Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Seven contemporary monster books written by women

Mallory O’Meara is the author of The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick.

O’Meara hosts the literary podcast Reading Glasses alongside filmmaker and actress Brea Grant.

At Tor.com she tagged "seven fantastically creepy monster books written by (or edited by) women to frighten up your season," including:
Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw

If you want your horror hard-boiled, Cassandra Khaw’s British Fantasy and Locus award nominated novella will give you all the monsters and noir you crave. A private investigator is hired by a ten year old to kill his horrible and abusive step-father. Only the investigator isn’t quite human. He soon realizes that this investigation will be more complicated than he thought. See, the step-father isn’t quite human either. This short book dives into what exactly makes a monster. It’s gory, weird and absolutely incredible.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Nine glamorous women in crime fiction

Erica Wright's new novel is Famous in Cedarville.

At CrimeReads she tagged some of her "favorite mysteries [that] combine a bit of glitz with their murders, showing us how bright lights can cast the darkest shadows," including:
The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye

Lyndsay Faye’s meticulously researched historical novel creates not one but two riveting, dark timelines. In the first (mostly unglamorous) one, we find our chameleon-like protagonist Alice getting caught up in gruesome early twentieth century, Harlem mobster business. After being shot, she flees by train to Portland, Oregon where she lands at the Paragon Hotel modeled after the real Golden West Hotel. The Paragon caters to an African-American clientele, offering an elegant sanctuary from a violently segregated city. Alice befriends a Josephine Baker-type performer, and many scenes are downright Gatsbyesque in their luxuries. The glitter only emphasizes the tenuous, dangerous circumstances of the Paragon guests, though.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eleven top works of science fiction & fantasy by black authors

At the Waterstones blog, Mark Skinner tagged eleven top works of science fiction & fantasy by black authors, including:
Black Leopard, Red Wolf
Marlon James

Already tipped for prize lists in 2019, Marlon James’s follow-up to his Man Booker Prize-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings is a fever-pitched combination of magic, myth and history pitched as ‘an African Game of Thrones’ by the Guardian. The first in a trilogy, set in an alternate world founded on brutal power struggles, it’s a thrilling ride.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf is among Ross Johnson's six SFF novels inspired by the worlds of Africa.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 21, 2019

Five books where gods walk the Earth

L. Penelope's books include the Earthsinger Chronicles: Song of Blood & Stone, Whispers of Shadow & Flame, and the forthcoming Cry of Metal & Bone.

At Tor.com she tagged five novels where gods walk the Earth, including:
The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden

This standalone urban fantasy/sci-fi novel is wildly original and fresh, with a large cast of characters and a story you haven’t seen before. When Sydney, an ancient demigoddess who’s fallen on hard times, discovers that a new drug on the streets unlocks the true inner selves of humans, she figures out a way to use this to get her powers back. It’s up to a ten-year-old girl (also a demigoddess), a teenage boy, a sentient robot, a pop star, and a politician to save their land from this growing evil. The god figure who creates humanity is by turns nefarious predator and gentle old man. Throw in some mind control and a robot uprising, and you have the recipe for a story that is hard to forget.

The idea that both belief and fear are powerful fuel for the gods is explored in the different ways the two goddesses gain power. Early on, as young Nomvula is taught about her powers, she learns that gods, “achieve immortality through their followers, through belief. Likewise, they can draw intense power through fear, though the effects are short-lived.”

Throughout the story, each character experiences an extensive transformation—often internal and external—and by the final battle it’s evident that the difference between gods and men is flimsier than we’d like to think.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Daniel Mendelsohn's 6 all-time favorite books

Daniel Mendelsohn teaches at Bard and is Editor-at-Large at The New York Review of Books. His books include An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic (2017); The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million (2006); How Beautiful It Is and How Easily It Can Be Broken: Essays (2008), and Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture (2012). His latest book is Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones.

At The Week magazine he tagged six all-time favorite books, including:
Emma by Jane Austen (1815).

For me, the Box Hill picnic — the scene where Emma humiliates Miss Bates — is a key moment in English literature: a masterful example of how perfect command of a narrative can lead to almost unbearable emotion. It never fails to make me actually wince.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Emma is on John Mullan's list of ten of the best wines in literature, and among Lucy Worsley's six best books, Sophie Kinsella's six best books, Tanya Byron's six best books, Judith Martin's five favorite novels, and Monica Ali's ten favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Nine crime novels set amid disasters

At CrimeReads, crime fiction maven J. Kingston Pierce tagged nine books that "have combined bona fide historical tragedies with invented misdeeds and mysteries, the disasters often complicating the detection," including:
The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor (2017)

Over five days in early September 1666, the Great Fire of London destroyed England’s capital, gutting its medieval core and pushing tens of thousands of people out onto the streets. Amazingly, only a handful of residents were recorded as having been killed during that conflagration. In Taylor’s tale, one of the men watching flames consume St. Paul’s Cathedral is James Marwood, a beleaguered junior government clerk and the son of a republican who lost everything when Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth crumbled and Charles II restored the monarchy in 1660. Spotting a boy too close to the blaze, Marwood tries to pull him away—realizing only too late that “he” is in fact a quick-tempered teenage girl, who bites him on the hand for his trouble and then filches his cloak. It turns out, that hellion is Catherine “Cat” Lovett, the daughter of a once-powerful religious extremist, who dreams of becoming an architect and escaping an arranged marriage. What links these two protagonists is not simply their families’ inimical relationships with the English throne, but the discovery, in the rubble of St. Paul’s, of a dead man—stabbed and left with his thumbs laced together. Marwood is presently dragooned into investigating this homicide, as well as later atrocities, while political turmoil threatens to devastate the city as surely as any inferno. Taylor shows an assiduous researcher’s touch in re-creating ruined London, though his skill at making us care about two lead players damaged and adrift among forces beyond their control may be yet more estimable.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 19, 2019

The five best books to decode the language of politics

Jess Phillips is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Birmingham Yardley since 2015. She is the author of Truth to Power: 7 Ways to Call Time on B.S.

At the Guardian, Phillips tagged five of the best books about parliament and the life of working politicians, including:
[T]here is no work of literature that reflects better the political language I grew with than The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾. This wild and extended family talked of politics in the way my family did in the Thatcher era. Political books are so often written from the perspective of the politicians, not from the point of view of the people. Sue Townsend’s books are overtly political and represent the language of my constituents better than any lofty diary ever could. As Adrian says: “Mrs Thatcher has got eyes like a psychotic killer, but a voice like a gentle person. It is a bit confusing.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight top books for scary-story season

At B&N Reads Tara Sonin tagged eight suspenseful stories to tide you over until Halloween, including:
The Chestnut Man, by Soren Sveistrup

Scandinavian thriller fans, meet: the Chestnut Man. In Copenhagen, he is killing seemingly at whim, leaving behind tokens of his villainy in the form of dolls made of matchsticks and chestnuts. When fingerprints are found on one of the dolls, a team of detectives with an axe to grind must team up and find the killer. What you think is a straight procedural murder mystery is full of layers and depth—with a female detective at the helm, and an ending that will almost shock the life out of you.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 18, 2019

Ten crime books with supernatural elements and fun

Max Booth III is the author of several novels, including Carnivorous Lunar Activities.

At CrimeReads he tagged "ten crime books that a) feature supernatural elements and b) are a shitload of fun." One title on the list:
Duane Swierczynski, Secret Dead Men (2005)

On top of having a very intimidating surname, Duane Swierczynski has also managed to pen some of the best crime novels of the last decade (I’m looking at you, Revolver). Comic book fans will no doubt recognize his byline among various titles like Birds of Prey, Moon Knight, Cable, and so forth. His debut novel, Secret Dead Men, came out nearly fifteen years ago. As of this writing, it’s no longer in print, and it’s a goddamn shame. This is a story about Del Farmer, a dead man disguised as an FBI agent. He also collects souls and stores them in his Brain Hotel, where there’s plenty of booze and even a bartender. This guy, Del, he can drive a soul just as well as you can drive a Datsun. It’s impressive, the strength of Swierczynski’s writing even back in his first book. There’s a reason he’s considered one of the best in the game today. He can take a premise as silly as Secret Dead Men and make it work. Nothing here reads as farfetched. It all feels genuine—and awesome. If you come across a used copy, scoop it up while you can.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Twenty-one titles for fans of HBO’s "Succession"

At B&N Reads Tara Sonin tagged twenty-one books for fans of HBO’s Succession, including:
Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee

A teenage girl falling in love is a simple story. A girl in 1900’s Japan falling for a married man, and then getting pregnant…isn’t simple at all. The saga in Pachinko is tragic and hopeful; Sunja decides to marry a traveling minister, turning away from what her family believes is honorable and the powerful influence of her son’s father. Her choice has an impact on generations to come, turning a not-so-simple story into a beloved, award-winning epic.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Pachinko is among six books Jia Tolentino recommends.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Ten top lighthouses in fiction

Nicholas Royle is the author of seven novels, two novellas and three volumes of short fiction​. He has edited twenty anthologies of short stories. Reader in Creative Writing at the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University and head judge of the Manchester Fiction Prize, he also runs Nightjar Press, publishing original short stories as signed, limited-edition chapbooks.

At the Guardian, Royle tagged his top ten lighthouses in fiction. One title on the list:
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

To the Lighthouse with guns. All the action Woolf left out ended up in this first part of VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, published in 2014. Four female scientists are transported into an abandoned landscape, Area X, where they face treachery and constant danger. A distant lighthouse represents the possibility of escape. Essentially the record of a really, really bad trip, this is much, much better than the film.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five titles about the horror of girlhood

Damien Angelica Walters is the author of The Dead Girls Club, forthcoming in December 2019, Cry Your Way Home, Paper Tigers, and Sing Me Your Scars, winner of This is Horror’s Short Story Collection of the Year.

At Tor.com she tagged five "books that delve into the secrets and darkness of girlhood," including:
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

In horror, evil children are as much a staple as a final girl, but Zoje Stage breathes new life into the trope with her debut novel.

From the outside, the Jensen family looks perfect. Alex, the father, owns his own architectural firm and Suzette is a stay-at-home mother who home-schools their daughter. Hanna, at seven, is mute, but medical tests reveal no underlying reason for her silence.

But from the time she’s a toddler, there’s something obviously wrong about Hanna. One of her favorite games is called “Scare Mommy,” and we find out that she wants her mother dead so she can live happily ever after with her father. Hanna torments her mother in small and large ways, from writing bad words instead of her spelling assignments, to stealing Suzette’s favorite earrings, to tampering with the medication she takes for her Crohn’s disease. But when Hanna’s father gets home from work, she’s all smiles for him.

The chapters from Suzette’s point of view are filled with frustration, sorrow, and rage as she tries to mother her unlovable child. Those from Hanna’s side of the fence are chilling. She wants her father all to herself and is willing to do anything to achieve that goal.

A healthy relationship between mother and child is one of comfort and guidance, but of her mother Hanna thinks “She was a good opponent.” I found myself horrified at how manipulative and cruel this young girl could be and at the same time, horrified at how callous Suzette could be in turn, yet I couldn’t entirely blame her.

I think the true horror is that there’s no possible way the story will have a happy ending for everyone. Both girlhood and motherhood are irrevocably twisted out of shape. And Hanna, in her youth, doesn’t seem to understand that, although she can manipulate the people around her as much as she can, that’s the only tool she really has. Since she’s a child, the decisions that will shape the course of her life are ultimately not hers to make. I was filled with loathing and pity both for her.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Baby Teeth is among Sally Hepworth's eight messed up fictional families.

--Marshal Zeringue