Friday, August 23, 2019

Eight top San Diego books

Patrick Coleman makes things from words, sounds, and occasional pictures. His debut collection of poems, Fire Season, was written after the birth of his first child by speaking aloud into a digital audio recorder on the long commute between the art museum where he worked and his home in a rural neighborhood that burned in the Witch Creek Fire of 2007. It won the 2015 Berkshire Prize and was released by Tupelo Press on December 1, 2018. His short-form prose has appeared in Hobart, ZYZZYVA, Zócalo Public Square, the Writer's Chronicle, the Black Warrior Review, Juked, and the Utne Reader, among others. The Art of Music, an exhibition catalogue on the relationship between visual arts and music that he edited and contributed to, was co-published by Yale University Press and the San Diego Museum of Art. Coleman earned an MFA from Indiana University and a BA from the University of California Irvine. He lives in Ramona, California, with his wife and two daughters, and is the Assistant Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego.

Coleman's new book, his first novel, is The Churchgoer.

One of the author's top eight San Diego books:
Brit Bennett, The Mothers

I grew up in Oceanside, the northernmost town in San Diego county. It’s where the bulk of The Churchgoer is set. While I was working on it, I was thinking about all the complications and contradictions in even just this one small-ish corner of San Diego, and what those complications have to say about the region, the state, and the country we live in. At that point, Oceanside had mostly been known as the home of Charlie’s house in Top Gun and the setting for a key cheerleading competition in Bring It On.

Then came Brit Bennett’s The Mothers, a beautiful, tender portrait of a young black girl in Oceanside grieving after her mother’s suicide. She falls for the pastor’s son and gets pregnant, and the chorus of mothers at the church tut-tuts along with her story as she weighs an abortion against her faith, a close friend, and the social pressures of her community (for outsiders, San Diego can be startlingly conservative). Written with a subtle but incisive sensibility, The Mothers gives us an Oceanside, a San Diego, and an America in literature that we need more of.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Eight psychological thrillers where holidays descend into nightmares

Michele Campbell's latest novel is A Stranger on the Beach.

At CrimeReads she tagged eight books about idyllic vacations gone terribly wrong, including:
Because You’re Mine by Rea Frey

When four girlfriends head to Black Mountain for a relaxing weekend getaway, one of them ends up dead. What’s supposed to be a peaceful, restorative break from daily responsibilities quickly goes south as the women race to determine whether it was an untimely accident…or something much darker. Riveting and atmospheric with a shocker of an ending, this one belongs on your list of scary vacation reads.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Ten top caregivers in fiction

Lila Savage is originally from Minneapolis. Prior to writing fiction, she spent nearly a decade working as a caregiver. Her work has appeared in The Threepenny Review. She is the recipient of a Wallace Stegner fellowship and graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2018.

Savage's debut novel is Say Say Say.

At the Guardian she tagged the top ten caregivers in fiction, including:
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

In this macabre and funny novel, Eileen tends to her alcoholic father. “Once, after a good six-day absence, a bender of greater proportions than I had ever seen my father go on, I got a call from a hospital two counties over and drove out there to pick him up. That persuaded me to gather up all his shoes and keep them locked in the trunk of the car from then on.” A bracing balance to more tender caregiving narratives, we bear witness to codependency, resentment and other dark feelings.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books for the equine set

Tory Bilski is a travel writer based in Connecticut. She writes primarily about Iceland - its people, horses, and history. Her new book is Wild Horses of the Summer Sun: A Memoir of Iceland.

At LitHub Bilski tagged "five books that may help explain the relationship between women and horses," including:
Beryl Markham, The Splendid Outcast: African Stories

Maybe it should come as no surprise that one of the first female aviators was also a horse trainer, in fact, the first licensed female horse trainer in colonial Kenya, where she grew up. The book is a collection of eight stories written in the 1940s that were gathered together for publication in 1987. The first three are pure horse stories, and no one writes better than Markham about her horses and their full-throated personalities. Like the Greek gods, they are prideful, vengeful, jealous, brave. She doesn’t leave it there, however; she feels the need to vacillate between anthropomorphizing her horses and then doubting herself for even suggesting such mawkishness.

The story “Something I Remember” ends with her favorite horse returning to the site where years before he was bloodily defeated and permanently wounded in a fight with another horse. Markham writes, “He only stood there like a man with a dream.” However, then, she pulls back: “That is only the way it seemed to me.... I suspect that he had come there only to catch the last warmth of sun.” In the final sentence, she equivocates again: “I don’t know, and so I can’t be sure. It is only something I remember.” She can’t be sure: do horses have memory and feelings and a sense of their lives as humans do?

She lived and wrote before Temple Grandin translated how animals think, act, and feel. She also lived in an era where she was referred to as an aviatrix, and as an authoress—as if that feminine suffix came with a warning—reader beware, this is likely to be full of reckless emotionality. Perhaps what she wasn’t sure about was the reception of her ideas and the authority of her words.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Ten top boundary-breaking women of fiction

Louisa Treger has worked as a classical violinist. She studied at the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and worked as a freelance orchestral player and teacher. Treger subsequently turned to literature, gaining a First Class degree and a Ph.D. in English at University College London, where she focused on early 20th century women’s writing and was awarded the West Scholarship and the Rosa Morison Scholarship “for distinguished work in the study of English Language and Literature.” The Lodger was published in 2014, The Dragon Lady in 2019 and she is currently working on her third novel.

At CrimeReads Treger tagged ten "strong women who refused to conform and who struggled to find their place in the world," including:
Smilla from Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg

Smilla is a bundle of contradictions. She lives in low-rent public housing, yet she dresses expensively. She seems emotionally self-sufficient, yet she falls in love and it terrifies her. She is beautiful and petite, yet she is capable of surprising violence against stronger opponents. The daughter of a wealthy Danish physician and an Inuit hunter, she doesn’t fit in anywhere.

Smilla realizes that the suspicious death of Isiah, the Greenlandic boy she looks after, is only the tip of an iceberg of violent crime. Armed with nothing but her intelligence, her courage, and her two special gifts—her almost psychic understanding of snow and ice, and her perfect sense of direction – she gets to the heart of the mystery, putting herself in mortal danger, and keeping her promise to Isiah “not to leave him in the lurch, never, not even now.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

Smilla's Sense of Snow is among Amber Tamblyn's six favorite books, Charlie Jane Anders's ten great books you didn't know were science fiction or fantasy, Elizabeth Hand's six favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books about humans making a mess of things

Rob Hart's new novel is The Warehouse.

At Tor.com he tagged "five books that mold our current state of constant anxiety into thoughtful, timely, terrifying fiction." One title on the list:
Unamerica by Cody Goodfellow

A dystopian fever dream about a city buried beneath the desert at the US-Mexico border, where excess is the name of the game. Goodfellow offers madcap satire of capitalism, religion, and drug culture. Warning: This is not for the faint of heart. It’s fiction you grind up and freebase directly into your cerebral cortex.

There are bonus points to be had here too, because the publisher, King Shot Press, a punk rock indie press from Portland. They do daring work—books to light the revolution by. Unamerica isn’t even available as an eBook yet! That’s okay though. Nothing beats the feel of a real book.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 19, 2019

Six of the best New York City biographies

Christopher Bonanos is city editor at New York magazine, where he covers arts and culture and urban affairs. He is the National Book Critics Circle Award–winning author of Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous and Instant: The Story of Polaroid.

At The Week magazine Bonanos tagged six favorite New York City biographies, including:
Just Kids by Patti Smith (2010).

Punk legend Patti Smith was also Robert Mapplethorpe's muse, and he was hers. The two were lovers who eventually, after his coming-out, remained the closest of friend-collaborators until his 1989 death. I can't imagine a more vivid and romantic description of what it was like to be young and artsy and hungry and fearless in the broken-down New York of the '70s.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Just Kids is among Barbara Bourland's ten essential books about contemporary artists, Dana Czapnik's favorite novels featuring kids or young adults coming of age in cities, and Dan Holmes's twenty best memoirs written by musicians.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five thrillers featuring a small group of friends

Cambria Brockman grew up in Houston, London, and Scotland and attended Holderness School in New Hampshire. She graduated from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, with a degree in English literature. She owns an award-winning wedding and portrait photography company, Cambria Grace, along with its popular Instagram account. Brockman lives in Boston with her husband, son, and dog.

Tell Me Everything is her first novel.

At CrimeReads Brockman tagged five thrillers featuring a small group of friends, including:
The Secret Place, by Tana French

An all girls boarding school. A hidden wall where students anonymously post their darkest thoughts and grievances. Secrets. Lies. Gossip. Rumors. And a sixteen-year-old boy who is brutally murdered, the case unsolved. A year later that all changes when one of the students, Holly Mackey, gives Detective Stephen Moran a photograph of the murdered boy with the words I know who killed him written on it. The story follows Holly and her close group of friends as they navigate the nasty rumor mill of private school, and their individual relationships with the victim. More than that, this book reveals the dangerous world of teenage girls and the cruel things they are capable of when succumbed to the pressure of adolescence.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Secret Place is among Adele Parks's eight crime novels featuring intense female friendship, Kristen Lepionka's ten top female detectives in fiction, the B&N Reads editors' five favorite fun, fearless femmes fatales in fiction, and Kelly Anderson's seven amazing female friendships in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Eleven top books about/with cats

Jessie Burton is the author of three novels, The Miniaturist (2014), and The Muse (2016), published in 38 languages, and The Confession which publishes September 2019. The Miniaturist and The Muse were Sunday Times no.1 bestsellers, New York Times bestsellers, and Radio 4's Book at Bedtime.

At the Guardian Burton tagged some of her favorite books about/with cats, including:
For something a bit different, I’d recommend dipping a paw into Japanese literature, where cats feature in wonderful variety. Natsume Sōseki’s I Am a Cat is a biting satire of Meiji-era Japan told through the eyes of a sardonic street kitten, while The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa beautifully explores the friendships we share with our pets through the eyes of Nana, as he takes a road trip with his beloved human Satoru. Genki Kawamura’s If Cats Disappeared From the World is a much more pleasant read than its horrifically dystopian title would suggest, while 1Q84 by renowned cat-obsessive Haruki Murakami features a town populated entirely by cats. Heavenly.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Seven great mysteries about rare books & bibliophiles

Born near Boston, Marlowe Benn grew up in an Illinois college town along the Mississippi River. She holds a master’s degree in the book arts from the University of Alabama and a doctorate in the history of books from the University of California, Berkeley. A former editor, college teacher, and letterpress printer, Benn lives with her husband on an island near Seattle. Relative Fortunes is her first novel.

At CrimeReads Benn tagged seven great mysteries about bibliophiles and rare books, including:
Donna Leon, By Its Cover (Atlantic Monthly, 2014)

In her 23rd novel featuring Venetian police commissario Guido Brunetti, Leon delves into the chilling world of systematic looting of the nation’s heritage collection of rare books and manuscripts. Brunetti is called in when a librarian at one of Venice’s venerable libraries reports that several rare volumes have been stolen or vandalized—engraved plates razored out—despite rigorous security. Yet the library’s two regular patrons seem unlikely suspects, and one soon turns up murdered. In typical fashion, the contemplative Brunetti ponders the moral as well as legal vagaries of the case, considering how the theft of irreplaceable cultural artifacts represents more than the loss of their most recent selling prices.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 16, 2019

Ten of the best tigers in fiction

Katy Yocom was born and raised in Atchison, Kansas. After graduating from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism, she moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where she has lived ever since. Her new novel, Three Ways to Disappear, won the Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature and was a finalist for the Dzanc Books Disquiet Open Borders Book Prize and the UNO Press Publishing Lab Prize.

In researching the novel, Yocom traveled to India, funded by a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation. In 2019, she received an Al Smith Fellowship Award for artistic excellence from the Kentucky Arts Council. She has also received grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and served as writer-in-residence at Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Crosshatch Hill House, and PLAYA. Her writing has appeared in Newsweek, Salon, LitHub, American Way (the American Airlines magazine), The Louisville Review, decomP magazinE, and elsewhere. Her short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She holds an MFA in Writing from Spalding University.

Yocom lives with her family in Louisville and serves as associate director of the low-residency graduate writing programs of the School of Creative and Professional Writing at Spalding University, where it's her great good fortune to work with writers every day.

At LitHub she tagged the ten best tigers in fiction, including:
R. K. Narayan, A Tiger for Malgudi

An aging Bengal tiger looks back on his eventful life. When he meets a guru, he learns to adopt the way of nonviolence. This slim novel, told from the tiger’s point of view, gives us a life spent evolving, finding companionship, and finally letting go. In the introduction, Narayan writes, “[W]ith a few exceptions here and there, humans have monopolized the attention of fiction writers.” This touching fable asks us to consider that humans aren’t the only animals with individual lives that matter.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Five notable sympathetic fictional psychopaths

Elizabeth Macneal's debut novel is The Doll Factory.

At CrimeReads she tagged five sympathetic fictional psychopaths, including:
Amy Dunne from Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

On the morning of Nick and Amy Dunne’s wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing. What follows is a he said / she said account of what led to her disappearance, with Nick looking increasingly guilty. But things are not as they seem, and a fantastic twist reveals Amy Dunne as a psychopath—I actually gasped when I read it.

But rather than loathing Amy, I found myself not only impressed by her, but actively rooting for her. Part of this, I think was because of her relatability—her rant on “the cool girl” myth, and her fight against perfection, after always feeling the need to conform to the stories of “Amazing Amy.” What’s more, Flynn’s decision to place her in jeopardy around Jeff and Shawna, and later Desi, left me wanting her to escape, to survive. And behind it, her husband Nick might be redeemable, but he is also ineffectual, unfaithful and scarcely knows her—didn’t he deserve some sort of punishment, I wondered? There was something so escapist in her unapologetic quest for revenge—hers is a turbo-charged account of the bold, outrageous lengths we could go to if wronged, but know we never will.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Gone Girl made Jo Jakeman's top ten list of revenge novels, Amanda Craig's list of favorite books about modern married life, Sarah Pinborough's top ten list of unreliable narrators, C.A. Higgins's top five list of books with plot twists that flip your perception, Ruth Ware's top ten list of psychological thrillers, Jane Alexander's top ten list of treasure hunts in fiction, Fanny Blake's list of five top books about revenge, Monique Alice's list of six great fictional evil geniuses, Jeff Somers's lists of the top five best worst couples in literature, six books that’ll make you glad you’re single and five books with an outstanding standalone scene that can be read on its own, Lucie Whitehouse's ten top list of psychological suspense novels with marriages at their heart and Kathryn Williams's list of eight of fiction’s craziest unreliable narrators.

--Marshal Zeringue