Monday, January 25, 2021

Six stories for fans of beautiful Australian Gothic

Kathleen Jennings is an illustrator and writer based in Brisbane, Australia. As an illustrator, she has won one World Fantasy Award (and been a finalist three other times), and has been shortlisted once for the Hugos, and once for the Locus Awards, as well as winning a number of Ditmars. As a writer, she has won two Ditmars and been shortlisted for the Eugie Foster Memorial Award and for several Aurealis Awards.

At she tagged six favorite stories for fans of beautiful Australian Gothic, including:
Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan (2008)

Shaun Tan is far from under-recognised as an illustrator (most recently winning the Kate Greenaway award for Tales from the Inner City—the first BAME author to do so). However he is viewed primarily as an illustrator and artist, and the books he writes—being heavily illustrated—are frequently labelled as children’s books. But he has always been a writer and teller of speculative fiction, and the Kate Greenaway-award-winning book would be better categorised as a collection of masterfully cool—and occasionally achingly bleak strange speculative fiction, half glimmering post-apocalyptic dreamscape, half longing, urban-weird folk-horror.

But the preceding collection, Tales from Outer Suburbia, is a warm, effusively illustrated collection of deeply affectionate—if extremely unexplained—tales, and a number of the stories in it are either squarely Australian Gothic or increase in fascination if you read them that way. These include a family scrabbling to survive in a hostile Australian landscape who discover a secret hidden in the walls of their house—and what the neighbours might know about it (“No Other Country”), children in a magpie-stalked suburb encountering a forbidding neighbour and the ghost of a pearl diver (“Broken Toys”), a distinctly Australian urban development haunted by the presence of inscrutable terrors watching through the windows (“Stick Figures”), judgements passed and witnessed by a court of the voiceless (“Wake”), and the fearsome inexplicable loveliness of nameless night-time festivals (“The Nameless Holiday”), and how people in a landscape of backyards and watching neighbours choose to live when in the immediate shadow of a potential apocalypse (“Alert but not alarmed”).

The Australian-ness is clearly identified in the layered, textured, bounding artwork; the doublings and secrets and hauntings are indisputably Gothic. But they are beautiful, all these stories: painterly and allusive, deceptively slight and enormously resonant, bird-filled, haunted by the possibility of joy, the ghost of understanding. (I recommend writers spend a little time studying what Tan does in his illustrations—the exuberant and ominous textures, the references and hints and possibilities and all the narrative techniques that appear in the art, let alone the accompanying prose). While Tales from Outer Suburbia is littered with silvery flecks of loss, there’s a warm, impossible, grand (sometimes terrifying) beauty at the core of (or wilfully and relentlessly ornamenting) what could in other hands be merely grim.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Six top academic mysteries

Edwin Hill is the Edgar- and Agatha-award nominated author of Little Comfort, The Missing Ones, and Watch Her.

[Q&A with Edwin Hill]

At CrimeReads. he tagged six favorite academic mysteries, including:
Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers (1935)

I teach a course called Women Crime Writers as part of the Emerson College MFA program. Sayers’ novel was the first book I added to the syllabus (paired with her fantastic essay, “Are Women Human?”). Set in Oxford’s Shrewsbury College, the novel focuses on Lord Peter Wimsey’s occasional partner, Harriet Vane, who returns to attend a gaudy (a reunion of sorts) expecting to be called out for having been accused of murder (in 1930’s Strong Poison). Instead, Harriet has a blast – and snarks on plenty of her fellow alums herself – only to have the event marred by a series of malicious pranks, including a poison pen letter, graffiti, and vandalism. Harriet then calls on Wimsey to solve the crime.

This is by far my favorite of Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey novels, if only because it’s more of a Harriet Vane novel, and she’s a much more interesting character for me. It’s too bad that Sayers abandoned the series after one more book (1937’s Busman’s Honeymoon). Who knows what Harriet could have done if she’d been given her own novel?
Read about the other entries on the list.

Gaudy Night is among Ruth Ware's six favorite books about boarding schools, Kate Macdonald's top ten conservative novels, and Anna Quindlen's favorite mystery novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Eight titles about mothers separated from their daughters

Eman Quotah grew up in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, and Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, USA Today, The Toast, The Establishment, Book Riot, and other publications. She lives with her family near Washington, D.C.

Her new "novel, Bride of the Sea, tells the story of Hanadi, a daughter separated from her father when her mother, Saeedah, abducts her. In the end, though, the true rift is with her mother." (That's not a spoiler.)

At Electric Lit, Quotah tagged eight books about mothers separated from their daughters, including:
Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell

Margo Crane’s mother disappears from their rural Michigan home one day, leaving only a note. After surviving rape and family violence, 16-year-old Margo flees in the teak rowboat her grandfather bequeathed her, embarking on a river odyssey that leads her to her mother and then away again. Margo’s life current pushes her toward her own motherhood; in the story’s coda, a pregnant Margo floats in the river, “a paradise for a girl swollen up the way she was.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 22, 2021

Seven chilling snowy thrillers

British-born Allie Reynolds is a former freestyle snowboarder who swapped her snowboard for a surfboard and moved to the Gold Coast in Australia, where she taught English as a foreign language for fifteen years. She still lives in Australia with her family. Reynolds’s short fiction has been published in women’s magazines in the UK, Australia, Sweden, and South Africa.

Shiver is her debut novel.

At CrimeReads, Reynolds tagged seven of her favorite chilling winter thrillers. One title on the list:
In Lee Child’s 61 Hours, a tour bus crashes on an icy road in a savage snowstorm. Jack Reacher is one of the passengers who finds himself holed up in a freezing South Dakota town. Trouble finds Reacher, like it always does, and the small town has sinister goings on for him to investigate. Reacher braves the arctic conditions without a coat in a fight for justice against someone who is determined to stop him.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Ten top books about spirit mediums

Laura Purcell is the author of The Silent Companions, The Poison Thread, and The House of Whispers. She worked in local government, the financial industry and a bookshop before becoming a full-time writer. She lives in Colchester, the oldest recorded town in England, with her husband and pet guinea pigs. Fascinated by the darker side of royal history, Purcell has also written two historical fiction novels about the Hanoverian dynasty.

Her latest novel is The Shape of Darkness.

At the Guardian, Purcell tagged her top ten books about spirit mediums, including:
Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel

No one writes about the dead better than Mantel. She breathed new life into the bones of Thomas Cromwell and the Wolf Hall Trilogy was full of gothic touches, but this earlier work is on another level. It tells the tale of spirit medium Alison and her toxic relationship with her manager, Collette, who inhabit a drab, threadbare life very like a ghost land in itself. They jazz up the concept of life after death to make it more palatable for their audience, however, the real fiends haunting Alison are obscene and bleakly horrific.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Beyond Black is among Jess Kidd's ten essential supernatural mysteries and Sarah Porter's five top books with unusual demons and devils.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Ten feminist retellings of mythology

Christine Hume is the author of an experimental memoir in the form of three interlinked essays, Saturation Project (2021), as well as three books of poetry. Her chapbooks include Lullaby: Speculations on the First Active Sense; Ventifacts; Atalanta: an Anatomy; a collaboration with Jeff Clark, Question Like a Face, a Brooklyn Rail Best Nonfiction Book of 2017, and A Different Shade for Each Person Reading the Story. She recently curated and introduced two issues, on #MeToo and on Girlhood, of the American Book Review.

Since 2001, she has been faculty in the Creative Writing program at Eastern Michigan University.

At Electric Lit, Hume tagged ten "modern stories that turn patriarchal folklore on its head," including:
Under Everything by Daisy Johnson

Daisy Johnson’s Under Everything hijacks the Oedipus cycle with fairy tale riffs and fingerings. Her Jocasta-figure steps from the shadows into a visceral presence; her Oedipus is trans. The novel’s gorgeous prose immerses us in fluidity—gender, sexuality, memory, language—yet that very mutability, its queer, abolitionist currents, determines “everything” eternally.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Six titles that straddle the line between honest & too honest

Michael Leviton is a writer, musician, photographer, and storyteller. He is the host of the storytelling series and podcast The Tell. He has worked as a screenwriter and contributed music to television shows, including HBO’s Bored to Death.

Leviton's new memoir is To Be Honest.

At LitHub he tagged six books that straddle the line between being honest and being too honest, including:
Deborah Tannen, That’s Not What I Meant

Tannen is a linguist who specializes in identifying and categorizing different styles of communication, but she became a linguist to unravel the communication issues that led to her divorce, so her personal mission often makes this feel strangely like memoir. Tannen suggests that whatever communication style we ended up with probably feels like the only correct one, that anyone communicating differently appears to us as foolish, insane, or evil. Over the course of the book, she tells enough personal experiences that we get a vision of what the world looks like to a communication expert and I find her a riveting character. Tannen doesn’t really make jokes and yet I can’t remember a book that made me laugh this much. Her zooming out on social life feels like a sharper way to express what most great literature tries to. I get the sense from her personal anecdotes that her analysis really bothers people, that she’s often attacked by those who insist that they alone know what’s rude and what’s polite, what’s invasive and what’s friendly, what’s kind and what’s manipulative. As I read, I found that this book explained most things that have gone wrong in my life, solving nearly all my long obsessed-over interpersonal mysteries. I know that’s an absurd level of praise for a book, but I’m not even exaggerating.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 18, 2021

Ten climate change titles about endangered & extinct species

Julie Carrick Dalton's debut novel is Waiting for the Night Song.

[Julie Carrick Dalton's top ten works of fiction about climate disaster]

At Electric Lit she tagged ten books that bring "together a wide range of novels from science fiction to literary fiction to romance, all with an eye on how the loss of species affects how we imagine the future of life on planet Earth," including:
Shipped by Angie Hockman

Shipped by Angie Hockman centers on an enemies-to-lovers romance on a cruise ship exploring the Galapagos. As the characters battle for a coveted promotion at the cruise line where they both work, they contemplate the travel industry’s responsibility to protect vulnerable species and ecosystems. These relatable characters’ choices challenge readers to evaluate their own actions and how those actions might affect other species on our fragile planet.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Nine great sci-fi thrillers

Nick Petrie is the author of six novels in the Peter Ash series, most recently The Breaker. His debut, The Drifter, won both the ITW Thriller award and the Barry Award for Best First Novel, and was a finalist for the Edgar and the Hammett Awards.

At CrimeReads, Petrie tagged nine top science fiction novels built on the chassis of crime fiction, including:
Altered Carbon, by Richard Morgan (2003)

This hardboiled novel is set in the far future, where interstellar travel is performed by transferring one’s consciousness between bodies—known as “sleeves.” The protagonist is Takeshi Kovacs, a deeply cynical former elite U.N. soldier turned private detective, hired to investigate the murder of a wealthy man—by the man himself, who had preserved his consciousness as a backup several days before his death.

With its political and religious themes, Altered Carbon is both a rich read and over-the-top fun, full of sex, violence, and glorious storytelling. It’s also the first in a trilogy, and Morgan only gets better with the second and third books.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Altered Carbon is among Neal Asher's top five favorite about achieving immortality, Ernest Cline’s ten favorite SF novels, Jeff Somers's five books that lived up to the hype, Lauren Davis's ten most depressing futuristic retirement scenarios in science fiction and Charlie Jane Anders's top ten science fiction novels that pack more action than most summer movies and top 10 science fiction detective novels of all time.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Five recent titles featuring superpowered characters

Mike Chen is a lifelong writer, from crafting fan fiction as a child to somehow getting paid for words as an adult. He has contributed to major geek websites (The Mary Sue, The Portalist, Tor) and covered the NHL for mainstream media outlets. A member of SFWA and Codex Writers, Chen lives in the Bay Area, where he can be found playing video games and watching Doctor Who with his wife, daughter, and rescue animals.

Chen is the author of the novels We Could Be Heroes, Here and Now and Then, and A Beginning At The End.

[My Book, The Movie: Here and Now and Then.]

At Chen tagged five recent books featuring superpowered characters, including:
The Green Bone Saga (Jade City and Jade War) by Fonda Lee

The award-winning Green Bone Saga—now in development with Peacock–is the ultimate genre-masher. It’s got generational crime family drama and politics. It’s got intricately constructed fight scenes (which, if you’re an aspiring writer, provide a masterclass in tension and execution). It’s got morally complex protagonists in both the Kaul family and its rivals in the Mountain clan, characters where the terms “hero” and “villain” don’t really apply.

And yes, it’s got powers, as certain groups of people are capable of harnessing the power of a mineral called jade. The result? Speed, strength, and other superhuman abilities, making the Green Bone Saga a blend of eastern and western influences that comes together as something wholly unique—and widely beloved by the fantasy community. With the trilogy finale Jade Legacy scheduled for September 2021, now is the perfect time to dive into this urban fantasy epic.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Jade City is among David R. Slayton's ten favorite urban fantasies that break new ground, Emily Temple's top six epic fantasy series for fans of Game of Thrones and R.F. Kuang's five top East Asian SFF novels by East Asian authors.

The Page 69 Test: Jade City.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 15, 2021

Ten of the best dinner parties in modern fiction

Emma Rous grew up in England, Indonesia, Kuwait, Portugal and Fiji, and from a young age she had two ambitions: to write stories, and to look after animals. She studied veterinary medicine and zoology at the University of Cambridge, then worked as a small animal veterinary surgeon for eighteen years before switching to full time writing in 2016.

The Perfect Guests is her new novel.

At CrimeReads, Rous tagged ten top dinner parties in modern fiction, including:
Expectation by Anna Hope

This story follows three friends, Hannah, Cate and Lissa, as they navigate adulthood and relationships through a decade and more. At one point, Cate and her husband host a dinner party, even though Cate finds the prospect of it excruciating. A key couple arrive late and unhappy, and the evening descends into drunken dancing, arguments and wild accusations, until eventually someone storms out into the night.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Ten top unconventional essays

Eula Biss is the author of four books, most recently Having and Being Had. Her book On Immunity was named one of the Ten Best Books of 2014 by the New York Times Book Review, and Notes from No Man’s Land won the National Book Critics Circle award for criticism in 2009.

At the Guardian, Biss tagged "10 book-length essays that appeal to [her] in their style, and that informed [her] writing of Having and Being Had." One title on the list:
Times Square Red, Times Square Blue by Samuel R Delany

This book is an essay in two parts, and it makes its argument in two different ways, once through a personal recollection of sexual encounters in Times Square, and then through an academic exploration of how gentrification degrades urban life. The essay genre is sometimes divided into two major categories – the formal, or academic essay, and the informal, or personal essay. Here the author leverages both, the two halves making one intriguing book. It is a moving elegy for a Times Square that is now lost, and a spirited appreciation of the porn cinemas and peep shows that brought together men of various races and classes.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue