Thursday, May 5, 2016

Nine of the best unconventional true crime books

Laura Tillman is an award-winning writer and freelance journalist. Her first book is The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts: Murder and Memory in an American City. One of the author's nine great unconventional true crime books, as shared at Publishers Weekly:
The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

This chronicle of obsession began with a New Yorker piece about orchid-poacher John Laroche. The book that followed is a meditation on passion, Florida, and man's relationship with nature. Moving far beyond the initial hook of orchid-theft, Orlean writes, "Sometimes this kind of story turns out to be something more, some glimpse of life that expands like those Japanese paper balls you drop in water and then after a moment they bloom into flowers, and the flower is so marvelous that you can't believe there was a time when all you saw in front of you was a paper ball and a glass of water." She delivers on that promise, bringing readers the treasures she found in Florida's swampland.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Five top books written in crazy places

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and We Are Not Good People from Pocket/Gallery. He has published over thirty short stories as well. At the B&N Reads blog Somers tagged five books written in very unlikely places, including:
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling

Written in: A pub

Rowling didn’t write all of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in pubs, but she definitely wrote a significant portion of it in them, mainly The Elephant House and Nicolson’s Cafe in Edinburgh. As is well known, the first Potter novel was written at a low point of Rowling’s life; she was embroiled in a bitter divorce, raising her daughter alone, and living on government benefits. She found the best way to get her daughter to fall asleep was to take her for a walk, and so she would take the child to a café and sit and work on her novel for a time. The Elephant House’s back room, where Rowling would sit, looked out over Edinburgh Castle, which must have had quite an effect on the author—and the story she wrote.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Harry Potter books made Anna Bradley's list of the ten best literary quotes in a crisis, Nicole Hill's list of seven of the best literary wedding themes, Tina Connolly's top five list of books where the girl saves the boy, Ginni Chen's list of the eight grinchiest characters in literature, Molly Schoemann-McCann's top five list of fictional workplaces more dysfunctional than yours, Sophie McKenzie's top ten list of mothers in children's books, Nicole Hill's list of five of the best fictional bookstores, Sara Jonsson's list of the six most memorable pets in fiction, Melissa Albert's list of more than eight top fictional misfits, Cressida Cowell's list of ten notable mythical creatures, and Alison Flood's list of the top 10 most frequently stolen books.

Professor Snape is among Sophie Cleverly's ten top terrifying teachers in children’s books.

Hermione Granger is among Brooke Johnson top five geeky heroes in literature, Nicole Hill's nine best witches in literature, and Melissa Albert's top six distractible book lovers in pop culture.

Neville Longbottom is one of Ellie Irving's top ten quiet heroes and heroines.

Mr. Weasley is one of Melissa Albert's five weirdest fictional crushes.

Hedwig (Harry's owl) is among Django Wexler's top ten animal companions in children's fiction.

Scabbers the rat is among Ross Welford's ten favorite rodents in children's fiction.

Butterbeer is among Leah Hyslop's six best fictional drinks.

Albus Dumbledore is one of Rachel Thompson's ten greatest deaths in fiction.

Lucius Malfoy is among Jeff Somers's five best evil lieutenants (or "dragons") in SF/F.

Dolores Umbridge is among Melissa Albert's six more notorious teachers in fiction, Emerald Fennell's top ten villainesses in literature, and Derek Landy's top 10 villains in children's books. The Burrow is one of Elizabeth Wilhide's nine most memorable manors in literature.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban appears on Amanda Yesilbas and Katharine Trendacosta's list ot twenty great insults from science fiction & fantasy and Charlie Jane Anders's list of the ten greatest prison breaks in science fiction and fantasy.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone also appears on Phoebe Walker's list of eight mouthwatering quotes from the greatest literary feasts, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best owls in literature, ten of the best scars in fiction and ten of the best motorbikes in literature, and Katharine Trendacosta and Charlie Jane Anders's list of the ten greatest personality tests in sci-fi & fantasy, Charlie Higson's top 10 list of fantasy books for children, Justin Scroggie's top ten list of books with secret signs as well as Charlie Jane Anders and Michael Ann Dobbs's list of well-known and beloved science fiction and fantasy novels that publishers didn't want to touch. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire made Chrissie Gruebel's list of six top fictional holiday parties and John Mullan's list of ten best graveyard scenes in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Five books that give old legends a new spin

Sam Reader is a writer and conventions editor for The Geek Initiative. He also writes literary criticism and reviews at One of his top five stories that take their inspiration from myth and legend, as shared at the B & N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog:
The Bloody Chamber, by Angela Carter

Noted feminist and fabulist Angela Carter decided to retell and recontextualize classic fairy tales in her own unique manner, and the result was The Bloody Chamber, a collection of sensual, sometimes violent tales, including a version of “Little Red Riding Hood” that involves werewolves, a modern update of “Beauty and the Beast,” and riffs on other classic legends. Carter’s mastery of the fantastic form is unmatched, and the way she plays with fairy tales (her take on “Puss in Boots” as “the ultimate cynical story about cat as con man” is inspired) creates stories that stand on their own, well beyond their fairy-tale trappings.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Bloody Chamber is among four books that changed Angelica Banks, four books that changed Justine Larbalestier, Stephanie Feldman's ten creepiest books, and Jonathan Stroud's favorite fantasy books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 2, 2016

Simon Callow's six best books

Simon Callow is an actor, director, and writer. He has appeared in many films, including the hugely popular Four Weddings and a Funeral (he played Gareth). One of his six best books, as shared at the Daily Express:
AT FREDDIE’S by Penelope Fitzgerald

Years ago, I was going to make a film of this so I got to know Penelope. She was one of the great British writers of the second half of the 20th century. She wrote a series of books about her own experience and this one is about a wacky children’s drama school.
Read about the other books on his list.

See a different list of Simon Callow's six best books from 2012.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Ciarán Hinds' six favorite books

Actor Ciarán Hinds is Mance Rayder in HBO's Game of Thrones and has played many other film roles.

One of his six favorite books, as shared at The Week magazine:
Redemption Falls by Joseph O'Connor

This 1998 novel is a wonderfully imagined story set in a violent post–Civil War America peopled with extraordinary characters. It's beautifully crafted, bleak, and operatic.
Read about the other entries on the list.

See a different list of Ciarán Hinds' six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top SF books about war and military culture

Sean Danker is currently serving in the military on a base in North Dakota. His new book, Admiral, is the first book in a new military SF series. At Danker tagged five of his favorite SF books about war and military culture, including:
Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold

Bujold’s take on martial culture can come off as overly romantic, even rose-tinted—but at the end of the day, her handling of conflict is grounded and uncompromising. In the early Vorkosigan books, she brings a level of attention to her characters as individuals that sets her work apart from the bulk of military SF. Her willingness to confront mental health as an important aspect of a soldier’s life is encouraging, because the psychological consequences of violence are so often slept on by writers who take the Hollywood approach to war.
Read about the other books on the list.

Cordelia's Honor (an omnibus of Shards of Honor and  Barrayar) is among Joel Cunningham's seven best sci-fi books featuring strong women and Thea James's eight best women in military science fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Nine classic YA novels ready for genderbent versions

At the B&N Teen Blog Natalie Zutter tagged nine classic Young Adult books ripe for some creative genderbending of the main characters, including:
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

How would you know you weren’t being a phony? The trouble is, you wouldn’t. You really want to tell me a girl can’t be just as obsessed with her peers’ phoniness as a boy? Fakeness is a weapon, something women are conditioned at a young age to be repulsed by. Though the genderqueer Dela (meaning “hollow valley,” same as Holden) probably wouldn’t share Holden’s fears of being perceived as homosexual, or his belief that it’s up to him to save young children from losing their innocence.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Catcher In The Rye appears on Lance Rubin's top ten list of books with a funny first-person narrator, Andy Griffiths's list of five books that changed him, Chris Pavone's list of five books that changed him, Gabe Habash's list of the 10 most notorious parts of famous books, Robert McCrum's list of the 10 best books with teenage narrators, Antoine Wilson's list of the 10 best narrators in literature, A.E. Hotchner's list of five favorite coming-of-age tales, Jay McInerney's list of five essential New York novels, Woody Allen's top five books list, Patrick Ness's top 10 list of "unsuitable" books for teenagers, David Ulin's six favorite books list, Nicholas Royle's list of the top ten writers on the telephone, TIME magazine's list of the top ten books you were forced to read in school, Tony Parsons' list of the top ten troubled males in fiction, Dan Rhodes' top ten list of short books, and Sarah Ebner's top 25 list of boarding school books; it is one of Sophie Thompson's six best books. Upon rereading, the novel disappointed Khaled Hosseini, Mary Gordon, and Laura Lippman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 29, 2016

Top ten thrilling locations in children’s books

Dark Parties, Sara Grant's first young adult novel, won the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Crystal Kite Award for Europe. Her new series is Chasing Danger – an action-adventure series for tweens.

One of Grant's ten top thrilling locations in children’s books, as shared at the Guardian:
Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

On Sophie’s first birthday, she’s found floating in a cello case in the English Channel. This beautifully written tale takes flight from the rooftops of Victorian Paris. This book offers a unique perspective on one of the top tourist destinations of all time. “Clocks below her began to strike four, and Paris was waking. Its sound was like the hum of a hundred secrets, she thought: it was the mutter of a dozen soothsaysers.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

Visit Sara Grant's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ten of the best short stories on crossing boundaries

Light Box is K J Orr's first collection of short stories. One of her top ten short stories that hinge on crossing boundaries, as shared at the Guardian:
"Axolotl" by Julio Cortázar

Tracing the metamorphosis of a man into a reptile, this can be read as a love letter to literature – to the connective power of writing and reading. What is at stake here is the awareness of “the presence of a different life, of another way of seeing”. In meticulous detail, the narrator describes the shift of perception that takes him from watching axolotls through a pane of glass in to their alien experience.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Top ten SF novels with serious science

Sylvain Neuvel's new novel is Sleeping Giants. One of his ten top speculative fiction novels with serious science, as shared at the B & N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog:
Hominids, by Robert J. Sawyer

The premise for this parallel universe story is a really good one, but the science is what got me hooked. You could probably use this book to help students pick a field of study. It has a bit of everything: physics, (paleo)anthropology, genetics, quantum computing, etc., etc. Sawyer’s research is impeccable and the science is always solid.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Frans de Waal's six favorite books

Biologist and primatologist Frans de Waal's latest book is Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?. One of his six favorite books, as shared at The Week magazine:
Wild Life by Robert Trivers

I have long known Trivers, one of the most brilliant biologists of our time, and read his memoir with growing alarm at how often he has narrowly escaped death in his adventurous life. It's an enlightening read, especially when he uses his typical candor to describe his colleagues.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 25, 2016

Top ten guardian angels in children’s books

At the Guardian, writer Andrew Norriss tagged ten favorite characters that offer a helping hand to their heroes, including:
The Sword in the Stone by TH White

This is the first volume of the quartet written by TH White on the Arthurian legend and incomparably funnier and deeper than the amiable Disney movie. If you’re going to have a guardian angel watching over your early years and growing up, Merlin the magician is not a bad choice.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Sword in the Stone is on Jessamy Taylor's list of the ten top castles in fiction, John Dougherty's top ten list of fictional badgers, and Gill Lewis's top ten list of birds in books; it is the first part of The Once and Future King, which is among Philip Womack's best classic children's books and Lev Grossman's five top fantasy books.

--Marshal Zeringue