Saturday, August 31, 2019

Seven techno-thrillers to read as our world crumbles

John Marrs's new novel is The Passengers.

At CrimeReads he tagged seven favorite speculative thrillers from more recent times, including:
The Circle, by Dave Eggers

Knowing how much time I spent (okay, probably wasted) on social media, it was a journalist colleague who recommended this novel to me. I opted to audiobook it and for thirteen hours and fifty-six minutes of the following week, I became absorbed by a not-too-distant future. The story follows Mae, a twenty-something woman, who lands her dream job at The Circle – a Facebook/ Apple-style tech giant and social media pioneer. Its goal is to make the world a smaller place by encouraging us to publicly share more of our lives. Reluctant and reticent at first, Mae gradually becomes convinced it’s the way forward until a series of events opens her eyes to the dangers of total transparency. The Circle is a thoughtful, frightening tale of the power of social media and a herd mentality that doesn’t question what it’s being told.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Circle is among Nick Clark Windo's five books with different visions for a connected future.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 30, 2019

Five heroines over the age of forty

The protagonist of Una McCormack’s recently released novella The Undefeated is a woman way past forty.

At the author tagged "five female characters who can still kick ass, even after forty," including:
Cordelia Vorkosigan in Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold

Fans of Bujold’s space opera series the Vorkosigan Saga have, over the last thirty years, loved her sensible, intelligent, and resourceful heroine, from the beginning of her story as Captain Naismith, commanding a ship during a war; watching her run away with Admiral Aral Vorkosigan, who happens to be on the other side; and, as Regent-Consort, becoming the most powerful woman (behind the throne, of course) in the Barrayaran Empire, responsible for the education of its young Emperor. In this most recent novel in the series, Cordelia is older, and widowed, and about to reinvent herself once again. Other books in the series are military sf with a spin; this novel concerns parenting, and the new forms of family that technological innovation will allow. You won’t want to start the series with this book—but that’s OK. The whole series is a marvel. (I should also mention Bujold’s fantasy novel Paladin of Souls: at the start of the book, its heroine, Ista, is a widow, a dowager queen, and surplus to requirements. By the end she is… Well, should read this brilliant, subversive novel (and its counterpart, The Curse of Chalion), and see.)
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Seven books that put the "psychology" in psychological thrillers

Lauren North studied psychology before moving to London, where she lived and worked for many years. She now lives with her family in the Suffolk countryside.

The Perfect Son is her first novel, and she’s working on her second.

At CrimeReads North tagged "seven of [her] favorite books published in the last few years that really put the psychology in psychological suspense and psychological thrillers," including:
Him by Claire Empson

When the reader first meets the main character, Catherine, she is mute and being treated in a psychiatric facility after witnessing something disturbing. What then unfolds is a sixteen year mystery about friendships, love and heartbreak.

Him is really a novel about them—Catherine and Lucian, two people who fell deeply in love at University and the circumstances that lead them to not seeing each other for over a decade. It’s a beautiful and all consuming story about the events that lead Catherine to be so traumatized that she can’t speak.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Ten top ghost stories

Louise Doughty is the author of nine novels, including the newly released Platform Seven.

She has also written one work of non-fiction and five plays for radio.

One of Doughty's top ten ghost stories, as shared at the Guardian:
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (2017)

This polyphonic tale of multiple ghosts won the 2017 Man Booker prize – not bad considering it was Saunders’ first novel, although he was already a highly acclaimed short story writer. It concerns the grief of President Abraham Lincoln for his young son William and is an entertaining and heartbreaking reminder that grief afflicts the poor and the mighty in equal measure.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Lincoln in the Bardo is among Emily Temple's ten wonderful works of literary fantasy and Kathy Bates's ten best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five YA SFF books about unlikely couples falling in love

Zoraida Córdova is the award-winning author of The Vicious Deep trilogy, the Brooklyn Brujas series, and Star Wars: A Crash of Fate. At she tagged five YA SFF novels about "fighting against the dark, falling in love, holding on to hope," including:
Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre

The romance in this one is a little unconventional—blink.gif—but in a good way. Especially when you consider that the love interest is technically a sentient spaceship. Before you try to wrap your mind around how that would work, just go with it. Aguirre and Caine throw out the playbook when it comes to expectations. They take a petty criminal, Zara Cole, and put her into the Honors, an elite team of humans selected by the Leviathan—a race of sentient alien ships.

When Zara meets Nadim, it’s a classic meet-cute of girl meets alien ship. What I love about Caine and Aguirre’s characters is that when you strip away the sci-fi layers, you get a meaningful discussion about the meaning of life, love, and war. Everything is just better in space.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

James Ellroy's 6 favorite books

James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. His L.A. Quartet novels— The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz—have won numerous awards and are international bestsellers. His novel American Tabloid was Time magazine’s Novel of the Year for 1995; his memoir, My Dark Places, was a Time Best Book and a New York Times Notable Book for 1997. His novel The Cold Six Thousand was a New York Times Notable Book in 2001. His latest novel, This Storm, is the second book in his Second L.A. Quartet. In that series Ellroy takes characters from the original L.A. Quartet and the Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy and places them in Los Angeles during World War II as significantly younger people.

At The Week magazine Ellroy shared his six favorite books. One title on the list:
Portrait in Smoke by Bill S. Ballinger (1951).

This is the ultimate evil woman novel. It's set in mid-century Chicago, and charts the comeuppance of an obsessed bill collector and a stunningly provocative psychopath. Ooooooooh, Daddy-O — this one will lash your libido and bite your boogaloo!!!!!
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 26, 2019

Eleven gripping mysteries & thrillers set in New York City

At Murder & Mayhem MacKenzie Stuart tagged eleven gripping mysteries and thrillers set in New York City.

One title on the list:
Slow Motion Riot by Peter Blauner

This Edgar Award–winning novel is “definitely not for the faint of heart” (Library Journal). Steven Baum is a tough NYC probation officer who excels at his job of keeping former criminals on the straight and narrow. But his compassion might just turn out to be his undoing. Baum’s latest offender is a career criminal who isn’t exactly fond of cops. As the violent drug dealer goes head-to-head with Baum, the two face down in an epic struggle that blurs the line between right and wrong.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five SFF books with bad old men

Tamsyn Muir is a horror, fantasy and sci-fi author whose works have appeared in Nightmare Magazine, F&SF, Fantasy Magazine, Weird Tales, and Clarkesworld. Her fiction has received nominations for the Nebula Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, the World Fantasy Award and the Eugie Foster Memorial Award. She has spent the majority of her life in Howick, New Zealand, with time spent living in Waiuku and central Wellington. She currently lives and teaches in Oxford, in the United Kingdom.

Muir's new novel is Gideon the Ninth.

At she tagged five sci-fi & fantasy books with bad old men, including:
Tó Neinilii from Storm of Locusts, by Rebecca Roanhorse

This sequel to Roanhorse’s high-octane apocalypse ramble contains an old man whom I at first disliked, then liked again, and by the end realised was bad news beyond reckoning. If this was just a list of ‘old men who make you feel pain’ I’d put Tah, Kai Arviso’s wonderful granddad, but matchmaking Tah is an angel cake who only makes me feel pain in that I was terrified over his survival prospects. No, the bad old man of Storm of Locusts is Tó Neinilii, whose deceptively lighthanded appearance involves Hoskie and her travelling band of badasses encountering him while dealing with the White Locust. Tó wears pyjamas recreationally, lives on a houseboat, and forces Maggie Hoskie to make him a refreshing iced tea in the greatest power move of the series. To say that he is more than he appears is not a spoiler. To say that he is the surprising locus of some explosions I expect to see echo through the next book is, but I will say it anyway. Tó twinkles whimsically, chuckles more than once, and is responsible for Maggie’s group having to do an extended fishing minigame. In a very typical bad old man move he tries to give Maggie a metaphorical life lesson, but she’s genre-savvy and is having none of it. Great stuff.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Twenty top school stories and university novels

At the Waterstones blog, Mark Skinner tagged twenty of the best school stories and university novels, including:
Curtis Sittenfeld

The harsh world of the American prep school is put under the spotlight in Sittenfeld’s smart and penetrating novel. Peeling away the façade of beautiful people and civilised recreation to uncover an unrelenting parade of social rituals and a never ending popularity contest, Prep is a hip, vibrant account of fitting in and acting out.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Prep is among Lucy Worsley's six best books and James Browning's ten best boarding school books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Five books that flirt with Area 51

At Gabriella Tutino tagged five books that flirt with Area 51, including:
Event by David L. Golemon

