Saturday, November 30, 2019

Five amusing A.I. characters who should all definitely hang out

Deana Whitney has a Masters of Arts in Medieval European History and often credits her love of reading fantasy with her love of history. At she tagged five "lovable and charming" fictional AI characters, including:
Marvin the Paranoid Android, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

A suicidal, deeply depressed robot might seem an odd choice for this list, but I think [Brandon Sanderson’s] M-Bot could help Marvin put his “brain the size of a planet” to good use and maybe feel marginally less depressed during their time together. Droll British humor is not everyone’s cup of tea, yet I really enjoy the snark Marvin brings to the HHGTTG books. I want to hug him, even though he would not enjoy it. Marvin is a survivor; he turns up when not expected and against the odds. He can also destroy any hostile robots by just talking to them. Marvin has an impressive set of skills that are totally not appreciated by the bipedal beings he typically has to support on the Heart of Gold.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy appears on Jeff Somers's list of seven books in which the "deep state" wields power, Jason Hough's list of favorite examples of creative faster than light (FTL) travel in fiction, Rachel Stuhler and Melissa Blue's top five list of books celebrating geek culture, Fredrik Backman's six favorite books list, Jon Walter's top ten list of heroes of refugee fiction, Becky Ferreira's list of the six most memorable robots in literature, Charlie Jane Anders's lists of the ten most unbelievable alien races in science fiction, eleven books that every aspiring television writer should read and ten satirical novels that could teach you to survive the future, Saci Lloyd's top ten list of political books for teenagers, Rob Reid's list of 6 favorite books, Esther Inglis-Arkell's list of ten of the best bars in science fiction, Don Calame's top ten list of funny teen boy books, and John Mullan's list of ten of the best instances of invisibility in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven notable standup comedy memoirs

A MacDowell Colony and Hawthornden Castle Fellow, Leland Cheuk is the author of the story collection Letters From Dinosaurs (2016) and the novel The Misadventures of Sulliver Pong (2015), which was also published in translation in China (2018).

His newest novel is No Good Very Bad Asian.

Cheuk lives in Brooklyn and teaches at the Sarah Lawrence College Writing Institute.

At Electric Lit he tagged seven standup comedy memoirs that will make you laugh and cry. including:
Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets and Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong

“Don’t perform in heels. It’s not worth your calves looking 20% better.”

This one’s just came out and like my novel, also happens to be framed as a series of scandalous letters of advice to the comedian’s daughters. Though we’re complete strangers, I swear she stole my idea! When I was doing standup, I would treat myself by going to Comedy Cellar and seeing the soon-to-be stars and Ali Wong was one of them, and believe it or not, she was even raunchier back then.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 29, 2019

Six top pet themed mysteries

V.M. Burns is the acclaimed author of screenplays, children’s books, and cozy mysteries, including the Dog Club Mysteries, the RJ Franklin Mysteries, and the Mystery Bookshop Series. Born and raised in South Bend, Indiana, V.M. Burns currently resides in Tennessee with her poodles. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Dog Writers Association of America, Thriller Writers International, and a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime.

Burns's new novel is Bookmarked for Murder.

At CrimeReads she tagged six of her favorite cozy mystery series that feature pets, including:
Laurien Berenson, A Melanie Travis Mystery, A Pedigree to Die For

The apparent heart attack that killed kennel owner Max Turnbull has left seven pups in mourning, and his wife Peg suspecting foul play. But the only evidence is their missing prize pooch–a pedigreed poodle named Beau. That’s when Melanie Travis, a thirty-something teacher and single mother is talked into investigating.

This fantastic series was one of the first dog-themed cozies I ever read and I fell in love with Berenson’s poodles along with her knack for weaving a good mystery.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Six novels that capture Detroit, past & present

Jodie Adams Kirshner is a research professor at New York University. Previously on the law faculty at Cambridge University, she also teaches bankruptcy law at Columbia Law School. She is a member of the American Law Institute, past term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and technical advisor to the Bank for International Settlements.

Kirshner received a prestigious multi-year grant from the Kresge Foundation to research her new book, Broke: Hardship and Resilience in a City of Broken Promises.

At LitHub she tagged six novels set in Detroit that capture the feeling of the city’s present and past. One title on the list:
Angela Flournoy, The Turner House

Another recent debut novel, The Turner House, charts the lives of a family of thirteen siblings as they determine what to do with their family house on Detroit’s eastside. The book offers a slow-paced, character-driven exploration of complex family relationships, but, as in [Stephen Mack Jones's] August Snow, the city itself becomes a force driving events. The book vividly describes the family’s earlier migration to the city to escape the Jim Crow South, only to encounter housing and job discrimination there. In the aftermath of the recent financial crisis, the family must now navigate the city’s poverty and housing challenges. The family house has fallen to one tenth the value of its mortgage, and the garage is stolen for scrap metal.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Ten top eyewitness accounts of 20th-century history

Charles Emmerson is an Australian-born writer and historian. He studied modern history at Oxford University and international relations in Paris. He is the author of The Future History of the Arctic and 1913: The World Before the Great War.

Emmerson's latest book is Crucible: The Long End of the Great War and the Birth of a New World 1917-24.

At the Guardian he tagged ten top eyewitness accounts of 20th-century history, including:
The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich

Alexievich is the meta-witness to the Soviet experience, eyewitness to the eyewitnesses. She turns memories into folk epics and gives human scale to the awful hugeness of the “Great Patriotic War”. Here are the stories of women often drowned by what the war had become in the 1980s USSR, the stale trumpet-blare of Communist legitimacy. Then she did the same for Chernobyl, the starting point of the Soviet Union’s unravelling, as important to the century’s end as its foundation was to its start. Literature is “news that stays news”, wrote Ezra Pound. This is what Alexievich has done for her eyewitnesses: imbuing their testimony with the power of literature, thus ensuring it remains relevant for all time.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eleven novels expectant parents should read

At Electric Lit Allison Gibson tagged eleven "novels that can illuminate common truths about parenthood by exploring the joys, challenges and, often, spectacularly flawed dynamics of the family experience," including:
White Oleander by Janet Fitch

In her masterful and much-celebrated novel White Oleander, Janet Fitch confirms every parent’s dark suspicion that with the responsibility of caring for a child comes the capacity to do tremendous damage. The story of a brilliant imprisoned poet, whose daughter ends up navigating adolescence in the foster care system, explores what it means to be both an artist and a parent — and what, if anything, can redeem the irreparable damage a parent’s choices have caused.
Read about the other entries on the list.

White Oleander is among Michelle Sacks's top five novels with complex and credible child narrators.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Five villains who have had enough of domestic life

Margot Hunt is a USA Today best selling author of Best Friends Forever and For Better And Worse. Her new novel is The Last Affair.

Hunt has also written eight previous books as Whitney Gaskell, and the Young Adult series Geek High under the pen name Piper Banks.

At CrimeReads she tagged five books about "ordinary people who turn villainous," including:
Lie To Me by J.T. Ellison

Grief is a force that can break even the strongest spirits. Ethan and Sutton Montclair certainly learn that, as their marriage crumbles after their son dies from SIDS, each spouse blaming the other for their baby’s death. Then one morning, Ethan wakes to find Sutton gone, leaving behind a note telling him not to look for her. The fact that she hasn’t taken her purse, passport or clothing instantly causes the police to become suspicious . . . and Ethan is the main person of interest in her disappearance. What happened to Sutton? And what really happened to the Montclairs’ baby?
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Lie to Me.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 25, 2019

Six notable works of satire

Dave Eggers's books include The Monk of Mokha; The Circle; Heroes of the Frontier; A Hologram for the King, a finalist for the National Book Award; and What Is the What, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and winner of France’s Prix Médicis Etranger. He is the founder of McSweeney’s and the cofounder of 826 Valencia, a youth writing center that has inspired similar programs around the world, and of ScholarMatch, which connects donors with students to make college accessible. He is the winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and is the cofounder of Voice of Witness, a book series that illuminates human rights crises through oral history. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has been translated into forty-two languages.

Eggers's new book is The Captain and the Glory, an illustrated novel about an unfit, buffoonish leader.

At The Week magazine he recommended six works of satire, including:
The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton (1913).

For me, The Custom of the Country is the sharpest and by far the funniest Wharton novel, and nothing less than a masterpiece of social satire. A young social climber, Undine Spragg, claws her way up through New York and Parisian society during the Belle Époque. Every new peak she reaches soon becomes an insufferable plateau, and the climb begins again.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Ten top books for "Battlestar Galactica" fans

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog Ross Johnson tagged ten "frakking good books for Battlestar Galactica fans," including:
Fortune’s Pawn, by Rachel Bach

Though it resulted in plenty of whining from the usual quarters, one of the most impressive innovations of the 2004 Battlestar was reimagining Starbuck—the smart-mouthed, hard-drinking, cigar-smoking ace pilot from the original—as a woman (brought to hard-edged, angular, and instantly iconic life by Katee Sackhoff). She was by no means the first space-military badass to also be a woman, but she certainly shifted the bar. In that spirit, Bach’s novel (the first in a trilogy) introduces Devi Morris, an ambitious and talented mercenary who takes a security job on a ship with a reputation for trouble. Over the course of the series, she finds herself in a galactic conflict, and comes into contact with a virus that could be lethal to the “phantoms” invading our universe.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Fortune’s Pawn is among Sam Maggs's five top books about kick-ass women livin’ large among the stars and Thea James's eight best women in military science fiction.

My Book, The Movie: Fortune's Pawn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Six of the best books about flooding

Edward Platt was born in 1968 and lives in London. His first book, Leadville, won a Somerset Maugham Award and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. He is also the author of The Great Flood which explores the way floods have shaped the physical landscape of Britain, and The City of Abraham, a journey through Hebron, the only place in the West Bank where Palestinians and Israelis lived side by side.

At the Guardian, Platt tagged six books that explore the devastating impact of flooding. One title on the list:
Daniel Defoe said the hurricane that struck Britain on 26 November 1703 would have forced the most devout atheist “to doubt whether he was not in the Wrong”. His account of that night in The Storm is remarkable for its eyewitness reports of the devastation.
Read about the other entries on the list.

See Alice-Azania Jarvis's reading list on flooding.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 22, 2019

The great third wheels of fiction

Annaleese Jochems was born in 1994 and grew up in the far north of New Zealand. She won the 2016 Adam Prize from the International Institute of Modern Letters and the 2018 Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction for Baby, which is her first book.

At CrimeReads she tagged some of the great third wheels of literature, including:
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

Plain, poor Jane has nothing to offer the rich and virile Rochester but her virtue. He says that’s worth a lot. But how can his love for Jane be true when the beautiful and wealthy Blanche Ingram is fluttering about, hankering for his affections? To readers it’s obvious that Rochester has something to hide. He’s too perfect. How can Jane’s story, which has been one of deprivation, suddenly become a fairy tale of love and luxury without someone having to pay the price?

The thing that’s most intriguing to me about Jane Eyre is Charlotte Brontë. How aware was she of the subtext of her novel? This puzzle is a big pleasure with all fiction, but because Jane Eyre is such a surreal, dreamlike story and told in such plain, reasonable style, it becomes particularly obsessive. Surely it’s no accident that the handsome Rochester needs to lose his vision before Jane can trust him? Or that another woman has to suffer before the long-suffering Jane’s big romantic love can be true?
Read about the other entries on the list.

Jane Eyre also made Sara Collins's list of six of fiction's best bad women, Sophie Hannah's list of fifteen top books with a twist, E. Lockhart's list of five favorite stories about women labeled “difficult,” Sophie Hannah's top ten list of twists in fiction, Gail Honeyman's list of five of her favorite idiosyncratic characters, 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

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Six speculative fiction books about migration

Malka Older is a writer, aid worker, and sociologist. Her science-fiction political thriller Infomocracy was named one of the best books of 2016 by Kirkus, Book Riot, and the Washington Post. The Centenal Cycle trilogy, which also includes Null States (2017) and State Tectonics (2018), is a finalist for the Hugo Best Series Award of 2018. She is also the creator of the serial Ninth Step Station, currently running on Serial Box, and her short story collection ...And Other Disasters is now out. Her non-fiction writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, Foreign Policy, and NBC THINK. Named Senior Fellow for Technology and Risk at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs for 2015, she has more than a decade of field experience in humanitarian aid and development. Her doctoral work on the sociology of organizations at Sciences Po Paris explores the dynamics of post-disaster improvisation in governments.

At Older tagged six speculative fiction books "that illustrate different elements of immigration and the Othered status of the migrant," including:
The Star Beast by Robert Heinlein

There are probably a lot of Heinleins that would fit into this, but I’m particularly fond of The Star Beast. I haven’t read it since I was a teenager, so it’s likely more problematic than I remember, but my recollection is of a sweet story that flips a lot of assumptions about sentience, superiority, and who is in charge of whom. The book plays with a lot of assumptions about aliens, most obviously with the big and friendly beast variously seen as a threat or a prize or a pet. Another character has a phobia to an element of a different alien’s physiognomy, and struggles to control it in full knowledge that it is their own problem and not reflective of the alien at all.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top books about vegetarians

Binnie Kirshenbaum is a novelist and short story writer. She has twice won the Critic's Choice Award and the Discovery Award. She was one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists and one of Paper magazine's Beautiful People. Her books have been selected as Favorite Books of the Year by The Chicago Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle, Newsweek, Vogue and National Public Radio. Her work has been translated into seven languages. She is a professor and Fiction Director at Columbia University Graduate School of the Arts.

Kirshenbaum's latest novel is Rabbits for Food.

At the Guardian, she tagged ten great books about vegetarians, including:
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The classic film version featuring Boris Karloff as the murderous monster all too often eclipses Mary Shelley’s Creature. Despite evil Dr Frankenstein’s corruption of the natural order, the Creature was “born” innocent. He was gentle. He was a vegetarian. (“My food is not that of man; I do not destroy the lamb and the kid to glut my appetite.”) All he wanted was love and companionship. His inherent sweetness, destroyed by human cruelty and rejection, turned him into the monster. After his killing spree, his diet is no longer mentioned. Can we assume his menu has changed?
Read about the other entries on the list.

Frankenstein is among Jeff Somers's top ten seemingly unrelated books that complement each other, Olivia Laing's top ten books about loneliness, Helen Humphreys's top ten books on grieving, John Mullan's ten best honeymoons in literature, Adam Roberts's five top science fiction classics and Andrew Crumey's top ten novels that predicted the future.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The 20 best novels of the decade

Emily Temple is a senior editor at Lit Hub. Her first novel, The Lightness, will be published by William Morrow in 2020.

Temple and the Literary Hub staff picked the twenty best novels of the decade. One title on the list:
N. K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season (2015)

It’s not always possible to tell that a novel is great while you’re reading it. I mean, obviously you can usually tell if you like something, but to for me, you only know that a novel is capital-g Great when you find yourself, weeks or months or years after the first reading, still thinking about it. Most books, even delightful and brilliant ones, do not pass this test, at least for me. But I have thought about N. K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season (and its two sequels, The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky) at least weekly since I read it a few years ago.

Perhaps it’s unfair. The novel imagines an alternate Earth that is periodically torn apart by apocalyptic weather—like suffocating ash, acid clouds, fungal blooms, mineral-induced darkness, magnetic pole shifts—that lasts for decades at a time, often threatening to wipe out humanity entirely. So you can see how it might come to mind these days.

But I also think about it for its incredible world-building, its unfortunately relevant cultural critique (caste systems, power hierarchies, fear and oppression of the other or unknown, particularly when that unknown other has dreamed-of skills), and its unforgettable characters, particularly, of course, Essun, with all her anger and fear and strength and softness and power. I love her.

And hey, if you don’t want to take my word for it, consider that all three books in the Broken Earth series won Hugos. All three.
–Emily Temple, Senior Editor
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Fifth Season is among Mark Skinner's eleven top works of science fiction & fantasy by black authors and Emily Temple's ten best road trip books. The Broken Earth series is among John Scalzi's six best examples of sci-fi worldbuilding and Joel Cunningham's eleven top sci-fi & fantasy books or series with a powerful message of social justice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Six titles whose protagonists are "trapped in the in-between"

Daniel José Older is the New York Times bestselling author of the Middle Grade historical fantasy series Dactyl Hill Squad, the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series, Star Wars: Last Shot, and the award winning Young Adult series the Shadowshaper Cypher, which won the International Latino Book Award and was shortlisted for the Kirkus Prize in Young Readers’ Literature, the Andre Norton Award, the Locus, the Mythopoeic Award, and named one of Esquire’s 80 Books Every Person Should Read.

Older's The Book of Lost Saints, a magic-realist epic about a Cuban-American family, is his first non-Y.A. novel.

At The Week magazine, he tagged six books whose protagonists are "trapped in the in-between," including:
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (2018).

Emezi's debut is a gorgeous and triumphant novel about surviving, healing, finding the self, and transcendence. The prose itself feels like a character, it's so alive. And the ­format — this is a story told by the various Igbo spirits that inhabit our half-Nigerian ­protagonist — is everything I've ever wanted from a book.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 18, 2019

Seven top books about Appalachia

Kaytie Norman joined Open Road Integrated Media in 2019 after spending three years writing and editing books for Media Lab Books. Her hobbies include cooking, honing her Liz Lemon impression and encouraging people to read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. At Early Bird Books she tagged seven eye-opening books about Appalachia, including:
Child of God
By Cormac McCarthy

Set in Sevier County, Tennessee, Cormac McCarthy’s gothic novel about a serial killer is not for the faint of heart. The writing style jumps between first-person narration, near poetic prose and clear description, and all comes together to tell the story of Lester Ballard. Depressed and violent, Lester’s tale explores isolation, sexual deviancy, cruelty and survival—all in 1960s Appalachia.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Child of God is among Laura Benedict's nine "unlikeable" protagonists in literature and Glenn Skwerer's ten top real-life monsters in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Six books centered around military conflicts and their aftermath

Mary Paulson-Ellis lives in Edinburgh. She has an MLitt in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow and was awarded the inaugural Curtis Brown Prize for Fiction in 2009 and the Literature Works First Page Prize in 2013. Her debut novel, The Other Mrs Walker was a Times bestseller and Waterstones Scottish Book of the Year. Paulson-Ellis was Highly Commended as a Rising Star in the DIVA Literary Awards and shortlisted as a Breakthrough Author in the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards 2017. In 2016 she was named an Amazon Rising Star.

The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing is her second novel.

For Waterstones, Paulson-Ellis tagged six top titles centered around military conflicts and their aftermath, including:
The Long Take
Robin Robertson

This Booker-shortlisted novel is both epic poetry and noir narrative – an unclassifiable yet utterly compelling piece of writing about the aftermath of war. Walker is a WW2 veteran who has made his way to the glitter of Los Angeles via fighting on the beaches of France. He is a man attempting to forget, who cannot help but remember, the war pulsing in his memory like the pop and flare of those flashbulbs used by 1950s press photographers. A piercing, elegant dissection of the terrible grip war holds on those who experience it first hand.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Five titles that explore the physical & emotional impact of dementia

Emma Healey is the author of Elizabeth Is Missing and Whistle in the Dark.

At the Guardian, she tagged five books that explore the physical and emotional impact of dementia, including:
When it comes to practical help, few books can improve on psychologist Oliver James’s Contented Dementia. James argues that it is better to indulge a loved one than insist on brutal truth and make every encounter into a battle, constructing his argument through case studies that offer examples of difficulties as well as success. There is no single version of dementia, and no one prescription, but James encourages carers to respond with flexibility and love.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven books about the struggle of being a writer

Gnesis Villar, an intern at Electric Literature, tagged seven novels about the struggle of being a writer, including:
Bunny by Mona Awad

Samantha Heather “Smackie” Mackey is in the second year of her MFA program at an elite university. Initially, Samantha despises her cohort—four upper-class women she nicknames “the Bunnies” for their vapidity and eerily similar fashion sense. Her only friend and ally is Ava—a cynical art school drop-out who shares a disdain for the group. However, one day Samantha is formally invited into the fold (by means of a small origami swan) and falls deep into their strange world where it’s possible to conjure their monstrous creations in off-campus “Workshops.” Soon the edges of reality blur and her friendship with Ava threatens to collide with the Bunnies, Samantha must navigate an increasingly unfathomable world.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 15, 2019

Five top Victorian mysteries set around the world

Will Thomas is the author of the critically acclaimed Cyrus Barker and Thomas Llewelyn series, including Some Danger Involved, Fatal Enquiry, Old Scores, and Blood Is Blood. He lives in Oklahoma.

At CrimeReads he tagged five favorite "Victorian mystery novels set around the world—yes, that's right, outside England." One title on the list:
The Winter Queen, by Boris Akunin (Random House, 2003)

While American youngsters and their parents stood in long lines to purchase the latest Harry Potter, Russia was experiencing something called “Erastomania.” The public could not get enough of a young police detective named Erast Fandorin as he navigated the bureaucracy and upheaval of pre-revolution Russia. A young man from a good family shoots himself in front of a crowd, and the case is shunted from one governmental department to another until it is given to the newest member of the Moscow C.I.D., police clerk Fandorin. The bureaucracy would prefer that the matter simply go away, but the young man has the brains, the charm, and the drive to see the case through to the end, managing to tick off every one of his superiors in the process.

The author is Boris Akunin, the pen name of Grigory Chkartishvili, and so far, thirteen novels in this series have been published in Russia. Interest was not as avid in the West, but translations are now available in English. If Anton Chekhov turned to writing mysteries, this is how his books would read.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Five fantasy action reads with lyrical prose

Howard Andrew Jones's new novel is Upon the Flight of the Queen.

At he tagged five favorite fantasy action titles "with great characters and some lovely writing," including:
Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stories by Leigh Brackett

From a recent author, let me shift to one well-regarded but too-often neglected, the late, great, Leigh Brackett. I’ve talked about her everywhere until I’m blue in the face, and you can find write-ups about her across the interweb. So instead of talking about her or summarizing her, just savor this:
He came alone into the wineshop, wrapped in a dark red cloak, with the cowl drawn over his head. He stood for a moment by the doorway and one of the slim dark predatory women who live in those places went to him, with a silvery chiming from the little bells that were almost all she wore.

I saw her smile up at him. And then, suddenly, the smile became fixed and something happened to her eyes. She was no longer looking at the cloaked man but through him. In the oddest fashion — it was as though he had become invisible.

She went by him. Whether she passed some word along or not I couldn’t tell but an empty space widened around the stranger. And no one looked at him. They did not avoid looking at him. They simply refused to see him.
Those are the opening words to one of Brackett’s final stories set on her faded, dying Mars, “The Last Days of Shandakor.” She always wrote like that, no matter if she was writing hardboiled mysteries or hardboiled space opera, or hardboiled planetary adventure. Note the key term there, hardboiled, because there’s always a sense of loss in her fiction, and her heroes are haunted and a little broken by life’s trials. If you’ve always wished someone had been writing noir adventure science fiction, well, someone was, and she wrote a lot of it. And she never failed to deliver the action beats and propulsive pacing.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top golden age detective novels

Nicola Upson was born in Suffolk and read English at Downing College, Cambridge. She has worked in theatre and as a freelance journalist, and is the author of two non-fiction works and the recipient of an Escalator Award from the Arts Council England. Her debut novel, An Expert in Murder, was the first in a series of crime novels to feature Josephine Tey—one of the leading authors of Britain's age of crime-writing. The newest novel in the series is Sorry for the Dead. Her research for the books has included many conversations with people who lived through the period and who knew Josephine Tey well, most notably Sir John Gielgud.

At the Guardian, Upson tagged ten favorite golden age detective novels, including:
To Love and Be Wise by Josephine Tey (1950)

Here Tey demonstrates an extraordinary understanding of the psychology of a killer – not a crazed figure of evil, but an ordinary person, who, through extremes of love or obsession, might decide that someone no longer deserves to live. “I’ve done a lot of good solid hating in my time,” the author once admitted to a friend, “and the curious thing is that although I did nothing, the people I hated all went satisfyingly to the bad.” This book is an unsettling, ingenious reminder of what we’re all capable of.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Ten terrifying home invasions in fiction

Michael J. Seidlinger is a Filipino American author of My Pet Serial Killer, Dreams of Being, The Fun We’ve Had, and nine other books.

At CrimeReads he tagged ten of the most terrifying home invasions in fiction, including:
Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

This one’s psychological thriller with a capital P. Swanson’s novel is perhaps the one novel on this list that can act as the “benchmark” for the home invasion as narrative device: it has displacement, deception, and above all the disturbing undertones that make our normal spaces so nefarious. In this case, we see one Corbin Dell helping a cousin, Kate Priddy, by swapping apartments after Kate experiences successive panic attacks after being kidnapped by a vengeful ex-boyfriend. But just as soon as Kate moves in, the next door neighbor is murdered and what commences is right out of the best that psychological horror affords—where Kate’s own sanity is questioned while at the same time, the home invasion dynamic becomes as layered as in, say, the famous Hitchcock film, Rear Window. It’s about what you do know that harms you.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Five top stories where nature does its best to kill you

Rin Chupeco has written obscure manuals for complicated computer programs, talked people out of their money at event shows, and done many other terrible things. She now writes about ghosts and fantastic worlds but is still sometimes mistaken for a revenant. She is the author of The Girl from the Well, its sequel, The Suffering, and the Bone Witch trilogy.

Her new novel is The Never Tilting World.

At, Chupeco tagged five favorite stories where nature does its best to kill you, including:
The Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer

An easy favorite, starting with the first book in the series, Annihilation. No one knows how the strange flora and fauna have come to claim the lands that is now known as Area X, only that the people who go on expeditions to study them never come back the same. In many instances, they don’t came back at all. A young unnamed biologist joins the twelfth expedition to find out the circumstances surrounding her husband’s death. The latter had joined the group before hers, only to show up in their kitchen without any recollection of how he’d gotten back, eventually dying of cancer along with his fellow expedition members. But as she explores Area X and watches the same strangeness overtake her fellow scientists while the hostile terrain stalks and attacks them, she realizes that there is an even worse fate waiting for them all there. What I adore the most about the series is that there’s no clear reason why the strange alien environment had started to manifest in Area X – it’s simply there, with no motivation other than to transform everything around it into something just as unnatural as itself.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Annihilation is among Nicholas Royle's ten top lighthouses in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 11, 2019

Six notable mafia classics

Sean Rea studied at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, majoring in communications and minoring in management. The Don of Siracusa is his first novel. Rea has traveled much of America and nearly all of Italy. Like his protagonist, Stefano, from a young age Sean was exposed to the world of big business through his father and nonno, and he drew on much of this in crafting the business aspects of Siracusa. Rea is a long-time fan of the crime-fiction genre and all things mafia-related.

At CrimeReads he tagged six mafia classics you won't want to miss, including:
Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires by Selwyn Raab

Selwyn Raab’s work of narrative nonfiction has taken its (rightful) place as the go-to­ book for organized crime non-fiction. Raab’s novel is expertly written, while still relying on Raab’s journalistic approach to create a reliable history and documentation of organized crime.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven acclaimed books about & from East Germany

Olivia Giovetti a writer and multidisciplinary artist interested in how our lives intersect through culture and the humanities.

At LitHub she tagged seven acclaimed books about and from East Germany, including:
Christa Wolf, Cassandra

Forced to submit their manuscripts for government approval before publication, many GDR authors turned to metaphor to vent their frustrations with the state while slipping past the censors. One of the country’s most celebrated authors, Christa Wolf, used a number of Greek myths as vehicles against an increasingly tight grip of censorship. Coming at the height of the regime’s crackdown on dissent was 1983’s Cassandra. “I told the Cassandra story the way it now presents itself to me,” Wolf wrote in her diary. This presentation was a Troy that fell due to the betrayal of its own leaders, as prophesied by a woman condemned to tell the truth but never be believed—an apt metaphor for what would come to pass in the GDR just a few years after publication.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Seven books about insomnia to distract you from late-night dread

Gnesis Villar, an intern at Electric Literature, tagged seven books to distract you from late night existential dread, including:
Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun

In another novel about the sleepless apocalypse, our narrator Biggs has just lost his wife Carolyn to an insomnia that is wreaking havoc across the nation. Sleep has become a precious commodity in this world. The telltale signs of red-rimmed eyes, slurred speech, and a clouded mind have yet to manifest in Biggs so he while he can still sleep and dream he sets out to find Carolyn–encountering others fighting against sleeplessness along the way.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 9, 2019

The best books about nannies

Amanda Craig is a British novelist, short-story writer and critic. Her novels include Hearts And Minds and The Lie Of the Land. She is currently working on her eighth novel, which is inspired by the fairy-tale of "Beauty and the Beast."

At the Guardian, Craig tagged some of the best books about nannies, including:
“Nanny shall fetch her,” says the odious Mrs Norris, orchestrating the arrival of little Fanny Price at Mansfield Park. Unseen and unheard, Jane Austen’s Nanny enters literature for the first time. Like governesses and housekeepers, nannies are mother substitutes. Although they are most often to be found in children’s literature, the rise of the working mother means they have recently been gaining an important role in adult fiction too.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Mansfield Park is among Salley Vickers's favorite books about family dynamics and 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

Ten top crime books set in the American West

JP Gritton’s awards include a Cynthia Woods Mitchell fellowship, a DisQuiet fellowship and the Donald Barthelme prize in fiction. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Greensboro Review, New Ohio Review, Southwest Review, Tin House and elsewhere. His translations of the fiction of Brazilian writer Cidinha da Silva are forthcoming in InTranslation.

Wyoming is his first novel.

At Publishers Weekly, Gritton tagged ten of his favorite crime books set in the American West, including:
Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie

People tend to read Alexie as a humorist, but that might just be because laughing at things makes them less painful. Alexie’s noirish second novel unfolds as a mystery, but in the process it transcends the genre: when scalped white men begin to appear around Seattle, an Alex Jonesian radio personality (Truck Schulz) whips his listeners into a racist frenzy. Running alongside the resolution of the murders is the story of John Smith, a tribeless Native American whose descent into madness is written with sympathy and just the right touch of dark humor. A wonderful book.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 8, 2019

Five YA books based on real folklore

Shea Ernshaw the author of The Wicked Deep and Winterwood.

At she tagged five "YA books [that] were inspired by real world myths and legends and unexplained tales," including:
The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

Forests create a perfect setting for the dark and unknown, and in Christine Lynn Herman’s debut book, The Devouring Gray, a beast and a sinister gray resides within the surrounding woods, killing off the people who live in the remote town of Four Paths.

This book gave me all the chills, and perhaps it’s because this story isn’t entirely fiction. Herman was inspired by the real-life history of upstate New York, specifically the burned-over district where in early 19th century, an influx of new religions sprouted up at the same time. The Devouring Gray imagines a town where a religion was centered around worshipping something dark and awful within the forest. This local folklore is the perfect setting for an eerie fictional tale.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue