Saturday, August 1, 2015

Five old-school thrillers that would be hits today

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 B & N Reads Somers tagged five timeless old-school thrillers, including:
Strangers on a Train, by Patricia Highsmith

Perhaps one of the most brilliant setups in thriller history, you can find elements of Strangers on a Train in plenty of modern books—but there’s only one original. An unhappy man wants to be rid of his wife, an unbalanced heir wants to be rid of his father. When they meet and exchange their stories, they agree to “trade” murders, committing crimes they have no motive for. That’s brilliant enough, and remains brilliant no matter how many years go by. Highsmith ups the ante when the husband fails to take the conversation seriously—and then fails to go to the authorities when his wife is killed and his friend from the train starts to press him to keep his side of the bargain. The pressure mounts as Highsmith pursues one of her favorite themes: people becoming linked irrevocably to others they neither control nor understand. The reader is left wondering at the power of idle chat with the wrong person, an element of paranoid chaos that is just as powerful today as it was decades ago.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Strangers on a Train is on Stella Gonet's six best best books, Lars Iyer's top ten list of literary frenemies, and John Mullan's list of ten of the best railway journeys in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 31, 2015

Six top YA books featuring cross-cultural friendships

Sarah Skilton is the author of Bruised, a martial arts drama for young adults; and High and Dry, a hardboiled teen mystery. At the B&N Teen blog she tagged six top YA books featuring cross-cultural friendships, including:
Under a Painted Sky, by Stacey Lee

Chinese American musician Samantha forms an unbreakable bond with Annamae, an escaped slave, in 1849, when they flee their violent pasts. The Oregon Trail is particularly unsafe for young women, so Sam and Annamae disguise themselves as boys. Although they discover unexpected allies in a group of cowboys, it’s the girls’ friendship that forms the heart of the story.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Under a Painted Sky is among Dahlia Adler's seven top YA novels about best friendship.

My Book, The Movie: Under a Painted Sky.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Top ten wartime love stories

Ayelet Gundar-Goshen is the author of One Night, Markovitch. One of her ten top wartime love stories, as shared at the Guardian:
Beloved by Toni Morrison

Some historians tell us that the American civil war ended in 1865. But just because they say the war was over then (it wasn’t even officially so until the following August), it doesn’t mean that it was over in the minds of the people who suffered it. Beloved, by the Pulitzer and Nobel-winning fixture of the modern books pantheon, is set in the years after President Andrew Johnson signed the Proclamation – Declaring that Peace, Order, Tranquillity, and Civil Authority Now Exists in and Throughout the Whole of the United States of America in 1866. Sethe, an escaped slave, tries to build a life as a free woman. As the possibility of love emerges, the past comes back to haunt her. Morrison suggests that for some people the war is never done, and examines whether, in such cases, love even has a chance.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Beloved also appears on 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

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Top nine wonderfully quirky love stories

Laura Barnett is an author and journalist. Her first novel, The Versions of Us, is now out in the UK and will be published in the US in May 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. One of her top nine unconventional love stories, as shared at the Daily Express:
Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler - probably my favourite author of all time - sets all her novels in and around Baltimore, where she lives. When I first started reading Tyler as a teenager, I had never been there, but I was utterly drawn in by her sense of place, and the characters that people it.

Now, I visit Baltimore often - my husband has family there - so the city, and Tyler’s characters, have come to even more vivid life. I love all her novels, but none more than Breathing Lessons, which is an unconventional love story not only in terms of structure - it is set over just one day, on which a long-married couple, Ira and Maggie Moran, are driving to a funeral - but in subject matter, too.

So many love stories focus on the passion of a first encounter and its aftermath, but Tyler is unafraid to confront love’s more workaday side: the pushes and pulls of a long relationship; the strains exerted by family, personality, and having to earn a living. It is a master class in how a novel can distil entire lives, in all their ordinary glory, onto the page.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

The ten best Emily Dickinson poems

Nuala O'Connor's latest novel is Miss Emily. One of her ten best Emily Dickinson poems, as shared at Publishers Weekly:
"I taste a liquor never brewed"

In life and in art Emily Dickinson was idiosyncratic – she did not choose the prescribed life of a well to-do woman of her era (marriage etc.) rather she become an outsider. While ‘I taste a liquor never brewed –’ illustrates her devotion to rhyme, it also shows her maverick’s disregard for it – she often chose an apt image rather than a full rhyme. Dickinson sometimes wrote alternative lines for ‘finished’ poems. Here ‘Not all the Frankfort berries’ can be swapped out for ‘Not all the vats upon the Rhine’; we’re still in Germany but with a vastly different image. This poem illustrates how intoxicating the natural world was to Dickinson. Luckily the house she chose to sequester herself inside, in the latter part of her life, was set on large grounds. There she and her family grew an abundance of produce and flowers; all the better for this little tippler.
Read about the other poems on the list.

Emily Dickinson is one of Ruth Padel's top ten women poets.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Fifteen great books about the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan

Jesse Goolsby is an Air Force officer and the author of the novel I’d Walk with My Friends If I Could Find Them.

At The Daily Beast he tagged fifteen top books about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including:
FOBBIT BY DAVID ABRAMS (2012)

Opening:

“They were Fobbits because, at the core, they were nothing but marshmallow.”

Fobbit possesses the finest and most unique narrative voice of our recent war novels. Hilarious, heart-breaking, believable, and at its center, an innovative critique of what we’ve asked of our service members.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Fobbit is among Joel Cunningham's seven sharpest modern satires.

The Page 69 Test: Fobbit.

Writers Read: David Abrams.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 27, 2015

Top ten YA thrillers with sisters

At the Guardian, author Laura Jarratt tagged her ten favorite Young Adult thrillers featuring strong relationships between sisters, including:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The premise of Katniss as a heroine is set around her love for her little sister, Prim. In the ultimate dark dystopian YA thriller, Katniss sacrifices herself for Prim and volunteers to take part in the games – it’s a death sentence. She knows that when she offers herself up as Tribute. But Katniss is a fighter and she’s not going down easily…
Read about the other books on the list.

The Hunger Games also appears on Jeff Somers's top eight list of revolutionary SF/F novels, Tina Connolly's top five list of books where the girl saves the boy, Sarah Alderson's top ten list of feminist icons in children's and teen books, Jonathan Meres's top ten list of books that are so unfair, SF Said's top ten list of unlikely heroes, Rebecca Jane Stokes's top ten list of fictional families you could probably abide during holiday season and top eight list of books perfect for reality TV fiends, Chrissie Gruebel's list of favorite fictional fashion icons, Lucy Christopher's top ten list of literary woods, Robert McCrum's list of the ten best books with teenage narrators, Sophie McKenzie's top ten list of teen thrillers, Gregg Olsen's top ten list of deadly YA books, Annalee Newitz's list of ten great American dystopias, Philip Webb's top ten list of pulse-racing adventure books, Charlie Higson's top ten list of fantasy books for children, and Megan Wasson's list of five fantasy series geared towards teens that adults will love too.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Kim Stanley Robinson’s ten favorite SF novels

Kim Stanley Robinson’s novels include the landmark Mars trilogy to the award-winning 2312. One of his ten favorite science fiction novels, as shared at the B & N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog:
Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem

“The final word on first contact with an alien intelligence, this is a taut psychological thriller as well as a complete work-out of the scientific method when confronted with a mystery. There’s a reason it has been filmed multiple times; it succeeds on many levels.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see Kim Stanley Robinson's ten favorite Mars novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Four books that changed Mary Norris

Mary Norris is a senior copy editor at The New Yorker magazine and the author of Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen.

One of four books that changed her, as shared at the Sydney Morning Herald:
East of Eden
John Steinbeck​

There was something rhapsodic to me about Steinbeck​ when I was a teenager. East of Eden was assigned in my sophomore year in high school, and for years I read it every spring. I thought it was sexy, and it had real evil and also redemption, and characters whose eyes you could look into.
Read about the other books on the list.

East of Eden is among John Mullan's ten best fraternal hatreds in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 24, 2015

The twelve greatest fictional detectives (who aren't Sherlock Holmes)

At io9 Esther Inglis-Arkell tagged the twelve greatest fictional detectives (who aren't Sherlock Holmes), including:
Alex Cross

Alex Cross, the protagonist of a series of novels that begin with Along Came A Spider, is the most soft-spoken member of a list that includes several little old ladies. His habits include playing the piano, owning a contented cat, and quietly observing social injustice. Choosing to live in the area of Washington populated by the Have-Nots, he spends much of his time as a consulting detective and a psychologist working on the operatic crimes perpetrated on, and by, the Haves. Both dogged and empathetic, he proves that you don’t have to be a jerk to be a great detective—even when people give you every reason to be a jerk.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Along Came A Spider is one of Octavia Spencer's six favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Top ten books about migrants

Sunjeev Sahota is the author of Ours are the Streets and The Year of the Runaways. One of his top ten books about migrants, as shared at the Guardian:
My Ántonia by Willa Cather

Last year, in India, I spoke to a deported illegal immigrant who said he’d come to England so that “kuch ban jaweh”, “something might be made” - a future, perhaps. It reminded me of the immigrants in Cather’s novel - from Bohemia, mainly, but also Scandinavia – who live in sod-houses and work the Nebraskan soil, where “there was nothing but land; not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made”.
Read about the other books on the list.

My Ántonia is one of Chris Hannan's top ten tales of the American frontier.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Seven YA books where friendship trumps romance

At the B&N Teen Blog Natalie Zutter tagged seven Young Adult books "where friendship is more important than—or even entirely replaces—a love story," including:
This Song Will Save Your Life, by Leila Sales

Often, first love in YA acts as a catalyst for the protagonist’s emotional development, as she learns to open up and have confidence in herself. But for unpopular, awkward outsider Elise, her life-changing relationship comes in the form of three new friends: bandmates Vicky and Pippa, who adopt her into their group without any issue, and mysterious DJ Char. And the big love that catches Elise entirely unawares? Her love of (and talent for) DJing.
Learn about the other entries on the list.

This Song Will Save Your Life is among Non Pratt's top ten books about teens in trouble.

--Marshal Zeringue