This supernatural thriller draws from the lore of UFO sightings and crash landings in Roswell, New Mexico in the 1940s. The American Southwest is home to the Event Group, the United States most secret organization that protects America from past mistakes by solving mysteries of the past. In this first novel, the Event Group encounters two alien creatures that crashed in New Mexico; one is kind, and the other is known as the Destroyer of Worlds. So it’s up to Event Group to save Earth from being the next victim of this creature.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 23, 2019

Eight top San Diego books

Patrick Coleman makes things from words, sounds, and occasional pictures. His debut collection of poems, Fire Season, was written after the birth of his first child by speaking aloud into a digital audio recorder on the long commute between the art museum where he worked and his home in a rural neighborhood that burned in the Witch Creek Fire of 2007. It won the 2015 Berkshire Prize and was released by Tupelo Press on December 1, 2018. His short-form prose has appeared in Hobart, ZYZZYVA, Zócalo Public Square, the Writer's Chronicle, the Black Warrior Review, Juked, and the Utne Reader, among others. The Art of Music, an exhibition catalogue on the relationship between visual arts and music that he edited and contributed to, was co-published by Yale University Press and the San Diego Museum of Art. Coleman earned an MFA from Indiana University and a BA from the University of California Irvine. He lives in Ramona, California, with his wife and two daughters, and is the Assistant Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego.

Coleman's new book, his first novel, is The Churchgoer.

One of the author's top eight San Diego books:
Brit Bennett, The Mothers

I grew up in Oceanside, the northernmost town in San Diego county. It’s where the bulk of The Churchgoer is set. While I was working on it, I was thinking about all the complications and contradictions in even just this one small-ish corner of San Diego, and what those complications have to say about the region, the state, and the country we live in. At that point, Oceanside had mostly been known as the home of Charlie’s house in Top Gun and the setting for a key cheerleading competition in Bring It On.

Then came Brit Bennett’s The Mothers, a beautiful, tender portrait of a young black girl in Oceanside grieving after her mother’s suicide. She falls for the pastor’s son and gets pregnant, and the chorus of mothers at the church tut-tuts along with her story as she weighs an abortion against her faith, a close friend, and the social pressures of her community (for outsiders, San Diego can be startlingly conservative). Written with a subtle but incisive sensibility, The Mothers gives us an Oceanside, a San Diego, and an America in literature that we need more of.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Eight psychological thrillers where holidays descend into nightmares

Michele Campbell's latest novel is A Stranger on the Beach.

At CrimeReads she tagged eight books about idyllic vacations gone terribly wrong, including:
Because You’re Mine by Rea Frey

When four girlfriends head to Black Mountain for a relaxing weekend getaway, one of them ends up dead. What’s supposed to be a peaceful, restorative break from daily responsibilities quickly goes south as the women race to determine whether it was an untimely accident…or something much darker. Riveting and atmospheric with a shocker of an ending, this one belongs on your list of scary vacation reads.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Ten top caregivers in fiction

Lila Savage is originally from Minneapolis. Prior to writing fiction, she spent nearly a decade working as a caregiver. Her work has appeared in The Threepenny Review. She is the recipient of a Wallace Stegner fellowship and graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2018.

Savage's debut novel is Say Say Say.

At the Guardian she tagged the top ten caregivers in fiction, including:
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

In this macabre and funny novel, Eileen tends to her alcoholic father. “Once, after a good six-day absence, a bender of greater proportions than I had ever seen my father go on, I got a call from a hospital two counties over and drove out there to pick him up. That persuaded me to gather up all his shoes and keep them locked in the trunk of the car from then on.” A bracing balance to more tender caregiving narratives, we bear witness to codependency, resentment and other dark feelings.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books for the equine set

Tory Bilski is a travel writer based in Connecticut. She writes primarily about Iceland - its people, horses, and history. Her new book is Wild Horses of the Summer Sun: A Memoir of Iceland.

At LitHub Bilski tagged "five books that may help explain the relationship between women and horses," including:
Beryl Markham, The Splendid Outcast: African Stories

Maybe it should come as no surprise that one of the first female aviators was also a horse trainer, in fact, the first licensed female horse trainer in colonial Kenya, where she grew up. The book is a collection of eight stories written in the 1940s that were gathered together for publication in 1987. The first three are pure horse stories, and no one writes better than Markham about her horses and their full-throated personalities. Like the Greek gods, they are prideful, vengeful, jealous, brave. She doesn’t leave it there, however; she feels the need to vacillate between anthropomorphizing her horses and then doubting herself for even suggesting such mawkishness.

The story “Something I Remember” ends with her favorite horse returning to the site where years before he was bloodily defeated and permanently wounded in a fight with another horse. Markham writes, “He only stood there like a man with a dream.” However, then, she pulls back: “That is only the way it seemed to me.... I suspect that he had come there only to catch the last warmth of sun.” In the final sentence, she equivocates again: “I don’t know, and so I can’t be sure. It is only something I remember.” She can’t be sure: do horses have memory and feelings and a sense of their lives as humans do?

She lived and wrote before Temple Grandin translated how animals think, act, and feel. She also lived in an era where she was referred to as an aviatrix, and as an authoress—as if that feminine suffix came with a warning—reader beware, this is likely to be full of reckless emotionality. Perhaps what she wasn’t sure about was the reception of her ideas and the authority of her words.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Ten top boundary-breaking women of fiction

Louisa Treger has worked as a classical violinist. She studied at the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and worked as a freelance orchestral player and teacher. Treger subsequently turned to literature, gaining a First Class degree and a Ph.D. in English at University College London, where she focused on early 20th century women’s writing and was awarded the West Scholarship and the Rosa Morison Scholarship “for distinguished work in the study of English Language and Literature.” The Lodger was published in 2014, The Dragon Lady in 2019 and she is currently working on her third novel.

At CrimeReads Treger tagged ten "strong women who refused to conform and who struggled to find their place in the world," including:
Smilla from Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg

Smilla is a bundle of contradictions. She lives in low-rent public housing, yet she dresses expensively. She seems emotionally self-sufficient, yet she falls in love and it terrifies her. She is beautiful and petite, yet she is capable of surprising violence against stronger opponents. The daughter of a wealthy Danish physician and an Inuit hunter, she doesn’t fit in anywhere.

Smilla realizes that the suspicious death of Isiah, the Greenlandic boy she looks after, is only the tip of an iceberg of violent crime. Armed with nothing but her intelligence, her courage, and her two special gifts—her almost psychic understanding of snow and ice, and her perfect sense of direction – she gets to the heart of the mystery, putting herself in mortal danger, and keeping her promise to Isiah “not to leave him in the lurch, never, not even now.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

Smilla's Sense of Snow is among Amber Tamblyn's six favorite books, Charlie Jane Anders's ten great books you didn't know were science fiction or fantasy, Elizabeth Hand's six favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books about humans making a mess of things

Rob Hart's new novel is The Warehouse.

At he tagged "five books that mold our current state of constant anxiety into thoughtful, timely, terrifying fiction." One title on the list:
Unamerica by Cody Goodfellow

A dystopian fever dream about a city buried beneath the desert at the US-Mexico border, where excess is the name of the game. Goodfellow offers madcap satire of capitalism, religion, and drug culture. Warning: This is not for the faint of heart. It’s fiction you grind up and freebase directly into your cerebral cortex.

There are bonus points to be had here too, because the publisher, King Shot Press, a punk rock indie press from Portland. They do daring work—books to light the revolution by. Unamerica isn’t even available as an eBook yet! That’s okay though. Nothing beats the feel of a real book.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 19, 2019

Six of the best New York City biographies

Christopher Bonanos is city editor at New York magazine, where he covers arts and culture and urban affairs. He is the National Book Critics Circle Award–winning author of Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous and Instant: The Story of Polaroid.

At The Week magazine Bonanos tagged six favorite New York City biographies, including:
Just Kids by Patti Smith (2010).

Punk legend Patti Smith was also Robert Mapplethorpe's muse, and he was hers. The two were lovers who eventually, after his coming-out, remained the closest of friend-collaborators until his 1989 death. I can't imagine a more vivid and romantic description of what it was like to be young and artsy and hungry and fearless in the broken-down New York of the '70s.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Just Kids is among Barbara Bourland's ten essential books about contemporary artists, Dana Czapnik's favorite novels featuring kids or young adults coming of age in cities, and Dan Holmes's twenty best memoirs written by musicians.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five thrillers featuring a small group of friends

Cambria Brockman grew up in Houston, London, and Scotland and attended Holderness School in New Hampshire. She graduated from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, with a degree in English literature. She owns an award-winning wedding and portrait photography company, Cambria Grace, along with its popular Instagram account. Brockman lives in Boston with her husband, son, and dog.

Tell Me Everything is her first novel.

At CrimeReads Brockman tagged five thrillers featuring a small group of friends, including:
The Secret Place, by Tana French

An all girls boarding school. A hidden wall where students anonymously post their darkest thoughts and grievances. Secrets. Lies. Gossip. Rumors. And a sixteen-year-old boy who is brutally murdered, the case unsolved. A year later that all changes when one of the students, Holly Mackey, gives Detective Stephen Moran a photograph of the murdered boy with the words I know who killed him written on it. The story follows Holly and her close group of friends as they navigate the nasty rumor mill of private school, and their individual relationships with the victim. More than that, this book reveals the dangerous world of teenage girls and the cruel things they are capable of when succumbed to the pressure of adolescence.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Secret Place is among Adele Parks's eight crime novels featuring intense female friendship, Kristen Lepionka's ten top female detectives in fiction, the B&N Reads editors' five favorite fun, fearless femmes fatales in fiction, and Kelly Anderson's seven amazing female friendships in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Eleven top books about/with cats

Jessie Burton is the author of three novels, The Miniaturist (2014), and The Muse (2016), published in 38 languages, and The Confession which publishes September 2019. The Miniaturist and The Muse were Sunday Times no.1 bestsellers, New York Times bestsellers, and Radio 4's Book at Bedtime.

At the Guardian Burton tagged some of her favorite books about/with cats, including:
For something a bit different, I’d recommend dipping a paw into Japanese literature, where cats feature in wonderful variety. Natsume Sōseki’s I Am a Cat is a biting satire of Meiji-era Japan told through the eyes of a sardonic street kitten, while The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa beautifully explores the friendships we share with our pets through the eyes of Nana, as he takes a road trip with his beloved human Satoru. Genki Kawamura’s If Cats Disappeared From the World is a much more pleasant read than its horrifically dystopian title would suggest, while 1Q84 by renowned cat-obsessive Haruki Murakami features a town populated entirely by cats. Heavenly.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Seven great mysteries about rare books & bibliophiles

Born near Boston, Marlowe Benn grew up in an Illinois college town along the Mississippi River. She holds a master’s degree in the book arts from the University of Alabama and a doctorate in the history of books from the University of California, Berkeley. A former editor, college teacher, and letterpress printer, Benn lives with her husband on an island near Seattle. Relative Fortunes is her first novel.

At CrimeReads Benn tagged seven great mysteries about bibliophiles and rare books, including:
Donna Leon, By Its Cover (Atlantic Monthly, 2014)

In her 23rd novel featuring Venetian police commissario Guido Brunetti, Leon delves into the chilling world of systematic looting of the nation’s heritage collection of rare books and manuscripts. Brunetti is called in when a librarian at one of Venice’s venerable libraries reports that several rare volumes have been stolen or vandalized—engraved plates razored out—despite rigorous security. Yet the library’s two regular patrons seem unlikely suspects, and one soon turns up murdered. In typical fashion, the contemplative Brunetti ponders the moral as well as legal vagaries of the case, considering how the theft of irreplaceable cultural artifacts represents more than the loss of their most recent selling prices.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 16, 2019

Ten of the best tigers in fiction

Katy Yocom was born and raised in Atchison, Kansas. After graduating from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism, she moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where she has lived ever since. Her new novel, Three Ways to Disappear, won the Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature and was a finalist for the Dzanc Books Disquiet Open Borders Book Prize and the UNO Press Publishing Lab Prize.

In researching the novel, Yocom traveled to India, funded by a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation. In 2019, she received an Al Smith Fellowship Award for artistic excellence from the Kentucky Arts Council. She has also received grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and served as writer-in-residence at Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Crosshatch Hill House, and PLAYA. Her writing has appeared in Newsweek, Salon, LitHub, American Way (the American Airlines magazine), The Louisville Review, decomP magazinE, and elsewhere. Her short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She holds an MFA in Writing from Spalding University.

Yocom lives with her family in Louisville and serves as associate director of the low-residency graduate writing programs of the School of Creative and Professional Writing at Spalding University, where it's her great good fortune to work with writers every day.

At LitHub she tagged the ten best tigers in fiction, including:
R. K. Narayan, A Tiger for Malgudi

An aging Bengal tiger looks back on his eventful life. When he meets a guru, he learns to adopt the way of nonviolence. This slim novel, told from the tiger’s point of view, gives us a life spent evolving, finding companionship, and finally letting go. In the introduction, Narayan writes, “[W]ith a few exceptions here and there, humans have monopolized the attention of fiction writers.” This touching fable asks us to consider that humans aren’t the only animals with individual lives that matter.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Five notable sympathetic fictional psychopaths

Elizabeth Macneal's debut novel is The Doll Factory.

At CrimeReads she tagged five sympathetic fictional psychopaths, including:
Amy Dunne from Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

On the morning of Nick and Amy Dunne’s wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing. What follows is a he said / she said account of what led to her disappearance, with Nick looking increasingly guilty. But things are not as they seem, and a fantastic twist reveals Amy Dunne as a psychopath—I actually gasped when I read it.

But rather than loathing Amy, I found myself not only impressed by her, but actively rooting for her. Part of this, I think was because of her relatability—her rant on “the cool girl” myth, and her fight against perfection, after always feeling the need to conform to the stories of “Amazing Amy.” What’s more, Flynn’s decision to place her in jeopardy around Jeff and Shawna, and later Desi, left me wanting her to escape, to survive. And behind it, her husband Nick might be redeemable, but he is also ineffectual, unfaithful and scarcely knows her—didn’t he deserve some sort of punishment, I wondered? There was something so escapist in her unapologetic quest for revenge—hers is a turbo-charged account of the bold, outrageous lengths we could go to if wronged, but know we never will.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Gone Girl made Jo Jakeman's top ten list of revenge novels, Amanda Craig's list of favorite books about modern married life, Sarah Pinborough's top ten list of unreliable narrators, C.A. Higgins's top five list of books with plot twists that flip your perception, Ruth Ware's top ten list of psychological thrillers, Jane Alexander's top ten list of treasure hunts in fiction, Fanny Blake's list of five top books about revenge, Monique Alice's list of six great fictional evil geniuses, Jeff Somers's lists of the top five best worst couples in literature, six books that’ll make you glad you’re single and five books with an outstanding standalone scene that can be read on its own, Lucie Whitehouse's ten top list of psychological suspense novels with marriages at their heart and Kathryn Williams's list of eight of fiction’s craziest unreliable narrators.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Ten top absurd quests in fiction

Joanna Kavenna grew up in various parts of Britain, and has also lived in the USA, France, Germany, Scandinavia and the Baltic States. Her first book The Ice Museum was about traveling in the remote North, among other things. Her second was a novel called Inglorious, which won the Orange Award for New Writing. It was followed by a novel called The Birth of Love, which was longlisted for the Orange Prize. Then came her novel Come to the Edge, a satire. Kavenna's latest novel is Zed, "a blistering, satirical novel about life under a global media and tech corporation that knows exactly what we think, what we want, and what we do--before we do."

At the Guardian, Kavenna tagged ten absurd quests in fiction, including:
The Fat Years by Chan Koonchung (2009)

In a slightly sci-fi version of China, a month has disappeared from the official records and from collective memory. Old Chen, the central character (an idle, self-obsessed author who just wants to lounge around drinking Lychee Black Dragon Lattes) is persuaded by an ex, Little Xi, to find out what really happened in this month, and why the authorities want to erase it from history. A bold, exhilarating satire of the tech-totalitarianism of contemporary China.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top books about working undercover

Dana Ridenour is a retired FBI agent and the author of three FBI undercover novels: Behind The Mask, Beyond The Cabin, and Below The Radar.

At CrimeReads she tagged five of the best books about working undercover, including:
No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels by Jay Dobyns and Nils Johnson-Shelton

Jay Dobyns worked for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms for twenty-seven years. He was the first federal agent to infiltrate the inner circle of the outlaw Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. In his memoir, Dobyns discusses the 21-month operation that almost cost him his family, his sanity, and his life. Dobyns doesn’t hold back when he describes the pain and despair of living a double life. His intimate prospective reveals to readers the psychological impact of undercover work. I related to the pain that Dobyns experienced from being separated from his wife and children for such a lengthy and dangerous assignment This is where fiction and nonfiction differs when it comes to books about undercover work. Works of fiction rarely show the true impact that undercover work has on an agent or officer. This is one of the reasons why I chose to write my first novel. I wanted to show the psychological toll that a long-term undercover investigation has on an agent. Dobyns’s harrowing first-person account illustrates the psychological trauma of working dangerous undercover missions and gives readers a fascinating look inside the inner circle of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Eighteen SFF books that get serious about economics

Jeff Somers is the author of Writing Without Rules, the Avery Cates series, The Ustari Cycle, Lifers, and Chum (among many other books) and numerous short stories.

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog he tagged eighteen science-fiction and fantasy novels that get serious about economics, including:
The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson

Hearing that the protagonist of a new fantasy novel is essentially a renegade accountant might send you running, but Dickinson’s assured, confident debut novel’s main character, Baru Cormorant, is so much more than that—and so much more interesting than another anti-hero thief or sellsword. When her tiny island nation is conquered by the all-consuming Empire of Masks, Baru vows to destroy her enemy from within, assimilating outwardly and rising quickly to a position as Imperial Accountant in Aurdwynn, a troublesome out-of-the-limelight territory the empire is trying to bring to heel. Here, Baru sees her chance, and embarks on a program of economic manipulation and sabotage that sparks a revolt and sows chaos, forcing her to pick a side. The economy of the Empire of Masks is detailed and described in ways that make it seem as exciting as any magic system, setting this trilogy-launching book apart. (The fallout for Baru’s actions is explored in last year’s sequel The Monster Baru Cormorant).
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 12, 2019

Six crime books that explore the experience of veterans

Siobhan Adcock is the author of the novels, The Barter and The Completionist.

At CrimeReads she tagged "a few mysteries and thrillers by and about veterans that you might not have already read, and that open up an understanding of how combat experience can shape a story, and its storyteller," including:
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

This Pulitzer Prize-winning espionage novel follows an undercover agent for the North Vietnamese Army, embedded in South Vietnam during the fall of Saigon and subsequently living undercover in Los Angeles. Fast-paced and darkly funny, the book offers a perspective on the Vietnam War decidedly different from what American moviegoers and readers typically see­—in fact, in one section, the anonymous main character serves as a consultant on a film that sounds suspiciously like Platoon or Apocalypse Now, and spectacularly fails in his efforts to convince the director to add even a tiny bit of nuance to the film’s vision.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Sympathizer is among Shelley Wood's five top epistolary novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Téa Obreht's 6 favorite novels shaped by place

Téa Obreht was born in Belgrade, in the former Yugoslavia, and grew up in Cyprus and Egypt before eventually immigrating to the United States. Her debut novel, The Tiger’s Wife, won the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction, and was a 2011 National Book Award finalist and an international bestseller.

Obreht's new novel is Inland.

One of the author's six favorite novels shaped by place, as shared at The Week magazine:
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (1970).

Morrison's first novel, about a childhood in small-town Ohio, has remained my favorite, possibly owing to the particular claustrophobia produced by its clash between place and person-hood, and its suggestion that how you experience the world is governed by age, race, and whether or not one grows up loved.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Bluest Eye is among Jeff Somers's ideal starter novels for 10 “must read” authors, George Saunders' six favorite books, James McBride's six favorite books, and Susheila Nasta's top ten cultural journeys.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Seven titles from a high school class on trauma literature

Kate McQuade is the author of the story collection Tell Me Who We Were.

At LitHub she tagged seven books from a high school class on trauma literature, including:
Lan Cao, Monkey Bridge

Cao’s haunting novel opens in 1979 Virginia, where Mai, a teenage refugee from Vietnam, is caring for her mother, Thanh, after a stroke. Throughout the novel, interstitial chapters interrupt Mai’s coming-of-age narration: excerpts from Thanh’s diary, which Mai finds hidden in a dresser and secretly reads, hoping it will help her better understand not just her mother’s story, but her own. Gradually, both Mai and the reader come to recognize that the diary isn’t what it appears to be, and the truth is slowly, and tragically, revealed.

Although Thanh’s diary is the problematic text whose discovery—and dishonesty—sparks Mai’s biggest reckoning, the texts she doesn’t find collectively prove just as formative. As her well-meaning mother shields her from the traumatic truth of her ancestry, Mai searches her local library for information about her grandfather’s life, but finds no books about contemporary Vietnam. She sees depictions of Vietnam on screens all around her—on television, on the news, in her local movie theater—but the portrayals are insultingly primitive. She knows they don’t come close to the “untranslatable world” she’s from, let alone to her life in America.

“We were,” she notes of her fellow Vietnamese refugees, “a ragtag accumulation of unwanted, an awkward reminder of a war the whole country was trying to forget.” Failing to find her immigrant experience represented in the many narratives around her, Mai struggles to shape the story of who she really is.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue