Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Five top thrillers featuring female psychopaths

Julia Bartz is a Brooklyn-based writer and practicing therapist. Her fiction writing has appeared in The South Dakota Review, InDigest Magazine, and more.

The Writing Retreat is her first novel.

At CrimeReads Bartz tagged five favorite psychological thrillers featuring "a female character who throws off societal conventions–even if the result is violence, mayhem, and murder." One title on the list:
A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers

Hanibal Lector’s got nothing on Dorothy Daniels, a talented and haughty food critic who decides to give into her darkest tendencies
in order to enjoy the perfect meal. Relating her story from jail (“Prison is boring,” she sighs), Dorothy relates how her pleasure in preparing food crosses over into her quest to take power back in her complicated and relationships with men. I found Chelsea G Summers’s debut to be funny, disturbing, and beautifully written.
Read about the other entries on the list.

A Certain Hunger is among Sheila Yasmin Marikar’s top eight books that showcase the eroticism & savagery of cannibalism.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 27, 2023

Seven essential titles about World War II women

Christopher C. Gorham holds degrees from the University of Michigan, Tufts University and Syracuse University College of Law. After practicing law for over a decade, for the last several years he has taught Modern American History at Westford Academy, outside Boston. His writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Literary Hub, and online publications.

The Confidante: The Untold Story of the Woman Who Helped Win WWII and Shape Modern America is his first book.

At Lit Hub Gorham tagged seven favorite books about World War II women, including:
The Correspondents: Six Women Writers on the Front Lines of World War II by Judith Mackrell

In late August 1939 reporter Clare Hollingworth was on assignment near the German-Polish frontier. When a gust of wind blew a large tarp skyward, Hollingworth saw in the valley below massed German armor and thousands of troops. She had the scoop of the century: Germany was about to invade Poland and start World War II. The six pioneering journalists in Mackrell’s well-researched book include Martha Gellhorn, known for her reporting and her marriage to Ernest Hemingway, and Lee Miller, the Vogue cover model who became a war correspondent. More than war workers or servicewomen, these journalists were celebrated in the aftermath of the war, but the appreciation was short-lived. The Correspondents returns these pathbreakers to the history of WWII.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Ten titles about extraordinary “ordinary” women

Amazon Book Review editor Al Woodworth and colleagues tagged ten books by or about "extraordinary 'ordinary' women who have shared their lives on the page," including:
A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice and Freedom by Brittany K. Barnett

At times, Brittany K. Barnett’s memoir reads like page-turning crime fiction; at others, a galvanizing and redemptive portrait of a lawyer trying to defend Black lives that were never protected in the first place. Barnett is a hero and not just for the lives she’s fought for in court, but for sharing her story and shining a light on the structural racism that exists in this country. Urgent, necessary, hopeful—and a knockout read, which is why the Amazon Books Editors named it the Best Book of 2020.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Eight recent titles featuring truly fatal femmes fatales

Misha Popp enjoys writing about murdery women and over-the-top baked goods, but not so much about herself. She lives in rural Massachusetts where she bakes entirely too many pies and sculpts things out of chocolate. An unrepentant school nerd, she has a collection of degrees that have nothing to do with the jobs that pay her.

Popp's new novel is A Good Day to Pie.

At CrimeReads she tagged eight truly fatal femmes fatales from recent novels, including:
Millicent from My Lovely Wife – Samantha Downing

Wife. Mother. Murderer. Millicent is proving that modern women really can have it all. She’s a successful real estate agent, prepares organic meals for her two kids, and spends plenty of quality time with her husband – killing women. She even dabbles on her own sometimes and while her choice of victims isn’t guided by any
sort of moral code, her commitment to her crime certainly earns her a spot in the Sisterhood of Serial Killers.
Read about the other entries on the list.

My Lovely Wife is among Sarah Bonner's thirteen psychological thrillers with gobsmacking twists, Kaira Rouda's thirteen books highlighting the wives in domestic suspense, Alice Feeney's eight top novels featuring odd couples & unexpected partnerships, Pip Drysdale's seven top revenge thrillers featuring women who have had enough, Christina McDonald's seven top thrillers with flawed characters, C.J. Tudor's seven crime novels where murder is a group activity, Lisa Levy's top seven psychological thrillers with manipulative male narrators, Kaira Rouda's top seven literary couples whose relationships are deeply disturbing in the most fascinating ways possible, and Margot Hunt's top five villains who have had about enough of domestic life.

The Page 69 Test: My Lovely Wife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 24, 2023

Nine books that rethink our narratives about health & healing

Maggie Laurel Boyd is a PhD Candidate, Teaching Fellow and Writing Fellow at Boston University. She is currently writing a dissertation on contemporary US and Irish narratives of healing.

At Electric Lit she tagged nine books that help us "rethink our existing narratives about healing and recognize that if our arc of recovery deviates from the template, then at least we’re in good company." One title on the list:
Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer

Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies might be one of my favorite books. Maddie Mortimer narrates her novel from the points-of-view of a cancer patient named Lia, her husband, her daughter, her mother, and her actual cancer. In entangling these perspectives, Mortimer depicts with both candor and compassion what happens to our bodies, our minds, and our communities when we are sick. Making cancer a narrator itself, with surprising insight into and even sympathy toward Lia, unsettles our narrative expectations of healing—an unsettling that is also mirrored in the novel’s inventive form. Throughout, words take the shape of spirals, doves, and fireworks; they are scattered, bolded, and boxed on the page. In giving illness a voice and a shape, Mortimer creatively addresses a central question in all illness narratives: what language effectively represents the experience of being ill? Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies shows us how unexpected, unconventional representations best capture not just a dense and difficult experience, but also the myriad ripples it makes on the lives it touches.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Top 10 cads in fiction

Charlotte Vassell studied History at the University of Liverpool and completed a Master’s in Art History at the School of Oriental & African Studies before training as an actor at Drama Studio London. Other than treading the boards Vassell has also worked in advertising, as a "headhunter" and as a purveyor of silk top hats.

In her debut novel, The Other Half, "the antagonist, Rupert Beauchamp, is a terrible Wodehousian wanker with a title, a fortune which his ancestors grabbed during the Raj, and a very good motive for murdering his Instagram-influencer girlfriend."

At the Guardian Vassell tagged ten of Rupert’s literary ancestors, including:
Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

At least a third of all of Austen’s male characters are cads. There’s a plethora of bounders to choose from (I almost chose icky Wickham, with his penchant for seducing impressionable 15-year-old girls), but to my mind Willoughby is the worst. Willoughby is a man of romantic sentiment, a man of sensibility, but he has neither the good sense nor the common decency to avoid impregnating teenagers. Serves him right having to marry for money when his aunt, who is rightfully appalled by his behaviour, cuts him off. He’ll still be wealthy, I suppose, but at least he won’t be that happy. Marianne, you were always going to be better off without him hun!
Read about the other entries on the list.

Sense and Sensibility is on Alexandra Silverman's list of eight of the best expressions of sloth in literature, Jimmy So's list of fifteen top film adaptations of literary classics, John Mullan's list of ten of the best wills in literature, and Sam Baker's top ten list of literary stepmothers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Five crime novels that deepen our understanding of collective trauma

Frank Sennett has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Montana and a journalism degree from Northwestern University. He has taught creative writing at UCLA Extension and has published nine books. He has served as a senior leader at multiple media outlets, including Time Out Chicago and MTV.com. He also spent one lucky season in the Wrigley Field press box covering the Chicago Cubs. He lives in Chicago with his wife, three children and two cats.

Sennett's new novel is Shadow State.

At CrimeReads he tagged five "crime novels that play out in the long shadows of national trauma [and] how they can help us contextualize and explore tragic events in a deeper way than the news and social media cycles allow." One title on the list:
Nina Revoyr, Southland

Crime novels that spring from communal tragedy can expand and change the broader societal understanding of the event, as Revoyr illustrates in Southland. In this award-wining novel, she provides new perspectives on the 1965 Watts riots in Los Angeles by viewing them through an unconventional lens and via underrepresented voices.

As I noted in my review of Southland for Booklist, Revoyr employs the murder of three boys during the riots as the pivot point for a moving, sometimes harrowing exploration of race relations among black, Japanese and white residents of L.A. When her grandfather dies in 1994, young Japanese-American lawyer Jackie Ishida seeks to discover why he once planned to leave his Crenshaw grocery store to one of the murder victims, a black teen from the neighborhood. Switching effortlessly from the mid-1990s to the 1960s, the 1940s, and back again, Revoyr peoples the landscape with compelling characters who are equally believable whether they’re black, Japanese, male, female, gay or straight. Revoyr paints a nuanced picture of the riots and their aftermath, highlighting the ways in which systemic racism and economic inequality contributed to the unrest. She also sheds light on the experiences of the Japanese-American community, often overlooked in narratives of the riots.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Southland is among Steph Cha's top ten books about the troubles in Los Angeles and five great American social crime novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Eight notable action/adventure thrillers

Last summer at the Amazon Book Review Vannessa Cronin tagged eight favorite action/adventure thrillers including:
The Gray Man by Mark Greaney

We’re excitedly awaiting the screen adaptation of The Gray Man later this year. We spoke with author Mark Greaney earlier this year about the perfect spy thriller and one of things he told us was, “…more importantly than the stakes, the locations, the villains, or the tech, a good espionage story depends on the hero, and more precisely, on the gripping personal stakes the hero has in the outcome. More than simply the success or failure of his or her mission, the hero must battle something greater to make a spy novel transcendent.” Court Gentry, known as the Gray Man, is the agent who’s legendary among his comrades: never fails, never misses. But even a legend can be put out to pasture. The question is, will he go quietly?
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Gray Man.

My Book, The Movie: The Gray Man.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 20, 2023

Six top Garden State crime novels

Kimberly Giarratano is an author of mysteries for teens and adults. Her debut novel, Grunge Gods and Graveyards, won the 2015 Silver Falchion Award for Best YA at Killer Nashville. A former librarian, she is currently an instructor at a SUNY Orange County Community College and a reviewer for BookPage. She is also the chapter liaison for Sisters in Crime.

Born in New York and raised in New Jersey, Giarratano and her husband moved to the Poconos to raise their three kids amid black bears and wild turkeys. While she doesn’t miss the Jersey traffic, she does miss a good bagel and lox.

Her new novel is Death of A Dancing Queen.

At CrimeReads Giarratano tagged a few favorite Garden State crime titles, including:
Line of Sight by James Queally

Ever since getting sacked from his newspaper job, Russell Avery has been working on behalf of Newark’s less-than-finest police officers, getting them out the scrapes they manage to find themselves in — such as stealing seven grand from a crime scene. It’s not noble work, and Russell knows it, but he needs to pay the bills somehow. When his friend, a social justice activist, asks him to look into the police shooting of a low-level drug dealer, Russell is hesitant to get involved. After all, the Newark PD isn’t anyone he wants to get on the wrong side of, especially when the police chief threatens to pull Russell’s private investigator license. That only means there is something to expose. Eventually, Russell begins investigating the shooting deaths of two Black and Latino teenagers, setting off a domino of events that include riots, protests, and violence. Can Russell stop his beloved Newark from going up in flames? Like all great hard-boiled heroes, Russell gets thrown out of bars, beaten up, and tailed as he attempts to make sense of two senseless deaths. Action-packed, Line of Sight is gritty and poignant as it explores the hazy space of policing and abuse of power in a beleaguered Newark. As Russell explains to his cop buddy, “This isn’t cops and robbers. There’s some truth to your anger and some truth to theirs.” Author James Queally, a crime reporter in California, once covered crime and police for the Star-Ledger in New Jersey. His experience doesn’t just lend authenticity to Russell Avery, but Queally’s journalist background means the narrative is tightly paced and efficiently-written. Every sentence is meaty and lean, with a bit of wry humor. There’s a second book, All These Ashes, to read next, and you will want to.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Five of the best books about eerie islands

Carole Johnstone is an award-winning writer from Scotland, whose short stories have been published all over the world. Her debut novel, Mirrorland, is a psychological suspense thriller with a gothic twist, set in Edinburgh. Her second novel, The Blackhouse, is a very unusual murder-mystery set on a fictional island off the west coast of the Isle of Lewis.

[Q&A with Carole Johnstone]

Having grown up in Lanarkshire, she now lives in Glencoe in the Highlands of Scotland, although her heart belongs to the wild islands of the Outer Hebrides.

At Shepherd Johnstone tagged five favorite books about eerie islands, including:
Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Islands are very much microcosms of the world, but they can be quite insular. Almost exempt from the rules of wider society. I first read Lord of the Flies in school – often a bit of a scary island in itself – and I read it in the way you drive past a horrific car crash: you don’t want to look because you know something awful has happened and is still happening, but you can’t help it. I was not popular in high school, and really identified with poor Simon and Piggy; the story is so frightening because it’s so plausible.

The book is seen as a metaphor for individual freedom versus civilization; power versus subservience; what we will be prepared to do just to survive. I’ve always been fascinated by people: what makes them tick and what makes them break; the truly wonderful and terrible things that we are capable of under duress, and this book definitely played a big part in igniting that fascination.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Lord of the Flies is on Rektok Ross's list of six top survival thrillers, Julia Phillips's top eight list of books set in isolated locations, Kerri Jarema's list of fifteen classic novels with a page count mercifully below 200 pages, Brian Conaghan's list of ten favorite teen books about male friendship, Gillian Philip’s top ten list of islands in children's fiction, Janet Davey’s top ten list of schoolchildren in fiction, Frank Rich's ten top books list, Non Pratt's top ten list of toxic friendships in literature, Francesca Haig's top ten list of the greatest twins in children’s books, Shaun Byron Fitzpatrick list of thirteen favorite, occasionally-banned, YA novels, Matt Kraus's list of six famous books with extremely faithful film adaptations, Michael Hogan's list of the ten best fictional evil children, Danny Wallace's six best books list, Gemma Malley's top ten list of dystopian novels for teenagers, AbeBooks' list of 20 books of shattered childhoods and is one of the top ten works of literature according to Stephen King. It appears on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best pigs in literature, ten of the best pairs of glasses in literature, and ten of the best horrid children in literature, Katharine Quarmby's top ten list of disability stories, and William Skidelsky's list of ten of the best accounts of being marooned in literature. It is a book that made a difference to Isla Fisher and is one of Suzi Quatro's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Ten of the best recent works of Black history

At Publishers Weekly David Adams tagged ten "recent works of Black history that everyone should read," including:
Half American: The Epic Story of African Americans Fighting World War II at Home and Abroad by Matthew F. Delmont

In this revelatory account of Black Americans’ contributions to the U.S. war effort in WWII, Dartmouth history professor Delmont reveals the role Black newspapers played in calling out the dangers of fascism and the affect Black soldiers’ experiences had on their commitment to fighting for racial justice at home. It’s an eloquent and essential corrective to the historical record.
Learn about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 17, 2023

Top 10 neglected books about the Spanish Civil War

Sarah Watling is the author of The Olivier Sisters, for which she was awarded the Tony Lothian Prize.

She holds degrees from the University of Cambridge and the University of London and was a 2020 Silvers Grant recipient.

Watling's new book is Tomorrow Perhaps the Future: Writers, Outsiders, and the Spanish Civil War.

At the Guardian she tagged ten neglected books about the Spanish Civil War, including:
Savage Coast and Mediterranean by Muriel Rukeyser

The 22-year-old American Rukeyser was in Spain for only a few days after the outbreak of war before being evacuated, yet Spain, she later wrote, was the place where “I began to say what I believed”. The results included the modernist novel Savage Coast and an epic poem, Mediterranean. Rukeyser was haunted by the memory of Otto Bloch, an exile from Nazi Germany who joined the Republic’s foreign volunteer force, the International Brigades, and was killed. In Mediterranean, Rukeyser tells of a man who “kept his life straight as a single issue”, which, for me, sums up the dedication (and reduced options) of such people.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 16, 2023

The best, creepiest old houses in fiction

M. E. Hilliard is a librarian who started out in retail merchandising. After twelve years of mergers, consolidations, and moves around the country, she went to graduate school and got a Master of Library Science degree.

Originally from the Connecticut shoreline, she has never lost her love of quaint small towns, big cities, and fashion, so she indulges that in her writing. ‍

A life-long lover of mystery fiction, Hilliard currently lives and works in Florida.

Her new novel is Three Can Keep a Secret.

At CrimeReads Hilliard tagged seven favorite creepy old houses in fiction, including:
The Plot and the Pendulum by Jenn McKinlay

When library director Lindsey Norris learns that the library is to receive a generous bequest from a wealthy local family—their extensive book collection—she’s thrilled. When she visits the old family Victorian to take inventory and discovers a skeleton in a secret room accessed via a bookshelf, she’s both horrified and curious. Using her research skills and a volume of Poe left as a clue by the deceased, Lindsey unravels a decades-old mystery. If, like me, you’ve always yearned for your very own library with a set of set of bookshelves that slide open to reveal a secret anything, this is your book. The ghost cat is a happy bonus.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Nine titles about finding purpose & identity through someone else

Jennifer Savran Kelly (she/her/they/them) lives in Ithaca, New York, where she writes, binds books, and works as a production editor at Cornell University Press. Endpapers is her debut novel. In 2018 it won a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund. In 2019 it was selected as a finalist for the SFWP Literary Awards program and for the James Jones First Novel Fellowship. Her short fiction has appeared in Hobart, Black Warrior Review, Green Mountains Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Grist: A Journal of the Literary Arts (Online Companion), and elsewhere. In 2014, she was selected to study in the Writer to Writer Mentorship Program of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs.

At Electric Lit she tagged nine novels "about people searching for connection and what happens when we believe another person holds the key to a meaningful life and sense of self. What happens when we find—or don’t find—what we’re looking for?" One title on the list:
Let’s Get Back to the Party by Zak Salih

In Salih’s highly thought-provoking debut, it’s 2015, weeks after the Supreme Court has ruled gay marriage to be legal. Estranged childhood friends Sebastian and Oscar run into each other at a wedding, and while Sebastian craves connection over their shared history, Oscar has no interest. He’s too disgusted by what he sees as the death of gay culture: conformity and assimilation. As both men struggle to understand their place in an evolving world, they latch onto new friendships that border on obsession—Sebastian with one of his students, whose sense of freedom he envies, and Oscar with a revered gay novelist from the AIDS era.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Let's Get Back to the Party.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Five great books about making & keeping friends

Lindsay Powers is a book lover, writer (bylines include The New York Times and The Washington Post), and author of You Can’t F*ck Up Your Kids: A Judgment-Free Guide to Stress-Free Parenting. She and fellow Amazon Book Review editor Al Woodworth tagged five "newer books about incredible friendships ... books that will inspire you to text your best buddies—or connect with somebody new—today," including:
Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make—and Keep—Friends by Marisa G. Franco

After reading incredible novels about friendship like Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin and Now Is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson, I wondered: Why do many of us prioritize romantic love over the powerful bond between friends? Franco probes this question, arguing that because friendship is not valued in our culture, we’ve never truly learned how to build and sustain platonic adult relationships—at great cost to us personally and to society. Her breezy, instructive writing acknowledges that it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there. Still, she gently emboldens us to forge ahead anyway, and gives us the tools to do it successfully.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 13, 2023

Top 10 love poems

Poet, novelist, activist and translator, Meena Kandasamy has published two collections of poetry, Touch (2006) and Ms. Militancy (2010), and the critically acclaimed novel, Gypsy Goddess. Her second novel, When I Hit You, was chosen as a book of the year by The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, and The Observer and was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018. Publishers Weekly called Exquisite Cadavers, her third novel, "bold, inventive... An excellent exercise in form and a deeply evocative love story." In 2022, Kandasamy was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and was awarded International Pen’s Hermann Kesten Prize for her work as “a fearless fighter for democracy, human rights and the free word.”

Her latest title is The Book of Desire, Kandasamy's luminous translation of the Kamattu-p-pal, a 2000-year-old song of love and pleasure and the third part of the Thirukkural - one of the most important texts in Tamil literature.

At the Guardian Kandasamy tagged ten favorite love poems, including:
Heart Condition by Jericho Brown

What are you when you leave your man
Wanting? What am I now that I think so fondly
Of airplanes? What’s my name, whose is it, while we
Make love. My lover leaves me with words I wish
To write. Flies from one side of a nation to the outside

Of our world.

This mesmerising poem blends the world of the romantic and the radical together in the most endearing manner. Brown writes about love and desire with such insight – and what I especially admire about this particular poem is the way in which it combines the inner world of the lovers with the external strife-ridden world that discriminates against Black people, against queer people.
Read or listen to the complete poem here.

Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Five of the best mystery-comedy novels

A.J. Devlin grew up in Greater Vancouver before moving to Southern California where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screenwriting from Chapman University and a Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting from The American Film Institute. After working as a screenwriter in Hollywood, he moved back home to Port Moody, BC, where he now lives with his wife and two children.

The latest book in his "Hammerhead" Jed professional wrestling mystery-comedy series, Five Moves of Doom, was published September 15th, 2022 by NeWest Press. It was selected by The Globe and Mail as one of the Best Books of 2022, won the 2022 Crime Fiction Lover Editor's Choice Award for Best Indie Crime Novel, and has been nominated for a 2023 Left Coast Crime Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery.

At The Strand Magazine Devlin tagged his five favorite and most influential mystery-comedies of all time, including:
Bad Chili by Joe R. Lansdale

It’s no easy task to single out the most humorous novel of Champion Mojo Storyteller Joe’s riotously crackerjack Hap and Leonard series, but this fourth outing for the East Texas-based amateur sleuths (at least at this point in the series) stands apart. With an opening that involves male-bonding via good-natured roasting, shooting firearms while hunting small game, and a rabid squirrel attack so hilarious it is all but impossible to not laugh out loud, this book grabs the reader in a stranglehold of sidesplittingly funny adventure that only escalates as the spiritually-enlightened, Caucasian, conscientious war objector and gay, black, Republican Vietnam vet odd couple’s lazy afternoon is hijacked by a trip to the ER. The introduction of a red-haired bombshell love interest for Hap as well as trouble for his true brother (in every way possible except biologically) when the man who stole Leonard’s ex-boyfriend turns up headless in a ditch, this rip-roaring yarn offers perhaps a bit more levity when compared to the previous three novels. Nevertheless, the book still has the signature Lansdale chaotic charm, furious fisticuffs, and gumshoe grit that makes these honorable-yet-troublemaking good ol’ boys so popular.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Fourteen titles to gift for Valentine's Day

Editors at the Amazon Book Review tagged fourteen books to give for Valentine's Day, including:
The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

For your friend who is plotting to live on a female-only island

There isn’t much that is not unforgiving when it comes to the far-flung and frigid town of Vardø, Norway, including the sea that surrounds it, which swallows the majority of its male population in an epic storm while they’re fishing. Accusations of witchcraft quickly infect this grieving but resourceful community, threatening what hard-won normalcy they’ve regained. The Mercies is infuriating, baleful, but full of stubborn hope.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 10, 2023

Twenty top witch lit titles

At the Waterstones blog, Mark Skinner tagged twenty top witch lit titles, including:
The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

Witchcraft and suffragism combine in Harrow’s deftly imagined gothic fantasy, as three New Salem sisters begin to use supernatural folklore to help them win the vote.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Once and Future Witches is among Sarah Pinsker's five SFF books that showcase siblings at their core and Heather Walter's five SFF books about wicked women.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Eight action-packed titles about art heists

Nzinga Temu is a writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Howard University. During her undergraduate studies she has written for Zenger News and Picture This Post.

At Electric Lit she tagged eight action-packed novels about art heists, including:
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer prize winning The Goldfinch is required reading in the category of stolen art novels. It begins with a 13-year old Theodore Decker taking a trip to a museum with his mother, where they both become victims of a terrorist’s attack that destroys the building and much of the art within it. Theo survives, and is able to make his way out of the rubble, clutching an art piece that he and his mother had viewed together just before the blast: a painting in muted tones of a small bird chained to its perch, called “the Goldfinch.” Theo tragically realizes that his mother hadn’t survived after waiting at home and calling hospitals around the city searching for her. The painting that he dragged from the rubble becomes a focal point of Theo’s existence as his life is ripped apart with grief.

As Theo is dragged through a tumultuous childhood into an unstable adulthood, the painting remains his center, and he continues to hide it from the world. However, his treasured token suddenly becomes lost to him, and he is forced to follow its trail to a dark place. Tartt imbues Theo’s story with so much color, with its starkly real characters and the intense relationships between them, making it a thrilling and beautiful read.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Goldfinch is among Kate Belli's six crime novels that revolve around art or the art world and Marisha Pessl's six favorite stories of suspense and Sophie Ward's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Six thrillers set in stunning locales

Lyn Liao Butler was born in Taiwan and moved to the States when she was seven. Before becoming an author, she was a professional ballet and modern dancer, and is still a personal trainer and fitness and yoga instructor. She is an avid animal lover who fosters dogs and volunteers with rescues. When she is not torturing clients or talking to imaginary characters, Butler enjoys spending time with her FDNY husband, their son (the happiest little boy in the world), and their three stubborn dachshunds; sewing for her Etsy shop; and trying complicated yoga poses on a stand-up paddleboard. So far, she has not fallen into the water.

Butler's new novel is Someone Else's Life.

At CrimeReads she tagged six thrillers that are "all the more delicious for the juxtaposition of beautiful settings and dark deeds." One title on the list:
Bones of Hilo by Eric Redman

A young, inexperienced detective from the wet, working-class side of Hawaii’s Big Island gets the chance of a lifetime when the mainland developer of an unpopular resort on the island’s tourist side is found murdered on a luxury golf course, an ancient Hawaiian spear driven through his heart. This book is a deep dive into the Hawaiian culture and people, and the island’s ancient past. Filled with local color that goes beyond the tropical paradise that Hawaii is known for, this mystery will suck you in while showing you a whole new side of Big Island.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

The best books to understand health & politics in the early US

Andrew M. Wehrman is an associate professor of history at Central Michigan University. A winner of the Walter Muir Whitehill Prize in Early American History, his writing has appeared in The New England Quarterly, The Boston Globe, and The Washington Post.

His book The Contagion of Liberty: The Politics of Smallpox in the American Revolution was published in 2022.

At Shepherd Wehrman tagged five of the best books to understand health and politics in the early United States. One title on the list:
The Province of Affliction: Illness and the Making of Early New England by Ben Mutschler

While hundreds of books have been written on early New England, Ben Mutschler deftly paints a portrait of life in New England “with sickness at its center.” He thoroughly integrates family struggles over illness and the demands placed on local governments into the story of the social and political development of this region that has long valued public health even as it has also endured tragic circumstances.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 6, 2023

Five top Australian thrillers & mysteries

Jane Harper is the New York Times and #1 international bestselling author of The Dry, Force of Nature, The Lost Man, and The Survivors.

Exiles is her fifth novel.

Harper previously worked as a print journalist in Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne with her husband, daughter, and son.

At the Waterstones blog she tagged five favorite mysteries that make the most of the sheer danger and diversity of Australia. One title on her list:
The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth

If you haven’t discovered Sally Hepworth’s deliciously fun and twisty reads, take this as your sign to pick one up and devour it immediately. Set in an affluent bayside suburb of Melbourne, two sisters try to unpick truth from lie when their father marries a woman much closer to their age than his. It’s a complete page-turner in the purest sense and Sally expertly leads us on a dance that just doesn’t let go. Daily life with a dark edge, it’s no surprise that Sally’s style has made her a firm favourite among Australian readers. I also highly recommend pre-ordering her latest novel, The Soulmate, which hits shelves in the UK in April and sees a family swept up with big secrets when they buy a cliff-top house near a notorious suicide spot. Unputdownable.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Younger Wife is among Kimberly Belle's four top thrillers with maximum escapism.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Seven stories about goblins & tricksters

Nzinga Temu is a writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Howard University. During her undergraduate studies she has written for Zenger News and Picture This Post.

At Electric Lit she tagged seven top stories about goblins and tricksters, including:
Goblin Market by Diane Zahler

Christina Georgina Rossetti’s 1862 poem by the same name, Goblin Market was a caution to young ladies against pretty and mysterious men who bear gifts. Zahler’s modern retelling follows a similar vein, with two sisters, Lizzie and Minka, caught in a shapeshifting goblin’s snare. Minka is outgoing and cheerful, while Lizzie is quiet and pensive. Minka returns from the market savoring a plum she received from a handsome boy, and announcing she is in love. Lizzie is immediately suspicious, plums are not in season. Lizzie is too shy to go to the market herself to investigate, so she keeps her peace. But Minka soon falls ill from eating another of this mysterious boy’s fruit—a pomegranate. Lizzie is forced out of her shell to save her sister, and must keeps her wits sharp so she doesn’t fall into the goblin’s snare herself.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Five books with first-rate worldbuilding

Jean Louise grew up with her mother and two sisters in an old Victorian house on the east side of Cleveland, Ohio. Although she always loved making up stories, the idea of becoming a YA fantasy author wasn’t anything she’d ever considered until she was in her twenties. Her first short story was a romance novel parody that ended up being a hit among her friends. After that success, she started writing seriously, which led to her earning an MFA in Writing for Children at The New School.

Currently, she lives in Long Island, New York, with her cat Martha. When she’s not working at her day job or writing her next novel, Louise can be found with her nose buried in a graphic novel or taking down bad guys in her favorite video games.

Her new novel is Waking Fire.

[The Page 69 Test: Waking Fire]

At Shepherd Louise tagged five of the best books that transport you to another time and place, including:
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

When I first read Fingersmith, I was so impressed that a contemporary author had written a book so rooted in the aesthetics of the Victorian time period that I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn that Waters had been transported from Victorian England to the present via a time machine. Everything about the book feels authentic, from the language and writing style that seems to be ripped straight from the pages of a book published in the 1800s, to the characters themselves who come across as darker, more mature versions of characters from Dickens’ novels. Fingersmith is worldbuilding at its finest and a must for anyone interested in historical fiction, Victoriana, scheming, devious, sly, and cunning characters, and the most shocking plot twist of the 19th and 21st centuries.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Fingersmith is among Jenni Murray's six best books about history’s forgotten women, Santa Montefiore's six best books, Stuart Jeffries's five sexiest scenes in literature, and Kirsty Logan's ten best LGBT sex scenes in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 3, 2023

Top 10 imaginary journeys in literature

Christy Edwall was born in South Africa in 1985. She has a doctorate in English Literature from Oxford, and her writing has appeared in Granta.com, Stinging Fly, the Southern Review, and the Times Literary Supplement. She lives in Brighton.

Edwall's new novel is History Keeps Me Awake at Night.

At the Guardian she tagged ten top imaginary journeys in literature, including:
A Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf

For Rachel Vinrace, the protagonist of Woolf’s first novel, the reality of South America is deadly. Having accompanied her aunt and uncle on the Euphrosyne to an unnamed South American country – with a cameo by Clarissa Dalloway en route – Rachel’s voyage is metaphorical as much as it is existential. When the English travellers arrive at their destination, the landscape of this South American country is generically tropical – hot afternoons, burning suns, lurking fevers – the sort of landscape you might cobble together from books. The subject is empire: Woolf imagines the “Elizabethan barques” which had anchored where the “Euphrosyne now floated”. The interior is full of “Indians with subtle poisons” and the coasts with “vengeful Spaniards and rapacious Portuguese”.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Seven novels about Black characters in the 1800s

Kai Thomas is a writer, carpenter, and land steward. He is Afro-Canadian, born and raised in Ottawa, descended from Trinidad and the British Isles.

In the Upper Country is his first novel.

At Electric Lit he tagged "seven other novels about Black folks in the 1800s, and a few words about the unique and astounding ways the authors bring their stories to life." One title on the list:
Conjure Women by Afia Atakora

Atakora offers a fascinating closeup on the worlds of midwifery and conjure before and after Emancipation. Conjure Women is set in a remote and isolated Southern plantation that brims with a dark, gothic mood.

Infectious illness is a central theme of the book, and this deepens the haunting atmosphere. I had a double-take when I saw it was written pre-2020; it has a prophetic quality in that respect. Reading Conjure Women from the era of Covid, one feels a profound bond with the characters as they contend with the emotional effects of social isolation and the ways that illness can infect not only individuals’ bodies but whole communities. Atakora writes with luscious prose and calm pacing, oscillating back and forth in time to deliver an ethereal, vivid tale.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Five YA SFF titles featuring crews you’ll want to join

Shannon Dittemore is an author, speaker, and contributor to the blog Go Teen Writers, which was one of Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers. When she's not at her desk, she can be found in the wilds of Northern California, adventuring with her husband, their two children, and a husky named Leonidas.

Dittemore's new book is Rebel, Brave and Brutal.

At Tor.com she tagged five YA SFF books featuring crews you’ll want to join, including:
Heist Society by Ally Carter

This book is a delight from the first word. Heist Society is Oceans 11 for the YA crowd, but that description doesn’t begin to do it justice. Not only does Ally Carter know how to set up a heist (and does she!), she also excels at those interpersonal dynamics that make crews so much fun to watch. And she does it with heart.

The leader of this crew is Katarina Bishop, the daughter of a thief currently wanted for the burglary of a mobster’s art collection. When her best friend, W.W. Hale the Fifth–blossoming thief, heir to a fortune, and all around dreamy guy–springs her from boarding school, she knows she has to steal the collection back, if only to clear her father’s name.

Luckily for Kat, her family has no shortage of criminals willing to help. Together with Hale and a pickpocket named Nick, Kat and her cousins–the Bagshaw brothers who are masters of disguise, and annoyingly beautiful Gabrielle possessing a gift for distraction–put all their skills to work, and it’s just a blast to read. And also a little high class, made me feel like I should steal some fancy artwork for my walls. If I had the skills, I’d steal the crown jewels to join this crew. Only, Kat’s uncle Eddie has already done that, so…
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue