Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Seven literary mysteries that embrace the gray areas

Stacey D’Erasmo is the author of five novels and one book of nonfiction. Her first novel, Tea, was selected as a New York Times Notable Book. Her second novel, A Seahorse Year, was named a Best Book of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle and Newsday and won both a Lambda Literary Award and a Ferro-Grumley Award. Her third novel, The Sky Below, was a favorite book of the year for the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Sun Times, and the New York Times. Her fourth novel, Wonderland, was named one of the ten best books of the year by Time and the BBC, also among NPR’s best books of 2014. Her nonfiction book The Art of Intimacy: The Space Between was published in 2013.

D’Erasmo's new novel is The Complicities.

At CrimeReads she tagged seven favorite literary mysteries that embrace the gray areas. One novel on the list:
The Book of Evidence, by John Banville

You may know that Banville is also Benjamin Black, author of a successful series of terrific, conventional mysteries set in 1950s Dublin, but in The Book of Evidence from 1989, Banville as Banville turned his abundant literary imagination to one Freddie Montgomery, a murderer who is writing a confession—or is it an apologia? Montgomery has a turbulent inner life, a spectacular way with words, and troubles, terrible troubles, that really are not his fault. While he did, yes, murder someone, there were circumstances. He can explain. And he does, in prose that is as exhilarating as it is profoundly unsettling.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 3, 2022

Eleven of the best fiction books & memoirs about ballet

Martha Anne Toll writes fiction, essays, and book reviews, and reads anything that’s not nailed down. Her debut novel, Three Muses, won the Petrichor Prize for Finely Crafted Fiction. Toll brings a long career in social justice to her work covering BIPOC and women writers. She is a book reviewer and author interviewer at NPR Books, the Washington Post, Pointe Magazine, The Millions, and elsewhere. She also publishes short fiction and essays in a wide variety of outlets. Toll has recently joined the Board of Directors of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation.

[My Book, The Movie: Three Muses; Q&A with Martha Anne Toll]

At Lit Hub Toll tagged eleven of the best fiction books and memoirs about ballet. One title on the list:
A Feather on the Breath of God by Sigrid Nunez

The travails of an immigrant family with a Chinese-Panamanian father and a German mother frame this novel. Their daughter finds refuge from her sad and chaotic household by taking ballet. While the ballet studio provides rigor, order, and predictability, it also makes clear her physical failings and other shortcomings. The ballet sections of this book are touching and real and Nunez’s craft is already on full display in her elegantly rendered debut.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Thirteen top psychological thrillers with gobsmacking twists

Sarah Bonner lives in Sussex with her husband and very spoiled rescue dog. She’s worked in finance and project management for the last fifteen years, but the pandemic gave her the opportunity to revisit her teenage dream of writing. Her Perfect Twin is her debut novel and she’s brimming with ideas for more twisty psychological thrillers.

At CrimeReads Bonner tagged thirteen favorite psychological thrillers, including:
Wrong Place, Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister

Jen watches in horror as her teenage son kills a stranger in the street outside the family home. But the next morning, Jen wakes to find Todd is asleep in his room; the murder hasn’t yet happened. Every day she discovers she has jumped backwards again as she searches the past for the reason why her son committed such an act. Can she find the truth? And can she prevent the murder from ever happening?

Gillian McAllister’s newest novel is an absolute triumph. Not only does the author deploy her trademark twist after twist in a story full of compelling characters, but she also plays around with the narrative form and the very structure of time itself. I read this as I recovered from COVID, wondering if its brilliance was part of an elaborate fever dream. On a second (and more lucid!) reading, I can confirm that it is both ambitiously genius and a simply great story.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Eight titles about monstrous mothers

Ainslie Hogarth is the author of the YA novels The Lonely and The Boy Meets Girl Massacre (Annotated). She lives in Canada with her husband, kids, and little dog.

Her new novel is Motherthing, a "darkly funny take on mothers and daughters, about a woman who must take drastic measures to save her husband and herself from the vengeful ghost of her mother-in-law."

At Electric Lit Hogarth tagged eight books that "don’t fit easily into any one genre, but all of them deal with the unique horrors of creating and sustaining life." One title on the list:
The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

The School for Good Mothers is a nightmarish glimpse into a not-so-distant future in which mothers who’ve failed to meet a certain standard are taken from their children and sent to an abusive rehabilitation center. Chilling, harrowing, and all the more horrifying for its plausibility, this book is about an everywoman fighting to get her child back, and also raises important questions about the limits (or lack thereof) of government control, and the intense pressure society places on mothers.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 30, 2022

Nine of the best stargazing books

At B&N Reads Brittany Bunzey tagged nine top stargazing books, including:
50 Things to See in the Sky: (illustrated beginner's guide to stargazing with step by step instructions and diagrams, glow in the dark cover)
Sarah Barker, Maria Nilsson

Umm, this cover glows in the dark, so I’m already sold! Perfect for beginners, it helps you not only learn the science behind our celestial wonders, but it also comes with tips and illustrations to help stargazers discover stunning interstellar sights! Take this along with you any time you want to learn more about the night sky!
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Top 10 nature memoirs

Sarah Thomas is a writer and documentary filmmaker with a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies. She is committed to work that explores our entanglements with the living world. Her films have been screened internationally. She has been a regular contributor to Dark Mountain journal, and her writing has also appeared in the Guardian and the anthology Women On Nature edited by Katharine Norbury. In 2020 she was nominated for the Arts Foundation Environmental Writing Award. She was longlisted for the inaugural Nan Shepherd Prize and shortlisted for the 2021 Fitzcarraldo Essay Prize.

Thomas’s debut memoir, set in Iceland, is The Raven’s Nest.

At the Guardian she tagged ten "books, many with a focus on the far north and spanning nearly a century, [that] have inspired how I explore this interplay between place, people, living, thought and the body." One title on the list:
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Kimmerer’s world is animate and abundant. She is in love with it, and moves through it as if it loves her back. She asks what might “right relationship” look like in a damaged world? What is the language of reciprocity, the “grammar of animacy”? Drawing on her native Potawatomi culture, twined with her training as a bryologist, she shows us how science and culture, myth and reality are not opposed but live within one another.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Five novels that don't sacrifice the whodunit for the whydunit

Joy Jordan-Lake is the #1 Amazon bestselling author of the just-released historical mystery A Bend of Light, and ten other books, including Under A Gilded Moon; A Tangled Mercy, an Editors’ Choice recipient from the Historical Novel Society; Blue Hole Back Home, winner of the Christy Award for Best First Novel; and two children’s books. Raised in the foothills of the southern Appalachians, she lived nearly a decade of her young adult years in New England, which she still misses—and jumps at every chance to visit. She holds two master’s degrees and a PhD in English and has taught literature and writing at several universities.

At CrimeReads Jordan-Lake tagged "five mysteries that include all the twists we expect of a good whodunit, while also diving deep into what it means to be human, and the ways in which the inequities, privations and privileges of our own cultures can shape us." One title on the list:
A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

I realize there are people in this world who like to read book series in order, and I can respect that. I’m just not one of them. I read my first Louise Penny book at the suggestion of a friend, and it was love at first page for Penny’s protagonist Armand Gamache and me—although the devotion is admittedly one-sided. I was late to the party with the Canadian author Penny, who was already widely acclaimed and on her twelfth novel A Great Reckoning. It was my first of hers, and I became obnoxious in my attempts to convert every literate person I knew into a fan. So much of what she does is brilliant, not least of which is her insight into what makes people tick…and suffer. And heal from unspeakable loss. Or not heal. And therefore plot to kill.

Start at the beginning of the series if you’re one of those organized, sane sorts of readers, but the truth is, starting anywhere in the Three Pines series is so very worth the journey.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Five top SFF titles about strange houses

Rachael Conrad is the Event Coordinator, Social Media Manager, and a Frontline Bookseller for Print: A Bookstore in Portland, Maine. She was a 2021 Publishers Weekly Star Watch nominee for her bookselling.

At Tor.com she tagged five SFF titles about strange houses, including:
Gallant by V.E. Schwab

What’s better than a gorgeous, crumbling manor house with poorly lit hallways that are being haunted by half-formed ghosts? Two stunningly gorgeous, crumbling manor houses that perfectly mirror one another but exist in different planes of existence of course. This is exactly what Olivia Prior discovers during V.E. Schwab’s chest-achingly good YA novel, Gallant.

After growing up in the Merilance School for Girls, a desolate and unfriendly place, a letter arrives for Olivia inviting her to a home that she knows very little about – Gallant. Determined to discover what secrets her ancestral home, its half-formed ghouls, and her volatile cousin are keeping from her, Olivia accidentally discovers the door to a world that perfectly mirrors the one she already exists in. Within this world is a Gallant that exists like a photonegative of her home. It’s ostensibly the same but is ruled over by a mysterious and shadowy figure who wants her dead.

True to Schwab’s form, Gallant is a book that will leave you feeling like you have a massive hole in your heart which is just about the highest praise that a bookseller can bestow unto a book.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 26, 2022

Twenty-four of the best mythology retellings

At B&N Reads the editors tagged twenty-four of "the best mythological retellings," including:
Circe
Madeline Miller

A journey to self-discovery of epic proportions, Circe is a retelling from the queen of mythology herself: Madeline Miller. A lyrical, action-packed dive into the origin of an unforgettable and unparalleled woman, Circe cements herself in the pantheon of stories that must not be missed. Circe shares her scars, her broken parts, and in doing so, speaks to the humanity we all share: “That is one thing gods and mortals share: when we are young, we think ourselves the first to have each feeling in the world.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

Circe is among Ashleigh Bell Pedersen's eight novels of wonder and darkness by women writers, Kelly Barnhill's eight books about women's rage, Sascha Rothchild's most captivating literary antiheroes, Rachel Kapelke-Dale's eleven top unexpected thrillers about female rage, Kat Sarfas's thirteen enchanted reads for spooky season, Fire Lyte's nine current classics in magic and covens and spellsElodie Harper's six top novels set in the ancient world, Kiran Millwood Hargrave's seven best books about islands, Zen Cho's six SFF titles about gods and pantheons, Jennifer Saint's ten top books inspired by Greek myth, Adrienne Westenfeld's fifteen feminist books that will inspire, enrage, & educate you, Ali Benjamin's top ten classic stories retold, Lucile Scott's eight books about hexing the patriarchy, 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's thirteen top novels set in the world of myth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Five of the best books for coffee lovers

James Hoffmann is the managing director of Square Mile Coffee Roasters, a multi-award-winning coffee roasting company based in East London. He is also the World Barista Champion 2007, having won the UK Barista competition in both 2006 and 2007.

Hoffmann is the author of The World Atlas of Coffee (2014) and How to Make the Best Coffee at Home (2022).

At Shepherd he tagged five books that "inspired my own passion for coffee and I hope they do the same for you." One title on the list:
Coffee Life in Japan by Merry White

This deeper exploration of coffee culture in Japan, a place we all associate with tea, is an interesting and surprising read. The author’s time in Japan serves as the backbone for exploring aspects of gender, perfectionism, and how the cafe in Japan helps people stay punctual.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see: Benjamin Obler's top ten fictional coffee scenes in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Five of the best relationship-driven mysteries

Susan Richards is the author of the Jessica Kallan mystery series and stand-alone novels of suspense. She strives in each story to create characters who are confronted by circumstances that push them to their limits, test their strength, and challenge their beliefs and integrity—people who would do almost anything to protect the people they love.

Richards’s new novel, Where Secrets Live, was a finalist in the Mystery/Suspense category of the 2018 Daphne du Maurier contest.

[My Book, The Movie: Where Secrets LiveThe Page 69 Test: Where Secrets LiveQ&A with S. C. Richards]

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, she has lived throughout the Midwest and currently resides in Northern Minnesota. She also spent several years in the Pacific Northwest, moving back to Minnesota to be closer to her family. Every winter she wonders what the hell she was thinking.

At CrimeReads Richards tagged five favorite novels in which the "author has created that balance in the relationships among the characters that move the story forward, that drive their actions, and ultimately, what makes me care about each person in the novel." One title on the list:
The Last Thing He Told Me, by Laura Dave

Stepparent and stepchild relationships can often be complicated and sometimes sticky.

In The Last Thing He Told Me, husband and father, Owen Michaels, is the character we never meet, yet we come to know him through the love and dedication of his wife, Hannah, and his daughter from a previous marriage, Bailey.

Before Owen disappears, he sends a message to his new wife, Hannah, that simply says “Protect her.”

Hannah knows that Owen is asking her to protect his daughter, Bailey, but she doesn’t have a clue what Bailey needs to be protected from.

Bailey, resentful of her new stepmother, is not an easy one to protect, but Hannah does what she’s been asked to do and the two of them soon find themselves in a dangerous maze. With Owen gone, they quickly learn that they must cling to each other, because now, there is no one else to hold onto.
Read about the other novels on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 23, 2022

Eight memoirs about the journey to becoming a classical musician

Martha Anne Toll writes fiction, essays, and book reviews, and reads anything that’s not nailed down. Her debut novel, Three Muses, won the Petrichor Prize for Finely Crafted Fiction. Toll brings a long career in social justice to her work covering BIPOC and women writers. She is a book reviewer and author interviewer at NPR Books, the Washington Post, Pointe Magazine, The Millions, and elsewhere. She also publishes short fiction and essays in a wide variety of outlets. Toll has recently joined the Board of Directors of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation.

[ My Book, The Movie: Three Muses; Q&A with Martha Anne Toll]

At Electric Lit Toll tagged eight memoirs that "recount the authors’ journey to music, what makes them so committed, how they express their love for it, and what happens behind the scenes." One title on the list:
Constructing a Nervous System: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson

Margo Jefferson is a brilliant cultural critic who wrote for the New York Times for many years. As a Black woman who grew up in privilege in Chicago, she has written two searing memoirs about just how much racism interferes with and infects her career. In this book, the second of the two, Jefferson ties together her own rigorous classical piano training with eminent Black musicians. Her riff on Ella Fitzgerald is at once horrifying for the bigotry Fitzgerald suffered, and celebratory of Fitzgerald’s dignity and prodigious gifts. Writing in an experimental style to highlight her injuries and observations, Jefferson’s book is a disturbing account of the reality of racism in America.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Top 10 books about cleaners

Amanda Craig is a British novelist, short-story writer and critic. Born in South Africa in 1959, she grew up in Italy, where her parents worked for the UN, and was educated at Bedales School and Clare College Cambridge.

The heroine in Craig's The Golden Rule is "a graduate and an impoverished and abused single mother who gets suckered by a rich woman into a plot to murder each other’s husbands. She discovers a very different story as a result of cleaning her intended victim’s home."

At the Guardian the author tagged ten top books on cleaners, "undervalued workers and their sharp perspectives on those they tidy up after." One title on the list:
The Maid by Nita Prose

Unlike the grim Netflix series of the same name, this is a joy. Larky, orphaned Molly is “the last person anyone invites to a party”. She adores her job as a cleaner in a swanky New York hotel but when she finds the body of a guest she is put in the frame for his murder and must turn detective. Molly makes us feel her pleasure in what is crisply starched, perfectly ordered and formally correct, but as a neurodivergent person in a dangerous city she also has a terrible inability to spot dishonesty.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Five of the best historical novels about political shenanigans in ancient Rome

Fiona Forsyth studied Classics at Oxford before teaching it for 25 years. When her family relocated to the Middle East, she took the opportunity to write and the world of Lucius Sestius was born.

As well as writing historical novels set in Ancient Rome, Forsyth is recognised as a poet in Qatar.

At Shepherd she tagged five favorite historical novels about political shenanigans in ancient Rome, including:
Roman Blood by Steven Saylor

This is the first book in Saylor’s “Roma sub rosa” series, and introduces one of the nicest heroes in historical mystery! Gordianus the Finder is the Roman equivalent of our private detective and he works for a young politician and orator, Cicero. Based on a real lawsuit from 80 BCE, Saylor makes great use of the actual speech made, and conveys the skill and showmanship of the lawyer at a time when a good speech was seen as entertainment for the masses. Into this original material though he weaves a hideous and complex murder plot. Riveting stuff!

I am a huge fan of Cicero, and it was really interesting—if a little hard at times!—to see him portrayed with all his flaws and weaknesses.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Eight thrillers with female friendships at the center

Steph Mullin & Nicole Mabry met as co-workers in New York City in 2012, discovering a shared passion for writing and true crime. After Mullin relocated to Charlotte, NC in 2018, they continued to collaborate creatively. Separated by five states, they spend countless hours scheming via Facetime and editing each other’s typos in real time on live Google docs. The Family Tree is the writing duo's first co-authored crime novel. Their second novel, When She Disappeared, is now available.

[The Page 69 Test: The Family TreeMy Book, The Movie: The Family Tree]

At CrimeReads the authors tagged eight favorite thrillers "with female friendships at the center," including:
Deadly Little Lies by Stephanie DeCarolis

What happens when female friendships and the desire to fit in turns fatal? Deadly Little Lies shines a light on toxic group dynamics and examines how secrets shared between friends can lead to long-term consequences. When the main character, Juliana, receives a message from an old college friend who had tragically died while they were at school, her whole world unravels. She and her friends were at the heart of the mystery surrounding Jenny’s death but have tried to move on to form families and dream careers. Now, someone is threatening to bring their lives crashing down to get to the truth. Juliana reconnects with her old friends to figure out who is haunting them before she loses her marriage and her career. In the end, some friendships are destroyed, and some renewed after a twist that will leave even savvy readers satisfied.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 19, 2022

Five novels about families far worse than yours

Sally Koslow is the author of the novels Another Side of Paradise; the international bestseller The Late, Lamented Molly Marx; The Widow Waltz; With Friends Like These; and Little Pink Slips. She is also the author of one work of nonfiction, Slouching Toward Adulthood: How to Let Go So Your Kids Can Grow Up. Her books have been published in a dozen countries.

[My Book, The Movie: The Widow WaltzCoffee with a Canine: Sally Koslow and Percy]

Koslow's new novel is The Real Mrs. Tobias.

At Lit Hub she tagged five recently-published novels "about people who are far more out of whack than you are," including:
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson takes readers to the Caribbean and London as a mixed-race California brother and sister—alienated from one another—set off on a journey of self-discovery. You think you know your mama; then you find a cake in the freezer and listen to an audio message she leaves for you, and you think again. While reckoning with grief after their mother dies, Byron and Benny struggle to make sense of her complicated history. Like the time-honored recipe for Caribbean Black Cake that binds the narrative, this book is dense with surprises: sexual assault, gambling addiction, flashbacks to the slave trade, eccentrics hidden in the family tree, for starters.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Twenty-three top short books

At Vulture books editor Maris Kreizman tagged twenty-three "of the most entertaining and mind-opening stories, novellas, essays, and short treatises from the recent past." One title on the list:
The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid (2007)

The 9/11 novel that stuck with me the most, and it remains as relevant as ever today. The Reluctant Fundamentalist follows a Muslim man who’s an avid chaser of the American dream but who, while facing a bombardment of harassment after the attack, spirals toward hatred of the western way of life.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is among Colleen Kinder's ten books about chance encounters with strangers, Maris Kreizman's nineteen top short books and stories, Ian MacKenzie's ten top books about Americans abroad, Emily Temple's ten top contemporary novels by and about Muslims, Laila Lalami's eight top books about Muslim life for a nation that knows little about Islam, Porochista Khakpour's top ten novels about 9/11, Jimmy So's five best 9/11 novels, and Ahmede Hussain's five top books in recent South Asian literature.

The Page 69 Test: The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Eight titles that tackle the subject of ancestral legacy

Juliet Patterson is the author of Sinkhole: A Legacy of Suicide (2022) and two full-length poetry collections, Threnody (2016), a finalist for the 2017 Audre Lorde Poetry Award, and The Truant Lover (2006), winner of the Nightboat Poetry Prize and a finalist for the 2006 Lambda Literary Award.

At Electric Lit Patterson tagged eight books that "uniquely tackle the subject of ancestral legacy, leading readers into social and historical questions as one way of understanding the personal past." One title on the list:
The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom

Sarah M. Broom’s The Yellow House is an ambitious and far-reaching memoir layered with the political and racial history of New Orleans, the natural disaster of Hurricane Katrina, and her large family over half a century. The story revolves around a house in a neglected neighborhood of New Orleans East, a home that serves as both a material artifact and metaphor for the book’s larger discussions of class and race, and as a repository for Broom’s own personal hauntings. Told in three movements that unfold with increasing tension and speed, The Yellow House is both social eulogy and a wry and loving testimony of one family’s life. Broom’s keen observations and eye for detail have rightly earned this book high acclaim.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 16, 2022

Five mystery titles that read like literary fiction

The son of two librarians, Mark Stevens was raised in Lincoln, Massachusetts. He worked as a reporter for The Christian Science Monitor in Boston and Los Angeles; as a City Hall reporter for The Rocky Mountain News in Denver; as a national field producer for The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour (PBS) and as an education reporter for The Denver Post. Stevens's fifth mystery to feature Allison Coil, The Melancholy Howl, is now out from Third Line Press. His standalone novel The Fireballer is due out on the first day of 2023.

At CrimeReads Stevens tagged five "favorite books that prioritize character and literary insights but can be all be found on the mystery shelves." One title on the list:
Dodgers by Bill Beverly

Humanity oozes from every syllable of Dodgers, which is either a Great American Novel with crime fiction undertones or a crime novel with not a care in the world about the expected tracks of the genre’s normal grooves.

At first you think you’re in for a grim going-nowhere claustrophobic urban gangbang novel like Richard Price’s Clockers or season one of The Wire. Next, we’re on a cross-country road trip where the skies open up and the possibilities seem endless, though violence lurks.

Dodgers is about 15-year-old East, who “had never been a child.” East falls in debt to his boss and is sent to Wisconsin to kill a witness in an upcoming trial. East and three others in his group are to avoid looking like “ignorant gang boys.” Road trips mean change, right? Dodgers is memorable and gripping in its own way from start to moving, unpredictable finish.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Top 10 novels about Turkey

Defne Suman was born in Istanbul and grew up on Prinkipo Island. She gained a Masters in sociology from the Bosphorus University then worked as a teacher in Thailand and Laos where she studied Far Eastern philosophy and mystic disciplines. She later continued her studies in Oregon, USA and now lives in Athens with her husband. Her English language debut The Silence of Scheherazade was published by Head of Zeus in 2021.

Suman's latest novel is At the Breakfast Table.

At the Guardian she tagged ten "books about Turkey that not only talk about its historical and social context, but also reflect the distinctive styles and the creativity of their authors in dealing with individual, philosophical and political questions." One title on the list:
The Flea Palace by Elif Shafak

My favourite Shafak book. It is at once funny and tragic, a modern Istanbul story that takes place in 10 flats which sit within the once-glorious, now dilapidated Bonbon Palace. A story within a story which is told from the different perspectives of the building’s residents, The Flea Palace paints a brilliant picture of Turkey on the brink of the 21st century, and is written with intelligence and love.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Five of the best spy books

Larry Loftis is the New York Times and international bestselling author of four non-fiction thrillers: The Princess Spy (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestseller, winner of the Florida Book Awards bronze medal), Code Name: Lise (USA Today bestseller, winner of the Florida Book Awards silver medal, Goodreads Choice Awards semifinalist), Into the Lion’s Mouth (international bestseller), and The Watchmaker's Daughter (to be released March 2023).

At B&N Reads he tagged his "five favorite spy books — three nonfiction, two fiction." One title on the list:
Hitler's Spies: German Military Intelligence In World War II by David Kahn

After primary sources (memoirs and official archives), the principal aid for military studies is the work of scholars like David Kahn. His 650-page tome, Hitler’s Spies, is the finest overview of German espionage in World War II.

Here you’ll find useful details on intelligence chiefs Schellenberg (S.D.) and Admiral Wilhelm Canaris (Abwehr), lists of German officers working in various countries (one of which helped me to identify a Madrid Abwehr agent in The Princess Spy), as well as in-depth discussions of Britain’s most valuable double agents.

Kahn spent eight years researching this book and it’s a treasure trove for WWII buffs.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Ten quietly effective suspense novels

Always in the mood for a good scare, B. R. Myers spent most of her teen years behind the covers of Lois Duncan, Ray Bradbury and Stephen King. She is the author of nine YA books. Her contemporary coming-of-age novel Girl on the Run was a CCBC Best Book for Teens pick in 2016. Her 2020 novel, Rogue Princess, was chosen by the School Library Journal as one of the Top Ten Best Audiobooks. When not putting her characters in precarious situations, Myers works as a registered nurse. A member of the Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia, she lives in Halifax with her family--and there is still a stack of books on her bedside table.

At CrimeReads Myers tagged ten suspense novels with a "delicate balance between genuine chills and playful delight" that influenced her own new novel, A Dreadful Splendour. One title on the list:
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

This book was all consuming and I found myself completely absorbed within the span of a few pages. It’s a classic horror tale in which the characters are somewhat unaware of the true evil at first but begin to sense their impending death. With the accrued knowledge from each subsequent victim in the novel, the dramatic irony allows the readers to know the impending danger for each character as the story progresses. The reader feels helpless, wishing they could reach into the pages and save them. As the energy and pace gain momentum the plot tightens, and the terror is unleashed with surprising speed. The reader has no choice but to witness to the eviscerating climax. Jones does an expert job at balancing the beautiful flow of sentences with the more callus and gruesome nature of revenge.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Only Good Indians is among Gus Moreno's top ten groundbreaking horror novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 12, 2022

Nine titles told from the perspective of animal protagonists

Talia Lakshmi Kolluri is a mixed South Asian American writer from Northern California. Her debut collection of short stories, What We Fed to the Manticore, is now out from Tin House. Her short fiction has been published in the minnesota review, Ecotone, Southern Humanities Review, and The Common.

A lifelong Californian, Kolluri lives in the Central Valley with her husband, a teacher and printmaker, and a very skittish cat named Fig.

At Electric Lit she tagged nine books that feature animals as prominent characters. One title on the list:
The Story of a Goat by Perumal Murugan, translated by N Kalyan Raman

In South India, in a dry year, an old farmer sits to gaze at a sunset after harvest, when a giant approaches and offers him a black goat. “Only a kind-hearted man can have my baby,” says the giant, offering this seventh, and smallest, goat of a litter. Placing the goat in the old man’s hand, “[a]t first, it felt as if a hammer had grazed his hand; the next moment, he found a flower in his palm.” The farmer brings the baby goat – the kid – home to his wife, who names her Poonachi. So begins The Story of a Goat. What follows is a sweeping story about agrarian life in South India, encompassing examinations of caste oppression and colorism, and the impact of government regulation on villagers, all woven together with Poonachi’s life as a goat. And we don’t see Poonachi as merely a marginal animal flitting in and out of human lives. Rather, her loves, her hopes, and her connections are treated with the same richness as her human companions. I found myself deeply invested in Poonachi and the family that raised her, and I loved in particular how this novel was written so that all of their lives were intimately intertwined. In the end, I saw Poonachi clearly as the treasure she always was.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Eleven notable 9/11 books

In 2021 Town & Country tagged eleven 9/11 books, fiction and non-fiction. One title on the list:
The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud

Though The Emperor's Children was published in 2007, the story follows three college friends in their early thirties in the months leading up to 9/11. The novel is distinctly shaped by New York after the attacks, and has been compared to the works of both Tom Wolfe and Edith Wharton.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Emperor’s Children is on Jude Cook's top ten list of cousins in fiction, Jia Tolentino's list of recommended books, Rebecca Jane Stokes's list of ten must-reads for Liane Moriarty fans, Porochista Khakpour's top ten list of novels about 9/11, Jimmy So's list of five novels that deal with 9/11 in significant if oblique ways, Rachel Syme's list of the ten most attractive men in literature, the (London) Times' list of the 100 best books of the last decade, and the New York Times' list of the 10 best books of 2006.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Five recent crime titles featuring messy female characters

Meredith Hambrock is a Canadian fiction and television writer who lives in Vancouver, BC. Her short fiction has appeared in several magazines including Maisonneuve and Descant. She’s been a finalist for the CBC Short Story Prize and most recently wrote for the sitcom Corner Gas Animated.

Hambrock's new novel is Other People's Secrets.

At CrimeReads she tagged five recent favorite messy female characters that exist in the world of crime fiction, including:
Never Saw Me Coming, by Vera Kurian

Not only does this book have some excellent twists and turns, but Vera Kurian’s Never Saw Me Coming has an unforgettably messy character at the heart of it. I immediately felt for Chloe, then was entertained by her narration and stressed out by some of her choices. You learn, almost immediately that Chloe is a diagnosed psychopath who is apparently a genius. She’s part of a study for psychopaths at a University, lured there by a professor for a study where she has to simultaneously wear a smartwatch that tracks her location at all times, and is plotting to murder a fellow student who raped her. While Chloe is extremely confident about a lot of her decisions, she makes some extremely chaotic choices that had me on the edge of my seat. There are some great twists in this read and some scenes that made these psychopaths (there are more in the study that we get to meet) so chaotic and fascinating. They might be self-diagnosed geniuses but they’re also dopey college students and following them made for a heck of a ride.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 9, 2022

Five novels that find motivation in beauty

Jill Bialosky's newest volume of poetry Asylum: A Personal, Historical, Natural Inquiry in 103 Lyric Sections, was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. She is the author of five acclaimed collections of poetry, four critically acclaimed novels, including The Prize, and most recently, The Deceptions, and two memoirs, Poetry Will Save Your Life and a New York Times bestselling memoir History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life.

At Lit Hub Bialosky tagged "five novels, all from different milieux, that use art— whether in a museum, a church, a city, a drawing room, or a catalog—to inspire a result in a meaningful and unexpected way." One title on the list:
Lisa Hsiao Chen, Activities of Daily Living

What if the city is the museum? In Activities of Daily Living Lisa Hsiao Chen reinvents what a novel can do. Alice, 39, a Taiwanese immigrant, lives in New York City. She is a freelance video editor, but her real passion is trawling Tehching Hsieh, a Taiwan-born performance artist, who in real life created radical works that he called “projects,” such as punching a time clock, every hour on the hour, and living in a cage for a year.

By following Tehching Hsieh and learning more about his work, Alice hopes to find her own project. “A new project was stirring, showing signs of life, her project about the Artist. She didn’t yet know what form it would take, only that she would work with the same raw material that he had: time.” While Alice is working on her project, she is also caretaking her stepfather who is slowly losing his abilities to perform “activities of daily living.” What happens when art and reality intersect? Is living itself a performance or a project? What constitutes a work of art? These are some of the themes Chen investigates, in this thrilling and unorthodox project of a novel. (To be transparent, I am the editor.)
Read about the other entries on the list.

Activities of Daily Living is among Coco Picard's nine novels that consider the meaning of life by confronting death.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Top 10 novels that interrupt time

Ross Raisin was born and brought up on Silsden Moor in West Yorkshire. He is the author of four novels: A Hunger (2022), A Natural (2017), Waterline (2011) and God’s Own Country (2008). His work has won and been shortlisted for over ten literary awards.

Raisin won the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year award in 2009, and in 2013 was named on Granta’s once a decade Best of Young British Novelists list. In 2018 he was awarded a Fellowship by the Royal Society of Literature.

At the Guardian Raisin tagged ten novels that "interrupt, fracture or even reverse the order of time." One title on the list:
Mrs Bridge by Evan S Connell

This novel is situated on the pages like an archipelago, with 117 islands of time-distanced text. An anti-plot that captures perfectly the haphazard, funny, existentially haunting passage of Mrs Bridge’s entire life. I love this novel so much (as well as Mr Bridge, which followed 10 years later) – a love that directly inspired my thinking about the possibilities of time in fiction when writing A Hunger.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Five novels with deeply troubled protagonists

Christopher Swann is a novelist and high school English teacher. A graduate of Woodberry Forest School in Virginia, he earned his Ph.D. in creative writing from Georgia State University. He has been a Townsend Prize finalist, longlisted for the Southern Book Prize, and twice been a finalist for a Georgia Author of the Year award. He lives with his wife and two sons in Atlanta, where he is the English department chair at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School.

Swann's new novel is Never Go Home.

At CrimeReads he tagged five favorite novels with deeply troubled protagonists, including:
Polar Star by Martin Cruz Smith (1989)

In the 1980s, the Soviets were clearly the bad guys, but Martin Cruz Smith flipped the script in Gorky Park (1981), introducing Moscow homicide investigator Arkady Renko. Born into the U.S.S.R.’s ruling class or nomenklatura, Arkady recognizes how false and corrupt Soviet society is. He lives in the shadow of both his parents; his father, a Red Army general, is bitterly disappointed in his son, and his mother committed suicide when he was a boy.

Gorky Park was a triumph, but the second Arkady Renko novel, Polar Star, is a masterpiece. Dismissed from his job and separated from Irina, the love of his life, Arkady now works on a factory ship in the Bering Sea. When a crewmate’s body is brought up in a catch net, the captain pulls Arkady off the ship’s “slime line” and orders him to investigate. Reluctantly, Arkady does, and uncovers far more than he bargained for, including smugglers, espionage, slippery Americans, and an antagonist from his own past. Dogged and ironic but never completely cynical, Arkady wrestles with what it means to be a policeman in a police state, and he feels himself coming back to life even as he places himself in further danger.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue