Friday, December 31, 2021

Five notable novels that riff on—and rip off—Shakespeare

Lois Leveen is the award-winning author of The Secrets of Mary Bowser and Juliet's Nurse.

[The Page 69 Test: Juliet's Nurse; Writers Read: Lois Leveen (October 2014)]

In 2014, for the Daily Beast, Leveen tagged five books that share a shameless use of Shakespeare as a source, including:
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

If I describe Warm Bodies as “Romeo and Juliet with zombies,” I realize eye-rolling might seem a warranted response. But this novel is worlds away from Abraham Lincoln hunting vampires or the Bennet sisters battling brain-eaters between dress balls. It is a parable about how society demonizes (and even tries to obliterate) those it deems to be different, and it comes complete with a warning that if we follow along, we risk destroying our own chance for happiness. Like Smiley, Marion takes essential conflicts and themes from Shakespeare and transposes them to an entirely new (and in this case post-apocalyptic) setting, then makes them his own. But he is borrowing from more than one source; my beloved Nurse is transformed here into a teenage friend of Juliet’s, a la West Side Story. Spoiler alert: “Happily Ever After” takes on a whole new meaning if you’re undead.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Warm Bodies is among Rachel Aukes's five top books that take zombies in a new direction, Ceridwen Christensen's seven top books with thinking zombies, Jeff Somers's eight best speculative works with dead narrators, Sarah Skilton's six most unusual YA narrators, Rachel Paxton-Gillilan's five funniest YA zombie novels, Nick Harkaway's six favorite holiday books, and Nicole Hill's seven favorite literary oddballs.

The Page 69 Test: Warm Bodies.

My Book, The Movie: Warm Bodies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Top 10 books about self-improvement

Anna Katharina Schaffner is professor of cultural history at the University of Kent.

She is the author of Exhaustion: A History and the novel The Truth about Julia.

Her latest book is The Art of Self-Improvement: Ten Timeless Truths.

At the Guardian Schaffner tagged ten of the best guides to making a better life, including:
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

The Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius (AD 121–180) believed that all suffering is in our minds. Suffering is caused not by external events but by our reactions to those events – by faulty judgments and unrealistic expectations. Given that most external events are beyond our control, Aurelius argues in his Meditations that it is pointless to worry about them. Our evaluations of these events, by contrast, are completely within our control. It follows that all our mental energies should be directed inwards, with a view to controlling our minds. The key to a happy life, then, lies in adjusting our expectations, because “only a madman looks for figs in winter”.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Meditations is among five books that changed Elizabeth Gilbert.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The five best novels written by poets

In 2015 at B&N Reads, Jeff Somers tagged "five novels written by poets you should absolutely check out," including:
Hausfrau, by Jill Alexander Essbaum

If you’re wondering what the term “precise language” might actually mean, read Essbaum’s remarkable debut novel, which tells the tale of Anna Benz, an American woman married to a Swiss man. Anna lives a comfortable life but lacks some inner quality, which gives her a taste for constant experience, including sexual affairs that quickly complicate her life. As Anna lies and twists to escape the consequences of her actions, Essbaum charts her descent in sentences that might as well be carved from diamonds: Beautiful, clear, and constructed with a precision of tone and vocabulary only a poet could achieve.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Ten fantastical literary parties

In 2014 the staff at Off the Shelf tagged ten of "the most fantastical (and sometimes fanatical) parties imaginable" in novels, including:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

In a remote Hertfordshire village, far off the good coach roads of George III's England, a country squire of no great means must marry off his five vivacious daughters. At the heart of this all-consuming enterprise are his headstrong second daughter Elizabeth Bennet and her aristocratic suitor Fitzwilliam Darcy — two lovers whose pride must be humbled and prejudices dissolved before the novel can come to its splendid conclusion.
Read about the other entries on the list.

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

The Page 99 Test: Pride and Prejudice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 27, 2021

Ten groundbreaking horror novels

Gus Moreno is the author of This Thing Between Us. His stories have appeared in Aurealis, PseudoPod, Bluestem Magazine, LitroNy, the Burnt Tongues anthology, and a bunch of other places that are totally not defunct.

At Publishers Weekly he tagged ten books that "push the boundaries of the genre in terms of what terrifies us, what disturbs us, and what we expect from a horror novel." One title on the list:
The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

Two young girls move in with their aunt and her sons in an assuming suburb and develop friendships with other neighborhood children. Is there a slasher? No. Is the house haunted? No. They’re cannibals then? No. Ghosts? Zombies? Serial Killers? Nope. Is it the most disturbing novel I’ve ever read? Yes. As the novel progresses, the walls begin to close in around what this story actually is about, and no work combines the domestic and the extreme more than The Girl Next Door. Many novels explore what’s beneath the thin veneer of suburban life, but not many reach the depths Ketchum’s book does, and you’re too ensnared in the story to stop by the time truly horrific things begin to happen. If the frog-in-a-pot-of-slowly-boiling-water fable was a novel, it would be this.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Five top books about American disasters

Cynthia A. Kierner is professor of history at George Mason University and the author of Martha Jefferson Randolph, Daughter of Monticello and Inventing Disaster: The Culture of Calamity from the Jamestown Colony to the Johnstown Flood.

[The Page 99 Test: Inventing Disaster]

At Shepherd she tagged five of the best books about American disasters. One title on the list:
Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82 by Elizabeth A. Fenn

I am a historian of early America, including the American Revolution, though I'm not a huge reader (or writer) of conventional military history. Published in 2001, Elizabeth Fenn's book was in many ways ahead of its time in emphasizing how military outcomes—and strategies—were often contingent on other seemingly unrelated factors. In this case, she argues that smallpox was a decisive force in the American War for Independence. The continental scope of her study, moreover, provides a link between that war and the ultimately successful military offensives that the independent United States inflicted on disease-weakened Native American peoples in the post-revolutionary era.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 25, 2021

The twelve best novels with courtroom scenes

Jane Casey has written eleven crime novels for adults and three for teenagers. A former editor, she is married to a criminal barrister who ensures her writing is realistic and as accurate as possible. This authenticity has made her novels international bestsellers and critical successes. The Maeve Kerrigan series has been nominated for many awards: in 2015 Casey won the Mary Higgins Clark Award for The Stranger You Know and Irish Crime Novel of the Year for After the Fire. In 2019, Cruel Acts was chosen as Irish Crime Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. It was a Sunday Times bestseller.

Born in Dublin, Casey now lives in southwest London with her husband and two children.

Her newest novel is The Killing Kind.

[My Book, The Movie: The Killing Kind]

At The Strand Magazine Casey shared twelve novels featuring some of her favorite courtroom scenes, including:
Pleasantville by Attica Locke

This brilliant thriller blends legal issues with political ones and a very fine murder mystery. It’s set in 1996, in Houston, as a mayoral election campaign heats up. A young campaigner disappears and the African-American mayoral candidate’s nephew is accused of her murder. Lawyer Jay Porter returns (after his first appearance in Black Water Rising) to defend in his first ever murder trial and to find out what really happened – and why. The courtroom scenes are key to unravelling the complex, brilliant plot that draws in politics, a corporate pollution suit, historic real estate decisions and two previous unsolved murders.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 24, 2021

Nine of the best fishing books

A lifelong outdoorsman, writer, artist, and lure craftsman, Conor Sullivan holds a Bachelors in Marine Science from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, a Masters in Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island, as well as a 200-ton Master Mariners license. As a Coast Guard Officer, he served in numerous leadership positions, including as the Commanding Officer of the North Pacific Regional Fisheries Training Center in Kodiak, Alaska, and as the Captain of a Coast Guard Cutter in the North Atlantic, specializing in fisheries conservation, search and rescue, and maritime law enforcement.

Sullivan is the author of Fishing the Wild Waters: An Angler's Search for Peace and Adventure in the Wilderness.

At Lit Hub he tagged nine favorite fishing books, including:
Monte Burke, Lords of the Fly

Focusing on the late 1970s and 80s in southwestern Florida, Lords of the Fly is a captivating story of the golden years of tarpon fishing. Broken fishing records, broken rods, and broken lives: the anglers and guides went all in, chasing the holy grail of saltwater fly fishing, the largest tarpon on a fly rod, and both the anglers and fish were never the same after. Even if you are not a fisherman, you will be captivated by the collision of egos and Homeric lust for monster tarpon that is captured in Lords of the Fly.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Top 10 Christmas poems

Allie Esiri is an award-winning anthologist and curator and host of live poetry events at London’s National Theatre, Bridge Theatre, and at major international literary festivals.

Esiri's bestselling anthologies Shakespeare for Every Day of the Year, A Poem for Every Day of the Year and A Poem for Every Night of the Year have lit an explosion of interest in poetry, are regularly chosen for National Poetry Day and have been picked as best books of the year in the Observer, New Statesman and The Times (London).

"When it comes to the wonder – or dread – of Christmas," she writes, "we find that there’s a poem for pretty much everything, from profound expressions of love and loss right down to the troubled ruminations of a turkey."

At the Guardian Esiri tagged her top ten Christmas poems, including:
"Christmas Carol" by Paul L Dunbar

Dunbar was a writer who achieved international success against all the odds. Born in Kentucky in 1872 to former slaves, Dunbar attended high school in Dayton, Ohio where he was the only black pupil. Despite graduating with top grades and ambitions to be a writer, circumstances forced him to take work as an elevator operator. However, one schoolfriend, Orville Wright – of airplane-inventing fame – helped to provide the financial backing for Dunbar to publish his first collection of poems. Success ensued and from that point on Dunbar lived off his writing until his tragically early death from tuberculosis at the age of 33. Christina Rossetti’s "In the Bleak Midwinter" (which would be my No 11 here) might be the best-known poem sung as a carol, but Dunbar’s contains the direct exhortation to throw all our power into singing. It is a joyous Christian celebration.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Five top books with multiple timelines

Joel Fishbane, author of The Thunder of Giants, is a novelist, playwright, sous-chef, actor, trivia host, amateur boxer, occasional clarinet player and general man about town. His various plays, short stories, articles, critiques and literary musings have been published, performed, honored, and otherwise applauded in Canada, the United States and Europe.

“Take equal parts Peter Carey, Michael Chabon and Erin Morgenstern, throw them in a blender, and serve in a glass with a seven-foot, five-and-a-half-inch Krazy Straw," wrote the author Myla Goldberg. "The colossally entertaining result is Joel Fishbane's The Thunder of Giants.”

At Shepherd Fishbane tagged five favorite books with multiple timelines, including:
The Hours by Michael Cunningham

This was one of those books I picked up early one night and read in one shot, a rare phenomenon for me in our age of distraction. It's a good way to experience the book because there's so much stream-of-consciousness and, while it has chapters, it's better not to break the flow. The book is complex and serves as a great companion piece to Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. However, you don't really need to know Mrs. Dalloway to appreciate this book (I didn't my first time through) and Cunningham skillfully weaves the various storylines together while drawing enough thematic connections to fill a few master's theses.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Hours is among Jessica Ferri's nine novels about writers inspired by real-life events and Philip Hensher's top ten parallel narratives--i.e., novels that track unconnected but related stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Four top ticking-clock thrillers

Andrew Bourelle is the author of the novel Heavy Metal and coauthor with James Patterson of Texas Ranger and Texas Outlaw. His short stories have been published widely in literary magazines and fiction anthologies. He is an associate professor of English at the University of New Mexico.

Bourelle's new novel is 48 Hours to Kill.

[Q&A with Andrew Bourelle]

At CrimeReads Bourelle tagged four of his favorite ticking-clock thrillers, including:
61 Hours by Lee Child

Lee Child’s fourteenth Jack Reacher book is a race-against-the-clock thriller that, like [Stephen King's] The Running Man, gives the reader a clock that the protagonist isn’t aware of. The first two sentences of the book (or sentence fragments, to be precise) state the countdown from the outset: “Five minutes to three in the afternoon. Exactly sixty-one hours before it happened.” Even though we don’t know what “it” is, we’re told right from the start by this third-person omniscient narrator that something is going to happen in exactly sixty-one hours. As Jack Reacher (whose description actually does resemble Arnold Schwarzenegger) investigates a small-town murder in South Dakota, we’re continually reminded of the countdown—at first every hour, and then every few minutes. Reacher doesn’t know the countdown exists, creating a special kind of tension. Like Hitchcock’s bomb-under-the-table example, readers see the proverbial “bomb” the whole time and squirm uncomfortably as we turn the pages, waiting for Reacher to figure out he’s on a collision course with something big, even if we don’t yet know what it is.
Read about the other entries on the list.

61 Hours is among Allie Reynolds's seven chilling snowy thrillers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 20, 2021

Eleven titles to read if you loved "Gone Girl"

In 2015 at B&N Reads, Jeff Somers tagged eleven books you should read if you love Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, including:
All the Birds, Singing, by Evie Wyld

Variously brutal, lyrical, bleak, and filled with life, this is a novel that sets up a compelling personal mystery, then challenges you to hang on for the ride as it takes you on a tour of one damaged person’s psyche. Jake, a woman escaping a past that left her scarred both mentally and physically, is living on an isolated island off the coast of England, and someone is viciously killing her sheep. It might be local hooligans, it might be a mysterious man walking the island, or it might be the legendary beast that lives in the woods. The central mystery of what drove Jake to the edge of the world will keep you glued to the page.
Read about the other entries on the list.

All the Birds, Singing is among Hillary Kelly's nine best books with lonely protagonists, Rose Carlyle's seven great thrillers that take readers to faraway places, four books that changed Alison Booth, and Cal Flyn's ten top books about the Australian bush.

My Book, The Movie: All the Birds, Singing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Five top books on how dogs love people

Clive D.L. Wynne is the founding director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University. Previously, he was founding director of the Canine Cognition and Behavior Laboratory at the University of Florida, the first lab of its kind in the United States. A native of the United Kingdom, Wynne has lived and worked in Germany and Australia as well as the United States and gives frequent talks to paying audiences around the world. The author of several academic books and of more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific journal articles that count among the most highly cited studies on dog psychology, he has also published pieces in Psychology Today, New Scientist, and the New York Times, and has appeared in several television documentaries about dog science on National Geographic Explorer, PBS, and the BBC.

Wynne's latest book is Dog Is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You.

At Shepherd he tagged five of the best books on how dogs love people, including:
My Dog Tulip by J. R. Ackerley

There are many books about the love between dog and man – but this classic is surely one of the richest, warmest, and yet most clear-eyed. The author, Joe Ackerley, was a gay man in London in the mid-twentieth century at a time when his predilections could get him arrested and imprisoned. It is perhaps because he couldn’t easily be open about the love he felt for other people that he is so well able to capture and express the love that exists between man and dog. “Unable to love each other, the English turn naturally to dogs,” he wrote.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Six SFF works to brighten gloomy days

Ratika Deshpande’s work has appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine and Every Day Fiction. She has also written for Submittable’s blog, Discover. She’s good at summarizing long conversations, better at finishing work before the deadline, and best at making bad jokes. She lives in New Delhi, India, and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Applied Psychology.

At Tor.com Deshpande tagged six SFF titles to brighten gloomy days, including:
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

Kate DiCamillo’s homely fairy tale starts with the birth of a very tiny mouse with very big ears. But it also starts before that, when a rat living in the dark dungeons of a castle discovers light, and before that, when a girl is told again and again that no one cares what she wants, and even before that, when a princess loses her mother at a banquet. The Tale of Despereaux is the story of how all these people and light and darkness and revenge and love (and soup!) come together.

I read the book—which I’d initially ignored at a thrift shop—when I was much older than the intended audience. But despite that, it was the first book that made me feel quite so many things; I loved it so much that if my house were ever on fire, this is one of the first books I’ll rescue. It’s the ultimate comfort read for lonely days, days when you could do with a hug, a nice blanket, and a warm bowl of soup.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 17, 2021

200 books that shaped two centuries of literature

The Center for Fiction, with the help of an esteemed panel of writers, created "a list of the 200 works of fiction that had the most impact on American readers, writers, and culture over these past two centuries."

One title on the list:
The Song of Achilles
Madeline Miller, 2011
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Song of Achilles is among Sara Stewart's six best books and Nicole Hill's fourteen characters who should have lived.

My Book, The Movie: The Song of Achilles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Top 10 cozy crime novels

SJ Bennett holds a Ph. D. in Italian Literature from the University of Cambridge and was a strategy consultant at McKinsey & Company before turning to writing. She has published ten books for teenagers, winning the Times/Chicken House Competition for Threads and the Romantic Novel of the Year award for Love Song. She lives in London.

Bennett's new novel, All the Queen's Men, is the second volume in the Her Majesty the Queen Investigates series.

At the Guardian Bennett tagged her top ten cosy crime novels, including:
Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett

Garrett made waves in the US as a standout voice when her Detective by Day series was first published in 2017, scooping several awards. Garrett takes the cosy to Los Angeles, featuring semi-famous, mega-broke Black actress-turned-PI, Dayna Anderson. Her prose is fresh and funny and the settings are everything a film lover would hope for.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Hollywood Homicide is among Elle Marr's five top diverse crime novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Five YA SFF titles where compassion is strength

Kiersten White is the New York Times bestselling author of The Guinevere Deception, The Camelot Betrayal, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, the Slayer series, the And I Darken trilogy, and many more novels.

At Tor.com she tagged five of her "favorite young adult novels in which compassion has the power to (re)shape the world," including:
Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko
“Why does everyone hate change so much?” I demanded.

“Because things could get worse.”

“Maybe. But do you know what I think?” My chest throbbed. “I think deep down, we’re afraid that things could get better. Afraid to find out that all the evil—all the suffering we ignore—could have been prevented. If only we had cared enough to try.”
This quote perfectly sums up Jordan Ifueko’s glimmering debut: she cares. Her characters care. Her heroine, Tarisai, wants nothing more than to be loved. But it’s not a selfish, hungry desire—she moves through the world extending the same love she hopes for. Amidst incredible powers, terrible empires, and life-or-death stakes, it’s the genuinely compassionate heart of friendship and hope that makes this novel come alive.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Six genre-bending YA novels perfect for crime fans

Tara Goedjen loves anything mysterious. She is the author of The Breathless (2017) and the new novel, No Beauties or Monsters.

[My Book, The Movie: The BreathlessWriters Read: Tara Goedjen (December 2017)The Page 69 Test: The Breathless]

At CrimeReads Goedjen tagged six favorite "genre-bending young adult novels with speculative elements," including:
White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson (thriller + ghost story).

California teenager Marigold Anderson is forced to move with her newly blended family to the Midwest for a fresh start. But the renovated house on Maple Street isn’t exactly idyllic, and the neighbors aren’t very welcoming either. On top of that, her younger step-sister keeps warning Mari that her imaginary friend wants her dead. As Mari gets closer and closer to the truth about the house on Maple, she places herself in increasingly treacherous situations, and the lies she tells her family start to stack up. White Smoke is unsettling—both for its illumination of racial and social inequalities, and its chilling, otherworldly scenes.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 13, 2021

Seven titles about messy families with daddy issues

Gina Chung is a Korean American writer. Born in Queens and raised in New Jersey, she is now based in Brooklyn, New York. She is the author of Sea Change, a novel about climate change, giant Pacific octopuses, and family, and Green Frog, a collection of short stories that explore themes of Korean-American womanhood, bodies and animals, both of which are forthcoming from Vintage in 2023.

She is a 2021-2022 Center for Fiction/Susan Kamil Emerging Writer Fellow and holds an MFA in fiction from The New School's Creative Writing Program and a BA in literary studies from Williams College. She is an alumnus of several workshops and/or craft intensives, including the Asian American Writers' Workshop, Sevilla Writers House, The Center for Fiction, Kweli, and Tin House.

At Electric Lit Chung tagged seven titles fpr fans of HBO's Succession, books that take "on family dysfunction, daddy issues, and familial power dynamics and how quickly they can change." One title on the list:
Family Trust by Kathy Wang

Kathy Wang’s Family Trust is an exploration of the lives of a Chinese American immigrant family in Silicon Valley, in the wake of the news that their wealthy patriarch, Stanley Huang, is dying. As they prepare for the details of his estate to be revealed, each family member—his son Fred, a Harvard MBA grad convinced that he is meant for loftier things than his mid-level corporate investment job; his daughter Kate, who supports her family while her entrepreneur husband struggles to get his start-up off the ground; his much-younger second wife, Mary, who is beginning to chafe under the demands of his care; and his tough, pragmatic first wife Linda, who has begun dating again in her 70s—must grapple with the long-simmering tensions, envy, and unspoken resentments that have built up around their lives. Wang’s novel shines in its description of not only the family’s dynamics, but also its depiction of Silicon Valley, where fortunes can be made and lost seemingly overnight and an outward indifference to appearances masks an obsession with status.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Five books with twisty curses at their heart

Leslie Vedder is a queer ace author who loves fairytale retellings with girl adventurers and heroes! She grew up on fantasy books, anime, fanfiction and the Lord of the Rings movies, and met her true love in high school choir. She graduated from San Francisco State University with a B.A. in creative writing and currently lives in Colorado with her wife and two spoiled house cats.

When she's not reading or writing, you can find her watching anime and sci-fi shows, walking in the woods and pretending they're enchanted forests, or playing old video games.

Vedder's debut YA novel The Bone Spindle is forthcoming in January 2022 from Penguin / Razorbill.

At Tor.com the author tagged five favorite books with twisty curses at their heart, including:
The Dark Tide by Alicia Jasinska

Caldella is a cursed island where every year, on St. Walpurga’s Eve, the Witch Queen must sacrifice an innocent boy to keep the island city from sinking. To save the boy she secretly loves, Lina Kirk, a young dancer, offers herself to the queen in his stead. Only the Witch Queen Eva is not what Lina expected, and the pull between them threatens to upend the magic of the island and reveal the awful truth behind the sacrifices and the Dark Tide.

Prepare to be glued to your seat by murderous witch girls, enchanted dancing, mysteries, revenge, and a deliciously dark and haunting f/f love story.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Eleven unexpected thrillers about female rage

Rachel Kapelke-Dale is the co-author of Graduates in Wonderland (2014), a memoir about the significance and nuances of female friendships, and a newly released novel, The Ballerinas.

She writes:
When I started writing The Ballerinas, I wanted to write an updated version of Judy Blume’s Summer Sisters, an ode to female friendships. But the more I returned to my own ballet days, and the more I thought about the structures—both social and artistic—that surrounded my characters, the more I realized that they were actually furious. And as I let them follow this fury to its logical endpoint, the novel turned into something very different from what I had planned.
At CrimeReads Kapelke-Dale tagged eleven thrillers "featuring some very angry women," including:
Dare Me by Megan Abbott

Megan Abbott takes the trope of the ditzy cheerleader and turns it on its head in this novel about two intense teenagers and their clashes with their new coach. As the narrator, Addy, becomes entranced by their new coach, her friend Beth becomes increasingly angry. Over the course of the novel, the girls’ anger—at each other, but also, in a larger sense, at the roles they are forced to play—drives them to unexpected extremes.
Read about the other entries on the list at CrimeReads.

Dare Me is among Debbie Babitt's eight top coming-of-age thrillers, Avery Bishop's top five novels that explore "mean girl" culture, 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

Friday, December 10, 2021

Eight books that capture the essence of Tennessee

Andrew Siegrist is a graduate of the Creative Workshop at the University of New Orleans. His work has appeared in The Baltimore Review, Arts & Letters, The Greensboro Review, Pembroke Magazine, Fiction Southeast, Bat City Review, and elsewhere. He lives on the Cumberland River outside of Nashville, Tennessee.

His new story collection is We Imagined It Was Rain.

At Electric Lit Siegrist tagged eight books that capture the essence of Tennessee, including:
A Good Cry: What We Learn From Tears and Laughter by Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni says: “I write a lot about Knoxville because Knoxville is my heart.” Her work set in Tennessee— including her poem “Knoxville Tennessee” and her famous “400 Mulvaney Street” essay—is a celebration of Black life in Knoxville, specifically the street in town where her grandparents lived in the 1950s, now completely changed since Giovanni’s childhood summers with her grandparents, who were prominent members of Knoxville’s Black community.

Giovanni’s voice in poetry and prose is unmistakably Appalachian, and has chronicled the experiences of Black Tennesseans over Urban Renewal and the Civil Rights Movement. Her work holds surrounding communities accountable through an expression of what has been lost.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Top 10 books about the Roman empire

Greg Woolf is the Ronald J. Mellor Chair in Ancient History at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of The Life and Death of Ancient Cities, Tales of the Barbarians, and Et Tu, Brute?

His new book is the second edition of Rome: An Empire's Story. This edition has been completely revised to take into account a decade's research since the first edition was written and includes expanded treatment of material culture and of late antiquity.

[The Page 99 Test: Rome: An Empire's Story (1st edition)]

At the Guardian Woolf tagged ten of "the best volumes in a long and still expanding literature" about the Roman Empire. One title on the list:
Rome. An archaeological guide by Amanda Claridge

If you want to explore the remains of that city, there is no better guide than this. Claridge knows the modern city and its most recent archaeology better than anyone writing in English. Her book is a lucid and compact guide to the most ruinous and built-over monuments. I carry it with me everywhere when in the city (and have worn out a couple of copies).
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Six out-of-control characters in literary fiction

Lisa Harding is a writer, actress, playwright. She received an MPhil in creative writing from Trinity College Dublin in 2014. Her short stories have been published in the Dublin Review, the Bath Short Story Anthology, HeadStuff, and Winter Papers. Her first novel, Harvesting, won the 2018 Kate O'Brien Award and was shortlisted for an Irish Book Award and the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award.

Harding's new novel is Bright Burning Things.

At Lit Hub the author tagged six favorite books featuring conflicted, contrary, and contradictory characters, including:
Leïla Slimani, Lullaby [US title: The Perfect Nanny]

Inspired by the true story of a homicidal nanny, this slim novel is a deeply unsettling read that provides no easy answers for its protagonist’s actions. Louise, a middle-aged widow with an estranged adult daughter, is hired by a busy, stressed, professional couple to care for their young children. Initially, the situation is picture-perfect: the new nanny seems like the embodiment of Mary Poppins, with her creative games and sense of play. She is a perfect housekeeper, cook and keeper of order. As she begins to see possibilities beyond her constricted life, the pathology underlying her perfectionism begins to emerge. The near-omniscient point of view darts in and out of the consciousness of many characters, meaning that the motivation is never clear. Maddening, horrific and memorable.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Perfect Nanny is among Elle Marr's five great diverse crime novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Five of the best books about adoption

Vanessa McGrady is an award-winning journalist, social media strategist and communications professional. She’s also been a playwright, actor, producer and voice-over artist. She can sing “Home on the Range” in Yiddish, which is apropos of nothing.

She is the author of Rock Needs River, a memoir.

[My Book, The Movie: Rock Needs RiverThe Page 99 Test: Rock Needs RiverWriters Read: Vanessa McGrady (March 2019)]

At Shepherd McGrady tagged five favorite books about adoption, including:
Everything You Ever Wanted: A Memoir by Jillian Lauren

In this exquisitely written poem of a memoir, Jillian Lauren splays her heart wide open, on every page as she transforms from an addict whose used up most of her luck to a mother whose role requires great stores of grit, determination, and love. We’re right there with her as she and her husband decide to adopt a boy from Ethiopia, and we’re along for the bumpy, often painful, occasionally joyful, ride through the challenges of parenting this tiny person who has already lost so much, but has so much to give. Outside of motherhood, she’s so funny and interesting I kind of want to be best friends with her. Not in a weirdo-stalker way, though.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 6, 2021

Five great books about New York City

Rob Hart is the author of six novels, the short story collection Take-Out, Scott Free with James Patterson, and a Star Wars short story. His latest book, The Warehouse, sold in more than 20 countries and was optioned for film by Ron Howard. His new novel, The Paradox Hotel, is due in February 2022.

[My Book, The Movie: Potter's FieldThe Page 69 Test: Potter's FieldThe Page 69 Test: The Warehouse; Writers Read: Rob Hart (January 2021)]

In 2015 at the Daily Beast, Hart tagged five great books about New York City that inspired him, including:
The Colossus of New York by Colson Whitehead

If [E.B.] White wrote a love letter [to New York City], then Whitehead wrote a mix tape. This collection of essays and vignettes, released in 2004, make up the blueprint for his personal metropolis. The portrait of this place drawn by his life and experience is unique to him but oh so familiar.

He also established, for my money, the yardstick against which your bona fides can be measured: “No matter how long you have been here, you are a New Yorker the first time you say, That used to be Munsey’s or That used to be the Tic Toc Lounge… You are a New Yorker when what was there before is more real and solid than what is here now.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Five books that expose the secret world of spies

Luke Harding is a journalist, writer, and awardwinning correspondent with the Guardian. He has reported from Delhi, Berlin, and Moscow, and covered wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Between 2007 and 2011, he was the Guardian’s Moscow bureau chief. In February 2011, the Kremlin deported him from the country in the first case of its kind since the Cold War. He is the author of several books, including Shadow State: Murder, Mayhem, and Russia's Remaking of the West and Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win.

In 2018 he tagged five "books [that] take you inside the closed world of espionage," including:
When it came to surveillance, one friendly Warsaw Pact agency outdid even the KGB: the Stasi. The world of East Germany’s secret police is vividly evoked in Anna Funder’s Stasiland, written more than a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall. She meets elderly unrepentant former Stasi officers, and their victims. Why did so many in the GDR became informers? The answer, one Stasi man tells her, was because they enjoyed being “somebody”.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Stasiland is among Olivia Giovetti's seven acclaimed books about and from East Germany, Hester Vaizey's five top books on modern Germany history, and Steve Kettmann's ten best books on Germans and Germany.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Four intriguing books about Colonial-era history beyond the Founding Fathers

At the Christian Science Monitor Barbara Spindel tagged four intriguing books about Colonial-era history beyond the Founding Fathers, including:
The Taking of Jemima Boone: Colonial Settlers, Tribal Nations, and the Kidnap That Shaped America by Matthew Pearl

Matthew Pearl’s “The Taking of Jemima Boone: Colonial Settlers, Tribal Nations, and the Kidnap That Shaped America” is not directly focused on the Revolution but on an event that occurred during that time: the 1776 kidnapping of the daughter of famed frontiersman Daniel Boone by Cherokee and Shawnee raiders. Though the book’s subtitle overstates its case, the highly readable account, written with the flair one would expect of a novelist, tells a dramatic story while also elucidating the complicated relationships among Native Americans, Colonial settlers, and British Loyalists.

While there had long been violent clashes surrounding Colonial incursion on Native land, Hanging Maw, the Cherokee leader behind the kidnapping, was “a political rather than military operative,” Pearl writes. His hope was for Jemima and the two friends seized with her to “be held hostage to negotiate terms for the invaders to retreat from Boonesboro,” the Kentucky settlement founded by Jemima’s father. That hope was dashed when Boone’s rescue party recovered the girls days later; in any case, and contrary to Pearl’s suggestion, it would surely have taken more than a successful kidnapping plot to halt America’s relentless westward push.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue