Saturday, May 26, 2018

Humphrey Hawksley

Humphrey Hawksley is a BBC foreign correspondent who has reported from the world’s hot spots for more than thirty years. He works in both non-fiction and fiction and his latest thriller, Man on Ice is set on the remote and wild US-Russian border in the Bering Strait. Action bounces and twists between the White House and the little-known Diomede islands of which one is American and the other Russian. A closed, unmarked, unmanned border runs between.

Asked what he is currently reading, Hawksley answered:
I have several paper and e-books going at once, some for ideas, some for research and some for a hinterland to take me away from work which whether fiction or non-fiction focuses on global politics and shifting balances of power.

Top of the pile of my research is Super Highway: Sea Power in the 21st Century by Admiral Chris Parry (Rtd) which is a brilliant layman’s read of how we are going to use the seas for war, trade and pleasure in the coming years. I am working on a sequel to Man on Ice set in the North Atlantic because this is becoming a new Cold War battleground between Russia and Europe. The international thriller often carries a Dystopian backdrop so I have with me Collapse: Europe After the European Union by Ian Kearns which lays out scenarios for upheavals in Europe. We’ve been there before with the Balkans and two world wars and those of us who live in Europe have a deep sense of foreboding at what is unfolding now. Finally, the new Tim Marshall geopolitical Divided: Why We Are Living In An Age of Walls, a sequel to his best-selling Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics. Few authors cut through to the chase as well as Marshall does.

For thriller ideas I have with me the spy maestro Adrian Magson’s Close Quarters which moves between Ukraine and Washington with an edge-of-the-seat opening in Tehran; and the brilliant Redeployment by Phil Klay, a series of agonizing fictional short stories of troops returning from Iraq. I covered Iraq and in Klay’s words and dialogue could smell the sand, sweat and insoluble human frustration.

On my hinterland, I am in the middle of Things to Leave Behind by Namita Gokhale, a novel on how the dreadful Indian caste system destroys human spirit. The opening line – “First the sky, a pure, clear blue with clouds shaped like elephants and sheep...” Beautiful. My other hinterland book is of similar vein, Good Children of the Flower by best-selling Chinese author, Hong Ying. She tells of her journey from a rugged village childhood to international literary stardom. Both have stopped me dead with horror as the authors show us a human spirit of hope and love with which we are all familiar and set it against the violent cruelty that poverty and hardship creates -- a state that so few of us understand.
Visit Humphrey Hawksley's website.

The Page 69 Test: The History Book.

My Book, The Movie: Security Breach.

My Book, The Movie: Man on Ice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 25, 2018

Will Walton

Will Walton is an indie bookseller in Athens, Georgia.

Anything Could Happen was his first novel.

Walton's new novel is I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Kheryn Callender's Hurricane Child is the best book I've read in recent history. It's poetic and also unpretentious. It's an incredibly moving exploration of a young person's inner life, and it's set on St. Thomas Island. I can't wait to read Callender's upcoming This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story.

I think Becky Albertalli's Leah on the Offbeat is pitch perfect, and I have a soft spot for it because my boyfriend, Tyler, and I make brief appearances in it as passersby.

Also, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan's most recent collaboration, Sam & Ilsa's Last Hurrah made me cry and laugh and want to hug my friends.
Follow Will Walton on Facebook.

The Page 69 Test: Anything Could Happen.

My Book, The Movie: Anything Could Happen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Christina June

Christina June writes young adult contemporary fiction when she’s not writing college recommendation letters during her day job as a school counselor. She loves the little moments in life that help someone discover who they’re meant to become – whether it’s her students or her characters.

June is a voracious reader, loves to travel, eats too many cupcakes, and hopes to one day be bicoastal – the east coast of the US and the east coast of Scotland. She lives in Virginia with her husband and daughter.

Her debut novel, It Started with Goodbye, was released in May 2017; the newly released Everywhere You Want to Be is its companion.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. June's reply:
I just finished the wonderful A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole. It's a contemporary romance with a royalty bent. A woman who grew up in the foster care system, and is on her way to becoming a successful scientist, turns out to be the long-lost betrothed to a handsome prince from the fictional African country, Thesolo. It's Coming to America meets The Princess Diaries plus a woman in STEM. I loved it. Naledi is a fantastic heroine--she is smart, funny, and never once casts herself as a victim, despite having endured many challenges in her life. She is sure of herself and what she wants, which is a career where she makes a difference. The romance is just the cherry on top for her. She's a fantastic role model. Prince Thabiso was also a well-drawn character, with a witty sense of humor and sizzling chemistry with Naledi. I appreciate that every step of their relationship was driven by mutual respect. Cole has a companion novel coming next, starring Naledi's best friend Portia and I can't wait!
Visit Christina June's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Kathleen George

Kathleen George is the author of The Johnstown Girls, a novel about the famous Johnstown flood. She has also written seven mysteries set in Pittsburgh: A Measure of Blood, Simple, The Odds, which was nominated for the Edgar® Award from the Mystery Writers of America, Hideout, Afterimage, Fallen, and Taken. George is also the author of the short story collection The Man in the Buick and editor of another collection, Pittsburgh Noir. She is a professor of theater arts and creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh.

George's new novel is The Blues Walked In.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I had surgery on January 16 and it was a big one that involved my spine top to bottom, so ... I read. I read a lot. I read at least 30 novels since then and have slowed down a little since I am now out and about. I read a good number of the much talked about current books like An American Marriage and Tangerine and I was appreciative of almost everything, but I will talk about the ones that still haunt me.

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende caught me up in a redefinition of passionate love. The characters were interesting, ragged, unconventional and so was the secret love affair that lasted a lifetime. I was touched to think of such deep feeling. And the strength of secrecy.

Ali Smith’s Autumn (there is a theme here) amazed me with an unconventional young woman who never apologized for her passion for an idiosyncratic old man. In fact there is the feeling that they kept each other alive and that nobody could provide criticisms that could shake this relationship.

A quarter of the reading public complains that Amor Towles’ A Gentleman In Moscow isn’t dark enough, that nobody can believe such positivity and wit in a story of decades of house arrest amounting to imprisonment. But I believed it. I identified with it. And I am in the majority. To maintain wit, sensitivity, sensual pleasure, and kindness when one has no freedom is a triumph. I loved asking and asking, “When will this break down?” And being lifted again and again.

There is a character based on Philip Roth in Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday. The narrative question was, “This can’t go on and on, can it? Isn’t it bad for this young woman, his love interest?” The affair went on and on and it was bad but also it wasn’t and it was and it wasn’t. The book is smart, so smart.

Also sticking with me is Love and Ruin by Paula McLain. She is known for The Paris Wife about Hemingway’s first wife and has told the story in her newest book about Marty Gellhorn, his third wife, in the first person. Marty and Ernest and Dos Passos are all convincing and the novel is full of history and information as well as a scalding portrait of a doomed love affair.

All I can say is thank God for books, the ones you can let go and the ones that haunt. They filled me.
Visit Kathleen George's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Julie Clark

Born and raised in Santa Monica, California, Julie Clark grew up reading books on the beach while everyone else surfed. After attending college at University of the Pacific, and a brief stint working in the athletic department at University of California, Berkeley, she returned home to Santa Monica to teach. She now lives there with her two young sons and a golden doodle with poor impulse control.

The Ones We Choose is her first novel.

Recently I asked Clark about what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished an ARC of The Summer List by Amy Mason Doan. This is a gorgeous debut that will completely capture your mind and heart. It's the story of childhood friends Laura and Casey, who are re-united after many years of estrangement. As they navigate their own memories of the past and what tore them apart, they are forced to reconcile what they each believed happened with a secret that was concealed from them both. It releases June 26, and I'm certain it will be one of the summer's hottest books!
Visit Julie Clark's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 21, 2018

Glenn Cooper

Glenn Cooper is an internationally known bestselling thriller writer who has sold over seven million books in thirty translations. His first novel, Library of the Dead, sold over two million copies. Of his thirteen published novels, many have become #1 fiction bestsellers in various European markets. He graduated from Harvard University with a degree in archaeology and got his medical degree from Tufts University School of Medicine before becoming an infectious diseases specialist. He later went onto medical research and biotechnology and became the Chairman and CEO of a large, publicly-traded biotech company in Massachusetts. During his free time he wrote screenplays and then tried his hand at novels, culminating in Library of the Dead, which is now in development as a TV series. His current series of religious conspiracy thrillers, beginning with Sign of the Cross, features Cal Donovan, professor of history of religion and archaeology at the Harvard Divinity School. Cooper lives and writes full-time in Sarasota, Florida.

Recently I asked Cooper about what he was reading. His reply:
I’m currently writing a new book, the fourth Cal Donovan in a new series of religious conspiracy thrillers that begins with the just-released Sign of the Cross in the US/UK. Parenthetically, the explanation for this English-language publication lag is that my European publishers have a leg-up on the schedule. While I’m writing, I tend to avoid fiction because I’m something of a magpie – i.e., in the heat of battle, I’m given to plagiarizing words, phrases, physical descriptions and whatnot. So leadeth me not into temptation. That’s why I’m reading non-fiction. Incidentally, in the brief inter-regnum between books, I eagerly read and enjoyed Le CarrĂ©’s A Legacy of Spies.

I’ve got a number of books on my table, mostly for research for my work-in-progress, one for pleasure/work. The latter is Foreign Devils on the Silk Road by Peter Hopkirk. My college degree is in archaeology and I try to keep up with new developments in the field for personal and professional edification (translation: fishing for new ideas for Cal Donovan who’s an archaeologist). The Hopkirk book is a revelation to me because it details an archaeological subject of which I was wholly ignorant—the wholesale looting at the turn of the twentieth century of China’s medieval cultural heritage by European, American and Japanese archaeologists and adventurers. It’s a gripping read and I’ve already got ideas spinning around that might land in Cal Donovan’s lap one day.

The other things I’m reading all involve historical background for my newest Cal Donovan book that draws heavily from the Elizabethan magus and polymath, John Dee, who exhaustively chronicled his conversations with angels that he summoned with his medium, Edward Kelley, to try to understand the mysteries of the universe. Dee learned how to speak and write the angelic language and I’m trying too without much success. It’s complicated.
Visit Glenn Cooper's website.

The Page 69 Test: Sign of the Cross.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Mindee Arnett

Mindee Arnett is the author of the critically acclaimed sci-fi thriller Avalon as well as the Arkwell Academy series and the newly released Onyx and Ivory. An avid eventer, she lives on a farm near Dayton, Ohio with her husband, two kids, and assorted animals. When not telling tales of magic, the supernatural, or outer space, she can be found on a horse, trying to jump anything that will stand still.

Recently I asked Arnett about what she was reading. Her reply:
As usual, my reading material has been all over the board in terms of genre and themes. I started the year off with young adult fantasies like An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson and Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. Then I switched to sci-fi for a little while, reading book 3 in The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey (which the awesome TV show of the same title is based on), and then Obsidio, the third and final book in the stellar Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, and now I’ve moved onto some middle grade.

But the book I want to talk about most, the book that has stayed with the most so far this season, is The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. This is a portal fantasy about a girl who’s spent her whole life on the run from people obsessed with a set of fairy tale stories her grandmother published years ago—and from the characters in those stories as well. This book is trippy, beautiful written, and utterly gripping. I read it far too fast, and I keep going back to it in my mind. I have a feeling it’ll be one of my seminal reads, a book I go back to again and again simply to re-experience them (other books on this list include the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, The Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor, and Harry Potter of course).

I think the reason why The Hazel Wood has made this list is because of the way it makes me feel—like magic is real, like the fantastical is waiting just around the corner, in the shadows beneath the bed, or in that faint movement out of the corner of my eye, the one I can’t quite catch no matter how fast I turn my head. Do you know the feeling I mean? The Hazel Wood made me feel like anything was possible while reading it, and that’s a feeling I’ll return to forever.
Visit Mindee Arnett's website.

The Page 69 Test: Avalon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Ryan Kirk

Ryan Kirk is an author and entrepreneur based out of Minnesota. He is the author of the Nightblade series of fantasy novels and the founder of Waterstone Media.

Kirk's latest novel is Nightblade's Honor.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Kirk's reply:
I have to confess that 2018 has been a great year of reading so far. There have been a few stories that stand out to me.

The first is Abaddon's Gate, by James SA Corey. This is the third book of the much-loved Expanse series, and for good reason. I was introduced to the world by the television series, but immediately knew I needed to read the books the shows are based off of. This story deserves all the success it has seen. Not only is it an imaginative romp through our solar system, the pacing and characters keep me turning pages almost as fast as my kindle will allow. I'm even more impressed that as the series grows I continue to love it. I'm three books in, and each one has been a stellar experience.

Another story I've loved recently is Daredevil: Redemption, a six comic miniseries. Last year, thanks to the gentle nudging of an editor, I began reading comics. It's been an eye-opening experience, and to me, this miniseries encapsulates why. Comics are capable of such variety, even inside of the tent pole studios like Marvel. This particular Daredevil story doesn't even have much Daredevil in it, instead focusing on a particular case Matt Murdoch is involved in. It's relentlessly dark, but I found the change of pace (from heroes punching villains) to be a fantastic exploration of the medium.

Finally, another book that piqued my interest was Skyfarer. I've been fascinated by the way in which sci-fi and fantasy have begun to merge, and this book in particular was a fun and enjoyable read.
Visit Ryan Kirk's website.

The Page 69 Test: Nightblade's Vengeance.

The Page 69 Test: Nightblade's Honor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell” is the pen name of John G. Hemry, a retired naval officer who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis before serving with the surface fleet and in a variety of other assignments. He is the New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Fleet series and The Lost Stars series, as well as the Stark’s War, Paul Sinclair, and Pillars of Reality series. He lives with his indomitable wife and three children in Maryland.

Campbell's new novel is Ascendant.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Campbell's reply:
I've been reading a mix of fiction and non-fiction lately. In non-fiction, I've been going back over Svetlana Alexievich's The Unwomanly Face of War. It's an incredibly powerful book, combining mostly untold history with a bottom up view of major events. For the most part the book consists of short pieces of interviews with Russian women who fought on the Eastern Front in World War Two. Their voices bring out clearly their sacrifices and their achievements without any boasting, just matter-of-fact accounts such as those of then-16-year old combat medics riding on the backs of tanks into battle so they could pull wounded men out of burning tanks and carry them back to safety. There's a bit from the book that sort of sums it up for me, by a member of an infantry battalion that helped capture Berlin. "I wrote my name on the Reichstag…I wrote with charcoal, with what was at hand: 'You were defeated by a Russian girl from Saratov.'" It's an amazing bit of history that is little known.

In terms of fiction, I just finished reading a book by a new author which was sent to me for a possible quote. Michael Mammay is a former US Army officer who has written Planetside. One of the things about what is sometimes called military SF (or just a type of space opera) is that the different "generations" bring perspectives born of their wars to the stories they tell. The WW II generation of writers often wrote of total war. The Vietnam era vets such as Joe Haldeman and David Drake brought their take on war. Cold War vets of the 70s, 80s, and 90s had yet a different "war" to form their tales, and now the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan such as Mammay and Kacey Ezell are telling their stories (which, sadly, bear some of the same marks as those of veterans of Vietnam). These stories show how every war is different and every war is the same. Military SF gives us pictures of personal history that are a step removed from non-fiction accounts, yet allow the varied perspectives created by setting those experiences in different times and places, and against different enemies. There are some truths, I think, that can only be seen by such methods. (Kacey Ezell is, though, an example of how poorly SF has done at predicting the future. If someone had written an SF story in 1967 about a female combat pilot operating UH-1 Hueys in a war set fifty years in the future, it would have been rejected as unbelievable for both the idea of a woman combat pilot and for the idea that we'd still be using UH-1s as front-line combat aircraft half a century later.)
Visit Jack Campbell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Samuel Miller

Samuel Miller was born and raised in Vermillion, South Dakota, and now resides in Los Angeles, where, in addition to writing, he directs music videos and coaches Little League Baseball. He began writing his first novel while on tour in a fifteen-passenger van with the rock band Paradise Fears. A Lite Too Bright is his debut novel. Currently he attends graduate school at the University of Southern California. He credits his existence entirely to two spectacular parents, three brothers, one sister, and the best and sweetest puppy dog on the whole planet, Addison.

Recently I asked Miller about what he was reading. His reply:
Right now, I'm making my way through Liu Cixin's Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy (I'm on The Dark Forest now), which is thrilling me in a way that most Sci Fi doesn't (particularly Sci Fi that's this...measured). The ideas are enormous & sprawling & deliberately force the reader to question how much we know, & how much we can know about the universe around us. I'm also a sucker for people staring down the end of humanity & talking existentially about it, & this book has...plenty of that.

Outside of that, I just read Dreamland, which is a painfully effective study of the history of opioids, which I think is essential reading in 2018 America, particularly for the parts of 2018 America where this suffering isn't readily apparent (I live in Los Angeles). I also just finished Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 which amused & delighted me... & made me want to be a better writer.
Visit Samuel Miller's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Martha Wells

Martha Wells has written many fantasy novels, including The Books of the Raksura series (beginning with The Cloud Roads), the Ile-Rien series (including The Death of the Necromancer) as well as YA fantasy novels, short stories, media tie-ins (for Star Wars and Stargate: Atlantis), and non-fiction. Her more recent fantasy novels include The Edge of Worlds in 2016 and The Harbors of the Sun in 2017, the final novel in The Books of the Raksura series. Her series of SF novellas, The Murderbot Diaries, from Tor.com includes Artificial Condition.

Recently I asked Wells about what she was reading. Her reply:
I've just finished An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, which is getting excellent reviews for a good reason: it's an intense, gripping story that is brilliantly written. It's described as being about a group trapped on a generation ship which is under the control of a religious dictatorship and organized like the pre-Civil War south with decks segregated by race and treated like prisons. But it's also about smart people trying to find ways to survive and escape, about holding on to hope under the most extreme conditions possible, and continuing to fight no matter what.

I also read a lot of graphic novels, including Ms. Marvel and Doctor Who. Most recently I've read the latest volume of Paper Girls by Brian Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, and Matt Wilson. It's the story of four teenage girls from the 80s who meet early in the morning on Halloween and end up taking off on a wild and often deadly adventure. It's a bit like Stranger Things, but with time travel, alien attacks, a much faster pace, and an unlimited budget.
Visit Martha Wells's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 14, 2018

Madeline Miller

Madeline Miller was born in Boston and grew up in New York City and Philadelphia. She attended Brown University, where she earned her BA and MA in Classics. She has taught and tutored Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to high school students for more than fifteen years.

She has also studied at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, and in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School of Drama, where she focused on the adaptation of classical texts to modern forms.

The Song of Achilles, her first novel, was awarded the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction and was a New York Times bestseller. It has been translated into over twenty-five languages including Dutch, Mandarin, Japanese, Turkish, Arabic and Greek. Miller was also shortlisted for the 2012 Stonewall Writer of the Year, and her essays have appeared in a number of publications including the Guardian, Wall Street Journal, Lapham's Quarterly and NPR.org.

Her second novel, Circe, was an instant #1 New York Times bestseller.

Recently I asked Miller about what she was reading. Her reply:
The Verdun Affair, by Nick Dybek. I was surprised to be sent an advanced copy of this novel, since I usually receive ancient war books, not modern ones. But I did what I always do: read the first page to see if it grabbed me. And it did! The novel is set after the first World War, and focuses on a former ambulance driver who is collecting the bones of the dead in the French countryside. It is a haunting set up, which Dybek draws out beautifully, giving us a narrator who can evoke both the mundane and devastating aspects of the task. It is a book about big things: memory and war, about the effect of unfathomable violence on our human psyches, about love, and the struggle to move forward after trauma. But what really drew me in was the characters. So often books that have such sweeping scope aren’t grounded in specific men and women struggling with hopes and griefs, but Dybek manages to make both the characters and the ideas sing. I was with him the whole way, drawn in by his insight and elegiac, understated prose. Coming out officially June 2018.

The Unstrung Harp, or Mr Earbrass Writes a Novel, by Edward Gorey. Let’s be honest: I’m always reading Mr. Earbrass. It is the most brilliant and hilarious book about writing a novel that I have ever found. In it, Mr. Earbrass is a hapless yet somewhat famous author, beginning his new book (titled The Unstrung Harp—the title is chosen at random from a list of them he keeps in a drawer). We follow him through its creation to publication and beyond, and every page is funnier than the last, all serving up Gorey’s trademark mordant humor, his absurd and evocative art, but also a potent examination of the artist’s journey. I have so many favorite moments that it is hard to choose one, but I often think of Mr. Earbrass approaching his final edits with “a vast reluctance” because the manuscript has become “physically repulsive” to him. That’s why I have to love what I’m writing about so deeply: otherwise I could never get through the grueling rounds of revision! Gorey’s combination of skewering and sympathy makes for the perfect antidote to what ails any artist.
Visit Madeline Miller's website.

See Madeline Miller's top ten classical books.

My Book, The Movie: The Song of Achilles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Sarah Haywood

Sarah Haywood was born in Birmingham. She studied Law at Kent University and Chester College of Law, then worked as a trainee solicitor in London.

After qualification, she moved to Liverpool, working first as a solicitor, then as an advice worker with Citizens Advice. She subsequently joined the Office of the Legal Services Ombudsman, where she investigated complaints about lawyers.

Haywood completed an Open University Creative Writing Course, followed by an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. She lives in Liverpool with her husband and two sons.

Her debut novel is The Cactus.

Recently I asked Haywood about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m an avid reader of novels, but rarely read non-fiction, other than memoir. My shelves hold equal numbers of books that might be termed ‘literary’ and ones that might be termed ‘commercial’, although I’ve always found those categorisations unhelpful. The ‘to be read’ pile next to my bed is getting ever taller and will soon have to be split in two in order to avoid a toppling-onto-my-teacup incident. I’m trying to get my book-buying under control, but there’s just too much good stuff out there. And now I’m an author, I can always kid myself that I need to read more books in order to research the current market.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead has been working its way to the top of my pile for some time, and it certainly lived up to my expectations. It’s the powerful story of Cora’s flight from slavery to freedom, along a railroad that’s not just a metaphor but a physical reality. I found the book shocking and heart-breaking, at the same time as being utterly gripping. I admire Whitehead’s audacity in combining truth-based fiction with fantasy; a risk he pulls off elegantly. The book holds a particular resonance, as I live in Liverpool, which is mentioned on the second page of the novel as the place from which the ship that captured Cora’s grandmother set sail. In Liverpool, now, we have an International Slavery Museum, which marks the city’s shameful connection with the slave trade.

I read Amy & Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout with my book group recently and was left in awe of her writing yet again. I’m a late-comer to Strout’s work, starting a year ago with My Name is Lucy Barton and now having just one more book to go. Amy & Isabelle is a nuanced exploration of the relationship between a mother and daughter. I love Strout’s precise and spare use of language, and the understated way she depicts so clearly the innermost feelings of her characters without ever having to spell them out. She shows particular skill in winning over our sympathy for not-immediately-likeable characters by subtle revelations concerning their personal history. Amy & Isabelle is poignant and beautiful, and the fact that it’s Strout’s debut makes it even more remarkable.

Educated by Tara Westover is the book I’m reading currently. I’m about one hundred pages in and am already bowled over both by the confidence of Westover’s writing, and by the incredible story of her life. Last week, I had the pleasure of listening to Westover discuss Educated at an event at my local bookshop in Liverpool. I was impressed by the eloquent way in which she talked about her childhood and the challenges of writing her memoir. Another wonderful debut.

Next up on my teetering pile: Two books by writers local to me -- A Song for Issey Bradley by Carys Bray and You Me Everything by Catherine Issac -- then Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.
Visit Sarah Haywood's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Nick Oldham

Nick Oldham was born in April 1956 in a house in the tiny village of Belthorn on the moors high above Blackburn, Lancashire.

After leaving college and spending a depressing year in a bank, he joined Lancashire Constabulary at the age of nineteen in 1975 and served in many operational postings around the county. Most of his service was spent in uniform, but the final ten years were spent as a trainer and a manager in police training. He retired in 2005 at the rank of inspector.

He lives with his partner, Belinda, on the outskirts of Preston.

Oldham's new novel is Bad Cops.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
As a habit from childhood, I still usually have two or three books on the go, something which used to annoy my mother intensely, not least because she couldn't understand how I could flit from one story to another and keep track as well as finding books all over the house. I'm a big fan of American crime and thriller writers and I'm presently deep into Hellbent by Gregg Hurwitz, the third of his brilliant Orphan X novels, featuring Evan Smoak, a vodka-drinking social recluse who can be a cold-hearted killer but finds himself to be a misfit when faced with 'normal' situations – like falling in love, dealing with stroppy teenagers. He's a great hero, though, and I've thoroughly enjoyed the series so far.

Also on the go is The Venetian Game by Philip Gwynne Jones, which I picked up on a whim for a long train journey and was hooked by the setting – yes, Venice, and the relaxed pace of the story telling which, bit by bit, is racked up in a beautiful city with a less than pretty underbelly. Jones is a great find and I'm looking forward to the next one in the series.

I usually also have an old favourite on the go to dip into, usually something I read when younger, maybe Hemingway or Le CarrĂ© – but at the moment, it's My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell, which is getting me ready for my summer holidays! Nuff said?
Follow Nick Oldham on Facebook and Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 11, 2018

Stacey Filak

Stacey Filak was born in a small town in Michigan, where she dreamed of hero's quests, epic battles, and publishing a book. At least a couple of things have come true. She lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with her husband and four children, and a menagerie of pop-culture named pets. She manages a veterinary clinic as her day job and aspires to someday write something that means as much to someone else as her childhood favorites mean to her.

Filak's new novel is The Queen Underneath.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
The question put forth is ‘What is Stacey Filak reading?’ Unfortunately, the answer at this moment is almost nothing. Between the release of my book, The Queen Underneath, a particularly busy time for my kids with sports, and my day-job, I’m finding myself too distracted to delve into much, at the moment. So, instead I’ll share a few of the books that I’ve recently loved, as well as the book I’m going to read, as soon as my brain settles down.

I recently finished The Changeling by Victor LaValle. Part murder mystery, part suspense thriller, and part fairy tale, LaValle has created a story that will live in my mind for years to come. The main character, Apollo Kagwa, faces an unbelievable horror – a tragedy that no parent should ever have to endure – and that is both the beginning and end of a fairy tale. The first fairy tale, the sanitized, perfect life that Apollo believes he’s cultivated comes to an end when the second, darker, far more deadly fairy tale begins. It is a criticism of society, a touching homage to parenthood, and a damn fine read.

Another book that I recently read was Blood and Sand by C.V. Wyk. This debut novel that turns the familiar story of Spartacus on its head by gender swapping the protagonist grabbed me by the collar and wouldn’t let go. I read this book over a weekend when I was at a convention. I usually only read when I’m trying to fall asleep in the hotel room at things like this, but Wyk’s book made its way to the restaurant for meals, the bar for drinks, even the conference rooms between panels. Action packed, both heart-felt and hard-hitting, C.V. Wyk has won my loyalty, and I cannot wait for the next installment.

Another book that I absolutely adored this year is Beneath the Haunting Sea by Joanna Ruth Meyer. I’ll admit, I was a little nervous to read this one, as it was the inaugural release of the YA label that was publishing my own book. What if I hated it? What if it was terrible? What would that say about my own work? But I was worrying needlessly, because while Sea is drastically different than my own work, it was a beautiful, gently written story of strength, music, and the unlikely events that can create myth. Meyer creates a world that felt both familiar and yet brand new. Her characters are brilliant, brave, and so believable that it hurt. I went from being afraid of reading this book to being unbelievably proud that we shared a publishing house.

And I have a book prepped and primed for the moment my life and mind slow down enough for me to pick it up. I’ve been looking forward to Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller since the minute it was announced. Miller’s debut novel, the magical realism tale of a gay teenaged boy who suffers from an eating disorder absolutely shattered me. So raw and brutally told, Miller plunged me into Matt’s mind – an uncomfortable place to live – and wouldn’t let me up. It is a story that needs to be told, but it isn’t a story one can enjoy. It can only be experienced, and the experience changed me. So while I anticipate a little discomfort, I’m very much looking forward to the world that Blackfish City holds for me. Taking place on an earth destroyed by climate change, the story takes place in an artificial floating city in the arctic, Miller is said to examine the repercussions of technology, community, class, and leave behind a feeling of hope. As soon as I can, I plan to delve into its pages and not come up for air until I’m done.
Visit Stacey Filak's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Queen Underneath.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Aimee Molloy

Aimee Molloy is the author of the New York Times bestseller However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph and the co-author of several non-fiction books, including Jantsen’s Gift, with Pam Cope.

The newly released The Perfect Mother is her first novel.

Recently I asked Molloy about what she was reading. Her reply:
I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of a gorgeous book called The Ones we Choose, by Julie Clark. It’s about a single mom whose son Miles was born via sperm donor. He’s now eight and having a lot of issues around not knowing who his dad is. Then, by chance, the sperm donor appears in their lives. The book is not only a beautiful story of what makes a family, but the characters are so rich and well-drawn that it’s hard to put down. The book is out this month and I can’t wait for everyone else to get the chance to read it.
Visit Aimee Molloy's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Owen Laukkanen

In addition to the McKenna Rhodes maritime adventure thriller Gale Force, Owen Laukkanen is the author of six critically-acclaimed Stevens and Windermere FBI thrillers, and as Owen Matthews, two wildly inappropriate novels for young adults. A former professional poker journalist and commercial fisherman, Laukkanen and his rescue pitbull Lucy divide their time between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Prince Edward Island.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Laukkanen's reply:
I’ve been living in a kind of self-imposed rural exile on the family farm these last few months, and with no TV and limited Internet I’ve been taking the opportunity to work through my massive To Be Read pile. I think I read fourteen books in March alone!

One book that I really liked was Laurence Gonzales’s nonfiction book Deep Survival, which is an examination of who lives and dies in traumatic situations, like mountain climbing accidents or plane crashes, or just people getting lost in dangerous terrain. I’m an avid outdoorsman and I love Jon Krakauer’s books, and Gonzales has a similar style; he has plenty of illustrative stories about what people have done correctly or incorrectly in the face of extreme challenges. It’s a very entertaining read, and something that I’ll keep in mind the next time I head out into the mountains myself.

I’ve been trying to keep things varied as far as what I’m reading, in terms of both subject matter and the demographic of the author. My friend and Putnam colleague Nick Petrie’s third Peter Ash novel, Light It Up, came out earlier this year, and I snapped it up immediately. Nick’s the kind of writer who stands poised to take Lee Child’s crown if Lee and Reacher ever miss a step; his writing is that good. It’s propulsive and inventive and thoughtful all at once, the kind of thriller writing we all aspire to. I know every thriller author gets compared to Lee Child, but damned if Nick doesn’t have the chops to actually earn the praise. I kind of hate him.

I also really liked Michael Ferris Smith’s Desperation Road. I really admire writers who can write beautifully and evocatively with an economy of language, and this book fits that bill to a T. Desperation Road is the story of a man who comes out of prison to try and rebuild a life in his hometown, and a woman and child with whom he crosses paths after they’ve found themselves in some trouble. It’s one of those books where everyone’s trying to do the right thing, everyone’s luck is simply awful, and sooner or later, an inexorable violence just erupts. I immediately bought his second book, The Fighter.

Finally, Lisa Moore’s February blew me away, recently. It’s the story of a woman struggling in the aftermath of the real-life Ocean Ranger disaster in Newfoundland, where 84 men died when their oilrig sank in a Valentine’s Day storm. Her husband was aboard, and this is the story of how she and their children come to terms with their grief. It’s another beautifully written novel, filled with soulful prose and observation, and real empathy and tenderness for the characters. I don’t often find myself underlining passages in books to remember, but I did while I read February.
Visit Owen Laukkanen's website.

The Page 69 Test: Gale Force.

--Marshal Zeringue