Friday, May 22, 2015

Melissa Grey

Melissa Grey is a writer of young adult fiction powered entirely by candlelight and cups of tea. She can also ride a horse and shoot a bow and arrow at the same time.

Grey's debut novel is The Girl at Midnight.

Earlier this month I asked the author about what she was reading. Grey's reply:
I like having several irons in the fire when it comes to reading. If I want to prolong one book or if I hit a spot that isn’t right for whatever mood I’m in, I can pick something else up and not lose my reading momentum. Here’s what I’m reading right now:

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman – This is a book I’ve tried to read several times but the timing was never quite right. It’s one of those books where I really needed to be in the right frame of mind for the story’s slowly building atmosphere. Gaiman’s prose is beautiful and I’m really enjoying how he’s slowly building the mythology around Anansi and his sons.

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman – I’m on a Gaiman kick right now (let’s be real, my whole life is a Neil Gaiman kick). I love his short fiction – he’s a particular talent for making you believe his stories are the tips of icebergs. You’re getting a snippet of a world that you know in your heart is so much bigger than that one short piece of fiction.

Get In Trouble by Kelly Link – I had first come across Kelly Link when a friend lent me Pretty Monsters, another short story collection, and I was blown away. Naturally, I rushed to pick this one up at the bookshop as soon as it came out. Like Gaiman, Link has an uncanny ability to build worlds of which you , another short story collection, and I was blown away. Naturally, I rushed to pick this one up at the bookshop as soon as it came out. Like Gaiman, Link has an uncanny ability to build worlds of which you see glimpses (and they always leave you feeling satisfied but also wanting more).

The Bread We Eat in Dreams by Catherynne Valente – And yet another short story collection! I’m super into short stories right now. I’m a huge fan of Valente – Deathless is a masterpiece, Palimpsest is like no other book I’ve ever read, and The Melancholy of Mechagirl is the kind of gorgeous writing that I can only aspire to. My favorite story in this collection so far is “A Voice Like a Hole.”
Visit Melissa Grey's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Charlotte DeCroes Jacobs

Charlotte D. Jacobs, M.D. is the Ben and A. Jess Shenson Professor of Medicine (Emerita) at Stanford University. A native of Kingsport, Tennessee, she graduated from the University of Rochester and studied medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. As a professor at Stanford University, she engaged in teaching, cancer research, and patient care. She has served as Senior Associate Dean and as Director of the Clinical Cancer Center. Her academic honors include election to Phi Beta Kappa, Kaiser Foundation Award for Innovative and Outstanding Contributions to Medical Education, Rambar Award for Excellence in Clinical Care, and the Distinguished Alumni Award from Washington University. She has published ninety scientific articles and three books which reflect her cancer and medical education research. She currently cares for veterans with cancer at the Palo Alto Veterans Medical Center.

Jacobs's first biography, Henry Kaplan and the Story of Hodgkin’s Disease, was published in 2010. Her new biography is Jonas Salk: A Life.

Recently I asked Jacobs about what she was reading. Her reply:
I tend to read and study nonfiction books. Two of my favorites are Candice Millard’s River of Doubt and more recently Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat. Both are master storytellers who have mastered the craft of narrative nonfiction.

As for fiction, I am addicted to Jhumpa Lahiri’s stories and anxiously await her next work.
Visit Charlotte Jacobs's website.

My Book, The Movie: Jonas Salk: A Life.

The Page 99 Test: Jonas Salk: A Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ed Ifkovic

Ed Ifkovic taught literature and creative writing at a community college in Connecticut for more than three decades and now devotes himself to writing fiction.

His new book is Café Europa, his sixth Edna Ferber mystery.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Ifkovic's reply:
One of many delights I have in my occasional lunches with my friend Carole Shmurak, a follow mystery writer, is our discussion of books currently being read. Recently Carole mentioned a book—and, in fact, a writer—I was unfamiliar with. The book was L. A. Requiem, and the author Robert Crais. Somehow this well-regarded novel had gone unnoticed by me—but not for long. Carole’s praise and enthusiasm inspired me to purchase the paperback that very afternoon, and I am now in the middle of reading the novel.

And revelation it is: I know I’ll be devouring all of Crais’ works in short order. It’s a habit formed as a bookish teenager. Whenever I discovered any writer I liked, I’d haunt the public library in town until I’d exhausted every volume on the shelves. Back then, I remember, I’d read George Eliot’s Silas Marner, and proceeded to read everything—including the ponderous book-length poem The Spanish Gypsy—to the point of exhaustion. The librarian even sent home a note to my mother, questioning my insane behavior. I went through Galsworthy, A. J. Cronin, Edna Ferber, and James Michener. And all of Patricia Wentworth’s mysteries! My tackling of the published works of Crais will be a thrill. I can count on that.

L.A. Requiem a fascinating novel, a mystery, true, but more so a complex, intricate novel that explores varying perspectives and plot lines with galvanizing dialogue and terse, breezy prose. Flashbacks in the third person alternate with omniscient points of view. Packed with hard-boiled street jargon in the tradition of, say, James Cain, the novel tackles monumental themes in the guise of being a simple mystery—who murdered troubled partner Joe Pike’s ex-girlfriend, Karen Garcia? Woven into that investigation is a rich, varying tapestry of intrigue, question, and wonder.

The minute I finish reading it I will have to begin reading it again. It’s a primer for any student who picks up a pen to write a novel.
Visit Ed Ifkovic's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 18, 2015

Linda Grimes

Linda Grimes is a former English teacher and ex-actress now channeling her love of words and drama into writing. She grew up in Texas and currently resides in northern Virginia with her husband. Grimes is the author of In a Fix, Quick Fix, and the newly released The Big Fix.

Earlier this month I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Reading? Hahahaha! I remember reading. It was fun. I miss it.

Okay, I'm in the middle of the craziness surrounding the release of book three (The Big Fix) of my series, so I haven't had as much time to devote to reading for pleasure as I'd like, but a recent read that I absolutely adored is Bright Before Sunrise, by Tiffany Schmidt. It's a young adult novel that takes place over the course of twenty-four hours. The story is told from the alternating points of view of Jonah, the new guy in school who has no desire to even try to fit in, and Brighton, the painfully perfect girl who makes time to help everyone except herself. Their awkward—and sometimes downright awful—night together ultimately left me with a warm spot in my heart. Though I am fervently grateful I am no longer a teenager, it was great to revisit the adolescent arena via this thoughtful and well-written book.
Visit Linda Grimes's website.

My Book, The Movie: In a Fix.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Nancy Thayer

Nancy Thayer's many novels include Summer House, The Hot Flash Club, Beachcombers, Heat Wave, Summer Breeze, Island Girls, and the newly released The Guest Cottage.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Thayer's reply:
Only last week did I discover that my sister Martha, who lives half the continent away, has what she calls “Just Before Bed” reading—and I had thought I was the only one.

We both have problems with insomnia, and both of us are mystery fiends. But it’s hard to fall asleep wondering who just eviscerated /poisoned/strangled a victim, so we buy another book and save it to read just before turning off the light.

I’m currently reading A Cold Dish by Craig Johnson. It’s not terribly gory, but it’s a good mystery with compelling characters and the plot does have me guessing, so I also have Jan Karon’s At Home in Mitford on my bedside table. One of her charming, humorous chapters is perfect for reminding me that the world is really a wonderful place. My favorite “Just Before Bed” reading is any of Spencer Quinn’s mysteries written from the point of view of a very funny dog named Chet. They combines mystery with laugh-out-loud humor. A good loud laugh before bed is just what the psychiatrist ordered!
Visit Nancy Thayer's website.

The Page 69 Test: Summer House.

The Page 69 Test: Beachcombers.

My Book, The Movie: Beachcombers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 15, 2015

Dan Pope

Dan Pope is the author of Housebreaking (Simon & Schuster, 2015) and In the Cherry Tree (Picador USA, 2003).

His short stories have appeared in many journals, including Crazyhorse, Harvard Review, Iowa Review, McSweeney's (No. 4), Shenandoah, Gettysburg Review, and others.

He is a 2002 graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop, where he attended on a Truman Capote Fellowship. He is a winner of the Glenn Schaeffer Award from the International Institute of Modern Letters, and grants in fiction from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts.

Recently I asked Pope about what he was reading. His reply:
At present I'm reading Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner. I picked it up because I kept hearing fantastic things about the author from my writer friends. I can see why now. I'm about halfway through the novel, and she does so many things so effortlessly -- she dips in and out of the heads of a large cast of characters, renders a foreign place (Cuba in the 1950s) with startling sensuousness, and jumps across multiple time frames without losing a beat. There's not so much a plot as an evocation of a lost world.

I'm also nearing the end of The Adults by Alison Espach. I was attracted to this book by its cover, I must admit, in the hardcover version. Plus I must confess a fondness for novels about suburban malaise and misdeeds in Connecticut. And Espach throws in a highschool teacher-student romance, to boot. She's snappy, alert, and hilarious as a writer, and then she sneaks up on you with the heartbreak of her characters. I can't wait to see how it turns out. (At the moment, the main character is walking around Prague with a dead dog in a suitcase. That might sound absurd, but the book is anything but.)
Visit Dan Pope's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Elyssa Friedland

Elyssa Friedland graduated from Columbia University School of Law in 2007 and subsequently worked as an associate at a major firm.

Her debut novel is Love and Miss Communication.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Friedland's reply:
I just finished the astounding Room by Emma Donoghue. This is not an easy read. The book is written from the perspective of five-year-old Jack who is trapped along with his mother in the tiny room (hence the title) where he was born and is being held captive. As a mother of young children, the subject matter was grueling, but Donoghue’s immense story-telling and writing talent made the book impossible to put down. How she managed to capture the thoughts of a small child so accurately and in a way that adults could still find compelling is an inspiration to me as a writer. I had one major problem with the plot which I won’t give away for fear of spoiling the novel, but other than that, I have nothing but praise for the book and awe of the writer.

Before that I read Big, Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. This book was a lot of fun and really spoke to me as a mother of pre-school age children. The nursery school environment can be catty at times, but behind the light-hearted gossip there are some families going through real struggles. Moriarty nails this perfectly and her book is a perfect blend of humor and substance. That is something I tried to achieve in my novel so I will definitely be reading Moriarty’s other books (The Husband’s Secret and What Alice Forgot among others).
Visit Elyssa Friedland's website.

The Page 69 Test: Love and Miss Communication.

My Book, The Movie: Love and Miss Communication.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Esther Friesner

Nebula Award winner Esther Friesner is the author of more than 30 novels and over 150 short stories, including the story “Thunderbolt” in Random House’s Young Warriors anthology, which lead to the creation of Nobody’s Princess and Nobody’s Prize. She is also the editor of seven popular anthologies. Her works have been published around the world. Educated at Vassar College and Yale University, where she taught for a number of years, Friesner is also a poet, a playwright, and once wrote an advice column, “Ask Auntie Esther.”

Her latest novel is Deception's Pawn.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Friesner's reply:
I admit it: I read comic books. It doesn't matter if they are living under assumed names like "graphic novel" or "mana," I read them. A lot. And I am always happy when I come across one that I have not met up with before that turns out to be a real winner. That proved to be the case of The Shadow Hero.

I'm familiar with the work of one of the creators, Gene Yuen Lang (though not that of the other, Sonny Liew, until now). I really enjoyed his American Born Chinese and the duology Boxers and Saints.

The Shadow Hero is the backstory created for an obscure comic book hero, the Green Turtle, who well may have been the first Chinese superhero, though the Powers That Were did all they could to downplay that. The samples of original Green Turtle issues at the back of The Shadow Hero are as racist as any of the old Bugs Bunny cartoons where he's fighting the Japanese during World War II because that's what the Green Turtle's doing, too.

There's a lot to love in The Shadow Hero but from my extremely subjective point of view two of the best things about it are the use of humor and the wonderful characterization. My favorite character is the hero's mother, hands down. She is every mother who ever believed that nothing was beyond her child's ability to achieve. She's a force of nature powered by love. Do not stand in her way! (Probably good advice when dealing with all mothers.)

Will there be a sequel? Pleeeeeease?
Learn more about the book and author at the Princesses of Myth website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Spirit's Princess.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Gwendolyn Womack

Originally from Houston, Texas, Gwendolyn Womack began writing plays in college while freezing in the tundra at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She received an MFA from CalArts in Directing for theater and film and was a semi-finalist in the Academy’s Nicholl Fellowship. She currently she resides in California and can be found at her keyboard.

The newly released The Memory Painter is Womack's first novel.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Womack's reply:
I tend to read a lot of nonfiction for story research but I try to break for some purely leisure reading when I can. Recently, I finished Publishing by Gail Godwin, which was a fascinating look at her experiences through the years in the publishing industry.

And currently I’m reading two books at the same time, something I actually never do but somehow it’s happened and I love them both. The first is All The Light We Cannot See, which everyone has already read but me. Anthony Doerr’s writing is transcendent, illuminating and filled with such beauty and precision that sometimes passages have me holding my breath. I’m also reading Alexis Landau’s debut novel Empire of the Senses, which is set right about the same time period. She is an exquisite painter with words and the characters are captivating.

Next on my list to read is The Witch of Painted Sorrows by MJ Rose, a story about a witch in belle époque Paris that sounds fantastic and The Girl On A Train by Paula Hawkins because I love thrillers and gobble them up whenever I can.
Visit Gwendolyn Womack's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 11, 2015

Heidi Pitlor

Heidi Pitlor grew up in Concord, Massachusetts. She got her B.A. from McGill University in Montreal and moved out to Colorado, where in Denver and Boulder she worked as a nanny, receptionist, freelance writer, bus girl, rape crisis counselor and counselor to homeless and runaway teenagers. She moved back to Massachusetts to earn her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Emerson College and worked as a temp at Houghton Mifflin Company. Soon after, she was hired as an editorial assistant in the company's trade division. She eventually became an editor and later a senior editor at Houghton Mifflin (now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). She wrote fiction early in the mornings before work and published her first novel, The Birthdays, in 2006. She has been the series editor of The Best American Short Stories since 2007. Her writing has appeared in such publications as Ploughshares, The Huffington Post, and Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today's Best Women Writers.

Pitlor's new novel is The Daylight Marriage.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
The Wonder Garden, by Lauren Acampora

I'm not sure where this story writer has been all my life, but I tore through her first book, a collection. Here are deceptively simple, masterful stories of lives in a tony New York suburb. I know, I know, we're all sick of reading about suburbia, but we shouldn't be, because still, some of our best fiction comes from those quiet, well-behaved towns just far enough from urban centers. Acampora's writing is crisp and dark and bright at the same time. She is a writer to watch.
Visit Heidi Pitlor's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Daylight Marriage.

My Book, the Movie: The Daylight Marriage.

--Marshal Zeringue