Monday, February 28, 2022

Five top recent hotel thrillers and mysteries

Carolyne Topdjian is a suspense writer with publications in PRISM International, Dreamers Magazine and Firewords Quarterly. She has an interdisciplinary PHD from York University and is a professor in the Faculty of Media and Creative Arts at Humber College in Toronto. She is a two-time Pitch Wars mentor and lives in a 112-year-old haunted house.

The Hitman's Daughter is her first novel.

At CrimeReads Topdjian tagged five recent novels that put an original spin on the creepy hotel setting, including:
One by One by Ruth Ware is another knockout mystery by the author, this time set in a picturesque chalet in the French alps. In fact, it’s not so much a creepy-hotel factor here, but the chalet’s seclusion, small quarters, and promise of “deadly” privacy that makes this destination a winner. In the vein of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, Ware offers a “no-escape” setting of the best kind, where eight professionals are isolated together during a mandatory work retreat, along with two 24/7 staff members. You’d think a business trip to a cozy chalet would be paradise, and of course, for Ware’s characters who range from the suspiciously secretive to the sharply manipulative, it’s anything but. As the weather conditions worsen and the plot crescendos toward its killer avalanche, so too, do these characters fall towards their chilling, impending doom.
Read about the other entries on the list.

One by One is among Bonnie Kistler's six best office thrillers, Sandie Jones's six mysteries with large casts of characters and Allie Reynolds's seven chilling winter thrillers and Louise Candlish's ten hardest characters in literature to love.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Five books that feel like a trippy haunted house

Isaac Fellman is the author of The Breath of the Sun (published under his pre-transition first name), which won the 2019 Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. He is an archivist at a queer historical society in San Francisco.

His new novel is Dead Collections.

At Fellman tagged "five novels that make me feel as if any structure I read them in—the break room, my studio apartment, a bus shelter, a train—is a haunted house," including:
Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel

A rare foray into genre for Mantel, this is a bitterly funny novel about the English spirit mediums who still ply their trade at seedy theaters and fairs. Alison, Mantel’s unwillingly psychic heroine, is one of those people who live their lives like chess kings, moving in and out of check. A survivor of much childhood trauma and adult loneliness, she’s learned to care for herself in ways that are only a bit self-destructive, and to find helpers who are only mostly terrible, and to live with the dead. Then the tender equilibrium of her life falls apart.

Mantel is a great poet of dissociation, and she’s unusual for her neutral, thoughtful take on what it means to live outside of your body. In book after book, she explores characters who use dissociation to live, like extremophile bacteria, in dangerous situations. Alison is an exception. Mantel portrays her psychic ability—which shows her everything from historical atrocities that took place in her suburban subdivision, to the ghosts of her abusers, to the pain of death—as an inability to dissociate, a constant awareness of everything. The result is a tense, fascinating book full of Dickensian characters and unexpected set pieces. I don’t love all of Beyond Black’s decisions, but it’s my favorite kind of genre writing: a book that explores the psychological consequences of power, including magical power.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Beyond Black is among Laura Purcell's ten top books about spirit mediums, Jess Kidd's ten essential supernatural mysteries, and Sarah Porter's five top books with unusual demons and devils.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Seven titles to help get through your Olympic hangover

Kathleen West’s novels have been best- books picks by Real Simple, Newsweek, People Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Good Morning America, and the New York Post. A schoolteacher with more than 20 years’ experience, West is particularly interested in the topics of motherhood, ambition, competitive parenting, and the elusiveness of work-life balance. Her new novel, Home Or Away, publishes in March 2022. She is a life-long Minnesotan and lives in Minneapolis with her family.

[The Page 69 Test: Minor Dramas & Other CatastrophesWriters Read: Kathleen West (February 2020]

At Lit Hub West tagged seven favorite books to help you get through your Olympic hangover, including:
Kwame Alexander, The Crossover

I spent many years as a middle-school English teacher, and never once have I recommended a Kwame Alexander novel to a kid who didn’t finish it. This one is an electrifying, heart-wrenching story about twin basketball players and their dad, a former NBA pro. It screams to be read in one sitting, it’s uber-accessible, and it compels the reader to evaluate the universal themes of family, consequences, identity, and forgiveness. Now that it’s been out for eight years, there’s a good chance the Olympics-obsessed kids in your life might not have read it yet.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 25, 2022

Eight titles about what it means to be human

Edward Ashton is the author of the novels Mickey7, Three Days in April, and The End of Ordinary. His short fiction has appeared in venues ranging from the newsletter of an Italian sausage company to Escape Pod, Analog, and Fireside Fiction. He lives in upstate New York in a cabin in the woods (not that Cabin in the Woods) with his wife, a variable number of daughters, and an adorably mopey dog named Max, where he writes—mostly fiction, occasionally fact—under the watchful eyes of a giant woodpecker and a rotating cast of barred owls. In his free time, he enjoys cancer research, teaching quantum physics to sullen graduate students, and whittling.

At CrimeReads Ashton tagged eight books about what it means to be human, including:
Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is by a large margin the most well-known book on this list, and there’s not much to say about it that hasn’t already been said. Never Let Me Go is a coming of age story whose protagonists are clones being raised solely to serve as organ donors for their progenitors—in other words, a coming of age story for those who will never truly be permitted to come of age. As a result, the characters spend much of the book trying to find hope and meaning in a life that is essentially, deliberately devoid of both. This book is brilliant and heartbreaking in equal measure, and just on the off chance that you haven’t read it yet, please take me at my word when I say that you really, really should.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Never Let Me Go is on Bethany Ball's list of the seven weirdest high schools in literature, Zak Salih's eight books about childhood pals—and the adults they become, Rachel Donohue's list of seven coming-of-age novels with elements of mystery or the supernatural, Chris Mooney's list of six top intelligent, page-turning, genre-bending classics, James Scudamore's top ten list of books about boarding school, Caroline Zancan's list of eight novels about students and teachers behaving badly, LitHub's list of the ten books that defined the 2000s, Meg Wolitzer's ten favorite books list, Jeff Somers's lists of nine science fiction novels that imagine the future of healthcare and "five pairs of books that have nothing to do with each other—and yet have everything to do with each other" and eight tales of technology run amok and top seven speculative works for those who think they hate speculative fiction, a list of five books that shaped Jason Gurley's Eleanor, Anne Charnock's list of five favorite books with fictitious works of art, Esther Inglis-Arkell's list of nine great science fiction books for people who don't like science fiction, Sabrina Rojas Weiss's list of ten favorite boarding school novels, Allegra Frazier's top four list of great dystopian novels that made it to the big screen, James Browning's top ten list of boarding school books, Jason Allen Ashlock and Mink Choi's top ten list of tragic love stories, Allegra Frazier's list of seven characters whose jobs are worse than yours, Shani Boianjiu's list of five top novels about coming of age, Karen Thompson Walker's list of five top "What If?" books, Lloyd Shepherd's top ten list of weird histories, and John Mullan's lists of ten of the best men writing as women in literature and ten of the best sentences as titles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Five SFF titles featuring protective siblings

Patti Callahan is the New York Times, USA TODAY, and Globe and Mail bestselling novelist of fifteen novels, including Becoming Mrs. Lewis, Surviving Savannah, and Once Upon a Wardrobe. A recipient of the Harper Lee Distinguished Writer of the Year, the Christy Book of the Year, and the Alabama Library Association Book of the Year, Callahan is the cofounder and cohost of the popular web series and podcast Friends & Fiction.

At Callahan tagged five "favorite stories with protective sibling relationships," including:
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

As the child of scientists, Meg is the older sister to Charles Wallace. Their father has vanished and life is more than confusing. Awkward and unpopular, Meg considers herself dumb; she rarely talks to anyone outside her family and yet we almost immediately see her get into a fight while protecting her little brother Charles Wallace when someone makes fun of him. Little do they know that Charles Wallace is a genius who can read minds. Throughout the story, Meg keeps him safe and close as they travel through time with Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which. In protecting Charles Wallace, Meg grows braver and more sure of herself until she finally saves Charles Wallace from IT; her love saves them all.
Read about the other entries on the list.

A Wrinkle in Time is among Leanna Renee Hieber's five titles featuring complex mother/daughter relationships, P.C. Cast’s ten all-time favorite reads for fantasy fans, Melissa Albert's top ten grade-school classics you’ll never be too old to reread, Cressida Cowell's list of ten top mythical creatures, and Steve Cole's top ten space books for kids of all ages.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Eight retellings that explore the darker side of human nature

M. A. Kuzniar spent six years living in Spain, teaching English and travelling the world which inspired her children’s series The Ship of Shadows.

Her adult debut novel Midnight in Everwood was inspired by her love of ballet and love of The Nutcracker.

At CrimeReads Kuzniar tagged eight "retellings [that are] a mixture of fairy tales and folklore (for they often intersect) that explore deeper themes and do not shy away from the darker side of human nature." One title on the list:
Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

Although Stealing Snow is a young adult novel, this retelling of The Snow Queen fairy tale is a crossover novel that adults would appreciate also. Opening with Snow in an asylum in Upstate New York before she flees into the neighboring woods, this story blurs the lines between fantasy and reality and is packed with secrets, thieves and witches. It’s at times eerie and gritty, and contains lots of little fairy tale references scattered through the text as a bonus.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Six works about deeply flawed literary mother figures

Mary Kuryla is the author of the novel Away to Stay and the short story collection Freak Weather, which was selected by Amy Hempel for the Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction. Her stories have received a Pushcart Prize and the Glimmer Train Very Short Fiction Prize and have appeared in The Paris Review, Conjunctions, Pleiades, Agni, Epoch, Strange Horizons, Greensboro Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. As a journalist, she has written for the Hollywood Reporter, Filmmaker Magazine, TheWrap.Com and The Washington Post. Also an award-winning filmmaker, she has taught at Emerson College, University of Southern California, and UCLA-Extension and is currently a visiting full-time screenwriting professor at Loyola Marymount University, School of Film and Television.

At Lit Hub Kuryla tagged "six works [that] resonate for me as nuanced characters who resist the bounds of traditional motherhood to lead unconventional lives," include:
Toni Morrison, Beloved

Toni Morrison’s inimitable novel Beloved holds within it one of the most profound and painful maternal secrets ever brought to literary light. Sethe, a formerly enslaved person, now resides with her daughter in a house in Ohio which is haunted by a poltergeist-like spirit. When the spirit takes the corporeal form of a young woman named Beloved, Sethe abandons herself to Beloved’s every need, attempting to repair her earlier efforts to kill her children to avoid their recapture. Sethe believes the character of Beloved is the incarnation of the infant that died at her hand. This act and its expiation consume Sethe until she is so reduced by her maternal obsession for Beloved that only one thing will save her: confronting her own need to form a separate identity. The novel, among its many astonishments and radical challenges to hierarchies of power, employs a maternal act of singular transgression to ask a forbidden question: does a mother owe her children and society her life and her soul? Isn’t this just another form of enslavement?
Learn about the other entries on the list.

Beloved also appears on Daryl Gregory's list of ten Southern gothic novels that changed the game, Anne Enright's list of six amazing books, Candice Carty-Williams's list of six heroic women in literature, Kate Racculia's list of ten gothic fiction titles that meant something to her, Emily Temple's list of the ten books that defined the 1980s, Megan Abbott's list of six of the best books based on true crimes, Melba Pattillo Beals's 6 favorite books list, Sarah Porter's list of five favorite books featuring psychological hauntings, Matthew Fellion and Katherine Inglis' list of ten books that were subject to silencing or censorship, Jeff Somers's list of ten fictional characters based on real people, Christopher Barzak's top five list of books about magical families, Ayelet Gundar-Goshen's ten top list of wartime love stories, Judith Claire Mitchell's list of ten of the best (unconventional) ghosts in literature, Kelly Link's list of four books that changed her, a list of four books that changed Libby Gleeson, The Telegraph's list of the 15 most depressing books, Elif Shafak's top five list of fictional mothers, Charlie Jane Anders's list of ten great books you didn't know were science fiction or fantasy, Peter Dimock's top ten list of books that challenge what we think we know as "history", Stuart Evers's top ten list of homes in literature, David W. Blight's list of five outstanding novels on the Civil War era, John Mullan's list of ten of the best births in literature, Kit Whitfield's top ten list of genre-defying novels, and at the top of one list of contenders for the title of the single best work of American fiction published in the last twenty-five years.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 21, 2022

Five books that explore the dark side of fitting in

Elizabeth Macneal is a Scottish author and potter based in London.

Her bestselling novels, The Doll Factory and Circus of Wonders. are out now.

At CrimeReads she tagged five books that explore the dark side of trying to fit in, including:
The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Glittering, rich, carefree. This is the group of people who Tom Ripley—a seemingly ordinary high school dropout—longs to impress, and whom he tricks into accepting him. But when these new friends begin to find his behavior unsettling, and exclude him, his jealousy turns to hatred. Highsmith’s true skill is in turning the murderer into the character we root for.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Talented Mr Ripley is on Saul A. Lelchuk's nine great thrillers featuring alter egos, Emma Stonex's list of seven top mystery novels set by the sea, Russ Thomas's top ten list of queer protagonists in crime fictionPaul Vidich's list of five of the most enduring imposters in crime fiction & espionage, Lisa Levy's list of eight of the most toxic friendships in crime fiction, Elizabeth Macneal's list of five sympathetic fictional psychopaths, Laurence Scott's list of seven top books about doppelgangers, J.S. Monroe's list of seven suspenseful literary thrillers, Simon Lelic's top ten list of false identities in fiction, Jeff Somers's list of fifty novels that changed novels, Olivia Sudjic's list of eight favorite books about love and obsession, Roz Chast's six favorite books list, Nicholas Searle's top five list of favorite deceivers in fiction, Chris Ewan's list of the ten top chases in literature, Meave Gallagher's top twenty list of gripping page-turners every twentysomething woman should read, Sophia Bennett's top ten list of books set in the Mediterranean, Emma Straub's top ten list of holidays in fiction, E. Lockhart's list of favorite suspense novels, Sally O'Reilly's top ten list of novels inspired by Shakespeare, Walter Kirn's top six list of books on deception, Stephen May's top ten list of impostors in fiction, Simon Mason's top ten list of chilling fictional crimes, Melissa Albert's list of eight books to change a villain, Koren Zailckas's list of eleven of literature's more evil characters, Alex Berenson's five best list of books about Americans abroad John Mullan's list of ten of the best examples of rowing in literature, Tana French's top ten maverick mysteries list, the Guardian's list of the 50 best summer reads ever, the Telegraph's ultimate reading list, and Francesca Simon's top ten list of antiheroes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Seven stories told from both members of a couple

Robin Kirman studied philosophy at Yale before receiving her MFA in writing from Columbia, where she also taught for several years. Her curiosity about humanpsychology has led her to combine work in psychoanalysis with writing fiction. Her first novel, Bradstreet Gate, was published by Crown in 2015, and her television series The Love Wave is currently in development.

Kirman's new novel is The End of Getting Lost.

At Lit Hub Kirman tagged seven
novels that alternate between the voices of members in a couple, specifically where this is more than a device: where it’s an examination of one of the central concerns we lonely humans have—how much can we ever really know of another, or be known? How close to another living soul can we ever truly come?
One title on the list:
Sylvia Brownrigg, Pages for Her

Where Barnes begins to explore same-sex love between men, Pages For Her devotes itself to the romantic and formative relationship between two women. The novel is a follow-up to Brownrigg’s Pages for You, in which young Flannery falls in love with her older teacher, Anne—a relationship that opens up Flannery not just to sexual passion, but to other possibilities—including literary—within herself. 20 years later, where the next novel takes up the story, Flannery’s once-expansive character feels as if it’s shrunken. Though the novel includes the points of view of both women, Flannery is as much in dialogue with her younger, more passionate incarnation. Here, in contrast to those works where art and love stand in tension, in Pages For Her, as the name implies, love’s fire kindles a passion to create.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Seven books about star-crossed lovers

Saumya Roy is the author of Castaway Mountain: Love and Loss Among the Waste Pickers of Mumbai, a narrative non-fiction book about the garbage landfill of Mumbai. It is among NPR, Washington Independent Review, Telegraph India, GQ India, and's best loved books for 2021.

At Electric Lit she tagged seven books that "trace the unlikely journey of love bucking against constrictions within and without—making us all worthy of romantic love," including:
The Remains of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

A love so unlikely it may not have existed at all and yet so undying that the main character sets out to find it, and himself, decades later. Working as a butler, Mr. Stevens dutifully spent years holding up the vestiges of a mansion and with it, Britain’s declining post-war power and nobility. Miss Kanton, the housekeeper, waited for Mr. Stevens to tire of his efforts of keeping up with this slipping world and to turn to building a life of his own with her. Was the unarticulated and unexamined self even there? Years later, Stevens leaves on a road trip, in a rapidly transforming Britain, to reclaim himself and a love that had stayed unspoken and nearly unfelt.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Remains of the Day is among A. Natasha Joukovsky's seven novels that subvert social norms, Mark Skinner's ten best country house novels, Xan Brooks's ten top terrible houses in fiction, Molly Schoemann-McCann's nine great books for people who love Downton Abbey, Lucy Lethbridge's ten top books about servants, and Tim Vine's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 18, 2022

Six top office thrillers

Bonnie Kistler is a former Philadelphia attorney and the author of House on Fire and The Cage. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College, magna cum laude, with Honors in English literature, and she received her law degree from the University of the Pennsylvania Law School, where she was a moot court champion and legal writing instructor.

She spent her law career in private practice with major law firms. Peer-rated as Distinguished for both legal ability and ethical standards, she successfully tried cases in federal and state courts across the country.

[ Q&A with Bonnie KistlerThe Page 69 Test: The Cage]

She and her husband now live in Florida and the mountains of western North Carolina.

At CrimeReads Kistler tagged six favorite office thrillers, including:
The office in The Herd, by Andrea Bartz, isn’t the typical single-company workplace. Instead, it’s an exclusive, women-only co-working space launched by celebrity entrepreneur Eleanor Walsh. Millennial women are dying to be accepted into the Herd––at least until Eleanor herself is found dead on the frozen rooftop of the glitzy building. Her friends—the Herd’s publicist, its graphic designer, and a writer secretly working on an unauthorized book about Eleanor—launch an investigation that exposes a lot of unknown and unsavory facts about both Eleanor and her so-called friends.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Top 10 buildings in fiction

David Annand has worked as an editor at Condé Nast Traveller and GQ. He has written for the FT, TLS, Telegraph, Literary Review, the New Statesman and Time Out.

Peterdown is his first book.

At the Guardian Annand tagged ten of his favorite buildings in fiction, including:
The Ministry of Love in Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

You get a better sense of the architecture of the Senate House-inspired Ministry of Truth – “an enormous pyramidical structure of glittering white concrete” – but it is The Ministry of Love, or Miniluv as it’s known in Newspeak, that stays with you longest. “It was a place impossible to enter except on official business, and then only by penetrating through a maze of barbed-wire entanglements, steel doors, and hidden machine-guns nests.” The building has no windows and is home to the most famous room in all literature, located “many metres underground, as deep down as it was possible to go.” It is, of course, Room 101 and “the thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

Nineteen Eighty-four is on Jeff Somers's list of thirteen of the unluckiest characters in science fiction & fantasyBassem Youssef's six favorite books list, Joel Cunningham's list of twelve science fiction & fantasy books for the post-truth era, Stephen W. Potts's top five list of useful books about surviving surveillance, Linda Grant's top ten list of books about postwar Britain, Ella Cosmo's list of five fictional books-within-a-book too dangerous to read, the list of four books that changed Peter Twohig, the Guardian's list of the five worst book covers ever, the Independent's list of the fifteen best opening lines in literature, W.B. Gooderham's top ten list of books given in books, Katharine Trendacosta and Amanda Yesilbas's list of ten paranoid science fiction stories that could help you survive, Na'ima B. Robert's top ten list of Romeo and Juliet stories, Gabe Habash's list of ten songs inspired by books and a list of the 100 best last lines from novels. The book made Charlie Jane Anders's list of ten science fiction novels we pretend to have read, Juan E. Méndez's list of five books on torture, P. J. O’Rourke's list of the five best political satires, Daniel Johnson's five best list of books about Cold War culture, Robert Collins' top ten list of dystopian novels, Gemma Malley's top 10 list of dystopian novels for teenagers, is one of Norman Tebbit's six best books and one of the top ten works of literature according to Stephen King. It made a difference to Isla Fisher, and appears on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best Aprils in literature, ten of the best rats in literature, and ten of the best horrid children in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Ten sci-fi series to read after finishing "The Expanse"

At BookBub Jeff Somers tagged ten sci-fi series "like The Expanse that combine political intrigue, military sci-fi, and ancient mysteries," including:
Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi

Just one book in and Koyanagi’s series is already one to watch. Alana Quick is a starship repair engineer in a universe where advances in technology have rendered such professions unnecessary. When Tangled Axon, a cargo vessel, arrives looking for Alana’s sister, Nova, Alana stows away in order to escape her life. The crew and captain aren’t thrilled, but they need Nova to negotiate with a power from another dimension, so they’ll deal with Alana. Fans of The Expanse will devour this story that follows members of a desperate spaceship crew who aren’t sure they can trust each other.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Six top twist endings in contemporary fiction

New York Times bestseller Wendy Corsi Staub is the award-winning author of more than ninety novels, best known for the single title psychological suspense novels she writes under her own name. Those books and the women’s fiction written under the pseudonym Wendy Markham have also appeared on the USA Today, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Bookscan bestseller lists.

Her current standalone suspense novel, The Other Family, is about a picture-perfect family that that moves into a picture-perfect house. But not everything is as it seems, and the page-turner concludes “with a wallop of a twist,” according to #1 New York Times bestselling author Harlan Coben.

At CrimeReads Staub tagged six of "the best surprise endings in contemporary fiction," including:
The Collective by Alison Gaylin

Alison Gaylin’s latest thriller is a taut, harrowing tale of grief and revenge, with a brittle-but-not-broken heroine who’s lost her only child to a killer who escapes punishment. While Camille breaks your heart, she’s hardly a pitiful victim. Emerging as a complex character whose strengths and weaknesses are at times exquisitely indistinguishable. This is one of those novels that you’ll never imagine will conclude the way it does—and upon reflection, you’ll realize it was inevitable.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Collective.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 14, 2022

Seven novels where love & murder are in the cards

Leah Konen is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied journalism and English literature. She is the author of the new thriller, The Perfect Escape. Her debut thriller, All the Broken People was a Rolling Stone, Marie Claire, She Reads, and Charlotte Observer best summer book pick.

At Electric Lit, Konen tagged "seven scintillating thrillers about romances gone wrong," including:
The Undoing [previously published as You Should Have Known] by Jean Hanff Korelitz

What would you do if the man you thought you loved, the man you’d been married to for years and raised a child with, suddenly disappeared, leaving questions—and a dead body—in his wake? Such is the central question of Korelitz’s emotional and evocative novel, which became the wildly popular The Undoing on HBO.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Ten of the sexiest mysteries for Valentine’s weekend

Molly Odintz is the Senior Editor for CrimeReads. She grew up in Austin and worked as a bookseller at BookPeople for years before her move up to New York City for a life in crime. She likes cats, crime novels, and coffee.

At CrimeReads Odintz tagged ten "books, featuring lots of great sex and terrible relationships, [that] may make for perfect Valentine’s Weekend reading," including:
Miami Purity by Vicki Hendricks

I once tried to read this book in public, and had to stop because it got too sexy. That’s right, if you open this book up in public, you will get flustered. In this literally steamy tale (it takes place in a dry cleaner’s), a femme fatale gets together with the owner’s no good son, and they hatch a plot to get rid of his critical mother together. I feel like the French cover design for this book really captures the message of this novel.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Miami Purity is among Alex Segura's twelve essential Miami crime novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Five titles about dangerous plants

Benjamin Percy is the author of six novels, the most recent among them The Unfamiliar Garden, the second book in the Comet Cycle.

At Lit Hub Percy writes:
The novels in the Comet Cycle are triggered by an age-old sci-fi concept: a comet comes streaking through the solar system, the planet spins through the debris field, and new elements are introduced to the world. These elements upend the laws of biology, geology, physics; they create chaos in the geopolitical theater; they shake up the energy and weapons sectors; and they—in a very Marvel-y sort of way—create a new dawn of heroes and villains.
Percy tagged five "stories—about dangerous plants—that seeded the growth" of The Unfamiliar Garden, including:
Liane Moriarty, Nine Perfect Strangers (2018)

Microdosing psychedelics is thought to be medicinal and therapeutic by some, but in this novel, the patients at a health resort are dosed up on hallucinogenic mushrooms without consent—and the results are nightmarish. Tranquilum House is a wellness retreat where people begin again. Every one of the titular nine perfect strangers is at a breaking point, many reeling from professional and personal loss, and under the guidance of the strikingly beautiful and self-assured Masha, they’re offered a chance to heal and grow. At great financial and emotional cost of course. They participate in rituals and challenges that grow steadily more upsetting. Like all good gurus, Masha is secretly sinister and just as messed up as her clientele. She mad-scientists their chemical cocktails and manipulates them into unnerving situations.

The overall effect of the book, which shuttles compellingly between the perspectives of the characters, is that of an Agatha Christie novel: a fishbowl environment where things go terribly wrong. Now before all of you science nerds out there write a smarmy letter to the editor, we know: fungi are not plants. In fact they show more of a relationship to animals. This will be surprising to many, and this whole notion—of not knowing where one belongs or who one might be—is central to the conceit of the novel.
Read about the other entries on Percy's list at Lit Hub.

Nine Perfect Strangers is among Sherri Smith's six thrillers that feature toxic perfectionism.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 11, 2022

Seven novels about family curses

Renée Branum has an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Montana and an MFA in Fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where she was a Truman Capote Fellow. Her work has appeared in The Georgia Review, Narrative Magazine, The Gettysburg Review, Brevity, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Best American Nonrequired Reading, among others. She was a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Prose Fellowship in 2020. She currently lives in Cincinnati, where she is pursuing a PhD in Fiction writing.

Branum's new novel is Defenestrate.

At Electric Lit she tagged seven stories "about myths and beliefs inherited from each generation," including:
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

In this modern retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear, set on a vast Iowa farm, the family “curse” takes the form of duty, responsibility, and the burden of literal inheritance as the family patriarch wields his power by determining which of his three daughters will be granted a portion of his thousand-acre farm upon his death. This brilliantly told family drama investigates the complicated web of loyalties that arise within a network of family relationships, as well as how the inherited curse of silence in the face of abuse can shape a legacy of guilt and estrangement.
Read about the other entries on the list.

A Thousand Acres is among Lois Leveen's five novels that riff on—and rip off—Shakespeare, Stacey Swann's seven novels about family members making each other miserable, Robert McCrum's ten top Shakespearean books, Rachel Mans McKenny's eleven books about midwesterners who aren’t trying to be nice, Hannah Beckerman's top ten toxic families in fiction, Brian Boone's five books that offer a brand new take on pre-existing works, Edward Docx's top ten Shakespearean stories in modern fiction, Emma Donoghue's six best books, Anne Tyler's six favorite books, Sally O'Reilly ten top novels inspired by Shakespeare, Alexia Nader's nine favorite books about unhappy families, and John Mullan's top ten twice-told tales.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Top 10 single mothers in fiction

Beth Morrey‘s work has been published in the Cambridge and Oxford May Anthologies and shortlisted for the Grazia Orange First Chapter competition. She lives in London with her family and Polly the dog.

Morrey's debut novel is The Love Story of Missy Carmichael.

[Coffee with a Canine: Beth Morrey & PollyThe Page 69 Test: The Love Story of Missy CarmichaelMy Book, The Movie: The Love Story of Missy CarmichaelQ&A with Beth Morrey]

Her new novel is Delphine Jones Takes a Chance (UK title: Em & Me).

At the Guardian Morrey tagged ten favorite "lone mothers of literature, in all their crazy, complex glory," including:
Desiree Vignes in The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The tale of light-skinned Black twins who take very different paths forces you to look one way, then the other, confounding expectations. Shy, introverted Stella boldly passes herself off as white. Desiree, the headstrong extrovert, returns to their dull home town with her daughter to escape an abusive relationship. But it’s Desiree who has the dignity that Stella craves and fails to find in her desperate sham of a marriage. Yin and yang, when Stella vanishes, Desiree stays – because that’s what single mothers have to do. They stick around.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Seven titles about women bending morality for family

Emilya Naymark was born in a country that no longer exists, escaped with her parents, lived in Italy for a bit, and ended up in New York, which promptly became a love and a muse.

She studied art and was lucky enough to illustrate numerous publications before transitioning to the digital world.

She has a particular fascination with psychological thrillers, crime, and suspense. All the dark stuff. So that’s what she writes.

Naymark's novels are Hide in Place and the newly released Behind the Lie.

At CrimeReads she tagged seven "novels [that] are examples of women going against their moral code—to the point of self-sacrifice—to protect those they love most." One title on the list:
Long Bright River by Liz Moore

Mickey is a cop patrolling the working-class Philadelphia neighborhood where she and her younger sister, Kacey, grew up. Kacey, sometimes homeless, haunts the streets for other reasons as she battles drug addiction. Then she disappears, just as someone begins killing young sex workers in the same precinct.

As Mickey searches and searches the familiar streets and interviews people she’s known her entire life, a decision she’d made years ago is highlighted. As a reader, I believed in what she did and thought she’d made the choice I would have made. Maybe. Where this novel excels is in showing Mickey’s decision from several angles, shining a spotlight on belief systems that may or may not be flawed, convictions that may have grown out of motives not entirely selfless.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Long Bright River is among Willa C. Richards's seven books about the heartbreak of losing a sibling.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Six portrayals of Black girlhood in fiction

Kai Harris is a writer and educator from Detroit, Michigan, who uses her voice to uplift the Black community through realistic fiction centered on the Black experience. Her work has appeared in Guernica, Kweli Journal, Longform, and the Killens Review, amongst others. In addition to fiction, Harris has published poetry, personal essays, and peer-reviewed academic articles on topics related to Black girlhood and womanhood, the slave narrative genre, motherhood, and Black identity. A graduate of Western Michigan University’s PhD program, Harris was the recipient of the university’s Gwen Frostic Creative Writing Award in Fiction for her short story, “While We Live.” Harris now lives in the Bay Area with her husband, three daughters, and dog Tabasco, where she is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Santa Clara University.

Harris's new novel is What the Fireflies Knew.

At Lit Hub she tagged six classic books that depict Black girlhood, including:
Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give

Based on the Black Lives Matter movement, Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give tells the story of 16-year-old Starr, who lives her life as a balancing act between two worlds. This balance is shaken when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her unarmed childhood best friend at the hands of a police officer. Though centered around this tragedy, The Hate U Give stands true to the legacy of Black girlhood fiction by giving Starr an authentic voice, allowing her to tell her own story in her own way. When I read this book, two things stood out to me. First: how easy it was for me to understand Starr’s perspective, because it felt so much like my own.

The second thing that stood out to me was how much my work-in-progress was like The Hate U Give. Again, I found so many connections between the stories I tell (and the ways I tell those stories) with other tales of Black girlhood. And this is the beauty of Black girlhood in fiction: the stories we tell about Black girls will resonate with Black girls, but they are also universal tales of self-love and acceptance, pain and joy, strength and trauma, which will resonate with every reader. They are stories that the world needs to hear.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Hate U Give is among Chris Whitaker's six top kid narrators in literature, Sif Sigmarsdóttir's top ten novels about burning issues for young adults, and Natasha Ochshorn's seven banned books that should be required reading.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 7, 2022

Five great books about colonizing other planets

Charlie Jane Anders is the author of Victories Greater Than Death, the first book in the Unstoppable trilogy, along with the short story collection Even Greater Mistakes. She's also the author of Never Say You Can't Survive, a book about how to use creative writing to get through hard times. Her other books include The City in the Middle of the Night and All the Birds in the Sky. She's won the Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, Lambda Literary, Crawford and Locus Awards.

Anders's forthcoming novel is Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak, the sequel to Victories Greater Than Death.

In 2019 at Anders tagged five great books featuring humans colonizing other planets, including:
The Stars Change by Mary Anne Mohanraj

Mohanraj’s novel-in-stories follows a group of people living on Pyroxina Major, a “university planet” settled by South Asians, as a war is breaking out between “pure” humans on the one side and modified humans and aliens on the other. In a series of vignettes focused on sexual encounters, Mohanraj shows how people’s complex relationships and pasts are affected by this conflict. We’re also immersed in the day-to-day strangeness of living on another world, facing questions about diversity and inclusion that are even more fractious than ones faced on Earth.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Seven notable books set in bookstores

Aleksandra Hogendorf is a writer currently based in San Sebastián, Spain.

At Electric Lit she tagged seven favorite books set in bookstores, including:
The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich’s latest is a romp: an ex-convict works in a bookstore that’s haunted by the ghost of a former customer. Boisterous, poignant, powerful, stippled with richly colored characters… even on the sentence level, this book bristles with color and electric energy, building an absorbing flow that keeps you flipping the pages. This is a ghost story, a Native American story, and a mystery for the present day that touches on the pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests. At its core though, The Sentence is an ode to bookishness that name drops titles and authors galore, details the minutiae of operating a bookstore, and even features cameos from the author herself (who really does own a bookstore!).
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Ten thrilling stories of Los Angeles

Eliza Jane Brazier is an author, screenwriter, and journalist.

If I Disappear is her adult debut. Her new novel is Good Rich People.

She currently lives in California, where she is developing her books for television.

At Publishers Weekly, Brazier tagged ten titles set in Los Angeles, "the most beautiful city in the world ... at the right angle. But income disparity, a predatory entertainment industry, and government corruption also make it one of the darkest." One title on the list:
The Siren by Katherine St. John

This juicy thriller gives readers a front row seat to a Hollywood takedown via the perspectives of three women at various stages of their careers. It’s a soapy delight filled with competition, revenge, lust, and dark secrets.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Q&A with Katherine St. John.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 4, 2022

Five titles for the grieving brain

Mary-Frances O'Connor is an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Arizona, and the Director of Clinical Training. Her research focuses on the physiological correlates of emotion, in particular the wide range of physical and emotional responses during bereavement, including yearning and isolation. She believes that a clinical science approach toward the experience and mechanisms of grieving can improve interventions for prolonged grief disorder, newly included in the revised DSM-5.

O'Connor's new book is The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss.

At Lit Hub she tagged five books for the grieving brain, including:
Massimo Pigliucci, Skye Cleary, & Daniel Kaufman, How to Live a Good Life: A Guide to Choosing Your Personal Philosophy

With a name like mine, it will come as no surprise that I was raised Catholic. After my father died, I thought a lot about how he had created a meaningful life and the relationship between his faith and his actions in this world. Although I spent years engaged in Quakerism and then Buddhism, I had never settled into a faith community. In my quest to discover the philosophic or religious views that resonated with my own, I found the collection of short essays by Pigliucci, Cleary, and Kaufman to be a valuable guide, offering me new insights into classical religions and introducing me to new philosophies such as effective altruism.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue