Sunday, April 30, 2023

Five great suspense novels set in the entertainment world

New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson writes page-turning suspense novels that revolve around timely women’s issues, raising questions about justice, motherhood, career, class, and the thorny mechanics of redemption. She previously penned eight works of Southern fiction, all of which have a murder mystery or thriller lurking inside the family drama. Her critically acclaimed work has been translated into more than a dozen languages, and Jackson is also an award-winning audiobook narrator. She lives in Decatur, Georgia, with her family.

Her new novel is With My Little Eye.

[The Page 69 Test: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming; My Book, The Movie: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming; The Page 69 Test: Backseat Saints; The Page 69 Test: A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty; The Page 69 Test: The Opposite of Everyone; My Book, The Movie: The Opposite of Everyone]

At CrimeReads Jackson tagged five "favorite mystery and suspense titles [that] unfold in the worlds of dance, broadcast news, high fashion, magic, and music." One title on the list:
Acts of Violet by Margarita Montimore

Is Violet Volk a famous magician—or an infamous one? She lives big and leaves messes behind, most of which have to be cleaned up by her sister Sasha. This genre-bending story leans hard into mystery when Violet’s final trick seems to be to literally disappear. Sasha’s narration is interspersed by news stories and transcripts from a Violet-obsessed podcast, giving the book a true crime feel. The twists start early and keep coming, and I gobbled this one down in a matter of hours.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Acts of Violet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Rebecca Scharbach Wollenberg's "The Closed Book"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Closed Book: How the Rabbis Taught the Jews (Not) to Read the Bible by Rebecca Scharbach Wollenberg.

About the book, from the publisher:
Early Judaism is often described as the religion of the book par excellence—a movement built around the study of the Bible and steeped in a culture of sacred bookishness that evolved from an unrelenting focus on a canonical text. But in The Closed Book, Rebecca Scharbach Wollenberg argues that Jews didn’t truly embrace the biblical text until nearly a thousand years after the Bible was first canonized. She tells the story of the intervening centuries during which even rabbis seldom opened a Bible and many rabbinic authorities remained deeply ambivalent about the biblical text as a source of sacred knowledge.

Wollenberg shows that, in place of the biblical text, early Jewish thinkers embraced a form of biblical revelation that has now largely disappeared from practice. Somewhere between the fixed transcripts of the biblical Written Torah and the fluid traditions of the rabbinic Oral Torah, a third category of revelation was imagined by these rabbinic thinkers. In this “third Torah,” memorized spoken formulas of the biblical tradition came to be envisioned as a distinct version of the biblical revelation. And it was believed that this living tradition of recitation passed down by human mouths, unbound by the limitations of written text, provided a fuller and more authentic witness to the scriptural revelation at Sinai. In this way, early rabbinic authorities were able to leverage the idea of biblical revelation while quarantining the biblical text itself from communal life.

The result is a revealing reinterpretation of “the people of the book” before they became people of the book.
Learn more about The Closed Book at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Closed Book.

--Marshal Zeringue

Daniel M. Ford's "The Warden," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Warden (The Warden Series, Volume 1) by Daniel M. Ford.

The entry begins:
I try not to dreamcast my own books while I'm writing them. But once I have, once the characters are established and I know who they are, quite often while I'm wa

tching a movie or a show, an actor will leap out to me and my brain will just say, yes, that, that is the character. And as I've been working on The Warden since 2015 I've had plenty of time to think about this.

The Warden is the title of the first book, the job-title of the main character, and the title of the series, and these all point to Aelis Cairistiona de Lenti un Tirraval, the very rich, very privileged, very powerful daughter of a major noble family. She's smart, fearless, competent, charismatic, probably a little too certain of being the smartest person in the room, and extremely enthusiastic about her magical focus of Necromancy. So much in a screen adaptation would depend on the right Aelis, and last winter I saw the perfect actor to play her when I was watching, and loving, the Disney+ series Willow.

Ruby Cruz as Aelis de Lenti. The role she played as Kit Tanthalos was not precisely Aelis, but it was about 90% Aelis, and I'm convinced...[read on]
Visit Daniel M. Ford's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Warden.

My Book, The Movie: The Warden.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Six of the best books on desire

Sophie Mackintosh is the author of novels The Water Cure (2018), Blue Ticket (2020), and Cursed Bread (2023). The Water Cure was longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize. Her fiction, non-fiction and poetry has appeared in The New York Times, Granta, Dazed, Guardian, and The Stinging Fly, among others. In 2020 she was picked as "a face set to define the decade ahead" by Vogue UK, alongside writers Jia Tolentino and Oyinkan Braithwaite.

At the Waterstones blog Mackintosh tagged six favorite "books that deal with themes of desire in all its manifold forms," including:
In the Cut by Susanna Moore

A novel that delves deeply into the darkest parts of desire, in Susanna Moore’s In the Cut violence and sex live side by side. From the first moment that narrator Franny witnesses an intimate scene she shouldn’t have, she is propelled into an ill-advised liaison with a laconic detective (who the reader never feels able to trust), and through him enters an increasingly seedy and unsafe world. It’s a novel that explores how desire can be entwined with danger, and how far someone can be prepared to give themselves up to that desire regardless. It also does a brilliant job of subverting the tropes and expectations of traditional crime novels, and of interrogating ideas of misogyny, as well as female agency and fragility.
Read about another entry on the list.

In the Cut is among Emily Temple's ten very scary books and Nicholas Royle's top ten lighthouses in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Katy Simpson Smith's "The Weeds"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Weeds: A Novel by Katy Simpson Smith.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Katy Simpson Smith’s The Weeds, two women, connected across time, edge toward transgression in pursuit of their desires.

A Mississippi woman pushes through the ruin of the Roman Colosseum, searching for plants. She has escaped her life, signed up to catalog all the species growing in this place. Crawling along the stones, she wonders how she has landed here, a reluctant botanist amid a snarl of tourists in comfortable sandals. She hunts for a scientific agenda and a direction of her own.

In 1854, a woman pushes through the jungle of the Roman Colosseum, searching for plants. As punishment for her misbehavior, she has been indentured to the English botanist Richard Deakin, for whom she will compile a flora. She is a thief, and she must find new ways to use her hands. If only the woman she loves weren’t on a boat, with a husband. But love isn’t always possible. She logs 420 species.

Through a list of seemingly minor plants and their uses—medical, agricultural, culinary—these women calculate intangible threats: a changing climate, the cost of knowledge, and the ways repeated violence can upend women’s lives. They must forge their own small acts of defiance and slip through whatever cracks they find. How can anyone survive?

Lush, intoxicating, and teeming with mischief, Katy Simpson Smith’s The Weeds is a tense, mesmerizing page-turner about science and survival, the roles women are given and have taken from them, and the lives they make for themselves.
Visit Katy Simpson Smith's website.

Writers Read: Katy Simpson Smith (March 2020).

My Book, The Movie: The Everlasting.

The Page 69 Test: The Everlasting.

The Page 69 Test: The Weeds.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Richard Fine's "The Price of Truth"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Price of Truth: The Journalist Who Defied Military Censors to Report the Fall of Nazi Germany by Richard Fine.

About the book, from the publisher:
In The Price of Truth, Richard Fine recounts the intense drama surrounding the German surrender at the end of World War II and the veteran Associated Press journalist Edward Kennedy's controversial scoop.

On May 7, 1945, Kennedy bypassed military censorship to be the first to break the news of the Nazi surrender executed in Reims, France. Both the practice and the public perception of wartime reporting would never be the same. While, at the behest of Soviet leaders, Allied authorities prohibited release of the story, Kennedy stuck to his journalistic principles and refused to manage information he believed the world had a right to know. No action by an American correspondent during the war proved more controversial.

The Paris press corps was furious at what it took to be Kennedy's unethical betrayal; military authorities threatened court-martial before expelling him from Europe. Kennedy defended himself, insisting the news was being withheld for suspect political reasons unrelated to military security. After prolonged national debate, when the dust settled, Kennedy's career was in ruins.

This story of Kennedy's surrender dispatch and the meddling by Allied Command, which was already being called a fiasco in May 1945, revises what we know about media-military relations. Discarding "Good War" nostalgia, Fine challenges the accepted view that relations between the media and the military were amicable during World War II and only later ran off the rails during the Vietnam War. The Price of Truth reveals one of the earliest chapters of tension between reporters committed to informing the public and generals tasked with managing a war.
Learn more about The Price of Truth at the Cornell University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Price of Truth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 28, 2023

Ten top spy novels to read before you die

Patrick Worrall was educated in Worcestershire and King’s College, Cambridge, UK.

He has worked as a teacher in Eastern Europe and Asia, a newspaper journalist, a court reporter at the Old Bailey, and the head of Channel 4 News's FactCheck blog.

The Partisan is his first novel.

At Publishers Weekly he tagged ten spy novels to read before you die, including:
The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth (1971)

This classic continues to inspire legions of stylistic imitators. Forsyth had an investigative reporter's eye for detail and used it to create an astonishingly realistic blend of fiction and historical fact: the real attempts by the far-right Secret Army Organization to assassinate Charles de Gaulle inspired this tale of a hunt for a dead-eyed British hitman on the loose in France. The tradecraft is also a big part of the appeal. It includes the famous "Jackal Fraud" technique for creating a false identity, which I have heard is still used by some intelligence professionals.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Day of the Jackal is among Deborah Lawrenson's nine mysteries that will take you on a journey from Paris to the south of France, Daniel Palmer's seven best conspiracy thrillers of the 1970s, Jeff Somers's five thrillers that resist easy fixes, Sam Bourne's five favorite classic thrillers, and Christopher Timothy's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Andrew Welsh-Huggins reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Andrew Welsh-Huggins, author of The End of the Road.

His entry begins:
The Glassmaker’s Wife, Lee Martin

Martin, a Pulitzer Prize fiction finalist for The Bright Forever, reimagines the 1840s trial of a woman in Illinois accused of fatally poisoning her husband. Martin draws on bare-bone facts of a real murder and subsequent trial to spin straw into gold by creating vivid characters, a compelling sense of place, and a driven plot, all in lyrical prose that at times reads like something actually written in...[read on]
About The End of the Road, from the publisher:
A bank robber tries to leave behind his life of crime after serving his time. But getting out isn’t so easy.

Myles’s courtroom testimony should have put Pryor, their one-eyed ringleader, behind bars after the bank robbery gone wrong, yet somehow Pryor got off scot-free while Myles served time. Now, upon his release, Myles decides he is done with his life of wrongdoing—a change that will only be possible if he can kill Pryor and turn over a new leaf. Pryor has other ideas, and the collision between these two deadly forces soon leaves the ex-con in critical condition, clinging to life in a hospital bed.

With Myles in recovery, it’s up to his girlfriend Penny to avenge her lover and salvage their chance at normalcy. As Pryor and his cronies prepare for their biggest score yet–targeting a vulnerable small-town Ohio bank on a day when Amish farmers arrive with hefty cash deposits–Penny is hot on their heels. But is she prepared for the carnage Pryor will gleefully wreak on the path to his prize?

With characters as sharply drawn as those in a Dennis Lehane novel and a rich Midwestern setting, The End of the Road is a fast-paced rural noir that announces Andrew Welsh-Huggins as one of the most powerful voices in the mystery world.
Visit Andrew Welsh-Huggins's website.

My Book, The Movie: An Empty Grave.

Q&A with Andrew Welsh-Huggins.

The Page 69 Test: An Empty Grave.

Writers Read: Andrew Welsh-Huggins.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Patrick Chiles

From my Q&A with Patrick Chiles, author of Escape Orbit (Book 2 of 2: Eccentric Orbits):
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I like the title a lot, it’s punchy and uses actual spaceflight terminology to hint at what happens in the story, the same way Frozen Orbit did. It also implies an urgency, a need to get away from something, which is an underlying theme. My main POV character, Traci Keene, is driven to find her lost crewmate, Jack Templeton, out at the far reaches of the solar system. In the meantime she isn’t happy with developments at home, which are pushing her to get away. Not to give up too much, but it’s obvious from the cover (which is awesome) that Jack may have stumbled onto something quite strange which promises to take them both even deeper into space.

What's in a name?

I didn’t...[read on]
Visit Patrick Chiles's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Patrick Chiles & Frankie and Beanie.

The Page 69 Test: Frozen Orbit.

My Book, The Movie: Frontier.

The Page 69 Test: Frontier.

Q&A with Patrick Chiles (June 2021).

The Page 69 Test: Escape Orbit.

Writers Read: Patrick Chiles.

Q&A with Patrick Chiles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Top ten aunts in fiction

Annabelle Thorpe has been a travel and features journalist for over twenty years, spending six years on The Times Travel desk, before becoming deputy travel editor for Express Newspapers, and then taking the same role at the Observer. She was named one of the top 50 travel writers in the UK and has visited almost sixty countries, including crossing China by train, driving solo across the Omani desert, and nearly getting run over in Tripoli. Her first novel, The People We Were Before, was set in the Croatian civil war of the 1990s, her second, What Lies Within, is set in Marrakech. She has also written two travel books.

Thorne's latest novel is The Enemy of Love.

At the Guardian the author tagged ten top aunts in fiction, including:
Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Representing the less sympathetic side of the auntie canon, Lady Catherine – aunt to Mr Darcy – is a towering snob, concerned primarily with propriety and social class. Convinced Elizabeth Bennet is an unsuitable match, she does everything she can to keep them from marrying – although ironically, her efforts to keep them apart are part of what draws them together. The ultimate proof that aunts, of whatever kind, all work for good in the end.
Read about another entry on the list.

Pride and Prejudice also appears on Harriet Evans's top ten list of close families in literature, Amelia Morris's top ten list of captivating fictional frenemies, David Annand's list of the top ten buildings in fiction, Off the Shelf's list of ten of the most fantastical (and sometimes fanatical) parties imaginable in novels, KT Sparks's seven best graceless literary exits, Lit Hub's list of twenty-five actually pretty happy couples in literature, Ellie Eaton's list of eight of literature's notable mean girls, Sarah Vaughan's list of nine fictional bad mothers in fiction, Jessica Francis Kane's top ten list of houseguests in fiction, O: The Oprah Magazine's twenty greatest ever romance novels, Cristina Merrill's list of eight of the sexiest curmudgeons in romance, Sarah Ward's ten top list of brothers and sisters in fiction, Tara Sonin's lists of fifty must-read regency romances and seven sweet and swoony romances for wedding season, Grant Ginder's top ten list of book characters we love to hate, Katy Guest's list of six of the best depictions of shyness in fiction, Garry Trudeau's six favorite books list, Ross Johnson's list of seven of the greatest rivalries in fiction, Helen Dunmore's six best books list, Jenny Kawecki's list of eight fictional characters who would make the best travel companions, Peter James's top ten list of works of fiction set in or around Brighton, Ellen McCarthy's list of six favorite books about weddings and marriage, the Telegraph's list of the ten greatest put-downs in literature, Rebecca Jane Stokes' list of ten fictional families you might enjoy more than the one you'll actually spend the holidays with, Melissa Albert's lists of five fictional characters who deserved better, [fifteen of the] romantic leads (and wannabes) of Austen’s brilliant books and recommended reading for eight villains, Molly Schoemann-McCann's list of ten fictional men who have ruined real live romance, Emma Donoghue's list of five favorite unconventional fictional families, Amelia Schonbek's list of five approachable must-read classics, Jane Stokes's top ten list of the hottest men in required reading, Gwyneth Rees's top ten list of books about siblings, the Observer's list of the ten best fictional mothers, Paula Byrne's list of the ten best Jane Austen characters, Robert McCrum's list of the top ten opening lines of novels in the English language, a top ten list of literary lessons in love, Simon Mason's top ten list of fictional families, Cathy Cassidy's top ten list of stories about sisters, Paul Murray's top ten list of wicked clerics, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best housekeepers in fiction, ten great novels with terrible original titles, and ten of the best visits to Brighton in literature, Luke Leitch's top ten list of the most successful literary sequels ever, and is one of the top ten works of literature according to Norman Mailer. Richard Price has never read it, but it is the book Mary Gordon cares most about sharing with her children.

The Page 99 Test: Pride and Prejudice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Aviel Roshwald's "Occupied"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Occupied: European and Asian Responses to Axis Conquest, 1937–1945 by Aviel Roshwald.

About the book, from the publisher:
For most of the population of Europe and East and Southeast Asia, the most persistent and significant aspect of their experience of the Second World War was that of occupation by one or more of the Axis powers. In this ambitious and wide-ranging study, Aviel Roshwald brings us the first single-authored, comparative treatment of European and Asian responses to German and Japanese occupation during the war. He illustrates how patriotic, ethno-national, and internationalist identities were manipulated, exploited, reconstructed and reinvented as a result of the wholesale dismantling of states and redrawing of borders. Using eleven case studies from across the two continents, he examines how behavioral choices around collaboration and resistance were conditioned by existing identities or loyalties as well as by short-term cost–benefit calculations, opportunism, or coercion.
Learn more about Occupied at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Occupied.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Daniel M. Ford's "The Warden"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Warden (The Warden Series, Volume 1) by Daniel M. Ford.

About the book, from the publisher:
For fans who have always wanted their Twin Peaks to have some wizards, The Warden is a non-stop action adventure story from author Daniel M. Ford.

There was a plan.

She had the money, the connections, even the brains. It was simple: become one of the only female necromancers, earn as many degrees as possible, get a post in one of the grand cities, then prove she’s capable of greatness. The funny thing about plans is that they are seldom under your control.

Now Aelis de Lenti, a daughter of a noble house and recent graduate of the esteemed Magisters’ Lyceum, finds herself in the far-removed village of Lone Pine. Mending fences, matching wits with goats, and serving people who want nothing to do with her. But, not all is well in Lone Pine, and as the villagers Aelis is reluctantly getting to know start to behave strangely, Aelis begins to suspect that there is far greater need for a Warden of her talents than she previously thought.

Old magics are restless, and an insignificant village on the farthest border of the kingdom might hold secrets far beyond what anyone expected. Aelis might be the only person standing between one of the greatest evils ever known and the rest of the world.
Visit Daniel M. Ford's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Warden.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Ten of the best books that feature twins

Becky Chalsen is a film/TV development executive at the production company Sunday Night. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, and now lives in New York City. Chalsen is a quadruplet and married to her high school sweetheart — an identical twin — whose family has spent summers on Fire Island for more than three decades.

Kismet is her first novel.

At Lit Hub Chalsen tagged ten favorite books that feature twins, including:
Curtis Sittenfeld, Sisterland

In Curtis Sittenfeld’s luminous third novel, she gives her twin leads a power befitting the magic of sisterhood. I’ll never forget reading Sisterland, fervently speeding through the pages, desperate to soak up the story of identical twins Violet and Kate and their visions.

When Violet has a vision about a looming earthquake arriving in their hometown of St. Louis, she decides to go public about her abilities, warning the city but changing everything with her sister in the process. Kate is now inadvertently catapulted into the spotlight, risking the “normal” life she worked so hard to build.

I loved what the novel says about family, trust, and identity, all with Sittenfeld’s signature brilliant and charming touch.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Vera Keller's "The Interlopers"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Interlopers: Early Stuart Projects and the Undisciplining of Knowledge by Vera Keller.

About the book, from the publisher:
A reframing of how scientific knowledge was produced in the early modern world.

Many accounts of the scientific revolution portray it as a time when scientists disciplined knowledge by first disciplining their own behavior. According to these views, scientists such as Francis Bacon produced certain knowledge by pacifying their emotions and concentrating on method. In The Interlopers, Vera Keller rejects this emphasis on discipline and instead argues that what distinguished early modernity was a navigation away from restraint and toward the violent blending of knowledge from across society and around the globe.

Keller follows early seventeenth-century English "projectors" as they traversed the world, pursuing outrageous entrepreneurial schemes along the way. These interlopers were developing a different culture of knowledge, one that aimed to take advantage of the disorder created by the rise of science and technological advances. They sought to deploy the first submarine in the Indian Ocean, raise silkworms in Virginia, and establish the English slave trade. These projectors developed a culture of extreme risk-taking, uniting global capitalism with martial values of violent conquest. They saw the world as a riskscape of empty spaces, disposable people, and unlimited resources.

By analyzing the disasters—as well as a few successes—of the interlopers she studies, Keller offers a new interpretation of the nature of early modern knowledge itself. While many influential accounts of the period characterize European modernity as a disciplining or civilizing process, The Interlopers argues that early modernity instead entailed a great undisciplining that entangled capitalism, colonialism, and science.
Learn more about The Interlopers at the Johns Hopkins University Press.

The Page 99 Test: The Interlopers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Jen Williams's "Games for Dead Girls," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Games for Dead Girls: A Thriller by Jen Williams.

From the entry:
Games for Dead Girls is such a great choice for this particular prompt, as of all my books it is the only one where I have had actors in mind for the lead roles right from the start. For damaged, complicated yet witty Charlie, my dream actress would be Natasha Lyonne. When I first started writing ideas for this book, Russian Doll had just popped up on Netflix and there are few actors as enormously watchable and charming as Lyonne. Yes, she would have to do a Kentish/southeast London accent, but I’ve no doubt she would nail it.

Joseph is the charming handy man at the caravan site where Charlie and her niece are staying, and again I always had an actor in mind for him – in fact, I named him after the chap....[read on]
Visit Jen Williams's website.

My Book, The Movie: Games for Dead Girls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Pg. 69: Sarah Strohmeyer's "We Love to Entertain"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: We Love to Entertain: A Novel by Sarah Strohmeyer.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the bestselling author of Do I Know You? comes a fast-paced, riveting psychological thriller that skewers our modern obsession with home renovation and fixer-uppers.

Holly and Robert Barron are attractive young real-estate investors and contestants in a competition run by To the Manor Build, the nation’s most popular home renovation app. With millions in product endorsements and online followers at stake, they’re rehabbing a Vermont home they scored at a bargain price into a chic hilltop estate ideal for entertaining.

It’s all camera-ready laughs and debates over herringbone tile until Holly and Robert go missing hours after their picture-perfect wedding—leaving behind a bloody trail.

Suspicion falls quickly on Erika Turnbull, the Barrons’ twenty-something assistant—eager, efficient, and secretly in love with Robert. Did Erika let her misguided passion turn her into a murderer? So claim the townsfolk of Snowden, Vermont, who still haven’t forgiven her for a tragic accident back in high school.

But Erika’s mother, Kim, is not about to let small-town gossip and a cop with an axe to grind destroy her daughter—again. With time running out and their own lives at risk, the mother-daughter duo set out to find what really happened to the Barrons. First, though, they’ll have to confront the vengeful former owner of Holly and Robert’s estate, ruthless reality-show producers, and a secret that might bring their own house down.

Fast-paced, full of humor, and undeniably twisty, We Love to Entertain is another winner from Sarah Strohmeyer.
Visit Sarah Strohmeyer's website.

The Page 69 Test: This Is My Brain on Boys.

My Book, The Movie: This Is My Brain on Boys.

My Book, The Movie: We Love to Entertain.

Writers Read: Sarah Strohmeyer.

The Page 69 Test: We Love to Entertain.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six crime novels that feature natural disasters

Samantha Jayne Allen is the author of the Annie McIntyre Mysteries. She has an MFA in fiction from Texas State University, and her writing has been published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Common, and Electric Literature. Raised in small towns in Texas and California, she now lives with her husband and daughter in Atlanta.

The newest Annie McIntyre mystery is Hard Rain.

At CrimeReads Allen tagged six favorite crime novels that feature natural disasters, including:
After the Storm by Linda Castillo

Closed communities are endlessly fascinating to me as a reader. A taste for old-fashioned romance is likely what draws many people to Amish-themed entertainment, but what appeals to me in Castillo’s series is the opposite: the incongruity of a “simple,” peaceful community that has dark secrets, scandals, and individuals chafing against restrictions. Within the first few pages, Painters Mill, a fictional town in Ohio’s Amish country, is hit hard by a tornado. During the cleanup, a skull is discovered from where it was hidden for decades inside an Amish barn, and now, police chief Kate Burkholder—herself formerly Amish—must solve a cold case that forces her to reckon with her own complicated history. The ways people act out of rage and unprocessed grief after surviving the tornado, alongside the ongoing tension between Amish and “English,” is what’s so compelling here. It’s also a well-paced procedural, a great entry in this series.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Ava Purkiss's "Fit Citizens"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Fit Citizens: A History of Black Women's Exercise from Post-Reconstruction to Postwar America by Ava Purkiss.

About the book, from the publisher:
At the turn of the twentieth century, as African Americans struggled against white social and political oppression, Black women devised novel approaches to the fight for full citizenship. In opposition to white-led efforts to restrict their freedom of movement, Black women used various exercises—calisthenics, gymnastics, athletics, and walking—to demonstrate their physical and moral fitness for citizenship. Black women's participation in the modern exercise movement grew exponentially in the first half of the twentieth century and became entwined with larger campaigns of racial uplift and Black self-determination. Black newspapers, magazines, advice literature, and public health reports all encouraged this emphasis on exercise as a reflection of civic virtue.

In the first historical study of Black women's exercise, Ava Purkiss reveals that physical activity was not merely a path to self-improvement but also a means to expand notions of Black citizenship. Through this narrative of national belonging, Purkiss explores how exercise enabled Black women to reimagine Black bodies, health, beauty, and recreation in the twentieth century. Fit Citizens places Black women squarely within the history of American physical fitness and sheds light on how African Americans gave new meaning to the concept of exercising citizenship.
Follow Ava Purkiss on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Fit Citizens.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with E. J. Copperman

From my Q&A with E. J. Copperman, author of Ukulele of Death:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Well, Ukulele of Death was such a catchy little title we couldn’t possibly have passed it up. I actually wanted to give the reader a slight inkling of the rather unusual protagonists for the story, but the series name A Fran and Ken Stein Mystery should clue in all but the least observant readers. The ukulele mentioned in the title is the McGuffin of the story; it is the object everyone’s looking for and therefore the impetus for the plot. Hitchcock said the McGuffin is “the thing all the characters on the screen are chasing and the audience doesn’t care about.” So I’ll leave it at that.

What's in a name?

The names were pretty much the jumping off point. When I knew that I wanted to do...[read on]
Visit E. J. Copperman's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: The Thrill of the Haunt.

Writers Read: E. J. Copperman (November 2013).

The Page 69 Test: The Thrill of the Haunt.

My Book, The Movie: Ukulele of Death.

The Page 69 Test: Ukulele of Death.

Q&A with E. J. Copperman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 24, 2023

What is Sarah Strohmeyer reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Sarah Strohmeyer, author of We Love to Entertain: A Novel.

Her entry begins:
Okay, stay with me here. I’m reading a book about cults called, well, Cults: Inside the World's Most Notorious Groups and Understanding the People Who Joined Them by Max Cutler (who ran a similar podcast) and Kevin Conley. I chose it for research on my next book, but it’s also the April pick for a true-crime online bookclub my daughter roped me into and I enjoy. Lemme tell you, I am riveted.

Came for the Manson Family - who haunted my childhood nightmares - and stayed for Adolfo Constanzo, a “Narcosatanist,” who led a small cult of ruthless followers/lovers. The psychopathic Adolfo made his fortune by hoodwinking superstitious Mexican drug dealers - and...[read on]
About We Love to Entertain, from the publisher:
From the bestselling author of Do I Know You? comes a fast-paced, riveting psychological thriller that skewers our modern obsession with home renovation and fixer-uppers.

Holly and Robert Barron are attractive young real-estate investors and contestants in a competition run by To the Manor Build, the nation’s most popular home renovation app. With millions in product endorsements and online followers at stake, they’re rehabbing a Vermont home they scored at a bargain price into a chic hilltop estate ideal for entertaining.

It’s all camera-ready laughs and debates over herringbone tile until Holly and Robert go missing hours after their picture-perfect wedding—leaving behind a bloody trail.

Suspicion falls quickly on Erika Turnbull, the Barrons’ twenty-something assistant—eager, efficient, and secretly in love with Robert. Did Erika let her misguided passion turn her into a murderer? So claim the townsfolk of Snowden, Vermont, who still haven’t forgiven her for a tragic accident back in high school.

But Erika’s mother, Kim, is not about to let small-town gossip and a cop with an axe to grind destroy her daughter—again. With time running out and their own lives at risk, the mother-daughter duo set out to find what really happened to the Barrons. First, though, they’ll have to confront the vengeful former owner of Holly and Robert’s estate, ruthless reality-show producers, and a secret that might bring their own house down.

Fast-paced, full of humor, and undeniably twisty, We Love to Entertain is another winner from Sarah Strohmeyer.
Visit Sarah Strohmeyer's website.

The Page 69 Test: This Is My Brain on Boys.

My Book, The Movie: This Is My Brain on Boys.

My Book, The Movie: We Love to Entertain.

Writers Read: Sarah Strohmeyer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten pulse-pounding Indigenous suspense novels

At B&N Reads Brittany Bunzey tagged ten "Indigenous novels will keep you on the edge of your seat," including:
Sinister Graves by Marcie R. Rendon

This riveting read is masterfully written and is the third in an addictive series following a young woman who uses her mysterious gift to assist investigations. When the body of an unidentified Native woman washes up in the town of Ada, Cash Blackbear knows she must return to the reservation she formerly called home. Dream and dig alongside Cash as you uncover what truly happened in Sinister Graves...
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Sinister Graves.

Q&A with Marcie R. Rendon.

My Book, The Movie: Sinister Graves.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Keisha Ray's "Black Health"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Black Health: The Social, Political, and Cultural Determinants of Black People's Health by Keisha Ray.

About the book, from the publisher:
Why do American Black people generally have worse health than American White people? To answer this question, Black Health dispels any notion that Black people have inferior bodies that are inherently susceptible to disease. This is simply false racial science used to justify White supremacy and Black inferiority. A genuine investigation into the status of Black people's health requires us to acknowledge that race has always been a powerful social category that gives access to the resources we need for health and wellbeing to some people, while withholding them from other people.

Systemic racism, oppression, and White supremacy in American institutions have largely been the perpetrators of differing social power and access to resources for Black people. It is these systemic inequities that create the social conditions needed for poor health outcomes for Black people to persist. An examination of social inequities reveals that is no accident that Black people have poorer health than White people. Black Health provides a succinct discussion of Black people's health, including the social, political, and at times cultural determinants of their health. Using real stories from Black people, Ray examines the ways in which Black people's multiple identities--social, cultural, and political--intersect with American institutions--such as housing, education, environmentalism, and health care--to facilitate their poor outcomes in pregnancy and birth, pain management, sleep, and cardiovascular disease.
Visit Keisha Ray's website.

The Page 99 Test: Black Health.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Julia Kelly's "The Lost English Girl"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Lost English Girl by Julia Kelly.

About the book, from the publisher:
The acclaimed author of the “sweeping and beautifully written novel” (Woman’s World) The Light Over London weaves an epic saga of love, motherhood, and betrayal set against World War II.

Liverpool, 1935: Raised in a strict Catholic family, Viv Byrne knows what’s expected of her: marry a Catholic man from her working-class neighborhood and have his children. However, when she finds herself pregnant after a fling with Joshua Levinson, a Jewish man with dreams of becoming a famous Jazz musician, Viv knows that a swift wedding is the only answer. Her only solace is that marrying Joshua will mean escaping her strict mother’s scrutiny. But when Joshua makes a life-changing choice on their wedding day, Viv is forced once again into the arms of her disapproving family.

Five years later and on the eve of World War II, Viv is faced with the impossible choice to evacuate her young daughter, Maggie, to the countryside estate of the affluent Thompson family. In New York City, Joshua gives up his failing musical career to serve in the Royal Air Force, fight for his country, and try to piece together his feelings about the family, wife, and daughter he left behind at nineteen. However, tragedy strikes when Viv learns that the countryside safe haven she sent her daughter to wasn’t immune from the horrors of war. It is only years later, with Joshua’s help, that Viv learns the secrets of their shared past and what it will take to put a family back together again.

Telling the harrowing story of England’s many evacuated children, bestselling author Julia Kelly’s The Lost English Girl explores how one simple choice can change the course of a life, and what we are willing to forgive to find a way back to the ones we love and thought lost.
Visit Julia Kelly's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Lost English Girl.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Sarah Strohmeyer's "We Love to Entertain," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: We Love to Entertain: A Novel by Sarah Strohmeyer.

The entry begins:
Because We Love to Entertain was inspired by the already fictional world of HGTV property rehab, that medium was lurking in the background as I wrote about a privileged, white, well-educated couple legally “stealing” a prime piece of real estate - a Vermont mountaintop retreat - for which they pay the consequences when the former owner exacts his revenge.

Or does he?

Anyway, I love Southerner Parker Posey, so she would be by prime choice to play Hayley aka Holly Barron, a Florida girl who’s remade herself into the glamorous co-owner of this estate, along with her new husband, Robert Barron, aka The Robber Barron, who fancies himself the genius of snatching real-estate bargains. There’s a guy who lives near me on whom I modeled this character due to his appearance and behavior. That said, the closest actor would be Joe Manganiello. I realize Parker’s nearly ten years older than Joe, but let’s go with it.

Erika, their aspiring assistant who just…wants…to…get….out…of…this…goddamn hick town, has to be...[read on]
Visit Sarah Strohmeyer's website.

The Page 69 Test: This Is My Brain on Boys.

Writers Read: Sarah Strohmeyer (May 2016).

My Book, The Movie: This Is My Brain on Boys.

My Book, The Movie: We Love to Entertain.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Patrick Whitmarsh's "Writing Our Extinction"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Writing Our Extinction: Anthropocene Fiction and Vertical Science by Patrick Whitmarsh.

About the book, from the publisher:
Mid-twentieth-century developments in science and technology produced new understandings and images of the planet that circulated the globe, giving rise to a modern ecological consciousness; but they also contributed to accelerating crises in the global environment, including climate change, pollution, and waste. In this new work, Patrick Whitmarsh analyzes postwar narrative fictions that describe, depict, or express the earth from above (the aerial) and below (the subterranean), revealing the ways that literature has engaged this history of vertical science and linked it to increasing environmental precarity, up to and including the extinction of humankind.

Whitmarsh examines works by writers such as Don DeLillo, Karen Tei Yamashita, Reza Negarestani, and Colson Whitehead alongside postwar scientific programs including the Space Race, atmospheric and underground nuclear testing, and geological expeditions such as Project Mohole (which attempted to drill to the earth's mantle). As Whitmarsh argues, by focusing readers' attention on the fragility of postwar life through a vertical lens, Anthropocene fiction highlights the interconnections between human behavior and planetary change. These fictions situate industrial history within the much longer narrative of geological time and reframe scientific progress as a story through which humankind writes itself out of existence.
Follow on Patrick Whitmarsh on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Writing Our Extinction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven books about falling in (& out) love in London

Genevieve Wheeler is an American writer and communications director. Her bylines have appeared in publications like VICE, Cosmopolitan, Vogue Business, Teen Vogue, Elite Daily, Business Insider, MASHABLE, and POPSUGAR, with her work and words cited in The New York Times, Vox, the BBC World Service, Cheddar News, Jezebel, and beyond. She currently lives in London, holding an MA in Marketing Communications from the University of Westminster and a BS in Advertising from Boston University. Her debut novel is Adelaide.

At Electric Lit Wheeler tagged seven books with some "version of what it means to fall in and out of love in the British capital." One title on the list:
Maame by Jessica George

Maame by Jessica George is predominantly a coming-of-age story about 26-year-old Maddie Wright, but it’s speckled with romantic adventures (and entanglements) throughout. George tackles everything from the magic of first kisses to the hellish nature of apps (including the fetishization and microaggressions to which Black women are far too often subjected) to the challenges of dating while grieving with unparalleled grace and wit, painting a painfully accurate portrait of one young woman’s love life in London.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Third reading: D.W. Buffa on Thucydides’ "History of the Peloponnesian War"

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 Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War begins:
Thomas Hobbes, an extremely careful writer, was the first to translate into English Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. He noted what a careful writer Thucydides had been: The “narrative doth secretly instruct the reader, and more effectually than can possibly be done by precept.” To show that this was not a novel, seventeenth century, interpretation of how careful writers wrote, Hobbes cited the fourth century Roman history of Ammianus Marcellinus: “Marcellinus saith, he was obscure on purpose; that the common people might not understand him. And not unlikely; for a wise man should so write (though in words understood by all men), that wise men only should be able to commend him.” The History of the Peloponnesian War may not be the straightforward account that, on first, or even a second, reading, it might seem to be.

In a line often quoted, if not always understood, Thucydides insists that, “My work is not a piece of writing designed to meet the taste of an immediate public, but was done to last forever.” Thucydides knew from the beginning that the war between Athens and Sparta was the biggest war that had ever taken place, bigger by far than the Trojan War, the war made famous by what Homer wrote, that war that without Homer would have long since been forgotten. Those who claimed to see the future said the war would last three times nine years; it lasted even longer than that.

If the Trojan War began over a woman, the Peloponnesian War had a larger cause. Athens had become...[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.

Third Reading: The Europeans.

Third Reading: The House of Mirth and The Writing of Fiction.

Third Reading: Doctor Faustus.

Third Reading: the reading list of John F. Kennedy.

Third Reading: Jorge Luis Borges.

Third Reading: History of the Peloponnesian War.

--Marshal Zeringue