Thursday, November 30, 2023

Five books in which rich people (think they can) get away with murder

Charlotte Vassell studied History at the University of Liverpool and completed a Master’s in Art History at SOAS before training as an actor at Drama Studio London. Other than treading the boards she has also worked in advertising, in executive search and as a purveyor of silk top hats.

Vassell's new novel is The Other Half.

At CrimeReads she tagged five favorite books featuring "wealthy miscreants who think they can but don’t always get away with murder, although sometimes they do." One title on the list:
The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde

Beloved by teenagers going through something—I speak from experience—Oscar Wilde’s only novel is a meditation on the evils of a life devoted to the selfish pursuit of beauty and earthly sensations. Dorian Gray is a libertine who despite his ways has not aged a day, but his portrait hidden in the attic has, and is unidentifiable to even the artist. Dorian has a growing body count: Sybil Vane, an actress he loved and then abandoned, her vengeful brother James, the painter Basil who begs Dorian to repent before he murders him after blaming him for his fate, and Alan Campbell a scientist who Dorian enlists to dispose of Basil’s body who later commits suicide. I like the idea that the rich can only really be held accountable by the creepy art they buy.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Picture of Dorian Gray also appears on Myla Goldberg's list of five books to help you think like a visual artist, Emily Lloyd-Jones's list of five favorite books featuring deals you probably don’t want to make, Eric Berkowitz's list of five top books on sex and society, and John Mullan's lists of ten of the best locked rooms in literature, ten of the best mirrors in literature, ten of the best disastrous performances in fiction, and ten of the best examples of ekphrasis in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Eight books about the shifting allegiances & power dynamics of a threesome

Sarah Blakley-Cartwright is the author of Red Riding Hood, a #1 New York Times bestseller published worldwide in thirty-eight editions and fifteen languages.

She is the editor of Hauser & Wirth’s The Artist's Library for Ursula magazine. She is publishing director of the Chicago Review of Books, and associate editor of A Public Space.

Blakley-Cartwright's debut adult novel is Alice Sadie Celine.

At Electric Lit the author tagged "eight of the most inventive literary explorations of the love triangle." One title on the list:
Also a Poet by Ada Calhoun

A memoir of a young heroine attempting the impossible task of competing for her father’s affections against a legend of exquisite literary renown. Ada Calhoun’s father, the great Peter Schjeldahl, attempted to write a novel of his hero, Frank O’Hara, and Calhoun picks up the mantle, attempting to complete it. In one sense, the Calhoun’s memoir reads like a question to be solved, as Calhoun inadvertently unravels a sense of her father, a parent who sought emotional distance in order to safeguard his creative efforts, as she reconstructs the life of the great poet. In another, a story of knotted affections between three creators. Whichever way you frame it, this memoir illuminates three artists’ pledges and obligations to work, artistry, and family; and complicates the ways in which we venerate our heroes.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Five stories about embracing found family

At SFF maven Cole Rush tagged "five stories [that] celebrate found families and the wonderful, unconventional love they share," including:
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson has a knack for writing characters who feel very real and relatable. Their struggles, though coated in a layer of fantasy frosting, feel true to our world. Mistborn is a prime example.

Forgotten by the world and abandoned by her brother, Vin gets by on scraps and good luck (which may be more magical in nature than she believes). When she encounters the fearless Kelsier, he ropes her into a scheme that could topple the ruling empire that’s lasted for 1,000 years. The fantasy heist is all fine and dandy, but Vin first has to get on board with both the plan and the people executing it.

Her journey is marvelous. Kelsier’s ragtag crew doesn’t put on a show for Vin. They are firmly themselves, playfully prodding her with jibes or quick comments. Practically overnight, Vin must learn to trust those around her as they learn to do the same.

I think there’s a bit of Vin’s found family arc in all of us. As we learn who we are, we’re also forced to negotiate the mystery of others, sussing out who we can trust and who will love us for who we are. Personal growth can come from within, but it’s also catalyzed by the people surrounding us. Vin’s experiences with Kelsier, Ham, Breeze, Spook, Sazed, and the crew show us how a found family can contribute to our discovery and acceptance of self.

And if you enjoy Vin’s found family in Mistborn, you’re in luck! The remainder of the trilogy expands on her tale and carries the found family theme forward.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Mistborn is among Meghan Ball's twelve great fantasy heist stories.

My Book, The Movie: the Mistborn trilogy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 27, 2023

Five books with righteous female rage

Katherine A. Olson has lived all over the place, honing her chameleon skills along the way. She now calls South Korea home with her husband, daughter, shelter dog and cats.

Olson loves matcha lattes, irreverent humor, lacing up her hiking boots, and getting lost in good stories.

Her new novel is Close Enough to Hurt.

At CrimeReads Olson tagged five "books that helped me find the courage to write a book about a woman who’s not afraid to burn it all down." One title on the list:
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

“Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.”

Amy Dunne has reached her breaking point, and the midpoint twist in this novel is delicious and quite possibly one of the finest in the thriller genre. I gobbled up her “postmortem” manifesto like it was sweet manna from heaven and reveled in reading a female character so unapologetically pissed off. Gone Girl is a delightfully twisted entry to the Good for Her pantheon.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Gone Girl made Azma Dar's list of five dark novels that explore the sinister side of marriage, Jonas Jonasson's top ten list of books about revenge, Suzanne Redfearn's list of six novels about women trying to outrun their past, Max Manning's top ten list of psychopathic crime & thriller characters, Steven L. Kent and Nicholas Kaufmann's list of six favorite literary human monsters, Elizabeth Macneal's list of five sympathetic fictional psychopaths, Jo Jakeman's top ten list of revenge novels, Amanda Craig's list of favorite books about modern married life, Sarah Pinborough's top ten list of unreliable narrators, C.A. Higgins's top five list of books with plot twists that flip your perception, Ruth Ware's top ten list of psychological thrillers, Jane Alexander's top ten list of treasure hunts in fiction, Fanny Blake's list of five top books about revenge, Monique Alice's list of six great fictional evil geniuses, Jeff Somers's lists of the top five best worst couples in literature, six books that’ll make you glad you’re single and five books with an outstanding standalone scene that can be read on its own, Lucie Whitehouse's ten top list of psychological suspense novels with marriages at their heart and Kathryn Williams's list of eight of fiction’s craziest unreliable narrators.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Ten of the best dystopian novels ever written

Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Editor of Writer's Digest and the author of 40 Plot Twist Prompts for Writers: Writing Ideas for Bending Stories in New Directions, The Complete Guide of Poetic Forms: 100+ Poetic Form Definitions and Examples for Poets, Poem-a-Day: 365 Poetry Writing Prompts for a Year of Poeming, and more.

At Writer's Digest he tagged "what I consider the 10 best dystopian novels ever written," including:
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

The seventh book on this list is actually the first book of a trilogy by the same name. The Hunger Games was published in 2008 followed closely by the publication of Catching Fire in 2009 and Mockingjay in 2010.

The main premise for The Hunger Games is that it's a dystopian story set in Panem, a North American country that consists of a prosperous Capitol and 12 impoverished districts. At one point there was a 13th district, which was destroyed for attempting a failed rebellion. As punishment for the remaining districts, they have to conduct a lottery each year to provide a male and female between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district to participate in a televised battle to the death.

The novel is narrated by Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old who volunteers to take the place of her 12-year-old sister in the competition. As with any reality television show, alliances are formed and broken with the extra weight of this being a "life and death" competition.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Hunger Games also appears on Patti Callahan's list of five SFF books featuring protective siblings, Off the Shelf's list of ten incredible literary parties, Chevy Stevens's list of the best survivalist thrillers, Amanda Craig's top ten list of the best-dressed characters in fiction, Sarah Driver's list of her five favorite fictional siblings, Meghan Ball's list of eight books or series for Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans, Jeff Somers's lists of "five pairs of books that have nothing to do with each other—and yet have everything to do with each other," top five list of dystopian societies that might actually function, and top eight list of revolutionary SF/F novels, P.C. Cast’s top ten list of all-time favorite reads for fantasy fans, Keith Yatsuhashi's list of five gateway books that opened the door for him to specific genres, Catherine Doyle's top ten list of doomed romances in YA fiction, Ryan Britt's list of six of the best Scout Finches -- "headstrong, stalwart, and true" young characters -- from science fiction and fantasy, Natasha Carthew's top ten list of revenge reads, Anna Bradley ten best list of literary quotes in a crisis, Laura Jarratt's top ten list of YA thrillers with sisters, Tina Connolly's top five list of books where the girl saves the boy, Sarah Alderson's top ten list of feminist icons in children's and teen books, Jonathan Meres's top ten list of books that are so unfair, SF Said's top ten list of unlikely heroes, Rebecca Jane Stokes's top ten list of fictional families you could probably abide during holiday season and top eight list of books perfect for reality TV fiends, Chrissie Gruebel's list of favorite fictional fashion icons, Lucy Christopher's top ten list of literary woods, Robert McCrum's list of the ten best books with teenage narrators, Sophie McKenzie's top ten list of teen thrillers, Gregg Olsen's top ten list of deadly YA books, Annalee Newitz's list of ten great American dystopias, Philip Webb's top ten list of pulse-racing adventure books, Charlie Higson's top ten list of fantasy books for children, and Megan Wasson's list of five fantasy series geared towards teens that adults will love too.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Seven stellar heist tales

Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author and screenwriter of over one dozen novels including The Ancestor, Slow Down, The Mentor, Stalker Stalked, Orange City, the five-book Desire Card series, and the young adult trilogy Runaway Train, Grenade Bouquets, and Vanish Me, currently with actress Raegan Revord from TV's Young Sheldon attached to develop.

His new novel is The Great Gimmelmans.

At Electric Lit Goldberg tagged seven favorite heist tales, including:
Blacktop Wasteland by S. A. Cosby

Blacktop Wasteland sets up the career criminal who attempts one last job to position himself for financial freedom. Beauregard or “Bug,” a Black man in the rural south isn’t looking for a big score, but to pay for his child’s braces, keep his mother in a nursing home, and keep his auto shop alive. When he joins as a wheelman in a diamond heist, what follows is a breakneck, adrenaline ride, but also a searing rebuke of racism in the south and the opportunities Bug wants for his children that he was never able to have. Lyrical and heart-stopping, this book is a must for heist fans and fans of literature in general.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Blacktop Wasteland is among Lisa Unger's five novels revolving around dysfunctional families, Nick Kolakowski’s five best getaway drivers in contemporary crime fiction, and Kia Abdullah's eight novels featuring co-conspirators.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 24, 2023

Five top novels featuring brave women in mysterious circumstances

Christina Henry is the author of The Mermaid, Lost Boy, Alice, Red Queen, and the national bestselling Black Wings series featuring Agent of Death Madeline Black and her popcorn-loving gargoyle, Beezle.

Her new novel is Good Girls Don't Die.

At CrimeReads Henry tagged five favorite novels featuring brave women in mysterious circumstances. One title on the list:
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (1847)

The grandmother of the girl-in-peril-at-a-mysterious-estate tale, the template from which so many others followed. Jane herself is distinguished by her bravery, by her strength of character, by her dogged determination to discover the truth about the strange goings-on at Thornfield Hall and its master, Mr. Rochester. Every year, in October, I re-read this book along with my other Gothic favorites. You can’t beat the atmosphere, especially in the Thornfield section of the book. 176-year-old spoiler: It also introduced the notion of the “attic wife”, a devastating moment in the story that has become a modern internet meme.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Jane Eyre also made Hannah Sloane's list of seven titles about men breaking hearts & acting despicably, Aidan Cottrell-Boyce's top ten list of novels and stories about prophets, Jane Shemilt's list of five books that trace the portrayal of mental disorders in literature, Lucy Ellmann's top ten list of gripes in literature, Elizabeth Brooks’s list of ten of the creepiest gothic novels, Kate Kellaway's list of the best romantic novels that aren’t riddled with cliches, Julia Spiro's list of seven titles told from the perspective of domestic workers, Jane Healey's list of five favorite gothic romances, Annaleese Jochems's list of the great third wheels of literature, Sara Collins's list of six of fiction's best bad women, Sophie Hannah's list of fifteen top books with a twist, E. Lockhart's list of five favorite stories about women labeled “difficult,” Sophie Hannah's top ten list of twists in fiction, Gail Honeyman's list of five of her favorite idiosyncratic characters, Kate Hamer's top ten list of books about adopted children, a list of four books that changed Vivian Gornick, Meredith Borders's list of ten of the scariest gothic romances, Esther Inglis-Arkell's top ten list of the most horribly mistreated first wives in Gothic fiction, Martine Bailey’s top six list of the best marriage plots in novels, Radhika Sanghani's top ten list of books to make sure you've read before graduating college, Lauren Passell's top five list of Gothic novels, Molly Schoemann-McCann's lists of ten fictional men who have ruined real live romance and five of the best--and more familiar--tropes in fiction, Becky Ferreira's lists of seven of the best fictional depictions of female friendship and the top six most momentous weddings in fiction, Julia Sawalha's six best books list, Honeysuckle Weeks's six best books list, Kathryn Harrison's list of six favorite books with parentless protagonists, Megan Abbott's top ten list of novels of teenage friendship, a list of Bettany Hughes's six best books, the Guardian's top 10 lists of "outsider books" and "romantic fiction;" it appears on Lorraine Kelly's six best books list, Esther Freud's top ten list of love stories, and Jessica Duchen's top ten list of literary Gypsies, and on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best governesses in literature, ten of the best men dressed as women, ten of the best weddings in literature, ten of the best locked rooms in literature, ten of the best pianos in literature, ten of the best breakfasts in literature, ten of the best smokes in fiction, and ten of the best cases of blindness in literature. It is one of Kate Kellaway's ten best love stories in fiction.

The Page 99 Test: Jane Eyre.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Thirteen top fantasies inspired by mythology from the British Isles

One title from's list of thirteen fantasies inspired by mythology from the British Isles:
The Last Light of the Sun—Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Last Light of the Sun meshes elements of Anglo-Saxon, Welsh, and Viking cultures to create a thrilling historical fantasy with the Anglcyn (Anglo-Saxon), Cyngael (Welsh), and Erling (Viking) civilizations locked in conflict.

Erling marauders regularly raid Anglcyn and Cyngael villages, and bloodshed and slavery are just part of life. Bern Thorkellson, an Erling, was enslaved after his father murdered another man, but now he’s escaped to seek vengeance against the man who stole his father’s prize horse. His father, meanwhile, is haunted by the past and seeks redemption for his murder. At the other end of the social spectrum, Aeldred, legendary king of the Anglcyn, struggles to enlighten his countrymen, while the Cyngael prince Alun tries to save his soul from Darkness. The lives of these four men will all entwine as they fight for their lands and their destiny.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Five notable wilderness thrillers featuring fearless women

Peggy Townsend is an award-winning journalist and author. Her work has appeared in Catamaran literary magazine, Santa Cruz Noir, The Boston Globe Magazine, Memoir, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among other publications. Twice she lived for seven weeks in her van, traveling to Alaska and along the back roads of the U.S.

Townsend's new novel is The Beautiful and the Wild.

At CrimeReads she tagged five favorite wilderness thrillers featuring fearless women, including:
In Lauren Groff’s compelling The Vaster Wilds, we only know her protagonist as “the girl” but we quickly come to realize she is so much more. Fleeing from an early American colony where famine lives hand in hand with violence, “the girl” plunges into the wild in search of freedom and is soon swallowed by a beautiful and unforgiving landscape.

She steals from the dead, roasts baby squirrels, robs honey from a swarm of angry bees, gobbles mushrooms without being certain if they are poisonous or not, and feasts on salmon she catches and smokes. Her shoes and clothes rot. Starvation and danger hunt her and, yet, the girl faces her suffering, not with surrender, but with determination. I was moved by her trials, which Groff renders in gorgeous prose, but also inspired by the notion that giving up at the first sign of an obstacle is the bigger failure. I quickly consumed this book.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Twenty-eight of the best fantasy novels

One title from Oprah Daily's list of twenty-eight of the best of the best fantasy novels:
Witch King, by Martha Wells

Kaiisteron, a body-swapping demon, and his good friend, the Witch Ziede, escape from captivity in an underwater tomb. Picking up companions along the way, the two set out to discover who put them there, rescue Ziede’s kidnapped wife, and explode a conspiracy that has roots in their mutual past, when they fought a massive invasion from a genocidal army of unknown origin. Here you’ll find multiple magic systems, believably self-serving political intrigue, tender moments of found family, and really interesting exploration of gender identity (but in a pleasantly matter-of-fact, not preachy, way). While fairly self-contained, there are sufficient dangling threads at the end that lend themselves comfortably to a series, if Wells is so inclined; let’s hope so.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 20, 2023

Six notable Jewish crime thrillers

Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author and screenwriter of over one dozen novels including The Ancestor, Slow Down, The Mentor, Stalker Stalked, Orange City, the five-book Desire Card series, and the young adult trilogy Runaway Train, Grenade Bouquets, and Vanish Me, currently with actress Raegan Revord from TV's Young Sheldon attached to develop.

His new novel is The Great Gimmelmans.

At CrimeReads Goldberg tagged six favorite Jewish crime thrillers, including:
Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union

In The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Michael Chabon imagines an alternate historical reality. He creates a safe haven for Jews in Sitka, Alaska after the Holocaust instead of the state of Israel, but now the District is being reverted back to Alaskan control. When a homicide detective investigates the murder of his neighbor, the book becomes less a who-done-it and more about the fear of the Jewish people in their last days before they become displaced and how they ban together to survive. Mixing Yiddish humor with a dark aura, the novel is a stunning noir crime drama and even more topical today fifteen years after its release.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union is among Melissa Ragsdale's eight books to read during Hanukkah, Jeff Somers's five best oddball detective novels, J.D. Taylor's ten top counter-factual novels, and Molly Driscoll's top six alternate-history novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Five notable winter thrillers

C. J. Tudor is the author of A Sliver of Darkness, The Burning Girls, The Other People, The Hiding Place, and The Chalk Man, which won the International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel and the Strand Critics Award for Best Debut Novel.

Tudor's newest novel is The Drift.

At the Waterstones blog she tagged "five unputdownable wintry thrillers to curl up with as the nights get colder." One title on the list:
Shiver by Allie Reynolds

Reunions never seem to end well, do they? Especially ones in remote lodges or chalets.

Milla is invited to a reunion in the French Alps resort that saw the peak of her snowboarding career (Reynolds is a former professional snowboarder). The five friends haven't seen each other for ten years, ever since the disappearance of the beautiful and enigmatic Saskia.

While Milla would rather not relive the events of that winter, the invitation comes from Curtis, the one person she can't seem to forget.

Things start off okay until a game supposed to ‘break the ice’ between the old friends takes a menacing turn and the group realise they don't actually know who has gathered them there or what they want.

A deserted lodge, treacherous snowy mountains, secrets from the past. All the essentials for a chill-filled winter read.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Shiver is among B.P. Walter's five top winter mysteries.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Seven novels about characters shaped by their cravings

Garnett Cohen is the author of Cravings and three previous collections of short stories. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker online, Rumpus, The Gettysburg Review, StoryQuarterly, The Antioch Review and elsewhere, and she has been the recipient of many awards including a 2022 award from December magazine, the Crazyhorse National Fiction Prize, and four Illinois Arts Council Awards, as well as two Notable Essay citations from Best American Essays. She taught creative writing at Columbia College Chicago for more than thirty years and now works as a writer and an author consultant.

At Electric Lit Cohen tagged seven books that "exemplify what it means for complex characters to be defined by their cravings, and how their yearnings help establish relatable plots for all of us who have ever intensely wanted something." One title on the list:
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Like the character in [R.F. Kuang's] Yellowface, the three main characters here want fame and fortune, but that’s secondary. This novel is a multi-layered odyssey that follows the journey of the two primary characters, Sadie and Sam, from when they meet as children in a hospital to adulthood. At first they desire friendship and mastering video games. As they grow and mature, so do their cravings; they want to design games so compelling that praise and wealth comes to them by virtue of their talent, inventiveness, and vision. Unlike June in Yellowface, they want well-earned recognition. The book is a study in story-telling and in the making of art. Until reading it, I never realized how much writers of serious literature and the best game designers have in common. Both are driven by a vision that they won’t fully understand until they’ve finished creating it. The descriptions of the games they invent are like miniature novels within the novel. The multitude of desires displayed by these talented and well-drawn characters keep readers absorbed during the entire 400-plus page book that spans a period of 30 years.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 17, 2023

Six thrillers where natural disasters loom large

Gwen Florio grew up in a farmhouse filled with books and a ban on television. After studying English at the University of Delaware, she began a decades-long career in journalism that has taken her around the country and to more than a dozen other countries, including several conflict zones. Her first novel in the Lola Wicks mystery series, Montana, won the Pinckley Prize for Crime Fiction and the High Plains Book Award, and was a finalist for the Shamus Award, an International Thriller Award and a Silver Falchion Award. She has since released four other books in the Lola Wicks series and three standalone novels.

Her new novel is Best Be Prepared, the fourth book in the Nora Best series.

[Coffee with a Canine: Gwen Florio & Nell; My Book, the Movie: Silent HeartsWriters Read: Gwen Florio (August 2018)The Page 69 Test: Silent HeartsMy Book, The Movie: Best Laid PlansThe Page 69 Test: Best Laid PlansQ&A with Gwen FlorioMy Book, The Movie: The Truth of it AllThe Page 69 Test: The Truth of it AllThe Page 69 Test: Best Be Prepared; My Book, The Movie: Best Be Prepared]

At CrimeReads Florio tagged six thrillers where natural disasters loom large, including:
I’ve always thought of Dana Stabenow’s thoroughly enjoyable Alaska mysteries as sneakily educational because I come away better informed about the intertwined environmental and political issues driving them. My favorite, Breakup, uses the tensions that run rampant by the end of the long Alaska winter to heighten the suspense throughout. Fact: While most places see their highest crime rates in summer, in Alaska the murder rates can spike in late spring during—you guessed it—breakup.
Read about the other books Florio tagged.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Ten books about nonhuman consciousness

Bennett Sims was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He is the author of the novel A Questionable Shape (2013), which received the Bard Fiction Prize and was a finalist for The Believer Book Award, and the story collection White Dialogues (2017), winner of the Rome Prize for Literature 2018–19 and named a best book of 2017 by Bookforum.

Sims's newest book is the story collection, Other Minds and Other Stories (2023).

At Electric Lit he tagged ten books that "take the imaginability of other minds as their explicit subject." One title on the list:
Exhalation by Ted Chiang

Ted Chiang is best known for “Story of Your Life,” the basis for the film Arrival, and it remains perhaps the best introduction to his work. In its Sapir-Whorf spin on first-contact, a linguist studies an alien species’ language and learns to see the world the way that they do. As she masters their nonlinear writing system, she begins to experience time nonlinearly too, and Chiang is alive as a stylist to the philosophical and poetic challenges of representing a halfway alien mind in a human body.

In Exhalation, Chiang’s new collection, he extends his curiosity about consciousness to a wider variety of creatures: robots; digital pets; parrots; parallel selves. Throughout, he writes with the same rigor about the connection between minds and bodies, the way that perception shapes experience: whether it is the “cognition engine” of a kind of pneumatic robot (“My consciousness could be said to be encoded… in the ever-shifting pattern of air driving these leaves”), or the vocal learning and contact calls of Puerto Rican parrots. As the parrot narrator of “The Great Silence” reminds us, we do not need to make contact with extraterrestrials to communicate with an “alien” intelligence: “We’re a nonhuman species capable of communicating with them. Aren’t we exactly what humans are looking for?”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Five notable difficult women in historical fiction

Shelley Blanton-Stroud grew up in California’s Central Valley, the daughter of Dust Bowl immigrants who made good on their ambition to get out of the field. She recently retired from teaching writing at Sacramento State University and still consults with writers in the energy industry. She serves as President of the Board of 916 Ink, an arts-based creative writing nonprofit for children, and serves on the Board of Advisors for the Gould Center for Humanistic Studies at Claremont McKenna College. She recently stepped down from co-directing Stories on Stage Sacramento, where actors perform the stories of established and emerging authors. Copy Boy was her first Jane Benjamin Novel, Tomboy her second. The third, Poster Girl, is new in bookstores. Blanton-Stroud and her husband live in Sacramento, California, surrounded by photos of their sons, their partners, and their nearly perfect grandchild.

At CrimeReads she tagged five favorite difficult women in historical fiction, including:
Ruby Fortune in Ashley E. Sweeney’s Hardland

(Published in 2022, set in 1899.) Set in the Arizona Territory, Ruby must either murder her abusive husband or live with bruises that never heal. One bullet decides it. Once the “Girl Wonder” of the Wild West circuit, Ruby becomes a single mother of four boys in her hometown of Jericho, an end-of-the-world mining town. Ruby runs a roadside inn, hosting drifters, grifters, con men, and prostitutes—people she innately understands. She has a love affair that puts her life and livelihood at risk, but she won’t let him go. She does what she figures she needs to, in order to provide for herself and her sons. Ruby’s strong, sexual, skilled with a gun, and unequivocal about her own survival and that of her children, which, for many readers, rescues her from unlikability, since mother-love is a saving grace, maybe the saving grace.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Twenty-five essential cookbooks

The editors at Vogue came up with a list of twenty-five cookbooks that everyone should own, including:
Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller

The best cookbook for… super precise but simple American recipes.

This is one of those cookbooks that will teach you the basics—with an eye toward perfecting them. Ad Hoc is one of the more casual outposts from Thomas Keller, the famed chef behind Per Se and French Laundry, and here he’s operating in a more relaxed register—appropriate (and approachable) for a home cook. But there’s no lack of precision. I remember one recipe for sautéed carrots that offers instruction on the precise angle of the cut, the way to roll the peeled carrot in order to obtain it, and how to tie the bouquet garnish so that a rogue spice wouldn’t escape. I have to say, it was worth it. (Also look here for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe I have ever encountered; I am never disloyal to it.) — C.S.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 13, 2023

Nine retellings & reinventions of Noah’s Ark

Jeffrey J. Cohen is Dean of Humanities at Arizona State University. He is author or editor of several books including Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman (winner of the René Wellek Prize of the ACLA) as well as Veer Ecology: A Companion for Environmental Thinking and Elemental Ecocriticism: Thinking with Earth, Air, Water, and Fire.

Julian Yates is H. Fletcher Brown Professor of English and Material Culture Studies at the University of Delaware. He is author or editor of several books, including Error, Misuse, Failure: Object Lessons from the English Renaissance (finalist for the MLA Best First Book Prize) and Of Sheep, Oranges, and Yeast: A Multispecies Impression (winner of the Michelle Kendrick Memorial Book Prize of the SLSA).

Their new book is Noah's Arkive.

At Lit Hub they tagged nine "books about arks and the price of being saved during ecological catastrophe," including:
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston is an account of deluge as observed at ground level, by a woman who was never invited into any ark of safety and yet found a way to create repeated refuge. The storm at its center drowns many and transports others to a resurfaced Jim Crow America where those with white skin enjoy the safety of bridges and those with black skin are forced to bury the undifferentiated dead. This is not a story of uplift, nor a story of trauma, but a narrative delivered by Janie on a comfortable porch to her friend Pheoby about making one’s way through a world where security never lasts long.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Their Eyes Were Watching God is among Rebecca Kelley's nine top literary classics for the contemporary crime reader, Henry Adam Svec's seven novels by or about folk musicians, Micheline Aharonian Marcom's eight epic quest stories, Michael Zapata's ten books that were almost lost to history, Yann Martel's five favorite books, and Benjamin Obler's top ten fictional coffee scenes in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Seven horror novels about mysticism

Samsun Knight is a novelist and graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. The Diver is his first book from the University of Iowa Press.

Separately, he is also an assistant professor in the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

At Electric Lit Knight tagged "seven horror books that I love where the characters use occult rituals and older modes of knowing to explore the dark underbelly of our society today." One title on the list:
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

In-laws aren’t always evil, but sometimes they really, really are. When Noemí comes to check in on her cousin Catalina’s new married life, she knows already that Catalina suspects her husband of intending to poison her; but what she doesn’t know is how endangered she is, too, from the moment she arrives. This full-on Gothic thriller takes you for a fast-paced ride through beautiful colonial mansions and horrifying colonial legacies, ancient bloodlines and new-age rituals and the ineradicable persistence of older evils in today’s world.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Six mystery novels set in hotels

S.K. Golden is the author of the Pinnacle Hotel cozy mystery series. Born and raised in the Florida Keys, she married a commercial fisherman. The two of them still live on the islands with their five kids (one boy, four girls — including identical twins!), two cats, and a corgi named Goku. Golden graduated from Saint Leo University with a bachelor’s degree in Human Services and Administration and has put it to good use approximately zero times. She’s worked as a bank teller, a pharmacy technician, and an executive assistant at her father’s church. Golden is delighted to be doing none of those things now.

At CrimeReads she tagged six favorite mystery novels set in hotels, including:
COVERT IN CAIRO by Kelly Oliver

One of my favorite sleuths is Fiona Figg, written by Kelly Oliver. In a recent novel, Covert In Cairo, she’s paired with Kitty Lane in a WW1 Egyptian hotel. They spend some time off the hotel grounds, but it’s a lot of fun. Fiona even rides a camel. Oliver brings the setting to life and Fiona is a character I love reading about and rooting for. She’s just got so many tools and disguises! Fiona Figg has dealt with another hotel murder in her backlist in High Treason at the Grand Hotel, and Oliver readers won’t be surprised to hear she’s wearing a bellhop uniform when she discovers the body.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 10, 2023

Five top true crime reads

The Amazon Books editors tagged five great true crime reads, including:
Fear Is Just a Word: A Missing Daughter, a Violent Cartel, and a Mother's Quest for Vengeance by Azam Ahmed.

Fear Is Just a Word is a work of reportage so epic, its central story so devastating and vividly personal, that putting it down will be practically impossible for readers, not until the very last page. One evening in 2014, Miriam Rodríguez got an anguished call from her eldest daughter, informing her that members of the Mexican drug cartel known as the Zetas had abducted her youngest daughter, Karen. What follows is a heartbreaking account of one mother’s stand for justice in a world gone mad, as Miriam channels her grief and rage into becoming part vigilante, part detective, part constitutional lawyer, and all avenging angel. Masterfully blending the personal and the political, Azam Ahmed’s true crime tale is absolutely electrifying.
—Vannessa Cronin, Amazon Editor
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Seven books about objects that changed the world

Amy Brady is the executive director and publisher of Orion magazine and coeditor of The World as We Knew It: Dispatches from a Changing Climate. Brady has made appearances on the BBC, NPR, and PBS. She holds a PhD in literature and American studies and has won writing and research awards from the National Science Foundation, the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference, and the Library of Congress.

Brady's new book is Ice: From Mixed Drinks to Skating Rinks--a Cool History of a Hot Commodity.

At Electric Lit she tagged "seven must-read microhistories that teach us so much about our past in the most surprising and multifaceted ways," including:
Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson

Acclaimed food writer Bee Wilson reveals how the fork and other culinary technologies changed how people eat, cook, and serve meals. She covers prehistoric uses of food-related tools (such as rocks and rudimentary bowls) as well as more modern inventions, like the microwave. Wilson’s style is both funny and informative, and the history she reveals shows just how important the fork is and how its legacy of kitchen technologies have changed not only the food on our tables, but the roles that food plays in our ceremonies, social gatherings, and everyday lives.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Six top books on World War II in Asia

Gary Bass, a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, is the author of Judgment at Tokyo: World War II on Trial and the Making of Modern Asia; The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide; Freedom's Battle: The Origins of Humanitarian Intervention; and Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals.

[The Page 99 Test: The Blood Telegram]

At Lit Hub Bass tagged six top books on the Asian experience in World War II, including:
Eri Hotta, Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy

Imperial Japan’s fatal decision to attack the United States and the British Empire, as well as the Dutch in the East Indies, ranks among the most perplexing and self-destructive in diplomatic history. Bogged down in the quagmire in China, why would they take on fresh wars against all that combined military-industrial might? How had the Japanese leadership believed simultaneously that the United States was so relentlessly aggressive that they had to attack it but also so submissive that it would slink to the bargaining table once struck? In this excellent book, Eri Hotta, who has also done outstanding work on Japanese pan-Asianism, shows how Imperial Japan’s rulers talked themselves into a catastrophic war. While unsparing in her assessment that the war was a reckless disaster, she carefully and fair-mindedly weighs the complex deeds of individual leaders such as General Tojo Hideki, Prince Konoe Fumimaro, Admiral Nagano Osami, and the peace-minded Togo Shigenori. Although Japanese right-wingers like to single out the Hull note in late November 1941, whose invocation is usually a dogwhistle for the claim that Pearl Harbor was really the United States’ own fault, Hotta’s expert account debunks that; she suggests that the United States toughened its terms in response to Japanese troop mobilization in the South Seas, indicating that Japan was ready to attack any day. Her book is rich in scholarship and nuance, with a penetrating understanding of Japan’s history. And even though you know how it’s going to end, the narrative is tautly suspenseful—you keep hoping they’ll back away from the abyss.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Five supernatural sister stories

Chelsea Iversen has been reading and writing stories since before she knew what verbs were. She loves tea and trees and travel and reads her runes at every full moon.

Iversen lives with her husband and Pepper the dog in Colorado.

The Witches at the End of the World is her debut novel.

At CrimeReads she tagged five supernatural sister stories, including:
Alix E. Harrow, The Once and Future Witches

Filled with folklore and fairytales, this story of The Eastwood sisters, James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna, puts power into the hands of witches. The sisters join the suffrage movement in New Salem, where witchcraft has been suppressed for generations, and they must reclaim witching for themselves, and for the women of New Salem, in order to win the vote and ensure their survival. These sisters all have distinct personalities that lend to three very different tales, all spun together with the objective of bringing magic back to witches.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Once and Future Witches is among Kim DeRose's seven top books about witches and badass covens, Mark Skinner's twenty top witch lit titles, Sarah Pinsker's five SFF books that showcase siblings at their core, and Heather Walter's five SFF books about wicked women.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 6, 2023

Nine scary, creepy, and frightening fictional animals

Justin C. Key is a practicing psychiatrist and speculative fiction writer whose stories have appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, Tor (online), Escape Pod, and Lightspeed. He received a BA in Biology from Stanford University, and recently completed his residency in psychiatry at UCLA. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three children.

His new book is The World Wasn't Ready for You: Stories.

At Lit Hub Key tagged nine works of fiction with the scariest, creepiest, and most frightening animals, including:
Killer Gorillas: Congo by Michael Crichton

The strongest human alive would be no match for a below average gorilla. And while they aren’t the kindest animals in the world they’ll generally leave humans alone unless bothered or provoked. In Congo, this particular species of gorilla has a taste for blood. Human blood, specifically.

And their preferred method of carnage? Smashing your head between two rocks. *Shivers* Intelligent, strong, and resourceful makes for a devastating combination in any horror setting.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 5, 2023

The 57 best books of the 2010s

One title on Glamour magazine's list of the fifty-seven best books of the 2010s:
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Rules of Civility makes you feel opulent just reading it. Told through the eyes of Katey Kontent—a young woman thrust into upper echelons of New York society after meeting the handsome banker Tinker Grey at a Greenwich Village jazz bar—you’ll feel transported into a world like The Great Gatsby. Everyone’s beautiful, soulless, and having so much damn fun.”
—Samantha Leach, Glamour associate culture editor
Read about the other entries on the list.

Rules of Civility is among Michael Hogan's ten best New Year’s Eves in culture.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Eight titles to help you understand Venezuela

Paula Ramón is a Venezuelan journalist who has lived and worked in China, the United States, Brazil, and Uruguay. She is currently a correspondent for Agence France-Presse, based in Los Angeles. She has written and reported for the New York Times, National Geographic, Columbia Journalism Review, and Piauí magazine, among other outlets.

Ramón's new memoir is Motherland.

At Electric Lit she tagged eight books that are
not only for people who may know little about the country, but also for Venezuelans who are interested in our past and how, after decades of abundance, we got to where we are today, where families are dismantled and millions of people leave the country in search of a better life.
One title on the list:
The Magical State: Nature, Money, and Modernity in Venezuela by Fernando Coronil

Taking some inspiration from Venezuelan playwright José Ignacio Cabrujas and his analysis of the providential quality of the State and the social impact of the sudden wealth that oil brought to the country, Coronil, an anthropologist, addresses the transformation of the Venezuelan State in the last century as the country became an oil nation. From the dictatorship of Juan Vicente Gómez to democracy, marked by the spectacular first presidency of Carlos Andrés Pérez (1974-1979), Coronil explains the relationship of Venezuelans to the State and its presidents. I first read this book when Chávez, thanks to a new oil boom, magnified and personified the notion of a generous and almighty State. It was no longer the State, now it was Chávez. That is why this book, first published in 1997, was also prophetic. Overall, it is key to understanding the Venezuela that preceded Hugo Chávez’s “revolution.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue