Sunday, July 14, 2024

Eight top novels about toxic relationships

Lauren Kuhl is a writer and novelist based in New York.

Her debut novel is The Art of Pretend.

At Electric Lit Kuhl tagged eight of her "favorite novels that brilliantly memorialize the most toxic relationships we have with others, and occasionally, ourselves." One title on the list:
Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

A page-turner that is both a thriller and darkly funny commentary on the publishing industry, Yellowface explores the dynamics of a contentious friendship whose obsession extends beyond the grave. This was my favorite read of 2023, and I know I’m not alone. I simply couldn’t put it down.
Read about another book on the list.

Yellowface is among Elly Griffiths's top ten books about books, Toby Lloyd's seven books that show storytelling has consequences, Sophie Wan's seven top titles with women behaving badly, Leah Konen's six top friends-to-frenemies thrillers, and Garnett Cohen's seven novels about characters driven by their cravings.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 13, 2024

What is Molly MacRae reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Molly MacRae, author of Come Shell or High Water.

Her entry begins:
Mortal Radiance, the second book in Kathryn Lasky’s Georgia O’Keeffe mystery series just came out. But I didn’t know about this historical mystery series, until I heard about Mortal Radiance, so I rushed right out to get book one, Light on Bone. It’s wonderful. Set in 1933 New Mexico, it’s told from O’Keeffe’s point of view. She’s living alone in a casita at Ghost Ranch and protective of her painting time and solitude. That solitude is first shattered when she comes across a murdered Franciscan friar, and then by an accumulation of other events, including the arrival of Charles Lindbergh and his wife at the ranch. As O’Keeffe collects facts and suppositions about the murder and other events, she begins to think about them the way she thinks about art—about seeing the unseen and about making visible the invisible. Lasky’s vivid writing make me feel as though I’m...[read on]
About Come Shell or High Water, from the publisher:
From Molly MacRae, acclaimed author of the Highland Bookshop Mysteries, the first in a charming new series set on a beautiful barrier island off the coast of North Carolina and featuring a widowed folklorist, a seashell shop, and the ghost of an 18th century pirate…

As a professional storyteller, Maureen Nash can’t help but see the narrative cues woven through her life. Like the series of letters addressed to her late husband from a stranger—the proprietor of The Moon Shell, a shop on Ocracoke Island, off the coast of North Carolina. The store is famous with shell collectors, but it’s the cryptic letters from Allen Withrow, the shop’s owner, that convince Maureen to travel to the small coastal town in the middle of hurricane season. At the very least, she expects she’ll get a good story out of the experience, never anticipating it could end up a murder mystery . . .

In Maureen’s first hours on the storm-lashed island, she averts several life-threatening accidents, stumbles over the body of a controversial Ocracoke local, and meets the ghost of an eighteenth-century Welsh pirate, Emrys Lloyd. To the untrained eye, all these unusual occurrences would seem to be random misfortunes, but Maureen senses there may be something connecting these stories. With Emrys’s supernatural assistance, and the support of a few new friends, Maureen sets out unravel the truth, find a killer, and hopefully give this tale a satisfying ending . . . while also rewriting her own.
Visit Molly MacRae's website.

My Book, The Movie: Plaid and Plagiarism.

The Page 69 Test: Plaid and Plagiarism.

The Page 69 Test: Scones and Scoundrels.

My Book, The Movie: Scones and Scoundrels.

The Page 69 Test: Crewel and Unusual.

The Page 69 Test: Heather and Homicide.

Q&A with Molly MacRae.

Writers Read: Molly MacRae.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten books exploring secret ecosystems & shadow economies

Elizabeth Heider lived in Italy for several years, working as a research analyst for the U.S. Navy. She’s currently a scientist at the European Space Agency, and her short fiction has earned recognition from the Santa Fe Writer Awards and the New Century Writer Awards.

Heider's new novel is May the Wolf Die.

At CrimeReads she tagged ten books if "you’re compelled to peel away the secrecy, to unlock clandestine systems and see what makes them tick." One title on the list:
A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of Virginia Hall, WWII’s Most Dangerous Spy by Sonia Purnell

This is the extraordinary true story of Virginia Hall, an American spy who operated behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. The story utterly riveted me—because the research and writing were excellent and (most especially) because Virginia Hall is a truly remarkable and heroic woman. On her own initiative, and through the sheer force of her personality, Hall built a remarkably effective covert intelligence operation in Nazi-occupied Lyon, France. Her network included nuns and prostitutes, doctors and housewives—each of them loyal to Hall. They organized acts of sabotage against German forces, and facilitated the escape of downed Allied airmen and other refugees. Her work was so effective that the Gestapo considered her “the most dangerous of all Allied spies”. When her network was betrayed by a venal priest, Hall was forced to flee on foot over the Pyrenees Mountains into neutral Spain, a journey of over 50 miles through treacherous terrain. Oh, and did I mention? She did all this with one leg. That’s right. Virginia Hall lost her lower leg in a hunting accident prior to the war, and used a prosthetic limb she affectionately named “Cuthbert.” Despite her disability, and the fact that her cover was most definitely blown, Hall wanted back in. She hustled and trained, and altered her appearance—including filing down her teeth so that she could re-enter France and, posing as an old peasant woman in the French countryside, continue her espionage work against the Nazis, providing information that became critical for the Allies to take Paris.
Read about another book on the list.

A Woman of No Importance is among the Amazon Book Review's ten books about extraordinary “ordinary” women, Ava Glass's six top non-fiction books about real spies, and Ross Johnson's twelve essential history books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Neil Verma's "Narrative Podcasting in an Age of Obsession"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Narrative Podcasting in an Age of Obsession by Neil Verma.

About the book, from the publisher:
It has been a decade since Serial brought the narrative podcast to the center of popular culture. In that time, there has been an enormous boom in the production of podcasts that tell stories, particularly in the fields of true crime, storytelling, history, and narrative fiction. Now that the initial glow around the medium has begun to fade, it is time to reevaluate the medium’s technological, political, economic, and cultural rise, in particular what types of storytelling accompanied that rise.

Narrative Podcasting in an Age of Obsession is the first book to look back on this prodigious body of material and attempt to make sense of it from a structural, historical, and analytic point of view. Focusing on more than 350 podcasts and other audio works released between Serial and the COVID pandemic, the book explores why so many of these podcasts seem “obsessed with obsession,” why they focus not only on informing listeners but also dramatizing the labor that goes into it, and why fiction podcasts work so hard to prove they are a brand new form, even as they revive features of radio from decades gone by. This work also examines the industry's reckoning with its own implication in systemic racism, misogyny, and other forms of discrimination. Employing innovative new critical techniques for close listening—including pitch tracking software and spectrograms—Narrative Podcasting in an Age of Obsession makes a major contribution to podcast studies and media studies more broadly.
Learn more about Narrative Podcasting in an Age of Obsession at the University of Michigan Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Narrative Podcasting in an Age of Obsession.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 12, 2024

Five top novels that examine celebrity culture

Olivia Petter is an award-winning journalist, author, and broadcaster based in London.

Petter's first book, Millennial Love, was published in July 2021. Described as “honest and funny” by Pandora Sykes, the book is based on Petter's podcast of the same name and blends social commentary with memoir and interviews.

Her debut novel, Gold Rush, will be published in July 2024.

At the Guardian Petter tagged "five novels that examine celebrity culture." One title on the list:
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Celebrity culture is a recurrent theme in Reid’s novels. All offer nuanced depictions of fame, but Malibu Rising stands out. Set in Malibu in 1983, the novel focuses on the famous Riva family, comprised of four very different siblings and their absent father, legendary musician Mick Riva. Their mother, June, raises their children alone and it’s her story – specifically the way she’s forced to put up with her husband’s starry-eyed nothingness – that gives this book its emotional heft.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Malibu Rising is among Shilpi Somaya Gowda's ten novels with rotating perspectives, Laura Griffin's seven suspense titles in which paradise is not what it seems, and María Amparo Escandón's eight top books about living in Los Angeles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Janie Kim

From my Q&A with Janie Kim, author of We Carry the Sea in Our Hands: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The sea—how it both gives and takes life—is a recurring image throughout the story. In a literal sense, my novel ends with the main character at a beach with seawater cupped in her hands, and the last sentence is "Briefly, I carry the sea in my hands." In a less literal sense, much of the story is about the multitudes of one person's identity, how these are often amorphous, and how other people in Abby's life in both the present and the past are a part of her own sense of self. So it felt right to keep the last sentence of the story except changed to plural first person.

The title was the last part of the book I came up with. I was trying to come up with something that gave a sense of things being nested or layered or within other things, and of these being weights (whether good or bad or neither) that we bear as we move through the world, plus a subtle homage to the hypotheses that life arose from...[read on]
Visit Janie Kim's website.

Q&A with Janie Kim.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Peng Shepherd's "All This and More"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: All This and More: A Novel by Peng Shepherd.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the critically acclaimed, bestselling author of The Cartographers and The Book of M comes an inventive new novel about a woman who wins the chance to rewrite every mistake she’s ever made… and how far she’ll go to find her elusive “happily ever after.” But there’s a twist: the reader gets to decide what she does next to change her fate.

One woman. Endless options. Every choice has consequences.

Meek, play-it-safe Marsh has just turned forty-five, and her life is in shambles. Her career is stagnant, her marriage has imploded, and her teenage daughter grows more distant by the day. Marsh is convinced she’s missed her chance at everything—romance, professional fulfillment, and adventure—and is desperate for a do-over.

She can’t believe her luck when she’s selected to be the star of the global sensation All This and More, a show that uses quantum technology to allow contestants the chance to revise their pasts and change their present lives. It’s Marsh’s only shot to seize her dreams, and she’s determined to get it right this time.

But even as she rises to become a famous lawyer, gets back together with her high school sweetheart, and travels the world, she begins to worry that All This and More’s promises might be too good to be true. Because while the technology is amazing, something seems a bit off.…

Can Marsh really make her life everything she wants it to be? And is it worth it?

Perfect for fans of Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library and Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, bestselling author Peng Shepherd’s All This and More is an utterly original, startlingly poignant novel that puts the reader in the driver’s seat.
Visit Peng Shepherd's website.

Writers Read: Peng Shepherd (June 2018).

Q&A with Peng Shepherd.

Writers Read: Peng Shepherd (July 2024).

The Page 69 Test: All This and More.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Seven titles about families surviving political unrest

Asha Thanki is an essayist and fiction writer. her work has appeared in The Southern Review, The Common, Catapult, Hyphen, and more. She is a Kundiman fellow and has received support through scholarships and grants from Sewanee Writers Conference, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Speculative Literature Foundation. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota.

A Thousand Times Before is Thanki's debut novel.

At Electric Lit she tagged seven books that demonstrate
the consequences of the world we live in, the ways that our political histories are inseparable from how we walk through the world. That the political and the personal are always, always, intertwined.
One title on the list:
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Few intergenerational novels do it like Pachinko. Immediately, the reader is invested in Sunja’s life: from the circumstances of her parents’ marriage, her adolescence and later exploitation by the wealthy Hansu, and the marriage to minister Isak which whisks her away to Osaka. Lee lingers in early descriptions of Sunja’s fishing village, and these early moments throw her experiences during the Japanese occupation of Korea into stark contrast.

Pachinko is in many ways about the power and consequences of a secret, the way it can trickle through children and children’s children, and, all the while, the ways in which a woman might protect herself and her family.
Read about another novel on the list.

Pachinko is among the Amazon Book Review editors' twelve favorite long books, Gina Chen's twelve books for fans of HBO’s Succession, Cindy Fazzi's eight books about the impact of Japanese imperialism during WWII, Eman Quotah's eight books about mothers separated from their daughters, Karolina Waclawiak's six favorite books on loss and longing, Allison Patkai's top six books with strong female voices, Tara Sonin's twenty-one books for fans of HBO’s Succession, and six books Jia Tolentino recommends.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Robert G. Parkinson's "Heart of American Darkness"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Heart of American Darkness: Bewilderment and Horror on the Early Frontier by Robert G. Parkinson.

About the book, from the publisher:
An acclaimed historian captures the true nature of imperialism in early America, demonstrating how the frontier shaped the nation.

We are divided over the history of the United States, and one of the central dividing lines is the frontier. Was it a site of heroism? Or was it where the full force of an all-powerful empire was brought to bear on Native peoples? In this startingly original work, historian Robert Parkinson presents a new account of ever-shifting encounters between white colonists and Native Americans. Drawing skillfully on Joseph Conrad’s famous novella, Heart of Darkness, he demonstrates that imperialism in North America was neither heroic nor a perfectly planned conquest. It was, rather, as bewildering, violent, and haphazard as the European colonization of Africa, which Conrad knew firsthand and fictionalized in his masterwork.

At the center of Parkinson’s story are two families whose entwined histories ended in tragedy. The family of Shickellamy, one of the most renowned Indigenous leaders of the eighteenth century, were Iroquois diplomats laboring to create a world where settlers and Native people could coexist. The Cresaps were frontiersmen who became famous throughout the colonies for their bravado, scheming, and land greed. Together, the families helped determine the fate of the British and French empires, which were battling for control of the Ohio River Valley. From the Seven Years’ War to the protests over the Stamp Act to the start of the Revolutionary War, Parkinson recounts the major turning points of the era from a vantage that allows us to see them anew, and to perceive how bewildering they were to people at the time.

For the Shickellamy family, it all came to an end on April 30, 1774, when most of the clan were brutally murdered by white settlers associated with the Cresaps at a place called Yellow Creek. That horrific event became news all over the continent, and it led to war in the interior, at the very moment the First Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Michael Cresap, at first blamed for the massacre at Yellow Creek, would be transformed by the Revolution into a hero alongside George Washington. In death, he helped cement the pioneer myth at the heart of the new republic.

Parkinson argues that American history is, in fact, tied to the frontier, just not in the ways we are often told. Altering our understanding of the past, he also shows what this new understanding should mean for us today.
Learn more about Heart of American Darkness at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: Thirteen Clocks.

The Page 99 Test: Heart of American Darkness.

--Marshal Zeringue

Derek Milman's "A Darker Mischief," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: A Darker Mischief by Derek Milman.

The entry begins:
Well, A Darker Mischief is YA, and it features teenagers, and while sometimes I do occasionally think of actors, I haven't much in this case, as I'm not familiar with too many teenage actors, and the ones I've seen I can't quite see in this world.

In terms of directors, I think that's the easier route for me. I can see Italian film director Luca Guadagnino returning to his queer roots and taking a shot at this, if he can nail the atmosphere and not chop up the narrative. Within that same theme, I feel similarly to Gus Van Sant, going back to his Private Idaho days. Sofia Coppola would dream up a gloriously stylized world, which an adaptation would need, but I haven't seen her take on queer characters. What might be interesting is to blow up the staid world of the boarding school a little bit and bring in...[read on]
Visit Derek Milman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Scream All Night.

Writers Read: Derek Milman (September 2019).

The Page 69 Test: Swipe Right for Murder.

My Book, The Movie: Swipe Right for Murder.

Q&A with Derek Milman.

The Page 69 Test: A Darker Mischief.

My Book, The Movie: A Darker Mischief.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Eight top sketchy-spouse domestic thrillers

Andrew DeYoung is the author of The Temps, a speculative novel about the end of the world.

He works as an editor at a childrens book publishing company, and he lives with his wife and two children in the Twin Cities area in Minnesota.

The Day He Never Came Home is his first domestic thriller.

At CrimeReads DeYoung tagged eight
fantastic “Who the F did I marry?” books for you to enjoy, if you, like me, can’t look away from the slow-moving trainwreck of someone finding out the complicated, occasionally ugly truth about the person they married.
One novel on the list:
The Changeling, by Victor LaValle

More horror than thriller (but plenty of mystery either way), The Changeling mixes supernatural elements into the marriage story of Apollo and Emma. Here it’s the wife who undergoes a seeming change in personality, as Emma acts begins acting strangely following the birth of their son. At first she seems to be plagued by postpartum depression and the stress of early parenthood—but eventually Apollo realizes that his wife’s problems are much deeper. Following a shocking act, Emma disappears, and Apollo must embark upon a strange quest understand the wife he never truly knew. Recently adapted into a haunting television series starring Lakeith Stanfeild, this is a book best picked up knowing as little as possible.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Changeling is among Lucy Foley's six stunning tales of folk horror, Brittany Bunzey's twenty-five "must-read, truly bone-chilling" horror books, Nat Cassidy's eight top unconventional coming-of-age horror novels, Benjamin Percy's top five novels about dangerous plants, James Han Mattson's five top dark and disturbing reads, A.K. Larkwood's five tense books that blend sci-fi and horror, Leah Schnelbach's ten sci-fi and fantasy must-reads from the 2010s, T. Marie Vandelly's top ten suspenseful horror novels featuring domestic terrors and C.J. Tudor's six thrillers featuring missing, mistaken, or "changed" children.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Elena Cagnoli Fiecconi's "Ethics for Rational Animals"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Ethics for Rational Animals: The Moral Psychology at the Basis of Aristotle's Ethics by Elena Cagnoli Fiecconi.

About the book, from the publisher:
Ethics for Rational Animals brings to light a novel account of akrasia, practical wisdom, and character virtue through an original and comprehensive study of the moral psychology at the basis of Aristotle's ethics. It argues that practical wisdom is a persuasive rational excellence, that virtue is a listening excellence, and that the ignorance involved in akrasia is in fact a failure of persuasion. Aristotle's moral psychology emerges from this reconstruction as a qualified intellectualism. The view is intellectualistic because it describes practical wisdom as the sort of knowledge that can govern desire and action and akrasia as involving a form of ignorance. However, Aristotle's intellectualism is qualified because practical wisdom goes beyond grasping the truth about the human good, for it must also be able to convey the truth persuasively to non-rational cognition and desires.

Through a study of Aristotle's works on ethics, psychology, and biology, Elena Cagnoli Fiecconi shows that there are unexplored ways in which rational and non-rational cognition and desire cooperate and influence one another. These include attention, the capacity of the rational part of the soul to manipulate the non-rational part of the soul, and the capacity to exercise phantasia for speculation, creativity, and research. She argues that, despite being integrated with non-rational cognition and desire, rational cognition of value struggles to control human behaviour and motivation. More specifically, she defends the key thesis that grasping the truth about the human good is not sufficient for humans to regulate action and desire. Therefore, practical wisdom does not merely grasp the truth about the human good, but it controls action and desire because it conveys the truth effectively to the non-rational part of the soul. Conversely, akrasia does not merely involve a lack of epistemic access to the truth about the human good, but a failure to persuade the non-rational part of the soul about it. This study of practical wisdom and akrasia also sheds light on character virtue, which emerges as a practical excellence whose task is to listen to reason.
Learn more about Ethics for Rational Animals at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Ethics for Rational Animals.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Peng Shepherd reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Peng Shepherd, author of All This and More: A Novel.

Her entry begins:
With novels, I’m always either early for or late to the party—half of my TBR pile is advanced copies of upcoming books that editors have sent me and the other half is treasures I’ve found while wandering bookstores or been recommended by friends over the years.

Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavić (1988)

This is one of the strangest books I’ve ever read. I love stories with unusual structures, and narratives that come together fragment by fragment like puzzles. Dictionary of the Khazars is an imaginary history of the Khazars, a semi-nomadic people from the seventh and ninth centuries, written in the form of three mini-encyclopedias which cross-reference and sometimes contradict each other. The effect is mysterious, fascinating, and...[read on]
About All This and More, from the publisher:
From the critically acclaimed, bestselling author of The Cartographers and The Book of M comes an inventive new novel about a woman who wins the chance to rewrite every mistake she’s ever made… and how far she’ll go to find her elusive “happily ever after.” But there’s a twist: the reader gets to decide what she does next to change her fate.

One woman. Endless options. Every choice has consequences.

Meek, play-it-safe Marsh has just turned forty-five, and her life is in shambles. Her career is stagnant, her marriage has imploded, and her teenage daughter grows more distant by the day. Marsh is convinced she’s missed her chance at everything—romance, professional fulfillment, and adventure—and is desperate for a do-over.

She can’t believe her luck when she’s selected to be the star of the global sensation All This and More, a show that uses quantum technology to allow contestants the chance to revise their pasts and change their present lives. It’s Marsh’s only shot to seize her dreams, and she’s determined to get it right this time.

But even as she rises to become a famous lawyer, gets back together with her high school sweetheart, and travels the world, she begins to worry that All This and More’s promises might be too good to be true. Because while the technology is amazing, something seems a bit off.…

Can Marsh really make her life everything she wants it to be? And is it worth it?

Perfect for fans of Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library and Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, bestselling author Peng Shepherd’s All This and More is an utterly original, startlingly poignant novel that puts the reader in the driver’s seat.
Visit Peng Shepherd's website.

Writers Read: Peng Shepherd (June 2018).

Q&A with Peng Shepherd.

Writers Read: Peng Shepherd.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 09, 2024

Pg. 69: Derek Milman's "A Darker Mischief"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: A Darker Mischief by Derek Milman.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Honeys meets The Secret History in a work of dark academia like no other -- a boarding school thriller about a queer teen from Mississippi who finds himself swept into a world of old money, privilege, and the secret society at the heart of it all.

When Cal Ware wins a scholarship to an elite New England boarding school, he's thrilled to leave his past behind. Back home in Mississippi, he was the poor, queer kid who never fit in. But at Essex Academy, he'll be able to reinvent himself. Or so he hopes...

But at Essex, Cal's classmates only see his cheap clothes and old iPhone. They mock his accent, and can't believe he's never left the country, or heard of The Hamptons. Cal, at his breaking point, is about to give up and return to Mississippi when he learns about a secret society on campus -- the key to becoming Essex royalty.

Cal knows he's not exactly secret society material, but to his surprise, he finds an unlikely champion in the handsome, charismatic, and slightly dangerous Luke Kim. As they get swept up in the mystery and glamour of the Rush process, Cal finds himself falling in love for the first time.

But as the initiation rituals grow riskier -- and increasingly nefarious -- Cal must decide how far he's willing to go, and how much of himself he's willing to sacrifice, to save everything and everyone he cherishes most. Because nothing at Essex -- not even Cal's first love -- is quite what it seems.
Visit Derek Milman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Scream All Night.

Writers Read: Derek Milman (September 2019).

The Page 69 Test: Swipe Right for Murder.

My Book, The Movie: Swipe Right for Murder.

Q&A with Derek Milman.

The Page 69 Test: A Darker Mischief.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Chris Armstrong's "Global Justice and the Biodiversity Crisis"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Global Justice and the Biodiversity Crisis: Conservation in a World of Inequality by Chris Armstrong.

About the book, from the publisher:
The world is in the midst of a biodiversity crisis, which existing conservation policies have failed to arrest. Policymakers, academics, and the general public are coming to recognise that much more ambitious conservation policies are in order. But biodiversity conservation raises major issues of global justice - even if the connection between conservation and global justice is too seldom made.

The lion's share of conservation funding is spent in the global North, despite the fact that most biodiversity exists in the global South, and local people can often scarcely afford to make sacrifices in the interests of biodiversity conservation. Many responses to the biodiversity crisis threaten to exacerbate existing global injustices, to lock people into poverty, and to exploit the world's poor. At the extreme, policies aimed at protecting biodiversity have also been associated with exclusion, dispossession, and violence. The challenge this book grapples with is how biodiversity might be conserved without producing global injustice. It distinguishes policies which are likely to exacerbate global injustice, and policies which promise to reduce them. The struggle to formulate and implement just conservation policies is vital to our planet's future.
Visit Chris Armstrong's website.

The Page 99 Test: A Blue New Deal.

The Page 99 Test: Global Justice and the Biodiversity Crisis.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten great Parliamentary page-turners

At the Waterstones blog Mark Skinner tagged ten of the best British political novels. One title on the list:
House of Cards
Michael Dobbs

The eternally scheming, marvellously Machiavellian Chief Whip Francis Urquhart plots a course to Number Ten in Michael Dobbs’ scabrous assault on vaunting political ambition.
Read about another title on the list.

House of Cards is among Peter Stone's twelve essential political scandal thrillers, Jeff Somers's ten best political thrillers, and Terry Stiastny’s ten top books about Westminster politics.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 08, 2024

Seven thrillers with shocking twists

Born in the Midwest, Jenna Satterthwaite grew up in Spain, lived briefly in France, and is now happily settled in Chicago with her husband and three kids. Satterthwaite studied classical guitar, English Lit and French, and once upon a time was a singer-songwriter in folk band Thornfield. She loves sushi, reading in her natural habitat (aka her bed), and women taking back their power.

Made For You is her debut novel.

At Electric Lit Satterthwaite tagged seven "novels with surprising plot turns that shatter expectations," including:
Thicker than Water by Megan Collins

Yes, there is murder. Yes, there are twists. But I really can’t think of another book that shows the dimensionality and loveliness of a “soulmate friends” relationship between women like this.

Julia Larkin’s husband, Jason, is in a coma. But amidst her fear, devastation, and the long hours at the hospital, at least she has Sienna to lean on, her sister-in-law and best friend.

When Jason’s boss is found brutally murdered with his lips stitched together, Julia is of course shocked and saddened. But her shock turns to something darker when the police find evidence connecting the murder to Jason–her amazing husband who would never kill someone… right?

With Jason unconscious and unable to explain or defend himself, it’s up to Julia and Sienna to prove his innocence. Until Julia starts to realize that all the clues really do point to her husband…

Come for the satisfying murder mystery, but stay for the soulmate friends.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Thicker Than Water.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Greg Eghigian's "After the Flying Saucers Came"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: After the Flying Saucers Came: A Global History of the UFO Phenomenon by Greg Eghigian.

About the book, from the publisher:
Roswell, 1947. Washington, DC, 1952. Quarouble, 1954. New Hampshire, 1961. Pascagoula, 1973. Petrozavodsk, 1977. Copley Woods, 1983. Explore how sightings of UFOs and aliens seized the world's attention and discover what the fascination with flying saucers and extraterrestrial visitors says about our changing views on science, technology, and the paranormal.

In the summer of 1947, a private pilot flying over the state of Washington saw what he described as several pie pan-shaped aircraft traveling in formation at remarkably high speed. Within days, journalists began referring to the objects as "flying saucers." Over the course of that summer, Americans reported seeing them in the skies overhead. News quickly spread, and within a few years, flying saucers were being spotted across the world. The question on everyone's mind was, what were they? Some new super weapon in the Cold War? Strange weather patterns? Optical illusions? Or perhaps it was all a case of mass hysteria? Some, however, concluded they could only be one thing: spacecrafts built and piloted by extraterrestrials. The age of the unidentified flying object, the UFO, had arrived.

Greg Eghigian tells the story of the world's fascination with UFOs and the prospect that they were the work of visitors from outer space. While accounts of great wonders in the sky date back to antiquity, reports of UFOs took place against the unique backdrop of the Cold War and space age, giving rise to disputed government inquiries, breathtaking news stories, and single-minded sleuths. After the Flying Saucers Came traces how a seemingly isolated incident sparked an international drama involving shady figures, questionable evidence, suspicions of conspiracy, hoaxes, new religions, scandals, unsettling alien encounters, debunkers, and celebrities. It examines how descriptions, theories, and debates about unidentified flying objects and alien abduction changed over time and how they appeared in the United States, Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Russia. And it explores the impact UFOs have had on our understanding of space, science, technology, and ourselves up through the present day.

Replete with stories of the people who have made up the ufology community, the military and defense units that investigate them, the scientists and psychologists who have researched these unexplained encounters, and the many novels, movies, TV shows, and websites that have explored these phenomena, After the Flying Saucers Came speaks to believers and skeptics alike.
Learn more about After the Flying Saucers Came at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: After the Flying Saucers Came.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Derek Milman

From my Q&A with Derek Milman, author of A Darker Mischief:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

It was originally called With Love & Mischief, which is the sign-off of the secret society at the heart of the novel, and also the real one at Yale on which it is based. I adored that title, it reminded me of an old Salinger story, For Esmé--with Love and Squalor, and classic literature, which this book takes many of its cues from. When the sub-genre of dark academia began to trend and my book fell into this emerging aesthetic (accidental, on my part) Scholastic asked me to change the title so we went with A Darker Mischief which I think is a good encapsulation of the world of the book and the plot.

What's in a name?

The main character's name is Calixte Ware and he...[read on]
Visit Derek Milman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Scream All Night.

Writers Read: Derek Milman (September 2019).

The Page 69 Test: Swipe Right for Murder.

My Book, The Movie: Swipe Right for Murder.

Q&A with Derek Milman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 07, 2024

Pg. 99: John Gilbert McCurdy's "Vicious and Immoral"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Vicious and Immoral: Homosexuality, the American Revolution, and the Trials of Robert Newburgh by John Gilbert McCurdy.

About the book, from the publisher:
The fascinating story of a British army chaplain's buggery trial in 1774 reveals surprising truths about early America.

On the eve of the American Revolution, the British army considered the case of a chaplain, Robert Newburgh, who had been accused of having sex with a man. Newburgh's enemies cited his flamboyant appearance, defiance of military authority, and seduction of soldiers as proof of his low character. Consumed by fears that the British Empire would soon be torn asunder, his opponents claimed that these supposed crimes against nature translated to crimes against the king.

In Vicious and Immoral, historian John McCurdy tells this compelling story of male intimacy and provides an unparalleled glimpse inside eighteenth-century perceptions of queerness. By demanding to have his case heard, Newburgh invoked Enlightenment ideals of equality, arguing passionately that his style of dress and manner should not affect his place in the army or society. His accusers equated queer behavior with rebellion, and his defenders would go on to join the American cause. Newburgh's trial offers some clues to understanding a peculiarity of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century: while gay acts were prohibited by law in much of the British empire, the newly formed United States was comparatively uninterested in legislating against same-sex intimacy.

McCurdy imagines what life was like for a gay man in early America and captures the voices of those who loved and hated Newburgh, revealing how sexuality and revolution informed one another. Vicious and Immoral is the first book to place homosexuality in conversation with the American Revolution, and it dares us to rethink the place of LGBTQ people in the founding of the nation.
Learn more about Vicious and Immoral at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Citizen Bachelors.

The Page 99 Test: Quarters.

The Page 99 Test: Vicious and Immoral.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top lightly surreal novels

Chandler Morrison is the author of eight books, including Dead Inside, #thighgap, and the recently released American Narcissus. His short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He lives in Los Angeles.

At CrimeReads Morrison tagged five lightly surreal novels.
No matter what forms of surrealism they weave into their narratives, the human element is always at the forefront. Each of them exposes some vital, incontrovertible aspect of existence, and whatever weirdness may be present only serves to accentuate that.
One title on the list:
Beloved by Toni Morrison

I had written Toni Morrison off as overrated for most of my life. Upon mentioning this to my then-girlfriend earlier this year, she insisted I was incorrect and that I should read Beloved. This book, she swore, would force me to reevaluate my erroneous (and problematic) opinion.

One lonely night in the early aftermath of our breakup about a month later, I plucked Beloved from one of my many stacks of unread books. I was immediately transported. The tragic narrative is replete with poltergeists, fatal visions, exorcisms, and supernatural folklore, but it’s all rooted in a gritty naturalism that makes it feel as authentic and immediate as any straitlaced family saga. Consider this former hater now reformed.
Read about another entry on the list.

Beloved also appears on Hester Musson's top five list of Gothic heroines, Mary Kuryla's list of six works about deeply flawed literary mother figures, Daryl Gregory's list of ten Southern gothic novels that changed the game, Anne Enright's list of six amazing books, Candice Carty-Williams's list of six heroic women in literature, Kate Racculia's list of ten gothic fiction titles that meant something to her, Emily Temple's list of the ten books that defined the 1980s, Megan Abbott's list of six of the best books based on true crimes, Melba Pattillo Beals's 6 favorite books list, Sarah Porter's list of five favorite books featuring psychological hauntings, Matthew Fellion and Katherine Inglis' list of ten books that were subject to silencing or censorship, Jeff Somers's list of ten fictional characters based on real people, Christopher Barzak's top five list of books about magical families, Ayelet Gundar-Goshen's ten top list of wartime love stories, Judith Claire Mitchell's list of ten of the best (unconventional) ghosts in literature, Kelly Link's list of four books that changed her, a list of four books that changed Libby Gleeson, The Telegraph's list of the 15 most depressing books, Elif Shafak's top five list of fictional mothers, Charlie Jane Anders's list of ten great books you didn't know were science fiction or fantasy, Peter Dimock's top ten list of books that challenge what we think we know as "history", Stuart Evers's top ten list of homes in literature, David W. Blight's list of five outstanding novels on the Civil War era, John Mullan's list of ten of the best births in literature, Kit Whitfield's top ten list of genre-defying novels, and at the top of one list of contenders for the title of the single best work of American fiction published in the last twenty-five years.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 06, 2024

Pg. 69: Maggie Nye's "The Curators"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Curators: A Novel by Maggie Nye.

About the book, from the publisher:
Violence haunts 1915 Atlanta and so does the golem a group of girls creates

A dark, lyrical blend of historical fiction and magical realism, The Curators examines a critically underexplored event in American history through unlikely eyes. All of Atlanta is obsessed with the two-year-long trial and subsequent lynching of Jewish factory superintendent Leo Frank in 1915. None more so than thirteen-year-old Ana Wulff and her friends, who take history into their own hands—quite literally—when they use dirt from Ana’s garden to build and animate a golem in Frank’s image. They’ll do anything to keep his story alive, but when their scheme gets out of hand, they must decide what responsibility requires of them. The Curators tells the story of five zealous girls and the cyclonic power of their friendship as they come of age in a country riven by white supremacy.
Visit Maggie Nye's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Curators.

Q&A with Maggie Nye.

The Page 69 Test: The Curators.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Richard Lange reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Richard Lange, author of Joe Hustle: A Novel.

His entry begins:
I read a number of books at once, consigning each to a certain time of day. One in current rotation is The Dying Grass by William T. Vollmann. Vollmann is my favorite living author and has been for years. I’m awestruck by his formal experimentation, his historical research, and the emotional wallop his books pack. That he has not yet been awarded the Nobel Prize is a straight up crime. The Dying Grass is the fifth book in his Seven Dreams series (only six have been published so far), which examines the history of confrontation between Native Americans and various colonizers. Don’t think James Michener though. Vollmann turns historical fiction on its head. These books are spells, hallucinations, and...[read on]
About Joe Hustle, from the publisher:
From an award-winning author, a “lean and gritty, thoughtful and nuanced” neo-noir. Joe Hustle has never had much luck—but things start looking up when he meets an intriguing new woman and scores a rare windfall. Can he outrun disaster long enough to turn things around? (Michael Koryta, author of An Honest Man)

Joe Hustle is a survivor. A Gulf War vet and ex-con always one stumble away from catastrophe, he manages to scrape together enough money from various jobs to eke out a precarious existence on the darker fringes of Los Angeles. When he meets Emily, the black-sheep daughter of a wealthy family, the two spark an instant connection—she seems like the best thing to happen to him in a while.

But their whirlwind romance is put to the test when what starts out as a simple favor for a friend leaves Joe homeless, unemployed, and on the wrong side of a vengeful drug dealer. An impulsive offer to go on a road trip with Emily promises to take them out of harm’s way—but may only lead to more chaos.

Part hard-boiled love story, part thriller, part portrait of a tormented yet resilient soul, Joe Hustle ratchets up the tension as it rockets from the after-hours clubs and dive bars of the mean streets of L.A. to the mansions of the Hollywood Hills and, finally, to the desolate highways of the Southwest. What emerges is a gritty portrait of a man who may be down but can never be counted out.
Visit Richard Lange's website.

The Page 69 Test: This Wicked World.

The Page 69 Test: Angel Baby.

The Page 69 Test: The Smack.

The Page 69 Test: Rovers.

Q&A with Richard Lange.

Writers Read: Richard Lange.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight top microhistories

At B&N Reads Isabelle McConville tagged eight must-read microhistories, including:
The Secret History of Bigfoot: Field Notes on a North American Monster by John O'Connor

A fascinating read about a familiar concept from a fresh angle, The Secret History of Bigfoot is a deep dive into American mythmaking. Told with sharp, engaging prose reminiscent of the best travel writing, it has multiple entry points, from the supernatural to the more traditional outdoors.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 05, 2024

Q&A with Sharon Wishnow

From my Q&A with Sharon J. Wishnow, author of The Pelican Tide: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I tell authors I know not to become hooked on their book title because chances are, it'll change. My original title for The Pelican Tide was axed by my agent. She renamed it and I hated it. It knew I'd have another chance if it was sold. And I was right. I feel the title does a 75% job of clueing readers into themes of the story, it deals with an ocean setting and there is most definitely a pelican. The word tide also evokes change and my characters face a lot of change. However, the other 25% of the book is about an oil spill and a hot sauce competition.

What's in a name?

Names are everything in my story and...[read on]
Visit Sharon J. Wishnow's website.

Q&A with Sharon J. Wishnow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Leslie Beth Ribovich's "Without a Prayer"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Without a Prayer: Religion and Race in New York City Public Schools by Leslie Beth Ribovich.

About the book, from the publisher:
Reframes religion’s role in twentieth-century American public education

The processes of secularization and desegregation were among the two most radical transformations of the American public school system in all its history. Many regard the 1962 and 1963 US Supreme Court rulings against school prayer and Bible-reading as the end of religion in public schools. Likewise, the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case is seen as the dawn of school racial equality. Yet, these two major twentieth-century American educational movements are often perceived as having no bearing on one another.

Without a Prayer redefines secularization and desegregation as intrinsically linked. Using New York City as a window into a national story, the volume argues that these rulings failed to successfully remove religion from public schools, because it was worked into the foundation of the public education structure, especially how public schools treated race and moral formation. Moreover, even public schools that were not legally segregated nonetheless remained racially segregated in part because public schools rooted moral lessons in an invented tradition―Judeo-Christianity―and in whiteness.

The book illuminates how both secularization and desegregation took the form of inculcating students into white Christian norms as part of their project of shaping them into citizens. Schools and religious and civic constituents worked together to promote programs such as juvenile delinquency prevention, moral and spiritual values curricula, and racial integration advocacy. At the same time, religiously and racially diverse community members drew on, resisted, and reimagined public school morality.

Drawing on research from a number of archival repositories, newspaper and legal databases, and visual and material culture, Without a Prayer shows how religion and racial discrimination were woven into the very fabric of public schools, continuing to inform public education’s everyday practices even after the Supreme Court rulings.
Visit Leslie Ribovich's website.

The Page 99 Test: Without a Prayer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five of the best books about literary threesomes

Costanza Casati was born in Texas in 1995 and grew up in a village in Northern Italy, where she studied Ancient Greek, and Ancient Greek literature, under one of the country’s most rigorous academic programmes. She is a graduate of the prestigious Warwick Writing MA in the UK, and worked as a screenwriter and journalist.

Clytemnestra is her debut novel. It has sold into 18 territories worldwide, is a Saturday Times bestseller, and was shortlisted for the HWA Debut Crown Award.

Casati's new novel is Babylonia.

At the Guardian she tagged "five novels featuring some of my favourite literary threesomes." One title on the list:
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Jones’s novel focuses on newlyweds Roy and Celeste, whose relationship shatters when Roy is falsely accused of rape. While he serves time, Celeste grows closer toher childhood friend and sweetheart, Andre. Then Roy comes home, and chaos ensues. The love that the characters feel for one another is constantly destabilised by the fear that something could take away what they have.
Read about another entry on the list.

An American Marriage is among Isabelle McConville's top ten Taylor Swift song-to-book recommendations, Robin Kirman's seven novels told from both members of a couple, Christopher Louis Romaguera's nine books about mistaken identity, Scarlett Harris's eight classic and contemporary novels, written by women, that offer insight into damaged male psyches, Tochi Onyebuchi's seven books about surviving political & environmental disasters, Ruth Reichl's six novels she enjoyed listening to while cooking, Brad Parks's top eight books set in prisons, Sara Shepard's six top stories of deception,and Julia Dahl's ten top books about miscarriages of justice.

--Marshal Zeringue