Friday, August 31, 2018

Ten top recent witchy novels

Zoraida Córdova is the award-winning author of The Vicious Deep trilogy and the Brooklyn Brujas series. At the BN Teen blog she tagged ten top recent witchy novels, including:
Summer of Salt, by Katrina Leno

A lyrical novel about a young witch waiting for her magic to appear. Georgina Fernweh’s eighteenth birthday is looming, but her power has yet to show itself. Every woman in her family has a gift and knack for potions, which reveals itself before they come of age. But this summer on her small island is stranger even than usual—full of storms and unexpected love. There’s a darkness, too, that Georgina is forced to learn the truth about if she is to uncover who she truly is.
Learn about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Top ten cliques in fiction

Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott's debut novel is Swan Song.

One of her ten top cliques in fiction, as shared at the Guardian:
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

Eugenides presents the reader with two distinct groups – the collective voice of the narrators, a group of teenage boys in suburban Detroit, and the objects of their obsessive fascination: the beautiful, doomed Lisbon sisters, whose tragic fate is revealed in the opening line. The Lisbons are the most enduring example of the familial clique. They are connected not only by blood, but by increasing isolation from their peers, voiceless victims of an overprotective, evangelical Catholic mother. The boys observe from afar, haunted by their memories even in middle age. It’s their shared requiem that lingers.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Virgin Suicides is among David Nicholls's five favorite coming-of-age stories, Julia Fierro's thirteen most dysfunctional parents in literature, Rosa Rankin-Gee's ten top novellas about love, Kate Finnigan's top ten fictional fashion icons, Patrick Ness's top ten "unsuitable" books for teenagers, Cathy Cassidy's top ten stories about sisters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Seven of the best books about family dynamics

Salley Vickers's newest novel is The Librarian.

One of the author's favorite books about family dynamics, as shared at the Guardian:
Mansfield Park is perhaps Jane Austen’s least loved novel, but in my view it is possibly her best for its depiction of the upper-middle-class neglect suffered by Maria and Julia, the spoilt Bertram girls; this in turn leads to their failure to make happy marriages. The novel also adumbrates something that is often overlooked but reads to me like a pre-Freudian grasp of the allure of incest: Fanny, the book’s principal, falls in love with Edmund, the cousin she grows up with, and ultimately he with her (an idea I borrowed for my own novel, Cousins).
Read about the other entries on the list.

Mansfield Park is among Travis Elborough's top ten books featuring parks. Maria Bertram in Mansfield Park is among Melissa Albert's five fictional characters who deserved better than they got.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Twelve books that capture the sparkle of first love

Zoraida Córdova is the award-winning author of The Vicious Deep trilogy and the Brooklyn Brujas series. At the BN Teen blog she tagged twelve books for fans of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, including:
Not the Girls You’re Looking For, by Aminah Mae Safi

Even though To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a heartwarming romance, there are truly poignant and sad moments, making it the perfect blend. Debut author Aminah Mae Safi also strikes that sweet spot. The star of the novel is Lulu Saad, who’s set on world domination with her three best friends. But everything she touches seems to go awry, including causing a scene during Ramadan. Lulu’s story is about a girl who’s a mess trying to make things a little less messy. To do this she needs to let people into her life and open herself up to love, friendships, and self-love.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Mimi Swartz's six favorite books about the medical field

Mimi Swartz's new book is Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart. One of her six favorite books about the medical field, as shared at The Week magazine:
Hearts: Of Surgeons and Transplants, Miracles and Disasters Along the Cardiac Frontier by Thomas Thompson

This is an oldie but a goodie. Thompson, a writer for Life during the magazine's golden age, had near-complete access to Houston's Methodist Hospital and its world-famous doctors in the late 1960s and early '70s — when heart surgery was taking off just like the space program. High drama and high gossip.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 27, 2018

Fifteen books to read on a Spanish vacation

At the Waterstones blog Martha Greengrass tagged fifteen books to take on a Spanish vacation. One title on the list:
Thus Bad Begins
Javier Marias

Award-winning author Javier Marias weaves a darkly thrilling tale of love, betrayal and lives played out in the unhappy shadow of history. He presents a study of the infinitely permeable boundaries between private and public selves, between observer and participant, between the deceptions we suffer from others and those we enact upon ourselves.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Kate Williams's 6 best books

Kate Williams is a British novelist and historian. One of her six best books, as shared at the Daily Express:
THE GREAT GATSBY by F Scott Fitzgerald

An old favourite that shows the glittering, meretricious, empty world of the 1920s.

It was a period of huge transition after the war that would never go back to how it was. Fitzgerald lived the life he chronicled and his descriptions are incredible.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Great Gatsby appears among Jeff Somers's ten best book covers...ever and seven most disastrous parties in fiction, Brian Boone's six "beloved classic novels whose authors nearly cursed with a terrible title," four books that changed C.K. Stead, four books that changed Jodi Picoult, Joseph Connolly's top ten novels about style, Nick Lake’s ten favorite fictional tricksters and tellers of untruths in books, the Independent's list of the fifteen best opening lines in literature, Molly Schoemann-McCann's list of five of the lamest girlfriends in fiction, Honeysuckle Weeks's six best books, Elizabeth Wilhide's nine illustrious houses in fiction, Suzette Field's top ten literary party hosts, Robert McCrums's ten best closing lines in literature, Molly Driscoll's ten best literary lessons about love, Jim Lehrer's six favorite 20th century novels, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best clocks in literature and ten of the best misdirected messages, Tad Friend's seven best novels about WASPs, Kate Atkinson's top ten novels, Garrett Peck's best books about Prohibition, Robert McCrum's top ten books for Obama officials, Jackie Collins' six best books, and John Krasinski's six best books, and is on the American Book Review's list of the 100 best last lines from novels. Gatsby's Jordan Baker is Josh Sorokach's biggest fictional literary crush.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Ten notable books in the history & future of the Western

John Larison is the author of Whiskey When We’re Dry.

At Publishers Weekly he tagged ten books that represent the evolution of the Western, including:
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

The funniest Western. Dewitt’s book rejects Proulx’s realism and the genre’s instance on sentimentality and heroics to deliver a darkly comic subversion of the Western. The book’s heroes would be, in another writer’s hands, the bad guys. But we find ourselves draw to them thanks to a voice that is dry, reflective, and downright addictive.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 24, 2018

Five recent books that explore the secret lives of robots

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog T.W. O'Brien tagged five recent books that explore the secret lives of robots, including:
That brings us to All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries, by Martha Wells, this year’s winner of the Nebula and Hugo awards for best novella. The Murderbot universe includes a continuum of sentient beings, from totally artificial robots, to ‘bots that are constructions combining organic and machine parts, as well as augmented humans, and old-fashioned un-augmented ones. The narrator, who calls itself “Murderbot,” is emphatic that it is “bot,” not robot—more specifically, it is an Imitative Human Bot Unit. (As it has no gender or sex-related parts, I am going with “it” for the pronoun.)

The whole book (which has expanded into three additional novellas and an eventual novel or two) is something of a window into the artificial mind; Murderbot, we learn, prefers the future equivalent of a TV binge to interacting with meatbags, which is an all too relatable stance, even for us humans. It has hacked the internal controls intended to restrict its free thought, but usually decides to carry out its prescribed functions anyway, figuring it’s easier to go along to get along.

Case in point: despite its own autonomy, Murderbot innately understands humans are more comfortable interacting with it when it is wearing its armor that covers its organic parts and makes it look like a robot. For this and other reasons (for one, the threat of deactivation), Murderbot guards its private life from the humans for whom it serves as security detail; even for robots, hell is other people.
Read about the other entries on the list.

All Systems Red also appears among Sam Reader's top six science fiction novels for fans of Westworld and Nicole Hill's six robots too smart for their own good.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Top ten books about strange towns

Shaun Prescott edits Crawlspace magazine and PC Gamer AU. His debut novel is The Town. One of his ten favorite books about strange towns, as shared at the Guardian:
What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry

I’ve read this to my daughter countless times. It takes place in Busytown, so named because its animal inhabitants are very busy. All of the industries support each other. The farmer sells to the market, and the wheat growers also mill the flour, which is then shipped off to the local baker. The lumberjacks fell trees, and the wood is used to build houses nearby. Children’s authors write books upstairs, which are then sold in stores downstairs. Rarely does a working person survive a day without witnessing some devastating-yet-comical disaster. Folk are jailed for stealing bananas. Women are paid for their labour with shoddy jewellery. Busytown has the resources to fund its own space travel too, but what on Earth for? Just more of this, in space? Busytown on Mars?
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Five of the best books about the financial market

Mariana Mazzucato is a Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value at University College London (UCL), and Director of UCL's Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose. Her latest book is The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy.

At the Guardian she tagged five books to help us understand how political forces shape the markets, including:
But what is the “market”? As we close in on the 10th anniversary of the financial crisis, and the Turkish lira crisis draws the eyes of the world back to financial markets, this is worth interrogating in more detail. The word market is often confused with the words “business” and “private sector”, which miss the point. Karl Polanyi, a radical Austro-Hungarian thinker, wrote his highly influential book The Great Transformation during the second world war. In it he argues that markets are not “natural” or inevitable – rather, they result from the ways in which movements shape them and also from purposeful policy-making. He describes not market forces but markets as outcomes of the interactions between business, policy and forces in civil society. Without trade unions we would not have the eight-hour work day that has shaped the market. It is therefore not market forces themselves that are the problem – nor is privatisation – but the way in which markets have evolved to become overly embedded in the narrow interests of speculative finance.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Five inhospitable planets

Kelly Jensen is the author of a number of novels, novellas and short stories, including the Chaos Station series, co-written with Jenn Burke. Her latest novel is To See the Sun.

Jensen tagged five inhospitable planets in film and fiction at, including:
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

This is not the first book of Le Guin’s I ever read, but the one I remember the best. I find the themes of gender identity refreshingly challenging. But when I talk about The Left Hand of Darkness, I usually end up describing the part where Genly and Estraven spend eighty days traversing the northern Gobrin ice sheet. The environment is unspeakably harsh and Le Guin makes it enthralling. I could feel the fat melting away from Genly and Estraven as they balanced their daily calorie expense against necessary exertion. I shivered when I learned that it doesn’t snow when the temperature drops below a certain threshold. I didn’t ever want to know how cold that must be.

Not lost on me was the fact that the beyond bitter cold was the backdrop for the most important part of the book—Genly and Estraven learning to trust each other. It’s similar to putting two adversaries in a remote cabin with only one way in and one way out—and blocking that entrance with a grizzly. Makes a good argument for even a temporary truce, doesn’t it?
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Left Hand of Darkness is among Ann Leckie's ten best science fiction books, Esther Inglis-Arkell's ten most unfilmable books, Jeff Somers's top five sci-fi novels that explore gender in unexpected and challenging ways, Joel Cunningham's top twelve books with the most irresistible titles, Damien Walter's top five science fiction novels for people who hate sci-fi and Ian Marchant's top 10 books of the night. Charlie Jane Anders included it on her list of ten science fiction novels that will never be movies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 20, 2018

Seventeen killer schoolgirls in fiction

At Unbound Worlds Feliza Casano tagged seventeen killer schoolgirls in fiction, including:
Orphan Monster Spy
Matt Killeen

After her mother is killed before her eyes, blonde and blue-eyed (and Jewish) Sarah becomes the key to a resistance plot at the height of the Third Reich. Her mission: infiltrate a school for the daughters of the Nazi elite, pose as someone who belongs, and steal blueprints to a bomb that could devastate Western Europe and pave the path to Nazi victory. The school is far more cutthroat than Sarah expected… but she’s far more dangerous than she looks.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Orphan Monster Spy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Six top instances of dogs in literature

Claudia Dey's new novel is Heartbreaker.

One her six favorite instances of dogs in literature, as shared at Publishers Weekly:
The Dark Dark by Samantha Hunt

In the deeply funny and quietly genius short story, "The Yellow," a dog, Curtains, is accidentally hit by the speeding car of lonely, aimless Roy­­. Roy is forty-two. He lives with his ashamed parents. In a fit of self-improvement, Roy has just painted his bedroom yellow and found himself also “turned,” “fermented into something wonderful, something porous and bright yellow.” Then, he crushes Curtains. With the dog, soft and limp, “truly dead” in his arms, Roy knocks on the nearest door. He finds Suzanne vacuuming––“her exhausted life”––her house empty as her husband sensed “a certain ticking,” and evacuated the children, “leaving her alone to explode.” With very few words exchanged––some grief, some arrangements––Suzanne and Roy locate each other’s bodies. They visit “the brightness” that lies just outside of their contained, oppressively un-strange lives––and Curtains, as if such a state is contagious, “turns” in his way, and beautifully, terrifyingly comes back from the dead.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Five soapy novels about women & money

At Daytime Confidential, Andrea Peskind Katz of the Great Thoughts literary blog and salon tagged five fiction books that revolve around money, including:
The Widow of Wall Street by Randy Susan Meyers- This provocative novel just released in paperback perfectly captures the seemingly blind love of a wife for her husband as he conquers Wall Street, and her extraordinary, perhaps foolish, loyalty during his precipitous fall. Phoebe recognizes fire in Jake Pierce's belly from the moment they meet as teenagers. As he creates a financial dynasty, she trusts him without hesitation--unaware of his hunger for success hides a dark talent for deception. New marriage vow: “From Penthouse to Prison?”
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Widow of Wall Street.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 17, 2018

Top ten books for fans of "Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine"

At the Waterstones blog Martha Greengrass tagged ten books for fans of Gail Honeyman's debut novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. One title on the list:
How to Stop Time
Matt Haig

He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he's been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz-Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen a lot, and now craves an ordinary life. It’s a life he once had, long-since buried but buried secrets have a habit of catching up with you and nobody can outrun their own past.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Top ten books about Americans abroad

Ian MacKenzie is the author of the novels Feast Days and City of Strangers. One of his ten favorite books that both handle and complicate the theme of Americans abroad, as shared at the Guardian:
Running by Cara Hoffman

Young, ragged expats hustling and sweating it out in the Athens of the 1980s, a busted love triangle, run-down hotels far from the Acropolis, the romance and terror of living hand-to-mouth a long way from home. The writing is impressionistic and soulful, the characters scarred and affecting.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Five of the best books on self-obsession

Will Storr is an award-winning journalist and novelist. His latest book is Selfie: How the West Became Self-Obsessed.

One of Storr's five best books on self-obsession, as shared at the Guardian:
Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard specialises in semi-fictional self-obsession. A Death in the Family [My Struggle, Book One], translated by Don Bartlett, charts a period of his life centring around his alcoholic father’s death. Knausgaard has a spectacular gift for finding profundity in the mundane details of his existence. In other books, his fascination with himself can sometimes become too much, but the balance between intimate detail and story is pretty much perfect here.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Eight intriguing dark fantasy noir novels

Sam Reader is a writer and conventions editor for The Geek Initiative. He also writes literary criticism and reviews at At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog he tagged "eight novels that blend the darker side of fantasy with the dark side of detective fiction," including:
The Manual of Detection, by Jedediah Berry

In a bizarre city that seems stuck in a perpetually rainy day in the 1930s, clerk Charles Unwin is suddenly promoted to the position of Inspector at his monolithic detective agency. His job is to solve the disappearance of the agency’s star detective, Travis T. Sivart, whose absence may threaten to upset the balance of power in the city, and whose greatest cases might have been solved incorrectly. It wouldn’t be a detective story without numerous twists and turns, and by the time Berry’s surrealistic city noir reaches its conclusion, it’s unclear whether the city is even fully real, whether the Agency is on the level, or exactly who (if anyone) is on Unwin’s side. This weirdness just enhances a terrific mystery that’s really an examination of the very nature of mysteries.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Manual of Detection is among Patrick Hemstreet's five top books for the psychonaut.

The Page 69 Test: The Manual of Detection.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 13, 2018

Caitlin Moran's 7 favorite books about youth, music, & fame

Caitlin Moran's new novel is How to Be Famous. One of her seven favorite books about youth, music, and fame, as shared at The Week magazine:
Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins by Rupert Everett

The true heir to David Niven's sweat-and-glitter memoirs, Everett's endlessly funny, endlessly frank account of going from rent boy to Hollywood star effectively torpedoed his career for the next decade, as Hollywood decided it could not deal with this much ravishingly bitchy truth. His observations on co-stars Sharon Stone and Madonna will never be bettered.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Ten books to read after "The Handmaid's Tale"

At the Waterstones blog Martha Greengrass tagged ten books for readers "enthralled by Margaret Atwood's haunting dystopian vision in The Handmaid's Tale," including:
Women & Power
Mary Beard

“We have to retell stories of women’s power, re-evaluate what power is.” Acclaimed classicist Mary Beard presents a revolutionary manifesto for our time, exploring women in power from Medusa to Merkel and presenting a new feminist roadmap. Hard-hitting, unapologetic and wise.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Ten essential sexy thrillers

Laura Griffin's latest novel is Desperate Girls.

One of her ten favorite steamy thrillers, as shared at Publishers Weekly:
Her Darkest Nightmare by Brenda Novak

This chilling psychological thriller is set in Alaska, where Dr. Evelyn Talbot runs a maximum-security psychiatric facility called Hanover House. Evelyn’s work studying psychopaths encounters widespread resistance from locals, including the town’s police sergeant, who comes to Evelyn’s aid when she becomes the target of a disturbed killer. The story showcases Novak’s talent for dark suspense with an undercurrent of romance.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 10, 2018

Ten books to read before getting divorced

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and the Ustari Cycle from Pocket/Gallery, including We Are Not Good People. At the B&N Reads blog he tagged ten books for those considering divorce, titles that "will offer perspective, advice, and entertainment, and just might make the decision easier for you, whatever you choose." One entry on the list:
Heartburn, by Nora Ephron

Not only was Ephron a great writer, and not only is this a great novel, but the fact that it’s largely autobiographical should be comforting. If a smart, rich, successful people like Ephron can suffer through a brutal divorce, you don’t have to feel too bad about your own. And if she can come out stronger and wittier for it, maybe you can too. As an added bonus, this story of cookbook author Rachel’s split from her philandering husband is side-splittingly funny.
Read about the other books on the list.

Heartburn is among Diana Secker Tesdell's top ten memorable meals in literature and Anna Murphy's top ten lesser-known literary heroines.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Top ten novels about riots

A.G. Lombardo is the author of Graffiti Palace: A Novel.

One of his ten favorite novels about riots and rebellion, as shared at the Guardian:
The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

Roth’s alternate history speaks to today’s intolerance. In 1940, aviation hero (and antisemite) Charles Lindbergh joins the America First party (sound familiar?). He becomes the surprise celebrity Republican candidate for president. Wildly popular in the midwest and south, he’s elected. Young Philip’s Jewish family is torn apart under the new regime. Jewish boys are shipped to southern farms to be “Americanized”. Entire Jewish families are relocated. Riots and resistance tear lives apart. Personal and public, the Roth family’s story is America’s.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Plot Against America is on Tara Sonin's lits of twenty-five notable fictional presidents, James Miller's top ten list of conspiracy theories in fiction, Jeff Somers's six best list of insane presidents, D.J. Taylor's top ten list of counter-factual novelsKatharine Trendacosta and Charlie Jane Anders's top ten list of epic power struggles, Steven Amsterdam's list of five top books on worry, Stephen L. Carter's list of five top presidential thrillers, and David Daw's list of five American presidents in alternate history.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Ten of the best book covers of all time

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and the Ustari Cycle from Pocket/Gallery, including We Are Not Good People. At the B&N Reads blog he tagged ten of the best book covers of all time, including:
The Godfather, by Mario Puzo

Simple and stark, this cover, created by S. Neil Fujita, conveys the rotten power Puzo examines, even as it intrigues the potential reader. It could just as easily be the cover to a horror novel—which isn’t actually that far off the mark, if you think about it. There aren’t too many book covers that create what’s essentially a brand logo, but that’s just what this one did.
Learn about the other entries on the list.

Also see: The five worst book covers ever.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Tessa Arlen’s top five historical novels

Tessa Arlen is the author of the Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson historical mystery series set in England in the early nineteen-hundreds. Her latest mystery, Death of an Unsung Hero, takes place in 1916 in WW1 in a hospital for shell-shocked officers.

Arlen’s top five historical novels:
I, Claudius, by Robert Graves is a superbly chronicled account of Rome’s ambitious, corrupt and ruthless Julio-Claudian dynasty. Richly detailed, often very funny, it relates the adventures of the Emperor Claudius who was considered to be an idiot by his powerful family. By playing up to their expectations Claudius survived Emperor Augustus' ruthlessly ambitious wife, Livia, who had a tendency to meddle with poison, to become the only emperor who struggled to return Rome to the republic.

Kate Atkinson's A God in Ruins. I am never disappointed by this author, and her two books about the Todd family (spanning the first five decades of the 20th century) are extraordinarily atmospheric in time and place. A God in Ruins (Book #2) tells the story through Teddy Todd: would-be poet, heroic WW2 fighter pilot, husband, father, and grandfather, as he navigates the perils and progress of a rapidly changing world that brought out some of the very best and worst of human kind.

Patrick O'Brian’s honest to goodness and utterly lovable Captain Jack Aubrey and his more complex friend and fellow shipment (surgeon/spy/naturalist) Stephen Maturin are the mainstays of this twenty-one book series set during the Napoleonic wars in the British Royal Navy. In The Nutmeg of Consolation, the name of a sweet-smelling ship from the spice islands, Aubrey and Maturin are temporarily out of action on an island in the South China Sea where Aubrey and his starving crew are attacked by pirates then rescued by a Chinese ship that takes them to Batavia, where Raffles (Sir Stamford who bought the island of Singapore in 1822) has a ship, the Nutmeg, for them. O’Brian used the massive naval archive of documents and ships logs at the British Maritime Museum for his research, but it is his richly depicted characters that make these books such pleasurable reading.

Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose takes place in a bleakly cold and isolated Benedictine monastery in 1327 during the darkest days of Christian government when the Catholic church considered heresy to be an unpardonable sin and had perfected the atrocities of the Inquisition to root out dissenters. This is not the sort of book you want to read on a cold, wet winter afternoon when your bank account is at an all-time low, or your adolescent children are giving you hell, but it does have some wonderful moments, not least a plot with as many twists and turns as an ancient medieval library.

The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton. I was thirteen and teeming with hormones, so this deeply romantic love story was everything I needed to while away the tedious hours of a girls boarding school in rural England. Written in 1954 it tells the story of the historically important, 14th-century love affair in England between Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the third surviving son of King Edward III. I was in love with John of Gaunt for years, but more importantly, this well-researched novel is a fascinating mediaeval history of the last of the Plantagenet rulers. If you have an adolescent daughter who spends too much time texting, then give her this to read!
Visit Tessa Arlen's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Tessa Arlen & Daphne.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 6, 2018

Five books about ridiculously powerful wizards

Jenn Lyons lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, three cats and a nearly infinite number of opinions on anything from Sumerian mythology to the correct way to make a martini. She is a video game producer by day, and spends her evenings writing epic fantasy. A long-time devotee of storytelling, she traces her geek roots back to playing first edition Dungeons & Dragons in grade school and reading her way from A to Z in the school’s library.

Her debut epic fantasy novel, The Ruin of Kings (first in the five-book Godslayer Cycle,) is scheduled for release from Tor Books in Winter, 2019.

One of Lyons's "five favorite books (or series) with wizards, witches, and sorcerers who were not at all squeamish about opening a magical can of ungodly power on their enemies, deities, and the whole world, not necessarily in that order," as shared at
The Black Company by Glen Cook

This take on a mercenary company caught in the crossfire of a rebellion against an evil god-like sorceress was my introduction to grimdark fantasy. I was blown away by Cook’s descriptions of wizards so powerful they were immortal and all but unkillable, in a world where everyone was interesting but nobody was good. I was equally impressed by the sorcerous women, every bit as terrifying as the men; women who didn’t depend on feminine whiles or seduction (although yes, the Lady is beautiful and in later books there is a romance sub-plot) but preferred to magically annihilate anyone who got in their way. This tale of soldiers desperately trying to hang on to what little humanity they still possess remains one of my all-time favorites.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The ten graphic novels everyone should read

Paul Gravett is a London-based freelance journalist, curator, lecturer, writer and broadcaster, who has worked in comics publishing and promotion since 1981. He the author of Mangasia: The Definitive Guide to Asian Comics.

Two titles on his list of ten graphic novels everyone should read, as shared at the Guardian:
The broader sweeps of history have been recorded in graphic memoirs. There is an unparalleled immersive immediacy to the hand-drawn, handwritten, black-and-white, personal stories of the Holocaust and Iran’s Islamic regime in Art Spiegelman’s Maus (1980-91) and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis (2000). These accessible and acclaimed autobiographical works – Maus won a Pulitzer prize; Persepolis was taught to soldiers at the US’s West Point Academy – are essential foundation stones of the modern medium and continue to inspire other works of graphic non-fiction.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see Ross Johnson's twelve titles for readers new to graphic novels, Brian Boone's ten essential nonfiction graphic novels, Saskia Lacey's five fantastic coming-of-age graphic novels, Ross Johnson's twelve top graphic novels in which the personal is political, Ian Williams's ten top uncanny graphic novels, Max Brooks's seven top graphic novels about war, Robin Etherington's ten top graphic novels, Nicole Hill's five graphic novels for beginners, Mary Talbot's top ten graphic memoirsRachel Cooke's ten best graphic novelsLev Grossman's top 10 graphic novels, and Malorie Blackman's top 10 graphic novels for teenagers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Maeve Higgins's favorite funny essay collections

Maeve Higgins is the host of the hit podcast Maeve In America: Immigration IRL. She has performed all over the world, including in her native Ireland, Edinburgh, Melbourne and, most recently, Erbil. Now based in New York, she's made a name for herself there too. In a good way! She co-hosts Neil deGrasse Tyson's StarTalk on National Geographic and has appeared in Comedy Central's Inside Amy Schumer. Higgins's new book is Maeve in America: Essays by a Girl from Somewhere Else.

One of the author's favorite funny essay collections, as shared at Publishers Weekly:
You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson

A dizzying, hilarious trip through pop culture, race, and gender from this young comic. Full disclosure: I am friends with Phoebe. That only makes me more sure of her talent, because any memoirist knows it’s almost impossible to accurately portray oneself in words; self- consciousness, vanity, lack of skill often prevent any possibility of actually translating a person into a book. But this is the real woman; full of life and intellect and fun.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 3, 2018

Six books in which the internet helps destroy the world

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and the Ustari Cycle from Pocket/Gallery, including We Are Not Good People. At the B&N Reads blog he tagged six books in which the internet helps destroy the world, including:
Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood

The role of the internet in the end of the world isn’t made explicit in Atwood’s novel, but it’s clear that the violent entertainment consumed online by Crake and Jimmy is linked to the state of society pre-apocalypse, one ruled by immensely powerful biotech corporations. This future values technical capability above all else, and casually creates life in order to experiment on it, ultimately inspiring Crake to destroy the world entirely. His motivations are up for debate, but the role the internet plays in it is clear, and damning.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Oryx and Crake is among Chuck Wendig's five books that prove mankind shouldn’t play with technology, S.J. Watson's six best books, James Dawson’s list of ten ways in which writers have established barriers to love just for the sake of a great story, Torie Bosch's top twelve great pandemic novels, Annalee Newitz's top ten works of fiction that might change the way you look at nature and Liz Jensen's top 10 environmental disaster stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Top ten artificial humans in fiction

Born in Reykjavik in 1962, Sjón is a celebrated Icelandic novelist. He won the Nordic Council's Literary Prize for his novel The Blue Fox (the Nordic countries' equivalent of the Man Booker Prize) and the novel From The Mouth Of The Whale was shortlisted for both the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. His novel Moonstone – The Boy Who Never Was was awarded every Icelandic literature prize, among them the 2013 Icelandic Literary Prize. His latest published work is the definite edition of the trilogy CoDex 1962.

One of his top ten artificial humans in fiction, as shared at the Guardian:
On Dolls, edited by Kenneth Gross

Gross brings together in one beautiful volume key texts about the uncanny world of inanimate beings, by authors including Walter Benjamin, Marina Warner, Sigmund Freud (on ETA Hoffman’s The Sandman) and Heinrich Von Kleist. The latter’s On the Marionette Theatre makes the unsettling case that the marionettes’ experience is superior to man’s bondage in living flesh.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Five of the indisputably best dogs in (contemporary) literature

Miriam Parker's new novel is The Shortest Way Home.

She lives in Brooklyn with her spaniel, Leopold Bloom.

One entry from Parker's list of the indisputably best dogs in (contemporary) literature, as shared at LitHub:
Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz

Alexandra Horowitz isn’t a novelist, but she writes so well about dogs and dog cognition that I can’t help but write about her here. Inside of a Dog is a book about how dogs work, what they’re thinking about, who they are at their core. She tells us that dogs smell time—they SMELL TIME? But yes, the stronger a smell is, the newer it is. They experience everything via smell. And that’s why your dog might know that you’re home before you walk in the door. He smells you from (literally) a mile away. It’s a book that I consult regularly as I stare across the couch at my dog and think “what is going on in that cute little head (and nose) of yours?”
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Inside of a Dog.

Visit Miriam Parker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue