Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Eleven essential hip-hop books

At Vulture.com Paul Thompson tagged eleven "books on hip-hop that are essential for any fan of the genre, though many of them are just as gripping for someone who couldn’t pick Puff out of a lineup." One title on the list:
The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop by Dan Charnas (2011)

In many ways, the emotional core of The Big Payback, Dan Charnas’s exhaustive history of how hip-hop became a billion-dollar industry, is the story of a corporate failure: that of Macola Records, a comparatively tiny vinyl-pressing plant in Los Angeles that issued the debuts of many of that city’s formative rap stars. While the agreements for these pressings promised Macola a share of the profits, they were all done over handshakes; when the real money came knocking, Macola and its founder, Don McMillan, were cut out entirely. Across the rest of the book, no other executives — mostly stemming from the Def Jam family tree — would be so naïve. Charnas, who last year published Dilla Time, a biography of the late J Dilla, draws on his experience as a writer for The Source and employee at Profile Records and Rick Rubin’s American Recordings to render the often ugly truth about the parts of the rap business that never make it onto wax.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 30, 2023

Five titles that explore the drawbacks of a superpowered life

Tobias Carroll is the managing editor of Vol.1 Brooklyn. He is the author of the short story collection Transitory and the novel Reel.

At Tor.com he writes:
operating as a superhero or supervillain would, in fact, be incredibly hard. Some of that has to do with the logistics of, say, maintaining a secret identity or operating a mysterious island base. And some involve the challenges of living in harsher world than the shared universes depicted in comics from Marvel and DC.
Carroll tagged five "very different books that might make you reconsider the whole 'power fantasy' aspects of superheroing or supervillainy." One title on the list:
The Dark Dark by Samantha Hunt

Samantha Hunt has been drawn to characters with supernatural talents—or the possibility of them–throughout her career. The protagonist of The Seas is a young woman who may or may not be a mermaid; characters in the book Mr. Splitfoot converse with the dead. Hunt’s fiction juxtaposes the miraculous with the quotidian, and the collection The Dark Dark features a story that neatly encapsulates this, titled “Beast.”

This story’s protagonist develops an intriguing ability: at night, she transforms into a deer. There are some challenges to this, including the fact that she’s indoors when she does so, making getting outside virtually impossible. It’s a metaphorically rich moment, but it’s also a fascinating juxtaposition of the supernatural and the mundane.
Read about the other entries on the list at Tor.com.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Seven top mystery novels set in academe

Stephanie Barron is a graduate of Princeton and Stanford Universities, where she studied history. A former intelligence analyst at the CIA, she is the author of thirty novels, including the critically acclaimed Merry Folger series, which she writes under the name Francine Mathews.

Barron's latest novel is Jane and the Final Mystery.

At CrimeReads she tagged seven favorite mystery novels set in academe, including:
The Lying Game, by Ruth Ware

Four girls tied by schoolgirl murder are also the center of this beautifully-written book, but with an important difference from French’s novel: these girls have grown up, and the violence in their pasts threatens the lives each of them has managed to live in its shadow. The discovery of human remains in the liminal ground between fields and marsh surrounding their old boarding school—a nostalgic place Ware allows us to experience through the girls’ eyes in this dual-timeline novel–causes one of them to summon the others to her home, a deteriorating mill formerly owned by her artist father/school instructor. Her friends rush to support her, ostensibly to attend their school reunion, but in truth to lay the unquiet ghosts of their conflicted pasts. Memory, with its mutable face, is perhaps the strongest character in this world half-sinking into water; it flickers and distorts, betrays and unites, and stridently demands the truth.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Lying Game is among Kathleen Barber's ten unputdownable suspense novels, thrillers, & other creepy books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Five scary books to read this Halloween

In 2014 Liz Egan shared for Glamour five scary books to read for Halloween, including:
MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

This is the most uplifting of the bunch, which is saying something since it takes place in a grim dystopia. Maddadam is the conclusion of the trilogy that began with Oryx & Crake and continued with The Year of the Flood. It opens months after a man-made pandemic has wiped out most of humanity. Among the survivors are Toby and Zeb, who become leaders and defenders of their new community, which is strong on scrappiness and cynicism (understandably) but also has an inspiring capacity for self-sacrifice. Atwood's head-spinning survival story consists of equal parts war, adventure, and romance.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 27, 2023

Eight queer historical fiction titles set around the world

Allison Epstein earned her MFA in fiction from Northwestern University and a BA in creative writing from the University of Michigan. A Michigan native, she now lives in Chicago, where she works as an editor. When not writing, she enjoys good theater, bad puns, and fancy jackets.

She is the author of historical novels including A Tip for the Hangman, the newly released Let the Dead Bury the Dead, and the forthcoming Our Rotten Hearts.

[My Book, The Movie: A Tip for the HangmanThe Page 69 Test: A Tip for the HangmanQ&A with Allison EpsteinMy Book, The Movie: Let the Dead Bury the DeadThe Page 69 Test: Let the Dead Bury the DeadWriters Read: Allison Epstein]

At ElectricLit Epstein tagged eight books that "aren’t just gripping historical page-turners, although they’re definitely that. They’re also reminders that every corner of history is queerer than we were taught." One title on the list:
Russia: The Huntress by Kate Quinn

The Huntress follows the fearless WWII fighter pilot Nina Markova as she fights the Nazis as part of the Soviet Union’s all-female bomber regiment, the Night Witches. After the war, Nina joins forces with a British war correspondent to track down the Huntress, a notorious Nazi who may be hiding in the most unexpected of places.

All this is already catnip to a huge swathe of historical fiction readers: women pilots! Nazi hunting! A dual-timeline mystery! But what if I told you it’s also gay? Nina’s relationship with her fellow Night Witch Yelena gives the book some of its tenderest moments, and it’s a joy to see Nina’s foul-mouthed, chaotic personality shift in these romantic interludes.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Huntress.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Six books about women working together

Sarah Davis-Goff was born and raised in Dublin. Her writing has been published in The Irish Times, The Guardian, and LitHub.

Silent City is her second novel.

At CrimeReads Davis-Goff tagged six books about women working together, including:
Women Talking by Miriam Toews

A group of Mennonite women living in rural Bolivia realize that some of them have been having the same bad dream and then waking up stiff, sore, sometimes bleeding. They then realize they haven’t been dreaming at all; in fact they and some of the children are being attacked at night, drugged and raped by some of the men living in their community. When it becomes clear that the perpetrator’s lives are in danger, only then do the other men act to ensure their safety by allowing the rapists to be arrested and brought away.

The women have a limited time to decide what to do before the men are brought home on bail; should they stay and fight, or try to leave? What do they owe the community, their faith, their children and their souls?
Read about the other entries on the list.

Women Talking is among Amanda Montei's seven novels that explore consent and coercion and Anjanette Delgado's seven books for when your life has radically changed.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Six top comic novels

Monica Heisey is a comedian and writer from Toronto. She has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Vogue, Elle, The Guardian, Glamour, New York magazine, VICE, and more. She won four Canadian Screen Awards for her work on Baroness von Sketch Show, and has written on shows like Schitt’s Creek, and Workin’ Moms, among others.

Her debut novel, Really Good, Actually, was published around the world in January 2023, and is currently in development for television.

At the Waterstones blog Heisey tagged six favorite comic novels, including:
Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher

What’s not to love about a disaster novel loosely based on the messiest period of a charismatic young woman’s life? Ahem. Carrie Fisher is best known for her acting career, most notably for playing Princess Leia, but to me she will always be an incredible writer first, Marie from When Harry Met Sally second, and a space princess on the big slug’s leash third. This novel, her first, has everything: thinly disguised Hollywood gossip, a stylish lead character on the verge of nervous breakdown, and really solid one liners.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Top 10 spookiest haunted house novels

Lisa Zhuang is an intern at Electric Literature. She holds a BA in Creative Writing from Emory University and currently resides in mid-Missouri.

At Electric Lit she tagged ten of the creepiest haunted house novels, including:
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

An homage to Henry James’ 1898 The Turn of the Screw, Ruth Ware’s The Turn of the Key kicks off with a nanny’s letter from prison arguing her innocence in a child’s death. It all begins when said nanny signs up for a too-good-to-be-true job at refurbished Victorian smart home, where she gets paid an excessive salary for taking care of three seemingly angelic children and a baby. However, as the days wear on, the smart home begins acting up, playing music at odd hours of the night, and the children—particularly trouble child Maddie—prove to have disturbing agendas of their own. Though modern in setting, the novel’s gothic heritage evokes a familiar spook, complete with creaky floorboards, poisonous gardens, and creepy children that earn it a spot on our top ten list.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Turn of the Key is among Jason Rekulak's six creepy novels involving childcare.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 23, 2023

Six thrilling reads that blend folklore & horror

Allison Epstein earned her MFA in fiction from Northwestern University and a BA in creative writing from the University of Michigan. A Michigan native, she now lives in Chicago, where she works as an editor. When not writing, she enjoys good theater, bad puns, and fancy jackets.

She is the author of historical novels including A Tip for the Hangman, the newly released Let the Dead Bury the Dead, and the forthcoming Our Rotten Hearts.

[My Book, The Movie: A Tip for the HangmanThe Page 69 Test: A Tip for the HangmanQ&A with Allison EpsteinMy Book, The Movie: Let the Dead Bury the DeadThe Page 69 Test: Let the Dead Bury the DeadWriters Read: Allison Epstein]

At CrimeReads Epstein tagged six of her "favorite books that delve deep into folklore for their twists and turns, with truly terrifying results." One title on the list:
The Witch of Tin Mountain, by Paulette Kennedy

This dual-timeline historical thriller features one of my favorite horror tropes: the rural town has a suave new preacher, and the narrator does not trust him. The book opens in 1931 with Gracelynn Doherty, a woman who provides healing magic and small spells to her Depression-era Arkansas town. But the arrival of the new preacher sends Gracelynn’s grandmother into terror-stricken illness. Because Granny has seen this smooth-talking holy man before, and surely he should have aged by now… Haunting, atmospheric, and fast-paced, this is ideal October reading.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Five mothers in SFF who are dynamic, multi-dimensional characters

Lilith Saintcrow was born in New Mexico, fell in love with writing during second grade, and has continued obsessively ever since. She currently resides in the rainy Pacific Northwest with her children, dogs, cat, and a library for wayward texts.

Her new novel is The Salt-Black Tree.

At Tor.com Saintcrow tagged five of her favorite "books in which mothers are allowed to be whole human beings." One title on the list:
Karrakaz — The Birthgrave Trilogy by Tanith Lee

It’s no secret I’m a huge Tanith Lee fan. The gorgeous prose and arresting images are only part of the fascination; Lee’s work never shied away from shark-filled psychological depths. In the Birthgrave trilogy, Karrakaz is never reduced to “just a mother”, even in the last two books when the product of her unwilling union with an absolutely horrid, controlling psychopath of a conqueror is ostensibly the protagonist. Not only that, but Tathra—the woman Karrakaz leaves her infant son with for a variety of reasons—is a whole person as well, never degraded into the “saintly mother” trope even if she is clearly thrilled to be a mother.

Karrakaz starts from literal nothing, makes her way in a world where nearly everyone she meets wants to kill or control her, and her heroine’s journey is both classic and groundbreaking. She also wields a mean bow, carries powers beyond human imagining, and finally reaches self-understanding with the help of a psychic spaceship.

Lee did not have to go so hard as an author, but she always did. I like to think Karrakaz takes a page out of her creator’s sheer stubbornness.

The entire trilogy is laden with examinations of trauma, misogyny, women wresting bodily autonomy and agency wherever they can, and the cost of power both political and personal. Through it all, Karrakaz is a driving force even when she’s not present, and her choice to opt out of motherhood is explored unflinchingly.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Five historical mysteries featuring unforgettable, unconventional women

Ritu Mukerji was born in Kolkata, India, and raised in the San Francisco Bay area. From a young age, she has been an avid reader of mysteries, from Golden Age crime fiction to police procedurals and the novels of PD James and Ruth Rendell. She received a BA in history from Columbia University and a medical degree from Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. She completed residency training at the University of California, Davis and has been a practicing internist for fifteen years. She lives in Marin County, California, with her husband and three children.

At CrimeReads Mukerji tagged five historical mysteries that "feature an unforgettable heroine who challenges societal expectations with verve. And each showcases a setting, be it a physical place or historical period, that is so evocative it is like a character itself." One title on the list:
An Incomplete Revenge, Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie is a private investigator and psychologist in post WWI London, with an intriguing past. As a young servant, her gifts are recognized by her employer and she attends Cambridge. Her studies are interrupted by the advent of war and it is her searing experience as a volunteer nurse that forges her character. As the series progresses through the inter-war years and on to WWII, it is Maisie’s compassion and intelligence that draw the reader back every time. This novel is one of my favorites: it set in rural Kent during the hop picking harvest. An old friend asks Maisie to investigate a series of mysterious fires and petty crimes. As always, there is a well-plotted story, highlighting a fascinating aspect of history.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 20, 2023

Five novels for "Something Is Killing the Children" fans

Tobias Carroll is the managing editor of Vol.1 Brooklyn. He is the author of the short story collection Transitory and the novel Reel.

At Tor.com he writes:
There’s a lot to like about the comic book series Something Is Killing the Children, beginning with its ominously-named protagonist Erica Slaughter and proceeding from there. The series—written by James Tynion IV and illustrated by Werther Dell’Edera—follows Erica, part of a secret society of monster hunters, as she deals with terrifying eldritch beings around the country. A Hollywood Reporter article published earlier this year called it “one of the biggest titles not published by DC or Marvel”—and announced that a Netflix adaptation is in the works.
Carroll tagged five novels in which "you may find monsters of mysterious origin and secret societies abounding with internal tensions—or some combination of both." One title on the list:
Our Share of Night by Mariana Enríquez

I’ve raved about this book in this space before, and I’m going to do it again here. Our Share of Night has plenty going on—including allusions to a host of real-life atrocities that took place in Argentina in the second half of the 20th century. But Enríquez adds another element to that—a cult-like secret society that utilizes people with psychic abilities to give themselves power. The power dynamics both within and surrounding this group propel much of the tension of this novel, which begins with a father and a son on the run from the group that seeks to use both of them for its own ends.

Of the Order—the secretive organization in this novel—Enríquez said in an interview, “They are related to power in general, so whatever the politics are, they are near them. They are transnational, let’s say.” That power allows for a kind of omnipresence, but it also creates a fraught power dynamic—one that makes for gripping reading.
Read about the other entries on the list at Tor.com.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Top 10 allegories

Adam Biles is an English writer and translator based in Paris. He is Literary Director at Shakespeare and Company, from where he hosts their weekly podcast. In 2022, he conceived and presented Friends of Shakespeare and Company read Ulysses—an epic, polyphonic celebration of James Joyce’s masterwork. Feeding Time, his first novel, was published by Galley Beggar Press in 2016, and was chosen by The Guardian as a Fiction Pick for 2016 and was a book of the year for The Observer, The Irish Times, The Millions and 3:AM Magazine. It was published by Editions Grasset in France in 2018 to great critical acclaim. His second novel, Beasts of England, was published in September 2023 by Galley Beggar Press, and in 2025 by Editions Grasset. It was selected as a "2023 highlight" by The Guardian.

At the Guardian Biles tagged ten of his favorite "allegories, from classics that defined the form (and our view of the world), to surreal and unsettling parables and contemporary masterpieces." One title on the list:
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

This Pulitzer-winning novel manages the near-impossible feat of combining a stark and powerful allegory with realistic characters that the reader takes to heart. Beginning with the premise that the Underground Railroad was literally that, a subterranean network of trains that spirited enslaved people to freedom, the story follows Cora, one such escapee, through “different states of America”, as Whitehead described them when I interviewed him in 2017. That evening he also spoke about the importance of striking the delicate balance between allegorising and historical reality: “Before I started deforming reality, I wanted to get it straight, to testify for my family members who went through it 100 years ago, and for other slaves. I wanted to get it straight before changing things around.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Underground Railroad is among Andrew Ridker's seven novels that defined the Obama era, Andrea Wulf's top ten books about unlikely revolutionaries, Chris Mooney's six intelligent, page-turning, genre-bending classics, Rachel Eve Moulton's top ten literary thrillers, Nathan Englander’s ten desert island books, Greg Mitchell's top ten escapes in literature, and President Obama's summer 2016 reading list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Seven books featuring home invasions

Nolan Cubero is a writer and director originally from Louisville, Kentucky. He studied linguistics at Brooklyn College and is currently a law student at UCLA School of Law. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and son.

Shadow Drive is his first novel.

At CrimeReads Cubero tagged seven "books that feature home invasions, but not necessarily just the kind where people break in and threaten your life, but also the kind where they sneakily intrude into your home and then slowly make you question everything." One title on the list:
The Personal Assistant by Kimberly Belle

Even though Kimberly Belle’s previous novel, My Darling Husband, is actually about a home invasion, I find The Personal Assistant to be a more terrifying look into what could happen when someone you don’t really know comes into your home. In My Darling Husband, a masked intruder is threatening to ruin the main character’s life, but in The Personal Assistant, it’s someone the main character Alex has personally invited into the home. Even though Alex’s personal assistant isn’t wearing a mask, she feels somehow more elusive, more mysterious. And because Alex gave her personal assistant full access to her home and life, she was also given the potential to completely ruin Alex’s life. And it’s those two things that really make home invasions scary: the mystery surrounding the intruder’s desires and their almost unlimited potential to ruin your life.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Sixteen new books by Indigenous authors

Eliza Browning is an intern at Electric Literature.

She tagged sixteen top "new works by and about Native North American writers," including:
Blood Sisters by Vanessa Lillie

Syd Walker is an archaeologist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs who protects Rhode Island’s indigenous past after escaping her hometown in rural Oklahoma. Haunted by a long-ago night of violence, Syd’s sister Emma Lou suddenly vanishes just as a skull is discovered near the former crime scene. Syd finally returns home, refusing to let her sister’s disappearance be ignored like the cases of so many missing Indigenous women. The deeper she digs, the more she discovers about cases of missing Indigenous women going back decades, forcing her to expose the darkness at the heart of the town’s history.
Read about the other entries at Electric Lit.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 16, 2023

Ten super scary books

Jeff Somers is the author of Writing Without Rules, the Avery Cates series, The Ustari Cycle, Lifers, and Chum (among many other books) and numerous short stories.

In 2016 at B&N Reads he tagged ten creepy Halloween books to get you in the Halloween spirit, including:
White is for Witching, by Helen Oyeyemi

This complex, sensational modern classic of horror layers on several themes and narrative voices—including, unusually for a story that’s in part about a haunted house; the house itself. When a house declares it can only be as good as the people who inhabit it, you know you’re in for a dark ride. Twin sisters Miranda (who suffers from a compulsion to eat non-edible things) and Eliot come to the house in an unhappy way—and the story will absorb you, and scare the pants off of you.
Read about the other entries on the list.

White is for Witching is among Soraya Palmer's seven top ghost stories by Black women writers and Daisy Johnson's seven best scary books of recent years.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Nine top demon & possession novels

Jennifer McMahon is the New York Times Bestselling author of twelve suspense novels including The Winter People and Promise Not To Tell.

[The Page 69 Test: Promise Not to TellThe Page 69 Test: Island of Lost GirlsThe Page 69 Test: DismantledThe Page 69 Test: The One I Left Behind]

She's written about ghosts, serial killers, shape shifting monsters, an evil fairy king, a kidnapping rabbit, a terrifying swimming pool, and more.

McMahon's newest novel is My Darling Girl.

At CrimeReads she tagged nine favorite demon and possession novels, including:
The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper

Professor David Ulman is an authority on demonic literature—his area of expertise is Paradise Lost. But he’s a non-believer. At least until a trip to Venice where he sees impossible and horrific things, including his beloved daughter Tess falling from the roof of the hotel into the Grand Canal after whispering, “Find me.” Is Tess really dead? Or has she been captured by a demon, and it’s now up to David, with all his extensive knowledge, to find her and rescue her. This is every parent’s worst nightmare amped up to the max, because this isn’t just any abductor we’re talking about here—this is a demon! This is a smart, page-turning thriller that will have you believing, too.
The Demonologist is among Luke Dumas's eight top novels about the devil.

Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Five books featuring an unlikely alliance with a ghost

Courtney Smyth (they/them) is a chronically ill writer of stories, both long and short, from Dublin, currently living in the West of Ireland. They have had a number of short stories published in Paper Lanterns Literary Journal, and appeared in The Last Five Minutes of a Storm anthology. They have been writing about ghosts, demons and murders since they were ten and have no plans to stop.

Smyth's debut adult fantasy murder mystery is The Undetectables.

At Tor.com they tagged five books featuring an unlikely alliance with a ghost, including:
Masters of Death by Olivie Blake

Listen, if I was the ghost of a problematic billionaire who then had a vampire real estate agent come in and try to sell the house I was murdered in from underneath me, I too would be both furious and dramatic about it. Tom Parker (THE FOURTH!) just wants to know why he died, and he certainly doesn’t want anyone living in his house. With Tom’s repeated attempts to thwart Viola Marek (the aforementioned vampire), she hires medium (and godson of Death) Fox D’Mora to help her get rid of Tom. I mean, help him move on to the afterlife. But when demons, a few angels, and a godling turn up, it soon becomes clear that much bigger things are at play, forcing Tom to decide whose side he’s actually on. And also, why do all the Tom Parkers in his family die such a horrible death?
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 13, 2023

Five must-read books for dog lovers

At the Amazon Book Review Seira Wilson tagged "five books celebrating wacky, wonderful dogs and the human-canine bond that is unlike any other," including:
Piglet: The Unexpected Story of a Deaf, Blind, Pink Puppy and His Family by Melissa Shapiro

I’m not going to lie, you may need a box of tissues nearby for this one, but it’s so worth it…. Piglet is the story of how a tiny blind, deaf, pink puppy was rescued by a veterinarian and her family and how this very special member of their household became an inspiration to thousands via social media. Piglet’s journey from his emergency rescue from a hoarder home to the happy little dog with an infectious enthusiasm for life that he is today, demonstrates the healing power of love, empathy, and kindness.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see Miriam Parker indisputably best dogs in (contemporary) literature, Lorna Wallace's eleven best dogs in post-apocalyptic books and films, Clive D.L. Wynne's five best books on how dogs love people, Vanessa Armstrong's five SFF books with dogs as key characters, Claudia Dey's six favorite instances of dogs in literature, Brian Boone's six best fictional dogs, Cliff McNish's top ten dogs in children's books, Ben Frederick's eleven essential books for dog lovers, Alice-Azania Jarvis's reading list on dogs, and Jill Ciment's ten top dog stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Six creepy novels featuring murder houses

Lisa M. Matlin was a guitarist in a rock band before switching from songwriting to story writing. She lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband, pug, and golden retriever. She’s probably rewatching The Walking Dead right now and trying not to laugh at her own jokes. Matlin is a passionate mental health advocate and your dog’s number one fan.

Her new novel is The Stranger Upstairs.

At CrimeReads Matlin tagged six "murder house novels ... best read with a light on," including:
The Family Plot, by Megan Collins

Dahlia Lighthouse returns home for her father’s funeral after fleeing her family’s house on a remote island over six years ago. Haunted by the disappearance of her twin brother, Andy, Dahlia had good reason to leave the Murder Mansion. 1: The Blackburn Island serial killer, who still hasn’t been caught, and 2: Her insane parents who raised them on true crime stories (each child has been named after the victim of a famous serial killer. Not creepy at all, right?)

When a gruesome discovery is made in the family plot, Dahlia is determined to find out the truth behind the murder mansion, her strange family, and her brother.

Featuring an eccentric cast, an atmospheric setting, and plenty of suspense, The Family Plot is a creepy and gripping psychological thriller that’s sure to keep you up all night.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Family Plot is among Steph Mullin's ten top novels inspired by true crimes.

The Page 69 Test: The Family Plot.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

The 10 best histories of women in WWII

Lena Andrews is the author of Valiant Women: The Extraordinary American Servicewomen Who Helped Win World War II, and a military >analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency. A native of Boston, Massachusetts, she received her Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, specializing in international relations and security studies. She has spent more than a decade in foreign policy, and her work has appeared on MSNBC, PBS, CNN, Today, People, and TIME, among many other outlets.

At Publishers Weekly Andrews tagged ten of the best histories of women in WWII, including:
And If I Perish: Frontline U.S. Army Nurses in World War II by Evelyn Monahan and Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee

This remains one of my favorites in large part because it’s one of the few, comprehensive histories of American servicewomen who served in essential roles as Army nurses. Monahan and Neidel-Green knit together an immersive, theater-by-theater narrative of the dangerous, heroic, and exhilarating stories of American Army nurses, who often faced some of the most difficult and traumatizing conditions but are rarely remembered for it.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Seven novels that explore consent & coercion

Amanda Montei is the author of Touched Out: Motherhood, Misogyny, Consent, & Control, as well as the memoir Two Memoirs and a collection of prose, The Failure Age.

Her work has been featured at The New York Times, The Guardian, ELLE, TIME, and in numerous literary journals. She was a 2020 Best American Essays notable.

At Lit Hub Montei tagged "seven novels that deal with questions of consent and coercion" and which "offer new ways of understanding what it’s like to live in a culture of male control, showing how narrative can be a tool for expanding the language we have to describe women’s pain, as well as for resistance." One title on the list:
J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace

I write about one scene from this novel in my book, Touched Out. In the scene, a student, Melanie, “moves of her own accord” during a sexual experience with an older male professor, “but not quite of her own volition,” as philosopher of misogyny Kate Manne notes in her book, Entitled. The scene, referred to by the male professor as “not rape, not quite” shows how, in Manne’s words, a woman can be “cast into a cultural script in which a man’s sexual desire has outsize ethical importance,” how a lack of agency can lead her into unwanted sex, and how, in the aftermath of such a violation, she may even feel obligated to protect the man who has mistreated her.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Disgrace also appears on Roxane Gay's six favorite books list, Adam Ross's five best list of books on cruelty in fact and fiction, Ian Holding's top ten list of books that teach us about southern Africa and among Yann Martel's five favorite books and T.C. Boyle's four favorite books to turn to for comfort; it is one of Vendela Vida's favorite books of the last ten years.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 9, 2023

Six titles featuring ghosts with unfinished business

Meredith R. Lyons grew up in New Orleans, collecting two degrees from Louisiana State University before running away to Chicago to be an actor. In between plays, she got her black belt and made martial arts and yoga her full-time day job. She fought in the Chicago Golden Gloves, ran the Chicago Marathon, and competed for team U.S.A. in the savate world championships in Paris. In spite of doing each of these things twice, she couldn’t stay warm and relocated to Nashville. She owns several swords, but lives a non-violent life, saving all swashbuckling for the page, knitting scarves, gardening, visiting coffee shops, and cuddling with her husband and two panther-sized cats. Ghost Tamer is her first novel.

[Q&A with Meredith R. Lyons; 12 Yoga Questions with Meredith R. Lyons]

At CrimeReads Lyons tagged a "collection of unfinished business stories both long and short, creepy and slightly campy," including:
The Retired Witches Mystery series by Joyce and Jim Lavene

What could be better for spooky season than a ghost-witch combo? I love the delightful addition of witch familiars as cats who were humans in a previous life. This coven of witches was just getting prepped for retirement when one of them dies. Olivia won’t move on, however, as her unfinished business involves helping her coven achieve their goals. A fabulous fall cozy series.
Read about the other entries on the list.

My Book, The Movie: Spell Booked.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Five witchy new books for Friday the 13th

The 13th of October 2023 falls on Friday. To mark the occasion the staff at Publishers Weekly tagged five new witchy titles, including:
Sword Catcher by Cassandra Clare

Bestselling YA author Clare (the Shadowhunter Chronicles series) makes her adult debut with this enchanting if somewhat bloated fantasy, the first in a series. Kel is the Sword Catcher, bodyguard to Conor Aurelian, Prince of Castellane. Having sworn his undying loyalty to Conor (“I die that he might live forever”), Kel’s sole job is to keep the prince safe. When the prince’s reckless choices land him in hot water with slumlord Prosper Beck, Kel turns to the enigmatic Ragpicker King, criminal ruler of the underworld, for assistance. In alternating sections, readers are also introduced to Lin Caster. Lin is an Ashkar, those born with the only remaining magic left in Castellane and exiled behind the city-state’s walls. As a healer, however, Lin is able to enter the city, and the two narratives intertwine when Lin is called to heal one of the royals and she and Kel meet. Clare drops readers into this ornate and unique world and plants seeds for forbidden romance, dangerous magic, and brewing war to be harvested in later installments. The book at hand, however, lacks a sense of urgency, and Kel’s sections outshine Lin’s, making the pacing a bit uneven. Still, this multilayered epic is sure to be a hit with Clare’s many fans.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Seven titles that defined the Obama era

Andrew Ridker was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1991. His second novel, Hope, is now out from Viking.

[Q&A with Andrew Ridker].

His debut novel, The Altruists, was a New York Times Editors’ Choice, a Paris Review staff pick, an Amazon Editors’ Pick, and the People Book of the Week. It won the Friends of American Writers Award and was longlisted for the Prix du Meilleur livre étranger and the Yasnaya Polyana Literary Prize.

Ridker is the editor of Privacy Policy: The Anthology of Surveillance Poetics and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, Esquire, Le Monde, Bookforum, The Paris Review Daily, Guernica, Boston Review, and elsewhere. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Ridker lives in Brooklyn, New York.

At Electric Lit he tagged seven novels that capture the cultural moment of Obama’s America, including:
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

In his 2017 essay, “Considering the Novel in the Age of Obama,” to which this list is indebted, Christian Lorentzen defined four kinds of books that “have been particularly germane to the Obama years”: autofiction, fables of meritocracy, historical novels, and trauma novels. The biggest trauma novel of them all, in every respect, was undoubtedly A Little Life. Hanya Yanagihara’s epic was full of extraordinarily high highs—her four main characters are all some combination of handsome, successful, rich, loving, and glamorous—and unbearably low lows. (A tote bag bearing the names of her protagonists was ubiquitous in Brooklyn for a time, a rare feat for any novel, much less one that features so much physical abuse, pedophilia, and self-harm.) Lorentzen attributes the trauma novel’s success to the relative tranquility of the Obama era, “when American writers had the luxury of looking inward, investigating the systems that formed them, reimagining the romantic days just past, and registering the echoes of personal traumas.” Interestingly, the trauma novel only became more popular after Obama left office. It makes a kind of sense. After 2016, who wasn’t traumatized?
Read about the other entries on the list.

A Little Life is among Fatin Abbas's top ten books about chosen families, Christie Watson's five top books to inspire compassion, and Jason Flemyng's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 6, 2023

Nine crime novels featuring found families

Lori Rader-Day is the Edgar® Award-nominated and Agatha, Anthony, and Mary Higgins Clark award-winning author of The Death of Us, Death at Greenway, The Lucky One, Under a Dark Sky, The Day I Died, Little Pretty Things, and The Black Hour. She lives in Chicago, where she is co-chair of the mystery readers’ festival Midwest Mystery Conference (fka Murder and Mayhem in Chicago) and served as 2019-2020 national president of Sisters in Crime. She teaches creative writing for Northwestern University’s School of Professional Studies.

At CrimeReads Rader-Day tagged nine crime novels featuring characters who choose who they include at their crowded tables. One title on the list:
Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson

When Jude’s life falls apart, she goes to the last place she remembers being happy. A bookshop, of course. The shop is a mess and so is the owner. Then a pregnant girl shows up, with an agenda, and Jude gets a chance to tidy up more than stacks of books.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Top 10 grudge holders in fiction

Sarah Bernstein is from Montreal, Canada, and lives in Scotland. Her writing has appeared in Granta among other publications.

Her first novel, The Coming Bad Days, was published in 2021. In 2023 she was named as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists.

Bernstein's new novel is Study for Obedience.

At the Guardian she tagged ten books in which
the grudge holder’s ongoing refusal to forgive, the insistence on the unforgivable nature of the wrong committed, amount ... to a refusal to accept the condition of the world as it is – a refusal that is the basic precondition for a new and changed world.
One title on the list:
Lote by Shola von Reinhold

Lote’s protagonist Mathilda bears a grudge against institutions, including but not limited to the academic and literary establishments that erect canons via a process of exclusion and suppression. In the novel, Mathilda searches for traces of one of her “Transfixions”, Hermia Druitt, a forgotten Black modernist poet whose writings have mysteriously disappeared. Mathilda is a fabulous (and fabulously dressed) refusalist, as we learn when we follow her to an artist’s residency in a place called Dun, rejecting the stringent asceticism of the residency’s organisers while making use of the opportunity to pursue her own interests.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Seven stories about falling into debt

Raul Palma is a second-generation Cuban American born and raised in Miami. His short story collection In This World of Ultraviolet Light won the 2021 Don Belton Prize.

His writing has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, The Greensboro Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and elsewhere. He teaches fiction at Ithaca College, where he is the associate dean of faculty in Ithaca College’s School of Humanities and Sciences.

A Haunting in Hialeah Gardens is Palma's debut novel.

At Electric Lit he tagged seven stories about the pressure of owing money. One title on the list:
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

As Kathy H. faces down her own mortality, she recalls her life in Hailsham, a school for cloned children, who as adults will be expected to donate their organs to the people who commissioned their existence. What starts out as a novel veering toward resistance and rebellion, becomes a story about finding dignity in settling one’s debts and coming to terms with the cost. This novel raises many ethical questions about the ways that money and power can create hierarchies that privilege some forms of life over others.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Never Let Me Go is on Akemi C. Brodsky's list of five academic novels that won’t make you want to return to school, Claire Fuller's list of seven top dystopian mysteries, Elizabeth Brooks's list of ten great novels with unreliable narrators, Lincoln Michel's top ten list of strange sci-fi dystopias, Amelia Morris's lits of ten of the most captivating fictional frenemies, Edward Ashton's eight titles about what it means to be human, 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

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Five top titles about India’s 1947 Partition

Shilpi Suneja is the author of House of Caravans. Born in India, her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and published in Guernica, McSweeney’s, Cognoscenti, and the Michigan Quarterly Review. Her writing has been supported by a National Endowment for the Arts literature fellowship, a Massachusetts Cultural Council fellowship, a Grub Street Novel Incubator Scholarship, and she was the Desai fellow at the Jack Jones Literary Arts Retreat. She holds an MA in English from New York Universityand an MFA in creative writing from Boston University, where she was awarded the Saul Bellow Prize.

At Lit Hub Suneja tagged five books to help with our "understanding of [the Indian] Partition [of 1947]—as a trauma narrative, and as a living thing regenerating itself over and over with each generation." One title on the list:
Ritu Menon and Kamala Bhasin, Borders & Boundaries: Women in India’s Partition

Because the history of men is not the same as the history of women, and because men are almost always asked first and tend to speak first, this book is essential reading to understand the gendered nature of Partition violence. Caught in between the borders and boundaries of religion, community, and nation, tasked with upholding family honor, the women tell a decidedly different story.

From bearing “permissible violence”—drowned and killed by their own fathers and brothers to save family honor, or even asked to commit suicide to save that honor—to forced violence—rape, mutilation, abduction, conversion at the hands of “enemy” men, forced restoration by the hands of the state, women’s bodies become the very sites of contestation where entire nations define their ideas of identity, honor, selfhood, sovereignty.

Out of the array of incredulous violence inflicted upon women, the most incredulous is probably that by the state, in the form of the Abducted Persons Recovery and Restoration Bill. Passed in the parliaments of both India and Pakistan, the bill gave the governments carte blanche to extract with the help of police force all those persons reported abducted or missing by their families.

As a result, thousands of women were handcuffed and yanked away from their new families (who may or may not have inflicted sexual violence upon them), yanked away from the children they birthed in those unions, and force-rehabilitated into their families of origin, that more often than not, did not want them back. These “restored” women had no legal recourse, no choice in the matter of where they could live, which border they wanted to belong.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see Anjali Enjeti's seven books about the Partition of India & Pakistan.

--Marshal Zeringue