Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Five top SFF titles about strange houses

Rachael Conrad is the Event Coordinator, Social Media Manager, and a Frontline Bookseller for Print: A Bookstore in Portland, Maine. She was a 2021 Publishers Weekly Star Watch nominee for her bookselling.

At Tor.com she tagged five SFF titles about strange houses, including:
Gallant by V.E. Schwab

What’s better than a gorgeous, crumbling manor house with poorly lit hallways that are being haunted by half-formed ghosts? Two stunningly gorgeous, crumbling manor houses that perfectly mirror one another but exist in different planes of existence of course. This is exactly what Olivia Prior discovers during V.E. Schwab’s chest-achingly good YA novel, Gallant.

After growing up in the Merilance School for Girls, a desolate and unfriendly place, a letter arrives for Olivia inviting her to a home that she knows very little about – Gallant. Determined to discover what secrets her ancestral home, its half-formed ghouls, and her volatile cousin are keeping from her, Olivia accidentally discovers the door to a world that perfectly mirrors the one she already exists in. Within this world is a Gallant that exists like a photonegative of her home. It’s ostensibly the same but is ruled over by a mysterious and shadowy figure who wants her dead.

True to Schwab’s form, Gallant is a book that will leave you feeling like you have a massive hole in your heart which is just about the highest praise that a bookseller can bestow unto a book.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 26, 2022

Twenty-four of the best mythology retellings

At B&N Reads the editors tagged twenty-four of "the best mythological retellings," including:
Madeline Miller

A journey to self-discovery of epic proportions, Circe is a retelling from the queen of mythology herself: Madeline Miller. A lyrical, action-packed dive into the origin of an unforgettable and unparalleled woman, Circe cements herself in the pantheon of stories that must not be missed. Circe shares her scars, her broken parts, and in doing so, speaks to the humanity we all share: “That is one thing gods and mortals share: when we are young, we think ourselves the first to have each feeling in the world.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

Circe is among Ashleigh Bell Pedersen's eight novels of wonder and darkness by women writers, Kelly Barnhill's eight books about women's rage, Sascha Rothchild's most captivating literary antiheroes, Rachel Kapelke-Dale's eleven top unexpected thrillers about female rage, Kat Sarfas's thirteen enchanted reads for spooky season, Fire Lyte's nine current classics in magic and covens and spellsElodie Harper's six top novels set in the ancient world, Kiran Millwood Hargrave's seven best books about islands, Zen Cho's six SFF titles about gods and pantheons, Jennifer Saint's ten top books inspired by Greek myth, Adrienne Westenfeld's fifteen feminist books that will inspire, enrage, & educate you, Ali Benjamin's top ten classic stories retold, Lucile Scott's eight books about hexing the patriarchy, E. Foley and B. Coates's top ten goddesses in fiction, Jordan Ifueko's five fantasy titles driven by traumatic family bonds, Eleanor Porter's top ten books about witch-hunts, Emily B. Martin's six stunning fantasies for nature lovers, Allison Pataki's top six books that feature strong female voices, Pam Grossman's thirteen stories about strong women with magical powers, Kris Waldherr's nine top books inspired by mythology, Katharine Duckett's eight novels that reexamine literature from the margins, and Steph Posts's thirteen top novels set in the world of myth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Five of the best books for coffee lovers

James Hoffmann is the managing director of Square Mile Coffee Roasters, a multi-award-winning coffee roasting company based in East London. He is also the World Barista Champion 2007, having won the UK Barista competition in both 2006 and 2007.

Hoffmann is the author of The World Atlas of Coffee (2014) and How to Make the Best Coffee at Home (2022).

At Shepherd he tagged five books that "inspired my own passion for coffee and I hope they do the same for you." One title on the list:
Coffee Life in Japan by Merry White

This deeper exploration of coffee culture in Japan, a place we all associate with tea, is an interesting and surprising read. The author’s time in Japan serves as the backbone for exploring aspects of gender, perfectionism, and how the cafe in Japan helps people stay punctual.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see: Benjamin Obler's top ten fictional coffee scenes in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Five of the best relationship-driven mysteries

Susan Richards is the author of the Jessica Kallan mystery series and stand-alone novels of suspense. She strives in each story to create characters who are confronted by circumstances that push them to their limits, test their strength, and challenge their beliefs and integrity—people who would do almost anything to protect the people they love.

Richards’s new novel, Where Secrets Live, was a finalist in the Mystery/Suspense category of the 2018 Daphne du Maurier contest.

[My Book, The Movie: Where Secrets LiveThe Page 69 Test: Where Secrets LiveQ&A with S. C. Richards]

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, she has lived throughout the Midwest and currently resides in Northern Minnesota. She also spent several years in the Pacific Northwest, moving back to Minnesota to be closer to her family. Every winter she wonders what the hell she was thinking.

At CrimeReads Richards tagged five favorite novels in which the "author has created that balance in the relationships among the characters that move the story forward, that drive their actions, and ultimately, what makes me care about each person in the novel." One title on the list:
The Last Thing He Told Me, by Laura Dave

Stepparent and stepchild relationships can often be complicated and sometimes sticky.

In The Last Thing He Told Me, husband and father, Owen Michaels, is the character we never meet, yet we come to know him through the love and dedication of his wife, Hannah, and his daughter from a previous marriage, Bailey.

Before Owen disappears, he sends a message to his new wife, Hannah, that simply says “Protect her.”

Hannah knows that Owen is asking her to protect his daughter, Bailey, but she doesn’t have a clue what Bailey needs to be protected from.

Bailey, resentful of her new stepmother, is not an easy one to protect, but Hannah does what she’s been asked to do and the two of them soon find themselves in a dangerous maze. With Owen gone, they quickly learn that they must cling to each other, because now, there is no one else to hold onto.
Read about the other novels on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 23, 2022

Eight memoirs about the journey to becoming a classical musician

Martha Anne Toll writes fiction, essays, and book reviews, and reads anything that’s not nailed down. Her debut novel, Three Muses, won the Petrichor Prize for Finely Crafted Fiction. Toll brings a long career in social justice to her work covering BIPOC and women writers. She is a book reviewer and author interviewer at NPR Books, the Washington Post, Pointe Magazine, The Millions, and elsewhere. She also publishes short fiction and essays in a wide variety of outlets. Toll has recently joined the Board of Directors of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation.

[ My Book, The Movie: Three Muses; Q&A with Martha Anne Toll]

At Electric Lit Toll tagged eight memoirs that "recount the authors’ journey to music, what makes them so committed, how they express their love for it, and what happens behind the scenes." One title on the list:
Constructing a Nervous System: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson

Margo Jefferson is a brilliant cultural critic who wrote for the New York Times for many years. As a Black woman who grew up in privilege in Chicago, she has written two searing memoirs about just how much racism interferes with and infects her career. In this book, the second of the two, Jefferson ties together her own rigorous classical piano training with eminent Black musicians. Her riff on Ella Fitzgerald is at once horrifying for the bigotry Fitzgerald suffered, and celebratory of Fitzgerald’s dignity and prodigious gifts. Writing in an experimental style to highlight her injuries and observations, Jefferson’s book is a disturbing account of the reality of racism in America.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Top 10 books about cleaners

Amanda Craig is a British novelist, short-story writer and critic. Born in South Africa in 1959, she grew up in Italy, where her parents worked for the UN, and was educated at Bedales School and Clare College Cambridge.

The heroine in Craig's The Golden Rule is "a graduate and an impoverished and abused single mother who gets suckered by a rich woman into a plot to murder each other’s husbands. She discovers a very different story as a result of cleaning her intended victim’s home."

At the Guardian the author tagged ten top books on cleaners, "undervalued workers and their sharp perspectives on those they tidy up after." One title on the list:
The Maid by Nita Prose

Unlike the grim Netflix series of the same name, this is a joy. Larky, orphaned Molly is “the last person anyone invites to a party”. She adores her job as a cleaner in a swanky New York hotel but when she finds the body of a guest she is put in the frame for his murder and must turn detective. Molly makes us feel her pleasure in what is crisply starched, perfectly ordered and formally correct, but as a neurodivergent person in a dangerous city she also has a terrible inability to spot dishonesty.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Five of the best historical novels about political shenanigans in ancient Rome

Fiona Forsyth studied Classics at Oxford before teaching it for 25 years. When her family relocated to the Middle East, she took the opportunity to write and the world of Lucius Sestius was born.

As well as writing historical novels set in Ancient Rome, Forsyth is recognised as a poet in Qatar.

At Shepherd she tagged five favorite historical novels about political shenanigans in ancient Rome, including:
Roman Blood by Steven Saylor

This is the first book in Saylor’s “Roma sub rosa” series, and introduces one of the nicest heroes in historical mystery! Gordianus the Finder is the Roman equivalent of our private detective and he works for a young politician and orator, Cicero. Based on a real lawsuit from 80 BCE, Saylor makes great use of the actual speech made, and conveys the skill and showmanship of the lawyer at a time when a good speech was seen as entertainment for the masses. Into this original material though he weaves a hideous and complex murder plot. Riveting stuff!

I am a huge fan of Cicero, and it was really interesting—if a little hard at times!—to see him portrayed with all his flaws and weaknesses.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Eight thrillers with female friendships at the center

Steph Mullin & Nicole Mabry met as co-workers in New York City in 2012, discovering a shared passion for writing and true crime. After Mullin relocated to Charlotte, NC in 2018, they continued to collaborate creatively. Separated by five states, they spend countless hours scheming via Facetime and editing each other’s typos in real time on live Google docs. The Family Tree is the writing duo's first co-authored crime novel. Their second novel, When She Disappeared, is now available.

[The Page 69 Test: The Family TreeMy Book, The Movie: The Family Tree]

At CrimeReads the authors tagged eight favorite thrillers "with female friendships at the center," including:
Deadly Little Lies by Stephanie DeCarolis

What happens when female friendships and the desire to fit in turns fatal? Deadly Little Lies shines a light on toxic group dynamics and examines how secrets shared between friends can lead to long-term consequences. When the main character, Juliana, receives a message from an old college friend who had tragically died while they were at school, her whole world unravels. She and her friends were at the heart of the mystery surrounding Jenny’s death but have tried to move on to form families and dream careers. Now, someone is threatening to bring their lives crashing down to get to the truth. Juliana reconnects with her old friends to figure out who is haunting them before she loses her marriage and her career. In the end, some friendships are destroyed, and some renewed after a twist that will leave even savvy readers satisfied.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 19, 2022

Five novels about families far worse than yours

Sally Koslow is the author of the novels Another Side of Paradise; the international bestseller The Late, Lamented Molly Marx; The Widow Waltz; With Friends Like These; and Little Pink Slips. She is also the author of one work of nonfiction, Slouching Toward Adulthood: How to Let Go So Your Kids Can Grow Up. Her books have been published in a dozen countries.

[My Book, The Movie: The Widow WaltzCoffee with a Canine: Sally Koslow and Percy]

Koslow's new novel is The Real Mrs. Tobias.

At Lit Hub she tagged five recently-published novels "about people who are far more out of whack than you are," including:
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson takes readers to the Caribbean and London as a mixed-race California brother and sister—alienated from one another—set off on a journey of self-discovery. You think you know your mama; then you find a cake in the freezer and listen to an audio message she leaves for you, and you think again. While reckoning with grief after their mother dies, Byron and Benny struggle to make sense of her complicated history. Like the time-honored recipe for Caribbean Black Cake that binds the narrative, this book is dense with surprises: sexual assault, gambling addiction, flashbacks to the slave trade, eccentrics hidden in the family tree, for starters.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Twenty-three top short books

At Vulture books editor Maris Kreizman tagged twenty-three "of the most entertaining and mind-opening stories, novellas, essays, and short treatises from the recent past." One title on the list:
The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid (2007)

The 9/11 novel that stuck with me the most, and it remains as relevant as ever today. The Reluctant Fundamentalist follows a Muslim man who’s an avid chaser of the American dream but who, while facing a bombardment of harassment after the attack, spirals toward hatred of the western way of life.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is among Colleen Kinder's ten books about chance encounters with strangers, Maris Kreizman's nineteen top short books and stories, Ian MacKenzie's ten top books about Americans abroad, Emily Temple's ten top contemporary novels by and about Muslims, Laila Lalami's eight top books about Muslim life for a nation that knows little about Islam, Porochista Khakpour's top ten novels about 9/11, Jimmy So's five best 9/11 novels, and Ahmede Hussain's five top books in recent South Asian literature.

The Page 69 Test: The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Eight titles that tackle the subject of ancestral legacy

Juliet Patterson is the author of Sinkhole: A Legacy of Suicide (2022) and two full-length poetry collections, Threnody (2016), a finalist for the 2017 Audre Lorde Poetry Award, and The Truant Lover (2006), winner of the Nightboat Poetry Prize and a finalist for the 2006 Lambda Literary Award.

At Electric Lit Patterson tagged eight books that "uniquely tackle the subject of ancestral legacy, leading readers into social and historical questions as one way of understanding the personal past." One title on the list:
The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom

Sarah M. Broom’s The Yellow House is an ambitious and far-reaching memoir layered with the political and racial history of New Orleans, the natural disaster of Hurricane Katrina, and her large family over half a century. The story revolves around a house in a neglected neighborhood of New Orleans East, a home that serves as both a material artifact and metaphor for the book’s larger discussions of class and race, and as a repository for Broom’s own personal hauntings. Told in three movements that unfold with increasing tension and speed, The Yellow House is both social eulogy and a wry and loving testimony of one family’s life. Broom’s keen observations and eye for detail have rightly earned this book high acclaim.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 16, 2022

Five mystery titles that read like literary fiction

The son of two librarians, Mark Stevens was raised in Lincoln, Massachusetts. He worked as a reporter for The Christian Science Monitor in Boston and Los Angeles; as a City Hall reporter for The Rocky Mountain News in Denver; as a national field producer for The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour (PBS) and as an education reporter for The Denver Post. Stevens's fifth mystery to feature Allison Coil, The Melancholy Howl, is now out from Third Line Press. His standalone novel The Fireballer is due out on the first day of 2023.

At CrimeReads Stevens tagged five "favorite books that prioritize character and literary insights but can be all be found on the mystery shelves." One title on the list:
Dodgers by Bill Beverly

Humanity oozes from every syllable of Dodgers, which is either a Great American Novel with crime fiction undertones or a crime novel with not a care in the world about the expected tracks of the genre’s normal grooves.

At first you think you’re in for a grim going-nowhere claustrophobic urban gangbang novel like Richard Price’s Clockers or season one of The Wire. Next, we’re on a cross-country road trip where the skies open up and the possibilities seem endless, though violence lurks.

Dodgers is about 15-year-old East, who “had never been a child.” East falls in debt to his boss and is sent to Wisconsin to kill a witness in an upcoming trial. East and three others in his group are to avoid looking like “ignorant gang boys.” Road trips mean change, right? Dodgers is memorable and gripping in its own way from start to moving, unpredictable finish.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue