Saturday, March 28, 2015

Kit Alloway

Kit Alloway writes primarily for young adults, having always had an affection for teenagers. In addition to writing, she plays various musical instruments, decorates cakes, mixes essential oils, and studies East European languages. She lives in Louisville, KY with her family and four very tiny dogs.

Alloway's debut novel is Dreamfire.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I finally got around to reading A Great and Terrible Beauty recently, which is a story about four Victorian girls who revive an ancient cult. I really enjoyed the feminist elements of it, the way the girls embraced themselves apart from their relationships to guys.

I’m also reading The Living Gita, which is an annotated edition of the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred text from ancient India. It’s a hard read, but worth digging through. The story is a long conversation between a god and a warrior who doesn’t know if he wants to go to war, and it contains a lot about finding inner peace and letting go of worldly obsessions.

Finally, I’m taking a literary criticism course, so I’m also reading Literary Theory: The Basics, which talks about different ways of approaching literature. It’s really exciting to realize that people have been asking the same questions about stories that I’ve been asking all my life, like what we can learn if we apply psychological theories to our interpretations of literature, and whether or not knowing a lot about an author adds to our understanding of a story.
Visit Kit Alloway's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dreamfire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 27, 2015

Susan Crawford

Susan Crawford grew up in Miami, Florida, where she spent her childhood adoring her older sister, reading mysteries in a hammock strung between two Banyan trees, and collecting lizards, baby skunks and other odd, exotic creatures.

She later moved to New York City and then to Boston before settling in Atlanta to raise three amazing daughters and to teach in various adult education settings. A member of The Atlanta Writers Club and The Village Writers, Crawford works for the Department of Technical and Adult Education and is a member of her local planning commission. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and a trio of rescue cats, where she enjoys reading books, writing books, rainy days, and spending time with the people she loves.

Her first novel is The Pocket Wife.

Recently I asked Crawford about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m currently reading Lori Lansens’ The Wife’s Tale, and I picked it up because it sounded so Chaucer. I liked the premise – Mary’s husband leaves her on the eve of their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, and she must step outside her comfort zone to find out why. Ironically, it is most likely Mary’s refusal to explore the world beyond her rigid and extremely limiting boundaries that has brought about her husband's departure – to think, he tells her in a letter. The main character is obese, but it could really be anything that limits her. It is Mary’s love for her husband – something she’s kept buried for years – that propels her to leave not only her comfort zone, but her country, in this odyssey, but it is Mary herself – an expertly-drawn character, charming, innocent, and humorous – that propelled me to read the book. The pace is leisurely and the details enable me to really understand Mary and to be invested in what happens to her.

I just finished Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, and I found it to be a compelling read. I hated putting it down, and I read it in a couple of sittings. I loved the concept of a woman obsessing on the marriage of a couple she has only seen from a train window. When the wife disappears, the woman on the train feels personally involved and impacted. Her attempts to clarify what happened to the missing wife are inhibited by her alcoholism and subsequent blackouts, which added to the tension and kept me turning pages well into the night.
Visit Susan Crawford's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Michelle Falkoff

Michelle Falkoff's fiction and reviews have been published in ZYZZYVA, DoubleTake, and the Harvard Review, among other places. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and currently serves as Director of Communication and Legal Reasoning at Northwestern University School of Law.

Playlist for the Dead is her first novel.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Falkoff's reply:
These days, I’m alternating between “adult” fiction (is that really a thing?) and Young Adult fiction written by members of my debut group, the Fearless Fifteeners. I read pretty broadly across genres, so I’ll highlights some recent favorites in a few categories.

Literary:

Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You tells the story of a marriage between a white woman and a Chinese-American man, alternating between the 1950s, when they met, and the 1970s, when one of their children has gone missing. The discussion of race is complicated and sophisticated and so very welcome, and Ng moves between voices in a way that looks effortless but that takes a tremendous amount of work and talent.

Mystery:

I don’t need to work too hard to convince people to read Tana French these days—I’ve loved her stuff since her first book came out. Her latest, The Secret Place , concerns a murder at a boarding school and alternates perspective between one of the detectives on the case and the girls at the school. In that way, it was a perfect hybrid read for me, one that should appeal to both adults and teenagers.

YA:

I don’t want to say too much about Amanda Panitch’s Damage Done, forthcoming in July 2015, because part of what makes it so engaging is figuring out what’s really going on. I’ll just say that it concerns one of my favorite topics, and if you read it, you’ll be able to tell what that is.
Visit Michelle Falkoff's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

N. K. Traver

As a freshman at the University of Colorado, N. K. Traver decided to pursue Information Technology because classmates said "no one could make a living" with an English degree. It wasn't too many years later Traver realized it didn't matter what the job paid--nothing would ever be as fulfilling as writing. Programmer by day, writer by night, it was only a matter of time before the two overlapped.

Duplicity is Traver's first novel.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m currently reading A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, a book I’ve been dying to get my hands on since Schwab announced its publication date last year. Schwab is a master of characterization and little creative details that make a world feel alive. So far there’s a coat with an infinite number of sides, a girl who sets ships on fire, and magic that rules you if you don’t rule it. It’s just so excellent in so many ways. Though I’m not yet finished, I have a feeling this is a book I’ll be pushing into the hands of random strangers.

Another book I’ve recently finished is Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn, which has messed me up in the best way. Kuehn has this way of revealing super important details that’s both subtle and shocking at the same time, and I love her style of writing – it’s a study in voice and unreliable narration. I’m not usually drawn to books that deal with darker issues, but I will always read Kuehn’s work.
Visit N. K. Traver's website.

The Page 69 Test: Duplicity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Jamie Kornegay

Jamie Kornegay lives in the Mississippi Delta, where he moved in 2006 to establish an independent bookstore, TurnRow Book Co. Before that he was a bookseller, events coordinator, and radio show producer at the famous Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi. He studied creative fiction under Barry Hannah at the University of Mississippi.

Kornegay's new novel is Soil.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
As a full-time bookseller, in addition to part-time writer, I find myself reading mostly current fiction and non-fiction. My recent favorites include M.O. Walsh’s insanely readable My Sunshine Away and Colin Barrett’s rich story collection Young Skins. Just had a rare snow day here in Mississippi and finished Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig by Mark Essig. I thoroughly enjoyed this history of the pig, how it has developed and endured alongside humans, even when culture has despised it. The biggest surprise was David Vann’s new novel Aquarium. A real gut-punch of a book, confrontational yet balanced with beauty and redemption.

I just started Whisper Hollow, an impressive debut novel by Chris Cander, and am nearly finished already. It defies you to put it down and keeps calling – one more chapter, one more chapter.

Also dead-middle into Moby-Dick. Okay, I faked reading it in college. I’ve always felt guilty about it, so now I’m reading a chapter every day. (So much better than the Cliffs Notes!) Just today I read Ishmael’s tangential and detailed critique on the many shoddy attempts by artists to paint whales. Lends credence to the idea that Moby-Dick is the first metafiction.

I’m heading out for book tour tomorrow. I enjoy packing books for a road trip, trying to predict what I’ll be in the mood to read. I don’t want them all stored lightly on a machine because I relish the encumbrance. Some selections from my go-box: The Other Joseph by Skip Horack, who is thus far two-for-two with a great story collection, The Southern Cross, and a remarkable novel, The Eden Hunter; The Teeth of the Souls by Steve Yates, a friend who works for the University Press of Mississippi and is a fine writer with a knack for surprising historical detail; Where All Light Tends to Go, a slim, severe work of Southern grit-lit by David Joy; A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, which everyone is raving about; and The Jezebel Remedy by Martin Clark, a clever and funny writer coming to my store, Turnrow Books, in June.
Follow Jamie Kornegay on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Soil.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 23, 2015

Stacey Lee

Stacey Lee is a fourth-generation Chinese American. A Southern California native, she graduated from UCLA and got her law degree at UC Davis King Hall. Now she plays classical piano, wrangles children, and writes young adult fiction.

Under a Painted Sky is her first novel.

Recently I asked Lee about what she was reading. Her reply:
I am reading two books, which is uncommon for me, as I usually only have the attention span for one book at a time. Making San Francisco American: Cultural Frontiers in the Urban West, 1846-1906, by Barbara Berglund (University Press of Kansas, 2007) is helping me research the social landscape in San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century for the book I'm currently writing, Unsinkable Mercy Wong (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2016, in which Mercy Wong pretends to be an heiress from China to get entry into an all-white boarding school, but everything is shaken up when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake hits).

The second book is Everything Everything, by Nicola Yoon (Random House) which debuts in September, and is about a house-bound girl who is allergic to everything, but all changes when she falls in love with the boy next door. Nicola is a friend, and this book is special because it's written through a series of letters, diaries entries, and illustrations (which are done by Nicola's husband!). Also, it's a timely subject, as allergies seem more prevalent now than they were when I was a kid. It's a different world out there now, though teenagers falling in love? Timeless.
Visit Stacey Lee's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Rhiannon Thomas

Rhiannon Thomas is an English Lit grad from Princeton University. She currently lives in York, England, in the shadow of a 13th century Gothic cathedral. When she isn’t lost in YA fantasy, she writes about feminism and the media on her blog, Feminist Fiction.

Thomas's new book is A Wicked Thing, her debut novel.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I'm currently trying to read The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

"Trying" is the key word there. I started it at the beginning of the year, and I have been abandoning it for other books ever since.

The writing is wonderful. It's engaging and witty while still managing to be poetic, and the protagonist is definitely an interesting character to spend time with. Friends have been pushing me to read this book for years, and one page was enough to show me why. I really enjoy reading it. Yet I can never motivate myself to pick it up again.

Is it just the sight of 600 more pages of tiny font that makes me reach for another novel I can read in two days instead? Is it that weird feeling I get with most fantasy novels, where it takes a good fifty (or more) pages to get immersed, but once I am, I fall deep into a hole of obsession? Is it the fact that, a good chunk into the book, I've yet to meet a single female character, and that really puts me off a story, no matter how good it might otherwise be?

I don't know. But in the time it's taken me to read 100 pages of The Name of the Wind, I've read five other books.

I had this problem before, almost a year ago exactly, when I started The Lies of Locke Lamora. The writing was fantastic, the characters were compelling, but I just couldn't get into it. Then suddenly, something changed, and I was completely addicted. I devoured the entire series in a couple of weeks, and it's now one of my all-time favorite books.

I'm still waiting for that magic moment with The Name of the Wind, where I stop just knowing that it's good and start feeling it instead.

Hopefully it comes soon.
Visit Rhiannon Thomas's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Wicked Thing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Jeannette de Beauvoir

Jeannette de Beauvoir is a novelist, poet, and playwright whose work has appeared in 15 countries and has been translated into 12 languages.

She explores personal and moral questions through different literary genres and is the author, under various pseudonyms, of mystery novels, historical and contemporary fiction, an award-winning book of poetry, and a number of produced plays, as well as teaching workshops and classes in writing.

Her new novel is Asylum.

Recently I asked de Beauvoir about what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished a re-read, actually, of Rebecca Stott's Ghostwalk, a brilliant novel (hence the second read—it's worth going back to!). Writer Lydia Brooke has been commissioned by her former lover to finish a book his mother had begun writing before she was mysteriously drowned. Brooke find herself in effect investigating two separate series of murders: in the 17th century, several people died who stood between Isaac Newton and the fellowship he needed to continue his studies at Cambridge, while in the present day, people who offended a radical animal rights group seem to be the ones targeted. Ghostwalk centers around a real historical mystery (like me, Stott looks to the past for her mysteries!) involving Newton's alchemy. Time and relationships are entangled, the present with the 17th century—and figures from the past with those who live in the present. I strongly recommend it!

I've been reading some nonfiction as well. Some of it has to do with research for the second Martine LeDuc novel, so I've been exploring literature about neo-Nazi groups. Not recommended reading necessarily, but important. And for a book discussion group to which I belong, I'm reading Amish Grace, the amazing story of a community's forgiveness when a gunman killed five girls and wounded five more in an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania in 2006. The ability of so many people to grieve deeply and yet let go of hatred and revenge is extraordinary... and would make for a far better world, it seems to me, should it become a widespread practice.
Visit Jeannette de Beauvoir's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 20, 2015

Tessa Harris

Tessa Harris is the author of Shadow of the Raven, the fifth in the Dr Thomas Silkstone Mystery series. The first, The Anatomist’s Apprentice, won the RT Best First Mystery Reviewers’ Award in 2012.

Recently I asked Harris about what she was reading. Her reply:
I fear I am very ‘picky’ reader. If I don’t like a novel, I may read the first three chapters and then abandon it. That certainly wasn’t the case, however, with my latest foray into fiction. Antonia Hodgson’s debut The Devil in Marshalsea was right up my street. When I’m in the midst of writing one of my own novels, I don’t like to stray too far from my period. (I’ve heard that Hilary Mantel also follows that rule.) This book was set in early Georgian times, just a little earlier than my own particular period, but it fitted the bill perfectly. I was whisked back in time to follow the fortunes of an ill-fated but likable gambler who found himself incarcerated in a notorious debtors’ prison, where a murderer was on the loose. Hodgson’s prose was evocative and chilling, as well as being historically accurate. Her characterization was excellent, too. The story was fast-paced and gripping – a literary page-turner from start to finish. I’m hoping it will be the first of a series.

Another recently-read novel that I would highly recommend for lovers of historical fiction is another debut. It’s Hannah Kent’s Burial Rights. Set in early nineteenth century Iceland, it’s a far cry from the author’s native Australia, nevertheless the portrayal of the landscape and its hardships is pitch perfect. Based on the true story of the last execution of a woman in Iceland, it takes us on an incredible journey, following the dynamics of a small group of people on an isolated farmstead whose lives are disrupted when they are asked to billet a stranger charged with murder. The constant switching of points of view is ambitious, but works very well. The prose is as sparse as the landscape and the narrative itself bleak and haunting. It’s a book that will stay with me for a long time.
Visit Tessa Harris's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Devil's Breath.

The Page 69 Test: The Lazarus Curse.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Leah Cypess

Leah Cypess is the author of the acclaimed Mistwood and its companion, Nightspell.

Her new novel is Death Marked, the sequel & conclusion to Death Sworn.

Recently I asked Cypess about what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished two fantastic books -- The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, a YA fantasy about a town that lives in an uneasy (and dangerous) alliance with the fae, and The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, an adult fantasy about a half-goblin who has become the emperor of an elven empire. Both are very different books -- The Darkest Part of the Forest is contemporary, fast-moving, and involves lots of secrets hidden in the past, while The Goblin Emperor is a slower, immersive book that is heavy on the world-building. What they have in common is a sense of wonder -- of simmering magic and difference lying beneath the course of events described in each book.
Visit Leah Cypess's website.

The Page 69 Test: Death Sworn.

The Page 69 Test: Death Marked.

--Marshal Zeringue