Sunday, January 31, 2016

Five books about imaginary religions

Michael W. Clune is a professor of English at Case Western Reserve University. He is the author of the scholarly books American Literature in the Free Market and Writing Against Time, and the memoirs titled White Out: The Secret Life of Heroin and Gamelife.

One of his five favorite books about imaginary religions, as shared at
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

Ok, this religion is only partly imaginary. Atwood’s dystopian future society does worship Jesus. But the land of Gilead mixes its Christianity with a proto-steampunk fetish for Victorian times, a patriarchal communism (“from each according to her ability, to each according to his needs”), and a completely unhinged attitude towards sex. When it’s impregnation time, for example, the wife holds the handmaiden’s hands as the latter’s field is plowed by the elderly master on a giant canopy bed. While this novel clearly takes aim at the Evangelical movement of the nineteen eighties, the weird touches Atwood adds to her imaginary religion betray that fascination with religion’s uncanny logic that partially seduces even the sternest critic of faith.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Handmaid's Tale made Jeff Somers's top six list of often misunderstood SF/F novels, Jason Sizemore's top five list of books that will entertain and drop you into the depths of despair, S.J. Watson's list of four books that changed him, Shaun Byron Fitzpatrick's list of eight of the most badass ladies in all of banned literature, Guy Lodge's list of ten of the best dystopias in fiction, art, film, and television, Bethan Roberts's top ten list of novels about childbirth, Rachel Cantor's list of the ten worst jobs in books, Charlie Jane Anders and Kelly Faircloth's list of the best and worst childbirth scenes in science fiction and fantasy, Lisa Tuttle's critic's chart of the top Arthur C. Clarke Award winners, and PopCrunch's list of the sixteen best dystopian books of all time.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Top ten books about gender identity

Lisa Williamson is the author of The Art of Being Normal.

One of her top ten books about gender identity, as shared at the Guardian:
Every Day by David Levithan

What would it be like to not be defined by our bodies? This is the question at the centre of David Levithan’s Every Day. It’s narrated by A, who wakes up every morning in a different body, living a different life. Having always endeavoured to leave as little trace as possible, A does not anticipate falling in love with Rhiannon. A companion novel, Another Day, tells the story from the point of view of Rhiannon and raises more interesting questions about gender identity and the nature of attraction.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 29, 2016

Peter May's six best books

Glaswegian by birth, Peter May is a bestselling crime novelist. One of his six best books, as shared at The Daily Express:
A MOVEABLE FEAST by Ernest Hemingway

An autobiography of Hemingway’s early impoverished years in Paris which made me realise how you had to learn your craft and use the things around you. There was something alluring about 1920s Paris and it became a bible for everything that I wanted to be and do.
Read about the other books on the list.

A Moveable Feast made Jenny Shank's list of five fabulous food-focused works, Olivia Laing's ten best list of books and stories on drinking and booze, Katherine Monasterio's top five list of incredible tales of Paris’s past and present, the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five books on Americans in Paris, Neil Pearson's six best books list, Diana Souhami's top ten list of "books about Paris and London lesbians in the early 20th century", Laura Landro's five best list of books about travel; it is a book to which Russell Banks always returns.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Top ten clerics in fiction

Joanna Cannon is the author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep. One of her top ten clerics in fiction, as shared at the Guardian:
The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

Through his nameless “whisky priest”, Greene asks us to decide between virtue and vice in this 1953 novel. A drunk and a sinner, the clergyman picks his way through Mexico, ministering God’s will as best he can, while fighting self-condemnation and overpowering guilt. Chased by the Lieutenant, who believes the church to be fundamentally corrupt, the priest is eventually trapped by his own compassion. The novel caused controversy when first published, but in 1965 Greene was told by Pope Paul VI: “Mr Greene, some aspects of your books are certain to offend some Catholics, but you should pay no attention to that.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Power and the Glory also appears among Michael Arditti's top ten novels about priests, and on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best nameless protagonists and ten of the best episodes of drunkenness in literature. It is one of seven books that made a difference to Colin Firth.

Also see: Top ten novels about priests; Top ten wicked priests in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Five YA novels for "Sherlock" fans

At the B & N Teen Blog, Shaun Byron Fitzpatrick tagged five top YA novels for fans of Sherlock (starring Benedict Cumberbatch), including:
The Clockwork Scarab, by Colleen Gleason

If you’ve ever wondered if the Holmes family and the Stoker family would get along, Colleen Gleason has you covered. Evaline Stoker is the younger sister of Bram Stoker, and a vampire hunter. Alvermina (Mina) Holmes is the daughter of Mycroft Holmes and, yes, the niece of the famous Sherlock. The two don’t get along too well, and really would prefer not to work together. But when socialites begin going missing around London, Irene Adler (yes, THAT Irene Adler) recruits the two to get to the bottom of the disappearances before more girls are taken. Think steampunk-crossover fanfiction featuring Egyptian cults and a mysterious time traveler. Yes, there’s a lot going on in this novel, but does any of that NOT sound awesome?
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Helen Dunmore's six best books

Helen Dunmore's books include the Orange prize-winning novel The Siege and the new novel, Exposure. One of her six best books, as shared at the Daily Express:
TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf

You can hear the sea in this haunting novel – something that has always been central to my life and writing. It’s a wonderful portrait of the parent-child relationship but it’s also about the search for liberty and the acknowledgement of limitations.
Read about the other books on the list.

To the Lighthouse appears among Annie Baker's six favorite books, Meg Wolitzer's five favorite books by women writers, Laura Frost's top 10 best modernist books, the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five unforgettable fathers from fiction, Margaret Drabble's top ten literary landscapes, the American Book Review's 100 best last lines from novels, Amity Gaige's best books, and Adam Langer's best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 25, 2016

Top ten squirrels in literature

Elizabeth McKenzie's new novel is The Portable Veblen.

One of the author's ten top squirrels in literature, as shared at the Guardian:
This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff

A squirrel who is an innocent bystander serves as a scapegoat. In this classic memoir, young Mr Wolff (Jack) has obtained a rifle, and, in the lonely hours after school, pretends to assassinate hapless neighbours from his window. Angry that the fools are failing to recognise the danger they’re in, he instead shoots a squirrel off the telephone wire. Later, concealing from his tender mother that he is the killer (“Poor little thing,” she says), Jack identifies with his victim in helpless sobs.
Read about the other entries on the list.

This Boy’s Life is among Tom Perrotta's ten favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Top ten funny first-person narrators

Lance Rubin is the Brooklyn-based author of the YA novel, Denton Little’s Deathdate.

One of Rubin's top ten books with a funny first-person narrator, as shared at the Guardian:
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

I finally read this last year, and I’m sorry I waited so long. Margaret Simon is such a relatable character - smart, honest, neurotic - and her experience of entering adolescence is as awkward as anybody’s, which is comforting. Not to mention funny. One of my favorite lines is Margaret’s description of her current crush: “It’s not so much that I like him as a person, God, but as a boy he’s very handsome.” A super read for girls and boys alike.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Are you there God? It's me, Margaret is among Jim Smith's top ten funny books for kids and Gabriel Weston's five notable books about the body.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Five novels based on bonkers things that actually happened

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 novels based on incredible, unbelievable things that actually happened, as shared at B & N Reads:
Psycho, by Robert Bloch

Although Hitchcock’s film adaptation has eclipsed Bloch’s novel, the book remains a tense psychological thriller. If you think the idea of a disturbed man murdering people and keeping the mummified corpse of his mother seated in his house, where he frequently has conversations with her, to be a bit out there, consider the real-life serial killer the story is based on: Ed Gein, who made “clothing” out of human skin taken from his victims in order to create a “woman suit” he could wear so he could pretend to be his own mother. Bloch claims he wasn’t aware of Gein until the novel was almost completed, but the details are so similar it seems like too strong a coincidence.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 22, 2016

Top ten books about the Cold War

Francesca Kay is the author of three novels: An Equal Stillness (2009), The Translation of the Bones (2011), which was longlisted for the Orange Prize, and The Long Room (2016). One of her ten top books about the Cold War, as shared at the Guardian:
The Book of Daniel by EL Doctorow

An extraordinary novel. Utterly unsparing, brutal and compelling, it fictionalises the Rosenbergs, the couple executed in 1953 for conspiring to pass US atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. Seen through the eyes of their son, it gives a view from another side of the cold war – that of the committed American left. But it is no polemic; instead, it enters completely into the heart of a damaged man and asks important questions about loyalty, betrayal, and political engagement.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see: Five top books on The Cold War, Five best forgotten Cold War thrillers, Five best windows on the Cold War, Five best books about Cold War culture, and Five best Cold War classics.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Seven YA novels set in the American West

Rachel Paxton-Gillilan is a freelance writer and semi-professional nerd.

At the B & N Teen Blog she tagged seven young adult novels set in the American West, including:
Montana: The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily M. Danforth

Cameron’s story is not only enjoyable to read, it’s also incredibly important and powerful. The death of her parents mean they will never learn her secret—that she’s gay. Racked with guilt and relief, Cameron moves in with her conservative grandmother and aunt in rural Montana. Soon she falls in love with a beautiful cowgirl who wants to experiment, but when the two girls are caught, it’s off to religious conversion camp for Cameron. As she struggles with her feelings of guilt, she meets other gay teens and finally begins to find herself with help from her loving friends.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Eight top true crime books

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 eight top true crime books, as shared at B & N Reads:
The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town, by John Grisham

Grisham’s first work of non-fiction is perfect for fans of Making a Murderer: In 1988, Ron Williamson, former major league baseball prospect suffering from depression and alcoholism, was convicted of raping and murdering a local cocktail waitress—but as Grisham documents, the incompetent local police and prosecutors more or less constructed the flimsy case against him using every tool of bad police work and overly-agressive prosecution available. Williamson was released in 1999 after—you guessed it—DNA evidence proved his innocence. This book will challenge your faith that everyone in this country is innocent until proven guilty.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Top ten worriers in children’s literature

Georgia Pritchett is a TV comedy writer (for Veep, among others) and the author of the Wilf series of books. One of her ten favorite worriers in children’s literature, as shared at the Guardian:
Lola Rose in Lola Rose by Jacqueline Wilson

I could really have picked any Jacqueline Wilson character although I have a particular fondness for Lola. There is no other writer who tackles such difficult subjects with her characters facing genuinely frightening and difficult situations – and yet she does so with such warmth and reassurance. I’m sure she has done more to help anxious and frightened children than any other author.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 18, 2016

Samantha Hunt's six favorite books

Samantha Hunt is the author of the acclaimed first novel The Seas, The Invention of Everything Else, and the newly released Mr. Splitfoot.

One of Hunt's six favorite books, as shared at The Week magazine:
Hotel World by Ali Smith

The miniature is irresistible to me. Once, when I was a girl, I was given a set of tiny green lemonade glasses for my dollhouse and I swallowed the glasses whole as if they were pills. The books on this list elicit a similar reaction. Smith's short novel is broken into the even shorter narratives of five women in and around a hotel. Each microcosm offers an intensity that haunts the others. If I could eat this book, I would.
Read about the other books on the list.

Visit Samantha Hunt's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Invention of Everything Else.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Top ten serial killer novels

Elizabeth Heiter likes her suspense to feature strong heroines, chilling villains, psychological twists, and a little bit (or a lot!) of romance. Her research has taken her into the minds of serial killers, through murder investigations, and onto the FBI Academy’s shooting range.

Heiter's newest novel is Seized.

One of the author's ten favorite serial killer novels, as shared at The Strand Magazine:
Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

When I first heard about this book written in first person from the point of view of a serial killer, I was skeptical – and intrigued. But Lindsay made Dexter fascinating by creating a serial killer with a conscience – of sorts. Adopted by a police officer who recognized what he was from the start, and taught to use his desire to kill for “good,” Dexter only kills people who deserve it. Add in his job as a blood spatter expert for the police department and you’ve got a really engaging read from an author who actually makes you root for the serial killer!
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Top ten mysteries set in Asia

Barry Lancet's Japantown, an international thriller, won the prestigious Barry Award for Best First Mystery Novel, and was selected by both Suspense Magazine and renowned mystery critic Oline Cogdill as one of the Best Debuts of the Year. His second book, Tokyo Kill, was a finalist for a Shamus Award for Best P.I. Novel of the Year and was selected as a must-read for Asian leaders by Forbes magazine. The third entry in the Jim Brodie series is Pacific Burn. One of Lancet's top ten mysteries set in Asia, as shared at The Strand Magazine:
Bangkok 8 by John Burdett

The first entry in an ongoing series, Bangkok 8 captures the steamy sensuality of Thailand’s capital with empathy and heart. Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a devout Buddhist and son of a local bar girl and a long-gone American soldier, is assigned to protect an African-American marine, who is soon found dead of snake bites inside a locked Mercedes Benz. Sonchai’s investigation takes him careening through all levels of society. The novel is a great dense stew of a story—at various times surreal, tongue-in-cheek, and piercingly honest—a description that could neatly sum up Bangkok itself.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books of 2015: MomAdvice

Amy Allen Clark tagged her top ten books of 2015, including:
All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places is a beautiful story of two sweet kids who find each other just when they need one another the most. Niven sheds light on a topic rarely discussed in YA literature sharing the true struggles of mental illness as Finch, the main character, struggles with bipolar disorder.

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

The stigma attached to mental illness and the reaction of his peers to this, make this a compelling read for any teen in understanding what it would be like to live with mental illness. This was heartbreaking, beautiful, and provided a thoughtful ending with a great resources & info list for kids struggling with (or who have family/friends struggling with) mental illness at the end of the book. I highly recommend this one for a well-captured idea of what living with bipolar disorder would feel like.
Read about the other entries on the list.

All The Bright Places is among Shaun Byron Fitzpatrick's seven new YA novels that deal with death.

Writers Read: Jennifer Niven.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 15, 2016

Top ten feminist heroes in fiction

Maria Turtschaninoff is a Finnish fantasy author. One of her ten favorite feminist heroes in fiction, as shared at the Guardian:
Alanna in The Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce

This is a series I wish I had discovered as a child. I truly would have loved to read about Alanna, the high-born noble girl who wants to become a knight. She hides her gender and takes her twin brother’s place in the royal palace, learning to fence and fight. In many ways Alanna gets the best of two worlds: she earns her place and respect as a man, but also has a special bond with the Goddess as her feminine self.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Alanna: The First Adventure is among Gail Carriger's top five books where girls disguise themselves as boys.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Top ten failed romances in fiction

Rachel B. Glaser's books include the short story collection Pee On Water and the novel Paulina and Fran. One of her top ten failed romances in fiction, as shared at the Guardian:
Lucinella by Lore Segal

This meta-novella is a love letter to writing. Early on, the protagonist, Lucinella, meets a poet, but finds him lacking: “What I cannot forgive is the meagerness of the back of William’s neck.” My favourite aspect of this book is that Segal creates older and younger versions of Lucinella and puts them in scenes with Lucinella. So Lucinella must watch William flirt with young Lucinella, and Lucinella must see her future observing old Lucinella. Segal’s wild narration explores disappointment and ambivalence in love in frank, charming, and innovative ways, such as Lucinella watching her ex mourn her from the grave.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Six top books from an animal’s point of view

Sam Reader is a writer and conventions editor for The Geek Initiative. He also writes literary criticism and reviews at One of his top six books from an animal’s point of view, as shared at the B & N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog:
The Bees, by Laline Paull

Laline Paull’s debut novel casts the lives of bees as a theocratic dystopia. Flora 717 is a worker born to the sanitation caste, an “unclean” who will remain furthest from the queen. But Flora isn’t a normal worker—she is able to adapt to tasks and exercises free will, something abhorrent to the bees around her, who know their assigned roles and stay in them. Adding dialogue and intent to the movements of bees makes them even more alien and terrifying than they already are, as they ritually slaughter each other for imperfections and hum with devotion for their Queen, the Holy Mother. Paull also creates a vast and unsettling world inside the confined space of the hive, including nurseries, prisons, and other structures analogous to humans. With Flora 717’s changing stature and ability to act independently, the novel also uses the collectivist hivemind for great effect as it explores ideas of free will and the individual in society.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Five top books about fantastical islands

Simon Sylvester is a writer, teacher and occasional filmmaker. His debut novel is The Visitors.

One of Sylvester's five favorite books about fantastical islands, as shared at
The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

Not one island, here, but scores of them—the scattered archipelago of Kirsty Logan’s dreamy debut is all that remains in a flooded world, where life is governed by boats and boundaries. Singing for their supper, a ragtag circus ship drifts between the last remaining islands, the crew simmering with passions and resentments. Logan’s novel explores not just the physical borders of these islands, but also the emotional space we cast about ourselves. The Gracekeepers is a sumptuous thing, braided with glitter, grit and wonder.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 11, 2016

Top ten family thrillers

Jenny Milchman's books include Cover of Snow, Ruin Falls, and As Night Falls. One of the author's ten top family thrillers, as shared at The Strand Magazine:
Linwood Barclay, Fear the Worst

Barclay, like another family thriller author we will encounter in this list, writes “daddy lit.” Tim Blake is an average guy with an ex-wife and a ho-hum job. Then one day his teenage daughter vanishes. Discovering where Sydney has gone will require Tim to pull back the curtain on his seemingly quiet suburban town.

Carla Buckley, The Things That Keep Us Here

One morning after Buckley had recently moved, she woke up with this fear: what if a pandemic struck her new neighborhood and she had nobody to turn to for help? This claustrophobic scenario drives Buckley’s debut in which avian flu shuts down a suburban town, isolating Ann Brooks, her daughters, and her soon-to-be ex-husband in a house that suddenly becomes their prison.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Six top books about the creative process and its effects

David Thomson is the author of more than thirty books on film, including The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles, The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood, and the recently released How to Watch a Movie. One of six favorite books about the creative process and its effects, as shared at The Week magazine:
Like a Rolling Stone by Greil Marcus

In June 1965, Bob Dylan recorded his highest-charting hit, "Like a Rolling Stone," and here Greil Marcus creates a 283-page biography of the song, its impact, and its following over the years. It's a lesson in listening to the ripples made by an original sound.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Top ten U.S.-set crime novels of 2015: MysteryPeople

At MysteryPeople Molly tagged her top ten U.S.-set crime novels of 2015, including:
Monday’s Lie by Jamie Mason

Mason, in Monday’s Lie, has created the perfect mixture of espionage thriller and domestic suspense. Mason’s protagonist has learned the art of observation from her secret agent mother from a young age, rebelling through self-imposed oblivion. When her marriage goes south and a mysterious stranger begins tailing her, she and must tap into her spy skills to find a resolution.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Monday's Lie.

My Book, The Movie: Monday's Lie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six top books for grownup horse lovers

At B & N Reads Monique Alice tagged six top books for grownup horse lovers, including:
Borrowed Horses, by Sian Griffiths

This moving story begins when Joannie Edson gets some bad news. The Equestrian Olympic hopeful finds herself at a crossroads when her mom’s multiple sclerosis worsens. Joannie does the only thing she can, moving back to Idaho to help out with her family’s struggle. Once there, it becomes clear her beloved horse is getting on in years and won’t be able to compete. Joannie must decide whether to pursue the romance she has long put off in favor of her career, or to pour all her energy into an abused and frightened mare that just might hold the key to her Olympic dreams. This book is full of themes familiar to many lifelong riders—small-town gossip, tested dedication, and the value of compassion. Most of all, Borrowed Horses reminds us our four-legged companions teach us much more than we could ever teach them.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 8, 2016

The fifteen best books of 2015: Elle UK

ELLE UK's literary editor tagged fifteen of the best books of 2015, including:
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson (Doubleday)

The follow-up to Atkinson’s beloved Life After Life managed to be just as moving and unexpected as the original. Although having read Life After Life will add some layers to this reading experience, you can read this exceptional novel as a standalone and it will have just as much emotional impact.
Read about the other books on the list.

A God in Ruins is among Time magazine's top ten fiction books of 2015.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten terrifying teachers in children’s books

Sophie Cleverly is the author of The Whispers in the Walls and other books in the Scarlet and Ivy series of mystery adventures set in a boarding school. One of ten top terrifying teachers in children’s books she tagged at the Guardian:
Miss Lupescu in The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Miss Lupescu is a terrifying teacher in a few strange and unexpected ways. When she’s first set the task of looking after Bod, a child raised in the graveyard, she is strict and seems lacking in empathy. She feeds him strange, horrible foods that make him sick: “dumplings swimming in lard; thick reddish purple soup with a lump of sour cream in it; cold boiled potatoes; cold garlic-heavy sausages.” She demands that he pays attention to her boring lessons. Only later on in the book when Bod falls into deep trouble with a group of ghouls do we find that these lessons were very important indeed. Miss Lupescu is much more than she seems, and she becomes an important guardian, protector and friend for Bod.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Graveyard Book is among Claire Barker's top ten haunted houses in fiction, Jon Walter's ten top first lines in children's and teen books, Helen Grant's ten "best books with settings that are strikingly brought to life" and Nevada Barr's 6 favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The five best evil lieutenants in SF/F

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 best evil lieutenants (or "dragons") in SF/F, as shared at the B & N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog:
Most Satisfying Downfall for a Dragon: Lucius Malfoy, The Harry Potter Series, by J.K. Rowling

The story of Lucius Malfoy is easily one of the most satisfying in Dragon history. He begins the series as Voldemort’s most trusted and active lieutenant, leader of the Death Eaters, and father of the despicable Draco. Add in his immense wealth and raging bigotry, and you have a Dragon that’s easy to hate—so watching his systematic downfall over the course of the books is a lot of fun, even if he does escape ultimate punishment due to a convenient last-minute change of heart stemming from belated concern over the fate of his family (weak sauce, blondie!).
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Harry Potter books made Anna Bradley's list of the ten best literary quotes in a crisis, Nicole Hill's list of seven of the best literary wedding themes, Tina Connolly's top five list of books where the girl saves the boy, Ginni Chen's list of the eight grinchiest characters in literature, Molly Schoemann-McCann's top five list of fictional workplaces more dysfunctional than yours, Sophie McKenzie's top ten list of mothers in children's books, Nicole Hill's list of five of the best fictional bookstores, Sara Jonsson's list of the six most memorable pets in fiction, Melissa Albert's list of more than eight top fictional misfits, Cressida Cowell's list of ten notable mythical creatures, and Alison Flood's list of the top 10 most frequently stolen books.

Hermione Granger is among Brooke Johnson top five geeky heroes in literature, Nicole Hill's nine best witches in literature, and Melissa Albert's top six distractible book lovers in pop culture.

Neville Longbottom is one of Ellie Irving's top ten quiet heroes and heroines.

Mr. Weasley is one of Melissa Albert's five weirdest fictional crushes.

Hedwig (Harry's owl) is among Django Wexler's top ten animal companions in children's fiction.

Butterbeer is among Leah Hyslop's six best fictional drinks.

Albus Dumbledore is one of Rachel Thompson's ten greatest deaths in fiction.

Dolores Umbridge is among Melissa Albert's six more notorious teachers in fiction, Emerald Fennell's top ten villainesses in literature, and Derek Landy's top 10 villains in children's books. The Burrow is one of Elizabeth Wilhide's nine most memorable manors in literature.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban appears on Amanda Yesilbas and Katharine Trendacosta's list ot twenty great insults from science fiction & fantasy and Charlie Jane Anders's list of the ten greatest prison breaks in science fiction and fantasy.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone also appears on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best owls in literature, ten of the best scars in fiction and ten of the best motorbikes in literature, and Katharine Trendacosta and Charlie Jane Anders's list of the ten greatest personality tests in sci-fi & fantasy, Charlie Higson's top 10 list of fantasy books for children, Justin Scroggie's top ten list of books with secret signs as well as Charlie Jane Anders and Michael Ann Dobbs's list of well-known and beloved science fiction and fantasy novels that publishers didn't want to touch. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire made Chrissie Gruebel's list of six top fictional holiday parties and John Mullan's list of ten best graveyard scenes in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Top ten modern medieval tales

Carolyne Larrington is Fellow and Tutor in Medieval English Literature at St John’s College, Oxford. Her books include Winter is Coming: The Medieval World of Game of Thrones. One of the author's ten top modern medieval tales, as shared at the Guardian:
The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth (2014)

Anglo-Saxon scholars either love or hate Kingsnorth’s evocation of the shocking horrors brought about by the imposition of Norman rule on the fenlands of eastern England. In ironic dialogue with the legend of the English resistance hero Hereward the Wake, it is written in a reimagined language which, almost without exception, uses only words that occurred in Old English. Buccmaster, the book’s protagonist, turns back to the old gods when his life is shattered; but his rage renders him as monstrous as his antagonists.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The twenty best books by women in 2015

One of the twenty best books by women in 2015, as shared at Good Housekeeping:
The Admissions: A Novel, by Meg Mitchell Moore

The Admissions proves that no cookie-cutter family is as perfect as they seem. With great jobs, pristine houses, and charming children, the Hawthorne family appears to have it all. But after the family makes a few ill-advised moves (and the pressure of their high-school daughter applying to Harvard sets in) their suburban scandals and risky secrets become revealed.

Why we love it: Meg Mitchell Moore has incredible character insight.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 4, 2016

Top ten kitchens in literature

John O'Connell is a former Senior Editor at Time Out; he now writes for the Guardian and the Times. His new book is The Book of Spice.

One of O'Connell's top ten kitchens in literature, as shared at the Guardian:
Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding (1996)

Bridget’s valiant attempt to prove herself a brilliant cook and hostess by serving shepherd’s pie with “Chargrilled Belgian Endive Salad, Roquefort Lardons and Frizzled Chorizo” ends in disaster: “Cannot go on, Have just stepped in a pan of mashed potato in new kitten-heel black suede shoes from Pied à Terre (Pied a pomme-de-terre, more like), forgetting that kitchen floor and surfaces were covered in pans of mince and mashed potato.” There’s also the small matter of her storage jars festooned with an “un-hip squirrel design”.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Bridget Jones's Diary also appears on Jeff Somers's list of five memorable books set on New Year’s Eve (and Day), Rebecca Jane Stokes's top eight list of books perfect for reality TV fiends, Melissa Albert list of six of the worst fictional characters to sit next to on a plane, Allegra Frazier's list of five top diary novels, Gigi Levangie Grazer's list of six favorite books that became movies, Caryn James's top five list of recent novels that channel classics, Sean O'Hagan's list of the ten best fictional hangovers in print, film and song, Christina Koning's list of the best of chick-lit, and a list of eight books for the broken-hearted.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Six of the best Shakespeare retellings in YA lit

At the B & N Teen Blog, Jenny Kawecki tagged six top Young Adult reads for Jane Austen fans, including:
Confessions of a Triple-Shot Betty, by Jody Gehrman

In another take on Much Ado About Nothing, Gehrman’s espresso-serving leading lady is less focused on love and more focused on something slightly more important: revenge. When the local golden boy takes advantage of both her cousin and her best friend, Geena enlists some help to take him down. But the best part of this retelling is how Gehrman stays true to the original, with all the inappropriate humor and battle of the wits that make Much Ado what it is. Warning: reading this book will make you crave a nice, hot latté.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Six often misunderstood SF/F 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 six often misunderstood SF/F novels, as shared at the B & N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog:
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

Any novel about state-sponsored book-burning is about censorship, except when it isn’t. The key to fully grasping this one lies in understanding what censorship is; like your First Amendment right to free speech, it’s easy to misunderstand. Censorship is when a government passes a law preventing you from saying something or expressing ideas. When your neighbors tell you to shut up about something, that’s not censorship. The true horror of Fahrenheit 451 isn’t that some awful government is burning books, but rather the much more terrible idea that society as a whole—your friends and neighbors—are allowing books to be burned because they find the ideas in them disturbing.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Fahrenheit 451 is on Alice-Azania Jarvis' reading list on firefighting.

--Marshal Zeringue

The twelve best under-appreciated books of 2015: Brooklyn Magazine

One title from Brooklyn Magazine's list of the twelve best under-appreciated books of 2015:
Beauty Is a Wound Eka Kurniawan

While actually released in 2002, young, Indonesian author Kurniawan’s novel only came out in English this year, but is such a powerful sprawling work, which deals with issues both global and personal that it deserves every possible accolade out there. Or, as we wrote in our review of it in October:
It’s an astonishing, polyphonic epic, a melange of satire, grotesquerie, and allegory that incorporates everything from world history to local folk talks. In style, it owes something to the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Salman Rushdie; in structure and ambition, it recalls Günter Grass’s The Tin Drum, another novel that foregrounds a picaresque narrative against the dense churn of history—in that case, Europe during and after World War II—as a way to understand that history’s effects on a place and its people.
Read it.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 1, 2016

Five YA books with fabulous first sentences

Erin Bow's latest novel is The Scorpion Rules. At she shared five top YA science fiction and fantasy books with fabulous first sentences, including:
Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried out bed of the old North Sea.
My husband read this one out loud to me. He read the first sentence and I said: “excuse me?” and he said: “you heard me.” Mortal Engines is not the Reeve book I’m over the moon for—that would be Larklight—but I cannot think of a better exemplar for the kind of science fiction opening that says: “buckle up, kids.”

I mostly come to science fiction and fantasy looking for character-driven stuff with the occasional dragon attack, but there is no denying the pleasure of the occasional whirlwind tour of a genuinely new world. Mortal Engines promises such a ride, and delivers.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue