Monday, March 31, 2014

Janie Chodosh

Janie Chodosh is a scientist wannabe and a naturalist. She has spent the last decade teaching high school English and middle school science. When not writing or obsessing about writing, Chodosh can be found with her family in various outdoor pursuits including bird watching, rock climbing, or trying to grow a garden in the arid southwest. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with her daughter, stepson, and husband. Death Spiral is her first novel.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Chodosh's reply:
Since I write for a young adult audience, I read a lot of YA fiction. I just finished Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory. She is one of my favorite young adult writers, and this book did not disappoint me. What I loved most about this book was the snappy dialogue between Hayley, the protagonist, and her eventual love interest, Finn. Their banter, which ranges from snarky/sarcastic to hilarious to poignant, hums with real-life teenage vitality. Teens do so love to take linguistic jabs at each other, and the dialogue perfectly captures that artful use of language. There is a deeper side to this story, too, the relationship between a veteran father suffering from PTSD and his teenage daughter. Haley’s first person narration is interwoven with her father’s flashbacks of his devastating war experience, allowing the reader a glimpse into the root of his suffering. The book is nuanced with themes of memory and trust and how to move on when you’ve hit rock bottom.

Another young adult novel I recently read and loved was Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. The narrative point of view alternates between Eleanor and Park, which allowed me to deeply connect with both of the characters. The setting is the 1980’s and the author nails the music and fashion of the time, offering a curious trip back to my own high school years (really, we wore that?) What I liked best about this book was Eleanor, overweight, flamboyant, and her own person. I worried that the author would force Eleanor to have a makeover with better clothes and a diet. Fortunately, she did not. Eleanor, despite all the struggles in her home life and at school, remains true to who she is, and Park, half-Korean, and himself somewhat of a misfit, loves everything about her. The book may be set in the 1980s, but the love story between Eleanor and Park is timeless.

A third young adult novel I finished recently is Shine by Lauren Myracle. Shine begins after Patrick Truman, a gay teenager and Cat’s (the protagonist’s) former best friend, is found beaten and left for dead. Cat is determined to find out who did this to Patrick, even as she is still nursing her own emotional wounds. Being that I am a mystery writer with a teen protagonist who, against all odds, is driven to find out the truth behind her mother’s death, I related to Cat’s determination and bravery, especially when everyone is telling her to back off and stop asking questions. Cat is real, vulnerable, and she does not give up. The backwoods setting of rural North Carolina is realistically detailed and the characterizations are sharp. Although at first I worried the book would be heavy handed in dealing with the topic of a hate crime, it was anything, but that. Shine is a compelling and powerful page-turner about an important topic.
Visit Janie Chodosh's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 28, 2014

Margarita Engle

Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American winner of the first Newbery Honor ever awarded to a Latino. Her award winning young adult novels in verse include The Surrender Tree, The Poet Slave of Cuba, Tropical Secrets, and The Firefly Letters.

Engle’s recent books include The Lightning Dreamer and When You Wander, and her middle grade chapter book, Mountain Dog, was published in August 2013.

Engle's new book is Silver People, Voices From the Panama Canal.

She lives in central California, where she enjoys helping her husband with his volunteer work for wilderness search and rescue dog training programs.

A few days ago I asked the author about what she was reading. Engle's reply:
Frankly, I’m always shocked when I hear people who say they love books begin to brag about only buying books online, at bargain prices. I love books, and I love bookstores, so I make a point of buying new hardback poetry in brick-and-mortar stores. It’s a matter of principle. I want bookstores to survive. I also want bookstores to carry poetry.

My most recent hardback poetry purchases are The Moon Before Morning, by W.S. Merwin, and a bilingual edition of All The Odes, by Pablo Neruda, edited by Ilan Stevens. Both are gorgeous, and I know that I will re-read them many times, year after year, making them highly affordable, if viewed as lifelong treasures.

My prose reading moods vary, but in general, I love books with an international flavor. I just finished Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel, Americanah, which follows the travels of a Nigerian woman who becomes a U.S. citizen, experiences racism, and eventually decides to return to the land of her birth.

Now I’m reading Prayers for the Stolen, by Jennifer Clement, who lives in Mexico. It’s a novel about mothers who have to disguise, or even maim, their pretty daughters, to keep them from being kidnapped by violent druglords. Because this is such a serious subject, I am balancing it with an entertaining historical novel, Juliet, by Anne Fortier. This story is really fun. A modern descendant of Shakespeare’s Juliet discovers secrets about her famous ancestor. I’m enjoying the way Fortier has made the historical era come to life, giving real-world roots to a fictional character.

Finally, I like to include at least one children’s book in my reading mix. I just finished a lovely bilingual picture book, Floating on Mama’s Song/Flotando en la Canción de Mamá, by Laura Lacámara, illustrated by Yuyi Morales, about an opera singer whose voice makes people and animals rise joyfully up into the sky.
Visit Margarita Engle's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Margarita Engle & Maggi and Chance.

My Book, The Movie: The Lightning Dreamer.

My Book, The Movie: Mountain Dog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Gae Polisner

Gae Polisner is the award-winning author of The Pull of Gravity. She is a family law mediator by trade but a writer by calling. She lives on Long Island with her husband and two sons. When she’s not writing, she can be found in a pool or, in warmer weather, in her wet suit in the open waters of Long Island Sound. Her new book, The Summer of Letting Go, is her second novel for teen readers.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Polisner's reply:
I am literally today just about to finish Matthew Quick’s terrific Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock. I’m embarrassed to admit it’s my first Matthew Quick book (since I hear they are all pretty stellar), which is reason number one why I’m reading it. Besides that, the theme of a teen boy with plans, on the day of his 18th birthday, to kill his former best friend them himself, resonated with me against the backdrop of the spate of recent school shootings. What would bring a kid to feel so hopeless and distraught? What might bring him back from the brink? Hope? Questions we all need to find answers to.

Funnily enough, I am simultaneously reading another “school shooting” book, this one adult fiction more than a decade old: We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver, a book with such skilled and impeccable writing it pretty much boggles my own writer mind. I’ve actually been reading it page by page for over a year in between reading newer fiction and books I feel I should read because of my YA writing career. Pretty much every paragraph amazes me.

As for Leonard Peacock, the best thing about it at the moment, besides it just being a compelling read, is that it has switched on the light bulb for me about the gist of what is wrong (not yet right?) with my current manuscript. Or, wait, maybe that’s the worst thing.
Visit Gae Polisner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 24, 2014

David Handler

David Handler’s first book in the Berger and Mitry series, The Cold Blue Blood, was a Dilys Award finalist and BookSense Top Ten pick. Handler is also the author of eight novels about the witty and dapper celebrity ghostwriter Stewart Hoag and his faithful, neurotic basset hound, Lulu, including Edgar and American Mystery Award winner The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald.

His new novel is The Coal Black Asphalt Tomb.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Handler's reply:
The brutally long, cold winter is still hanging on here in Southern New England. The news headlines seem to be getting bleaker and more depressing every day. Me? I’m curled up with my favorite hard-boiled crime novel of all time, Build My Gallows High, by the late, great Geoffrey Homes, which was the pen name of a San Francisco newspaperman named Daniel Mainwaring.

If you don’t know Geoffrey Homes you really should. He was one of the very best hard-boiled crime writers of the 1940s. And if you don’t know Build My Gallows High -- a twisty, wicked tale of a detective who goes searching for a gangster’s treacherous girlfriend only to end up falling for her himself -- well, yes, you do. Or you do if you’re a fan of film noir. When Homes adapted Build My Gallows High as a screenplay for RKO in 1947 the title got changed to Out of the Past. That’s right, the iconic noir masterpiece starring Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer, directed by Jacques Tourneur, was based on this book.

Are you with me now?

If you’re a fan of the movie I promise you that you’ll love the book. Homes did have to move some pieces around structurally. He changed the name of Robert Mitchum’s character from Red Bailey to Jeff Bailey. Also the name of Jane Greer’s character from Mumsie McGonigle to Kathie Moffat. But it’s all here – the razor sharp dialogue, the wicked double-crosses and this gifted author’s wonderful prose. Here is what Red thinks the first time he ever lays eyes on Mumsie: “She was a slim, lovely little thing with eyes too big for her face and the serene look often seen on nuns.”

Clearly, this was a man who didn’t stand a chance.

Homes wrote a ton of excellent series mysteries before he ever wrote Build My Gallows High. To me, he is one of the most underappreciated writers of his era. Not to mention the unsung godfather of film noir. Because, let’s face it, if it hadn’t been for Build My Gallows High there would be no Out of the Past. No Mitchum being the ultimate loser hero. No Jane Greer being the ultimate bad girl.

Honestly? That’s too horrible a concept to even imagine. I just can’t.
Visit David Handler's website.

Writers Read: David Handler (October 2011).

Writers Read: David Handler (October 2012).

Writers Read: David Handler (August 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Patrick Allitt

Patrick N. Allitt is Cahoon Family Professor of American History at Emory University. He was an undergraduate at Oxford in England, a graduate student at the University of California Berkeley, and held postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard Divinity School and Princeton University. At Emory since 1988, he teaches courses on American intellectual, environmental, and religious history, on Victorian Britain, and on the Great Books.

His new book is A Climate of Crisis: America in the Age of Environmentalism.

Recently I asked Allitt about what he was reading. His reply:
All my own writing is non-fiction but I love to read fiction for pleasure. Mrs. Allitt and I, over the last thirty years, have read aloud to one-another almost every day. We’ve made our way through twenty or more of Anthony Trollope’s massive novels, everything by David Lodge, everything by Nick Hornby, and nearly everything by Ian McEwen, William Boyd, and many others.

Our most recent book has been Jami Attenberg’s The Middlesteins, which is in equal degrees painful and delightful. Its central character, Edie Middlestein, is an intelligent Jewish lawyer with a serious weight problem. Alternate chapter headings throughout the book mark her increasing heft: “Edie, 56 pounds,” “Edie, 220 pounds,” “Edie 300 pounds,” and so on. In these chapters we see the world from her point of view. We learn that her husband, in his late fifties, has left her, that she is diabetic, that she’s had one serious operation and must soon have another, that she’s morbidly obese to a life-threatening degree, and that she sneaks off to McDonalds and to a new Chinese restaurant to gorge herself at every possible opportunity.

The other chapters are views of her situation from those around her: the angry daughter, the devoted son, the helicopter-parent daughter-in-law, this couple’s twins, the Chinese restaurant owner who loves to cook for Edie and has a crush on her, and the now-absent husband, who’s struggling to come to terms with the mid-life dating scene. There’s even a bravura chapter by eight people together, the four couples who are their long-time friends at the synagogue, cleverly written in the first-person plural. They give a satirical account of the twins’ b’nai mitzvah at a fancy hotel, and the half-suppressed battles they can see raging among the temporarily-reunited family members.

Is Edie actually going to eat herself to death? Who is supposed to do what on behalf of suffering family members? What are the rights and wrongs of leaving a disabled spouse who has made your life hell for several decades? Attenberg’s genius is to give everyone’s point of view equal weight. There are no heroes and no villains—as the reader you occupy each character’s shoes for a while and see how it all looks from his or her point of view, before moving on to the next one.

I can’t speak highly enough about this book—it seems to me an instant classic of American suburban life, managing to blend dazzling comedy with painful home truths on almost every page.
Learn more about A Climate of Crisis at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Conservatives.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ben Tarnoff

Ben Tarnoff has written for the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Lapham’s Quarterly, and is the author of A Counterfeiter’s Paradise: The Wicked Lives and Surprising Adventures of Three Early American Moneymakers. His new book is The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature.

Recently I asked Tarnoff about what he was reading. His reply:
Writing a book destroys your life. It consumes all the time allotted for it, and everything else besides. All those hours you had hoped to spend doing normal human things like socializing and cooking and exercising must be sacrificed to the hungry monster that lives inside every manuscript. And if you manage to pry yourself away from your desk and actually do something recreational, your ability to enjoy it will always run up against one recurring thought: I should be working on my book.

Under these conditions, the idea of reading for pleasure is absurd. A writer reading a book while also trying to write one is either doing research or procrastinating or looking for inspiration or sizing up competitors. Pleasure rarely enters the picture. Writing has made me a terrible reader: distractible, impatient, nit-picky, guilt-ridden. But every now and then, I stumble on a book that's so perfectly keyed to what I need at that particular moment that everything else falls away.

Lytton Strachey's Eminent Victorians is one of those books. I bought it at Grand Central Station one day after walking over from the New York Public Library, where I was writing The Bohemians. Strachey's book is made up of short biographies of four major figures of Victorian-era Britain: Cardinal Manning, Florence Nightingale, Thomas Arnold, and General Gordon. He cuts so deeply into each character that you almost feel like you're living inside of them. He also manages to write with such wit and authority, you’d follow him down any digression, just for the pleasure of listening to his voice.

In his preface, Strachey presents a manifesto of sorts for how to write history. He lambasts the biographers of his time for producing unwieldy volumes full of “ill-digested masses of material,” and condemns “their slipshod style, their tone of tedious panegyric, their lamentable lack of selection.” He wants biographers to write more concisely and more absorbingly—to aim for “a brevity which excludes everything that is redundant and nothing that is significant.” I thought of Strachey’s words often while writing The Bohemians, as I endeavored to boil down my own masses of material into a digestible, delectable reduction.
View the trailer for The Bohemians, and visit Ben Tarnoff's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Elizabeth Maxwell

Elizabeth Maxwell lived for a long time in the east until one particularly snowy February when she couldn’t take it anymore, packed up her angry cat and moved west. She’s been hanging out in the Northern California sunshine ever since. (Well, except for a decade in San Francisco where it was foggy all the time but the restaurants were really good so there was that.) Maxwell currently lives in Davis, CA with her husband, two kids and the same angry cat (who is now 97 cat years old.)

Her debut novel is Happily Ever After.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Maxwell's reply:
I’m about half way through Doctor Sleep by Stephen King and it’s completely taken over my life. I love the way King can take the perfectly ordinary and make it so creepy. From the moment I pick up one of his novels, I’m on edge, waiting for the thing under the bed to reach out and grab my ankle with a cold, slimy claw.

What brings me back to Stephen King time and time again is how much I like his characters. Thrillers are too often populated with throw aways who are put through the paces so we can all just hurry up and get to the exciting parts. King takes his time, building his characters, layering them with the pain and pleasure of life until they feel like friends. So of course you can’t turn away now. You can’t leave them to face the menace alone. And you know whatever is out there, whatever is coming, it’s going to be bad.
Visit Elizabeth Maxwell's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Happily Ever After.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Tova Mirvis

Tova Mirvis is the author of three novels, Visible City, The Outside World and The Ladies Auxiliary, which was a national bestseller. Her essays have appeared in various anthologies and newspapers including The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, CommentaryGood Housekeeping, and Poets and Writers, and her fiction has been broadcast on National Public Radio. She has been a Scholar in Residence at the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute at Brandeis University, and Visiting Scholar at The Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center. She lives in Newton, MA with her three children.

Recently I asked Mirvis about what she was reading. Her reply:
I just got back from a week in Costa Rica and spent much of the week before my trip trying to decide what books to bring with me. In a rare move for me, I wasn’t brining my computer and knew there would be no book stores in the remote region where I was going to be. I was worried about being without books I really wanted read -- the vacationers equivalent, I suppose, of what books would you take to a desert island. I spent a long time browsing in my favorite bookstore, changing my mind a few times before I decided to go with two books that I hoped would be sure things.

The first book I read was Where’d You Go Bernadette, Maria Semple’s satirical and extremely entertaining take on motherhood, private schools, high tech careers, Seattle and much more. Constructed out of emails, FBI reports, school report cards and letters, the book tells the story of the unraveling of Bernadette, a one-time famed architect who pulls a disappearing act that involves the South Pole, the Russian Mafia, and over-zealous private school mothers. I loved the way the characters in the book felt so well-rounded and the story so whole, though it was patched together by such a variety of communications. In the end, I found that I was not only entirely amused but moved as well.

When I finished that, I read Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins, a book that I’ve heard so much about, and I wasn’t disappointed. From the first sentence, I was hooked. A dying young actress arrives by boat in a small Italian town, and a young innkeeper with big dreams watches and is enchanted. “He would remain in love for the rest of his life – not so much with the woman, whom he didn’t even know, but with the moment.” The book moves between times and continents, but throughout, remains beautifully seductive.
Visit Tova Mirvis's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 14, 2014

Dean Crawford

Dean Crawford worked as a graphic designer before he left the industry to pursue his lifelong dream of writing full-time. An aviation and motorcycle enthusiast, he lives with his family in Surrey, England.

His novels include Covenant, Immortal, and Apocalypse.

Recently I asked Crawford what he was reading. His reply:
I’m currently reading A.G. Riddle’s The Atlantis Gene, a modern thriller that ties genetic technology with the discovery of a former Nazi submarine buried in the Arctic, a secret government organisation and a potential ancient pandemic threatening mankind. I picked it because it’s the kind of novel that I’d like to have written, packed with multiple story threads and arcs that come together over the course of the story. The novel is all the better for being an independent title, something for which I have the greatest respect, having written several myself. When you’re doing literally everything yourself, from editing to cover-design to marketing, it’s a skilled hand that can put it all together and make it work as well as a big-publisher’s mass-market title.
Visit Dean Crawford's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Covenant.

The Page 69 Test: Covenant.

The Page 69 Test: Immortal.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Chris Pavone

Chris Pavone’s first novel, The Expats, was published in 2012, and was a New York Times and international bestseller, with nearly twenty foreign editions and a major film deal. The Expats was nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize and a Macavity, and awards from the Strand Magazine Critics Circle, the Mystery Booksellers Association, and the International Thriller Writers, and received the 2013 Edgar Award and the 2013 Anthony Award for Best First Novel.

Pavone's new novel is The Accident.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
After a confluence of strident recommendations, I finally gave in and picked up Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose Novels, and am nearly finished devouring them. Strangely, I discovered that both my literary agent and my associate publisher are reading the same exact books, which is an extraordinary coincidence for a series of not-exactly-new British novels, being read by New York publishing people, who as a matter of professional obligation are almost always reading something brand-new.

Although the novels I write are plot-driven thrillers, I often read books in which roughly nothing happens, but it all doesn’t happen beautifully. No author in my memory does this better than St. Aubyn. The plot of a Patrick Melrose novel—say, Some Hope, the third—can be summed up along the lines of “Upper-class English people attend a country-house birthday party”; the full extent of nail-biting drama is when one guest mistakenly splatters gravy on the dress of another.

But each of St. Aubyn’s characters, from the most incidental minor walk-on to Patrick Melrose himself, is so exquisitely and sympathetically drawn that it’s impossible to resist reading on. Not because I need to know what happens—practically nothing “happens”—but because I want to know more about these people, I want to hear their thoughts, their struggles, and their unremittingly witty dialogue. Even the purposefully tiresome characters are compelling, somehow sympathetic despite their vast array of negative traits—and there are no shortage of negative traits, including the protagonist’s own. In these books, character is everything, and it’s their flaws that make them irresistible.
Visit Chris Pavone's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Expats.

Coffee with a Canine: Chris Pavone & Charlie Brown.

The Page 69 Test: The Accident.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tricia Fields

Tricia Fields lives in a log cabin on a small farm with her husband and two daughters. She was born in Hawaii but has spent most of her life in small town Indiana, where her husband is an investigator with the state police. A lifelong love of Mexico and the desert southwest lead to her first book, The Territory, which won the Tony Hillerman Award for Best Mystery. Her second novel, Scratchgravel Road, was followed up by her newest book, Wrecked, released this month. She is currently working on the fourth book in the series, Fire Break, featuring border town Chief of Police, Josie Gray.

Recently I asked Fields about what she was reading. Her reply:
While I’m in the final editing stages of writing one novel, I start researching for the next. My research tends to settle around the technical aspects of the topic I’m writing about; typically non fiction, and too often dry and uninspired. Not so with the book I just finished.

I never thought I would compare another writer to Edward Abbey, but Philip Connors is in the same class with his book, Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout. His style is much less confrontational, but his love for the outdoors and for contemplative silence comes through as clearly as Abbey’s own love for nature. Connors writes about his time spent as a fire lookout in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico.

What I most appreciated about Connors was his honest approach to the topic. He has the rare ability to deliver his fervent opinion about nature conservation without ever preaching a sermon. In fact, he does just the opposite as he admits his own shortcomings. He relates a story about coming across a young fawn in the woods and trying to save it. Due to his interference the fawn dies, a fact that obviously haunts him but reinforces a maxim that appears many times throughout the book: leave mother nature alone—she knows what she’s doing.

I read the book to research fire fighting and smokejumpers for my upcoming book, but I found myself lost in the story, often forgetting the technical research I was hoping to gain. What I discovered instead was a beautiful story about one man’s encounter with nature and solitude and the profound lessons that he learned.
Visit Tricia Fields's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Territory.

Writers Read: Tricia Fields (November 2011).

The Page 69 Test: Scratchgravel Road.

Writers Read: Tricia Fields (April 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 7, 2014

Bruce DeSilva

Bruce DeSilva's crime fiction has won the Edgar and Macavity Awards; has been listed as a finalist for the Shamus, Anthony, and Barry Awards; and has been published in ten foreign languages. His short stories have appeared in Akashic Press's award-winning noir anthologies. He has reviewed books for The New York Times Sunday Book Review and Publishers Weekly, and his reviews for The Associated Press have appeared in hundreds of other publications. Previously, he was a journalist for forty years, most recently as writing coach world-wide for The Associated Press, editing stories that won nearly every major journalism prize including the Pulitzer. He has worked as a consultant for fifty newspapers, taught at the University of Michigan and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and lectured at Harvard University's Nieman Foundation. He and his wife, the poet Patricia Smith, live in New Jersey with two enormous dogs named Brady and Rondo.

His new novel is Providence Rag, the third in his crime series featuring Liam Mulligan, an investigative reporter at a dying Providence, R.I., newspaper.

I recently asked DeSilva what he was reading. His reply:
When I’m writing a novel, I rarely read anything but newspapers, and I make a special point to avoid crime novels. If I read them, my writing begins to mimic their voices instead of sounding like my own. But when I finish writing a book, I take a break from work and binge-read novels and American history. Last night I tore through Cold Storage, Alaska, the fourth novel by John Straley, who also works as a criminal investigator for that state. Straley’s publisher markets him as a crime novelist, and crimes certainly do occur in his books, but I see them as novels of place. The setting for the new one is a tiny village on the Alaskan coast, where it always seems to be raining--except when it snows. Hemmed in by mountains on one side and the sea on the other, it is an isolated place, the supply plane that flies in when weather permits it’s only lifeline to the outside world. Straley peoples this vividly-drawn landscape with the sort of quirky characters one might meet by wandering into the wrong small-town Alaskan bar. There’s Mouse Miller, a drunk who’s in love with a long-dead barmaid. And Miles McCahon, a physician’s assistant (the town doesn’t have a physician) who talks to his outboard motor. And Miles’s brother Clive, a former drug dealer who hears animals talk to him. And Little Brother, an abused brindle fighting dog that Clive rescued. They are the sort of characters the great Howard Frank Mosher (Waiting for Teddy Williams) would create if he wrote about Alaska instead of his native Northeast Kingdom, Vermont. The characters and setting are so compelling that the plot barely matters, but the book has a good one. To learn about that, you should read it for yourself. I think you’ll love it.
Visit Bruce DeSilva's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Rogue Island.

Coffee with a Canine: Bruce DeSilva and Brady.

The Page 69 Test: Cliff Walk.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Bruce DeSilva & Rondo and Brady.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Laurel Corona

Laurel Corona's novels include Finding Emilie, Penelope's Daughter, The Four Seasons, and the newly released The Mapmaker's Daughter.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Corona's reply:
Since I discovered audiobooks, I don’t curl up with a book nearly as much as I used to. My involvement with books of the conventional sort is now mostly connected to research for potential historical novels, and for my role as a lecturer for Silversea and Seabourn Cruise Lines. When it comes to books for pleasure, I put in the headphones and go for a walk or a workout at the gym, and in that way I “read” more than two dozen novels a year.

Adding a narrator is a tricky business. Some are so irritating that I’ve abandoned the book within an hour or so. A mature upper class woman with great restraint in her outward behavior and personality, for example, might make a good protagonist, but someone who reads with the lack of affect that might go with that personality is going to put me to sleep. It’s also tricky to handle dialogue, because voices of different characters need to be distinguished, but it’s hard to do this without sounding gruff when a woman speaks in a man’s voice, or high and breathy when a man tries to speak with the voice of a woman. Sometimes accents are perfect and sometimes they are just annoying. Still, when the marriage is strong between a good book and the audio narrator the experience is truly memorable.

I think now of The Help, which used several narrators, all of which added immeasurably to a wonderful experience. Likewise, listening to the narrator for Margaret George’s novel Helen of Troy made me fall completely in love with Helen beyond what I think I would just reading it in the conventional way.

In the last year, The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani, about a Persian woman several centuries ago trying to achieve her dreams while working as a rug maker, was excellent, as was Dreaming in English by Laura Fitzgerald, about another Iranian woman in the present day. Three good ones with Indian protagonists are Cutting for Stone by Abraham Vergese, A Good Indian Wife by Anne Cherian, and The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama.

Favorites in historical fiction include The Last Queen and The Queen's Vow by C. W. Gortner, and in mainstream fiction, I have particularly enjoyed The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman, and The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, by Anton DiSclafani.

Lest I forget, I am currently listening to Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. It’s a good one, so excuse me while I go for a walk....
Visit Laurel Corona's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 3, 2014

Isla Morley

Isla Morley grew up in South Africa during apartheid, the child of a British father and fourth-generation South African mother. She now lives in Los Angeles with her husband (a minister) and daughter and an assortment of animals. Her debut novel, Come Sunday was awarded the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for Fiction in 2009 and was a finalist for the Commonwealth Prize. It has been translated into seven languages.

Morley's new novel is Above.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Morley's reply:
I am reading C.S. Lewis – A Life by Alister McGrath which was a Christmas gift sent to me from my wonderful publisher in the U.K. We aren’t supposed to be swayed by book covers, but what about subtitles? This one is “Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet” – who can pass that up? It’s a fascinating, almost voyeuristic, look into his life, with notes about a hush-hush affair between the nineteen-year-old Lewis and his best pal’s mom, the forty-five year old Mrs. Moore. Also, there is discussion about Lewis’ “flagellant fantasies.” Lewis into S&M… who knew?

So far the biography reinforces my belief that hardship has its upside. A childhood marred by isolation when his older brother was shipped off to boarding school, by grief at his mother’s death and his father’s subsequent withdrawal, and by harsh treatment at the various schools he attended are part of what made Lewis eccentric and prophetic. Out of suffering come shoots of creativity and imagination, moments so transcendent that their brief sparks if not bathe a life with golden light at least sustain a lifelong quest for it.
Visit Isla Morley's website.

The Page 69 Test: Come Sunday.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Cara Black

Cara Black is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of 14 books in the Private Investigator Aimée Leduc series, which is set in Paris. Murder in Pigalle is the latest installment. Black has received multiple nominations for the Anthony and Macavity Awards, a Washington Post Book World Book of the Year citation, the Médaille de la Ville de Paris—the Paris City Medal, which is awarded in recognition of contribution to international culture—and invitations to be the Guest of Honor at conferences such as the Paris Polar Crime Festival and Left Coast Crime. With more than 400,000 books in print, the Aimée Leduc series has been translated into German, Norwegian, Japanese, French, Spanish, Italian, and Hebrew.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Black's reply:
Right now, I’m reading a non-fiction book Hitler’s Furies - German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower. So far this book brings to life, through recovered archives, recently released Stasi files, documentation of the German women’s role in World War II. It wasn’t all kinder, kuche and kirche with women on the home front — five hundred thousand women were needed and trained to work in the Nazi machinery especially concentrating on the conquered land in the East — a frontier reclaimed by the Germans as their legacy populating it with Germanic people. This book sticks with me in a haunting way because it’s about the forgotten role of women at the time and why they did what did or had to at the time. It’s scary and a fascinating picture of a morally ‘lost generation’ of young women born into a defeated, tumultuous post World War I Germany.
Visit Cara Black's website.

The Page 69 Test: Murder at the Lanterne Rouge.

My Book, the Movie: Murder at the Lanterne Rouge.

Writers Read: Cara Black (February 2012).

The Page 69 Test: Murder below Montparnasse.

Writers Read: Cara Black (March 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue