Monday, July 31, 2017

Eight YA novels that take you on a trip through the 20th century

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

At the B & N Teen Blog she tagged eight YA novels for a guided tour through the 20th century, including:
1929: Bright Young Things, by Anna Godbersen

The first in a trilogy, Bright Young Things is set in 1929 Manhattan, complete with speakeasies, elegant parties, handsome men, and Broadway dreams. Filled with scandal and intrigue, it follows Letty and Cordelia as they make their escape to the big city, Letty to become a Broadway star and Cordelia to find and meet her bootlegger father. Letty finds that show business is harder to crack into than she thought and ends up a cigarette girl at a speakeasy, but Cordelia’s dreams seem, at first, more achievable: she finds her father, joins him in his mansion, and is transformed into a flapper by society girl Astrid. As the three ladies party their way through New York, they learn about friendship, love, and betrayal in the last summer of the Jazz Age.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Eighteen books with very unusual narrators

At Entertainment Weekly, Eric King tagged 18 books with the most unusual narrators, including:
Delicious Foods, James Hannaham

Narrator: Crack cocaine
This novel centers around Darlene, a woman who is unable to cope with her husband's death, abandons her son, and is tricked into slave labor on a produce farm. As she attempts to escape and reunite with her young child, she must also battle her drug addiction. In fact, one of the the narrators of the book is the drug itself, crack cocaine
Read about the other entries on the list.

See also: Lucy Scholes's ten novels told by unusual narrators.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Three of the best books on Haiti

At the Guardian, Pushpinder Khaneka tagged three top books on Haiti. One title on the list:
The Comedians by Graham Greene

Greene's classic tragicomedy is set in Haiti under Duvalier and his sinister secret police, the Tontons Macoute.

Three men meet on a boat to Port-au-Prince: the world-weary Brown, the narrator who owns a hotel in the capital; the idealistic but naive Smith, a former US presidential candidate; and Jones, a charming conman with a bogus résumé. These flawed human beings are the comedians of the title, whose fates become intertwined amid Haiti's corruption and violence.

Brown's life becomes increasingly complicated and fraught with danger after the suicide of a government minister in his hotel's swimming pool, his rekindling of an affair with an ambassador's wife and his getting caught up in Jones's foolhardy escapades.

Though Papa Doc never appears in the novel, he casts a long shadow over events. And in a dig at US cold-war policy, we are reminded that the dictator is a "bulwark against communism", sustained by aid from Washington.

Greene vividly evokes the fear and loathing in Haiti, and his elegantly written black comedy-cum-political thriller allows a light of hope to flicker in the darkness.

After the novel's publication in 1966, a furious Papa Doc banned Greene and his book. The British author died in 1991.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Comedians is among Seth Satterlee's six famously banned books, Paul French's five best books on the misadventures of expatriates, and Amy Wilentz's ten best books on Haiti.

See also Ben Fountain's top ten books about Haiti and Amy Wilentz's ten best books on Haiti.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight new novels that have a travel theme

At Condé Nast Traveler, Marisa Meltzer tagged eight new reads "that will transport you across the globe," including:
We Shall Not All Sleep by Estep Nagy

Seven Island is such a small island off the coast of Maine that it has only two houses: one occupied by the Hillsinger family and the other by the Quicks. Set over three days in the summer of 1964, the two patrician families are dealing with the anniversary of a death, an actual spy in their midst, and children running way too wild. And then there are the servants, who are preparing for a farming ritual called the Migration. Could the politics and culture clashes of the Cold War era play out on one tiny island?
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: We Shall Not All Sleep.

Writers Read: Estep Nagy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 28, 2017

Five books about extreme worlds

Michael Johnston's new novel is Soleri.

One of the author's five favorite books about extreme worlds, as shared at
The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard

To grasp the significance of J.G. Ballard’s novel it’s important to remember that it was written in 1962 because it sounds like a novel that was written in the last few years. In fact, more than one book has been written in the last few years with a similar premise. The Drowned World was the first book I read in what I’ll call the “scientific expedition into an unknown world” genre. A kind of global warming has devastated the world. The polar ice caps are melted, flooding the northern hemisphere, transforming the land into something that resembles the Triassic period (now that’s extreme). But what’s truly great about The Drowned World is the way in which this transformation shapes and affects the characters. Our protagonist literally finds himself regressing into an earlier state, feeling more primitive and impulsive, devolved like his world. It’s a perfect of example of the interplay of character and environment and a keen commentary on the fragility of our society.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Drowned World is among Annalee Newitz's twelve 1960s science fiction novels everyone should read.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Seven YA books that reimagine existing cities

At the BN Teen blog Sarah Hannah Gómez tagged seven books that reimagine existing cities, including:

Remember how we learned in The True Meaning of Smekday that the reason Disney World is so clean is because there are two, and they flip over every night so that the other one can be cleaned? Imagine an upside down London, named UnLondon, that is twisty and…off. China Miéville’s Un Lun Dun takes its characters on an adventure that Alice would find quite familiar, and London denizens or visitors will identify reversed versions of the things they know. Want to stay in England a bit longer? V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series jumps between a bunch of parallel Londons.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten female detectives in fiction

Kristen Lepionka's new novel is The Last Place You Look.

One of her ten top female detectives in fiction, as shared at the Guardian:
Carlotta Carlyle
(Lie Down With the Devil, A Trouble of Fools and 10 other novels by Linda Barnes)

The tall, red-headed, half-Irish, half-Jewish, ex-cop, ex-cabbie Carlyle opens each mystery with a Yiddish proverb (courtesy of her bubbe) but make no mistake – there’s nothing cosy about this series. With a distinctive voice and a world fleshed out with a vivid supporting cast that includes a mafioso lover, an eccentric tenant-slash-assistant and an “adopted” Little Sister from the Big Sisters Association, this is one of my favourite mystery series.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Sam Kean's 6 favorite surprising books

Sam Kean's books The Disappearing Spoon and The Violinist’s Thumb were national bestsellers, and both were named an Amazon “Top 5” science books of the year. The Disappearing Spoon was nominated by the Royal Society for one of the top science books of 2010, while both The Violinist’s Thumb and The Dueling Neurosurgeons were nominated for PEN’s literary science writing award.

Kean's new book is Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us.

One of the author's six favorite surprising books, as shared at The Week magazine:
The Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21st Century Bestiary by Caspar Henderson

Imagine a medieval bestiary of whimsical creatures, but with a twist — the animals here really exist. The book moves alphabetically from axolotl to zebra fish, with a new delight on every page. It's a perfect reminder of what biologist J.B.S. Haldane once said: that the universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we can imagine.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Eight fictional beach reads for foodies

At B&N Reads Madina Papadopoulos tagged "eight works of fiction that are an escapist trip for both the heart and the stomach," including:
The Belly of Paris, by Emile Zola

Those who like hefty beach reads should reach for The Belly of Paris, which tells the tale of a wrongfully imprisoned Parisian man, Florent Quenu, who escapes his sentence and returns to Paris. But, as it is an ever changing city, the Paris he finds is not the Paris he left. He finds work in Les Halles, the city’s famous 19th-century food market, making the title both figurative and literal. As the tale unfolds, the protagonist gives detailed descriptions of food—lards, sausages, fish—and offers unforgettable descriptions in which he likens characters to cheese, such as a sick nobleman who resembles a piece of Roquefort.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 24, 2017

Eleven creepy books set in summer

At Bustle Emma Oulton tagged eleven "scorchingly scary novels set in the summer heat," including:
The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne

Helena was born in captivity, in the cabin where her teenage mother was held for years against her will by Helena's father, a man she loved and feared in equal parts throughout her childhood. Years later, Helena is free and living under a false name — until her father escapes from prison, drawing Helena into a scavenger hunt that only she can solve.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Six books about losing treasured stuffed animals

At the BN Kids Blog Erin Jones tagged six of the best books about losing treasured stuffed animals, including:
I Lost My Bear, by Jules Feiffer

Drama ensues when a little girl loses her bear. She cries, she whines, and she has no sympathy from her parents. Big sister encourages her to throw another stuffed animal to see where it lands and a slew of lost items are discovered. She gladly plays with these toys until bedtime, when she suddenly remembers that her beloved Bearsy is still missing. She scorns her mother for not helping her, continues howling, and when she gets into bed discovers her bear tucked between her sheets. This story will ring all too true for many parents out there!
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven stone-cold classics about cycling

Bella Bathurst is a writer and photojournalist. Her books include The Lighthouse Stevensons, which won the 1999 Somerset Maugham Award, The Wreckers, which became a BBC Timewatch documentary, and The Bicycle Book, which was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2011.

For the Guardian she tagged seven of the best books about cycling, including:
Dervla Murphy: Wheels Within Wheels

Less about cycling, more about puncture repair. Back in the 1950s, Murphy took her old steel-framed tourer and rode away from an almost unendurable situation at home. She went from Ireland to India, and in doing so wheeled herself back to life and to sanity.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Six YA novels with rich and real urban settings

Darren Croucher writes YA novels with a partner, under the name A.D. Croucher. At the BN Teen blog he tagged six YA novels "that make particularly evocative use of their rich—and very real—urban settings," including:
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

Although Thomas’s outstanding debut isn’t set in a named city, it deserves to be on this list, because it feels so viscerally real in its representation of neighborhoods and cities across the country. It could be New York, LA, Memphis, Chicago, Atlanta. The place where Starr grew up is crafted in great depth and detail, down to street names, stores, local eccentrics, rival gangs, while the upscale locations and exclusive school she attends are similarly detailed and specific. By avoiding any one specific place, Thomas gives us a city that could easily be (and probably is) the one we live in, which helps make this a true American city in a true American novel. Her powerful and grounded storytelling puts us right in the middle of the action, however (necessarily) uncomfortable it might make us feel. The most crucial of all YA city stories, right here.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 21, 2017

Five SFF books written collaboratively

Andrew Neil Gray and J. S. Herbison are partners in life as well as in writing. The Ghost Line is their first fiction collaboration. One of their five best SFF books written collaboratively, as shared at
The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson

What happens when two masters of the cyberpunk genre put their heads together? Surprisingly, not more cyberpunk. Instead, what emerged was this unusual novel that posited an alternate version of Victorian England. Here, experiments by Charles Babbage resulted in a successful early mechanical computer and a very different industrial revolution. Starring airships, spies, courtesans and even Ada Lovelace, the dense and complex story revolves around the search for a set of powerful computer punch cards.

Sound familiar? Not surprising: this collaboration helped bring the relatively obscure steampunk genre to wider popular notice and launched a thousand steam-powered airships and clockwork monsters.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six robots too smart for their own good

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog Nicole Hill tagged six robots too smart for their own good, including:
Murderbot (All Systems Red, by Martha Wells)

Despite its chosen appellation, Murderbot is not actually a mass-murdering mechanical psychopath. No, it’s a security bot with a binge-watching addiction and a wit as dry as the Sahara. Who among us, after deftly hacking our governor modules, wouldn’t use our newfound freedom to endlessly stream soap operas? That’s the biggest evidence of sentience there is. That Murderbot holds humans at arm’s length—and would frankly prefer to be left alone—doesn’t stop it from protecting the humans in its charge when a threat strikes their scientific research outpost. It just makes their interactions awkward and complex in ways no episode of Sanctuary Moon could quite capture.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Top ten opening scenes in books

Catherine Lacey's most recent novel is The Answers.

One of her ten top opening scenes in books, as shared at The Guardian:
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

“We are on our way to Budapest. Bastard and Chipo and Godknows and Sbho and Stina and me. We are going even though we are not allowed to cross Mizilikazi Road, even though Bastard is supposed to be watching his sister Fraction, even though Mother would kill me dead if she found out; we are just going.”

All I thought when I read this was, I’m going too.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Fifty of the funniest books ever written

Whitney Collins is the author of The Hamster Won't Die: A Treasury of Feral Humor, creator of the website The Zen of Gen X. At B&N Reads she tagged fifty of the funniest books ever written:
Under the Frog, by Tibor Fischer

An audacious and daring black comedy that was the first debut novel ever to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Under the Frog tells the dark but surprisingly funny story of two Hungarian basketball players, Pataki and Gyuri, between the end of World War II and the anti-Soviet uprising of 1956. Determined to flee their pointless factory work, the two athletes travel to every corner of Hungary, oftentimes in the nude, on an epic search for food, women, and meaning.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Five books that resemble science fiction

Karen Heuler’s stories have appeared in over 100 literary and speculative magazines and anthologies. She has published four novels and three story collections with university and small presses, and a recent collection was chosen for Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2013 list. She has received an O. Henry award, been shortlisted for a Pushcart prize, for the Iowa short fiction award, the Bellwether award, and twice for the Shirley Jackson award for short fiction. Her new novella, In Search of Lost Time, is about a woman who can steal time.

One of Heuler's five favorite books that "stand at the doorway between realistic and speculative," as shared at
The Chess Garden by Brooks Hansen

Ostensibly a story about a doctor who went off to the Boer War and wrote back to his family describing what he saw, it amounts to a fantastic journey to a land where the Platonic ideals of things exist, and where if you destroy the original spoon, then spoons themselves cease to have any meaning. In fact, the journey is about enlightenment and death. The stories that are important to me are, indeed, all about journeys, whether interior or exterior, and the best ones unite these aspects. The Platonic spoon, the ability to destroy the idea of an object, has stayed with me a long time. We understand things only on the basis of the ideas we have about them. Give me something out of context and what will I do with it? Take away context, that’s what interests me. There’s a one- or two-page scene in this book where someone opens up the spigot of darkness, and can’t turn it off. Journeys in fantastic fiction turn the obstacles into metaphors, and in many cases, the goal as well.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 17, 2017

Six top books with remote settings

Gail Godwin is a three-time National Book Award finalist and the bestselling author of twelve critically acclaimed novels, including Violet Clay, Father Melancholy's Daughter, Evensong, The Good Husband and Evenings at Five. She is also the author of The Making of a Writer, her journal in two volumes (ed. Rob Neufeld). She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts grants for both fiction and libretto writing, and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Godwin's new novel is Grief Cottage.

One of the author's six favorite books with remote settings, as shared at The Week magazine:
Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald

A compressed, intensified masterpiece about living in extreme poverty on a London houseboat. When the novel won 1979's Booker Prize, the literary establishment was livid.
Read about the other entries on the list.

My Book, The Movie: Grief Cottage.

The Page 69 Test: Grief Cottage.

Writers Read: Gail Godwin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Five (damn-near) perfect (dark) novels

Karen Runge is an author and visual artist based in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is the author of the short story collection Seven Sins and the novel Seeing Double. One of her five (damn-near) perfect (dark) novels:

“And suddenly solitude fell across his heart like a dusty reflection. He closed his eyes. The dark doors within him opened and he entered. The next performance in the theater of Grenouille’s soul was beginning.”

This is a story about a serial killer such as it has never been told before. What’s so magic about it is that the protagonist is utterly despicable, but… we like him? Despite his sad beginnings, he has exactly zero redeeming features—and yet… and yet… we admire him? Alright, we don’t like him—but we root for him. We don’t understand him—but we feel for him. It’s like falling in love with a narcissist. He makes us furious and desperate and sometimes downright disgusted, but we follow him around like a tortured puppy anyway.

I still cannot figure how Süskind got that right.

Grenouille is a hideous little creature with an extraordinarily refined sense of smell. There is no beauty in his world except for that gifted by fragrance, which he pursues heartlessly, almost in direct contrast to the beauty of the scents themselves. There is nothing admirable in him, except for his keen intelligence (he’s no fool) and this remarkable gift of his. When he discovers a way to capture the scent of human, feminine beauty, he goes from sociopath to psychopath, and there are no limits to what he’ll do to achieve his goal: create the greatest perfume the world has ever known.

I won’t embarrass myself by trying to pick this apart any further. It’s just too layered, too intense, too intricate. This novel stands alone, and has to be experienced first-hand by the reader.

Kudos to the translator. It can’t have been easy, working with words as full and dense as this.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Perfume is among Lara Feigel's top ten smelly books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Eight books about the horrors of adolescence

Sam Reader is a writer and conventions editor for The Geek Initiative. He also writes literary criticism and reviews at One of eight books about the horrors of adolescence he tagged at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog:
Boy’s Life, by Robert McCammon

The best novel by that other ’80s horror headliner, Boy’s Life is as much an exercise in mourning the end of that nostalgic period of sun-drenched boyhood as it is a supernatural thriller about murder and monsters in a tiny Alabama town. In 1964, during a steamy summer feeling the heat of simmering racial tension and the awakening Civil Rights Movement, Cory Mackenson is living the life of a regular 12-year-old boy…until the lonely morning he and his father witness a car careening into a lake, their attempt to rescue the driver from drowning foiled by the fact that he’s already dead, and handcuffed to the steering wheel. That terrible incident marks the start to what turns out to be a quite literally magical summer for Cory—magic both wonderful and terrible, from unquiet ghosts, to bayou sorcery, to the possible appearance of a dinosaur at the local fair. It’s a book that speaks to that part of childhood that is willing to see the strange magic in the everyday—a part of us that rarely survives to adulthood, save in the minds of fantastic storytellers who strive to recapture it and put it down on paper.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 14, 2017

Five books with ambitious birds

Nancy Kress’s SF has won six Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Award. Her most recent book is Tomorrow's Kin, an expansion of the Nebula-winning novella “Yesterday’s Kin,” which takes the story forward several generations.

One of Kress's five favorite "birds that are more than warm-blooded bipeds—birds with ambition," as shared at
Bones of the Earth by Michael Swanwick

Here birds not only know more than us, they are us. Or, at least, our replacements as the dominant and most intelligent species on a far-, far-future Earth. A time travel novel that scrupulously, and ingeniously, accounts for all the paradoxes of bouncing around through huge numbers of millennia, Bones of the Earth creates sentient bird-descendants that live in nests (and messy ones at that), have irritable personalities, and don’t think much of us, who didn’t use our regency over the Earth to much good effect. Birds as scolding Oxford dons.
Read about the other books on the list.

Follow Nancy Kress on Twitter and Facebook.

--Marshal Zeringue

The fifty best works of historical fiction

At B&N Reads Tara Sonin tagged the fifty best works of historical fiction, including:
Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry

This classic children’s novel won the coveted Newbery award for telling the story of two girls of different faiths during World War I who form an unbreakable bond and risk everything to save one another from the costs of war.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Coffee with a Canine: Lois Lowry & Alfie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Top ten secrets in fiction

Eli Goldstone's debut novel is Strange Heart Beating. One of her ten top secrets in fiction, as shared at the Guardian:
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

A masterclass in spare horror. Claustrophobic and beautifully funny, it is a book to stay up all night with. Constance and Merricat are doyennes of the American gothic for good reason – agoraphobic, paranoid and homicidal. The villagers suspect Constance of murder, but there is more to these strange sisters than meets the eye. Jackson herself was a mysterious and solitary figure, accused of being a communist witch by her neighbours and apparently revelling like Merricat in a truly filthy house. Inspirational.
Read about the other entries on the list.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is among Stephanie Feldman's ten best creepy books, Lauren Passell's five top Gothic novels, and Will Eaves's top ten siblings' stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Eight top fantasy books about the end of magic

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog Jeff Somers tagged eight books that "assert that magic was real, but has faded or been destroyed," including:
The Magic Goes Away, by Larry Niven

The stories in this collection pivot on a simple but effective idea, straight out of a role playing video game: magic is fueled by a very real and very finite resource, known as mana. As magical spells are cast, mana is consumed—and as mana runs out, magic dwindles. As the energy crises in the real world made headlines, Niven returned to this concept and made the parallels more explicit, but the stories set in this universe all center on the basic problem: managing a limited resource on which the entire world depends for its normal functioning—an idea Piers Anthony, er, borrowed for his Apprentice Adept universe.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Five examples of creative faster than light (FTL) travel

Jason M. Hough is the New York Times bestselling author of The Dire Earth Cycle and the near-future spy thriller Zero World, which Publishers Weekly said is "a thrilling action rampage that confirms Hough as an important new voice in genre fiction.”

One of Hough's favorite examples of creative faster than light (FTL) travel in fiction, as shared at
Skip Drive

Scalzi, too, gives us a solution-with-limits in Old Man’s War. While the Skip Drive can get you across space in the blink of an eye, the range is limited and, what’s more, you can’t be near a significant source of gravity to use it. This means ships can appear anywhere around a star provided they’re far enough out, and once arriving they still must travel in-system at conventional speeds. It also means a ship can’t just skip away at the first sign of trouble. Best of both worlds!
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 10, 2017

Six books that predicted the future of politics

Edward Luce is the author of The Retreat of Western Liberalism. One of his six favorite books that predicted the future of politics, as shared at The Week magazine:
The Great Stagnation by Tyler Cowen

This minor gem was the first to diagnose the falling rate of productivity growth in the U.S. and the West in general. Cowen skillfully laid out how the "low-hanging fruits" of growth are receding. Today's populist moment was ultimately sparked by fears about the future of work. Cowen's book provides an essential backdrop to our economic anxieties.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Fifteen classic novels under 200 pages

At Bustle, Kerri Jarema tagged fifteen classic novels with a page count mercifully below 200 pages, including:
A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

In A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf imagines that Shakespeare had a sister—a sister equal to Shakespeare in talent, and equal in genius, but whose legacy is radically different. This imaginary woman never writes a word and dies by her own hand, her genius unexpressed. If only she had found the means to create, argues Woolf, she would have reached the same heights as her immortal sibling. In this classic essay, her message is a simple one: women must have a fixed income and a room of their own in order to have the freedom to create.
Read about the other entries on the list.

A Room of One’s Own is among Mary Beard's six best books and Gish Jen's five notable lectures on writing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Five of the quirkiest characters in literature

At Read It Forward, Gail Honeyman tagged five of her favorite idiosyncratic characters, including:
Jane Eyre in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Quirky characters needn’t be exclusively light or comedic (although there are elements of sly humor throughout this book). Jane is, from the outset, a free spirit (“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will”) and her unusual take on the world, her lack of interest in “fitting in”, is one of the things that first captivates the jaded Mr. Rochester (and quickly captivates the reader too).
Read about the other entries on the list.

Jane Eyre also made Kate Hamer's top ten list of books about adopted children, a list of four books that changed Vivian Gornick, Meredith Borders's list of ten of the scariest gothic romances, Esther Inglis-Arkell's top ten list of the most horribly mistreated first wives in Gothic fiction, Martine Bailey’s top six list of the best marriage plots in novels, Radhika Sanghani's top ten list of books to make sure you've read before graduating college, Lauren Passell's top five list of Gothic novels, Molly Schoemann-McCann's lists of ten fictional men who have ruined real live romance and five of the best--and more familiar--tropes in fiction, Becky Ferreira's lists of seven of the best fictional depictions of female friendship and the top six most momentous weddings in fiction, Julia Sawalha's six best books list, Honeysuckle Weeks's six best books list, Kathryn Harrison's list of six favorite books with parentless protagonists, Megan Abbott's top ten list of novels of teenage friendship, a list of Bettany Hughes's six best books, the Guardian's top 10 lists of "outsider books" and "romantic fiction;" it appears on Lorraine Kelly's six best books list, Esther Freud's top ten list of love stories, and Jessica Duchen's top ten list of literary Gypsies, and on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best governesses in literature, ten of the best men dressed as women, ten of the best weddings in literature, ten of the best locked rooms in literature, ten of the best pianos in literature, ten of the best breakfasts in literature, ten of the best smokes in fiction, and ten of the best cases of blindness in literature. It is one of Kate Kellaway's ten best love stories in fiction.

The Page 99 Test: Jane Eyre.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 7, 2017

Karin Slaughter's six best books

Karin Slaughter is the New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author of numerous thrillers, including the Grant County and Will Trent books, as well as the Edgar-nominated Cop Town and Pretty Girls.

She named her six best books for the Daily Express. One title on her list:

A sci-fi story where an older person’s consciousness can be put into a young person’s body. My local librarian said to try it and it opened up a whole new area of the library and started me thinking about stories in a different way. It made me appreciate Neil Gaiman, a fantastic sci-fi writer.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five great mystery novels that are “Howdunnits”

At B&N Reads Jeff Somers tagged five great mystery novels in which the authors "tell you exactly who did it up front, and precisely why—and spend the rest of the book explaining how," including:
The Crossing, by Michael Connelly

Connelly doesn’t come right out and say the two cops Harry Bosch finds himself at odds with are crooked, and the culprits behind the murder of Lexi Parks, but he makes it very clear. Bosch, at this point in the series forced into an unhappy retirement and reluctantly working as an investigator, knows every trick a dirty cop can use to hide errors, plat evidence, and generally gin up a case where none exists, and he can tell from his first glance at the Parks case file that nothing in it is right. The true fun of the novel is following Bosch’s dogged efforts to figure out what really happened.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Top ten books about swimming

Gillian Best is a writer, swimmer, and seaside enthusiast. Her newly released debut novel is The Last Wave. One of her ten top books about swimming, as shared at the Guardian:
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband about their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides them in his books. Then she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving everything, including her family, behind. Here the water issues a siren call that she is unable to resist.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Fourteen books about the Arctic and Antarctica

At Read It Forward, Abbe Wright tagged fourteen top books about the Arctic and Antarctica, including:
Up to This Pointe by Jennifer Longo

Harper Scott's name earns her immediate respect in Antarctic circles--after all, she's related to the famed explorer Robert Falcon Scott. But it's ballet, rather than Antarctica, that consumes the teenager's life. But when things don't go according to plan, Harper decides she needs some time away from the world and worms her way into a spot at McMurdo Station. It's an unlikely premise, to be sure, but Longo makes it work with her emotional prose and vivid descriptions of Antarctic life.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Up to This Pointe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Ten of literature’s more loathsome people

Grant Ginder's new novel is The People We Hate at the Wedding.

One of his top ten book characters we love to hate, as shared at Publishers Weekly:
Mrs. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

She means well—honestly, she does. It’s just that, to Mrs. Bennet, meaning well translates to pawning her daughters off to the richest suitors who come knocking. There’s also that pesky hypochondria thing—those classic, 18th century “nerves,” which flare up whenever things don’t go her way.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Pride and Prejudice also appears on Katy Guest's list of six of the best depictions of shyness in fiction, Garry Trudeau's six favorite books list, Tara Sonin's list of seven sweet and swoony romances for wedding season, Ross Johnson's list of seven of the greatest rivalries in fiction, Helen Dunmore's six best books list, Jenny Kawecki's list of eight fictional characters who would make the best travel companions, Peter James's top ten list of works of fiction set in or around Brighton, Ellen McCarthy's list of six favorite books about weddings and marriage, the Telegraph's list of the ten greatest put-downs in literature, Rebecca Jane Stokes' list of ten fictional families you might enjoy more than the one you'll actually spend the holidays with, Melissa Albert's lists of five fictional characters who deserved better, [fifteen of the] romantic leads (and wannabes) of Austen’s brilliant books and recommended reading for eight villains, Molly Schoemann-McCann's list of ten fictional men who have ruined real live romance, Emma Donoghue's list of five favorite unconventional fictional families, Amelia Schonbek's list of five approachable must-read classics, Jane Stokes's top ten list of the hottest men in required reading, Gwyneth Rees's top ten list of books about siblings, the Observer's list of the ten best fictional mothers, Paula Byrne's list of the ten best Jane Austen characters, Robert McCrum's list of the top ten opening lines of novels in the English language, a top ten list of literary lessons in love, Simon Mason's top ten list of fictional families, Cathy Cassidy's top ten list of stories about sisters, Paul Murray's top ten list of wicked clerics, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best housekeepers in fiction, ten great novels with terrible original titles, and ten of the best visits to Brighton in literature, Luke Leitch's top ten list of the most successful literary sequels ever, and is one of the top ten works of literature according to Norman Mailer. Richard Price has never read it, but it is the book Mary Gordon cares most about sharing with her children.

The Page 99 Test: Pride and Prejudice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 3, 2017

Fifty crucial feminist YA books

At the BN Teen blog Kayla Whaley tagged "50 of the most challenging, encouraging, and empowering feminist books YA has to offer," including:
The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist, by Margarita Engle

Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, known as Tula, was a real-life poet, abolitionist, and feminist in nineteenth-century Cuba. This historical novel in verse chronicles Tula’s young life growing up in a then-Spanish colony, rejecting an arranged marriage, and becoming a lifelong fighter of injustice. Engle’s simultaneously tender and powerful verse is the perfect vehicle to introduce readers to this incredible woman.
Read about the other entries on the list.

My Book, The Movie: The Lightning Dreamer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Five of the best books about psi powers

Daryl Gregory's new novel is Spoonbenders.

One of his five favorite books about psi powers—telepathy, telekinesis, precognition, and other parapsychological activity—as shared at
It’s a Family Thing: Mind of My Mind by Octavia Butler

This 1977 novel, the second book in the Patternist series, was the first Octavia Butler novel I read, and it was thrilling. The story is about Mary, a latent telepath who is part of a breeding program orchestrated by a 4,000-year-old immortal, Doro, whose mind hops from body to body. Mary becomes the most powerful psionic in the world (there are flying telekinetics, too) by linking with first six, then over a thousand telepaths in what she calls a Pattern.

But typical for Butler, Mary doesn’t want to rule the world; she wants to protect her family, and this community of Patternists. When Doro, feeling threatened, attacks Mary, the group kills him. Butler demonstrates that power for the sake of power is a hollow goal.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Sixteen essential pirate fantasy novels

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog Ceridwen Christensen tagged 16 essential pirate fantasy novels. One title on the list:
Magic of Blood and Sea, by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Magic of Blood and Sea collects the duology of The Assassin’s Curse and The Pirate’s Wish, which follow the irascible pirate’s daughter Ananna of the Tanarau. She bugs out of her arranged marriage with a rival pirate clan, who then send the assassin Naji after her. She and the assassin inadvertently trigger an impossible curse, one that binds them in an uneasy and inescapable intimacy. Ananna and Naji must sail across the seas and into the most dangerous waters to break their curse. Ananna is a proud, single-minded creature, a product of her life on the water with her pirate parents, and her matriculation has as much to do with the strength of her convictions as it does her ability to trust and let go. A lovely coming of age tale, with pirates!

* * *

Steel, by Carrie Vaughn

Jill is super bummed when she blows an important fencing match. As she sulks on vacation with her parents on a Caribbean island, she finds the tip of an old rapier. This artifact transports her back to the deck of an honest-to-goodness 18th Century pirate ship. While in many ways Jill is an expert with a sword, she learns quickly that there’s a difference between the heat of the moment and the sanitized matches she’s been trained for. Like some other books on this list, Vaughn includes such historical pirates as Black Beard, with new characters like the female pirate Captain Cooper mixed in. Historical pirates were a lot less hung up on things like race, class, and gender, and it’s cool to imagine how a pirate captain who is a woman would act.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue