Monday, July 31, 2023

Nine top novels about protagonists going back home

Sara Flannery Murphy grew up in Arkansas, where she divided her time between Little Rock and Eureka Springs, a small artists’ community in the Ozark Mountains. She received her MFA in creative writing at Washington University in St. Louis and studied library science in British Columbia. She lives in Utah with her husband and her two young sons.

Murphy is the author of The Possessions (2017), Girl One (2021), and The Wonder State (2023).

[My Book, The Movie: The PossessionsThe Page 69 Test: The PossessionsWriters Read: Sara Flannery Murphy (March 2017).]

At CrimeReads she tagged "nine favorite novels about protagonists going back home – both thrillers and more lighthearted stories." One title on the list:
Unlikely Animals by Annie Hartnett

Emma Starling comes home to New Hampshire, ostensibly to look after her ailing father, but also because she’s feeling rudderless – hardly the success story her small town expects her to be. Hartnett uses her warm sense of humor to straddle the line between showing Everton as a town hindered by addiction and celebrating the complexity of the people who live there. Readers even meet the people who die in Everton, a Greek chorus from beyond the grave. Emma’s reckoning with her “unused” potential triggers some beautifully philosophical moments. By the end, I found myself almost wanting to live in this town. Or at least visit.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Top 10 books by neglected female thinkers

Regan Penaluna is a writer with a master’s degree in journalism and a PhD in philosophy. Previously, she was an editor at Nautilus Magazine and Guernica, where she wrote and edited long-form stories and interviews. A feature she wrote was listed in the Atlantic as one of “100 Exceptional Works of Journalism.”

She lives in Brooklyn.

Penaluna's new book is How to Think Like a Woman: Four Women Philosophers Who Taught Me How to Love the Life of the Mind.

At the Guardian she tagged ten "books by women, some of them long overlooked, but all deserving to be better known." One title on the list:
This Sex Which Is Not One by Luce Irigaray

This is the only book by a living philosopher on my list, but I admire how French philosopher Irigaray aims at nothing less than to punch through the western canon and create an entirely new discourse for women. She’s captivated by the paradox of how language can free women from sexist discourse, if the entire discourse is sexist. She has some good advice. When you describe sexism in the texts of men, mimic the harmful content of their words – but do so unfaithfully. I have had endless fun with this.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Seven titles about daughters grieving their fathers

Kristina Busch is a lesbian writer living in Minnesota. She is an intern at Electric Literature, a prose editor for the Lumiere Review, and a staff editor at HerStry. She holds a BA in English from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

At Electric Lit Busch tagged "seven books [that] portray the fragile and complex relationships between fathers and daughters, and the shock as that bond is forever severed," including:
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

A departure from the other books in this list is “family tragicomic” Fun Home by cartoonist Alison Bechdel. In this graphic memoir, Bechdel recalls her adolescence in a pristine Victorian house renovated by her father, a volatile man she struggled to connect with. When she comes out to her parents as a lesbian in the form of a letter, she learns that her father had affairs with men. This stuns Bechdel, and things become more complicated when her father dies weeks later after being hit by a truck, which she determines to be suicide and the “effect” of her coming out. In Fun Home, she desires to be truly seen by her father, a man who cannot truly live authentically himself, and seeks out this connection again through the page as she reflects on her childhood and his death. This heart-wrenching, beautifully illustrated book is considered a classic in the sapphic community for good reason.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Fun Home is among Andrew G. S. Thurman's four "bad dad" memoirs, Sam Miller's ten top books about fathers, and Ann Patchett's best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 28, 2023

Five time travel stories that explore what it means to be human

Holly Smale is the author of Geek Girl, Model Misfit, Picture Perfect, and All That Glitters. She was unexpectedly spotted by a top London modeling agency at the age of fifteen and spent the following two years falling over on catwalks, going bright red and breaking things she couldn’t afford to replace. By the time Smale had graduated from Bristol University with a BA in English Literature and an MA in Shakespeare she had given up modeling and set herself on the path to becoming a writer.

Smale's new novel is Cassandra in Reverse.

At Lit Hub she tagged five of the best time travel stories that explore what it means to be human, including:
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

In this beautiful novel, Kate Atkinson uses a form of time-travel to investigate the fragility of being alive in a warm, luminous and witty way. Ursula is consistently dying and being re-born—with each life repeating until she uses her memories (and often instinct) to send it in slightly different directions and make alternative choices. One of the biggest issues of writing a time travel book is making sure that the repetition isn’t boring for the reader, and this book does that sublimely. Every sentence is so beautifully and clearly observed, and its companion book (A God In Ruins) plays with an off-shoot of the same basic idea: where would we all end up if we got another chance?
Read about the other entries on the list.

Life After Life is among Catriona Silvey's five top time-bending books, Clare Mackintosh's ten great books with “What if?” moments, Emily Temple's fifty best contemporary novels over 500 pages, Miriam Parker indisputably best dogs in (contemporary) literature, Liese O'Halloran Schwarz's top ten books about self-reinvention, Caitlin Kleinschmidt tagged twelve moving novels of the Second World War, Jenny Shank's top five innovative novels that mess with chronology, Dell Villa's top twelve books from 2013 to give your mom, and Judith Mackrell's five best young fictional heroines in coming-of-age novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Five mysteries set in still waters

Alice Blanchard is an award-winning author.

Her latest novel is The Shadow Girls.

At CrimeReads, Blanchard tagged five mysteries involving murderous lakes, including:
The House Across the Lake, by Riley Sager

This twisty psychological thriller is about a widowed actress named Casey Fletcher who seeks solace in a peaceful lakeside house in Vermont after her husband has drowned in this very lake. Now Casey spends her time grieving, drinking too much, and snooping on an attractive couple, Katherine and Tom, who live across the lake. When Katherine suddenly vanishes, Casey discovers things aren’t what they seem—and she suspects there’s something evil in the lake. It’s an updated Rear Window with lots of surprising turns. Just when you think you’ve figured it out—you haven’t.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Ten books that will change how you think about fairy tales

Charlie Jane Anders is the author of the young adult Unstoppable trilogy: Victories Greater Than Death, Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak, and Promises Stronger Than Darkness. She's also the author of the short story collection Even Greater Mistakes, and 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.

In 2016 at Gizmondo she tagged ten books that will change how you see the fairy tale, including:
Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale by Marina Warner

Marina Warner is one of the great experts on fairy tales, and in this book she sets out to create a simple map of the territory, ranging from the familiar to the unknown. Warner covers the diversity and strangeness of fairy tales, as well as explaining how they came to be sanitized and bowdlerized for young audiences. And she looks at how the same stories crossed borders and cultures, changing themselves to adapt to new contexts while proving robust and unkillable. The Guardian calls this book “wide-ranging and wonderful,” and “a winning exploration of the scope and power of fairy stories.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Seven crime titles featuring special events going off the rails

Jamie Day lives in one of those picture-perfect, coastal New England towns you see in the movies. And just like the movies, Day has two children and an adorable dog to fawn over. When not writing or reading, Day enjoys yoga, the ocean, cooking, and long walks on the beach with the dog, or the kids, or sometimes both.

At CrimeReads the author tagged seven "favorite twisted tales of special events that go from pleasant to catastrophic," including:
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

What happens when a lavish birthday party, thrown by a powerful Japanese businessman who is also a devoted opera fan, takes a drastic turn as terrorists storm the mansion where the party is taking place? A weeks-long hostage situation ensues when the terrorists learn their intended kidnapping target is not in attendance. Patchett, a master at conveying the depth and complexity of human emotion and connection, explores the intricate ways in which beauty can enter our lives even under the bleakest of circumstances.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Bel Canto is among Mark Skinner's twenty great contemporary love stories, Nicole Holofcener’s ten favorite books, Jenny Shank's top five fabulous works of fiction for musicians, Jeff Somers's top five novels set in a single pressure cooker location, Tatjana Soli's six favorite books that conjure exotic locales, Kathryn Williams's six top novels set in just one place, Dell Villa's top eight books to read when you’re in the mood to cry for days, John Mullen's ten best birthday parties in literature, and Joyce Hackett's top ten musical novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 24, 2023

Eight titles for every era of Barbie

Claudia Guthrie is a writer covering culture, entertainment, and lifestyle content. Her work has appeared in ELLE, The Muse, Food52, and more. Originally from Kansas City, she now resides in Denver, where you can find her reading the newest thriller or knitting sweaters for her cats.

At Electric Lit she tagged eight "books for the different eras of Barbie," including:
CEO Barbie: Under the Influence by Noelle Crooks

A woman of many professions, Barbie has worked more than 250 careers, including astronaut, journalist, and firefighter. And in 1985, CEO Barbie conquered the business world. So what career would 2023 #GirlBoss Barbie be waltzing into in her high heels? The answer is obvious: an influencer, duhhh!

In Under the Influence, Harper Cruz is broke—like might be evicted soon broke—after being laid off from her publishing job. When she stumbles upon a lucrative job listing for “Visionary Support Strategist” to famous influencer/self-help guru Charlotte Greene, she goes for it and trades New York City for Tennessee. At The Greenhouse, it’s all “we’re not colleagues, we’re a family,” which is, of course, code for toxic workplace where there’s motivational messages on tap (literally in the bathroom) and mandatory Katy Perry dance parties. As She.E.O Barbie would say: “If you can dream it, you can be it!”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Eight books on the independence of women and self-discovery

At B&N Reads Brittany Bunzey tagged eight "books of the independence of women and self-discovery in all its messy glory," including:
Your Driver Is Waiting: A Novel by Priya Guns

Your Driver is Waiting pays homage to the 1970s film Taxi Driver with a queer feminist spin. Damani is drowning in debt and driving for a ride-share app to make ends meet, when her crush sets off an explosive chain of events. Fasten your seatbelts for a wild ride of darkly comic prose that takes on performative allyship, racism and classicism. 
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Six titles featuring female psycho serial killers

Molly Odintz is the Senior Editor for CrimeReads and the editor of Austin Noir, forthcoming from Akashic Books. She grew up in Austin and worked as a bookseller at BookPeople, and recently returned to Central Texas after five years in NYC. She likes cats, crime novels, and coffee.

At CrimeReads Odintz tagged six new or recent novels featuring psycho female serial killers. One title on the list:
C. J. Skuse, Sweetpea

This one might be the most misanthropic on the list. The narrator of Sweetpea is anything but; she hates her partner, barely tolerates her friends, and labors meticulously over a kill list of everyone who’s ever annoyed her, from the grocery clerk who mishandles her orders to the skinny 20-something sleeping with her husband. From bruised vegetables, to butchered humans, the violence in this one escalates quickly. Very Serial Mom vibes.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 21, 2023

Seven titles that reveal librarians behind the shelves

Laura Sims is the author of the novels How Can I Help You and Looker, now in development for television with eOne and Emily Mortimer’s King Bee Productions. An award-winning poet, Sims has published four poetry collections; her essays and poems have appeared in The New Republic, Boston Review, Conjunctions, Electric Lit, Gulf Coast, and more. She and her family live in New Jersey, where she works part-time as a reference librarian and hosts the library’s lecture series.

At Electric Lit Sims tagged seven "novels that showcase librarian characters in all of their complex human glory," including:
The Librarianist by Patrick DeWitt

The protagonist of Patrick DeWitt’s latest novel both upholds and belies the image of the quiet librarian. When Bob Comet, retired librarian, begins volunteering at a local senior center to fill the void he’s felt since retirement, we start to learn more about his colorful, complex past. As he gathers a coterie of interesting new acquaintances around him, these mingle and mix with characters from his past to create an engaging read about a seeming introvert’s far-from-ordinary life.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Top ten titles with good sex scenes

Cleo Watson has worked in politics and campaigning of one kind or another for over a decade. She worked on President Barack Obama's re-election in 2012, the 2017 and 2019 UK General Elections and the Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 EU Referendum. In government, she served in 10 Downing Street as Theresa May's Political Adviser then Boris Johnson's co-Deputy Chief of Staff. She has had a front row seat - and, occasionally, one at the table - for some of the most decisive moments in British politics of the last few years. Whips is her first novel.

At the Guardian Watson tagged ten books that "show how incredibly varied good sex in fiction can be," including:
Forever by Judy Blume

As this brilliant piece for the Guardian explained, this book feels so very modern and ought to be essential reading for everyone. I read it aged about 13 and longed, in due course, to deal with my own virginity – a subject Blume handles perfectly. There is plenty in Forever for a young person to learn, practically speaking. It’s like sex in literature with training wheels. The ideas of naming genitals (hello to the Ralphs out there) and “what to do” with a penis were genuine revelations to me and the book felt like a kind way to learn about it.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Eight top thrillers with beach settings

British-born Allie Reynolds is a former freestyle snowboarder who swapped her snowboard for a surfboard and moved to the Gold Coast in Australia, where she taught English as a foreign language for fifteen years. She still lives in Australia with her family. Reynolds’s short fiction has been published in women’s magazines in the UK, Australia, Sweden, and South Africa.

Reynolds's novels include Shiver and The Swell.

[Q&A with Allie Reynolds; Writers Read: Allie Reynolds (July 2022); The Page 69 Test: The Swell]

At CrimeReads the author tagged eight thrillers set on beaches, including:
Jane Harper set her fourth novel, The Survivors in a rugged coastal community on the small Australian island of Tasmania, saying the beauty and brutality of the Tasmanian coast was the ideal setting for a story. The beach in this story is a cold and inhospitable place. It has sea caves accessible only at low tide and sinister statues on the cliff above in memorial of a ship lost at sea. The novel begins as a body is discovered on the sand, bringing back echoes of a tragedy years earlier. Harper sets up a terrifying scene, gathering a small group of characters, making each of them seem as suspicious as possible, then sending them diving in the treacherous cold waters to see a shipwreck. A memorable and vividly described mystery.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Eight titles with narrators who defy our expectations

Nathan Go's new novel is Forgiving Imelda Marcos.

He was born and raised in the southern Philippines. He was the 2017–2018 David T. K. Wong Fellow at the University of East Anglia. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Zell Writers’ Program, he was a 2012 PEN America Emerging Voices Fellow. He has received scholarships to attend Tin House, Sozopol Fiction Seminars, Sewanee, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, among others. His fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, American Short Fiction, Ninth Letter, The Massachusetts Review, The Bare Life Review, and the Des Moines Register. He is a senior lecturer at the University of the Philippines, Mindanao.

At Electric Lit Go tagged eight novels with "narrators that defy our expectations of how they 'should sound' given their societal, racial or other preconceived backgrounds." One title on the list:
A Tiny Upward Shove by Melissa Chadburn

This fantastical novel employs an aswang, or a dark spirit, to tell us about Marina, a teenager who was brutally murdered. While aswangs come from traditional Filipino folklore and are ageless, Chadburn’s version sometimes sounds more like a vengeful Filipino-American relative who’s unafraid to cuss and reference pop culture while delving deep into history: “This man who strangled Marina was a pakshet trick who didn’t know how to be a trick — always fell in love with the wrong girl. Pure PoCo trash, drove around Vancouver in his van loaded with possibilities…”

But what if comedy or satire isn’t the novel’s genre? Can a more subtle narrator within the realm of realism still defy our expectations? Readers do seem to wholeheartedly accept a narrator who can tell stories with precise prose, even if it might strain some disbelief. Language, after all, is one of the things we enjoy in literature.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 17, 2023

Seven thrillers in which friendships are tested

Megan Collins is the author of Thicker Than Water, The Family Plot, Behind the Red Door, and The Winter Sister.

[The Page 69 Test: The Family Plot]

She received her B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, and she holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Boston University, where she was a teaching fellow. She has taught creative writing at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and Central Connecticut State University, and she is Managing Editor of 3Elements Review. A Pushcart Prize and two-time Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in many print and online journals, including Compose, Linebreak, Off the Coast, Spillway, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Rattle. She lives in Connecticut.

At CrimeReads Collins tagged seven "thrillers where friendships are tested—by old secrets, dark truths, and a few dead bodies." One title on the list:
Andrea Bartz, We Were Never Here

Emily and Kristen are having the time of their life in Chile when Emily returns to their hotel to find that Kristen has killed a backpacker in self-defense—an act that’s eerily similar to what happened on their trip the previous year in Cambodia. Now, as they return to their homes on opposite sides of the world, Emily gets to work trying to process the horror of their latest trip. But when Kristen shows up unexpectedly, inserting herself into every corner of Emily’s life, Emily wonders what really happened in Chile—and who Kristen really is. While this book is a ton of page-turning fun from start to finish, it’s also a deeply sobering look at gaslighting and toxic relationships, imbued with Bartz’s trademark vivid writing that powerfully examines complicated female friendships.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Five books on the high finance culture of the last 40 years

Andrew Lipstein is the author of Last Resort (2022), a novel “you’ll think about ... for weeks after you read the last pages” (Los Angeles Times). He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and son.

Lipstein's new novel is The Vegan.

At Lit Hub he tagged five books that "give us a window into not only the financial preoccupations of different eras, but the larger moral issues their unique cultures wrestled with.... Together they trace the history of high finance culture over the past 40 years, from the barbarous heyday of the eighties to the tech-obsessed venture capitalists of today." One title on the list:
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

Yes, Elizabeth Holmes is a grifter nonpareil. Yes, along with Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, she made a fool of investors and the government, showing a company valued at $9 billion to be more or less a house of cards. But the most amazing part of this story isn’t Holmes’ duplicity—it’s the complicity of everyone around her. Bad Blood is a vivid document, capturing the tech bubble in all of its frothy, fraudulent glory, with valuations based on shaky projections and all parties involved incentivized to intensify the hype. Carreyrou deftly shows how money can mold morals in the modern age, and how easily a company can wield “virtue” for its own profitable means. (Lest we forget, Theranos’ mission statement included the goal to “empower people everywhere to live their best possible lives.”)
Read about the other entries on the list.

Bad Blood is among Kathy Wang's six non-fiction titles about crime & general bad behavior in Silicon Valley.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Ten of the best unexpected Jane Austen homages

Julia Seales is a writer and screenwriter based in Los Angeles. She earned an MFA in screenwriting from UCLA, and a BA in English from Vanderbilt University. She is a lifelong Anglophile with a passion for both murder mysteries and Jane Austen. Seales is originally from Kentucky, where she learned about manners (and bourbon).

Her new novel is A Most Agreeable Murder.

At Publishers Weekly Seales tagged ten brilliantly unexpected Jane Austen homages, including:
The Emma Project by Sonali Dev

Vansh Raje, Dev’s gender-swapped take on Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse, is clever, handsome, and rich, a bachelor on top of the world. Knightlina has been in a fake relationship with Vansh’s brother, but now she wants to find her distance and work on her microfinance foundation. The duo collide when Vansh has an idea for his own nonprofit, leaving them both vying for funding. This Indian American rom-com retelling of Emma, part of Dev’s wonderful series of Jane Austen retellings, serves up Woodhouse with a twist.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 14, 2023

Top 10 books about awakenings

Anna Metcalfe was born in Germany. Her short fiction has been published in The Best British Short Stories, The Dublin Review, and Lighthouse Journal,among other places, and has been shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story Prize and the Sunday Times Short Story Award. She is the author of a story collection, Blind Water Pass, which was published in the UK. She teaches creative writing at the University of Birmingham. Chrysalis is her first novel.

At the Guardian Metcalfe tagged ten books that "contain both literal and metaphorical awakenings. As well as the disparate states of dreaming and wakefulness, they also illuminate what connects the two." One title on the list:
Animal Joy by Nuar Alsadir

In one of the most enlivening works of non-fiction I’ve ever read, Alsadir presents laughter as a disruptive, spontaneous moment of revolution – a ludicrous, unstoppable bid for freedom. Animal Joy is a big-hearted book that makes light work of eclectic material, weaving psychoanalytic theory and literary criticism with autographical writing on motherhood and Alsadir’s experiences of clown school. Through the fragments, a bold and joyful argument emerges: a reclamation of authenticity, aliveness and contingency. It’s a book of small and vital awakenings; a book that might just inspire you to be yourself.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Ten of the best thrillers with supernatural elements

Philip Fracassi is the author of the award-winning story collection, Beneath a Pale Sky, which received a starred review from Library Journal, was named “Best Collection of the Year” by Rue Morgue Magazine, and was a finalist for the Bram Stoker award.

His previous story collection, Behold the Void, was named “Best Collection of the Year” from both This Is Horror and Strange Aeons Magazine.

His novels include Don’t Let Them Get You Down, A Child Alone with Strangers, Gothic, and Boys in the Valley.

At CrimeReads Fracassi tagged ten of his "favorite novels that meld supernatural horror with awesome mysteries and breakneck thrillers," including:
Riley Sager, Home Before Dark

Sager is another modern master of blending classic horror tropes with plot-driven mysteries. In Home Before Dark, he tosses haunted houses into the thriller blender to create a unique tale that keeps the reader guessing at what’s real and what’s from realms beyond our normal, every-day experience. Much like Malfi, you could throw multiple titles by Sager into this spot, but Dark is the one that leans the heaviest on supernatural elements playing into a classic murder mystery.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Home Before Dark is among Ana Reyes's six top books with embedded narratives, James S. Murray's five top books about women fighting their way out and Karen Dionne's eight top thrillers that turn home into a place of mortal danger.

The Page 69 Test: Home Before Dark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Ten New England noir titles

Dwyer Murphy is a New York-based writer and editor. He is the editor-in-chief of CrimeReads, Literary Hub‘s crime fiction vertical and the world’s most popular destination for thriller readers. He practiced law at Debevoise & Plimpton in New York City, where he was a litigator, and served as editor of the Columbia Law Review. He was previously an Emerging Writer Fellow at the Center for Fiction. His writing has appeared in The Common, Rolling Stone, Guernica, The Paris Review Daily, Electric Literature, and other publications.

Murphy's new novel is The Stolen Coast.

At Lit Hub he tagged ten New England titles "which together make up a complex tradition worthy of considering together: modern novels of suspense and strangeness, contemporary gothics, and a few more or less hardboiled crime storie." One entry on the list:
Elizabeth Strout, The Burgess Boys

Strout is the ultimate observer of small-town New England life, bringing its subtleties and tragedies out with a hardened poetry. In The Burgess Boys, likely her most ‘noir’ work, we’re in a Maine town, where two brothers have been called home. They left years before, after their father’s death, and both went to New York to practice law. Now their sister needs them: her son has been implicated in a devastating crime. The complex family and community dynamics play out against a backdrop of the tough northern life and the people who carve out a living there.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Seven titles by veterans about serving in the U.S. military

John Milas enlisted in the US Marine Corps at age nineteen and subsequently deployed to the Helmand Province of Afghanistan in support of OEF 10.1. He was honorably discharged from active service in 2012.

After his discharge, he earned both his BA and MFA in creative writing.

His new book is The Militia House.

At Electric Lit Milas tagged seven books by "writers whose books break the standard of sanitized, routine portrayals of life and war in the US military. Their work faces the truth head on." One title on the list:
Love My Rifle More Than You by Kayla Williams

For a candid (read: brutally honest) experience of a young woman enlisted in the US Army, this is your book. Williams, a linguist who studied Arabic at Defense Language Institute, shares a range of stories about her time in the Army. Rather than summarizing from a zoomed-out perspective, she relays her experiences through intricate, intimate scenes.

Her own sergeants sometimes move beyond incompetent to being brazenly disrespectful to their subordinates. Her male peers seem to make innocuous small talk, but then close out these interactions by hinting at a sexual proposition or bluntly speaking them. Most disturbing early on: a lieutenant overseeing the search of a monastery, who refuses to interact directly with an English-speaking monk in Iraq, forcing Williams awkwardly to translate between two people who can see, hear, and understand each other. Love My Rifle More Than You does an excellent job of highlighting scenes and mindsets that are effectively terrifying in their implications.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 10, 2023

Five great thrillers about domineering parents

David Bell is a USA Today bestselling, award-winning author whose work has been translated into multiple foreign languages. He’s currently a professor of English at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where he directs the MFA program. He received an MA in creative writing from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and a PhD in American literature and creative writing from the University of Cincinnati. His novels include The Request, Layover, Somebody’s Daughter, Bring Her Home, Since She Went Away, Somebody I Used to Know, The Forgotten Girl, Never Come Back, The Hiding Place, and Cemetery Girl.

His new novel is Try Not to Breathe.

At CrimeReads Bell tagged five great books about domineering parents, including:

There isn’t much I can add to the phenomenon that is SA Cosby, one of the most (justifiably) acclaimed crime writers of our time. And his star is still very much on the rise. But I mention Razorblade Tears here because this is a story about the redemption of two deeply flawed fathers. Not only is this book beautifully written and loaded with action and suspense, it also shows the lengths a parent can go to demonstrate their love for their child. Love lasts forever and its reach extends beyond the grave. Don’t miss it.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Razorblade Tears is among Robyn Harding's seven unlikely friendships in crime fiction, Lesley Kara's six crime novels about settling old scores, and Liz Nugent's top ten first lines in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Eight titles that deliver behind-the-scenes drama

Lindsay Lynch is a writer from Washington, DC.

She is the author of the novel Do Tell.

She holds an MFA in Fiction from the University of Wyoming.

A longtime indie bookseller, Lynch currently lives in Nashville, TN, where she works as a book buyer for Parnassus Books.

At Electric Lit she tagged eight favorite books "that show us the mess off-camera, behind the curtain, and backstage." One title on the list:
Hollywood: Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra

I couldn’t do this list without a Golden Age Hollywood novel and Anthony Marra’s Mercury Pictures Presents is one of the greatest. The eponymous studio at the heart of Marra’s novel isn’t like the MGMs and Paramounts of the era—Mercury Pictures specializes in B-list films and is primarily run by a crew of immigrants and refugees from war-torn Europe. Among them is Maria Lagana, an Italian transplant whose father is still being held under arrest by the Fascist regime in their home country. Maria finds herself at the helm of Mercury Pictures as an associate producer, dealing with ego-driven men in power, attacks from the Production Code Administration, racist typecasting, and threat of bankruptcy. What I love about this novel is how deftly Marra moves between high and low brow art, revealing the underlying currents that shape B-list productions and the machine of propaganda in America. It’s always a pleasure to read Marra, and a delight to see him working in this era.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 8, 2023

Ten books with irresistible anti-heroines

Rita Chang-Eppig received her MFA in fiction from NYU. Her novel about an infamous Chinese pirate queen, Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea, is a Barnes & Noble Discover pick, an Indie Next pick, and Good Morning America Buzz Pick for June 2023 as well as an Indies Introduce pick for Summer/Fall 2023.

At Publishers Weekly Chang-Eppig tagged ten "great works of fiction featuring morally questionable women." One title on the list:
Maddalena and the Dark by Julia Fine

Fine's third novel is a sumptuous and strange visit to the Venice of the 1700s, when a girl's future could be destroyed by her mother’s misdeeds. The book alternates between the POVs of two girls: Maddalena, who is sent to a conservatory after her mother runs away with another man, and Luisa, an aspiring violinist yet to reach her full potential living at the same conservatory. The girls form an intense bond, made more intense by the magic of the waters of Venice. To get what she wants, Maddalena makes increasingly dangerous bargains with the sea.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Maddalena and the Dark is among Joshilyn Jackson's five top suspense novels set in the entertainment world.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 7, 2023

Five thrillers in which women get revenge or justice

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.

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

Kistler's new novel is Her, Too.

[Q&A with Bonnie Kistler; The Page 69 Test: The Cage; The Page 69 Test: Her, Too]

At CrimeReads she tagged five thrillers in which women get revenge or justice, including [SPOILER ALERT]:
In Big Driver by Stephen King, mystery author Tessa Thorne is lured into an ambush where a man brutally rapes her and leaves her for dead, stuffing her into a culvert where she awakes in horror to discover the corpses of his previous victims. She doesn’t report her attack, fearing the public embarrassment that would follow. She has a passing thought for his other victims, but finds herself too tired to worry about moral responsibility. She asks herself What’s in it for me? Eventually, though, those bodies in the culvert call to her, and she kills her rapist, accomplishing revenge for herself while also protecting those women who would have been his future victims. But she goes on to kill his mother and brother, too, for facilitating his crimes. These murders read as pure revenge. Nonetheless she apparently goes on to live happily ever after, untroubled by what she’s done.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Top 10 elderly heroines in fiction

Amanda Craig is a British novelist, short-story writer and critic who has been compared to Dickens, Trollope, Balzac and Evelyn Waugh. As a literary chronicler of contemporary life she has been called a "state of the nation novelist" by Prospect magazine and the Sunday Times, and her interconnected novels often feature strong plots with murder, romance and social satire.

Craig's newest novel is The Three Graces.

At the Guardian she tagged ten books featuring "strong, challenging, intellectually active elderly women." One title on the list:
Aunt Augusta in Travels With My Aunt by Graham Greene (1969)

This is equally flamboyant, and unlike the author’s doomy Catholic fiction, pure fun thanks to its irrepressible elderly heroine. Its bank manager narrator Henry has led a quiet, respectable life until he meets the septuagenarian Aunt Augusta. She persuades him to accompany her across Europe, and her account of her decidedly racy life leads him to become less prim. “I have never planned anything illegal in my life,” Aunt Augusta tells him. “How could I plan anything of the kind when I have never read any of the laws and have no idea what they are?”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Seven books about women across the world searching for agency

Mihret Sibhat was born and raised in a small town in western Ethiopia before moving to California when she was seventeen. A graduate of California State University, Northridge, and the University of Minnesota’s MFA program, she was a 2019 A Public Space Fellow and a 2019 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative grantee. In a previous life, she was a waitress, a nanny, an occasional shoe shiner, a propagandist, and a terrible gospel singer. She's currently a miserable Arsenal fan.

Sibhat's new novel is The History of a Difficult Child.

At Electric Lit the author tagged seven books that "recount the stories of women who breach those narrow boundaries of womanhood through the commission of violence or the embrace of rudeness and disorder and dirt or a descent into darkness, returning with seismic realizations that could turn the tamest woman into a killing machine." One title on the list:
Zimbabwe: Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga

Our young narrator, Tambu, begins her story with a confession: “I was not sorry when my brother died.” She lives in a village with her family, helping out on the farm, herding the cows, fetching water, and cooking. The family sends her and her older brother, Nhamo, to school, but Nhamo gets the better deal: he goes to the mission school where his foreign-educated uncle is the principal and lives in a comfortable house with running water. Tambu’s education is not guaranteed as there’s not always enough money to pay the fees for the local school, and her father tells her to focus on learning the skills she needs to be a good wife. Nhamo is increasingly detached from his family in the countryside. When he visits during school breaks, he contributes little and abuses his little sister.

Despite witnessing her brother’s inability to be transformed by education, Tambu latches onto the hope that there is a better life to be gained through education. Look at her uncle’s educated wife. When Tambu leaves the village to attend the mission school and later to a better one, she realizes that even as one moves across class borders, women’s status remains one of alienation, and that race further complicates and increases that alienation. She excels in the classroom but her liberation comes from the piercing clarity she gains about family and her own place in the world.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Seven novels inspired by other art forms

Julia Fine is the author of The Upstairs House, winner of the Chicago Review of Books Award for Fiction, and What Should Be Wild, which was
shortlisted for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior First Novel.

[My Book, The Movie: The Upstairs House; The Page 69 Test: The Upstairs House]

Fine's third novel, Maddalena and the Dark, was released in June 2023. She teaches writing in Chicago, where she lives with her family.

At Lit Hub Fine tagged seven novels inspired by other art forms, including:
Taylor Jenkins Reid, Daisy Jones and the Six

Reid’s rock and roll story of a band’s seminal record requires multiple points of view, and the oral history lets her access each perspective just when she needs it. It feels like the transcript of a documentary about your favorite band, while at the same time giving us a fully built narrative.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Daisy Jones and the Six is among Elvin James Mensah's seven top novels that celebrate pop music, Glenn Dixon's ten best novels about fictional bands, and Benjamin Myers's top ten mentors in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue