Sunday, February 28, 2016

Susan Meissner

Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, Secrets of a Charmed Life (a 2015 Goodreads Choice award finalist) and A Fall of Marigolds, named by Booklist’s Top Ten women’s fiction titles for 2014. She is also RITA finalist and Christy Award winner. A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University. Meissner is a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults. When she's not working on a novel, she writes small group curriculum for her San Diego church. Meissner is also a writing workshop volunteer for Words Alive, a San Diego non-profit dedicated to helping at-risk youth foster a love for reading and writing.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m reading British author Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins and am nearly finished. I loved her previous novel, Life After Life, which is the very cleverly told story of a woman named Ursula Todd whose life keeps beginning and ending, again and again, as if she keeps getting a do-over so that she can be in a certain place at a certain time during the hell of WW2 and assassinate Adolf Hitler. This one, A God in Ruins, is a multi-time period look at one of Ursula’s brothers, Teddy, but Kate says in her Author’s Note that this book is not really a sequel to Life After Life, but should rather be seen as a continuation of one of Ursula’s many restarted lives.

Like Ursula’s story, A God in Ruins is another intellectual and wildly artistic novel that tosses conventional (linear) storytelling out the window. This book is not your typical novel construct, where Something happens and then Something else happens, and on and on we go in chronological order until the book ends. The story is told in parts that are loosely laced together. The sections skip about in time and character point of view and there’s just enough variety to necessitate paying attention. This book isn’t for someone who wants to be fed a story, but rather one who wants to discover one.

Kate’s prose is delicious and her wordsmithing skills are stellar. She can do what few writers can do and get away with it: break the rules. I recommend A God in Ruins to anyone who wants to read something that is not the average tale, told in the average way.
Visit Susan Meissner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 26, 2016

Terri Blackstock

Terri Blackstock, author of If I Run, has sold over seven million books worldwide and is a New York Times bestselling author. She is the award-winning author of Intervention, Vicious Cycle, and Downfall, as well as such series as Cape Refuge, Newpointe 911, the SunCoast Chronicles, and the Restoration Series.

Recently I asked Blackstock about what she was reading. Her reply:
The book I'm reading right now is Upside: The New Science of Post-Traumatic Growth. I wish I could read fiction while I'm writing a book, but the truth is that while I'm writing, I mostly read nonfiction books for research. Right now I'm working on a series with two characters who have PTSD, so I'm reading a lot about that issue. Upside is a little different from the other PTSD books I've been reading, in that it looks at how certain people endure catastrophic trauma, yet come out happier, more fulfilled, more productive, more purposeful, more spiritual, and of more help to others. How does this work? Why is it that some are devastated and never recover from trauma, and others grow stronger? The author, Jim Rendon, digs into studies about this phenomenon, and passes along ways that others experiencing trauma might grow from the experience and rebuild their lives in more meaningful and positive ways. This isn't a book that stigmatizes those who can't quite get past the trauma. It simply offers help for them.

This is helpful in my series that begins with the book If I Run, because my lead character, Dylan Roberts, has been recently discharged from the Army after two deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, which left him with PTSD. Because he's damaged goods, he can't get a job until he's hired as a private contractor to search for a female fugitive and bring her back. But the more he digs into the murder she's accused of committing, the more he doubts her guilt. Casey doesn't fit the profile of a killer. As he grows closer to finding her, he realizes they have something in common. Casey may be a victim of PTSD too. And her flight from prosecution may have deeper roots than her simply fearing arrest.

I'm hoping to bring these two people through healing and growth as their lives intersect in this series, so the book Upside is helping with that. I think it will also help anyone who's reeling from trauma.
Visit Terri Blackstock's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: If I Run.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Phillip Margolin

Former trial attorney Phillip Margolin has been writing full-time since 1996. Most of his many novels have been New York Times bestsellers.

His new novel is Violent Crimes.

Recently I asked Margolin about what he was reading. His reply:
As I write this I am 200 pages into The Edge of Eternity, Ken Follett's 1000 plus page final entry in his "Century Trilogy." I zoomed through Fall of Giants and Winter of the World, also biggies. The trilogy tells the story of our last century through he eyes of families from America, Germany, England and Russia and touches on the key events - World Wars I and II, Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement, the rise and fall of Communism, etc. in a very entertaining way. I love to read books I know I could never write and the amount of research and sheer story telling ability is awesome.

I also read The Oxford Murders, a translation of a mystery set in Oxford that combines math and murder and I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes which is simply the best thriller I have read in ages.
Visit Phillip Margolin's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Violent Crimes.

My Book, The Movie: Violent Crimes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 22, 2016

Sally Hepworth

Sally Hepworth has lived and traveled around the world, spending extended periods in Singapore, the U.K., and Canada. While on maternity leave from her job in Human Resources, Hepworth finally fulfilled a lifelong dream to write, the result of which was Love Like the French, published in Germany in 2014. While pregnant with her second child, she wrote The Secrets of Midwives, published worldwide in English, as well as in France, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 2015. A novel about three generations of midwives, The Secrets of Midwives asks readers what makes a mother and what role biology plays in the making and binding of a family.

The Secrets of Midwives has been labelled “enchanting” by The Herald Sun, “smart and engaging” by Publishers Weekly, and New York Times bestselling authors Liane Moriarty and Emily Giffin have praised Hepworth’s debut English language novel as “women’s fiction at its finest” and “totally absorbing.”

Hepworth's latest novel is The Things We Keep.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve been on a psychological thriller binge lately. The book I’ve been recommending most is Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica. It’s dark, it’s twisty and you never know who to trust. A woman notices a young girl carrying a baby on a train station and becomes fixated on her. Eventually, she invites the girl and her baby back to her home—alienating her husband and her own daughter. Secrets buried in the past come to light explaining the woman’s fascination with the baby, and the story comes to a satisfying, if unlikely, conclusion. Kubica’s writing is accessible but smart, and I will be reading more from her.

I’ve also been reading through Diane Chamberlain’s backlist. It’s such a joy discovering an author when they have written so many books—such a list to choose from. The most recent was The Courage Tree, about a young girl with a kidney condition who goes missing at a girl scout camp. As the search party struggle to find her, it is a race against the clock to get the little girl her life saving medication. There was a secondary story that was also intriguing, and dark. This one had me flying through the pages desperate to know the ending. Once again, Diane Chamberlain doesn’t disappoint.
Visit Sally Hepworth's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Things We Keep.

My Book, The Movie: The Things We Keep.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sara Blaedel

Sara Blædel’s latest novel to this the US is The Killing Forest.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
What am I reading?

Everything! Well, almost.

I have had a passionate relationship with crime fiction ever since I was a child and my mother told me stories; ever since I started reading Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, and ever since I found out that I was pretty good at imagining scary things. Nature equipped me with a terrible curiosity, a murderous fantasy world, empathy, and a desire to investigate human relationships. Especially, that is, when they go awry, or when there is more at stake than simply the color of wallpaper.

I read a lot of non-fiction, all the more when I am researching for my books. My protagonist, Louise Rick, is a police detective, and it is imperative to me that all the forensic details and procedurals I include are captured authentically and factually. As a storyteller, the best compliment I ever got came from a Detective Inspector in Chief who, during an interview on stage, in front of an audience, turned to me and said, “Sara, you would think that you actually work here.” Of course, that made me very happy.

I am addicted to beautiful cookbooks. Yes – I read them. Cover to cover. Not always because I am preparing to whip something up and looking for instructions, but just for the fun and wonder of it.

I also thoroughly enjoy reading novels driven by characters and human stories. These elements are super important to me whether the genre is crime or broader fiction. I love when the author digs deeply and tells a story that she/he is passionate about and thinks is important. And I love a good laugh as well. Thank you, Maria Semple and Jonathan Tropper.

What I don’t read: Romance and comics. Their absences are flaws on my bookshelf.
Visit Sara Blaedel's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Sofie Ryan

Sofie Ryan is a writer and mixed media artist who loves to repurpose things in her life and her art. She is the author of The Whole Cat and Caboodle and Buy a Whisker in the New York Times bestselling Second Chance Cat Mystery series.

Ryan's new book is A Whisker of Trouble, the latest Second Chance Cat Mystery.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Usually I have two books—or sometimes three or four—on the go. I’m not sure if that means I have a short attention span, or that I just don’t like not having a book nearby when I have a spare minute to read. Right now I’m reading The Whole She-Bang 2, a mystery anthology from the Toronto chapter of Sisters in Crime. There are stories from writers I was familiar with, as well as authors new to me. Some stories are darkly funny, others are unsettling. All of them are terrific. This is the second anthology from SinC Toronto. The third collection is scheduled for late this fall and I’ll definitely be buying a copy.

I’m also reading I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats. (A great gift for your favourite cat lover, in my opinion.) Every poem I’ve read in this collection has made me laugh. My favourite is, of course, the title poem. Author Francesco Marciuliano, who writes the comic strip, Sally Forth, has to be a cat person. He seems to understand their unique view of life and of us.
Visit Sofie Ryan's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Whisker of Trouble.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 19, 2016

Marieke Nijkamp

Marieke Nijkamp is a storyteller, dreamer, globe-trotter, geek. She holds degrees in philosophy, history, and medieval studies, and wants to grow up to be a time traveler.

Nijkamp's debut young adult novel is This Is Where It Ends.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I love young adult novels that push boundaries, with characters who are exciting, flawed, human. As such, I'm currently reading Laura Tims' wonderful Please Don't Tell, a dark YA thriller about a girl who believes she killed a boy to protect her sister, although she doesn't quite remember the details. The story kicks into gear when an anonymous blackmailer confronts her, and what follows is an unflinching, tense narrative about sisters, secrets, and how far we'll go to protect the ones we love.
Visit Marieke Nijkamp's website.

The Page 69 Test: This Is Where It Ends.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Lena Coakley

Lena Coakley is a young adult author living in Toronto. She is the author of the YA fantasies Witchlanders and Worlds of Ink and Shadow: A novel of the Brontës.

Recently I asked Coakley about what she was reading. Her reply:
I often have more than one book on the go at a time, and since I’m a writer for children and teens, it’s not unusual for me to be reading an adult novel, a middle grade and a YA. Generally these books will all have a fantasy or science fiction element, and this is true of the three I have on my bedside table this week.

Three Moments of an Explosion by China Miéville (short stories)

I love China Miéville. His novels Embassytown and Perdido Street Station are two of my favorites. This collection of short stories has a bit of horror, a bit of magical realism, and a lot of the inventiveness I’ve come to expect from this author. (One story is told in storyboards for a movie trailer.)

While I don’t love every story, some, like "The Dowager of Bees" and “In the Slopes,” are superb and make reading the entire collection more than worthwhile.

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (middle grade)

The book is right up my alley as it touches on many themes and ideas that interest me: feminism, paleontology, the 18th-century craze for phrenology, the effects of Darwin’s ideas on Victorian society, and the ramifications of telling a lie. The plot centers on the murder of a Victorian fossil hunter who may or may not have faked an important find.

I’m enjoying The Lie Tree so far. However, I think my favorite Hardinge novel will always be A Face Like Glass, one of the strangest most imaginative books I’ve ever read for any age.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby (YA)

If you read YA you have probably heard about this book as it just won the prestigious Michael L. Printz Award. It centers on the mysterious disappearance of a young woman and the guilt—warranted and unwarranted—of the people she left behind in the town of Bone Gap.

I think the Printz committee made the right choice. Ruby’s prose is dazzling and the fantasy elements are unique, surprising and dream-like. If you are a reader who thinks YA is only for teens, you are missing out. Authors like Ruby, MT Anderson and Martine Leavitt are giving us some of this decade’s best writing.
Visit Lena Coakley's website, and follow her at Facebook and Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Worlds of Ink and Shadow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Jonathan Moore

Jonathan Moore is an attorney with the Honolulu firm of Kobayashi, Sugita & Goda. Before completing law school in New Orleans, he was an English teacher, the owner of Taiwan’s first Mexican restaurant, and an investigator for a criminal defense attorney in Washington D.C. His novels include Close Reach and Redheads, which was short-listed for the Bram Stoker Award.

Moore's latest novel is The Poison Artist.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Whenever I’m not writing a book of my own, I am usually reading at least one novel and one piece of nonfiction. At the moment, the novel is The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell. One of the things I love most about a good book is the sense of trust that develops between the author and reader. The trust builds from the words themselves—that the author chose to include certain details; that the author always knows the right word; that the dialogue rings true every time—and that propels me into a story and keeps me reading, even when I have no idea where the story is going. I’m not far into The Bone Clocks, but I trust David Mitchell. I’ve reached that comfortable part of the process where he’s my guide, and I’ll go wherever he wants to take me.

When it comes a story like The Bone Clocks, a book that pushes past what is possible or what is expected, trust is an enormously important element. I can read Gabriel Garcia Marquez and feel entirely comfortable with stories and plots that would spin apart in a lesser writer’s hands, because I trust him at the most basic levels of the art: his words, his sentences, his dialogue. David Mitchell is very good, and the story he’s telling in The Bone Clocks is absolutely wild. But he’s clearly got it under control, and so rather than going into the book with apprehension that the thing is going to turn into a disaster, I’m just happily along for the ride.

My reading list is a little weirder on the nonfiction side. Right now I’m reading Practical Audiovisual Chinese, Volume I, which is put out by National Taiwan Normal University’s Mandarin Training Center. Actually, I’m reading it for the second time. I lived in Taiwan from 2001 to 2004, and worked through the first three volumes while I was there. My wife and I are having a son in April, and we thought it would be a fun experiment to speak some Chinese at home. So Maria gave me the textbooks for Christmas, and I’m trying to catch up to where I was in 2004. Our son is far enough along that he can hear my voice, so he’s been listening to my practice exercises as well. He kicks a lot when I say his Chinese name, and I take that as a sign that my pronunciation is improving.

I didn’t read nearly as much in 2015 as I would have liked. Mainly, that’s because I ended up writing two books last year—The Dark Room, which will be published in January 2017, and The Night Market, which comes out January 2018. But in between the two books, I did squeeze in some additional fiction. The best novel I read last year was Lou Berney’s The Long and Faraway Gone, which was just nominated for an Edgar Award. Berney’s book isn’t just a mystery, but is a meditation on loss and on the fundamental unknowability of the past. It tells the story of a private investigator from Las Vegas who was the sole survivor of a brutal theater robbery in the 1980’s, and weaves that with the tale of a nurse whose older sister disappeared at a carnival when she was a child. It’s a beautiful book, and the way Berney handles parallel stories, and traces back and forth between the past and present, is truly masterful. I also enjoyed The Whites, by Richard Price—another author who always manages to establish trust and credibility within the first two pages—and Make Me, by Lee Child, which I think is the best Jack Reacher novel yet.
Visit Jonathan Moore's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Poison Artist.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Suzanne Redfearn

Born and raised on the east coast, Suzanne Redfearn moved to California when she was fifteen. She currently lives in Laguna Beach with her husband, their two kids, a Cockapoo named Cooper, and a cat named Motley. They own a restaurant in town called Lumberyard. Prior to becoming an author, Redfearn was an architect specializing in residential and commercial design. When not writing, she enjoys doing anything and everything with her family—skiing, golf, tennis, surfing, playing board games, and watching reality TV. Redfearn is an avid baseball fan. Her team is the Angels. She can also be found in the bleachers watching her kids’ sports or prowling the streets with her husband checking out the culinary scene of Orange County.

Redfearn's new novel is No Ordinary Life.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Best book I’ve read recently: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman—I adored this quirky wonderful novel about a grouchy old man with an oversized heart. It was so witty and insightful that I several times I found myself laughing while contemplating the meaning of life and death at the same time, truly a tribute to the genius of the author.

Currently reading: Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff—This book about a married couple whose lives are woven together by lies has gotten rave reviews. I have just started it, but already the cast of characters has pulled me in. I like the idea of the novel being written in two parts—the first half from one perspective and the second from another. I love any story that delves into the complexity of relationships, which this one promises to do.

Looking forward to reading: Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica—Kubica has become one of my new favorites, her haunting psychological thrillers are complex and unpredictable. This new one about never being able to outrun your past sounds like it is going to be more of the same and I can’t wait until it is released in May.
Visit Suzanne Redfearn's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Suzanne Redfearn and Cooper.

My Book, The Movie: Hush Little Baby.

The Page 69 Test: Hush Little Baby.

The Page 69 Test: No Ordinary Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 15, 2016

Phillip Depoy

Phillip DePoy is the director of the theatre program at Clayton State University and author of several novels, including The Drifter's Wheel, A Corpse's Nightmare, and December's Thorn.

DePoy's latest novel is A Prisoner in Malta, the first book in a new mystery series featuring Christopher Marlowe, Shakespeare's contemporary and Queen Elizabeth's man behind the throne.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I can’t read fiction when I’m working on one of my own books—it’s too confusing or, more often, intimidating. When I made the mistake of reading the first page of The Poisonwood Bible, it took me six weeks to recover. Six weeks of considering other careers--plumbing or fish-mongering. So I’m happily reading two non-fiction books at the same time right now. Brian Walker’s Hua Hu Ching: The Unknown Teachings of Lao Tzu, and Alain de Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life—the subtitle of which is “Not a Novel.”

The Hua Hu Ching is a sort of companion book to the Tao Te Ching, arguably the oldest philosophical book in the world. A very valuable idea I get from that book is the notion that I ought to try to link my individual mind with the universal mind. That’s exactly what I think happens when I write, when I’m in the middle of the process of writing: it’s no me writing at all, it’s something else.

The Proust book elucidates In Search of Lost Time (usually translated, of course, as Remembrance of Things Past). From that book I glean a certain understanding of the great beauty in taking a long time to examine everything. Opening a door is an opportunity to examine every conceivable aspect of a door knob—in Proust’s case, for fourteen pages. It’s the opposite of what I think I’m supposed to do as a writer, so that’s good for me to hear too.
Learn more about the book and author at Phillip DePoy's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Prisoner in Malta.

My Book, The Movie: A Prisoner in Malta.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Steve Kemper

Steve Kemper has been a freelance journalist for more than 30 years. His books include Code Name Ginger: the Story Behind Segway and Dean Kamen's Quest to Invent a New World and A Labyrinth of Kingdoms: 10,000 Miles Through Islamic Africa.

Kemper's most recent book is A Splendid Savage: The Restless Life of Frederick Russell Burnham.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I just finished Dispatches From Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta, by Richard Grant, a thoroughly enjoyable account of what happens when a British ex-pat journalist and his girlfriend move from New York City to a moldering mansion in a rural Delta burg called Pluto. As in the best such books, the cultural shocks are sometimes amusing, sometimes shocking, but always entertaining and revelatory. Some writers would have opted for snarky condescension about this peculiar place and its inhabitants, but Grant writes about his new home with humor, affection, a sharp eye, and wide-open curiosity, and he makes refreshingly direct explorations of the Delta’s troubled racial history.

I also recently finished Marilynne Robinson’s Lila, the third novel in her trilogy about a minister and his family in a small Iowa town named Gilead. That description may make you yawn, but Robinson finds deep currents of feeling, meaning, and American history in these ostensibly plain quiet lives. Her trilogy is one of the best things from the last decade of American fiction.

To remind myself of how powerful condensed language can be, I rotate favorite books of poetry through my nightstand. At the moment I’m meandering for the second or third time through Wendell Berry’s New Collected Poems. (His This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems, which I like even better, is also in regular rotation.) Like me, Berry is a Kentuckian, but he has stayed rooted, farming and writing in his home state for many decades. This time I’m skipping most of the polemical rants about environmental destruction and corporate greed (with me, he’s preaching to the converted), and savoring his ability to express, in clear language, his strong love of the land and its creatures. He has a gift for finding grace, beauty, and throbbing immortal evanescence in everything around him, as in “The Peace of Wild Things”:

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Visit Steve Kemper's website.

The Page 99 Test: A Labyrinth of Kingdoms.

The Page 99 Test: A Splendid Savage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Nicholas Searle

Nicholas Searle grew up in the southwest of England and studied languages at the University of Bath. He spent more years than he cares to remember in public service before deciding in 2011 to leave and begin writing fiction. He lives in the north of England.

Searle's debut novel is The Good Liar.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
The Green Road by Anne Enright
It’s an embarrassment that I haven’t read this sooner as I love Anne Enright’s writing, but I have had so many books stacking up. Cool, crystal-clear prose and while we can sense where we’re heading (I’m between a third and half way through) we’ve no idea yet what lies at our destination. It’s written episodically through the main characters’ different points of view and Enright varies her voice accordingly. Very impressive.

Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain
This book says the things introverts already know but could never say themselves. Among other things it describes the myth of charismatic leadership, how extrovert behaviours have only relatively recently become the cultural norm, and how the risk-averse introverts failed to be heard by their less cautious extrovert counterparts before the financial crisis. There’s also a fascinating self-analysis section. Not entirely convincing but I’m again (this is a re-read) finding it a good read.

Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink by Elvis Costello
I’ve spent some time skimming for interesting snippets and dipping in, and preparing myself to dive into this long read – which will require a concentrated, single-focus effort. I love Costello’s music and he seems a fascinating guy. This autobiography confirms that. He’s erudite and thoughtful, if sometimes rather too hard on himself. The chronology of the book is all over the place but it works. This far from the standard rock autobiography; it’s a soul exposed, sometimes painfully.
Follow Nicholas Searle on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: The Good Liar.

My Book, The Movie: The Good Liar.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 12, 2016

Bethanie Murguia

Bethanie Deeney Murguia was raised in Western New York near the Grand Canyon of the East and many, many cows. After graduating Summa Cum Laude from the University of Rochester with a BA in psychology and fine art, she moved to New York City where she worked as an art director for Hearst Magazines. While in New York, Bethanie received her MFA in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts.

Murguia now lives in the Bay Area where she has worked for a variety of design and marketing firms. Her illustrations have appeared on packaging and in various children’s publications, including Ladybug and My Big Backyard. Since 2011, she has focused exclusively on writing and illustrating picture books. Her illustrations and books have been honored with numerous accolades, including Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Best Book Awards and Bank Street College Best Books of the Year. Her new book is Cockatoo, Too.

Recently I asked Murguia about what she was reading. Her reply:
There are currently two books on my nightstand. The first is The Adventures of Miss Petitfour, by Anne Michaels. What’s not to adore about a book in which the main character and her sixteen cats fly, ala Mary Poppins, with the aid of various tablecloths? My six year old and I are enjoying it together. It’s delightfully written, fun to read aloud, and we love Miss Petitfour’s antics.

The second is A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman. I picked this one up from a tiny bookstore while on vacation. I’ve really enjoying getting to know the cast of characters, including curmudgeonly Ove. They’re all rendered with humor and compassion. Ove’s wife believes that in relationships, over time, you come to love people's familiar imperfections more than the things that initially attracted you. That’s exactly how I feel about these characters as I’m nearing the end of the book.
Visit Bethanie Deeney Murguia's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Kate Hilton

Kate Hilton is the author of The Hole in the Middle and Just Like Family (2017). She also co-authors a non-fiction blog, The Pen Pal Project. Before turning to fiction, Hilton worked in law, higher education, public relations and major gift fundraising. She has an English degree from McGill University and a Law degree from the University of Toronto. She is a working mother, a community volunteer, a voracious reader and a pretty decent cook. Hilton lives with her family in Toronto, where she is working on her third novel.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I read a fairly balanced diet of fiction and non-fiction, and I usually have one of each on the go at any given time.

On the fiction side, I’ve been on a historical novel binge lately. Delicious. I like my historicals to be meticulously researched, with elegant prose and a little romance.

My most recent read, Jennifer Robson’s Moonlight Over Paris, fit the bill admirably. I adored it. I’m a fan of Robson’s work, and I was waiting for this one to arrive so that I could gobble it down. There is something particularly irresistible about Paris in the 1920s, a time and place of immense creativity and rebirth. I cheered for the romantic leads, Helena and Sam - for their relationship with each other, but also for each character's development from a citizen of the pre-war world into an individual of the modern age. Robson handles these vast social transitions with the subtlety and care of a serious historian - which, of course, she is.

And now I am reading Renée Rosen’s White Collar Girl. I’ve only just started, but I’m already breathing the air of a 1950s newsroom in Chicago, and rooting for Jordan, the young female reporter who wants to make her mark in a male-dominated profession.

On the non-fiction side, I finally finished Andrew Solomon’s Far From The Tree. I say ‘finally’, not because it was a chore, but because this book is so rich and thought provoking that I had to take breaks in order to absorb the astonishing ideas contained within it. Solomon explores a seemingly diverse collection of ‘differences’ – among them dwarfism, autism, criminality, genius, and Down Syndrome – and explores what it means for a family to raise a child who falls into one of these categories. His findings are nothing short of revelatory – about the parent-child relationship, about what it means to have an identity, about the nature of love, and about what it is to be human. I mean it when I say that this is the most powerful piece of writing I’ve read in years.

Right now, I’m reading Gloria Steinem’s memoir, My Life On The Road. What a life! And how much we all owe to it! I first saw Steinem speak when I was an undergraduate, and I was captivated by her warmth, humor, wisdom, and most surprisingly (to a young and outraged activist), optimism. In this book, I can hear that voice, and it inspires me all over again. In her words: “Altogether I’ve seen enough change to have faith that more will come.”
Visit Kate Hilton's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Jennifer Longo

Jennifer Longo was a ballerina from ages eight to eighteen, until she eventually (reluctantly) admitted her talent for writing exceeded her talent for dance. The author of Six Feet Over It, she holds an MFA in Writing for Theater from Humboldt State University, where her obsessive love of Antarctica produced her thesis play about Antarctica’s Age of Exploration.

Longo's new novel is Up to This Pointe.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
The Only Child by Guojing

China's 'One Child' policy has ended, and now a generation of only children has grown up. This gorgeous book tells a story in black and white images of one Only Child, left home alone one day, who ventures out into the wintery world to find her grandmother's house. She falls into peril and is rescued by a stag who takes her on a magical journey. It is a deeply emotional exploration of loneliness, bravery, imagination and love, based on the author's experience growing up with no siblings. This book is gorgeous, but tape a pack of tissues to the bow when you wrap it. The reader will need them.

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

I love memoir, and this book is written by the woman credited with starting the modern revived popularity of the form. Karr is the author of the intense memoirs The Liar's Club, Cherry, and Lit. This book describes her own memoir teaching methods (She's a Literature professor at Syracuse University) and those of her students (such as Cheryl Strayed and George Saunders) who have influenced her own writing. She presents techniques for mining memory and details for creating non-fiction narrative in a way that feels like an intimate conversation. It sparked my own memories and made me want to tell stories in a truer, more vivid and honest way. Each chapter is short, smart, and funny, and the end result is a book that reads like a fiction novel told from the point of view of a friend you're having drinks with in a quiet corner at a crowded party. I absolutely loved it.
Visit Jennifer Longo's website.

The Page 69 Test: Six Feet Over It.

My Book, The Movie: Six Feet Over It.

The Page 69 Test: Up to This Pointe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Gigi Pandian

Gigi Pandian is the USA Today bestselling author of the Accidental Alchemist mysteries and the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries. She spent her childhood being dragged around the world by her cultural anthropologist parents, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Pandian’s debut was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant, the follow-up won the Left Coast Crime Rose Award, and her locked-room mystery short fiction has been nominated for Agatha and Macavity awards.

Pandian’s latest novel is The Masquerading Magician, the second Accidental Alchemist mystery.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I was an avid mystery reader long before I became a writer. The majority of what I read still falls into the mystery genre, but lately a lot of my “mystery fix” has come from nonfiction. I thought I’d share two great nonfiction books and two great mysteries I’ve read recently:

The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards
This is an engrossing history of the Detection Club, the private club of mystery novelists that began in England during the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. Edwards focuses most on three of the founding members, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Anthony Berkeley, all of whom had fascinating hidden lives. There are also stories about other club members, including my personal favorite Golden Age writer, John Dickson Carr. My copy of the book is now filled with notes in the margins about new-to-me classic mysteries I plan to seek out.

Pirate Hunters by Robert Kurson
Pirate Hunters is a nonfiction book that read like a thriller. I love treasure hunts that steeped in real history (which is why I created the Jaya Jones treasure hunt mystery series), and this is a real-life underwater treasure hunt for a pirate ship. The real life stakes are as high as in fiction: the ship they’re after would be only the second pirate ship every positively identified, the heroes crisscross the globe in search of clues, and less scrupulous competitors are hot on their heels.

The Fourth Door: The Houdini Murders by Paul Halter
French mystery novelist Paul Halter has been hailed as this generation’s John Dickson Carr—the master of locked-room “impossible crime” mysteries—and he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. Many of Halters books are available in English, with more on the way. His American publisher, Locked Room International, specializes in translating locked-room mysteries into English. I don’t speak French well enough to enjoy books in French, so I’ve been devouring Halter’s books as they get translated into English. The appeal of this type of classic mystery is the baffling fair-play puzzle of a seemingly impossible crime that looks like it must have been committed through supernatural means—but there’s a brilliant explanation at the end. The Fourth Door is one of Halter’s most satisfying mysteries I’ve read, featuring a supposedly haunted room and a man who believes he’s the reincarnation of Harry Houdini.

A Ghoul’s Guide to Love and Murder by Victoria Laurie
Reading the tenth book in the Ghost Hunters mystery series was like sitting down with old friends. This lighthearted paranormal mystery series has been one of my favorites for years, and A Ghoul’s Guide to Love and Murder provides a great ending to the series.

Now that I’ve got my own book deadlines, I don’t have as much time to read as I used to, but I always curl up with a book before bed. After a cancer diagnosis a few years ago, I gave up finishing books I don’t love (life’s too short!), so I often find myself staying up way too late to read “just a few more pages” of a great book. These four books fell into that category. That’s what coffee is for, right?
Visit Gigi Pandian's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue