Thursday, July 31, 2014

Katrina Leno

Katrina Leno grew up in Connecticut and spent her childhood summers by the shore in Massachusetts, where The Half Life of Molly Pierce, her first novel, takes place. Leno was first published at the age of sixteen in the Connecticut Review and now holds an MFA in creative writing.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt. I read about 20% of this book before I went to sleep on a Monday night, and I finished the rest of it while flying cross-country the following day. I love reading a book blind—I don’t like to read many descriptions or reviews beforehand, because inevitably your reading of the book will then by tainted by other peoples’ reading of the book. So I’d only heard whispers of this (mostly people saying how much they enjoyed it), and I think it’s the sort of book where going in blind makes it all the more satisfying.

I loved this book from first chapter to last line. I loved the narrator. I loved the way Reinhardt handled the subject matter. I loved all the secondary characters. I especially loved the unique narration (although lots of people on the internet are saying it’s written in the second person, but it isn’t. It’s first person with a second person audience, which I think is a very important distinction. This is not a “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure” novel). This is one of those books I finished and thought to myself “Damn. I wish I had written this.”
Visit Katrina Leno's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ed Lin

Ed Lin is the author of several books and is an all-around standup kinda guy. Waylaid and This Is a Bust were both published by Kaya Press in 2002 and 2007, respectively, and both were widely praised. Both also won the Members’ Choice Awards in the Asian American Literary Awards. His third book, Snakes Can’t Run, was published by Minotaur Books in April 2010; it was loved by many and also won an Asian American Literary Award, and was followed by in One Red Bastard 2012. Lin, who is of Taiwanese and Chinese descent, is the first author to win three Asian American Literary Awards.

Lin's new novel is Ghost Month.

Not too long ago I asked the author about what he was reading. Lin's reply:
I love reading musicians' autobiographies, maybe because I had always wanted to be in a fully functioning band. Miles Davis, Chuck Berry and Brian Wilson have all penned incredible books and now Dead Boy co-founder Cheetah Chrome has joined them with the publication of A Dead Boy's Tale: From the Front Lines of Punk Rock. Best live-on-stage photo caption ever: "I think I got thrown in jail after this gig."

It took me three months to read Luo Guanzhong's 2,200-page Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the Moss Roberts translation published by Beijing's Foreign Languages Press. It's a classic Chinese novel, but over the centuries the story of China's dissolution at the end of the Han Dynasty and reconstitution has grown to capture the imagination of East and Southeast Asia. Guan Yu, one of the book's historical characters, is recognized as a god in Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist pantheons. Worship doesn't end there. Countless videogames, films and shows are based on stories from the book. You'd think that reading of endless wars, palace intrigue and intra-army deceptions-upon-deceptions would be tiresome, but that's not the case at all. Strategies may lead to the taking of entire towns or end a sentence later with a single blow to the head from Guan Yu's moonblade. Riveting to the last page.

One of the best and most memorable books I've read in the latest 12 months was The Albino Album by Chavisa Woods. It's the story of a strange young orphan with an unpronounceable name who follows her instincts. You know you like a book when you fight about it. This jerk was trying to tear The Albino Album apart by thumbing through it, and reading out loud sentences he found banal. I blurted out, "That's like saying a beautiful mosaic sucks because it's made from a bunch of shitty, broken shells!" I am not friends with this guy nor will I be friends with anybody who dislikes this book, so goddamn read it and love it already.
Visit Ed Lin's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Snakes Can't Run.

The Page 69 Test: One Red Bastard.

My Book, The Movie: Ghost Month.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 28, 2014

Tammy Kaehler

Before trying her hand at fiction, Tammy Kaehler established a career writing marketing materials, feature articles, executive speeches, and technical documentation. A fateful stint in corporate hospitality introduced her to the racing world, which inspired the first Kate Reilly racing mystery. Kaehler works as a technical writer in the Los Angeles area, where she lives with her husband and many cars.

Kaehler's new novel, Avoidable Contact, is the third Kate Reilly racing mystery.

Earlier this month I asked the author about what she was reading. Kaehler's reply:
I tend to read a lot of female authors, because I belong to an organization that puts on a Festival of Women Authors every year, and I’m constantly reading to evaluate potential guests. My current list is no exception….

I’m in the middle of Lian Dolan’s Elizabeth the First Wife in order to recommend the author for our event. It seems that Dolan and I graduated from the same college, only five years apart, and we have a mutual contact who recommended Dolan’s books so highly, I had to pick one up. At the halfway point, I’m glad to report that the advance praise I heard is accurate. Elizabeth is a funny, lighthearted novel about relationships (romantic and otherwise) and self-discovery, set in Pasadena, California, and Ashland, Oregon. I’m really enjoying Dolan’s voice and her wry wit.

The second book I’m working on—one chapter at a time, during my lunch hour at work—is a flash-back to my college days as a linguistics and anthropology major: That’s Not What I Meant! by Deborah Tannen. I manage and mentor a number of people at my day job, and I’ve been trying to help many of them communicate better in recent months. I’ve read Tannen’s book before, and I know it to be one of the best books on communication style out there, but it was time for a review. As I expected, the author is helping me remember all the reasons why it’s so hard for different genders, different cultures, and different personality types to communicate. Beyond the value for my day job, I have a feeling her words will inform some pivotal miscommunication in my next mystery novel.

And the book I just finished (which is still with me) is The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent: A Maggie Hope Mystery by Susan Elia MacNeal (a two-time Edgar nominee). I was eagerly awaiting this book’s release in July because I flat out love the series. Maggie is an American mathematician–turned spy and code breaker for the British during World War II (she starts off as a secretary to Winston Churchill). If you think that makes Maggie sound like a smart, tough cookie, you’d be right. But MacNeal also does an incredible job of giving us an amateur sleuth who’s vulnerable and not always good at everything she’s called on to do—in other words, a woman who’s doing her best in some very (very!) trying situations. I highly recommend the series.
Visit Tammy Kaehler's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Man’s Switch.

My Book, The Movie: Dead Man's Switch.

The Page 69 Test: Braking Points.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Kelly Fiore

Kelly Fiore has a BA in English from Salisbury University and an MFA in Poetry from West Virginia University. She received an Individual Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council in 2005 and 2009. Fiore’s poetry has appeared in Small Spiral Notebook, Samzidada, Mid Atlantic Review, Connotation Press, and the Grolier Annual Review. Her first young adult novel, Taste Test, was released in August 2013 from Bloomsbury USA. Her new book, also from Bloomsbury, is Just Like the Movies.

Recently I asked Fiore about what she was reading. Her reply:
Lately, most of the books I read are one of two things – books by friends or books highly recommended by friends. My first recent-read is a little bit of both. Dahlia Adler is an amazingly talented author who I also consider a good friend.

Behind the Scenes by Dahila Adler

There are a lot of things I love about Dahlia’s writing style and characterization, but I think the way she builds friendships is what draws me most to her work. I can hear Dahlia in her characters in the very best way. Her humor, her sarcasm, her emotions – all of them feel so genuine. I may have chosen Dahlia’s book because I know her, but I read the book – and raved about the book – because I loved it. It was, in all ways, an embodiment of what I love about contemporary YA literature. I adored everything about this book.

The second book, though, is a little something different for me. It’s a re-read, but I hadn’t read it in several years, so the experience felt new all over again.

The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer

I watched the HBO movie version of this play last week and cried – like ugly cried – for about an hour or so afterward. Then I drove my husband crazy by digging through all of my bookshelves until I found my very old copy of the play itself. As I re-read it, I felt an emotional tug that was all the more potent because of my movie experience. Larry Kramer made me root for characters who I had little in common with personally because, in the end, all that really mattered/matters is the universal human experience.
Visit Kelly Fiore's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Kimberly Elkins

Kimberly Elkins was a finalist for the National Magazine Award and has published fiction and nonfiction in the Atlantic, Best New American Voices, Iowa Review, Chicago Tribune, Glamour, and Village Voice, among others.

She has a B.A. from Duke University, an M.A. in Creative Writing from Florida State, and an MFA in Fiction from Boston University. Elkins grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, and currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

What Is Visible is her first novel.

Recently I asked Elkins about what she was reading. Her reply:
At this stage in my life, I always seem to be skipping back and forth between books, double- or triple-dipping, paying attention to whichever direction my emotional, intellectual, or even spiritual compass guides that day or that hour.

An esteemed writer friend recommended David Samuel Levinson’s recent debut novel, Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence, and I immediately saw why: the prose is brilliant--lush but precise--and the breathtaking plot the kind usually reserved for genre works, but here elevated to Nabokovian literary heights. You know you really love a book when you ardently wish you’d written it.

In the quieter moments, I’ve lately turned to Chloe Honum’s elegant and haunting poetry collection, A Tulip Flame. Poetry does not necessarily come easily to me, but it is impossible not to feel kindled by Honum’s work.

And for just plain fun, I’m re-reading Mary McCarthy’s page-turning The Group, as a treat, the vodka gimlet kind of treat.
Visit Kimberly Elkins's website.

My Book, The Movie: What Is Visible.

The Page 69 Test: What Is Visible.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tom Young

Novelist Tom Young is a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and a former writer and editor with the broadcast division of the Associated Press. His latest novel is Sand and Fire.

Not so long ago I asked the author what he was reading. Young's reply:
A lot of my reading lately has come in an effort to fill gaps in my knowledge of history, especially recent history. With that goal in mind, I’ve begun reading The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s three-volume nonfiction work about the Soviet prison camp system and his own years as a political prisoner.

As Anne Applebaum’s foreword points out, The Gulag Archipelago is itself a part of history, having first been circulated in the author’s home country in unbound, hand-typed form. Solzhenitsyn describes how a nighttime knock on the door could catapult practically any Soviet citizen from the embrace of family to the torments of the gulag. The victims often had no idea why. A petty rivalry or an incautious word could ruin a life. And, as the author puts it, arrests could race through a town like an epidemic.

To judge from Solzhenitsyn’s case, Stalin’s government feared its own citizens more than it feared the Nazis. While the author served as a young artillery captain, Soviet counterintelligence officers plucked him from the battlefield and sent him to prison for criticizing the government in his private correspondence.

He became an eloquent and unstoppable witness to the excesses of a paranoid regime, relating his thoughts and experiences in both fiction and nonfiction. When he received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970, he chose not to go to Stockholm to accept the award in person for fear that Soviet authorities would not let him back into his home country.

As a writer, I read The Gulag Archipelago with a great sigh of relief that I live where I can express myself freely. My novels deal with real-world conflicts involving the military; under a different system of government, my books might draw the wrong kind of attention. I can’t help but wonder whether I’d have Solzhenitsyn’s courage if the circumstances required it.
Visit Thomas W. Young's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

M.D. Waters

M.D. Waters lives with her family in Maryland. She is the author of Archetype and its newly released sequel, Prototype.

Recently I asked Waters about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m currently in the middle of Amped by Daniel H. Wilson, which takes a very likely future and sets us in the worst possible outcome. What if we could use technology to, not only make us smarter, but control seizures and other such medical issues? What if the human race got scared because the technology worked? What if the government listened to our fears and decided to take action? There’s a paragraph inside this book that I thought really summed up the answer:
The teenagers don’t run away like I half expect them to. Instead, they surround me quickly, naturally. Gathered around me, they take on a new form. Each of these kids might be okay on his own, but together they’re a hydra: one monster, three heads.
With a government (one monster) supported by a multitude of terrified voices (three heads) the outcome is never good. Cut off one head, three more grow in its place.

It’s a frightening future Wilson is showing us in this book, and probable because most humans at their core are afraid of change. We lose perspective of the other side very easily, and in the case of this book, the other side holds human beings reacting with human emotion, and the instinct to survive.
Visit M. D. Waters's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 21, 2014

Susan Spann

Susan Spann is a transactional attorney focusing on publishing law and a former law school professor. She has a deep interest in Asian culture and has studied Mandarin and Japanese. Her hobbies include Asian cooking, fencing, knife and shuriken throwing, traditional archery, martial arts, rock climbing, and horseback riding.

Spann's newest novel is Blade of the Samurai.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Spann's reply:
I read a lot, and widely, so there’s always a nice selection on my desk.

One of my favorite, and fastest, recent reads was Kerry Schafer’s Dream Wars series, a trilogy of novellas that starts with The Dream Runner. Kerry’s a friend of mine, and I loved her novels, Between and Wakeworld, so when I saw she had a new release I jumped at the chance to read it. The Dream Runner tells the story of a young woman “drafted” into the service of a mysterious merchant who can sell a person any dream that his or her heart desires. Of course, the customers quickly learn that getting what you wished for isn’t always a good thing…

As a huge fan of The Twilight Zone, I’d recommend The Dream Runner (and the others in the Dream Wars series) to any fans of speculative fiction with a sci-fi twist.

Tonight, I’m starting Natalia Sylvester’s debut novel Chasing the Sun, about a man whose estranged wife is kidnapped in Lima, Peru, and the lengths he must go to in order to get her back. I met Natalia through The Debutante Ball blog, where I blogged as a member of the “class of 2013” and Natalia is just finishing her tenure with the 2014 “debs.” I’m looking forward to seeing her take on mystery, especially since the story was partly inspired by real events.

Meanwhile, on the nonfiction side of the aisle, I’m reading Eric Rath’s The Ethos of Noh: Actors and Their Art, about the development and history of Noh drama in Japan. It’s one of several research books I’m reading to fill in the fine details on the fourth Shinobi Mystery, Blood of the Outcast, which I’m working on this summer!
Visit Susan Spann's website.

My Book, The Movie: Blade of the Samurai.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Rufi Thorpe

Rufi Thorpe received her MFA from the University of Virginia in 2009. A native of California, she currently lives in Washington D.C. with her husband and son.

Thorpe's new novel is The Girls From Corona del Mar.

Earlier this month I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Because I have a two-year-old and all my adult-time hours are spent writing, I tend to mostly listen to audiobooks. And so I do dishes, fold laundry, and walk the dog with my head half in this world, half in an invented one, and for this I prefer the biggest, thickest, goopiest novels available. Maybe you will not know what I mean by goopy-- I want them to be viscous and clotted with people and places, an overabundance of character and detail, things I haven't seen or thought about, parts of the world I'd like to explore. I just listened to The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, about an early female pioneer of botany. I just adored it. There are many delightfully erotic passages about female masturbation, a subject very seldom explored, as well as really nuanced and elegant examinations of those few abiding philosophical questions: time, mortality, the meaning of life. It is hard to make those things fresh and authentic, and Gilbert does. Other goopy novels I adore: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, anything by Philip Roth, and Ann Patchett, particularly State of Wonder. Oh, and the audio version of Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout is simply magnificent. It’s a must listen.

At night, I do read on paper after my son falls asleep, but I tend to choose slenderer novels where I want to focus solely on the prose. I just finished Maggie Shipstead's Astonish Me, and I was very impressed by it. She allows her ballet dancers to be true athletes and leaves all the known tropes about aspiring dancers behind, instead giving us a world where people have pushed their bodies to the edge of what is humanly possible in a way that also deforms their lives and their hearts. In its best moments, it reminded me of Willa Cather's Song of the Lark.
Visit Rufi Thorpe's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Alecia Whitaker

Alecia Whitaker is the author of The Queen of Kentucky and Wildflower.

Earlier this month I asked the writer about what she was reading. Whitaker's reply:
I just finished The Book Thief and boy has that one stayed with me. It's so hard to imagine being without the things we take for granted in our first world country, like a good meal and the freedom to speak our mind about our government. Speaking of, it's also absolutely bonkers to me to think that the propaganda machine that was Hitler's Germany was able to convince and coerce its citizens to participate in such crimes of hate. I feel so thankful, especially on this Fourth of July weekend, to live in a democratic nation.

Besides that, I am reading Since Last Summer by Joanna Philbin and I'm loving getting back into the lives of Rory and Isabel. Since I just finished writing the sequel to my new release, Wildflower, it was great talking to Joanna recently about her experience writing a sequel.

The next book on my list to read is Open Road Summer by Emery Lord. It's a story that sounds very similar to Wildflower and after speaking to Emery on the phone today, we are both so excited to learn that our books really are the perfect companion novels. This is especially exciting since we are having an author appearance event together at Joseph-Beth Books in Crestview Hills, Kentucky. Our fans should cross-over beautifully!
Visit Alecia Whitaker's website.

Writers Read: Alecia Whitaker (February 2014).

--Marshal Zeringue