Saturday, October 31, 2020

Ten groundbreaking urban fantasy titles

David R. Slayton grew up in Guthrie, Oklahoma, where finding fantasy novels was pretty challenging and finding fantasy novels with diverse characters was downright impossible. Now he lives in Denver, Colorado, with his partner, Brian, and writes the books he always wanted to read. White Trash Warlock is his first novel. In 2015, Slayton founded Trick or Read, an annual initiative to give out books along with candy to children on Halloween as well as uplift lesser-known authors or those from marginalized backgrounds.

At Publishers Weekly, Slayton tagged ten of his favorite urban fantasies that break new ground, including:
Jade City by Fonda Lee

Lee juggles multiple points of view like so many knives. Her characters live in a crowded, fast-changing city where jade is a status symbol, carefully controlled, and a channel for magic, making for cutthroat politics whether you're a would-be jade thief working a dead-end job or a powerful member of one of the clans rivaling for control. This book unwinds quickly, shifting from one perspective to the next. The characters are compelling, even when they're not sympathetic. After all, they're just trying to survive as the ground shifts out from under them.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Jade City is among Emily Temple's top six epic fantasy series for fans of Game of Thrones and R.F. Kuang's five top East Asian SFF novels by East Asian authors.

The Page 69 Test: Jade City.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 30, 2020

The six most haunting settings in crime fiction

Max Seeck devotes his time to writing professionally. An avid reader of Nordic noir for personal pleasure, he listens to film scores as he writes. His accolades include the Finnish Whodunit Society’s Debut Thriller of the Year Award 2016.

Seeck's new novel is The Witch Hunter.

At CrimeReads, he tagged six of his favorite haunting settings in crime fiction, including:
Misery, Stephen King

The events of Misery take place in an isolated (of course) cabin on the Rocky Mountains. Author Don Sheldon is nurtured and later kept hostage by her biggest fan, Annie, who insists that Don write her a new novel. Now. Here. Faster. Or else she will kill Don. This novel too has been adapted to an amazing feature film and there’s a good reason for it. Or actually two. The important elements are the unstable, clearly out of her mind Annie and the cabin that acts as Don’s prison. And this cabin is much more scary than any spooky Halloween-style horror house.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Misery is among Rula Lenska's six favorite booksJake Kerridge's top ten Stephen King booksJohn Niven's ten best writers in novelsEmerald Fennell's top ten villainesses in literature, and Lesley Glaister’s top ten books about incarceration.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Ten top horror novels

Gabriel Bergmoser is an award-winning Melbourne-based author and playwright. He won the prestigious Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award in 2015, was nominated for the 2017 Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing and went on to win several awards at the 2017 VDL One Act Play Festival circuit. In 2016 his first young adult novel, Boone Shepard, was shortlisted for the Readings Young Adult Prize. A film adaptation of his novel The Hunted is currently being developed in a joint production between Stampede Ventures and Vertigo entertainment in Los Angeles.

At the Guardian, Bergmoser tagged ten "horror stories that in different ways revolutionised the genre by being far more than just bumps in the night," including:
The Passage by Justin Cronin

Justin Cronin’s epic vampire saga is a sprawling tale of love, loss and societies destroyed, rebuilt and destroyed again, centred not only on characters we could care deeply for, but a slowly growing sense of insidious evil whispering from the shadows, a terror so unknowable that it was always going to lose a little menace once it was explained. But like the best horror writers, Cronin uses that inevitability to make his point – that all too often evil grows from a place that is a little more understandable than we might care to confront. The whole trilogy is fantastic, but for its singular atmosphere of growing dread the first will always be the best.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Passage is among C.J. Tudor's eight thrillers featuring a child with a mysterious supernatural power, Anthony Horowitz's top ten apocalypse books and Annalee Newitz's ten works of science fiction that are really fantasy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The six best books on life outdoors

Stef Penney is a screenwriter and the author of three novels: The Tenderness of Wolves (2006), The Invisible Ones (2011), and Under a Pole Star (2016). She has also written extensively for radio, including adaptations of Moby Dick, The Worst Journey in the World, and, mostly recently, a third installment of Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise series.

At the Guardian, Penney tagged six books "to remind us of the beauty and danger nature can offer," including:
Alan Garner’s Thursbitch is a slender novel of huge scope. It focuses on a Pennine valley – thursbitch means “demon valley” in Old English – where, 300 years ago, a drover is found dead in the snow next to the print from a woman’s shoe. In the present day, a couple – friends? Lovers? Something else? – argue as they walk over the same ground. Gradually these stories weave together, invoking the enduring power of landscape, myth and magic in wonderful language to arrive at an ending with tremendous emotional heft. Next time you walk somewhere familiar, this odd, unforgettable novel will make you question what may have gone before.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Ten of the best books about Texas

Aaron Gwyn is the author of three novels. His fiction has appeared in his story collection Dog on the Cross, finalist for the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award; and numerous magazines and anthologies such as Esquire, McSweeney’s, Best of the West, and Every True Pleasure: LGBTQ Tales of North Carolina. He is associate professor of English at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, where he teaches fiction writing and American literature.

Gwyn's new novel is All God's Children.

At Publishers Weekly he tagged the ten best books about the Lone Star state, including:
Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S. C. Gwynne

A nonfiction book about Quanah Parker, the last great war chief of the formidable Quahadi-Comanche, and Jack Coffee Hays, the Ranger who taught Anglo-Texans how to face Comanches in combat. Gwynne is a fantastic stylist and a great storyteller; the tale of the rise and fall of the Comanche People is both thrilling and devastating.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 26, 2020

Eight epic journeys in literature

Micheline Aharonian Marcom is the author of seven novels, including a trilogy of books about the Armenian genocide and its aftermath in the 20th century.

Her latest book is The New American.

At Electric Lit she tagged eight epic quest stories, including:
The Odyssey by Homer

Written down, along with the Iliad, soon after the invention of the Greek alphabet around the 8th-century BCE, the epic poem sings of Odysseus’ return home after the Trojan War and his encounters with monsters, the Sirens, shipwrecks, and captivity by Calypso on her island until he finally makes it back to Ithaca. Because the poem survived more or less continuously until modern times and has had influence in so many cultures for millennia (unlike the more recently rediscovered and older Gilgamesh), there’s no need to reiterate a narrative which so many of us already know, either directly or through the many stories the poem has inspired and influenced. One of my favorite moments comes in Book 14 when Odysseus finally makes it to Ithaca after ten years of traveling and, disguised as a beggar, seeks out Eumaeus the swineherd, who, not recognizing Odysseus, asks “But come…tell me of thine own sorrows, and declare me this truly, that I may know full well. Who art thou among men, and from whence?” These lines have seemed to me to in some way encapsulate some of storytelling’s most basic questions across the ages.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Odyssey is among Megan Whalen Turner's eight sci-fi & fantasy books featuring deities, Daniel Mendelsohn's six all-time favorite books, four books that changed Mardi McConnochie, four books that changed Nicole Trilivas, Jill Ciment's ten top dog stories, Shaun Byron Fitzpatrick's top seven bad witches in literature, Ellen Cooney's ten top canine-human literary duos, Nicole Hill's ten best names in literature to give your dog, Alexandra Silverman's biggest fictional literary crushes, James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello's top ten journeys across the Mediterranean and Caspian seas, Panayiota Kuvetakis's top ten fictional female friends who would make good real-life friends, James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello's top ten journeys across the Mediterranean and Caspian Sea, Tony Bradman's top 10 list of father and son stories, John Mullan's lists ten of the best shipwrecks in literature, ten of the best monsters in literature, ten of the best examples of rowing in literature, and ten of the best caves in literature, as well as Madeline Miller's top ten list of classical books, Justin Somper's top ten list of pirate books, and Carsten Jensen's list of the top ten seafaring tales.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Eight novels featuring unlikely detectives

Peter Colt was born in Boston, MA in 1973 and moved to Nantucket Island shortly thereafter. He is a 1996 graduate of the University of Rhode Island and a 24-year veteran of the Army Reserve with deployments to Kosovo and Iraq. He is a police officer in a New England City and the married father of two boys.

Colt's new novel is Back Bay Blues.

[My Book, The Movie: Back Bay BluesThe Page 69 Test: Back Bay BluesQ&A with Peter Colt]

At CrimeReads, Colt tagged eight novels featuring "amateur sleuths [who] never asked to get mixed up in a murder investigation—but they won't stop looking until they find the truth," including:
Arturo Perez-Reverte, The Club Dumas

The protagonist of Arturo Perez-Reverte’s excellent The Club Dumas is Lucas Corso. Corso is a very Unlikely Detective, as he is a mercenary of a sort, whose moral code, if it can’t be bought, can certainly be rented if the price is right. Corso is referred to as a book mercenary who, for the right price, will chase down rare books and acquire by means fair and foul. He draws the line at murder. Corso lives out of a canvas shoulder bag that he carries his tools of the trade in, passport, cash, notebooks, pens and manuscripts. His clients are rich and, as the rich often are, unscrupulous when it comes to acquiring their desires. Corso is their guy.

He is hired to find a rare portion of the original manuscript of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. Corso moves through Europe meeting with collectors and dealers, femme fatales and a mysterious young woman. His search for the manuscript brings him into contact with a secret society, devil worship, murder and characters that are straight out of the book he is looking for. The Club Dumas is an intellectual puzzle wrapped in a mystery story and, like Hive of Glass, provides a close look at the dark side of collecting.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Eight books about the intersection of witchcraft and feminism

Lucile Scott is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor. She has reported on national and international health and human rights issues for over a decade. Most recently, she has worked at the United Nations and amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, and has contributed to such publications as VICE and POZ magazines. In addition, she has written and/or directed plays that have been featured in New York City, Edinburgh, and Los Angeles. In 2016 she hit the rails as part of Amtrak’s writers’ residency program. An American Covenant: A Story of Women, Mysticism, and the Making of Modern America is her first book.

At Electric Lit, Scott tagged eight books about hexing the patriarchy, including:
Circe by Madeline Miller

One’s cultural myths should reflect the values one holds most sacred, as our myths shape our psyches and life choices—even if we don’t think they do. However, most Western myths, told only from the perspective of white men, do not reflect the values I hold most sacred. And many of these myths began with the Greeks. In Circe, Madeline Miller recasts these archetypal tales through the gaze of the witch Circe, revealing the bombastic brittleness that always undergirded the patriarchal originals equating brutality with valor and narcissism with honor.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Circe is among E. Foley and B. Coates's top ten goddesses in fiction, Jordan Ifueko's five fantasy titles driven by traumatic family bonds, Eleanor Porter's top ten books about witch-hunts, Emily B. Martin's six stunning fantasies for nature lovers, Allison Pataki's top six books that feature strong female voices, Pam Grossman's thirteen stories about strong women with magical powers, Kris Waldherr's nine top books inspired by mythology, Katharine Duckett's eight novels that reexamine literature from the margins, and Steph Posts' thirteen top novels set in the world of myth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 23, 2020

Seven great thrillers that take readers to far-flung places

Rose Carlyle is a law professor who has written intermittently throughout her life and who began writing fiction in 2016. She was awarded first class honours in her creative writing Masters at the University of Auckland and was granted a prestigious mentorship under which she developed and completed this manuscript. She spends her spare time in far-flung places and currently lives in New Zealand. The Girl in the Mirror is her debut novel.

At CrimeReads, Carlyle tagged seven "books that have transported me to places I’ve never been with such vividness that I feel as though I have." One title on the list:
Call Me Evie by JP Pomare

“Evie,” the young woman who narrates this impressive debut thriller, is coy about everything including her real name, but she doesn’t hold back when describing Maketu, the brooding, remote New Zealand village she finds herself living in with a mysterious man who seems to be her captor. While Evie misses the city she left behind, the reader is enthralled by the wintry, haunted landscape, the menacing ocean, and the locals who seem to know too much about her troubled past. Melbourne-based Pomare chose a setting he knows intimately as the perfect backdrop to this atmospheric and unsettling tale.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Top ten books about the Himalayas

Ed Douglas is an award-winning writer with a passion for the Himalaya. The author of a dozen books, including a biography of Tenzing Norgay, he has reported from the region for more than twenty-five years, covering the Maoist insurgency in Nepal and the Tibetan occupation. He lives in Yorkshire, England.

Douglas's new book is Himalaya: A Human History.

At the Guardian, he tagged ten "books that catch the human texture and shape of the world’s highest mountain range," including:
The Wayward Daughter by Shradha Ghale

The status of women in Nepal continues to hold the country back. Domestic violence is rife while women’s healthcare and education lag behind. Even the constitution is discriminatory. Highly regarded journalist Shradha Ghale knows this better than anyone, but her first novel is not at all clunky or overly worthy. Her high-school heroine Sumnima and the women around her are rounded, memorable characters making sense of changes to a traditional society that offers security as well as injustice in a world where poverty is never far away. It’s full of warmth and humour, and features a fearsome grandma called Boju who swears like a docker.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Five novels that explore "mean girl" culture

Avery Bishop is the pseudonym for a USA Today bestselling author of over a dozen novels, including the newly released Girl Gone Mad.

[The Page 69 Test: Girl Gone Mad; Q&A with Avery Bishop.]

At CrimeReads, Bishop tagged "five novels that, while they may not mainly focus on mean girl culture, certainly contain aspects that are important to the plot; in some of the books, bullying is what sets the story in motion." One title on the list:
Dare Me by Megan Abbott

Gillian Flynn has described Abbott’s novel as “Lord of the Flies set in a high-school cheerleading squad,” and there’s really no better way to describe it. This is the quintessential “mean girl” novel. There’s Abby, the narrator, and her best friend, Beth, who’s captain of the pep squad. When a new coach enters the scene and Beth sees her as a threat, all hell breaks loose. As the coach remarks early on in the book: “There’s something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

Dare Me is among Kelly Simmons's six books to buddy-read with your teen or twentyish daughter, Katie Lowe's top eight crime novels for angry women in an angry world, Kate Hamer's top ten teenage friendships in fiction, S.R. Masters's seven thrillers that capture some of the darker aspects of tight-knit friendship groups, Jessica Knoll's top ten thrillers, Brian Boone's fifty most essential high school stories, Julie Buntin's twelve books that totally get female friendship, L.S. Hilton's top ten female-fronted thrillers, Megan Reynolds's top ten books you must read if you loved Gone Girl, Anna Fitzpatrick's four top horror stories set in the real universe of girlhood and Adam Sternbergh's six notable crime novels that double as great literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Six works by masters of interiority

Claire Messud's novels include The Emperor's Children, The Woman Upstairs, and The Burning Girl.

Her new book is Kant's Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write, an autobiography in essays.

At The Week magazine Messud tagged six works by masters of interiority, including:
Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck (2015).

This novel, about a retired classics professor and his engagement with a group of African refugees in Berlin, is extraordinary — in the exploration of this character's complexity, his conscious efforts to connect, and the limitations of his education and temperament. Like [Alice] Munro, Erpenbeck is profoundly wise and honest.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 19, 2020

Seven great art heist novels

Carol Orange has worked in the art world for more than twenty years. She began as a research editor on art books in London and later became an art dealer in Boston. She lived in Paris for two years, where she researched George Sand's life and writing. Her short story "Delicious Dates" was included in Warren Adler's 2010 short story anthology. Another story, "Close Call," appeared in the Atherton Review. She currently lives in Chicago near her daughter and her family.

A Discerning Eye is her first book.

At CrimeReads, Orange tagged seven great art heist novels, including:
Ian Rankin, Doors Open

Ian Rankin, the Scottish mystery writer, may be most widely celebrated for his 25 dark novels featuring Inspector John Rebus, but his playful side erupts in his standalone novel Doors Open (published in 2008). The story begins in an Edinburgh art auction where three friends reconnect. Mike Mackenzie made a fortune with his software company and is retired and now bored. Robert Gissing is an art professor who is miffed by the fact that so many pieces of art are hidden away in private collections, unavailable to the general public. Alan Cruickshank is a successful banker with a taste for art that he can’t afford. Gissing suggests that it would be enormous fun to “liberate” a few priceless works of art from the National Gallery’s storage warehouse. Mackenzie’s old high school mate turned local crime boss is brought into the scheme and the game is on.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Twelve mysteries featuring BIPOC protagonists

Jennifer Baker was named the 2019 Publishers Weekly Star Watch “SuperStar” because her “varied work championing diversity in publishing has made her an indispensable fixture in the book business.” She is the recipient of a 2017 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship and a 2017 Queens Council on the Arts New Work Grant (as well as the QCA Jr. Board Artistic Excellence Award) in Nonfiction Literature for her WIP essay collection. Her essay “What We Aren’t” was also listed as a Notable Essay in The Best American Essays 2018. Her short story “The Pursuit of Happiness” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for 2017 by Newtown Literary Journal and is featured in the anthology What God Is Honored Here? Baker is the editor of Everyday People: The Color of Life—A Short Story Anthology with Atria Books. Her YA novel Forgive Me Not will publish with Putnam Books for Young Readers in 2022.

At Electric Lit, Baker tagged twelve mystery novels featuring Black, Indigenous, and POC protagonists, including:
Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

Doting eldest daughter Sylvie Lee visits a family member in the Netherlands and disappears. Bereft younger sister Amy seeks answers and through her journey unearths what her seemingly fearless sibling kept hidden from everyone.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Searching for Sylvie Lee is among Katherine St. John's eleven novels of vacations gone horribly wrong.

The Page 69 Test: Searching for Sylvie Lee.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Five SFF books about flawed gods

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 Ever Cruel Kingdom.

At, Chupeco tagged five sci-fi & fantasy books about flawed gods, including:
Fengshen Yanyi / Investiture of the Gods

Allegedly written by Xu Zhonglin, the Fengshen Yanyi is one of the most popular works in Chinese literature, and is a fictionalized retelling of King Zhòu and the decline of the Shang dynasty. For a sprawling epic with roughly a hundred chapters that detail the bloody wars preceding the Zhōu dynasty, the catalyst to the conflict was a rather small offense—King Zhòu had disrespected the goddess, Nuwa, by writing lustful poems about her on the walls of her temple. Naturally, the only way to regain her honor was to send fox spirits posing as courtesans to enchant him and bring about an end to his reign—violently. A reasonable progression of events I suppose, when you’re the goddess responsible for creating the whole of humanity.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 16, 2020

Eight thrillers featuring a child with a mysterious supernatural power

C. J. Tudor is the author of the newly released The Other People as well as The Hiding Place and The Chalk Man, which won the International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel and the Strand Magazine Award for Best Debut Novel. Over the years she has worked as a copywriter, television presenter, voice-over artist, and dog walker. She is now thrilled to be able to write full-time, and doesn’t miss chasing wet dogs through muddy fields all that much. She lives in England with her partner and daughter.

At CrimeReads, Tudor tagged eight thrillers featuring fictional children with freaky powers, including:
The Girl with all the Gifts by M. R. Carey

Melanie is one of a group of strange children kept confined and shackled in an underground facility.

Turns out that these children are infected by—yet partly resistant to—a zombiefying plague that has ravaged the world.

Dr Caroline Caldwell sees them as specimens to be cultivated and cut up – the key to a possible cure. Psychologist/teacher Helen Justineau believes in their essential humanity and wants to save them.

When their rural army base is besieged, the group embark upon a road trip towards London, during which Melanie’s true nature is gradually revealed. A clever take on the much done ‘zombie apocalypse’ story.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Girl with All the Gifts is among Keith Yatsuhashi's five gateway books that opened the door for him to specific genres and C. A. Higgins's top five books with plot twists that flip your perception.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Ten top books about creative writing

Anthony Anaxagorou is an award-winning poet, fiction writer, essayist, publisher and poetry educator. He has published several volumes of poems and essays, a spoken word EP and a collection of short stories whilst having also written for theatre.

His poetry has appeared on national television and radio as well as being published in various literary magazines and anthologies. He has judged several literary prizes with the most recent being the 2016 BBC Young Writers Award. Currently he works as the writer in residence in several London schools where he teaches poetry and creative writing while also guest lecturing at universities on the subject of poetry, race/identity politics and social inclusion.

In 2015 his poetry and fiction writing won him the Groucho Maverick Award and in 2016 he was shortlisted for the Hospital Club’s H-100 award for most influential people.

Anaxagorou's new book is How To Write It.

At the Guardian he tagged ten top books about creative writing, including:
Find Your Voice by Angie Thomas

One of the hardest things about creative writing is developing a voice and not compromising your vision for the sake of public appeal. Thomas offers sharp advice to those wrestling with novels or Young Adult fiction. She writes with appealing honesty, taking in everything from writer’s block to deciding what a final draft should look like. The book also comes interspersed with prompts and writing exercises alongside other tips and suggestions to help airlift writers out of the mud.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The best books to help us navigate the next 50 years

Kim Stanley Robinson is a winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. He is the author of the bestselling Mars trilogy and the critically acclaimed Forty Signs of Rain, Fifty Degrees Below, Sixty Days and Counting, The Years of Rice and Salt, Antarctica, and The Ministry for the Future.

In 2008, Robinson was named a “Hero of the Environment” by Time magazine.

One of the best books to help us navigate the next fifty years he tagged at the Guardian:
As someone who has spent many years thinking about how we could live on Mars, I can assure you that there is no planet B. Adjusting ourselves and our society to the planet we actually live on will require us to create and enact a new structure of feeling. The feminist theorist Donna Haraway urges us to take care of our animal cousins in her provocative study Staying With the Trouble. We must establish enduring relationships between generations and species, she argues, and recognise that an improved political economy is both necessary and possible.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Five SFF novels featuring disabled characters who value themselves

Allison Alexander edits sci-fi and fantasy at a small press, writes books, and plays video games the rest of the time. She is the incurable author of Super Sick: Making Peace with Chronic Illness, a geek’s guide to living with a disability.

At Alexander tagged five books that have "a character who has chronic pain or a disability, who plays a significant role in the story," including:
Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

Some people are gifted with magical abilities in the world of Carve the Mark, but Cyra Novak would not describe her ability as a “gift.” Her power is chronic pain—and she has the ability to transfer it to others by touch. Her brother is the tyrant leader of the Shotet people and uses Cyra to torture prisoners.

Cyra is an incredibly strong fighter and trains every day—something, I’ll admit, I scoffed at a little because I know how exhausting chronic pain is, and the toll it takes on your body. I had a hard time believing she would be so physically fit and wouldn’t just lie in bed some, if not most, days. But what I did relate to was her guilt: Cyra feels like she deserves her pain. Throughout this series and the relationships she builds, Cyra works through these emotions and strives to make peace with a condition that threatens to swallow up her life.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 12, 2020

Ten top books set in bars

Preety Sidhu, an intern at Electric Literature, tagged ten books to tide you over until cocktail lounges and local pubs are safe again, including:
Hysteria by Jessica Gross

The unnamed millennial narrator of Gross’s debut novel lives too close to her parents and can’t seem to escape their shadow. A sex addict, she stumbles drunkenly from one encounter to another, from her psychiatrist’s parents’ colleague to her roommate’s brother. When she encounters a sympathetic bartender at local Pilz Bar who looks just like Sigmund Freud, she imagines them into a client-therapist relationship and begins to sort through her complex feelings for older men. The book is like “if Ottessa Moshfegh and Phoebe Waller-Bridge painted the town red together,” according to Courtney Maum’s front cover endorsement.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Twenty titles that are laced with sinister magic

Katie Yee is a Brooklyn-based writer and the Book Marks associate editor at Lit Hub. If you follow @bookmarksreads on Instagram, you'll see lots of photos of her rescue dog, Oliver.

At Lit Hub she tagged twenty books that are laced with sinister magic, including:
Laura van den Berg, The Third Hotel (Picador)

Laura van den Berg has mastered the uncanny. In The Third Hotel, a widow goes to Havana to attend a film festival that her horror film scholar husband was supposed to be at. When she arrives, she is haunted by a man who looks exactly like her deceased husband. Reading this novel gives off the feeling of watching one of those Twilight Zone episodes. You sink into a story, and you catch the off-kilter details, and you wait for the twist.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Six of the best books about true crime on college campuses

Randy Dotinga, a former newspaper reporter, has been a full-time freelance journalist for more than 20 years. He previously served as president of the American Society of Journalists & Authors, a non-profit association of independent non-fiction writers founded in 1948.

At CrimeReads he tagged the six best books about true crime on college campuses, including:
Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, by Jon Krakauer

Jon Krakauer is best known for his best-selling outdoor books Into the Wild and Into Thin Air, but he’s also drawn to true crime. In this scathing and powerful 2015 book, he accuses the college town of Missoula, Mont., of failing the victims of sexual assault by dismissing victims and refusing to properly prosecute assailants. As Krakauer explains, Missoula is hardly an outlier. “When an individual is raped in this country,” he writes, “more than 90 percent of the time the rapist gets away with the crime.”

Krakauer, who profiles Missoula victims and their rapists, mostly keeps his fury in check. But we hear his outrage when he writes about how he discovers how many women he knows have been raped. Their suffering is overwhelming and, he finds, their self-destructive reactions “are often held up as ‘proof’ that they are unreliable and morally compromised, or that they deserved to be raped.” Krakauer calls for reform and an end to “the undeserved sense of shame that is so often borne in isolation.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 9, 2020

Seven dystopian novels about motherhood

Anneliese Mackintosh's short story collection, Any Other Mouth, won the Green Carnation Prize. It was also shortlisted for the Edge Hill Prize, Saltire Society's First Book Award, and the Saboteur Awards, and longlisted for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. Her debut novel, So Happy It Hurts, was shortlisted for a DIVA Rising Star Award.

Her new book is Bright and Dangerous Objects.

At Electric Lit, Mackintosh tagged seven modern fables about the challenges of caring for a child, including:
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

In a post-nuclear-holocaust Africa, two ethnic groups in Sudan are engaged in conflict. The light-skinned Nuru are guided by a religious text instructing them to enslave the dark-skinned Okeke people. Rebellion is met with slaughter. Onyesonwu is Ewu—neither light nor dark—because she is the child of an Okeke woman who was raped by a Nuru man. Furious at what happened to her mother, Onye embarks on a magic-fuelled quest for justice.

Dealing fearlessly with subjects including racism, weaponized rape, genocide, and female genital mutilation, Okorafor creates a frightening but beautiful read. Onyesonwu’s mother might have had little choice over her terrible fate, but her child’s fierce determination to make amends for this—and for all who suffer—is engrossing and extremely moving.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Who Fears Death is among Joel Cunningham's twenty sci-fi & fantasy books with a social justice message.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Eight science fiction titles with lessons for economics

"Science fiction can remake the realm of economic possibility, whether by dreaming up new currencies or experimenting with radically different systems of exchange," writes Saanya Jain at Lit Hub. She tagged eight books that "engage in this kind of narrative speculation and offer glimpses of a more sustainable and just society," including:
Cory Doctorow, Walkaway

Set in the recent future, Doctorow’s spin on the post-scarcity tradition hits closer to home that most. The need to work has been eliminated thanks to 3D printers that can produce all essentials, but global ecological catastrophe has created refugee crises and extreme inequality. The title refers to those who abandon mainstream society, known as “Default”—a clever play on words both in the economic sense and as a reminder that the world as given is not the only possible one.

The novel follows three such walkaways who build a small-scale society in rural Canada. They develop a gift-based economy in which everything is freely given instead of being exchanged or valued at a set price. Their existence threatens the urban elites, who don’t take kindly to the alternative to markets that the walkaways’ way of life represents.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Eight dazzling historical thrillers featuring real life jewels & paintings

Kirsty Manning is the bestselling author of The Midsummer Garden and The Jade Lily (published in North America and UK as The Song of the Jade Lily). Her historical novels have been published in Australia and New Zealand, North America, UK, South Africa and translated into several languages including German, Dutch, Hebrew and Serbian.

At CrimeReads, Manning tagged eight dazzling historical thrillers featuring real life jewels and paintings. One title on the list:
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Inspired by the extraordinary true story of a Muslim librarian who risked his life to hide the priceless Sarajevo Haggadah from the Nazis. This is the launching pad for the imagined journey of a rare illuminated manuscript through centuries of exile and war. Brooks is a brilliant storyteller and set the bar with her sense of place and gutsy female protagonists. Her writing is at once entertaining and razor sharp. I adore all her books.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Eight SFF titles featuring deities

New York Times–bestselling author Megan Whalen Turner is the award-winning author of six novels set in the world of the Queen’s Thief. These epic novels of intrigue and adventure can be read in any order, but were published as follows: The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, A Conspiracy of Kings, Thick as Thieves, and Return of the Thief. She has been awarded a Newbery Honor and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature.

At, Turner tagged eight sci-fi & fantasy books featuring deities, icluding:
The Odyssey

Apollo took from them the day of their return.

The Iliad is an excellent example of just how much misery that gods can inflict on humanity, but that story begins with the wrath of Achilles—when the events that led to the war on Troy are long over. With The Odyssey, we get a front row seat as Odysseus slays the Cyclops and makes a lifelong enemy of his father, Poseidon. We see his men eat the cattle of Apollo and then we get a ten year long lesson in why you shouldn’t offend the gods.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Odyssey is among Daniel Mendelsohn's six all-time favorite books, four books that changed Mardi McConnochie, four books that changed Nicole Trilivas, Jill Ciment's ten top dog stories, Shaun Byron Fitzpatrick's top seven bad witches in literature, Ellen Cooney's ten top canine-human literary duos, Nicole Hill's ten best names in literature to give your dog, Alexandra Silverman's biggest fictional literary crushes, James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello's top ten journeys across the Mediterranean and Caspian seas, Panayiota Kuvetakis's top ten fictional female friends who would make good real-life friends, James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello's top ten journeys across the Mediterranean and Caspian Sea, Tony Bradman's top 10 list of father and son stories, John Mullan's lists ten of the best shipwrecks in literature, ten of the best monsters in literature, ten of the best examples of rowing in literature, and ten of the best caves in literature, as well as Madeline Miller's top ten list of classical books, Justin Somper's top ten list of pirate books, and Carsten Jensen's list of the top ten seafaring tales.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 5, 2020

Eight standout darkly humorous crime novels

Thomas H. Carry holds a doctorate in literature and has worked as a professional actor, dancer, business consultant, bouncer, and pet whisperer. A recovering academic, Carry has also held positions at various colleges and universities. He currently lives in Manhattan with his wife.

Privilege is his first novel.

At CrimeReads, Carry tagged ten crime fiction titles "that artfully employ humor and satire so well that it’s downright criminal," including:
Hangman by Jack Heath

Timothy Blake is an FBI consultant with strange tastes—namely, a taste for human flesh. Given how successful he is in bringing cases to close, he’s worked out a secret deal with an FBI special agent, who supplies Blake with corpses as payment for his work. Who says a cannibal can’t contribute to society? Working on a missing child case, things get interesting when he’s teamed with a new FBI partner, a woman with a link to a past he’d rather keep hidden (like the body parts in his freezer).
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Essential election reading

At B&N Reads, Sallye Leventhal and Kat Sarfas curated a reading list for everything you need to know for the upcoming 2020 election. One title on the list:
Just Us: An American Conversation
Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine’s Just Us: An American Conversation is an incredibly accessible work. It combines her poetry and essays that lend perfectly to a dialogue while reading the book—and again, after reading the book. Through photographs, illustrations and side-by-side page notes, we can consider the weight of the subject matter. The intimacy and personal recollections of Rankine’s writing will open your eyes to the world around you. It’s a deft gesture that only a poet and scholar of Rankine’s ability could pull off.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Eight SFF titles that center mental health

Latonya Pennington is a Black Asian queer freelance pop culture critic and poet.

At they tagged eight sci-fi & fantasy books that center mental health, including:
The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle

It’s not hard to see how the horror genre can be used to explore mental illness by making the monsters in a person’s head come to life. Set in the fictional New Hyde Mental Institution, the novel begins with the main character, Pepper, being admitted in handcuffs for a 72-hour psych evaluation. On the first night, Pepper is attacked by a terrible creature. When other patients confirm that the creature is real and roams the halls at night, they must come together and face demons from within and without. While the main character has no mental illness, the other patients have ailments that range from schizophrenia to bipolar disorder to obsessive compulsive disorder. The book also tackles the unfortunate reality that is a faulty mental healthcare system that turns its staff and lack of resources into something truly terrifying.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue