Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Twelve top crime novels set in Galveston

Paul French is a British author of books about modern Chinese history and contemporary Chinese society including Midnight in Peking and the 2018 release City of Devils.

At CrimeReads he tagged over a dozen crime novels set in Galveston and the western coast of the Gulf of Mexico. One title on the list:
Rachel Cochran’s The Gulf (2023) is set in the fictional town of Parson, Texas, a small town ravaged by a devastating hurricane and the Vietnam War. Murders, Vietnam vets, the long-estranged returning to town and a big dollop of Gulf Coast atmosphere.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Gulf.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Eight novels about women’s invisible labor

Brandi Wells is an Assistant Professor of creative writing at California State University, Fullerton. They have an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama and a PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Southern California. They’ve published a novella, This Boring Apocalypse, and a chapbook of stories, Please Don’t Be Upset.

Wells's new novel is The Cleaner.

At Electric Lit they tagged "eight books that explore invisible women and their labor," including:
The Wall by Marlen Haushofer

The Wall features the last surviving human on earth, or it might as well, because she certainly feels alone. With her cow, bull calf, cat, dog, and a series of kittens, she undertakes the labor of keeping them and herself alive. It’s work that no other human sees or appreciates. She’s responsible for herself and frequently wonders at how well made she is for this kind of work. Perhaps it’s what she was meant for. In these harsh moments of fantasy, it’s easy to understand what it might mean to a woman in the 1960’s, or now, to do things in her own way and own time with no one to oversee or threaten her. Still, it’s lonely work and the book is full of quiet and perfectly rendered heartbreak.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 29, 2024

Five top Gothic heroines

Hester Musson studied at Bristol University and The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. She worked as an actress and autocue operator in London before writing full time and now lives in Scotland.

Musson’s debut novel The Beholders tells the story of Harriet, a young maid newly employed at a grand country house in the 1870s, who finds herself in thrall to her entrancing yet erratic mistress and the much-lauded yet strangely absent master of the household.

At the Waterstones blog Musson shared a list of her five favorite Gothic heroines. One entry on the list:
Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved has haunted me since I first read it as a teenager, both for its depiction of slavery and the startling use of the supernatural. It was inspired by the true story of a mother who, desperate for her children to escape the horrors she endured when enslaved, does the unthinkable. Giving shape to such waking nightmares is perhaps Gothic’s greatest power, allowing us to cross a line imaginatively which we would ordinarily shrink from approaching.

Sethe is struggling with the furious and spiteful spirit of her baby, dead for eighteen years, which has turned her modest house in Ohio into a gothic setting to rival the most chilling castle. When friends finally exorcise the spirit, the daughter returns (possibly) as a mysterious and beautiful young woman who gradually takes over Sethe’s physical and psychological space. The intrusion of a terrible past into the present is a hallmark of Gothic fiction, and I can’t think of another story that does it so powerfully or eerily as Beloved.
Read about the other entries on the list.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Thirty of the best parents in literature

A few years ago at Mental Floss, Linda Rodriguez McRobbie tagged thirty of the best parents in literature. One parent and book on the list:
Katie Nolan // A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

In Betty Smith’s 1943 coming of age novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, protagonist Francie’s favorite parent, the parent who seems to get her, isn’t her mother, Katie; it’s her creative, sentimental father, Johnny. But after Johnny’s alcoholism consumes him, making it virtually impossible for him to hold a job, it’s Katie who keeps the family afloat. Katie’s grit and determination that her children should have a better life than she had is the kind of tough love that gives Francie the tools she’ll need to survive.
Read about the other entries on the list.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a book that changed Laura Lippman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Eight books on love, loss, and betrayal in the Caribbean

Donna Hemans is the author of The House of Plain Truth and two previous novels, River Woman and Tea By the Sea, which won the Lignum Vitae Una Marson Award. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in Electric Literature, Ms. Magazine, and Crab Orchard Review, among others. She is also the owner of DC Writers Room, a co-working studio for writers based in Washington, DC. Born in Jamaica, she lives in Maryland, and received her undergraduate degree in English and Media Studies from Fordham University and an MFA from American University.

[Q&A with Donna Hemans]

At Electric Lit Hemans tagged "eight Caribbean family sagas [that] portray families formed by biology or culture, proximity or shared experiences." One title on the list:
The Island of Forgetting by Jasmine Sealy

Spanning four generations, this novel begins in 1962 with Iapetus, driven mad by the memory of watching his brother, Cronus, murder their father. Cronus encourages Iapetus to forget and later takes in Iapetus’ son, Atlas. But Iapetus and each generation of his descendants remain tied to Cronus even after Cronus dies. Atlas shelves his dream to leave Barbados to study and instead takes on a role helping his cousin manage the hotel Cronus owned. We also meet Atlas’s teenage daughter, Calypso who falls for and has a child with a much older Canadian real estate developer, who is in business with her uncle. And Calypso’s son, also raised at the hotel, battles with his own sense of identity and his mother’s movement in and out of his life. With echoes of Greek mythology, this novel explores the sometimes impossible task of shedding family legacy and forging one’s own path.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 26, 2024

Five top books about whistleblowers

James Ball is the global editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. He was on the Pulitzer Prize winning teams that reported the Edward Snowden leaks and the Panama Papers.

At the Guardian he tagged five of the best books about whistleblowers, including:
Whistleblower: My Journey to Silicon Valley and Fight for Justice at Uber by Susan Fowler

Susan Fowler was only 26 when she brought down Uber CEO Travis Kalanick – but her impact was even larger than that. What began as a 3,000-word blog post on the culture of misogyny and harassment within Uber helped fuel the #MeToo reckoning, and Fowler was one of the people pictured as Time’s Person of the Year in 2017. This is her telling of that story.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Eleven weird and wild books of Texas

Elizabeth Gonzalez James is the author of the novels Mona at Sea (2021) and The Bullet Swallower (f2024), as well as the chapbook, Five Conversations About Peter Sellers (2023).

Originally from South Texas, she now lives with her family in Massachusetts.

At CrimeReads the author tagged eleven "books that complicated my picture of the American west, specifically Texas (my home state), and delighted my taste for the weird." One title on the list:
Gabino Iglesias, The Devil Takes You Home

Being a fairly new reader of horror, I was very excited for Iglesias’s latest. Mario has recently lost his young daughter to cancer, and his wife to grief, and so with nothing to live for he becomes a hitman. When a friend offers him the chance to make a huge sum of money doing a job for a narco-cartel, he agrees, and is launched into a nightmare world of violence and cruelty. Fair warning: This book is dark. DARK. But as someone who grew up on the border amid the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s, where, it turns out, cults were actually sacrificing people to the devil, I found Iglesias’s descent into the grim world of drug-fueled violence chillingly rendered and all too real.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Five top postcolonial novels

Geneva Abdul is a reporter and feature writer for the Guardian. One title from her list of five of the best postcolonial novels:
Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo

First published in 1955, the slim translated novel is often hailed as a timeless literary masterpiece. Jorge Luis Borges called it one of the best works of Hispanic literature, Susan Sontag described it as one of the 20th century’s most influential books and Gabriel García Márquez described the pages as being as enduring as those of Sophocles.

Jumping between past and present, there’s uncertainty on where the line between the living and dead is drawn as the novel’s central character travels to the fictional ghost town of Comala to find his father upon his dying mother’s wish.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Pedro Páramo is among Salman Rushdie's six favorite surrealist books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Nine literary mysteries with a big winter mood

Ceillie Clark-Keane is a writer and editor based in Boston. Her work has been published by Electric Literature, the Ploughshares blog, Bustle, Oh Reader, and other outlets. She is a nonfiction reader for Salamander and Pangyrus.

At Electric Lit Clark-Keane tagged nine "cozy atmospheric books set in warm, dusty libraries and grand old houses," including:
Possession by A.S. Byatt

Novelist and literary critic A.S. Byatt died last year, and if you haven’t read her Booker-winning Possession yet, now is the time. In the novel, Roland Michell is an American scholar unhappy with his position researching the fictional Victorian poet Randolph Henry Ash and unsure whether he will commit to his girlfriend, his academic career, and his life in London. When he finds a stray document in the archive that suggests a relationship between the subject of his research and another fictional Victorian poet Christabel LaMotte, he steals it from the London Library. Roland approaches Dr. Maud Bailey, an expert on LaMotte, and together they search libraries, texts, archives, and even closed-up rooms in a cold, drafty old country house to get to the bottom of the literary mystery. Even better, they fall in love while doing so.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Possession also appears on Emily Temple's list of the twelve best descriptions of flowers in literature, Jae-Yeon Yoo's list of ten books about the importance of the post office, Paraic O’Donnell's top ten list of modern Victorian novels, a list of four books that changed Charlie Lovett, Michelle Dean's list of the six best books about university life, Kelly Anderson's top five list of books for newlyweds, Rebecca Mead's list of six favorite books that illuminate the Victorian era, Marina Warner's ten top list of fairytales, Ester Bloom's top ten list of fictional feminists, Niall Williams's list of ten of the best books that manage to make heroes out of readers, Kyle Minor's list of fifteen of the hottest affairs in literature, Emily Temple's list of the fifty greatest campus novels ever written, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best fossils in literature, ten of the most memorable libraries in literature, ten of the best fictional poets, ten of the best locks of hair in fiction, ten of the best graveyard scenes in fiction, and ten of the best lawyers in literature, and on Rachel Syme's list of the ten most attractive men in literature, Christina Koning's critic's chart of six top romances, and Elizabeth Kostova's top ten list of books for winter nights.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 22, 2024

Seven top mysteries set in the Pacific Northwest

When Paula Charles isn't writing under the towering trees of the Pacific Northwest, she can be found in the garden with her hands in the dirt or sitting on her front porch with a good book and a glass of iced tea. She has a love for small towns, ghost stories, and pie. During her childhood, she grew up in a town suspiciously resembling the fictional Pine Bluff, Oregon where she trailed behind her grandmother in the family's hardware store until her grandmother would get fed up and put her to work counting nails. She is a member of Sisters in Crime. Charles lives on a small farm in Southwestern Washington with her husband, two furry dogs, two naughty goats, a handful of cackling chickens, a teeny tiny bunny rabbit, and one adventurous kitty cat.

Her new novel is Hammers and Homicide.

At CrimeReads Charles tagged "seven crime reads that overflow with the spirit of Cascadia," including:
Hidden Pieces, Mary Keliikoa

Let’s take a detour over to the northern Oregon coast in Mary Keliikoa’s Hidden Pieces. Sheriff Jax Turner is at the end of his rope when a call comes in that a fourteen-year-old girl left for the school bus stop one morning, but never made it onto the bus. Her backpack is found in an unregistered sex offender’s car, and as the case begins to echo a cold case from Jax’s early career, he’s bound and determined to rescue the girl and not repeat the mistakes of the past. The setting is impeccable and moody with towering trees and sideways rain. The fact that it transports the reader to my beloved northern Oregon coast doesn’t hurt one little bit.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Five of the best island thrillers

Alex Michaelides was born and raised in Cyprus. He has an M.A. in English Literature from Trinity College, Cambridge University, and an M.A. in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. The Silent Patient was his first novel, debuting at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and has sold more than 6.5 million copies worldwide. The rights have been sold in a record-breaking 51 countries, and the book has been optioned for film by Plan B. His second novel, The Maidens, was an instant New York Times bestseller and has been optioned for television by Miramax Television and Stone Village.

Michaelides's new novel is The Fury.

At the Waterstones blog he tagged five of his favorite island thrillers, including:
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

I love this book. It contains the kind of twist that is a visceral, physical punch in the gut, spinning the entire story upside down, forcing you to re-evaluate everything you have taken for granted until that point. Ostensibly it’s about a US Marshall who investigates the disappearance of a psychiatric patient in a prison asylum on a small island. But as his investigation proceeds, something doesn’t feel right – until the twist confirms our suspicion in a way you never anticipate. The imagination and ingenuity in the plotting of this book are simply astonishing.
Read about the other entries on his list.

Shutter Island is among Michelle Adams's five top thrillers in which memory is unreliable, at best.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Seven titles with fictional characters in search of utopias

Tara Isabella Burton is the author of the novels Social Creature, The World Cannot Give, and Here in Avalon, as well as the nonfiction books Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World and Self-Made: Curating Our Image from Da Vinci to the Kardashians. She is currently working on a history of magic and modernity.

At Lit Hub she tagged seven titles
about ordinary human beings trying—whether through travel, religion, or political experiment—to transcend the seemingly mundane world they’re living in, and to seek enchantment outside their everyday lives.
One of Burton's inspirations:
R.O. Kwon, The Incendiaries

Equal parts campus novel and cult story, R.O. Kwon’s 2018 The Incendiaries follows Phoebe Lin, a failed piano prodigy coping with the loss of her mother, as she falls under the influence of John Leal, a mysterious half-Korean activist whose equally shadowy organization, Jejah, may in fact be more cult-like than he lets on.

A novel about the close connection between love and violence, and how those who prey upon the world’s lost and loneliest souls use that connection to their advantage, The Incendiaries is currently in development as a limited series.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 19, 2024

Nine top fantasy & science fiction mysteries

Amy Avery is a graphic designer and a lifelong lover of fantasy living in Wichita, Kansas. In her spare time, she co-hosts the writing craft podcast And It's Writing. She can also be found watching cooking shows with her husband, crafting cocktails, or catering to the whims of a rather demanding tuxedo cat.

Avery's new novel is The Longest Autumn.

At CrimeReads she tagged nine of her "favorite fantasy and science fiction mysteries," including:
Voyage of the Damned by Frances White

This fantasy novel releasing January 2024 features twelve magical heirs of a kingdom–one from each province–embarking on a luxury ship for a pilgrimage to their sacred mountain. On the first night, one of their number is murdered. As the unwelcome, low-class pariah of the group, suspicion falls on Ganymedes Piscero. He searches for the true killer while guarding a secret of his own. He’s the only one on the ship without magic. It’s a page-turner of a book that’s equal parts humor, heart, and mystery.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Five books about regretting that cult you joined

Olivie Blake is the New York Times bestselling author of The Atlas Six, Alone with You in the Ether, One for My Enemy, and Masters of Death. As Alexene Farol Follmuth, she is also the author of the young adult rom-coms My Mechanical Romance and Twelfth Knight. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, goblin prince/toddler, and rescue pit bull.

At Blake tagged five books that reckon with the "human question of what a person is willing to sacrifice—and what the compromising of their humanity will cost.... [T]hey each follow the tightening, irresistible maelstrom of the human psyche when it comes to facing which of a person’s principles they are willing to betray." One title on the list:
Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko

Vita Nostra proves that being recruited by a strange man to a mysterious, isolated academy for magic doesn’t always go down like butterbeer. This book is a fever dream, actively nauseating with its crescendoing surreality, and to Sasha’s credit, she is less invited to join the Institute of Special Technologies cult (okay sure, “school”) than she is forced. Still, Sasha’s ongoing pursuit of her own inherent value and worthiness of companionship and/or achievement means that despite the complicated academic system and the beautiful, empathetic things the series as a whole has to say about life, it predominantly feels like when you’re studying to set the curve or die trying.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Five titles featuring women who use beauty as currency

Celine Saintclare, described as "one to watch" by Publishers Weekly, is a Buckinghamshire based author of English and Caribbean descent. She is motivated to write as a way of exploring the complexities of her own identity and to tell stories about society’s transgressors.

Her debut novel is Sugar, Baby.

At Lit Hub Saintclare tagged five titles featuring "women who paint and polish their beauty into a gleaming currency of its own. These women are aware of the way the world works and use their looks to their advantage in a patriarchal system." One title on the list:
Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

Another much-loved and frequently read favorite of mine. A detailed and gorgeously painted work of historical fiction that recounts the life story of Nitta Sayuri, who is sold by her family from a poor fishing village to a Geisha House in Kyoto where she learns the intricate customs of the competitive world of the Geishas, going on to become the most celebrated of them all. Sayuri experiences loss, friendship, fear, and love along her transformative journey which spans World War II.

The poignant images of the novel leave a mark on the reader as Sayuri learns the trade of feminine allure, of dance and music, of eroticism and ultimately how to hide her true feelings beneath the Geisha mask in order to become successful, though through it all, hope remains. A must-read!
Read about the other entries on the list.

Memoirs of a Geisha is one of Jojo Moyes's six favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Six of the best novels about missing persons

Adele Parks is the #1 Sunday Times bestselling author of twenty novels, including Lies Lies Lies and Just My Luck, as well as I Invited Her. Just My Luck is currently in development to be made into a movie.

[The Page 69 Test: I Invited Her InMy Book, The Movie: I Invited Her InQ&A with Adele ParksThe Page 69 Test: Lies, Lies, LiesMy Book, The Movie: Lies, Lies, LiesMy Book, The Movie: Just My Luck]

Parks's latest novel is Just Between Us.

At CrimeReads Parks tagged six of her favorite novels about missing persons and deeper mysteries. One novel on her list:
The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield

The oil business is booming in small-town North Dakota. With all the workers coming and going from the “man camps” set up to process the overflow of new town residents, it’s easy for people to disappear. Colleen and Shay couldn’t be more different, but they are united by the same mission: to find their missing sons. But the oil company that is at the heart of the town’s prosperity might also be at the center of these disappearances—or at the very least helping to cover them up.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 15, 2024

Top 10 books about Leonard Bernstein

Emily Burack is the Senior News Editor for Town & Country, where she covers entertainment, culture, the royals, and a range of other subjects.

At Town & Country she tagged ten top books about Leonard Bernstein, including:
Famous Father Girl: The Intimate Memoir of Leonard Bernstein and His Family That Helped Inspire the New Movie Maestro by Jamie Bernstein

This memoir of Leonard Bernstein, written by his daughter Jamie, partly inspired [Bradley] Cooper's Maestro. "There was simply no moment when Leonard Bernstein wasn't being a teacher," she writes. "It was words, above all, that he shared with us in all their glorious incarnations."
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Five notable novels set in hotels

Maria Hummel is a novelist and poet. Her books include Goldenseal, Lesson in Red, a follow-up to Still Lives, a Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine pick, a Book of the Month Club pick, and BBC Culture Best Book of 2018; Motherland, a San Francisco Chronicle Book of the Year; and House and Fire, winner of the APR/Honickman Poetry Prize.

At Lit Hub she tagged five "marvelous literary hotels," including:
Bohumil Hrabal, I Served the King of England

A cult favorite of many writers, this wonderful picaresque novel follows Ditie, who starts as a “tiny busboy’ and evolves, adventure by adventure, into a waiter and then the owner of a hotel. Hrabal’s humor-laced chapters blend satiric commentary on the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia with an adoring interest in the novel’s women and the meals Ditie serves to royalty. When the hotel kitchen produces a camel stuffed with two antelopes, twenty turkeys, fish, and hundreds of hard-boiled eggs, the turducken gets a memorable twist.

Despite the comic tone, the fact that Ditie never actually serves the King of England underscores the novel’s poignant depiction of a dreamer in a time of painful social change.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see S.K. Golden's six mystery novels set in hotels and Mark Watson's ten top hotel novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Six books with friends as family as a central theme

Lucy Connelly loves traveling the world, but her favorite place is at home with her dogs and family. That said, she's always up for adventure and is constantly on the lookout for killer inspiration--as in who will be the next killer in her books? She has a master's degree in humanities and enjoys learning all the things. And she's been published by many other names.

Connelly's new novel is Death at a Scottish Wedding.

[The Page 69 Test: Death at a Scottish Wedding]

At CrimeReads she tagged six titles that find their inspiration in the bonds of friendship, including:
Fourth Wing, by Rebecca Yarros

In Fourth Wing, by Rebecca Yarros, the heroine, Violet Sorrengail, has a family. Her mother and sister are strong dragon riders. But the friends she makes in the Rider’s Quadrant become her true family, which is why it hurts when some of them die while trying to succeed at the treacherous school. Violet is considered fragile and a target through most of the first book, but her friends help her become stronger by training her. And even though she comes up with clever ways around specific problems, her friends are always there for her, even if some of them are frenemies like Xaden Riorson. The twist is that although some friends are protective of her, they may not be doing what is best for Violet’s personal growth. Sometimes, those frenemies do far more for her than she could have ever imagined. But she needs her friends if she is to survive.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 12, 2024

Seven notable books set in Turkey

İnci Atrek is a writer living in Istanbul by way of London, San Francisco, Dublin, Singapore, and two tiny towns in France.

Holiday Country is her debut novel.

At Electric Lit she tagged seven
novels, memoirs, and collections in which Turkey is thrown into high relief. In other words, books reflecting the experiences of those getting to know Turkey—or a new Turkey—inch by inch. Everything to them is peculiar, fascinating, worthy of exploration. It’s that time when all the senses are on high alert. Before everything fades into the background, and becomes once again, the setting for life as usual.
One title on the list:
Portrait of a Turkish Family by İrfan Orga

Orga’s memoirs from childhood begin while he’s living in the lap of luxury, with house staff in a konak in the heart of Ottoman Istanbul. In the summer of 1914, his bourgeois world grinds to a halt with the onset of WWI. This book chronicles Istanbul’s transformation as the Ottoman Empire transitions to the Turkish Republic through the lens of a single family. Perhaps most aptly symbolized by Orga’s grandmother, who refuses to abandon her aristocratic airs as life falls apart around her, it’s a tale of pride and survival, and of how to rebuild life again and again without losing hope.
Learn about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Five great thrillers with social commentary

Amber and Danielle Brown both graduated from Rider University where they studied Communications / Journalism and sat on the editorial staff for the On Fire!! literary journal. They then pursued a career in fashion and spent five years in NYC working their way up, eventually managing their own popular fashion and lifestyle blog. Amber is also a screenwriter, so they live in LA, which works out perfectly so Danielle can spoil her plant babies with copious amount of sunshine. Perfect Little Lives is their latest novel.

At CrimeReads the authors tagged five great thrillers that balance suspense with social commentary. One title on the list:
When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole

Alyssa Cole’s debut thriller set in gentrified Brooklyn is brilliant because it takes something that a lot of us don’t think about often even though we see it happening before our eyes and makes it extremely ominous. When No One Is Watching is an entire vibe, an insidious, chilling ride with a twist that’s shocking but not far from the realm of possibility, which makes it even more menacing. Cole’s exploration of the horror of gentrification for the longtime black residents in this neighborhood is complex and cutting. There’s also a subplot involving a supporting character with a reveal you won’t see coming that deepens and grounds the story in the best way.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Twenty-five of the best classic winter books

Emily Burack is the Senior News Editor for Town & Country, where she covers entertainment, culture, the royals, and a range of other subjects.

At Town & Country she tagged twenty-five of the best classic winter books to read by the fire, including:
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

In 1920 Alaska, recent arrivals Jack and Mabel arrive to create a homestead. During the first snowfall of the season, they make a child out of snow—the next morning, their creation is gone, but a blonde-haired girl named Faina appears in the woods. Author Eowyn Ivey was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for this book.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Snow Child is among Idra Novey's top ten retold fairytales, Ashleigh Bell Pedersen's eight magical novels by women writers and M. A. Kuzniar's eight retellings with a bite of darkness.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Seven coming-of-age titles from around the world

Aube Rey Lescure is a French-Chinese-American writer. She grew up between Provence, northern China, and Shanghai, and graduated from Yale University in 2015. She worked in foreign policy before becoming an itinerant writer.

Her debut novel is River East, River West.

At Electric Lit the author tagged seven books from around the globe "about young people growing up too fast, too hard, too weird, too tenderly because they live in places where the setting is a driving force for complicated youths." One title on the list:
Burundi: Small Country by Gaël Faye, translated by Sarah Ardizzone

“To live somewhere,” Faye writes, “is to melt carnally into the topography of a place.” In the musician’s debut novel, we meet 10 year-old Gaby, a French-Rwandan boy living in 1990s Bujumbura, Burundi, in a bougainvillea-filled cul-de-sac of the Kinanira neighborhood. He attends the French school, steals and gorges on the neighbor’s mangoes with his band of mostly mixed-race friends, picnics by the glittering lake with his family. Due to inflation, everyone in Bujumbura is a millionaire; democratic elections are on the horizon, neighborhood bars called cabarets brim with colorful opinions and artisanal liquor.

Gaby’s innocent childhood cracks open when his Rwandan mother and French father split up—on their last outing as a family, following a muddy forest trek and a visit to the palm oil factory where his father supervises a colonial enterprise, Gaby notes that the palm oil came to spoil the happiness of his childhood, mixing into the dissolution of his parents’ marriage. In neighboring Rwanda, ethnic tensions are coming to a boiling point, and Gaby’s visit to Kigali with his mother for an uncle’s wedding is full of chilling precursors of the genocide to come. Soon, the unthinkable happens, and Gaby’s once innocent band of boys—who’d smoked cigarettes at his 11th birthday party by a crocodile carcass, who’d picked idle fights over small neighborhood squabbles—are buying grenades off the black market and arming to guard the neighborhood as violence spills across the border. Years later, the cul-de-sac once teeming with great trees is now bare, barricaded with tall walled compounds and barbed wires. But the cabaret— the ubiquitous neighborhood bars where obscurity reigns and tongue are set loose, where the real country, this “small country where everyone knows everyone,”—still stands, and Gaby returns to see if he can still find memories of home and the ghosts who haunt him.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 8, 2024

Thirteen top dark academia titles

At B&N Reads Kat Sarfas tagged thirteen top "moody, atmospheric novels [that] transport you to the hallowed halls of higher education and the cut-throat competition, shadowy secret societies, and forbidden romance within." One title on the list:
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

In typical Ishiguro fashion, prepare to have your heart ripped out and then put back in again, even better than it was before. It’s the twisting tale of reassessing the past and what makes us who we are, and it will linger long after the last page. Also, it won the Nobel Prize.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Never Let Me Go is on Raul Palma's list of seven stories about falling into debt, 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

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Ten literary slogs that are worth the effort

Emily Temple is the author of The Lightness and the Managing Editor at Literary Hub. She earned her MFA in fiction from the University of Virginia, where she was the recipient of a Henfield Prize.

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

At Flavorwire in 2012 she tagged ten "notorious literary slogs — long, difficult, and/or complicated enough to scare even the strongest reader — that are definitely worth the effort." One title on the list:
Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy

It’s not the length of this novel that keeps some people pushing it to the bottom of their to-read pile, but rather the sheer, unrelenting bleak-and-bloody of it. We don’t have much to say to you on that score — it’s bleak, and it’s bloody, and it stays that way all the way through, with very little let up. That said, even if descriptions of scalping are not your thing, the book is worth reading for McCarthy’s masterful use of language, his perfect, terrifyingly evocative sentences that leave you feeling the dust in your mouth. Then again, if descriptions of scalping are your thing, boy do we have the book for you.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Blood Meridian is one authority's pick for the Great Texas novel; it is among Kevin McColley's five best books about surviving war (or not), Bruce McCandless III's top six books about crime & colonialism at the U.S.-Mexico border, Paul Howarth's top ten tales from the frontier, Craig DiLouie’s ten top fantasy books steeped in the Southern Gothic, Graham McTavish's six best books, ShortList's roundup of literature's forty greatest villains, Brian Boone's five great novels that will probably never be made into movies, Sarah Porter's five best books with unusual demons and devils, Chet Williamson's top ten novels about deranged killers, Callan Wink's ten best books set in the American West, Simon Sebag Montefiore's six favorite books, Richard Kadrey's five books about awful, awful people, Jason Sizemore's top five books that will entertain and drop you into the depths of despair, Robert Allison's top ten novels of desert war, Alexandra Silverman's top fourteen wrathful stories, James Franco's six favorite books, Philipp Meyer's five best books that explain America, Peter Murphy's top ten literary preachers, David Vann's six favorite books, Robert Olmstead's six favorite books, Michael Crummey's top ten literary feuds, Philip Connors's top ten wilderness books, six books that made a difference to Kazuo Ishiguro, Clive Sinclair's top 10 westerns, Maile Meloy's six best books, and David Foster Wallace's five direly underappreciated post-1960 U.S. novels. It appears on the New York Times list of the best American fiction of the last 25 years and among the top ten works of literature according to Stephen King.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Five novels featuring many different points of view

Caz Frear grew up in Coventry, England, and spent her teenage years dreaming of moving to London and writing a novel. After fulfilling her first dream, it wasn’t until she moved back to Coventry thirteen years later that the second finally came true. She has a degree in History & Politics, and when she’s not agonizing over snappy dialogue or incisive prose, she can be found shouting at Arsenal football matches or holding court in the pub on topics she knows nothing about.

[The Page 69 Test: Sweet Little LiesThe Page 69 Test: Stone Cold HeartThe Page 69 Test: Shed No Tears]

Five Bad Deeds is her latest novel.

At CrimeReads Frear tagged five crime novels featuring many different points of view. One title on the list:
Kill Show – Daniel Sweren-Becker

A very recent read. This story centres on the disappearance of teenager, Sara Parcell, who disappears one morning on her way to school – so far, so standard. However, this book is anything but conventional, told as it is in interview format, with key players from the investigation – the police, the journalists, the family, the friends, the armchair detectives – all having their say about what happened to Sara and the part they played. Documentary-style narratives can be divisive, but I challenge anyone not to be drawn into this twisty, propulsive tale.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 5, 2024

Eight novels about memory loss

Emily Schultz is the author of Sleeping With Friends and the forthcoming, Brooklyn Kills Me. She is the co-founder of Joyland Magazine. Her last novel, Little Threats, was named an Apple Books Best of 2020 pick. Her novel, The Blondes, was named a Best Book of 2015 by NPR and Kirkus. The Blondes was produced as a scripted podcast starring Madeline Zima (Twin Peaks), and created by Schultz and Brian J Davis. Translated into French, German, and Spanish it had over one million listeners worldwide.

At Electric Lit Schultz tagged eight novels that "begin with the idea that memory loss could be something more than the act of forgetting. Each of these books take a risk, and offer something original, strange, and fantastic." One title on the list:
In the Woods by Tana French

Gripping from the first word, Tana French has become known as a mystery maven for a reason. In this first book of her Dublin Murder Squad series, we begin by being taken into the narrator’s confidence about what he cannot trust of memory. We’re then launched into a precise police-report style recounting of a crime from 1984 of missing children in the woods near Knocknaree. It turns out our detective, Rob Ryan, is actually one of the victims—the one left alive. Trauma has taken his memories of that event. Rob now works as an investigator, so this is a double-case narrative. A 12-year-old girl has gone missing from the same woods, and he has to solve it—while also combing through his own traumatic past.
Read about the other entries on the list.

In the Woods is among Gabino Iglesias's fifty best mysteries of all time, Kate Robards's five thrillers unfolding in wooded seclusion, Paula Hawkins's five novels with criminal acts at their heart, Alafair Burke's top ten books about amnesia, Caz Frear's five top open-ended novels, Gabriel Bergmoser's top ten horror novels, Kate White's favorite thrillers with a main character who can’t remember what matters most, Kathleen Donohoe's ten top titles about missing persons, Jessica Knoll's ten top thrillers, Tara Sonin's twenty-five unhappy books for Valentine’s Day, Krysten Ritter's six favorite mysteries, Megan Reynolds's top ten books you must read if you loved Gone Girl, Emma Straub's ten top books that mimic the feeling of a summer vacation, the Barnes & Noble Review's five top books from Ireland's newer voices, and Judy Berman's ten fantastic novels with disappointing endings.

The Page 69 Test: In the Woods.

--Marshal Zeringue