Thursday, February 29, 2024

Pg. 69: Claire Coughlan's "Where They Lie"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Where They Lie: A Novel by Claire Coughlan.

About the book, from the publisher:
An immersive, literary thriller set in 1960s Dublin about an ambitious young female journalist whose investigation of a long missing actress will take her through misty streets and the tangled underworld—and force her to confront the long buried secrets of her own past.

Some stories demand to be told. They keep coming back, echoing down through the decades, until they find a teller . . .

Dublin, 1943. Actress Julia Bridges disappears. She was last seen entering the house of Gloria Fitzpatrick, who is later put on trial for the murder of a woman whose abortion she facilitated. But it’s never proved that Gloria had a hand in Julia’s death—and Julia’s body has never been found. Gloria, however, is sentenced to life in an institution for the criminally insane, where she’s found dead a few years later from an apparent suicide, and the truth of what happened to Julia Bridges dies with her.

Until . . .

Dublin, 1968. Nicoletta Sarto is an ambitious junior reporter for the Irish Sentinel when the bones of Julia Bridges are discovered in the garden of a house on the outskirts of the city. Drawn into investigating the 25-year-old mystery of Julia’s disappearance and her link to the notorious Gloria Fitzpatrick, Nicoletta becomes immersed in the tangled underworld of the illegal abortion industry, stirring up long-buried secrets from her own past.

A beautifully atmospheric, timely thriller, Where They Lie uses a murder mystery as a lens to focus on the long struggle of women fighting to achieve autonomy and succeed in a man’s world.
Follow Claire Coughlan on Instagram.

The Page 69 Test: Where They Lie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top books about boxing

Declan Ryan is a poet and critic in London. His first collection is Crisis Actor.

His reviews and essays have appeared in journals including New York Review of Books, The Baffler, Times Literary Supplement, The Guardian, The Observer, Poetry, The Irish Times, The Telegraph, Publishers Weekly, Los Angeles Review of Books, and New Statesman.

At Electric Lit Ryan tagged ten "books use boxing as their entry-point to tell stories of loyalty, corruption, greed, luck and endurance," including:
Boxing: A Cultural History by Kasia Boddy

Kasia Boddy is a Professor of American Literature at Cambridge University and this is an impressively intertextual, beautifully illustrated and expansive survey of responses to ‘the sweet science’ across a range of artforms. Its historical scope takes the reader back to the Ancients, and forward to the era of the heavyweight giants of Ali, Frazier et al; via the paintings of George Bellows and the prose of Philip Roth. The imprint of boxing, and its legendary figures, in music and film are perceptively discussed—the emphasis mostly on reception, rather than the participants’ own testimonies, but the scale, range and insight justify its editorial focus turning away from those inside the ring onto the interested, creative, audience on the safe side of the ropes.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Boxing: A Cultural History.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Frank Trentmann's "Out of the Darkness"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Out of the Darkness: The Germans, 1942-2022 by Frank Trentmann.

About the book, from the publisher:
A gripping and nuanced history of the German people from World War II to the war in Ukraine, including revealing new primary source material on Germany’s transformation

In 1945, Germany lay in ruins, morally and materially. Its citizens stood condemned by history, responsible for a horrifying genocide and war of extermination. But by the end of Angela Merkel’s tenure as chancellor in 2021, Germany looked like the moral voice of Europe, welcoming more than one million refugees, holding together the tenuous threads of the European Union, and making military restraint the center of its foreign policy. At the same time, Germany’s rigid fiscal discipline and energy deals with Vladimir Putin have cast a shadow over the present. Innumerable scholars have asked how Germany could have degenerated from a nation of scientists, poets, and philosophers into one responsible for genocide. This book raises another vital question: How did a nation whose past has been marked by mass murder, a people who cheered Adolf Hitler, reinvent themselves, and how much?

Trentmann tells this dramatic story of the German people from the middle of World War II through the Cold War and the division into East and West to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the struggle to find a place in the world today. This journey is marked by a series of extraordinary moral conflicts: admissions of guilt and shame vying with immediate economic concerns; restitution for some but not others; tolerance versus racism; compassion versus complicity. Through a range of voices—German soldiers and German Jews; displaced persons in limbo; East German women and shopkeepers angry about energy shortages; opponents and supporters of nuclear power; volunteers helping migrants and refugees, and right-wing populists attacking them—Trentmann paints a remarkable and surprising portrait spanning eighty years of the conflicted people at the center of Europe, showing how the Germans became who they are today.
Learn more about Out of the Darkness at the Knopf website.

The Page 99 Test: Out of the Darkness.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Q&A with Valerie Martin

From my Q&A with Valerie Martin, author of Mrs. Gulliver: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The title of my novel Mrs. Gulliver is the narrator’s name. She is the madam of a legal brothel on the fictional island of Verona, somewhere in this world. This title wasn’t my first choice, which was Carità, the name of the young, beautiful, formerly wealthy but now destitute blind girl who arrives with her sister at Lila Gulliver’s door looking for work.

After much back and forth it was decided that Americans dislike titles with accents in them. Also, as the book progressed, it became clear that in telling the story of her most interesting employee, Lila Gulliver was telling as much or more about herself. Carità is something of a mystery to Lila, who doesn’t expect a blind girl to be both willful and astute. At their first interview, when Carità says something very rude about her own limited options, and her sister scolds her, she responds, “I don’t think Mrs. Gulliver is shocked.” Nor is she. Mrs. Gulliver is...[read on]
Visit Valerie Martin's website.

The Page 69 Test: Mrs. Gulliver.

My Book, The Movie: Mrs. Gulliver.

Q&A with Valerie Martin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five thrilling sports books even non-fans might like

Lindsay Powers is a book lover, writer (bylines include The New York Times and The Washington Post), and author of You Can’t F*ck Up Your Kids: A Judgment-Free Guide to Stress-Free Parenting.

When not devouring narrative nonfiction, fiction, memoirs, and essays, Powers can be found out and about in Brooklyn, where she lives with her husband and two young sons.

At the Amazon Book Review she tagged five "thrilling sports books even non-fans will cheer for." One title on the list:
LeBron by Jeff Benedict

Americans love our stories of underdogs, villains, and heroes, and this page-turning biography of LeBron James has all three. The book opens as James boasts to millions on TV that he’s “taking my talents to South Beach,” leaving his beloved hometown team and becoming the “most hated man in all of sports”—a pop culture moment that made headlines and spurred outrage. Jeff Benedict—also the co-author of the best seller Tiger Woods—then walks us back through James’ hardscrabble childhood with a homeless teen mother who was ill-equipped to raise a child on her own. James perseveres against all odds—moving in with a series of coaches who nurture his savant-level athletic skills and building a joyful family among pals who are still his inner circle today. You’ll tremble, weep, pump your fists, and feel your heart grow as James hones his power on and off the court, marries his high school sweetheart, grapples with unfathomable wealth, and builds a legacy that will last long after he hangs up his jersey.
—Lindsay Powers, Amazon Editor
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tammy Greenwood's "The Still Point," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Still Point by Tammy Greenwood.

The entry begins:
The Still Point, of all my novels, feels the best-suited to a TV series. It follows the lives of three pre-professional ballet dancers and their ambitious mothers over the course of a Nutcracker season, when a visiting instructor, a ballet bad-boy from Paris, comes to direct the production and select one student to return to Paris with him for a scholarship to his company’s academy.

Ever: Carey Mulligan

Mulligan is a little young to play Ever, who is in her forties, but after watching her performance in Maestro, I absolutely believe she could rise to the challenge. Ever is a California native who was raised by hippie parents and now lives in an inherited run-down bungalow on the beach. She is a writer and a grieving mother whose daughter, Bea, is in desperate need of the scholarship.

Lindsay: Amy Adams

I adore Amy Adams, and I love envisioning her tackling the role of Lindsay. Besides having the requisite red hair, I feel like her...[read on]
Visit Tammy Greenwood's website.

My Book, The Movie: Rust and Stardust.

The Page 69 Test: Rust and Stardust.

Writers Read: T. Greenwood (August 2019).

The Page 69 Test: Keeping Lucy.

My Book, The Movie: Keeping Lucy.

Q&A with T. Greenwood.

The Page 69 Test: Such a Pretty Girl.

My Book, The Movie: The Still Point.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Jeffrey Siger's "At Any Cost"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: At Any Cost by Jeffrey Siger.

About the book, from the publisher:
Greece is burning . . . and Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis is determined to save his country from disaster in the new novel in Jeffrey Siger's critically acclaimed, internationally bestselling mystery series

Chief Inspector Kaldis is initially dismayed to be asked to investigate a series of suspicious forest fires that took place last summer. In Greece, forest fires are an inevitability, and he fears he and his team are being set up to take the political blame for this year's blazes.

He quickly becomes suspicious, though, that the forests were torched for profit - and for a project on a far grander scale than the usual low-level business corruption. There are whispers on the wind that shadowy foreign powers intend to establish a surreptitious mega-internet presence on the island of Syros, with the intent to weaponize the digital world to their own dark ends.

Can Kaldis and his team stop the hostile foreign takeover of the idyllic island - or will the rise of the metaverse set not just Greece, but the whole world, on fire?

With its gorgeous Greek locations, engaging characters and fast-paced plotting, this international crime series is a perfect pick for fans of Donna Leon, Louise Penny, Martin Walker and David Hewson.
Visit Jeffrey Siger's website.

The Page 69 Test: Murder in Mykonos.

The Page 69 Test: Prey on Patmos.

The Page 69 Test: Target Tinos.

The Page 69 Test: Mykonos After Midnight.

The Page 69 Test: A Deadly Twist.

Q&A with Jeffrey Siger.

The Page 69 Test: At Any Cost.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Six books that draw inspiration from folk tales

Amanda Jayatissa is the author of My Sweet Girl, which won the International Thriller Writer’s Award for Best First Novel, and You're Invited.

She grew up in Sri Lanka and has lived in the California bay area and British countryside, before relocating back to her sunny island, where she lives with her husband and two Tasmanian-devil-reincarnate huskies.

Jayatissa's new novel is Island Witch.

At CrimeReads she tagged six books that span "across many genres and hail from different corners of the world, but they all draw inspiration from popular myths, lore, and folk tales." One title on the list:
American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

A classic in it’s own right, American Gods is a fantastic interpretation of what gods spanning various myths and lore would look like in modern society. The story starts with the main character, Shadow’s, wife dying in a mysterious car crash days before his release from prison. On his way back home, he meets Mr Wednesday, who introduces him to a world quite unlike he has ever seen, while they embark on a journey through the heart of America.
Read about another entry in the list.

American Gods is among R.W.W. Greene's five top SFF books about road trips, Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough's top ten books about the Vikings, Jeff Somers's ten sci-fi & fantasy books that take on norse mythology and ten top SFF stories lousy with giant spiders, Josh Ritter's six favorite books that invoke the supernatural, and John T. Ottinger's top 12 science fiction and fantasy novels and stories that are uniquely American.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Ellen O'Clover reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Ellen O'Clover, author of The Someday Daughter.

Her entry begins:
The last book I read and can’t stop thinking about is Samantha Markum’s Love, Off the Record. I love Markum’s voice: her YA romances are swoony and sincere, with complex characters who feel big, love hard, and navigate coming of age with all the messiness of the genuine human experience. Love, Off the Record follows college freshman newspaper staffers Wyn and Three as they compete for a coveted reporter spot. It’s everything I love in a rivals-to-lovers romance, and I can’t recommend it enough.

I also just finished...[read on]
About The Someday Daughter, from the publisher:
Audrey St. Vrain has grown up in the shadow of someone who doesn’t actually exist. Before she was born, her mother, Camilla St. Vrain, wrote the bestselling book Letters to My Someday Daughter, a guide to self-love that advises treating yourself like you would your own hypothetical future daughter. The book made Audrey’s mother a household name, and she built an empire around it.

While the world considers Audrey lucky to have Camilla for a mother, the truth is that Audrey knows a different side of being the someday daughter. Shipped off to boarding school when she was eleven, she feels more like a promotional tool than a member of Camilla’s family. Audrey is determined to create her own identity aside from being Camilla’s daughter, and she’s looking forward to a prestigious summer premed program with her boyfriend before heading to college and finally breaking free from her mother’s world.

But when Camilla asks Audrey to go on tour with her to promote the book’s anniversary, Audrey can’t help but think that this is the last, best chance to figure out how they fit into each other’s lives—not as the someday daughter and someday mother but as themselves, just as they are. What Audrey doesn’t know is that spending the summer with Camilla and her tour staff—including the disarmingly honest, distressingly cute video intern, Silas—will upset everything she’s so carefully planned for her life.
Visit Ellen O'Clover's website.

Q&A with Ellen O'Clover.

Writers Read: Ellen O'Clover.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Marc-William Palen's "Pax Economica"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Pax Economica: Left-Wing Visions of a Free Trade World by Marc-William Palen.

About the book, from the publisher:
The forgotten history of the liberal radicals, socialist internationalists, feminists, and Christians who envisioned free trade as the necessary prerequisite for anti-imperialism and peace

Today, free trade is often associated with right-wing free marketeers. In Pax Economica, historian Marc-William Palen shows that free trade and globalisation in fact have roots in nineteenth-century left-wing politics. In this counterhistory of an idea, Palen explores how, beginning in the 1840s, left-wing globalists became the leaders of the peace and anti-imperialist movements of their age. By the early twentieth century, an unlikely alliance of liberal radicals, socialist internationalists, feminists, and Christians envisioned free trade as essential for a prosperous and peaceful world order. Of course, this vision was at odds with the era’s strong predilections for nationalism, protectionism, geopolitical conflict, and colonial expansion. Palen reveals how, for some of its most radical left-wing adherents, free trade represented a hard-nosed critique of imperialism, militarism, and war.

Palen shows that the anti-imperial component of free trade was a phenomenon that came to encompass the political left wing within the British, American, Spanish, German, Dutch, Belgian, Italian, Russian, French, and Japanese empires. The left-wing vision of a “pax economica” evolved to include supranational regulation to maintain a peaceful free-trading system―which paved the way for a more liberal economic order after World War II and such institutions as the United Nations, the European Union, and the World Trade Organization. Palen’s findings upend how we think about globalisation, free trade, anti-imperialism, and peace. Rediscovering the left-wing history of globalism offers timely lessons for our own era of economic nationalism and geopolitical conflict.
Learn more about Pax Economica at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Pax Economica.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 26, 2024

Pg. 69: Jeffrey L. Richards's "We Are Only Ghosts"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: We Are Only Ghosts by Jeffrey L. Richards.

About the book, from the publisher:
An exhilarating, brutally candid saga about sexuality and war, tenderness and trauma, young desire and fierce hate, as a teenage boy’s unexpected, complicated relationship with a Nazi officer in a WWII death camp is resurrected in 1960s New York City.

We Are Only Ghosts depicts queer love against the horrors of death camps and the psychosis of those who got out alive—haunted forever by those who did not—balancing the violence and hatred of war and its aftermath with many poignant moments of tenderness and joy. For readers of A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne, and Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart.

New York City, 1968: The customers at Café Marie don’t come just for the excellent coffee and pastries. They come for the sophisticated ambiance, and the illusion of being somewhere other than a bustling, exhausting city. Headwaiter Charles Ward helps create that illusion through impeccable service—unobtrusive, nearly invisible, yet always watchful.

It’s a skill Charles honed as a young Jewish boy in war-torn Europe, when avoiding attention might mean the difference between life and death. But even then, one man saw him all too clearly—a Nazi officer who was both his savior and tormentor.

At seventeen, Charles was deported to Auschwitz with his family. There he was singled out by Obersturmführer Berthold Werden, who hid him in his home. Their entanglement produced a tortured affection mixed with hatred that flares to life again, decades later, when Berthold walks into Café Marie.

Drawn back into Berthold’s orbit, Charles is forced to revisit the pain and the brief, undeniable pleasures of the life he once knew. And if he acts on his growing hunger for revenge, will he lose his only tether to the past—the only other witness to who he was and everything he endured—or find peace at last?
Visit Jeffrey L. Richards's website.

The Page 69 Test: We Are Only Ghosts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven horror novels where the setting is a monster

Chase Dearinger is an Oklahoma native who now lives in Kansas with his wife and two daughters. His fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in magazines around the country, including Bayou, The Southampton Review, Short Story America, and Heavy Feather Review. He currently serves as the Chief Editor of Emerald City, a quarterly online fiction magazine, and directs the Cow Creek Chapbook Prize, an annual poetry chapbook contest. He is a professor of creative writing and literature at Pittsburg State University. This New Dark is his first novel.

At Electric Lit Dearinger tagged seven horror novels "in which the setting lurks in the shadows just as much as the monster," including:
The Hollow Kind by Andy Davidson

Old-growth forest in Georgia: Nellie Gardner and her eleven-year-old son, Max, leave everything behind when she learns that her estranged grandfather has left her his estate—the Redfern farmhouse, a mill, a thousand acres of forest. A sinister presence in the house and forest forces Nellie to unravel the Redfern’s violent legacy, and she finds she must do everything in her power to protect her son. The blood-soaked and eerie forest is home to much more than the family legacy, though—something ancient and waiting.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Valerie Martin's "Mrs. Gulliver," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Mrs. Gulliver: A Novel by Valerie Martin.

The entry begins:
My novel, Mrs. Gulliver takes place largely in a brothel on a tropical island. The characters are lively, and the plot is a bit wacky. It’s a reworking of Romeo and Juliet, with Juliet as a beautiful, blind prostitute. Unlike the original, it has a happy ending.

For the director of the major motion picture, I’d want someone who would be a bit playful with my novel. I’ve long been a fan of Todd Haynes (I’m gratified that everyone is crazy about him this year). My novel takes place in the 50’s, and I know he has a strong sense of this period. He would explore the irony of my heroine’s plight and pay attention to the dark undertones of the tropical island’s un-paradisical political arrangements, such as the thriving drug trade, murders, and routine exploitation of women. The world of his film would be morally complex and a little sad.

But when I imagine a film that has the goofy wit and fast paced, occasionally nonsensical plot of my novel, it’s...[read on]
Visit Valerie Martin's website.

The Page 69 Test: Mrs. Gulliver.

My Book, The Movie: Mrs. Gulliver.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Robin Oliveira

From my Q&A with Robin Oliveira, author of A Wild and Heavenly Place:

About the book, from the publisher:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

My agent thought of the title, as she does most of my novels. A Wild and Heavenly Place represents the book well because it hearkens to the deepest desires of Samuel Fiddes, one of the protagonists. Orphaned and caring for his younger sister in the tenements of 19th century Glasgow. Samuel and Alison have already suffered a great deal, and they possess no agency to better their lives. Alone and in need, Samuel falls in love with Hailey MacIntyre, a wealthy young woman of privilege who nonetheless shares a similar desire for a life different from the one she is leading. When tragedy befalls Hailey's’ father...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Robin Oliveira's website.

The Page 69 Test: My Name Is Mary Sutter.

The Page 69 Test: Winter Sisters.

Q&A with Robin Oliveira.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Five of the best books about grief

Sophie Ratcliffe is professor of literature and creative criticism at the University of Oxford and a fellow and tutor at Lady Margaret Hall. In addition to her scholarly books, including On Sympathy, she has published commentary pieces and book reviews for the Guardian, the New Statesman, and the Times Literary Supplement, among other outlets, and has served a judge for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction and the Wellcome Book Prize.

Ratcliffe's forthcoming book is Loss, A Love Story: Imagined Histories and Brief Encounters.

At the Guardian she tagged five books about grief that can help provide comfort and perspective, including:
Grief is the Thing With Feathers by Max Porter

The premise of this poetic novella – giant crow moves in with bereaved family after mother dies – sounds unlikely. But through this brilliant semi-allegory, Porter captures how loss can upend a family, seemingly stretching space and logic in surreal ways. Told through voices of two boys, their father, and a shapeshifting crow, this is a funny, frightening and loving experiment in magical thinking. As an adult who was bereaved as a child, I approached this tale with some trepidation – fearing it might cut too close. In fact, it provided a kind of fierce comfort – holding pain up to the light, and aslant.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Wendy Church's "Murder Beyond the Pale"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Murder Beyond the Pale (Jesse O'Hara, 2) by Wendy Church.

About the book, from the publisher:
The new Jesse O'Hara mystery, from the author of the acclaimed debut MURDER ON THE SPANISH SEAS, perfect for fans of Ruth Ware and Janet Evanovich!

Jesse O’Hara is unemployed. “A million dollar brain and a ten-cent personality,” her last employer said. With nothing better to do, Jesse accepts a request to go to Ireland to help a relative find his missing daughter. She expects to find the young woman quickly, and is looking forward to spending her trip touring and drinking, not necessarily in that order.

Once in Ireland, it’s clear to Jesse that the missing woman has met with foul play. In the course of her investigation she goes to greater and greater lengths to get to the truth, causing her to antagonize Ireland’s most dangerous drug kingpin, not to mention the IRA and the local gardai.

Aided by her near-photographic memory and dogged perseverance, Jesse is close to uncovering the truth, even as other people start to turn up dead. But she’s warned away from the investigation, and when she doesn’t back off, she’s threatened, attacked, and kidnapped. And when she is accused of murder, Jesse must use every ounce of wit and brainpower she has (left) to find a killer and not end up six feet under.
Visit Wendy Church's website.

The Page 69 Test: Murder on the Spanish Seas.

Q&A with Wendy Church.

My Book, The Movie: Murder on the Spanish Seas.

The Page 69 Test: Murder Beyond the Pale.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Nathan Perl-Rosenthal's "The Age of Revolutions"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Age of Revolutions And the Generations Who Made It by Nathan Perl-Rosenthal.

About the book, from the publisher:
A panoramic new history of the revolutionary decades between 1760 and 1825, from North America and Europe to Haiti and Spanish America, showing how progress and reaction went hand in hand

The revolutions that raged across Europe and the Americas over seven decades, from 1760 to 1825, created the modern world. Revolutionaries shattered empires, toppled social hierarchies, and birthed a world of republics. But old injustices lingered on and the powerful engines of revolutionary change created new and insidious forms of inequality.

In The Age of Revolutions, historian Nathan Perl-Rosenthal offers the first narrative history of this entire era. Through a kaleidoscope of lives both familiar and unknown—from John Adams, Toussaint Louverture, and Napoleon to an ambitious French naturalist and a seditious Peruvian nun—he retells the revolutionary epic as a generational story. The first revolutionary generation, fired by radical ideas, struggled to slip the hierarchical bonds of the old order. Their failures molded a second generation, more adept at mass organizing but with an illiberal tint. The sweeping political transformations they accomplished after 1800 etched social and racial inequalities into the foundations of modern democracy.

A breathtaking history spanning three continents, The Age of Revolutions uncovers how the period’s grand political transformations emerged across oceans and, slowly and unevenly, over generations.
Learn more about The Age of Revolutions at the Basic Books website.

The Page 99 Test: The Age of Revolutions.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 24, 2024

What is Suzanne Redfearn reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Suzanne Redfearn, author of Where Butterflies Wander: A Novel.

Her entry begins:
This prompt caught me at a moment when I have four books going at once, which is not entirely unusual.

On Audible, I am listening to The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. This book has been huge for a while, but I mistakenly believed it wasn’t my cup of tea. Based on the cover and title, I thought it was going to be all fluff and romance. One of my book clubs chose it, which is the reason I picked it up, and I’m very glad I did. It has surprising depth and underlying meaning. Reid is an outstanding storyteller, and I am completely caught up in the tale.

On my Kindle, I am reading...[read on]
About Where Butterflies Wander, from the publisher:
From the bestselling author of In an Instant comes the moving story of a family grappling with grief and a woman with the power to help them through it―or stand in their way.

After a tragic accident claims the life of one of her children, Marie Egide is desperate to carve out a fresh start for her family. With her husband and their three surviving children, Marie travels to New Hampshire, where she plans to sell a family estate and then, just maybe, they’ll be able to heal from their grief.

Marie’s plans are thwarted when she realizes a war veteran known by locals as “the river witch” is living in a cabin on the property, which she claims was a gift from Marie’s grandfather. If Davina refuses to move on, Marie won’t be able to either.

The two women clash, and battle lines are drawn within Marie’s family and the town as each side fights for what they believe is right, the tension rising until it reaches its breaking point. And the choice is no longer theirs when a force bigger than them all―fate―takes control.
Visit Suzanne Redfearn's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Suzanne Redfearn and Cooper.

My Book, The Movie: Hush Little Baby.

The Page 69 Test: Hush Little Baby.

The Page 69 Test: No Ordinary Life.

Writers Read: Suzanne Redfearn (February 2016).

My Book, The Movie: No Ordinary Life.

My Book, The Movie: In an Instant.

The Page 69 Test: In an Instant.

Q&A with Suzanne Redfearn.

My Book, The Movie: Hadley and Grace.

The Page 69 Test: Hadley & Grace.

Writers Read: Suzanne Redfearn (March 2022).

The Page 69 Test: Moment in Time.

My Book, The Movie: Moment in Time.

Writers Read: Suzanne Redfearn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Four books that juxtapose the beauty and ugliness of ballet

Tammy Greenwood is the acclaimed author of fifteen novels and a four-time winner of the San Diego Book Award. Six of her novels have been Indie Next Picks, including her most recent, The Still Point, an “intimate journey into the exclusive world of ballet” (Mary Kubica) inspired by her own experiences as the mother of a professional dancer. Revolving around the cutthroat hothouse of a California dance school, it is both a love letter to the world of ballet and a challenge to its toxic hierarchies, intense competition, and dark drive towards perfection that pushes girls – and their families – to their physical and emotional extremes. Greenwood and her family split their time between Vermont and San Diego, where she teaches creative writing for The Writer's Center and San Diego Writers, Ink.

[My Book, The Movie: Rust and StardustThe Page 69 Test: Rust and StardustWriters Read: T. Greenwood (August 2019)The Page 69 Test: Keeping LucyMy Book, The Movie: Keeping LucyQ&A with T. GreenwoodThe Page 69 Test: Such a Pretty Girl]

At CrimeReads Greenwood tagged four ballet "books—two novels and two non-fiction—which seek to peel back the satin and reveal the tender pain beneath." One title on the list:
They’re Going to Love You by Meg Howrey

Like [Sari Wilson's] Girl Through Glass, Meg Howrey’s novel, They’re Going to Love You is about a former SAB student, though this novel is a dual timeline novel set in the present and in the 1980s. Howrey, a former professional ballerina herself, is at the top of her game in this novel about the futility of ambition in a world which rejects anyone who does not fit ballet’s physical ideal. I have read this book twice—and the second time I took note of the sadness underlying the story. Carlisle’s love of dance, in the end, is no match for the narrow definitions of what make a “ballet body.” The novel is about much more than this, of course; it is not only about art and ambition but also about family secrets and legacy. But Howrey truly captures the exclusiveness of the ballet world, and the pain of one dancer’s exclusion.
Read about another entry on the list.

They’re Going to Love You is among Lindsay Lynch's eight books that deliver behind-the-scenes drama.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Steve Weddle

From my Q&A with Steve Weddle, author of The County Line:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The original title for the book was Cottonmouth Tomlin and the Last Outlaw Camp. I felt that captured the fun of the book, giving it a certain pulpy feel while telling you who and what the book was about. David Downing, a fantastic editor who worked on the book, pointed out to me that it wasn’t, in fact, the last outlaw camp, as there were others mentioned as competition in the book. Also, there was also a feeling among those reading and working on the book that my original title provided an Indiana Jones and the Unicorn’s Legacy vibe that doesn’t really fit.

The Lake Union folks came up with The County Line, which turns out to be the perfect fit. In the book, the powers that be are fine with crimes being committed, as long as they are committed on the other side of the county line and the money spent in the county. And that’s a rule, or a line, that you don’t break. Until you do, which is when...[read on]
Follow Steve Weddle on Instagram and visit his website.

Q&A with Steve Weddle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Suzanne Berne's "The Blue Window," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Blue Window by Suzanne Berne.

The entry begins:
What’s most cinematic in The Blue Window is the physical setting: the contrast between a small shadowy cabin, inhabited by a reclusive, emotionally inaccessible old woman, and the wide open, shining expanse of Lake Champlain right outside her windows. So much darkness inside, all that marvelous possibility outside. How to get from one to the other? In many ways, that view tells the whole story.

Judi Dench would be my choice to play Marika, the elderly woman. She’s an actress who knows how to give an impassive stare (Queen Victoria!), and at the same time communicate turbulence behind that stare. Very closed people can seem intimidating, and Dench is wonderful at portraying “toughness,” while hinting at great loneliness.

I’d love to see Laura Linney play Marika’s daughter, Lorna, the therapist who...[read on]
Visit Suzanne Berne's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Blue Window.

Q&A with Suzanne Berne.

My Book, The Movie: The Blue Window.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 23, 2024

Seven books celebrating the healing magic of birds

Sarah Ruiz-Grossman is a writer and former reporter at HuffPost, where she covered the climate crisis and other social justice issues. Born and raised in New York City, she currently lives in Los Angeles, California.

Her debut novel is A Fire So Wild.

At Electric Lit Ruiz-Grossman tagged "seven incredible books [in which] the authors find similar refuge in the company of birds, be they clever crows who visit them daily to play, or kingfishers with regal blue crowns to whom their human observers mean nothing at all." One title on the list:
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

In this moving nature memoir, Macdonald recounts the trials of training a wild goshawk to hunt in the wake of her father’s death. As we accompany the author through her grief, we see her find her own wings as the seemingly untameable bird learns from her, and teaches her in turn.
Read about another entry on the list.

H Is for Hawk is among Kristina Busch's seven books about daughters grieving their fathers, Raynor Winn's nine top nature memoirs, Lit Hub's ten best memoirs of the decade, Sigrid Nunez's six favorite books that feature animals, Sam Miller's top ten books about fathers, Barack Obama's summer 2016 reading list, Jeffrey Lent's top ten books about justice and redemption, and Alex Hourston’s ten top unlikely friendships in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Valerie Martin's "Mrs. Gulliver"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Mrs. Gulliver: A Novel by Valerie Martin.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the prize-winning and beloved author Valerie Martin (Mary Reilly, Property, Italian Fever) comes a surprisingly inventive tale of female subversion and agency in a patriarchal world, with two brilliantly crafted protagonists to root for.

It’s 1954 on far-flung Verona Island, a tropical paradise with a fragile economy and a rising crime rate. Prostitution is legal and Lila Gulliver is proud of her business, a high-end brothel where her clients are guaranteed privacy and discretion. When Carità Bercy, a young, destitute, and beautiful blind woman arrives at her door seeking employment, Lila decides to give her a chance.

Carità proves a valuable asset to the house, as well as a psychological puzzle to her employer. One hot night, Ian Drohan, a handsome youth and the scion of the wealthiest family on the island, visits Lila’s house and falls madly in love with Carità. Lila doubts his sincerity and fears for Carità ‘s future.

Carità has no such fears. In fact, Carità is a reckless force of nature, determined to succeed in ways Lila hasn’t even contemplated.

Spirits of the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet, as well as the devilish denizens of the magical island in The Tempest, haunt this steamy tale of passionate love, found and lost, and found again.
Visit Valerie Martin's website.

The Page 69 Test: Mrs. Gulliver.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Merry Morash's "In a Box"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: In a Box: Gender-Responsive Reform, Mass Community Supervision, and Neoliberal Policies by Merry Morash.

About the book, from the publisher:
In a Box draws on the experiences of more than one hundred Michigan women on probation or parole to analyze how court, state, and federal policies hamper the state’s efforts at gender-responsive reforms in community supervision. Closely narrating the stories of six of these women, Merry Morash shows how countervailing influences keep reform-oriented probation and parole agents and the women they supervise “in a box.” Supervisory approaches that attempt to move away from punitive frameworks are limited or blocked by neoliberal social policies. Inspired by the interviewees’ reflections on their own experiences, the book offers recommendations for truly effective reforms within and outside the justice system.
Learn more about In a Box at the University of California Press website.

The Page 99 Test: In a Box.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 22, 2024

What is David Menconi reading?

Featured at Writers Read: David Menconi, author of Oh, Didn't They Ramble: Rounder Records and the Transformation of American Roots Music.

The entry begins:
Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

In many ways, Yellowface is a crime novel – and the crime in question is perfect, at least at first. But this story of stolen literary glory eventually mutates into a fascinatingly twisted portrait of a mind unraveling. It stars a first-person anti-hero whose justifications, rationalizations and outright fabrications bring on madness even as she tops the best-seller lists. After she is inevitably found out, she spirals further downward, her grasp of reality broken. But by the end, she’s still plotting one last comeback. Throw in some darkly funny dish about the publishing industry’s uneasy relationship with racism, and...[read on]
About Oh, Didn't They Ramble, from the publisher:
What is American roots music? Any definition must account for a kaleidoscope of genres from bluegrass to blues, western swing to jazz, soul and gospel to rock and reggae, Cajun to Celtic. It must encompass the work of artists as diverse as Alice Gerard and Alison Kraus, George Thorogood and Sun Ra, Bela Fleck and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, the Blake Babies and Billy Strings. What do all these artists and music styles have in common? The answer is a record label born in the wake of the American folk revival and 1960s movement politics, formed around the eclectic tastes and audacious ideals of three recent college grads who lived, listened, and worked together. The answer is Rounder Records.

For more than fifty years, Rounder has been the world's leading label for folk music of all kinds. David Menconi's book is the label's definitive history, drawing on previously untapped archives and extensive interviews with artists, Rounder staff, and founders Ken Irwin, Marian Leighton Levy, and Bill Nowlin. Rounder's founders blended ingenuity and independence with serendipity and an unfailing belief in the small-d democratic power of music to connect and inspire people, forging creative partnerships that resulted in one of the most eclectic and creative catalogs in the history of recorded music. Placing Rounder in the company of similarly influential labels like Stax, Motown, and Blue Note, this story is destined to delight anyone who cares about the place of music in American culture.
Visit David Menconi’s blog.

The Page 99 Test: Ryan Adams: Losering.

My Book, The Movie: Ryan Adams: Losering.

The Page 99 Test: Step It Up and Go.

The Page 99 Test: Oh, Didn't They Ramble.

My Book, The Movie: Oh, Didn't They Ramble.

Writers Read: David Menconi.

--Marshal Zeringue

Twelve of the best long books

The Amazon Book Review editors tagged twelve of their favorite long books, including:
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

When, oh when, will Min Jin Lee have a new novel? Pachinko is one of my all-time favorite books—it’s a sprawling and epic novel that follows a Korean family in Japan during the 20th century as they struggle, prosper, and reckon with what it means to belong. The opening line—“History has failed us, but no matter”—expresses the endurance, fortitude, and adversity that await the characters in this best-selling novel. It’s a long one and I promise, it’s one you won’t want to end. And if you’re like me, you’ll be waiting with baited breath for Lee’s next novel.
Al Woodworth, Amazon Editor
Read about another entry on the list.

