Thursday, November 30, 2023

M. M. DeLuca's "The Night Side," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Night Side by M.M. DeLuca.

The entry begins:
Since I’m also a keen screenwriter, I always need to visualize my main characters as if I’m compiling a cast list. Sometimes I’ll even pin pictures of them to a board in my office so I can glance up at them every now and again to remind me of how they look.

My book The Night Side, is focused on a toxic relationship between a mother and daughter, so these two characters would be the leads in a movie adaptation of the book, which is a story about Ruby Carlson, who at eighteen ran away from her home in Stoneybrook, Montana, and vowed she'd never return. Never return to life under the control of her manipulative mother, Ida, a self-styled medium and psychic scammer who made a career out of ruining people's lives. Never return to the small town where enemies lurk at every turn.

But twenty years later, Ruby, now a successful archaeologist, is back. Her mother is missing, presumed dead, and Ruby reluctantly returns to a home filled with chilling memories to settle Ida's affairs. Did she really commit suicide by drowning, or is this another dark scheme? Ruby thought she knew everything about her mother, but finds herself unraveling a web of lies and secrets to reveal a story more twisted than anyone could have imagined.

My dream actress for the character of Ruby would be Ana de Armas. Since I watched her breathtaking portrayal of...[read on]
Visit M.M. DeLuca's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Night Side.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar's "America's Black Capital"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: America's Black Capital: How African Americans Remade Atlanta in the Shadow of the Confederacy by Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar.

About the book, from the publisher:
The remarkable story of how African Americans transformed Atlanta, the former heart of the Confederacy, into today’s Black mecca

Atlanta is home to some of America’s most prominent Black politicians, artists, businesses, and HBCUs. Yet, in 1861, Atlanta was a final contender to be the capital of the Confederacy. Sixty years later, long after the Civil War, it was the Ku Klux Klan’s sacred “Imperial City.”

America’s Black Capital chronicles how a center of Black excellence emerged amid virulent expressions of white nationalism, as African Americans pushed back against Confederate ideology to create an extraordinary locus of achievement. What drove them, historian Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar shows, was the belief that Black uplift would be best advanced by forging Black institutions. America’s Black Capital is an inspiring story of Black achievement against all odds, with effects that reached far beyond Georgia, shaping the nation’s popular culture, public policy, and politics.
Learn more about America's Black Capital at the Basic Books website.

The Page 99 Test: America's Black Capital.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five titles in which rich people (think they can) get away with murder

Charlotte Vassell studied History at the University of Liverpool and completed a Master’s in Art History at SOAS before training as an actor at Drama Studio London. Other than treading the boards she has also worked in advertising, in executive search and as a purveyor of silk top hats.

Vassell's new novel is The Other Half.

At CrimeReads she tagged five favorite books featuring "wealthy miscreants who think they can but don’t always get away with murder, although sometimes they do." One title on the list:
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age classic is a novella full of terribly large fortunes and ill begotten gains. Gatsby himself amassed his wealth through bootlegging, but it is Tom Buchanan who I am concerned with. Gatsby pays for his illegal ways and presumptive social climbing (into bed with Daisy) with his life. Tom on the other hand tells a calculated little lie to his dead mistress’ husband resulting in his rival’s death and the preservation of the old order. Gatsby is dead and Daisy hasn’t left Tom. Tom got away with it.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Great Gatsby appears among Charlotte Vassell's top ten cads in fiction, Sarah Blake's top ten tales about the rich, Lupita Nyong’o’s ten favorite books, Christian Blauvelt's five top NYC-set novels that became NYC-set films, Kate Williams's six best books, Jeff Somers's ten best book covers...ever and seven most disastrous parties in fiction, Brian Boone's six "beloved classic novels whose authors nearly cursed with a terrible title," four books that changed C.K. Stead, four books that changed Jodi Picoult, Joseph Connolly's top ten novels about style, Nick Lake’s ten favorite fictional tricksters and tellers of untruths in books, the Independent's list of the fifteen best opening lines in literature, Molly Schoemann-McCann's list of five of the lamest girlfriends in fiction, Honeysuckle Weeks's six best books, Elizabeth Wilhide's nine illustrious houses in fiction, Suzette Field's top ten literary party hosts, Robert McCrums's ten best closing lines in literature, Molly Driscoll's ten best literary lessons about love, Jim Lehrer's six favorite 20th century novels, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best clocks in literature and ten of the best misdirected messages, Tad Friend's seven best novels about WASPs, Kate Atkinson's top ten novels, Garrett Peck's best books about Prohibition, Robert McCrum's top ten books for Obama officials, Jackie Collins' six best books, and John Krasinski's six best books, and is on the American Book Review's list of the 100 best last lines from novels. Gatsby's Jordan Baker is Josh Sorokach's biggest fictional literary crush.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Pg. 69: Chris McKinney's "Sunset, Water City"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Sunset, Water City by Chris McKinney.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the powerful conclusion to the sci-fi noir Water City trilogy, faith, power, and tech clash when our nameless protagonist passes the responsibility of saving the world to his teenage daughter. For fans of Phillip K. Dick and The Last of Us.

Year 2160: It’s been ten years since the cataclysmic events of Eventide, Water City, where 99.97 percent of the human population was possessed or obliterated by Akira Kimura, Water City’s renowned scientist and Earth’s former savior.

Our nameless antihero, a synesthete and former detective, and his daughter, Ascalon, navigate through a post-apocalyptic landscape populated by barbaric Zeroes—the permanent residents of the continent’s biggest landfill, The Great Leachate—who cling to the ways of the old world. They live in opposition to Akira’s godlike domination of the planet—she has taken control of the population that viewed her as a god and converted them into her Gardeners, zombie-like humans who plod along to build her vision of a new world.

What that world exactly entails, Ascalon is not entirely sure, but intends to find out. Now nineteen, she, a synesthete herself, takes over this story while her father succumbs to grief and decades of Akira’s manipulation. Tasked with the impossible, Ascalon must find a way to free what’s left of the human race.
Visit Chris McKinney's website.

The Page 69 Test: Sunset, Water City.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Adam Parkes's "Modernism and the Aristocracy"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Modernism and the Aristocracy: Monsters of English Privilege by Adam Parkes.

About the book, from the publisher:
During a modern age that saw the expansion of its democracy, the fading of its empire, and two world wars, Britain's hereditary aristocracy was pushed from the centre to the margins of the nation's affairs. Widely remarked on by commentators at the time, this radical redrawing of the social and political map provoked a newly intensified fascination with the aristocracy among modern writers. Undone by history, the British aristocracy and its Anglo-Irish cousins were remade by literary modernism. Modernism and the Aristocracy: Monsters of English Privilege is about the results of that remaking.

The book traces the literary consequences of the modernist preoccupation with aristocracy in the works of Elizabeth Bowen, Ford Madox Ford, Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence, Evelyn Waugh, Rebecca West, and others writing in Britain and Ireland in the first half of the twentieth century. Combining an historical focus on the decades between the two world wars with close attention to the verbal textures and formal structures of literary texts, Adam Parkes asks: What did the decline of the British aristocracy do for modernist writers? What imaginative and creative opportunities did the historical fate of the aristocracy precipitate in writers of the new democratic age? Exploring a range of feelings, affects, and attitudes that modernist authors associated with the aristocracy in the interwar period--from stupidity, boredom, and nostalgia to sophistication, cruelty, and kindness--the book also asks what impact this subject-matter has on the form and style of modernist texts, and why the results have appealed to readers then and now. In tackling such questions, Parkes argues for a reawakening of curiosity about connections between class, status, and literature in the modernist period.
Learn more about Modernism and the Aristocracy at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Modernism and the Aristocracy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight books that explore the power dynamics of love triangles

Sarah Blakley-Cartwright is the author of Red Riding Hood, a #1 New York Times bestseller published worldwide in thirty-eight editions and fifteen languages.

She is the editor of Hauser & Wirth’s The Artist's Library for Ursula magazine. She is publishing director of the Chicago Review of Books, and associate editor of A Public Space.

Blakley-Cartwright's debut adult novel is Alice Sadie Celine.

At Electric Lit the author tagged "eight of the most inventive literary explorations of the love triangle." One title on the list:
Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

This alternate history, set in a 1982 in which the UK lost the Falklands War to Argentina, raises questions of human blunder and of machine consciousness. When Charlie Friend blows his inheritance on a new A.I. robot companion named Adam, the “ambulant laptop” begins to assert its own demands and withdrawals until the couple find it impossible to break free. The difficult situation results in a push and pull that threatens to topple the couple’s domestic, and romantic equilibrium. Can a machine love? Perhaps more lingering: can we love a machine? Stakes heighten when a child enters the mix.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

What is S. J. Rozan reading?

Featured at Writers Read: S. J. Rozan, author of The Mayors of New York: A Lydia Chin/Bill Smith Mystery.

Her entry begins:
I read a lot of non-fiction. I just started Geoff Dyer's The Last Days of Roger Federer. It's about endings, of many kinds, a good book for autumn. Dyer's prose is sharp and clear and the structure of his essays always makes sense. He writes about a range things, including sports. Finding a writer who can articulate the larger societal and, yes, spiritual implications of sports is always a thrill for me.

Two recent fiction reads also have to make this list, though, because I'm very high on them.

One is...[read on]
About The Mayors of New York, from the publisher:
The new crime novel from the award-winning S. J. Rozan, where private investigators Lydia Chin and Bill Smith find themselves thrust into the mystery behind the disappearance of the teenage son of the mayor of New York.

In January, New York City inaugurates its first female mayor. In April, her son disappears.

Called in by the mayor's chief aide—a former girlfriend of private investigator Bill Smith’s—to find the missing fifteen-year-old, Bill and his partner, Lydia Chin, are told the boy has run away. Neither the press nor the NYPD know that he’s missing, and the mayor wants him back before a headstrong child turns into a political catastrophe. But as Bill and Lydia investigate, they turn up more questions than answers.

Why did the boy leave? Who else is searching for him, and why? What is his twin sister hiding?

Then a teen is found dead and another is hit by gunfire. Are these tragedies related to each other, and to the mayor's missing son?

In a desperate attempt to find the answer to the boy's disappearance before it's too late, Bill and Lydia turn to the only contacts they think will be able to help: the neighborhood leaders who are the real ‘mayors’ of New York.
Visit S.J. Rozan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Paper Son.

The Page 69 Test: The Art of Violence.

Q&A with S. J. Rozan.

Writers Read: S.J. Rozan (February 2022).

The Page 69 Test: Family Business.

Writers Read: S. J. Rozan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Kurt Fowler's "The Rise of Digital Sex Work"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Rise of Digital Sex Work by Kurt Fowler.

About the book, from the publisher:
How technology transformed the nature of sex work

The internet has revolutionized sex work perhaps more than any other profession. Today’s sex workers go online to attract clients, shape personas, share information, screen potential clients, and build community. The Rise of Digital Sex Work is an intimate look into the changing face of the industry, telling the stories of workers themselves and revealing how they use the internet to share information, grow their businesses, and establish global communities.

Kurt Fowler takes us inside the lives of sex workers who provide a variety of services: web-camming, dominatrix work, burlesque, and escorting. He provides insight into how race, class, and privilege affect their work and the role the internet has played in their professional journeys. Drawing on in-depth interviews with fifty workers from the United States, England, Canada, Germany, Australia, South Africa, and other industrialized countries, Fowler explores how they first entered the profession, how they manage their daily business and client relationships, their use of digital technology for safety and as a broader social resource, the role race plays in their work, and how they view their own level of risk and that of fellow sex workers. Fowler provides a look inside sex workers’ digital worlds, as well as the complex meanings they attach to their experiences in their line of work.
Learn more about The Rise of Digital Sex Work at the NYU Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Rise of Digital Sex Work.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top stories about embracing found family

At SFF maven Cole Rush tagged "five stories [that] celebrate found families and the wonderful, unconventional love they share," including:
The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

Let’s start with the most heartwarming story on the list (possibly of all time?). The House In The Cerulean Sea follows Linus Baker, a caseworker for the Department In Charge Of Magical Youth. He’s sent on a unique assignment to a mysterious house where a group of charming magical young ones are being raised by the enigmatic Arthur Parnassus.

As Linus learns more about the children—the Antichrist, a blob, a were-pomeranian, and a gnome, to name a few—he discovers the family he never had.

Cerulean Sea packages hundreds of lessons and wise quips into its pages; my personal favorite is the way the story teaches how to understand and appreciate the impact others can have on you. In this case, Arthur Parnassus plays a big role, but the kids are the stars. They introduce Linus to new ways of thinking, and they teach him that the ignorant bliss of childhood can give way to a personal epiphany. Linus, stuck in a corporate job he’s convinced himself is the life he wanted, blossoms into a loving person willing to embrace others for all their glorious differences.

During the holidays, that’s an important lesson. Surround yourself with people who ignite positive change within you, and who can lift you up even when you think there’s nowhere left to grow.
Read about another entry on the list.

The House in the Cerulean Sea is among S.C. Perkins's seven crime novels filled with family members.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 27, 2023

Pg. 99: Peter Thompson's "Heir through Hope"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Heir through Hope: Thomas Jefferson's Lifelong Investment in William Short by Peter Thompson.

About the book, from the publisher:
The relationship between Thomas Jefferson and William Short, the eldest son of an established Virginia family and relative of Martha Jefferson, began as a patron-protégé arrangement conventional for the era. Jefferson encouraged Short's legal career and gave him his first legal work. Thus began a bond of forty years that that both men characterized in paternal and filial terms and that sheds considerable light on the enigmatic Founding Father.

In the aftermath of Jefferson's precipitous "flight from Monticello," Short underwrote substantial short-term loans to him. Jefferson took the younger man to France as his private secretary in 1784 but, quickly concluding that his moral well-being and political judgment were at risk, he urged Short to return to America and settle down. Short, however, wished to pursue a foreign service career and a long affair with a French aristocrat. Jefferson wanted Short to embrace a Virginia way of looking at the world, even buying him a farm near Monticello. Short resisted--and rejected Jefferson's ideas about slavery, economics, marriage, the practice of democratic government, and republican morality, but without rejecting his "friend and father." He showed little respect for Jefferson's political achievements, viewing him as a well-meaning "visionary," yet he was conscious of living in the statesman's shadow. William Short was not Thomas Jefferson's intellectual equal, was not a political collaborator, and never became a neighbor, yet the elder man invested considerable emotional energy and time in his "adoptive son," even during his vice-presidency and presidency. By efficiently managing the younger man's financial affairs Jefferson enabled his extended stay in France, but also diverted Short's money for his own use. Although he believed Short's political judgment had been clouded by his enjoyment of French society and savagely criticized his reaction to the French Revolution, he never gave up on Short the private individual.

Heir through Hope reveals a figure who served as a unique sounding board to a Founder, while underscoring the distinct ways Jefferson envisioned the United States' destiny vis à vis Europe. Fascinating in its own right, their complex relationship highlights the tensions between the founding generation and its successors while illuminating the operation of political power in early national America and Revolutionary Europe.
Learn more about Heir through Hope at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Heir through Hope.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top books with righteous female rage

Katherine A. Olson has lived all over the place, honing her chameleon skills along the way. She now calls South Korea home with her husband, daughter, shelter dog and cats.

Olson loves matcha lattes, irreverent humor, lacing up her hiking boots, and getting lost in good stories.

Her new novel is Close Enough to Hurt.

At CrimeReads Olson tagged five "books that helped me find the courage to write a book about a woman who’s not afraid to burn it all down." One title on the list:
They Never Learn by Layne Fargo

“Kinnear has never looked at me like this—really looked at me. In all the years I’ve known him, eye contact was always a brief stopover on the way to ogling my tits, my ass. Reducing me to parts. This wild-eyed fear is the closest thing to respect he’s ever paid me.

Too little, far too late.”

Dr. Scarlett Clark, university professor and serial killer, murders the worst of the worst on Gorman University’s campus, ridding the world of men who prey on women. Her next target is someone in her own department and the riskiest one yet. Meanwhile, we also meet Carly, freshman at Gorman, relieved to be free of her emotionally abusive father for the first time in her life. These two storylines converge in the most satisfying, unexpected way and I simply could not put this book down. Fargo’s prose is crisp and incisive, and Dr. Clark is the hero we deserve and the one we need.
Read about another entry on the list.

They Never Learn is among Laura Picklesimer's seven dark and thrilling novels about women who kill, Julia Bartz's five thrillers featuring female psychopaths, Misha Popp's eight recent novels featuring truly fatal femmes fatales, Lesley Kara's six top crime novels about settling old scores, Heather Levy's top eight books on those darkest guilty pleasures we love to devour, Melissa Colasanti's six deliciously duplicitous female characters in thrillers, Amy Gentry's novels of the new Dark Academia canon, and Molly Odintz's six best vigilante thrillers.

My Book, The Movie: They Never Learn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Pg. 99: Caitlin Killian's "Failing Moms"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Failing Moms: Social Condemnation and Criminalization of Mothers by Caitlin Killian.

About the book, from the publisher:
While many claim that being a mom is the most important job in the world, in reality motherhood in the United States is becoming harder. From preconception, through pregnancy, and while parenting, women are held to ever-higher standards and are finding themselves punished – both socially and criminally – for failing to live up to these norms.

This book uncovers how women of all ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses have been interrogated, held against their will, and jailed for a rapidly expanding list of offenses such as falling down the stairs while pregnant or letting a child spend time alone in a park, actions that were not considered criminal a generation ago. While poor mothers and moms of color are targeted the most, all moms are in jeopardy, whether they realize it or not. Women and mothers are disproportionately held accountable compared to men and fathers who do not see their reproduction policed and almost never incur charges for “failure to protect.” The gendered inequality of prosecutions reveals them to be more about controlling women than protecting children.

Using a reproductive justice lens, Caitlin Killian analyzes how and why mothers are on a precipice and what must change to prevent mass penalization and instead support mothers and their children.
Visit Caitlin Killian's website.

The Page 99 Test: Failing Moms.

--Marshal Zeringue

The ten best dystopian novels ever written

Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Editor of Writer's Digest and the author of 40 Plot Twist Prompts for Writers: Writing Ideas for Bending Stories in New Directions, The Complete Guide of Poetic Forms: 100+ Poetic Form Definitions and Examples for Poets, Poem-a-Day: 365 Poetry Writing Prompts for a Year of Poeming, and more.

At Writer's Digest he tagged "what I consider the 10 best dystopian novels ever written," including:
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

If Lord of the Flies is number one on my imaginary "most depressing novel" list, McCarthy's The Road is probably number two. It's a super compelling read and somehow actually offers a little hope, but it's about as dark as a novel can get.

The main premise is that a father and son travel across the mainland to the sea years after an extinction event has reduced the United States to a post-apocalyptic world filled with cannibals, ash, and little else. Oh yeah, and the mother of this family commits suicide just a bit before they start their trip. Real upbeat stuff here, right?

That said, the father and son are about as likeable as you can make characters in this kind of man-eat-man world, in which the father continually assures his son that they're "good guys." The setting is grim, but that's why I found myself entranced by this novel and rooting for these "good guys" to find some sort of success.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Road appears on Pedro Hoffmeister's list of five titles with lessons to turn a post-apocalyptic novel into a thriller, Malcolm Devlin’s list of eight zombie stories without any zombies, Michael Christie's list of ten novels to reconfigure our conception of nature for the better, Emily Temple's list of the ten books that defined the 2000s, Ceridwen Christensen's list of ten novels that end their apocalypses on a beach, Steph Post's top ten list of classic (and perhaps not so classic) road trip books, a list of five of the best climate change novels, Claire Fuller's top five list of extreme survival stories, Justin Cronin's top ten list of world-ending novels, Rose Tremain's six best books list, Ian McGuire's ten top list of adventure novels, Alastair Bruce's top ten list of books about forgetting, Jeff Somers's lists of five science fiction novels that really should be considered literary classics and eight good, bad, and weird dad/child pairs in science fiction and fantasy, Amelia Gray's ten best dark books list, Weston Williams's top fifteen list of books with memorable dads, ShortList's roundup of the twenty greatest dystopian novels, Mary Miller's top ten list of the best road books, Joel Cunningham's list of eleven "literary" novels that include elements of science fiction, fantasy or horror, Claire Cameron's list of five favorite stories about unlikely survivors, Isabel Allende's six favorite books list, the Telegraph's list of the 15 most depressing books, Joseph D’Lacey's top ten list of horror books, the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five unforgettable fathers from fiction, Ken Jennings's list of eight top books about parents and kids, Anthony Horowitz's top ten list of apocalypse books, Karen Thompson Walker's list of five notable "What If?" books, John Mullan's list of ten of the top long walks in literature, Tony Bradman's top ten list of father and son stories, Ramin Karimloo's six favorite books list, Jon Krakauer's five best list of books about mortality and existential angst, William Skidelsky's list of the top ten most vivid accounts of being marooned in literature, Liz Jensen's top 10 list of environmental disaster stories, the Guardian's list of books to change the climate, David Nicholls' top ten list of literary tear jerkers, and the Times (of London) list of the 100 best books of the decade. In 2009 Sam Anderson of New York magazine claimed "that we'll still be talking about [The Road] in ten years."

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Seven heart-pounding heist tales

Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author and screenwriter of over one dozen novels including The Ancestor, Slow Down, The Mentor, Stalker Stalked, Orange City, the five-book Desire Card series, and the young adult trilogy Runaway Train, Grenade Bouquets, and Vanish Me, currently with actress Raegan Revord from TV's Young Sheldon attached to develop.

His new novel is The Great Gimmelmans.

At Electric Lit Goldberg tagged seven favorite heist tales, including:
The Wheelman by Duane Swierczynski

A non-stop thrill ride that never lets up. The Wheelman follows Lennon, a mute Irish getaway driver who’s fallen in with a heist team that chooses the wrong bank to rob. Add in dirty cops and the Russian and Italian mobs through the streets of Philadelphia, and this classic noir is reminiscent of Dashiell Hammett. Lennon is like John Wick; knock him down and he gets right back up. The book is over-the-top with chapters that punch you in the throat, with sections opening with quotes from real-life crooks. A gem of a crime novel.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Wheelman is among Nick Kolakowski’s greatest getaway drivers in contemporary crime fiction.

The Page 69 Test: The Wheelman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Paul B. Thompson's "From Silo to Spoon"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: From Silo to Spoon: Local and Global Food Ethics by Paul B. Thompson.

About the book, from the publisher:
Following the pattern of From Field to Fork (2015) Paul B. Thompson provides a highly readable and up-to-date analysis of contemporary ethical issues connected with food. Thompson reinterprets Peter Singer's work on famine relief in light of the history of funding development assistance through food aid, defends locavore diets against philosophical critics, and analyzes the ethics of food labeling in light of J.S. Mill's On Liberty. Further exploring today's key ethical questions about food, Thompson compares anthropological and toxicological approaches to pollution and defends a revised notion of agricultural sustainability. These topics provide an entry point for a novel approach in practical ethics that blends pragmatist philosophy of language, historical interpretation of agrarian thought, and recent philosophical writings on race and structural racism.
Learn more about From Silo to Spoon at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: From Silo to Spoon.

-Marshal Zeringue

Constance Sayers's "The Star and the Strange Moon," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Star and the Strange Moon by Constance Sayers.

The entry begins:
For me, books are very cinematic and incredibly visual so I “need” to cast my characters. I mean there would be no Luke Varner in A Witch in Time without the actor Callum Keith Rennie (Californication and Battlestar Galactica). I need to cast the characters to write for them.

For The Star and the Strange Moon, the idea was the mystery of film. The old superstitions about could a film steal your soul. While I was excited about this book, I had only the idea of a main character, a down-on-her-luck actress named Gemma Turner. While I was in Paris doing research, I came across a photo of a striking redhaired actress named Françoise Dorléac. I wrote her name down with a plan to come back to her later, but found I was haunted by her photo. She has a rather tragic story: The older sister of Catherine Deneuve, Dorléac was killed in a car accident in 1967 as she rushed to get to the airport in Nice. She was only twenty-five and there is certainly a feeling that...[read on]
Visit Constance Sayers's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Witch in Time.

The Page 69 Test: A Witch in Time.

Writers Read: Constance Sayers (February 2020).

Q&A with Constance Sayers.

My Book, The Movie: The Star and the Strange Moon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 24, 2023

Five novels featuring brave women in mysterious circumstances

Christina Henry is the author of The Mermaid, Lost Boy, Alice, Red Queen, and the national bestselling Black Wings series featuring Agent of Death Madeline Black and her popcorn-loving gargoyle, Beezle.

Her new novel is Good Girls Don't Die.

At CrimeReads Henry tagged five favorite novels featuring brave women in mysterious circumstances. One title on the list:
The Last Time I Lied, Riley Sager (2018)

Riley Sager is particularly good at crafting the strange atmosphere-mysterious past-woman in peril story, and The Last Time I Lied is my personal favorite of his. Sager was inspired by the film adaptation of Joan Lindsay’s novel Picnic at Hanging Rock (talk about atmosphere! There’s no film that does it better) and his version ticks all the boxes for me – missing girls, a remote summer camp, and a heroine with a patchy memory, lots of survivor’s guilt, and a determination to uncover buried truths.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Sheila Bock's "Claiming Space"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Claiming Space: Performing the Personal through Decorated Mortarboards by Sheila Bock.

About the book, from the publisher:
Claiming Space examines the growing tradition of decorating mortarboards at college graduations, offering a performance-centered approach to these material sites of display. Taking mortarboard displays seriously as public performances of the personal, this book highlights the creative, playful, and powerful ways graduates use their caps to fashion their personal engagement with notions of self, community, education, and the unknown future.

Claiming the space of these graduation caps is a popular and widespread way that individuals make their voices heard, or rather seen, in the visual landscape of commencement ceremonies. The forms and meanings of these material displays take shape in relation to broader, ongoing conversations about higher education in the United States, conversations grounded in discourses of belonging, citizenship, and the promises of the American Dream. Integrating observational fieldwork with extensive interviews and surveys, author Sheila Bock highlights the interpretations of individuals participating in this tradition. She also attends to the public framings of this tradition, including how images of mortarboards have grounded online enactments of community through hashtags such as #LatinxGradCaps and #LetTheFeathersFly, as well as what rhetorical framings are employed in news coverage and legal documents in cases where the value of the practice is both called into question and justified.

As university administrators and cultural commentators seek to make sense of the current state of higher education, these forms of material expression offer insight into how students themselves are grappling with higher ed's promises and shortcomings. Claiming Space is a meaningful contribution to folklore, cultural studies, media studies, and education.
Learn more about Claiming Space at the Utah State University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Claiming Space.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 23, 2023

What is Paula Ramón reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Paula Ramón, author of Motherland: A Memoir, translated by Julia Sanches and Jennifer Shyue.

Her entry begins:
For my job I try to mix my reading between something that relates to the place where I am working and something that speaks to me in a personal way. And sometimes I have the pleasure of reading a book that brings both together. My favorite recent books that I either finished or am currently reading:

The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion.

This is one of those examples where my two interests come together. For me it was a book about grief, and Didion portrays grief without any formulas. Sometimes it made me laugh, sometimes cry. It’s a very human and authentic account. But in its pages, in which Didion looks back over the year after her husband's death, she also takes readers through...[read on]
About Motherland, from the publisher:
From Venezuelan reporter Paula Ramón comes a powerful memoir about one woman’s complicated relationship with her family as her beloved homeland collapses into ruin.

In the span of a generation, oil-rich Venezuela spiraled into a dire state of economic collapse. Reporter Paula Ramón experienced the crisis firsthand as her middle-class family saw their quality of life deteriorate.

Public services no longer functioned. Money lost its value. Her mother couldn’t afford to buy food, which was increasingly scarce. The once-prosperous country fell into ruin. Like many others, Ramón’s family struggled to survive each day in their beloved city, Maracaibo―until, one by one, they each made the unbearable choice to leave the home they love.

In the end, it was Ramón’s mother, a widow, who stayed behind, loyal to the only home she’d ever known. In this heartbreaking mix of lived experience, family chronicle, and journalistic essay, Paula Ramón explores the anguish of her own relationships set against the staggering collapse of a country.

Motherland is a uniquely human account about the ties that bind―and the fragile concept of home.
Follow Paula Ramón on Instagram and Threads.

Writers Read: Paula Ramón.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thirteen fantasies inspired by mythology from the British Isles

One title from's list of thirteen top fantasies inspired by mythology from the British Isles:
Daughter of the Forest—Juliet Marillier

Sorcha is the youngest child of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. She has no memory of her mother, and she has been raised by her six elder brothers. When her father is bewitched, and her brothers are enchanted and turned into swans, it is up to Sorcha to fight for her family and land. The only way she can save those she loves is to spin six shirts from poisonous, needle-like starwort, remaining absolutely silent, until the last one has been completed.

After years of this toil, a charming lord comes into her life and she sees possibilities for her life that were impossible before. Is the spell unbreakable? Or will she uphold her vow to save her brothers?
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Pg. 99: Michael Serazio's "The Authenticity Industries"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Authenticity Industries: Keeping it "Real" in Media, Culture, and Politics by Michael Serazio.

About the book, from the publisher:
In recent decades, authenticity has become an American obsession. It animates thirty years' worth of reality TV programming and fuels the explosive virality of one hot social media app after another. It characterizes Donald Trump's willful disregard for political correctness (and proofreading) and inspires multinational corporations to stake activist claims in ways that few "woke" brands ever dared before. It buttresses a multibillion-dollar influencer industry of everyday folks shilling their friends with #spon-con and burnishes the street cred of rock stars and rappers alike. But, ironically, authenticity's not actually real: it's as fabricated as it is ubiquitous.

In The Authenticity Industries, journalist and scholar Michael Serazio combines eye-opening reporting and lively prose to take readers behind the scenes with those who make "reality"―and the ways it tries to influence us. Drawing upon dozens of rare interviews with campaign consultants, advertising executives, tech company leadership, and entertainment industry gatekeepers, the book slyly investigates the professionals and practices that make people, products, and platforms seem "authentic" in today's media, culture, and politics. The result is a spotlight on the power of authenticity in today's media-saturated world and the strategies to satisfy this widespread yearning. In theory, authenticity might represent the central moral framework of our time: allaying anxieties about self and society, culture and commerce, and technology and humanity. It infects and informs our ideals of celebrity, aesthetics, privacy, nostalgia, and populism. And Serazio reveals how these pretenses are crafted, backstage, for audiences, consumers, and voters.
Learn more about The Authenticity Industries at the Stanford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Authenticity Industries.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top wilderness thrillers featuring fearless women

Peggy Townsend is an award-winning journalist and author. Her work has appeared in Catamaran literary magazine, Santa Cruz Noir, The Boston Globe Magazine, Memoir, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among other publications. Twice she lived for seven weeks in her van, traveling to Alaska and along the back roads of the U.S.

Townsend's new novel is The Beautiful and the Wild.

At CrimeReads she tagged five favorite wilderness thrillers featuring fearless women, including:
I devoured The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne.

Dionne’s protagonist Helena Pelletier was raised in an isolated cabin in the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She doesn’t learn until she flees her home that her father, both loving and heartlessly cruel, had abducted her mother as a girl and held her against her will for years. Now a mother herself, with her past hidden from even her husband, Helena discovers her father has killed two guards and escaped from prison and that, in order to protect her children, she must now hunt him.

Helena is one of those unforgettable characters who knows how to hunt and fish, to skin animals and to savor the taste of boiled cattails but finds the civilized world a mystery. She suppresses her wildness in an attempt to fit in until, one day, everything changes and that animal-like fierceness is resurrected. With her daughters’ lives in jeopardy, Helena takes her dog and weapons and goes into the marsh after her father.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Marsh King’s Daughter is among Luanne Rice's five best thrillers set in wild places and Sally Hepworth's top eight dysfunctional fictional families.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Pg. 69: Celeste Connally's "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Lord"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Lord: A Mystery by Celeste Connally.

About the book, from the publisher:
Bridgerton meets Agatha Christie in Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Lord, a dazzling first entry in a captivating new Regency-era mystery series with a feminist spin from Celeste Connally.

London, 1815.
Lady Petra Forsyth, daughter of the Earl of Holbrook, has made a shocking proclamation. After losing her beloved fiancé in an accident three years earlier, she announces in front of London’s loosest lips that she will never marry. A woman of independent means—and rather independent ways—Petra sees no reason to cede her wealth and freedom to any man now that the love of her life is gone. Instead, she plans to continue enjoying the best of society without any expectations.

But when ballroom gossip suggests that a longtime friend has died of a fit due to her “melancholia” while in the care of a questionable physician, Petra vows to use her status to dig deeper—uncovering a private asylum where men pay to have their wives and daughters locked away, or worse. Just as Petra has reason to believe her friend is alive, a shocking murder proves more danger is afoot than she thought. And the more determined Lady Petra becomes in uncovering the truth, the more her own headstrong actions and desire for independence are used against her, putting her own freedom—and possibly her life—in jeopardy.
Visit Celeste Connally's website.

The Page 69 Test: Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Lord.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: David W. Houpt's "To Organize the Sovereign People"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: To Organize the Sovereign People: Political Mobilization in Revolutionary Pennsylvania by David W. Houpt.

About the book, from the publisher:
This book explores the struggle to define self-government in the critical years following the Declaration of Independence, when Americans throughout the country looked to the Keystone State of Pennsylvania for guidance on political mobilization and the best ways to create a stable arrangement that could balance liberty with order. In 1776 radicals mobilized the people to overthrow the Colonial Assembly and adopt a new constitution, one that asserted average citizens’ rights to exercise their sovereignty directly not only through elections but also through town meeting, petitions, speeches, parades, and even political violence. Although highly democratic, this system proved unwieldy and chaotic.

David Houpt finds that over the course of the 1780s, a relatively small group of middling and elite Pennsylvanians learned to harness these various forms of "popular" mobilization to establish themselves as the legitimate spokesmen of the entire citizenry. In examining this process, he provides a granular account of how the meaning of democracy changed, solidifying around party politics and elections, and how a small group of white men succeeded in setting the framework for what self-government means in the United States to this day.
Learn more about To Organize the Sovereign People at the University of Virginia Press website.

The Page 99 Test: To Organize the Sovereign People.

--Marshal Zeringue

Twenty-eight of the best fantasy novels ever

One title from Oprah Daily's list of twenty-eight of the best of the best fantasy novels:
The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

A chronicler records the story of a washed-up hero turned innkeeper; an orphaned boy named Kvothe who comes from humble beginnings becomes a wizard university’s most talented pupil, attracting enemies with the speed of his rise. Obsessed with escaping poverty and discovering the mystery behind his parents’ murder, Kvothe pushes his luck and talent to the limit. Rothfuss constructs a compelling world with richly detailed economies, cultures, and history that is home to a thrilling story.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles Series #1) is among Akemi C. Brodsky's five academic novels that won’t make you want to go back to school, Meghan Ball's eleven top fictional bands in sci-fi & fantasy and ten top fictional educational institutions from SFF books, and Arwen Elys Dayton's five top books about false identities.

My Book, The Movie: The Name of the Wind.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 20, 2023

Third reading: D.W. Buffa on "The Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus"

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 The Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus begins:
Ammianus Marcellinus, the last Roman historian of importance, born sometime between 325 and 330 A.D., joined the army at an early age, became a general and had the great good fortune to serve with one of the greatest men of that, or of any, age. When he left the army, he settled in Rome where he wrote his history of the Roman Empire from the accession of Nerva in 96 A.D., where the history of Tacitus ends, to the death of Valen nearly three hundred years later in 378 A.D. The history contained thirty-one books, a book being what today would be called a chapter. The first thirteen books are lost. The surviving eighteen cover only the twenty-five years from 353 to 378, which suggests that Ammianus thought this period to be of particular importance. That nearly two-thirds of those chapters deal, directly or indirectly, with the Emperor Julian, suggests that, for Ammianus at least, the history of the Roman Empire cannot be understood without understanding who, and what, Julian really was.

Edward Gibbon knew Ammianus Marcellinus’ Roman History almost by heart, and, as he acknowledged, followed him as a guide in everything he wrote about the fourth century in the first volume of his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. What Ammianus wrote about Julian is extraordinary, and he warns his readers that...[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.

Third Reading: The Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Richard Abel's "Our Country/Whose Country?"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Our Country/Whose Country?: Early Westerns and Travel Films as Stories of Settler Colonialism by Richard Abel.

About the book, from the publisher:
The concept of settler colonialism offers an invaluable lens to reframe early westerns and travel pictures as re-enactments of the United States' repressed past. Westerns in particular propose a remarkable vision of white settlers' westward expansion that reveals a transformation in what "American Progress" came to mean.

Initially, these films tracked settlers moving westward across the Appalachians, Great Plains, and Rockies. Their seizure of "empty land" provoked continual resistance from Indigenous peoples and Mexicans; "pioneers" suffered extreme hardships, but heroic male figures usually scattered or wiped out those "aliens." Some films indulged in nostalgic empathy for the Indian as a "Vanishing American." In the early 1910s, westerns became increasingly popular. In Indian pictures, Native Americans ranged from devious savages, victims of white violence, and "Noble Savages" to "in-between" figures caught between cultures and "mixed-descent peoples" partnered for security or advantage. Mexicans took positions across a similar spectrum. In cowboy and cowgirl films, "ordinary" whites became heroes and heroines fighting outlaws; and bandits like Broncho Billy underwent transformation into "good badmen."

The mid to late 1910s saw a shift, as Indian pictures and cowgirl films faded and male figures, embodied by movie stars, dominated popular series. In different ways, William S. Hart and Harry Carey reinvented the "good badman" as a stoic, if troubled, figure of white masculinity. In cowboy films of comic romance, Tom Mix engaged in dangerous stunts and donned costumes that made him a fashionable icon. In parodies, Douglas Fairbanks subverted the myth of "American Progress," sporting a nonchalant grin of effortless self-confidence. Nearly all of their films assumed firmly settled white communities, rarely threatened by Indians or Mexicans. Masked as "Manifest Destiny," the expropriation of the West seemed settled once and for all.

Our Country/Whose Country? offers a rich and expansive examination of the significance of early westerns and travel pictures in the ideological foundations of "our country."
Learn more about Our Country/Whose Country? at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Our Country/Whose Country?.

--Marshal Zeringue