), and hatching systems—to examine the creation of ocean simulations and their effect on our interactions with underwater life. Lively and engaging, Oceans under Glass offers a fresh history about how the aquarium has been used in modern marine biology and how integral it is to knowing the marine world.
Follow Samantha Muka on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Oceans under Glass.

--Marshal Zeringue