Pachinko is among 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

Q&A with Suzanne Berne

From my Q&A with Suzanne Berne, author of The Blue Window: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

There isn’t much explicit information in the title The Blue Window, but I think it offers a sense of mystery. A window looks out at something and also allows you to look within. So, what is being looked at, and who’s doing the looking? Are we inside or outside?

The title comes from a Matisse painting I’ve always loved. In the painting there are objects on a table by a window; outside the window is a luminous blue evening. But the window itself hardly exists.

Usually all the “stuff” of your inner life divides you from the outer world, but every so often that separation fades, and you have the feeling of joining the rest of the universe. Matisse’s painting captures that rare experience. At the end of my novel, one of my characters...[read on]
Visit Suzanne Berne's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Blue Window.

Q&A with Suzanne Berne.

--Marshal Zeringue

Cover story: "The Best Effect"

Ryan Darr is a postdoctoral research associate in religion, ecology, and expressive culture at the Yale University Institute of Sacred Music and a lecturer in the Yale Divinity School.

His new book is The Best Effect: Theology and the Origins of Consequentialism.

Here Darr explains the connection of the book's cover to the pages within:
No concept is more important to Christian ethics than love. When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus answers: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself.” In the Gospel of Luke, an expert in the law presses Jesus on the second command, asking, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus responds with one of the most famous parables in scripture, the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-29, NRSV).

The Good Samaritan, who helps a man beaten and dying on the side of the road, is a paradigm of Christian love. The teaching ends with Jesus saying, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). Powerful as it is, however, the story does not answer all of our questions, and theologians have been eager to fill in the gaps ever since.

My book traces changing ways of conceiving of Christian love in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The image on its cover, Jordaens Podhorce's The Good Samaritan (1616), was painted at the start of this period, signifying the ongoing significance of the Good Samaritan's generous aid as a model of Christian love.

The book tells the story of the rise of consequentialism, an approach to ethics centered on the production of good outcomes, usually maximally good outcomes. Christian love, as the story of the Good Samaritan illustrates, does have something to do with good outcomes. The Samaritan's love ensures that a man who would have died survives. And maximization? It's not hard to see why a love focused on good outcomes would want as much goodness as possible.

Consequentialism, then, might be said to follow naturally from Christian teachings about love. But this cannot be right. Consequentialism does not arise until the seventeenth century. Why, then, does it emerge in the seventeenth century? The book highlights several important factors. Among the factors that make consequentialism into a plausible and even compelling interpretation of Christian love for seventeenth-century moralists are a new conception of the good focused on outcomes, a new conception of agency centered on causation, and an assimilation of human and divine morality. Thinking in the wake of these shifts several centuries later, John Stuart Mill could write with confidence that Jesus’ teaching about neighbor love embodies “the complete spirit of the ethics of utility.”
Learn more about The Best Effect at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Best Effect.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Six scintillating friends-to-frenemies thrillers

Leah Konen is the author of Keep Your Friends Close, You Should Have Told Me, The Perfect Escape, All the Broken People, and several young adult novels, including Love and Other Train Wrecks and The Romantics.

Her books have been featured in Vogue, Rolling Stone, Marie Claire, Reader’s Digest and The NY Post, among others.

Konen lives in Brooklyn and Saugerties, New York, with her husband; their daughters, Eleanor and Mary Joyce; and their dog, Farley.

At CrimeReads she tagged "six slick thrillers that also portray the friends-to-frenemies relationship," including:
Friends Like These by Kimberly McCreight

Six college friends. One reunion weekend at a house in the Catskills. What could go wrong? When one friend goes missing and another turns up dead, the ties that bind these friends together are truly tested. Is it possible that one of them is responsible, or is someone outside of their group out to get them? McCreight’s twisty tome is an exploration of lifelong friendship and the love, history—and secrets—that holds a tight-knit group together.
Read about another entry on the list.

Friends Like These is among Megan Collins's seven thrillers in which friendships are threatened.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Iris Yamashita's "Village in the Dark"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Village in the Dark by Iris Yamashita.

About the book, from the publisher:
Detective Cara Kennedy thought she’d lost her husband and son in an accident, but harrowing evidence has emerged that points to murder—and she will stop at nothing to find the truth in this riveting mystery from the author of City Under One Roof.

On a frigid February day, Anchorage Detective Cara Kennedy stands by the graves of her husband and son, watching as their caskets are raised from the earth. It feels sacrilegious, but she has no choice. Aaron and Dylan disappeared on a hike a year ago, their bones eventually found and buried. But shocking clues have emerged that foul play was involved, potentially connecting them to a string of other deaths and disappearances.

Somehow tied to the mystery is Mia Upash, who grew up in an isolated village called Unity, a community of women and children in hiding from abusive men. Mia never imagined the trouble she would find herself in when she left home to live in Man’s World. Although she remains haunted by the tragedy of what happened to the man and the boy in the woods, she has her own reasons for keeping quiet.

Aided by police officer Joe Barkowski and other residents of Point Mettier, Cara’s investigation will lead them on a dangerous path that puts their lives and the lives of everyone around them in mortal jeopardy.
Visit Iris Yamashita's website.

Q&A with Iris Yamashita.

The Page 69 Test: City Under One Roof.

The Page 69 Test: Village in the Dark.

--Marshal Zeringue