Saturday, November 28, 2015

Four books that changed Samantha Van Leer

Samantha Van Leer is the co-author, with her mother Jodi Picoult, of two young-adult fairy tales. One of four books that changed the writer, as shared at the Sydney Morning Herald:
Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling is my role model. She's a smart, confident woman who is comfortable enough in her own skin to laugh about the ugly truths in her life. Her quick-witted autobiography made me laugh uncomfortably to myself in public places. She's inspired me to want to write about the ridiculous adventures my best friend Katie and I had when I was growing up.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 27, 2015

Five top novels set in a single location

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. One of Somers's five top "bottle novels" where "the writers confine everyone in a single pressure cooker location, set the timer, and see what happens," as shared at B & N Reads:
Trophy, by Michael Griffith

When Vada helps his friend Yancey move a stuffed bear—Yancey’s latest hunting trophy—into his house, it tips and crushes Vada beneath it, and from that point forward, the entire story takes place in that room, while Vada is crushed to death beneath the awful, enormous trophy. The real story takes place in Vada’s head, as the omniscient narrator takes us through his lackluster life, his petty desires and many frustrations, often addressing the reader directly in a voice that is equal parts sarcastic, hilarious, and perceptive. With a lot to say about the absurdities of modern life, Trophy is the ultimate bottle novel, not only taking place in a single room, but unfolding over the course of just a few minutes.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

J. Kingston Pierce's ten most arresting crime novels of 2015

J. Kingston Pierce is both the editor of The Rap Sheet and the senior editor of January Magazine. At Kirkus, he tagged ten of the more memorable crime novels he read this year, including:
Little Pretty Things, by Lori Rader-Day

Juliet Townsend was once a high-school athlete with big dreams of becoming a track star. Ten years on, though, she’s trapped in a spirit-snuffing purgatory, half-cleaning rooms at a sordid motel in her Indiana hometown. When her former sports rival and onetime friend, Maddy Bell, suddenly checks into those same lodgings, and asks to share a libation with Juliet, our heroine is as suspicious as she is jealous. Clearly, Maddy has all the trappings of success. Why would she come back to this claustrophobic, nowhere burg or have anything to do with a motel maid? Unfortunately, Juliet doesn’t ask enough questions—until it’s too late. Maddy is found dead the following day, hanging from one of the motel’s railings, and the cops immediately label Juliet a suspect. To prove her innocence, and curious about why her friend’s life ended so abruptly, Juliet plumbs her memories of Maddy, their mutual friends and their respective roads not taken, trying to reveal the killer and make peace with her past. Rader-Day, who recently took home an Anthony Award for her first novel, 2014’s The Black Hour, provides this new book with a carefully constructed and most satisfying story arc that finds Juliet demonstrating her chops as a shamus at the same time as she discovers that she still has other value in the world.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Five of your great-grandma’s dirty books

Amy Stewart's latest book is the novel, Girl Waits with Gun. One of her top five lurid novels about innocent girls led astray from early in the last century, as shared at The Daily Beast:
Her Soul and Her Body by Louise Closser Hale (1912)

Pretty young Melissa doesn’t understand the power of her own beauty. “What do I fear when a man notices me? Not him, for I can run away. Myself? Perhaps it is; because the something in me that makes them stare is the something in me that makes me afraid.”

Ah, but then: “He came toward me and toward me. I stretched out my arms, fingers extended, to keep him back. When he reached them he crumpled them up and came on. As his mouth was over mine I threw back my head to avoid him. His lips rested on the hollow in my throat. Then he helped me on with my things, for I was trembly, and, at the door, I kissed him.”

Later, when she is so bold as to ask him over: “He rested his pale grey eyes on me. He didn’t seem to be looking; he was planning. ‘Of course. Expect me any evening.’”

Strangely, Melissa more or less survives this ordeal, making it a rare bright spot in the literature of fallen girls.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top historical YA novels about adventurous women

At the BN Teen Blog Nicole Hill tagged five top historical YA novels about adventurous and independent-minded women, including:
Under a Painted Sky, by Stacey Lee

The drama in Under a Painted Sky works precisely because of its protagonists: two girls on the fringes of 19th-century American society. There’s Samantha, a 15-year-old Chinese American who wants nothing more than to pursue a music career. And then there’s Annamae, a 16-year-old runaway slave who longs for freedom. Together, they shed their unwelcome pasts on the Oregon Trail, disguising themselves as boys for safety and making some unexpected allies. It’s a striking tale of adventure, danger, and survival.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Under a Painted Sky is among John Hansen's ten must-read YA novels you've probably never heard of, Sarah Skilton's top six YA books featuring cross-cultural friendships, and Dahlia Adler's seven top YA novels about best friendship.

My Book, The Movie: Under a Painted Sky.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The five worst fictional characters to invite to Thanksgiving

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Jill Boyd tagged five of the worst fictional characters to invite to Thanksgiving. One entry on the list:
Dr. Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs)

And you thought it was going to be difficult to accommodate the dietary needs of your vegan cousin…
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Silence of The Lambs is among Monique Alice's six great fictional evil geniuses, sixteen book-to-movie adaptations that won Academy Awards. Red Dragon appears on Kimberly Turner's list of the ten most disturbing sociopaths in literature and John Mullan's lists of ten of the best dragons in literature and ten of the best tattoos in literature, and the (U.K.) Telegraph 110 best books; Andre Gross says "it should be taught as [a text] in Thriller 101."

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten genre-bending books

Lincoln Michel's new story collection is Upright Beasts.

One of his ten favorite genre-bending books, as shared at Publishers Weekly:
Gun, with Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem

Lethem made his name as genre mash-up master with a string of books that combined two genres to form new literary hybrids. His best of those early books is Gun, with Occasional Music, which takes the hardboiled prose style of Raymond Chandler and drops it in a Philip K. Dick-esque paranoid SF world. Conrad Metcalf is hired by a man who says he is being framed for murder. The case leads Metcalf into a world of memory-suppressing drugs, genetically-engineered mob muscle, and Karma debit cards. Above all, Gun, with Occasional Music is a plain old fun read, and Lethem’s wit shines on every page.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Five fabulous food-focused works

At B & N Reads Jenny Shank tagged five top books to get you in the mood to eat, including:
The Devil’s Larder, by Jim Crace

Crace, the winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award, among many other honors, turns his attention toward food in 2001’s The Devils Larder. The book consists of 64 short, surprising tales that all revolve around food in some unexpected way, including a story in which a daughter asks her mother, “Do you think that pasta tastes the same in other people’s mouths,” and they experiment to find out. “The finest food, like the best of marriages, is bound to break the rules,” Crace writes.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 23, 2015

Kevin Barry's six favorite books

Kevin Barry is the author of the highly acclaimed novel, City of Bohane, and two short-story collections, Dark Lies the Island and There Are Little Kingdoms. His new novel is Beatlebone.

One of Barry's six favorite books, as shared with The Week magazine:
Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor

I risk the wrath of O'Connorians everywhere when I suggest that there's a particular time in life when her short stories have the most charge or reverb, and it's in one's late teens or early 20s. That was when I read this collection, and I was awed by the dense emotional humidity of the world it depicted.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Everything That Rises Must Converge is one of four books that changed David Vann.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Top ten wilderness adventures

Alexander Yates was born in Haiti and grew up in Mexico, Bolivia, and the Phillipines. He is the author of the critically acclaimed adult novel Moondogs and his debut YA novel, The Winter Place. He lives with his wife in Hanoi, Vietnam. One of the author's top ten wilderness adventures, as shared at the Guardian:
Wilderness by Roddy Doyle

Beyond having a title that makes it perfectly suited for this list, Wilderness lands at the intersection of two of my favorite things - the winter forests of Finland, and the fiction of Roddy Doyle. At once a family story and an adventure in the snowbound woods, Doyle’s novel follows three children navigating very different wild spaces. Brothers Tom and Johnny have the more straightforward adventure, racing through the woods of Lapland on dogsled to rescue their mother on a winter safari gone awry. Half-sister Gráinne, on the other hand, has stayed home in Dublin to meet the mother who long since abandoned her. It’s a beautiful little novel, one that captures not only the exhilaration of the boys as they course into the darkness, but the bewildering process of growing up and coming to terms with past hurts.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Five top Nordic noir novels

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. One of Somers's five top Nordic noir titles, as shared at B & N Reads:
The Keeper of Lost Causes, by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Adler-Olsen is Denmark’s bestselling novelist, and has lately been taking the world by storm. In The Keeper of Lost Causes he creates Department Q, a police division assigned to work on unsolved cases. Carl Mørck, who has been in a personal tailspin ever since a shooting gone wrong, is assigned to lead the division, with his first case centering on the five-year-old disappearance of a politician everyone assumes is dead. Even as the investigation unveils a shocking crime, the real attraction is Mørck himself, a man ruled by curiosity and written as a fully-fleshed out, haunted human being. He’s a character who will stay with you long after you’ve closed the book.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 20, 2015

The ten best Vladimir Nabokov books

Brian Boyd, University Distinguished Professor of English, University of Auckland, wrote an MA thesis that Vladimir Nabokov called “brilliant” and a PhD thesis that Véra Nabokov thought the best thing written about her husband to date. His biography of Nabokov won awards on four continents; his criticism has been translated into eighteen languages. He has edited Nabokov's English-language novels, autobiography, butterfly writings, and translations from Russian poetry. Boyd is the editor of Letters to Véra.

One entry on his list of the ten best Vladimir Nabokov books, as shared at Publishers Weekly:
Pale Fire (1962)

Crystalline perfection within fractured form makes for what has been called the world’s first and best hypertext novel, and the greatest novel of its century. An Appalachian campus poet’s long autobiographical poem is commandeered and annotated line by line by his insanely egoistic neighbour, whose notes foreground himself and Zembla rather than poem and poet. A torrent of stories, a magic whirl of opposites, poetry and prose, realism and untrammelled fancy, solid homeliness and wild exile, stasis and haste, sanity and madness, serenity and despair, hilarity and heartbreak. Beneath the radiant surface that dazzles from the first lie endless depths and echoes, sunken cities with trapdoors into more mysteries and wonders.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Pale Fire's John Shade is among John Mullan's ten best fictional poets. The novel appears among David J. Peterson 's five best books with invented languages, Jane Harris's five best psychological mysteries and Edward Docx's top ten deranged characters. It is one of Tracy Kidder's six best books as well as the novel Charles Storch would save for last. It is one of "Six Memorable Books About Writers Writing" yet it disappointed Ha Jin upon rereading.

--Marshal Zeringue