Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Pg. 99: Michael Hunter's "Atheists and Atheism before the Enlightenment"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Atheists and Atheism before the Enlightenment: The English and Scottish Experience by Michael Hunter.

About the book, from the publisher:
Anxiety about the threat of atheism was rampant in the early modern period, yet fully documented examples of openly expressed irreligious opinion are surprisingly rare. England and Scotland saw only a handful of such cases before 1750, and this book offers a detailed analysis of three of them. Thomas Aikenhead was executed for his atheistic opinions at Edinburgh in 1697; Tinkler Ducket was convicted of atheism by the Vice-Chancellor's court at the University of Cambridge in 1739; whereas Archibald Pitcairne's overtly atheist tract, Pitcairneana, though evidently compiled very early in the eighteenth century, was first published only in 2016. Drawing on these, and on the better-known apostacy of Christopher Marlowe and the Earl of Rochester, Michael Hunter argues that such atheists showed real 'assurance' in publicly promoting their views. This contrasts with the private doubts of Christian believers, and this book demonstrates that the two phenomena are quite distinct, even though they have sometimes been wrongly conflated.
Learn more about Atheists and Atheism before the Enlightenment at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Decline of Magic.

The Page 99 Test: Atheists and Atheism before the Enlightenment.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Elizabeth Topp's "City People"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: City People: A Novel by Elizabeth Topp.

About the book, from the publisher:
From Perfectly Impossible author Elizabeth Topp comes an unforgettably searing novel about a band of mothers who are forced to reckon with themselves after the unexpected loss of one of their own.

When beautiful and successful Susan Harris jumps from the roof of her apartment building, she sets a tremor through her New York City mothers’ group that forces them all to look at one another with new cynicism: How could this have happened right under their noses? To one of them? Between her death and the harrowing private school admission season on the horizon, these women are forced to explore the hard truths about themselves.

Vic, a single mom with literary aspirations, is shocked and confused by the unexpected death of her best friend.

Bhavna, a makeup executive, tries to process Susan’s death while sacrificing everything to get her son into the school of his dreams.

Kara’s sister died by suicide years earlier, so she’s been down this road before—or so it seems.

Penelope and Amy are navigating a business deal when Susan dies, but is it worth the toll on their families?

And how will Chandice, battling cancer, come to terms with Susan’s death?

For these women, the loss of a fellow mother forces them to reexamine who they really are while the futures of their children hang in the balance.
Visit Elizabeth Topp's website.

The Page 69 Test: City People.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eleven top hip-hop books

At Vulture.com Paul Thompson tagged eleven "books on hip-hop that are essential for any fan of the genre, though many of them are just as gripping for someone who couldn’t pick Puff out of a lineup." One title on the list:
Sweat the Technique: Revelations on Creativity From the Lyrical Genius by Rakim (2019)

When he was barely 20 years old, Rakim was widely considered the most technically inventive MC in hip-hop; soon, he and Eric B. would become the first rap act to sign a million-dollar record contract. Yet he still felt like an outsider: caught between generations of artists, the city and his home on Long Island, the spiritual world and the corporeal. In Sweat the Technique, Rakim recounts his formative experiences in rap (like arguing with Marley Marl about whether he should be allowed to record while lounging on a couch), explaining the way he used to subdivide the pages in his notebook to make each syllable in every verse land perfectly, and finally shedding some light on one of the most tantalizing unrealized collaborations ever, his ill-fated deal with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 30, 2023

Pg. 99: Simon Devereaux's "Execution, State and Society in England, 1660–1900"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Execution, State and Society in England, 1660–1900 by Simon Devereaux.

About the book, from the publisher:
This book provides the first comprehensive account of execution practices in England and their extraordinary transformation from 1660 to 1900. Agonizing execution rituals were once common. Male traitors were hanged, disembowelled while still alive, then decapitated and quartered. Female traitors were burned alive. And common criminals slowly choked to death beneath wooden crossbeams erected at the margins of towns. Some of their bodies were either left to rot on roadside gibbets or dissected by anatomy instructors. Two centuries later, only murderers and traitors were executed – both by hanging – and they died alone, usually quickly, and behind prison walls. In this major contribution to the history of crime and punishment in England, Simon Devereaux reveals how urban growth, and the unique public culture it produced, challenged and largely displaced those traditional elites who valued the old 'Bloody Code' as an instrument of their rule.
Learn more about Execution, State and Society in England, 1660–1900 at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Execution, State and Society in England, 1660–1900.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Elise Hart Kipness

From my Q&A with Elise Hart Kipness, author of Lights Out:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I’m a bit obsessed with my title and I feel like I can say that because I didn’t come up with it. After bagging my original title, my husband suggested Lights Out. What I love about Lights Out is that it works really well for a domestic thriller. But it also has a sports reference. If someone plays “lights out” it means that they can’t miss. I thought the connection to basketball was really cool because the murder victim is an NBA player.

What's in a name?

At first my main character was named...[read on]
Visit Elise Hart Kipness's website.

The Page 69 Test: Lights Out.

Q&A with Elise Hart Kipness.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books that explore the drawbacks of a superpowered life

Tobias Carroll is the managing editor of Vol.1 Brooklyn. He is the author of the short story collection Transitory and the novel Reel.

At Tor.com he writes:
operating as a superhero or supervillain would, in fact, be incredibly hard. Some of that has to do with the logistics of, say, maintaining a secret identity or operating a mysterious island base. And some involve the challenges of living in harsher world than the shared universes depicted in comics from Marvel and DC.
Carroll tagged five "very different books that might make you reconsider the whole 'power fantasy' aspects of superheroing or supervillainy." One title on the list:
Starter Villain by John Scalzi

The story of John Scalzi’s Starter Villain opens in an unexpected place: the small town where former reporter Charlie is working as a substitute teacher and hoping to buy the local bar. It isn’t long before Charlie learns that his now-deceased uncle was, for lack of a better world, a supervillain — complete with volcano lair and genetically enhanced animal employees. Turns out the world of villainy in Scalzi’s novel has different gradations, and Charlie having something of an ethical backbone proves to be both a liability and an asset, depending on the situation.

For all that Starter Villain riffs on countless pulp tropes, from secret hideaways to secret societies, Scalzi has also spent some time thinking about how these things would work in a world reasonably close to our own — including the financial advantages of having a base of operations on a volcanic island and the challenges of negotiating a labor dispute with a group of profane dolphins with enhanced intelligence. Lex Luthor and Ernst Stavro Blofeld likely never had to wrangle with similar issues — but they might have missed out as a result.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Pg. 99: Michael Lusztig's "The Republican Hero"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Republican Hero: From Homer to Batman by Michael Lusztig.

About the book, from the publisher:
Politically speaking, do heroes matter? Are we living in a post-heroic age? The Republican Hero addresses both these questions. The general tenor of modern thinking is that heroes do matter but that the modern age is characterized by a narrowing of moral horizons once illuminated by heroes, secular and spiritual. Michael Lusztig argues that the modern world is not post-heroic. He makes the case that the modern age is the most heroic age, if measured in terms of the Aristotelian currency of balance and completeness. To this end, he identifies four main hero-types—the epic, magnanimous, Romantic, and common. Each can rightfully be called a republican hero: each contributes to the promotion or protection or provision of republican values. Each exemplifies the heroic virtues of their age. However, taken conjunctively, each contributes to what Lusztig conceives as the complete republican hero of the modern age.
Learn more about The Republican Hero at the State University of New York Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Republican Hero.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Elise Hart Kipness's "Lights Out"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Lights Out by Elise Hart Kipness.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this exciting debut novel comes a fast-paced thriller that follows a sports reporter’s journey off the court…and into a world of murder and deception.

Former Olympic athlete and sports reporter Kate Green isn’t sure how much more tumultuous her life can get. She’s been put on temporary leave from her job, then NBA superstar Kurt Robbins is killed and the prime suspect in his murder is none other than his wife…and Kate’s best friend.

Kate knows that Yvette’s marriage wasn’t exactly stable, but her friend is no murderer, and Kate is determined to prove it with her own investigation. While she tries to salvage Yvette’s life, Kate’s own continues to unravel. Her career is in limbo. Gossip columns speculate about her future. Her children are battling their own demons. And her estranged father suddenly reenters her life as a detective assigned to Kurt’s homicide case.

As her worlds collide―exposing secrets, lies, and ulterior motives―Kate may have to choose between the games she can play and the one she might lose.
Visit Elise Hart Kipness's website.

The Page 69 Test: Lights Out.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven great mystery novels set in academe

Stephanie Barron is a graduate of Princeton and Stanford Universities, where she studied history. A former intelligence analyst at the CIA, she is the author of thirty novels, including the critically acclaimed Merry Folger series, which she writes under the name Francine Mathews.

Barron's latest novel is Jane and the Final Mystery.

At CrimeReads she tagged seven favorite mystery novels set in academe, including:
The Secret Place, by Tana French

An entrant in French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, this remarkable novel is perfectly possible to read as a standalone, as is true of all French’s work, a feat she deserves greater recognition for sustaining, book after series book. Four teenaged girls boarding at a Catholic high school form a spiritual pact under the moonlight in their favorite spot on campus, and unleash a chain of events that sunders their perfect friendship forever. That theme of a precious cloistered world—and of group solidarity unsustainable amidst the ugliness of a broader society—is essential to the academic mystery; violence in the form of murder upsets the balance of Arcadia, and only Justice can reverse the destructive power of evil. Laced with the humiliations of sexual harassment at the hands of doltish neighboring schoolboys, with the power of feminist resolve, and with the courage of personal sacrifice, French’s story is complex enough to leave the reader sorrowing for the waste of any number of lives; neither the charmed circle of schoolgirls nor their victim emerges free of taint.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Secret Place is among Davida G. Breier's nine titles featuring teens behaving badly, C. J. Cooke's eight thrillers & mysteries with underlying supernatural elements, Cambria Brockman's five thrillers featuring a small group of friends, Adele Parks's eight crime novels featuring intense female friendship, Kristen Lepionka's ten top female detectives in fiction, the B&N Reads editors' five favorite fun, fearless femmes fatales in fiction, and Kelly Anderson's seven amazing female friendships in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Pg. 99: Alan Bollard's "Economists in the Cold War"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Economists in the Cold War: How a Handful of Economists Fought the Battle of Ideas by Alan Bollard.

About the book, from the publisher:
Economists in the Cold War is an account of the economic drivers and outcomes of the Cold War, told through the stories of seven international economists, who were all closely involved in theory and policy in the period 1945-73. For them, the Cold War was a battle of economic ideas, a fight between central planning and market allocation, exploring economic thinking derived from the battle between Marxist and Capitalist ideologies, a fundamental difference but with many intricacies.

The book recounts how economic theory advanced, how new economic tools were developed, and how policies were tested. Each chapter is based on the involvement of one of the selected economists. It was a challenging but dangerous time in economics: a time of economic recovery post-war, with industrial rebuilding, economic growth, and rising incomes. But it was also a time of ideological warfare, nuclear rivalry, military expansion, and personal conflict.

The narrative is approximately chronological, ranging from the Potsdam Conference in Germany to the Pinochet Coup in Chile. The selected economists include an American, a Pole, a Hungarian, a German, a British, a Japanese, and an Argentinian, all very different economists, but with interconnections among them. Each chapter also features a dissenting economist who held a contrasting view, and recounts the subsequent economic arguments that played out.
Learn more about Economists in the Cold War at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Economists in the Cold War.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is R.W.W. Greene reading?

Featured at Writers Read: R.W.W. Greene, author of Earth Retrograde: Book II of the First Planets.

His entry begins:
I read a lot. This year I tried to keep track of it all, and according to GoodReads, I’ve put 96 books in my brain since Jan. 1. I read mostly for pleasure, sometimes for education, occasionally seeking a model for my own writing.

The day before yesterday, I finished Ryka Aoki’s Light from Uncommon Stars. It’s a wonderfully strange mashup of sci-fi and fantasy, doughnuts, competitive-violin playing, online sex work, and found family. I loved it.

Right before that...[read on]
About Earth Retrograde, from the publisher:
Becoming the planet's most (in)famous human has not changed Brooklyn Lamontagne one bit, but the time has come for him to choose where his allegiances really lie.

The United Nations is working to get everyone off Earth by the deadline – set by the planet’s true owners, the aliens known as the First. It’s a task made somewhat easier by a mysterious virus that rendered at least fifty percent of humanity unable to have children. Meanwhile, the USA and the USSR have set their sights on Mars, claiming half a planet each.

Brooklyn Lamontagne doesn’t remember saving the world eight years ago, but he’s been paying for it ever since. The conquered Earth governments don’t trust him, the Average Joe can’t make up their mind, but they all agree that Brooklyn should stay in space. Now, he’s just about covering his bills with junk-food runs to Venus and transporting horny honeymooners to Tycho aboard his aging spaceship, the Victory.

When a pal asks for a ride to Mars, Brooklyn lands in a solar system’s worth of espionage, backroom alliances, ancient treasures and secret plots while encountering a navigation system that just wants to be loved…
Visit R.W.W. Greene's website.

The Page 69 Test: Mercury Rising.

Q&A with R.W.W. Greene.

Writers Read: R.W.W. Greene.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five scary books to read for Halloween

In 2014 Liz Egan shared for Glamour five scary books to read for Halloween, including:
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Thanks to The Shining, "REDRUM" is hands-down the most gut-wrenching nom-word in the English language. Say it in the creepy voice of the boy in the movie and you're immediately transported to that sleepless sleepover where you first watched it in someone's basement rec room. What ever happened to that boy? Did he turn into an angry alcoholic like his dad? Now you can find out in this stressful, suspenseful, semi-sequel, which King himself calls "a real balls-to-the-wall scary story." (Note to newbies: The Shining is not a prerequisite for enjoyment of this book—it's a standalone page-turner.)
Read about another entry on the list.

Doctor Sleep is among Laura Purcell's top ten books about spirit mediums.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 27, 2023

Pg. 99: Kenneth A. Reinert's "The Lure of Economic Nationalism"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Lure of Economic Nationalism: Beyond Zero Sum by Kenneth A. Reinert.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Lure of Economic Nationalism addresses the continued appeal of economic nationalism. It places economic nationalism in both historical and contemporary contexts, from mercantilism and the writings of Friedrich List to Brexit in the United Kingdom and the Trump Administration in the United States. It also considers the alternative to economic nationalism in the form of a rules-based, multilateral trading system and the World Trade Organization. The book argues that going beyond zero-sum outcomes is better suited to address current problems, including rising tides of ethnonationalism in many countries and pandemics. The book is written in an accessible manner and draws deeply from research in economics and political science. It will be of interest to policymakers, economists, political scientists and the informed public.
Learn more about The Lure of Economic Nationalism at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: No Small Hope.

The Page 99 Test: The Lure of Economic Nationalism.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Anne Frasier's "The Night I Died"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Night I Died: A Thriller by Anne Frasier.

About the book, from the publisher:
A mother’s unthinkable crime and an investigator’s forgotten past collide in a shocking novel of suspense by Anne Frasier, the New York Times bestselling author of The Body Reader.

Private detective Olivia Welles hasn’t been to her hometown since her childhood, not since the night she died. She has no memory of the world before the car crash or of coming back to life in the morgue. But now, years later, when fellow survivor Bonnie Ray calls from a Kansas jail begging for help, Olivia feels the tug of a dark and unremembered past.

Bonnie looks guilty of murdering her young son―Bonnie’s third child to die under suspicious circumstances. Intrigued and seeking closure, Olivia agrees to investigate.

Back in the foreboding town where her heart stopped and started again, Olivia finds an unexpected ally in Will LaFever, a journalist with his own motives for uncovering the truth. Together they unearth more than they expect about Bonnie, her traumatized family, and the crime.

You’re lucky you don’t remember any of it, Olivia’s father used to say. But Olivia’s luck is running out. This time, escaping Finney County with her life might be impossible.
Visit Anne Frasier's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Body Counter.

The Page 69 Test: The Night I Died.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight queer historical fiction books set around the world

Allison Epstein earned her MFA in fiction from Northwestern University and a BA in creative writing from the University of Michigan. A Michigan native, she now lives in Chicago, where she works as an editor. When not writing, she enjoys good theater, bad puns, and fancy jackets.

She is the author of historical novels including A Tip for the Hangman, the newly released Let the Dead Bury the Dead, and the forthcoming Our Rotten Hearts.

[My Book, The Movie: A Tip for the HangmanThe Page 69 Test: A Tip for the HangmanQ&A with Allison EpsteinMy Book, The Movie: Let the Dead Bury the DeadThe Page 69 Test: Let the Dead Bury the DeadWriters Read: Allison Epstein]

At ElectricLit Epstein tagged eight books that "aren’t just gripping historical page-turners, although they’re definitely that. They’re also reminders that every corner of history is queerer than we were taught." One title on the list:
Greece: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

No list of queer historical fiction would be complete without this one, the BookTok-famous granddaddy of them all. This lush, romantic retelling of Homer’s The Iliad traces the story of the famous warrior Achilles and his lover Patroclus, from their first meeting through the tragedy of the Trojan War.

Miller’s prose is ludicrously gorgeous, and it’s agonizing and beautiful to watch Achilles and Patroclus fall in love even while the end of their story is all too well known. Highly recommended for fans of lyricism, mythology, and ugly-crying.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Song of Achilles is among Phong Nguyen's seven titles that live halfway between history & myth, The Center for Fiction's 200 books that shaped two centuries of literature, Sara Stewart's six best books and Nicole Hill's fourteen characters who should have lived.

My Book, The Movie: The Song of Achilles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Pg. 99: Marlene L. Daut's "Awakening the Ashes"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Awakening the Ashes: An Intellectual History of the Haitian Revolution by Marlene L. Daut.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Haitian Revolution was a powerful blow against colonialism and slavery, and as its thinkers and fighters blazed the path to universal freedom, they forced anticolonial, antislavery, and antiracist ideals into modern political grammar. The first state in the Americas to permanently abolish slavery, outlaw color prejudice, and forbid colonialism, Haitians established their nation in a hostile Atlantic World. Slavery was ubiquitous throughout the rest of the Americas and foreign nations and empires repeatedly attacked Haitian sovereignty. Yet Haitian writers and politicians successfully defended their independence while planting the ideological roots of egalitarian statehood.

In Awakening the Ashes, Marlene L. Daut situates famous and lesser-known eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Haitian revolutionaries, pamphleteers, and political thinkers within the global history of ideas, showing how their systems of knowledge and interpretation took center stage in the Age of Revolutions. While modern understandings of freedom and equality are often linked to the French Declaration of the Rights of Man or the US Declaration of Independence, Daut argues that the more immediate reference should be to what she calls the 1804 Principle that no human being should ever again be colonized or enslaved, an idea promulgated by the Haitians who, against all odds, upended French empire.
Learn more about Awakening the Ashes at The University of North Carolina Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Awakening the Ashes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Alysa Wishingrad

From my Q&A with Alysa Wishingrad, author of Between Monsters and Marvels:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I think, far more than my debut, The Verdigris Pawn, Between Monsters and Marvels does a good deal of work to set the stage for the book. The title alone promises the reader, well . . . monsters, but it also promises something else that feels safer, friendlier, and above all, magical. The word Between also does a good deal of work as Dare, the main character, gets caught between a great many rocks and some very hard, and tricky places. There are the worlds of Barrow’s Bay, the bucolic island she grew up on, and City-on-the-Pike, the teeming, overcrowded, and at times desperate city on the mainland to which she is banished after her father’s untimely and mysterious death. Then once in the City, Dare gets caught between competing loyalties and allies, the truth and lies, history and facts, and who she always thought her father was and reality. And finally, Dare must learn to live between...[read on]
Visit Alysa Wishingrad's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Alysa Wishingrad & Cleo and Lucy.

The Page 69 Test: The Verdigris Pawn.

Q&A with Alysa Wishingrad.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six top books about women working together

Sarah Davis-Goff was born and raised in Dublin. Her writing has been published in The Irish Times, The Guardian, and LitHub.

Silent City is her second novel.

At CrimeReads Davis-Goff tagged six books about women working together, including:
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

This Booker-winning novel, Everisto’s eighth, is a celebration of intersectional feminism; though many 12 of the women are related to each other, I include because the women work in tandem in such interesting ways – creating a theatre company or cleaning business, creating families. There’s something so rare and enriching about seeing that on a page. There’s unconditional love here despite the societal forces often working to keep the women apart.
Read about another entry on the list.

Girl, Woman, Other is among Ore Agbaje-Williams's seven books featuring very, very complicated friendships, Cecile Pin's seven novels featuring displacement in multicultural London, and Kasim Ali's nine top books about interracial relationships.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Pg. 99: Margaret Hillenbrand's "On the Edge"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: On the Edge: Feeling Precarious in China by Margaret Hillenbrand.

About the book, from the publisher:
Charismatic artists recruit desperate migrants for site-specific performance art pieces, often without compensation. Construction workers threaten on camera to jump from the top of a high-rise building if their back wages are not paid. Users of a video and livestreaming app hustle for views by eating excrement or setting off firecrackers on their genitals. In these and many other recent cultural moments, China’s suppressed social strife simmers―or threatens to boil over.

On the Edge probes precarity in contemporary China through the lens of the dark and angry cultural forms that chronic uncertainty has generated. Margaret Hillenbrand argues that a vast underclass of Chinese workers exist in “zombie citizenship,” a state of dehumanizing exile from the law and its safeguards. Many others also feel precarious―sensing that they live on a precipice, with the constant fear of falling into this abyss of dispossession, disenfranchisement, and dislocation. Examining the volatile aesthetic forms that embody stifled social tensions and surging anxiety over zombie citizenship, Hillenbrand traces how people use culture to vent taboo feelings of rage, resentment, distrust, and disdain in scenarios rife with cross-class antagonism.

On the Edge is highly interdisciplinary, fusing digital media, art history, literary criticism, and performance studies with citizenship, protest, and labor studies. It makes both the distinctive Chinese experience and the vital role of culture central to global understandings of how entrenched insecurity and civic jeopardy fray the bonds of the social contract.
Learn more about On the Edge at the Columbia University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: On the Edge.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Susan Azim Boyer's "The Search For Us"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Search for Us: A Novel by Susan Azim Boyer.

About the book, from the publisher:
Two half-siblings who have never met embark on a search together for the Iranian immigrant and U.S. Army veteran father they never knew.

Samira Murphy will do anything to keep her fractured family from falling apart, including caring for her widowed grandmother and getting her older brother into recovery for alcohol addiction. With attendance at her dream college on the line, she takes a long shot DNA test to find the support she so desperately needs from a father she hasn’t seen since she was a baby.

Henry Owen is torn between his well-meaning but unreliable bio-mom and his overly strict aunt and uncle, who stepped in to raise him but don’t seem to see him for who he is. Looking to forge a stronger connection to his own identity, he takes a DNA test to find the one person who might love him for exactly who he is—the biological father he never knew.

Instead of a DNA match with their father, Samira and Henry are matched with each other. They begin to search for their father together and slowly unravel the difficult truth of their shared past, forming a connection that only siblings can have and recovering precious parts of their past that have been lost. Brimming with emotional resonance, Susan Azim Boyer's The Search for Us beautifully renders what it means to find your place in the world through the deep and abiding power of family.
Visit Susan Azim Boyer's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Search for Us.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six of the best comic novels

Monica Heisey is a comedian and writer from Toronto. She has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Vogue, Elle, The Guardian, Glamour, New York magazine, VICE, and more. She won four Canadian Screen Awards for her work on Baroness von Sketch Show, and has written on shows like Schitt’s Creek, and Workin’ Moms, among others.

Her debut novel, Really Good, Actually, was published around the world in January 2023, and is currently in development for television.

At the Waterstones blog Heisey tagged six favorite comic novels, including:
The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker

I am a big fan of Nicholson Baker, and his debut is my favourite of his oeuvre. His work is strange and propulsive and while I don’t know that I’d recommend his other works (Vox or The Fermata in particular) to everyone, The Mezzanine is a crowd pleaser and total pleasure to read. Plot girlies might want to skip it — the novel is about a man on his lunch break taking an escalator — but for the rest of us, this celebration of everyday minutiae is conversational and engrossing and at times joyfully silly.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Mezzanine is among James Clammer's top ten novels told in a single day, David Moloney's seven books about confinement and the need to escape, Aaron Robertson's seven books in which very little happens, and Alex Clark's eight best books set over twenty-hours.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

What is Yoon Ha Lee reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Yoon Ha Lee, author of Fox Snare (Thousand Worlds #3).

His entry begins:
I’m reading a few things right now, but the current standouts are:

S. L. Huang’s The Water Outlaws, a delightful genderspun take on the Chinese classic novel Water Margin (I have not read that one). Larger-than-life adventure, martial arts, and wuxia-style magic and derring-do! I am especially taken with the way the monk Lu Da is introduced: among other things, she was expelled for missing curfew 173 times due to drunkenness.

C. J. Cherryh’s Heavy Time, which is part of her long-running Alliance-Union universe. So far it’s a claustrophobically tense thriller through the viewpoint of two spacers who...[read on]
About Fox Snare, from the publisher:
Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents a third space opera starring Korean animal spirits by Yoon Ha Lee, author of Dragon Pearl.

While on a mission to cement peace between the Sun Clans and the Thousand Worlds, Min the fox spirit and her ghost brother Jun get stranded on a death planet with Haneul the dragon spirit and Sebin the tiger spirit. To survive, the young cadets will have to rely on all their wits, training, and supernatural abilities. And let's not forget the Dragon Pearl...

This thrilling conclusion of the Thousand Worlds trilogy, told in alternating points of view, will put you under a delightful spell as it transports you to worlds full of both danger and wonder.
Visit Yoon Ha Lee's website.

The Page 69 Test: Revenant Gun.

Writers Read: Yoon Ha Lee (June 2018).

My Book, The Movie: Ninefox Gambit.

Q&A with Yoon Ha Lee.

The Page 69 Test: Fox Snare.

Writers Read: Yoon Ha Lee.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Xaq Frohlich's "From Label to Table"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: From Label to Table: Regulating Food in America in the Information Age by Xaq Frohlich.

About the book, from the publisher:
How did the Nutrition Facts label come to appear on millions of everyday American household food products? As Xaq Frohlich reveals, this legal, scientific, and seemingly innocuous strip of information can be a prism through which to view the high-stakes political battles and development of scientific ideas that have shaped the realms of American health, nutrition, and public communication. By tracing policy debates at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Frohlich describes the emergence of our present information age in food and diet markets and examines how powerful government offices inform the public about what they consume. From Label to Table explores evolving popular ideas about food, diet, and responsibility for health that have influenced what goes on the Nutrition Facts label—and who gets to decide that.
Visit Xaq Frohlich's website.

The Page 99 Test: From Label to Table.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Jennifer duBois

From my Q&A with Jennifer duBois, author of The Last Language: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I tend to feel pretty helpless about titles: I never know where they’ll come from, when they’ll appear in the process (if ever), or how they’ll be received. The phrase “the last language” was in my head a lot while I was writing, and though I can’t say it’s a precise reference to any single concept in the book, it did seem to generate several meaningful interpretations: the idea that Angela’s epistolary account of her relationship with Sam might be the last piece of language between them, and that Sam’s conversations with Angela might be the last connection through language he ever experiences at all; the broader (more optimistic) thought that whatever communion that existed between Angela and Sam—be it partly spiritual, subconscious, or sub-verbal—reflects the deepest form of language, the kind that will outlive all the particular tongues we know. Throughout the book, Angela is scouring global languages, hoping that their insights might illuminate the fundamental question that haunts her: does language predate thought, or the other way around? Maybe The Last Language as a title contains the suggestion that if she just finds the final language—whatever that is—it will contain the definitive answer. And of course I thought a million times while writing it that this book would probably be my last novel; I think all my books have had titles that in some way describe not only the plot/thematic concern but also the literary project at hand, and so for a time, calling this book The Last Language seemed...[read on]
Visit the official Jennifer duBois website.

The Page 69 Test: A Partial History of Lost Causes.

My Book, The Movie: A Partial History of Lost Causes.

The Page 69 Test: Cartwheel.

Writers Read: Jennifer duBois (June 2019).

Q&A with Jennifer duBois.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten spookiest haunted house novels

Lisa Zhuang is an intern at Electric Literature. She holds a BA in Creative Writing from Emory University and currently resides in mid-Missouri.

At Electric Lit she tagged ten of the creepiest haunted house novels, including:
How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix

You can always count on Grady Hendrix to seamlessly blend horror and comedy. In his newest release, How to Sell a Haunted House, a woman named Louise returns to her childhood home following the suspicious deaths of her parents. There, she must work with her deadbeat brother, Mark, to clean up and sell the house. While the siblings are caught up in their own dramas—Louise had to leave her daughter with her ex for the trip, and Mark is already plotting to cheat Louise out of her half of the inheritance—they gradually realize they face a common enemy: Pupkin, a beloved puppet from their mother’s doll collection, who does not understand his owner’s sudden absence and expresses his grief via rage and homicide. How to Sell a Haunted House is a perfect read if you’re craving a Stephen King-esque horror-drama feat. family dysfunction with a comedic kick.
Read about another entry on the list.

How to Sell a Haunted House is among Meredith R. Lyons's six stories featuring ghosts with unfinished business.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 23, 2023

Pg. 99: Christina L. Boyd, Paul M. Collins, Jr., and Lori A. Ringhand's "Supreme Bias"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Supreme Bias: Gender and Race in U.S. Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings by Christina L. Boyd, Paul M. Collins, Jr., and Lori A. Ringhand.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Supreme Bias, Christina L. Boyd, Paul M. Collins, Jr., and Lori A. Ringhand present for the first time a comprehensive analysis of the dynamics of race and gender at the Supreme Court confirmation hearings held before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Drawing on their deep knowledge of the confirmation hearings, as well as rich new qualitative and quantitative evidence, the authors highlight how the women and people of color who have sat before the Committee have faced a significantly different confirmation process than their white male colleagues. Despite being among the most qualified and well-credentialed lawyers of their respective generations, female nominees and nominees of color face more skepticism of their professional competence, are subjected to stereotype-based questioning, are more frequently interrupted, and are described in less-positive terms by senators. In addition to revealing the disturbing extent to which race and gender bias exist even at the highest echelon of U.S. legal power, this book also provides concrete suggestions for how that bias can be reduced in the future.
Learn more about Supreme Bias at the Stanford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Supreme Bias.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Yoon Ha Lee's "Fox Snare"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Fox Snare (Thousand Worlds #3) by Yoon Ha Lee.

About the book, from the publisher:
Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents a third space opera starring Korean animal spirits by Yoon Ha Lee, author of Dragon Pearl.

While on a mission to cement peace between the Sun Clans and the Thousand Worlds, Min the fox spirit and her ghost brother Jun get stranded on a death planet with Haneul the dragon spirit and Sebin the tiger spirit. To survive, the young cadets will have to rely on all their wits, training, and supernatural abilities. And let's not forget the Dragon Pearl...

This thrilling conclusion of the Thousand Worlds trilogy, told in alternating points of view, will put you under a delightful spell as it transports you to worlds full of both danger and wonder.
Visit Yoon Ha Lee's website.

The Page 69 Test: Revenant Gun.

Writers Read: Yoon Ha Lee (June 2018).

My Book, The Movie: Ninefox Gambit.

Q&A with Yoon Ha Lee.

The Page 69 Test: Fox Snare.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six thrilling books that blend folklore & horror

Allison Epstein earned her MFA in fiction from Northwestern University and a BA in creative writing from the University of Michigan. A Michigan native, she now lives in Chicago, where she works as an editor. When not writing, she enjoys good theater, bad puns, and fancy jackets.

She is the author of historical novels including A Tip for the Hangman, the newly released Let the Dead Bury the Dead, and the forthcoming Our Rotten Hearts.

[My Book, The Movie: A Tip for the HangmanThe Page 69 Test: A Tip for the HangmanQ&A with Allison EpsteinMy Book, The Movie: Let the Dead Bury the DeadThe Page 69 Test: Let the Dead Bury the DeadWriters Read: Allison Epstein]

At CrimeReads Epstein tagged six of her "favorite books that delve deep into folklore for their twists and turns, with truly terrifying results." One title on the list:
Small Angels, by Lauren Owen

This was one of my favorite reads of 2022, and I will continue to shout about it as long as I’m given the opportunity. For Chloe, Small Angels is the perfect little church on the edge of the woods, the ideal place for her long-awaited wedding. For Kate, the sister of the groom, Small Angels is the site of the most horrifying event of her life. As wedding preparations continue, the dark spirit from that tragedy is stirring again—and this time, Harry refuses to be ignored. For a certain kind of nerd (i.e., me), I can describe the plot as “literally an English murder ballad come to life” and you’ll be hooked. But all readers who like their ghost stories to be both heartbreaking and genuinely terrifying should run, not walk, to the nearest bookstore.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Small Angels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Third reading: D.W. Buffa on "All The King’s Men"

D.W. Buffa's new novel is Lunatic Carnival, the tenth legal thriller involving the defense attorney Joseph Antonelli. He has also published 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, most recently, 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 Robert Penn Warren's All The King’s Men begins:
In the l930s, during the Great Depression, there were those who feared that democracy might not survive. All you had to do was look at what Huey Long was doing in Louisiana to see that the danger was real. One of the most brilliant men in politics, Huey Long, studying sixteen to twenty hours a day, had finished law school at Tulane in eight months, instead of the three years it took everyone else, and became a member of the Louisiana bar when he was only twenty-one. Fourteen years later, when he was thirty-five, he was elected Governor and changed Louisiana government out of all recognition. Local government was all but abolished, and election commissioners were appointed by the state, which meant that Long could make sure the vote was whatever he wanted it to be. And in case anyone should challenge on constitutional grounds anything he wanted to do, he filled the Supreme Court with men completely loyal to him.

Government was corrupt, but no one much cared. Huey Long got things done; more than that, Huey Long was what everyone wanted to be. When he spoke, he said what everyone in the crowd had always felt, but could never find the words to say. He was their idol, what they would give anything to be themselves. He had so much popular support, so much control over what went on in Louisiana that he once walked onto the floor of the state legislature and directed passage of 44 bills in 22 minutes, according to Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Two years after he was elected Governor, he was elected to the United States Senate. Governor, Senator, the only thing left was the presidency, the only question whether it would be in l936 or 1940. He knew exactly what he was going to do: create a third party, destroy the Democratic and Republican parties, serve four terms, and govern the country the way he governed Louisiana. Far from hiding his ambition, he described to a reporter for the New York Times how he was going to become the first American dictator. Franklin Roosevelt thought him one of the two most dangerous men in the country.

While Huey Long was creating a system of free healthcare and education, and building highways where only dirt roads had run, while he was showing how someone with a mass following could trample on all the safeguards of democracy. a young teacher in the English department at Louisiana State University, fascinated by what he saw, started thinking about writing a novel. Huey Long’s slogan had been “Every man a king;” Robert Penn Warren called his novel All The King’s Men. As the title suggests, the novel is not about the king, the Governor, Willie Stark; it is about the people around him.

The central character is Jack Burden, who tells the story the way a Southern writer used to tell a story, with long, sometimes endless, sentences, like the one that describes his first glimpse of Willie Stark: “Fate comes walking through the door, and it is five foot eleven inches tall and heavyish in the chest and shortish in the leg and is wearing a seven-fifty seersucker suit which is too long in the pants so the cuffs crumple down over the high black shoes, which could do with a polishing, and a stiff high collar like a Sunday school superintendent and a blue-striped tie which you know his wife gave him last Christmas…and a gray felt hat with the sweat stains showing through the band. It comes in just like that, and how are you to know?”

Willie Stark...[read on]
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.

Third Reading: Mansfield Park.

Third Reading: To Each His Own.

Third Reading: A Passage To India.

Third Reading: Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Third Reading: The Letters of T.E. Lawrence.

Third Reading: All The King’s Men.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Emily McTernan's "On Taking Offence"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: On Taking Offence by Emily McTernan.

About the book, from the publisher:
Someone fails to shake your outstretched hand, puts you down in front of others, or makes a joke in poor taste. Should we take offence? Wouldn't it be better if we didn't? In the face of popular criticism of people taking offence too easily, and the social problems that creates, Emily McTernan defends taking offence as often morally appropriate and socially valuable. Within societies marred by inequality, taking offence can resist the day-to-day patterning of social hierarchies.

This book defends the significance of details of our social interactions. Cumulatively, small acts, and the social norms underlying these, can express and reinforce social hierarchies. But by taking offence, we mark an act as an affront to our social standing. We also often communicate our rejection of that affront to others. At times, taking offence can be a way to renegotiate the shared social norms around what counts as respectful treatment. Rather than a mere expression of hurt feelings then, to take offence can be to stand up for one's standing.

When taken by those deemed to have less social standing, to take offence can be a direct act of insubordination against a social hierarchy. Taking offence can resist everyday inequalities. In unequal societies, the inclination to take offence at the right things, and to the right degree, may even be a civic virtue. These right things at which to take offence include many of the very instances that the opponents of a culture of taking offence find most objectionable: apparently trivial and small-scale details of our social interactions.
Visit Emily McTernan's website.

The Page 99 Test: On Taking Offence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five SFF mothers who are dynamic, multi-dimensional characters

Lilith Saintcrow was born in New Mexico, fell in love with writing during second grade, and has continued obsessively ever since. She currently resides in the rainy Pacific Northwest with her children, dogs, cat, and a library for wayward texts.

Her new novel is The Salt-Black Tree.

At Tor.com Saintcrow tagged five of her favorite "books in which mothers are allowed to be whole human beings." One title on the list:
Lady Jessica — Dune by Frank Herbert

Cleolinda Jones often advanced the theory that certain characters turn “meta”, and resonate far beyond their creator’s intent even in the text that is supposed to trammel them. (Just look at Eowyn of the Rohirrim.) There are certain characters so vivid, despite their creators’ attempts to keep them contained, the reader cannot help but sit up and take notice.

It would have been easy for Lady Jessica to be a simple cipher, an illegitimate Harkonnen, a product of the Bene Gesserit breeding program, Leto’s self-abnegating wife. (Let’s not even talk about the feudal women-as-property underpinnings that apparently will be with “civilization” when we figure out FTL travel…) Fortunately, Herbert must’ve been too busy juggling his ecological hobbyhorses to notice he’d written a woman as a complete human being.

Jessica is smart, committed, deadly in interpersonal battle, and an integral part of Leto Atreides’s rule. It’s her decision to take control of her bodily autonomy and have a son (instead of the daughter the Bene Gesserit “require”) that makes a galactic jihad and the Golden Path possible. The reason given in the text is that she wanted to give her husband a male heir, but I like to think at least some of her decision was a giant “fuck you” to those who told her what to do with her own body.

It’s Jessica whose interactions with Shadout Mapes lays the groundwork for the Atreides to be seen as different from the Harkonnens, and Jessica whose status, skills, and quick thinking make sure the Fremen don’t just kill her and her son outright. It’s Jessica who raised Paul to become Muad’Dib. She is a whole person instead of the cardboard cutout so many mothers in fiction are reduced to.

Not only that, but Jessica is committed to her children, and protects them with a fierceness that shatters an entire galactic empire. Paul and Alia both suffer from uncertainties, but neither ever doubts their mother’s love.

Much of Herbert’s writing can be ponderous in the extreme. Yet whenever Jessica is onstage she’s magnetic, the action moves along at a cracking pace, and the reader can’t look away. She’s a survivor, a mother, a grandmother, and the best thing about the Dune books.
Read about another entry on the list.

Dune is among John Bardinelli's five long books that deserve their own movie series, Mohsin Hamid's five great aliens in literature, Annalee Newitz and Emily Stamm's top ten stories where technology is indistinguishable from magic, Robin Sloan's five science fiction books that matter, Mohsin Hamid's six favorite books, io9's best and worst childbirth scenes in sci-fi & fantasy and top ten science fiction novels you pretend to have read, and on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best vendettas in literature and ten of the best deserts in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue