Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Mike Chen

Mike Chen is a lifelong writer, from crafting fan fiction as a child to somehow getting paid for words as an adult. He has contributed to major geek websites (The Mary Sue, The Portalist, Tor) and covered the NHL for mainstream media outlets. A member of SFWA and Codex Writers, Chen lives in the Bay Area, where he can be found playing video games and watching Doctor Who with his wife, daughter, and rescue animals.

His novels are Here and Now and Then and the newly released A Beginning at the End.

Recently I asked Chen about what he was reading. His reply:
I'm currently starting an ARC of Rule, by Rowenna Miller. Rule is the final book in her Unraveled Kingdom trilogy, and I basically have been begging her for an ARC since I finished reading the second book Fray last year. The Unraveled Kingdom is a fantasy series, but it's very different from most fantasy works because of two choices that I absolutely adore. The first is that magic in this world is created through art. The passion an artist, be it weaving clothes or playing music, taps into a source of magical power for this world. The second is the level of politics in the book: inspired by the French Revolution, Rowenna carefully allows both sides (aristocracy and commoners) to have their say, with both doing their share of unscrupulous manipulation. So many political narratives often paint one side or the other as the champion, and this handles it with way more nuance. I have a massive TBR queue, but I let Rule skip right to the front of the line because I loved the first two books so much.
Visit Mike Chen's website.

My Book, The Movie: Here and Now and Then.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 12, 2020

J. T. Ellison

In J. T. Ellison's new thriller, Good Girls Lie, Ash Carlisle leaves the U.K. after the death of her parents to attend the Goode School, a prep school for young women located in a small Virginia town that is a stepping stone to the Ivy League. Initially unprepared for the mean girls and the hazing, things get worse when students start dying...and suspicion falls on Ash.

Recently I asked Ellison about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m deep into a wonderful upcoming title from New York Times bestseller Ariel Lawhon, Code Name Hélène, a historical fiction of the dynamic spy Nancy Wake. It’s fabulous not only because I love reading about her exploits in the field, dropping behind enemy lines with her lipstick fresh and her handbag clutched to her side, but also the deep, abiding romance between she and her husband. We get to see them meet, fall in love, and eventually, work together to defeat Hitler. Just a superb example of top-notch historical fiction by a stellar author hitting her stride in the genre.
Visit J.T. Ellison's website and follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

My Book, The Movie: Good Girls Lie.

The Page 69 Test: Good Girls Lie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Genevieve Cogman

Genevieve Cogman is a freelance author who has written for several role-playing game companies. She currently works for the National Health Service in England as a clinical classifications specialist. She is the author of the Invisible Library series, including The Mortal World, The Lost Plot, The Burning Page, The Masked City, The Invisible Library, and The Secret Chapter.

Recently I asked Cogman about what she was reading. Her reply:
I'm currently reading the new Penguin Classics edition of Japanese Ghost Stories by Lafcadio Hearn. I've read some of them before, in different collections, but this particular edition has multiple stories which I hadn't previously encountered. Hearn is an interesting figure, who besides working as a journalist, made his way through traditional Irish ghost stories and Creole ghost stories to Japanese supernatural myths and folklore. He loved ghost stories, and he collected and translated them generously and with relish. While any translation is to some extent shaped by its translator, these writings have the genuine feeling of stories told in candle-lit darkness, shared in a whisper with friends, or in summer to raise a shiver down the spine. People who like the classic movie Kwaidan would also particularly love these stories, as they can read the origins of the episodes featured in the movie.

(And if anyone would like a sample Japanese supernatural story from Lafcadio Hearn, "The Mujina," click here).
Visit Genevieve Cogman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Karen Odden

Karen Odden is the author of bestselling novels A Lady in the Smoke and A Dangerous Duet.

She currently resides in Scottsdale, Arizona with her husband, her two children, and her ridiculously cute beagle, Rosy.

Odden's new novel is A Trace of Deceit.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
As I work on my mystery, about a Scotland Yard inspector in 1878, I find myself craving big-hearted, bold works that are strongly rooted in true history. So here are a few of my recent favorites!

In mid-December, I finished Daniel Mason’s The Winter Soldier, about a young Viennese medical student who is called upon to serve in a hospital in the Carpathian Mountains during WWI. When he knocks on the door, asking to be taken to the senior physician, the nurse tells him bluntly that he is it. (!) The book is told in third person but adheres closely to the protagonist’s point-of-view. It has some of the historical charm and strong sense of place as Stef Penney’s The Tenderness of Wolves, or David Benioff’s City of Thieves.

Unspeakable Things by Jess Lourey. I read the galley because I heard the author speak at Bouchercon (a large mystery writer’s conference) in October and had a feeling this would be an amazing book club read. (My book club is one of the more serious sort. My friend Donna runs it; I’m just a happy participant.) Jess Lourey’s book, based on horrifying true events in a small town in 1980s Minnesota, cuts to the bone. The best comparison I can make about its emotional punch is to books such as Jeannette Walls’s memoir The Glass Castle and the more recent Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. I bought this book for my husband two Christmases ago, and he loved it, so I put it on my TBR list. It details one of those untold but wretchedly true American stories about race, money, and the abuse of power. The Osage were relocated (several times), ultimately ending up on a reservation that happened to sit on top of an enormous oil reservoir. For several decades in the early 20th century, various unscrupulous white men conspired to steal the Osage’s profits by every means, including highly questionable legal actions and murder. Grann has clearly done meticulous research into these events. I found myself hoping against hope for some justice at the end. (Spoiler alert: there isn’t much.)

November Road by Lou Berney. This book won the best book of the year at Bouchercon. I finished it in two stints, and the characters are still haunting me. The time is November 1963, just after JFK was shot, and this is one of those books in which two stories intersect. The first story belongs to Frank Guidry, an upper-middle-ranking member of the New Orleans mob, who was asked to drop off a getaway car in Dallas. But after JFK’s assassination, he knows that the killer was not Lee Harvey Oswald but a professional hit man sent by his mob boss Carlos Marcello. Frank knows that he knows too much, and now he is on the run. The second story is that of Charlotte, who takes her two daughters and flees her alcoholic, dysfunctional marriage in Oklahoma. An accident tumbles her car into a ditch, and in Charlotte and her two children, Frank finds a way to hide from the hit man sent to kill “a single man” on the run. But Frank and Charlotte find in each other something that transcends their past lives. Told in third person, the chapters are focalized through different characters, but predominantly through Frank and Charlotte. Frank’s backstory is hinted at throughout, and when finally revealed ratchets up the emotional power. It’s a dark read, and the fairly explicit sex and gore, while not gratuitous, may not be for everyone. But Frank’s transformation from a callous womanizer to a decent human being is compelling and ultimately heartbreaking.

The holidays are an excellent time to read books by the fire while eating cookies! Next up for me? Malcolm Gladwell’s book Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know and Geraldine Brooks’s The Secret Chord because her book Year of Wonders is still one of my all-time faves, and I reread it almost every year.
Visit Karen Odden's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Karen Odden and Rosy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Lee Goldberg

Lee Goldberg is a two-time Edgar Award and two-time Shamus Award nominee and the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty novels, including the Ian Ludlow thrillers Killer Thriller and True Fiction, King City, The Walk, fifteen Monk mysteries, and the internationally bestselling Fox & O’Hare books (The Heist, The Chase, The Job, The Scam, and The Pursuit) cowritten with Janet Evanovich. He has also written and/or produced many TV shows, including Diagnosis Murder, SeaQuest, and Monk, and is the co-creator of the Hallmark movie series Mystery 101. As an international television consultant, he has advised networks and studios in Canada, France, Germany, Spain, China, Sweden, and the Netherlands on the creation, writing, and production of episodic television series.

Goldberg's new novel is Lost Hills.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I like to alternate my reading between newly released books in a variety of genres and stuff that was published decades ago. In the last couple of weeks, I've read Lou Berney's remarkable November Road, which works not only as a great crime novel, but also as pure literature. He beautifully captures both a time and a place... and even the smallest characters came alive as three-dimensional, unique, and memorable. I also like the deft balance of horror, humanity and humor. The novel deserves all the praise it has been getting.

I also read Alfred Harris' Baroni, a little-known crime novel from the 70s that was made into a French film in the 1980s. It starts off like a typical police procedural of its time, with some stiff writing and tired cliches, but it takes an unpredictable turn, becoming less about a homicide investigation than about the delightful, surprising, utterly original relationship that develops between the Columbo-esque cop and the killer he is pursuing...and about the other characters, also colorful, lost souls, in each of their lives. An unexpectedly heartwarming novel...with a satisfying final twist.

I also read a non-fiction book, the revised and expanded edition of The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman, that discusses how products, building, websites, and just about everything we use in life are designed to match our practical, emotional, and physical needs. It was fascinating and entertaining.
Visit Lee Goldberg's website.

My Book, The Movie: Lost Hills.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Amber Cowie

Amber Cowie is a graduate of the University of Victoria and was short-listed for the 2017 Whistler Book Award. She lives in the mountains in a small West Coast town. Cowie is a mother of two, wife of one, and a novelist who enjoys skiing, running, and creating stories that make her browser search history highly suspicious.

Her novels are Rapid Falls and the newly released Raven Lane.

Recently I asked Cowie about what she was reading. Her reply:
I am very late to the party, but I recently picked up the first book in the Outlander series from my sister’s book shelf. I was in the mood for romance after diving into two astonishing, poignant works on death: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanthi and The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. Diana Gabaldon did not disappoint. I am excited to go to bed every night and absolutely thrilled that I have so many more books to go!

Here’s the thing. I’m not a typical romance reader. I like dark books. The closest I’ve come to a love for romance was when I devoured Flowers in the Attic and the associated works by V.C. Andrews and anyone who has read those knows that the romance within them is not exactly savory. Or, um, legal. But Gabaldon has me hooked on the sumptuous Scottish settings and the love story which borders on Highlands erotica.

It’s fitting, as my last book Raven Lane contained several racy sex scenes and a character that I found deeply, unsettlingly attractive. I suppose there’s something in the air around here right now. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go see a man about a kilt.
Visit Amber Cowie's website.

The Page 69 Test: Rapid Falls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Emma Sloley

Emma Sloley began her career as a features editor at Harper’s BAZAAR Australia, where she worked for six years. In 2004, she and her husband made the move to New York. As a freelance travel writer in NYC, she has appeared in many US and international magazines, including Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, and New York magazine. She has also published fiction, short fiction, and creative nonfiction in literary publications such as Catapult, The Masters Review Anthology, and Yemassee Journal. Sloley's work has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and she has received a fellowship from the MacDowell Colony, where she wrote her debut novel, Disaster’s Children. Today she divides her time between the United States, Mexico, and various airport lounges.

Recently I asked Sloley about what she was reading. Her reply:
Imagine Me Gone, Adam Haslett

I picked this novel up knowing very little about it and was instantly drawn into the intimate orbit of the family whose lives Haslett trace across several decades. Along with being an affecting story about love, mental illness, and the bonds and tragic legacies of family, I loved how Haslett draws his characters with such sympathy and heart, particularly the eldest son, Michael, whose heartbreaking attempts to shake off his inherited demons feel viscerally real. I really appreciate that authorial generosity, and I feel like all writers should strive for this. For such somber subject matter, it’s also surprisingly funny. I really loved this and looking forward to seeing what Haslett turns his hand to next.

Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin

I’m at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire at the moment, so it seemed fitting I should read a masterwork from one of its most famous residents. Baldwin is such a towering literary figure and has influenced pretty much every brilliant author of the twenty-first century, especially those writing about race and sexuality. The novel, about a man torn between his desire for a woman and another man, was considered shocking at the time it was published (1956), and while the subject matter no longer feels transgressive, there is still something delightfully subversive about Baldwin’s prose, his ability to strip away artifice and opacity in favor of radical honesty.

Marlena, Julie Buntin

I’m only partway through this, but already enjoying the granular examination of a close friendship between two young women—one, a naïve suburban teenager; the other a wild, idiosyncratic outsider—that ends in tragedy. The story is told in two time frames, alternating between the months leading up to the titular character’s mysterious death and the present day, in which the protagonist is unexpectedly visited by a character closely linked to the tragedy. Both stylistically and in subject matter the novel reminds me of Emma Cline’s The Girls, a book I loved, so I’m keen to see where it goes.

Delicate Edible Birds, Lauren Groff

I’ve been a huge fan of Lauren Groff’s since reading Fates and Furies, and every time she publishes a short story it’s a cause for celebration —she’s one of the few contemporary writers who is as deft in the short form as she is in a novel. This was the first time I’d read one of her collections, and I came away dazzled by her rare ability to chart the course of an entire life on such a small canvas. The worlds depicted in many of these stories span years if not decades, an unusual and audacious choice given that most short story writers favor a compacted time frame. Groff is such a master at writing about women’s lives, both interior and public. She creates characters that feel utterly alive in all their flawed, complex glory.
Visit Emma Sloley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Eliza Nellums

Raised in the Detroit suburbs, Eliza Nellums now lives with her cat in Washington DC. She is a member of Bethesda Writer's Center as well as the Metro Wriders, a weekly critique group that meets in Dupont Circle.

Nellums's debut novel is All That's Bright and Gone.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I recently finished Virgil Wander, by Leif Enger. For most of the book the pacing was slow and dreamlike, which I loved. There's a lot of pressure to add intensity and keep people on the edge of their seats, but this was such a gentle book about small town life along the lake in Minnesota. I came away totally inspired.

I'm half way through The Far Field, and I'm loving it - a lot of the story is set in Kashmir, a place I've never even been close to, and I'm so transported and absorbed by this (to me) totally new place. And the writing is brilliant.

I usually have a few books going at a time, so I'm just starting one I've been excited to read all year: Freshwater, by Akwaeke Emezi. I have only just gotten underway, but I am fascinated by other people's debut novels right now - they are all just so personal and intimate - these are often books that people have worked on for a lifetime, truly like you're holding someone's dearest wish in your hand.

Next I can't wait to dig into Zach Powers' First Cosmic Velocity, which is set in the Russian space program of the 1960s. I'm prepared for a strange and beautiful trip!
Visit Eliza Nellums's website.

The Page 69 Test: All That's Bright and Gone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Kylie Brant

Kylie Brant is the author of more than forty novels, including Cold Dark Places in the Cady Maddix series, the Circle of Evil Trilogy, and the stand-alone novels Pretty Girls Dancing and Deep as the Dead. A three-time RITA Award nominee, five-time RT Award finalist, and two-time Daphne du Maurier Award winner, Brant is a member of the Romance Writers of America, including its Kiss of Death mystery and suspense chapter; Novelists, Inc.; and the International Thriller Writers. Her books have been published in thirty-four countries and have been translated into eighteen languages.

Brant's new novel is Down the Darkest Road.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Brant's reply:
Two of my favorite recent reads share something in common: they feature young boys as main characters, both of whom channel Huck Finn.

First was John Hart’s The Last Child. I’m always drawn to Hart’s beautiful prose and this book was no exception. But it’s the characters that breathe life to the story, and Jonny Merrimon is one who stayed with me long after I turned the last page. The thirteen-year-old boy’s twin sister disappeared the year before. His father left shortly after that. Now Jonny is obsessed with finding both of them and he’s searching door-to-door, in some very unsavory parts of town.

Detective Clyde Hunt is also haunted by the case, and hasn’t given up finding the girl. He learns of Jonny’s quest and tries to dissuade the boy from the search. But Jonny ends up supplying Hunt with necessary information that eventually reveals the tragic truth.

William Kent Krueger’s depression-era This Tender Land is simply a treasure. Four boys run away from Lincoln School, a facility where Native American children are forcibly sent to be educated. They’re accompanied by two girls who are suddenly orphaned. The children’s canoe journey on the Mississippi is reminiscent of Finn’s, and so is the contrast of their innocence and too-wise observations about the people they meet. Woven through the plot is the grim reality of life in the Depression, and treatment of Native Americans by the government. But it’s ultimately uplifting, with threads of forgiveness and redemption.

Jane Harper’s Australian-based atmospheric novels intrigue by using setting as another character in the novel. The Lost Man is no different. The slow-unfolding of the story is back-dropped against the remote Queensland outback. It begins with the horrific discovery of Cameron Bright found dead on the outskirts of the family property. His death is a mystery—his car is found several miles away in working order; he left it without taking food or water, and he never radioed for help. It’s left to his brother Nathan to discover what happened. Harper is brilliant with the slow-reveal structure, and I just wasn’t sure where this story was going to end up. She managed to surprise me with the conclusion, the mark of a very talented writer.

I’ve become a fan of Megan Miranda’s, because she always has a small cast of characters and still manages to provide twists to the plot. The Last Houseguest was no different. The unreliable narrator, Avery, has recently lost her parents and best friend in separate tragic accidents. Her friend’s wealthy family, the Lomax’s, agree to hire Avery to take care of their string of resort cottages in a Maine beach town. Told in alternate time-lines, it shifts seamlessly between past and present, revealing clues and secrets at every turn. The slow-reveal format worked for me, as did the unexpected ending.
Read more about Kylie Brant's work at her website.

The Page 69 Test: Down the Darkest Road.

My Book, The Movie: Down the Darkest Road.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 19, 2019

L.C. Shaw

L.C. Shaw is the pen name of internationally bestselling author Lynne Constantine who also writes psychological thrillers with her sister as Liv Constantine. Her family wonder if she is actually a spy, and never knows what to call her. She has explored coral reefs all over the world, sunken wrecks in the South Pacific, and fallen in love with angelfish in the Caribbean. Constantine is a former marketing executive and has a Master’s in Business from Johns Hopkins University. When editing her work, she loves to procrastinate by spending time on social media, and when stuck on a plot twist has been known to run ideas by her Silver Labrador and Golden Retriever who wish she would stop working and play ball with them. Her work has been translated into 27 languages and is available in over 31 countries.

Shaw's new novel is The Network.

Recently I asked Constantine about what she was reading. Her reply:
I have more books on my nightstand than I can count, but I’m currently reading Save the Cat, which is purported to be the last book on screenwriting you will ever need. It’s actually the first one I’ve read, so I don’t think I’ll abide by that promise. I ordered it because I intend to write a screenplay for The Network, and whenever I embark on something new I always begin by reading a book about it.

In terms of fiction, I’m currently reading an advanced copy of Danielle Girard’s White Out which is a thriller that takes place in a small town in North Dakota and centers around a woman with amnesia who may or may not have killed someone. It has completely drawn me in and if I wasn’t in the middle of edits on The Network 2, I’d be finished with it already. I love fiction that has well-drawn and complex characters in addition to a fast-paced plot. This fits the bill perfectly.
Visit L. C. Shaw's website.

--Marshal Zeringue