Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Emily Robbins

Emily Robbins has lived and worked across the Middle East and North Africa. From 2007 to 2008, she was a Fulbright Fellow in Syria, where she studied religion and language with a women’s mosque movement and lived with the family of a leading intellectual. Robbins holds a BA from Swarthmore College and an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis, and and in 2016 she received a second Fulbright, to study in Jordan.

Robbins's new novel is A Word for Love.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Robbins's reply:
We Eat Our Own, by Kea Wilson.

It is stunning how beautifully Wilson writes men and violence. And, the lush life of the Amazonian river! I am literally in the middle of this book, so couldn’t give away the end even if I wanted to. Wilson writes from the perspectives of many different characters; right now, I am reading a chapter from the perspective of a young student-turned-kidnapper, who plays classical music for the man he has helped to kidnap, and who reminds me of the hostage-takers in Bel Canto – mostly because I’ve come to love this character, as I loved the ones in that book. I have heard others call this novel suspenseful, and it is, but I’m also just delighting in the characters in it.

As Ohio Goes, by Rana Khoury

I read this small book of nonfiction soon before the November election. It is a lovely hybrid of creative writing and reportage, which brings the reader into the homes of Ohio, and thinks through the causes and impact of the devastating 2008 recession on rural America. It also pointed out the fact that the state of Ohio has voted for the candidate who later became president during every presidential election in recent history. I read this, and then a month or two later, the elections happened. Ohio voted for Trump. This book became even more prescient and urgent.
Learn more about A Word for Love.

My Book, The Movie: A Word for Love.

The Page 69 Test: A Word for Love.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 30, 2017

David Eric Tomlinson

David Eric Tomlinson was born and raised in Oklahoma. He earned an undergraduate degree in creative writing from the University of California, San Diego, and has worked as an illustrator, copywriter, art director, web designer, usability consultant, product manager, Kenpo karate instructor, stay-at-home dad, and now novelist. Tomlinson lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife and two daughters.

His new novel is The Midnight Man.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Tomlinson's reply:
My first novel is set in rural Oklahoma and revolved around a capital murder trial, so I was reading up on the death penalty, the Oklahoma criminal justice system, and the politics of America in the mid-1990s. The one I’m writing now is about a U.S. Army veteran who has returned home, and is struggling with that transition, so my reading has pivoted to fiction and non-fiction about violence, war, and recovery.

William T. Vollmann’s Rising Up and Rising Down: Some Thoughts on Violence, Freedom and Urgent Means is a thoughtful, comprehensive exploration of violence and its root causes, effects, and justifications. I’m reading the edited edition – all seven volumes distilled into a single book – and I find Vollmann’s moral calculi, which describe justifications for violence in certain forms, to be fascinating. You end up learning just as much about Vollmann as you do about his subject, which can only be understood, I’m learning, in its historical context. As I’m also studying PTSD, this line about both the usefulness of and lasting psychological effects done by true, blue fear really hit home: “In real danger, fear is a friend; afterward he may not be, but once he first makes your acquaintance, then, like violence, he visits as he pleases.”

How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything by Rosa Brooks is a concise and convincing argument that war has become a kind of eternal, omnipresent feature of modern society. Globalization and the ubiquity of information and the technology to access and distribute it has moved the battlefield from physical to virtual and economic spheres, and as America increasingly depends upon its already stressed, all-volunteer military for non-combat-related functions, the idea of “the front” has become quaint, to say the least.

Matthew Hefti’s A Hard And Heavy Thing is a novel that begins as a suicide note written by a U.S. Army veteran. Hefti was an explosive ordnance disposal technician who deployed four times – twice to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan – and his story captures the idealism of youth, showing us his two young protagonists as they enlist just after 9/11. We see the boredom and terror of deployment, the struggle with guilt and shame many soldiers experience after losing friends in battle, and the depressive crash many veterans experience upon returning home. What begins as a suicide note written by a man who has given up on life, ends as a redeeming story in which the suicide note has become the novel we’re reading, illustrating how art can help to heal even the deepest wounds of war.
Visit David Eric Tomlinson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Lisa Black

New York Times bestselling author Lisa Black is the author of seven novels in the Theresa MacLean mystery series and two novels written as Elizabeth Becka. As a forensic scientist at the Cuyahoga County Coroner's Office, she analyzed gunshot residue on hands and clothing, hairs, fibers, paint, glass, DNA, blood and many other forms of trace evidence, as well as crime scenes. Now she is a latent print examiner and CSI for the Cape Coral Police Department in Florida, working mostly with fingerprints and crime scenes.

Last year Black introduced a new series featuring Maggie Gardiner, a forensic expert who studies the dead, and Jack Renner, a homicide cop who stalks the living. Her new novel is Unpunished, the second book in the series.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Black's reply:
True Enough: Learning To Live in a Post-Fact Society by Farhad Manjoo

While researching the state of print journalism in America today, after deciding to set the murders in Unpunished at a big-city paper, I became sidetracked by the topic of how the news as an industry has changed over the past half a century or so. Hence I read, among many other books, True Enough. In it the author explores reasons for the explosion of selective perception and splintering in our society.

Many will come as no surprise—for instance the simple tendency of human beings to believe what they want to believe, what they like to believe, what they feel comfortable believing. What has changed is that today most of us venture out in the morning equipped with a handheld publisher on which we can compose our thoughts and experiences, take photos to go along with them, edit either or both and send them into the world via countless public forums such as Facebook, Twitter, user forums, Instagram, blogs, comment boards and who knows what else. More outlets seem to be created every day. This should bring us closer to a world in which falsehood has been made impossible; we are now an army of little Big Brothers.

Instead this overabundance of choices for ‘news’ and information and facts makes it so that we can pick and choose which ones we want to accept as real. Each person can, quite literally, construct their own reality—and being human persons, we can’t help constructing it according to our own perspectives and preconceptions.

Manjoo uses several situations born from both right and left wing concerns, such as global warming, 9/11 and the swiftboating of John Kerry. But it becomes apparent that in every case what has become lacking is trust, and without a base level of trust, a society can not function.
Learn more about the book and author at Lisa Black's website.

The Page 69 Test: That Darkness.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Adelia Saunders

Adelia Saunders has a master's degree in international relations from Georgetown University and a bachelor's degree from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She has taught English in Paris, written for an independent newswire at the United Nations, and assisted an agricultural economist in Uganda. She grew up in Durango, Colorado, and lives with her husband and two children in New York City. Indelible is her first novel.

Recently I asked Saunders about what she was reading. Her reply:
I have been reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation) since June, a few pages a day. I’m on page 989 now, with a half-inch of the book still to go, so it's almost like the Napoleonic wars are happening in real time.

For a while I was reading War and Peace aloud to my kids at bedtime to try to make them go to sleep, but lately they’ve opted for the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey, which, like War and Peace has some harrowing scenes of destruction. (War and Peace, p. 915: "What's burning?" asked Natasha. "Ah, yes, Moscow…"; Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy, Part I, p. 162: “Suddenly there was a terrific explosion. The Bionic Booger Boy burst into three huge chunks of glistening snot and twisted metal…”)

Most of the reading I do right now is to my children, and I’ve had the pleasure of discovering some great books I somehow missed when I was growing up. My daughter and I are in the middle of the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. They were written in the 1940s about the adventures of two girls growing up in rural Wisconsin around the turn of the century. They are funny and exciting and at times unexpectedly serious, and they make the little vignettes of childhood -- like an illicit haircut or an afternoon left alone in the kitchen -- into scenes of high drama and hilarity.

For myself, I’ve recently discovered audiobooks. I listen to them while I clean, which means that the house is tidy when I’ve found a good one. I’m currently on The Life of the World to Come by Dan Cluchey, narrated by Scott Merriman. I listened to two Marilynne Robinson books this summer, Gilead and Home, narrated by Tim Jerome and Maggi-Meg Reed, respectively. Their voices served the writing so well, I can’t imagine I would have enjoyed these books any more in printed form. Another favorite I’ve listened to recently is Peacekeeping by Mischa Berlinski, narrated by Ben Williams. It’s a story about politics and corruption in Haiti, and made for some very clean floors.

Finally, I’m reading a book called A Land Alone: Colorado’s Western Slope. It’s a history of the place I grew up, written by Colorado historians Duane Vandenbusche and Duane A. Smith. I’ve been inching my way through it for months in between other projects. As a kid, I found local history incredibly boring – steam trains, mining towns, apologetic accounts of forcing the Native Americans onto ever-lousier reservations. But now, with time and distance between me and home, I’m finding it very interesting to learn the history of a place I thought I knew.
Visit Adelia Saunders's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 27, 2017

Thoraiya Dyer

Thoraiya Dyer is an Australian writer whose more than 30 short stories, as well as a novella and short fiction collection published since 2008 have racked up 7 wins from 17 Aurealis and Ditmar Award nominations between them.

Crossroads of Canopy, Book One in the Titan's Forest Trilogy, debuts in the US this month.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Dyer's reply:
The Hanging Tree, by Ben Aaronovich (Book #6 of Peter Grant/Rivers of London series). I hate comedy films. I never watch them. They never make me laugh. This series always makes me laugh, and though I've just started this one, it's no exception. Aside from the comedy, there's acute characterisation, fast paced crime-solving, an intriguing through-story and all the colours, sounds and smells of a lovingly treated setting, whether looking at London, its mythological underbelly or sneaking away for the rural delights of Herefordshire. Right before Aaronovich was due to appear at an Australian convention, I started with Book #3 (stupid library) and loved it so much that I went back to read the first two. I don't know what it's like to read them in order. But I'm pretty sure I'll be staying up all night with #6, aided by as many cups of tea as it takes!
Visit Thoraiya Dyer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Susan Sherman

Susan Sherman is a former Chair of the Art Department of Whittier College, a small liberal arts university. She is also the co-creator of one of the most successful television shows for children in the history of the Disney Channel. Her first novel, The Little Russian, was picked by Publishers Weekly as one of the best books of 2014.

Sherman's second novel is If You Are There.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m currently reading David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers and telling myself it’s for research, although it’s such a pleasurable read that I can hardly say I’m working. The story is about the first flight and the eccentric brothers who made it possible. Reclusive, driven, these two builders of bicycles became a familiar sight on the shores of the outer banks in North Carolina, standing for hours on the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk studying the flight of birds. Combining their observations of wings and lift with their knowledge of bicycles, balance and steering, they shocked the nation and the scientific community, (specifically the Smithsonian, who was bankrolling a rival team) by being the first to put a flying machine in the air. It’s an engrossing reading, even if you’re not about to write an historical novel about early flight in California.
Visit Susan Sherman's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Susan Sherman & Henry and Bessie.

The Page 69 Test: The Little Russian.

My Book, The Movie: If You Are There.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Carrie Vaughn

Carrie Vaughn is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty novels and over eighty short stories. She's best known for the Kitty Norville urban fantasy series about a werewolf who hosts a talk radio advice show for supernatural beings -- the series includes fourteen novels and a collection of short stories -- and the superhero novels in the Golden Age saga.

Vaughn's new novel is Martians Abroad.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I don't have a to-be-read pile or shelf. I have an entire case. It's kind of nice, because no matter what I feel like reading next I can usually find something on that case to fit the bill, and books never go stale. Discovering a good book is always fun. Discovering one while also feeling the satisfaction of moving one more title off the to-be-read case is sublime. So, I've been playing catch up lately.

I'm trying to learn more about mystery -- it's a genre I just haven't read much of. So last week, my first read of the year, was Well-Schooled in Murder by Elizabeth George. I'm really enjoying George's Inspector Lynley series. I think it's a great demonstration of why so many mystery series are so popular: watching clever people solve difficult cases is all well and good, but the characters are really what keep us coming back. I worry about Lynley and Havers. I want to know more about them, and George is great about weaving together details of their personal lives through the tension of the murder investigation. These are also quite English books, and they remind me of my year abroad in York.

My current read is My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme. I was in the mood for some light but informative nonfiction, and this fits the bill exactly. Child is such a well-known figure in the cooking world, and in this book her personality really comes through. Moreover, she's incredibly engaged with whatever is going on around her, whether it's Parisian restaurant culture or the politics of the American Foreign Service, where her husband Paul was employed. I've been on my own learning-to-cook project for the last several years. I'm not as obsessed or ambitious as Child was (she talks early on about wanting to explain and demystify French cooking specifically for American audiences), and I never really felt an urge to try any of the recipes from her cookbooks. Well, now I kind of do. Just to make another connection with this great personality.
Learn more about the author and her work at Carrie Vaughn's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Laura Bickle

Laura Bickle grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. After graduating with an MA in Sociology – Criminology from Ohio State University and an MLIS in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she patrolled the stacks at the public library and worked with data systems in criminal justice. She now dreams up stories about the monsters under the stairs, also writing contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams. Her latest project is the Wildlands series, a contemporary weird west contemporary fantasy series for Harper Voyager.

Bickle's latest book, her first novel in the Wildlands series, is Nine of Stars.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I recently finished Alice Hoffman’s The Red Garden. I’ve always admired Hoffman for building characters with complex motivations and the beautifully-wrought settings that surround them. In all of Hoffman’s books that I’ve read so far, the setting is a character in itself, and The Red Garden is no exception.

The Red Garden is a series of interlinked stories, spanning three centuries, that touch upon the legend of a mysterious red garden. The human characters in the book experience push-pull relationships with the town surrounding the red garden. Some seek to escape beyond the confines of the town, yearning for the world outside. Others seek to sink into it, rooted in place. History, suspense, and magic are intricately layered in through each story, and the effects of characters’ actions haunt the town they live in for centuries to come.

Robin McKinley’s Chalice has been in my TBR stack for a while, but I was thrilled to finally get to read it. Chalice reads like a well-loved and timeless fairy tale infused with modern sensibility. The heroine, Mirasol, is reluctantly thrust into the role of magical advisor to the Master. In this capacity, she must draw the otherworldly Master, a former fire priest, closer to a land faced with upheaval and instability. Mirasol and the Master both struggle with their new roles, with their needs for individuality conflicting with the desires to serve their community. It’s a thoughtful story about the correct application of power and the sacrifices leadership entails. I loved this one every bit as much as the first book of hers that I read when I was thirteen, her incredible The Hero and the Crown.
Learn more about the book and author at Laura Bickle's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Outside.

The Page 69 Test: Dark Alchemy.

The Page 69 Test: Nine of Stars.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 23, 2017

Sibel Hodge

Sibel Hodge's books include the #1 bestselling Look Behind You, and 2016's Untouchable and Duplicity.

She writes an eclectic mix of genres, and she's a passionate human and animal rights advocate.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Hodge's reply:
I recently finished Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land. It came up on Netgalley for review saying, “Set to be one of the most extraordinary, controversial and explosive debuts of 2017”, so, of course, I wanted to give it a go to see if it lived up to the hype. And it did indeed! It was definitely a “Wow” book for me. It’s a taut psychological thriller that will get under your skin and won’t let go. It actually reminded me a little of Duplicity because of the very damaged character of a young girl, and the ripple effect her life has on those around her.

I also read Witness by Caroline Mitchell. I hadn’t read any of hers before so was looking forward to diving in, and after this book I’ve added more to my to-be-read list. It’s a mix of police procedural and domestic psychological thriller. A tension-filled and twisty read that you definitely can't put down!

And Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre, which is a terrifyingly eye-opening book, and it’s not even a thriller! I don’t often read non fiction unless I’m researching for a novel, but anyone who’s interested in how the pharma industry works, or who is interested in their health, should definitely give it a go! A completely jaw-dropping page-turner.
Visit Sibel Hodge's website.

My Book, The Movie: Untouchable.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Tony Healey

Tony Healey is the bestselling author of the Far From Home series. He has written alongside such award-winning authors as Alan Dean Foster and Harlan Ellison.

Healey is currently working on book two of his Harper & Lane series, of which Hope’s Peak is the first installment. He lives with his wife and four daughters in Sussex, England.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Healey's reply:
What I read depends on my mood. I read Bruce Springsteen's autobiography, Born To Run, over the festive period and once I'd finished that, I felt like reading something with a mystery element, maybe a little murder, so I chose The Devil's Country by Harry Hunsicker. I don't like to be bored, and long stretches of text where little-to-nothing happens send me to sleep. That's not the case here.

The Devil's Country is a real page turner, and tightly written. Hunsicker has several plot elements at play, and does a fantastic job of juggling them all at once. He does so in such a way that you genuinely don't know where the novel is headed next. I'm fascinated by the way Hunsicker treats the story of The Devil's Country. You feel like you're travelling in a dust storm, unable to see more than a few feet in front of you. The author is your only guide; and he has no plans to reveal the secrets beneath the surface of The Devil's Country anytime soon. You can't anticipate the turns and dead-ends. All you can do is go along for the ride—and what a ride so far. I'm just gonna close my eyes and let the road take me.
Visit Tony Healey's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Hope's Peak.

The Page 69 Test: Hope's Peak.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Catherine Reef

Catherine Reef is the author of more than 40 nonfiction books, including Noah Webster: Man of Many Words, Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life, and other highly acclaimed biographies for young people. She lives in College Park, Maryland.

Reef's new book is Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Many of us recall Mary Shelley as the eighteen-year-old girl who produced a startlingly original book that went on to become a horror classic. We may have heard that she was the daughter of two influential writers of the late eighteenth century, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft (who died soon after giving birth). We may also know that she ran off to Europe at sixteen with the married Percy Bysshe Shelley; that following Percy’s wife’s suicide, he and Mary married; and that Percy drowned in 1822, when he was twenty-nine and Mary was twenty-five.

But Mary Shelley hardly faded into obscurity after her husband’s death. Left with a son to support, she relied on her pen. Although she produced nothing to rival Frankenstein in lasting popularity, she authored several novels, short fiction for ladies’ magazines and other outlets, and nonfiction, including essays and entries for biographical dictionaries. Because I am writing a book on Mary Shelley, I have been reading her lesser-known works.

In her later fiction Shelley sometimes presented idealized or intense father-daughter relationships, causing some readers to speculate that she was responding to her difficult tie with her own father. Godwin had been outspoken in condemning institutions that hinder individual freedom and growth, including marriage. Still, he married twice himself, and he turned his back on Mary when she eloped, fearing public disapproval, and this hurt her profoundly. He resumed regular communication with Mary and Percy Shelley after they were married, only to hound them for money. Godwin believed wealth was meant to be shared and saw himself as deserving. He knew that his son-in-law was in line to inherit a large estate and overestimated Percy’s access to ready cash, possibly deliberately.

The novel Falkner (1837) explores the relationship between the orphaned Elizabeth Raby and the guilt-ridden Rupert Falkner, who adopts the six-year-old girl after she prevents his suicide. The two are peculiarly devoted to each other. As Shelley wrote, “Falkner felt a half remorse at the too great pleasure he derived from her society; while hers was the sort of rapturous, thrilling adoration that dreamt not of the necessity of a check, and luxuriated in its boundless excess.” Regret for a past act draws Falkner toward death, but his responsibility for Elizabeth and her devotion keep him alive, in true melodramatic fashion, through a war, shocking revelations, imprisonment, and a trial. In the end Elizabeth earns her father’s acceptance of her marriage to the man she loves as Mary Shelley was never quite able to do in life.

Falkner takes place in Shelley’s own time, but she set the novel The Last Man (1826) in the late twenty-first century. In it she presents a world where England’s monarchy recently has been abolished and an elected lord protector—Lord Raymond, a character likely modeled on the Shelleys’ friend Lord Byron—holds power. A war for Greek independence (much like the one that claimed Byron’s life in 1824) and a creeping pestilence kill off humanity until one man, Lionel Verney, the protagonist and brother-in-law to Raymond, appears to be the sole person left.

The Last Man has to be one of the strangest futuristic novels ever written, if only because Shelley gave no thought to where science might lead humanity over the course of two and a half centuries. The England of 2092, as she envisioned it, is a nation where balloon flight represents the height of technological achievement and people rely on horses and carriages to get around on land. I find myself thinking that this may point to a failure of imagination, because I doubt Shelley was uninterested in the advances that science might make possible. Keep in mind that bold experimentation was such a pivotal aspect of Frankenstein. In any case, the story ends optimistically, with Verney rescuing great works of English literature and searching the world for others of his kind.

Shelley placed some of her short fiction in fairytale settings: the court of the queen of Navarre, for example, or the Genoa of long ago. Her story “The Dream,” though set in England, takes place during the reign of Henry IV. These stories involve the kinds of adventures found in fairytales, in that they feature the triumph of faithfulness, a deal with a devil, and a miraculous dream.

Early in her essay “On Ghosts,” Shelley seems to lament the passing of a world peopled by enchantresses, fairies, witches, and spirits. By 1824, when she wrote this piece, much of the earth’s territory had been explored; humanity believed it had entered a wiser age. “Yet,” Shelley asks, “is it true that we do not believe in ghosts?” She presents as evidence two ghostly encounters described to her by friends. One close acquaintance, an Englishman, reported nightly visits from someone dear but departed who glided into his bedchamber and stroked his cheek. The second friend, an Italian, claimed to have seen a mangled apparition, the ghost of a youth who took his life in a violent way. Shelley ends her essay on a lighter note, retelling a story by M. G. Lewis, an English writer whom she had met, that features talking cats. The reader is left to ask, do the mysterious and wondrous have a place in the modern world after all?

We are still reading Frankenstein; the answer has to be yes.
Visit Catherine Reef's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Catherine Reef & Nandi.

The Page 69 Test: Frida & Diego.

My Book, The Movie: Noah Webster.

The Page 99 Test: Florence Nightingale.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 20, 2017

Mette Ivie Harrison

Mette Ivie Harrison is the critically acclaimed author of eight YA books, including Mira, Mirror and The Princess and the Hound series. In 2014, she published her first adult novel, a mystery entitled The Bishop's Wife, about a Mormon bishop's wife who is drawn into solving crime when a young wife and mother in her ward goes missing. His Right Hand, book 2 of that series, is about a transgender ward member who is found dead in the church building. Book 3, For Time and All Eternities, is about an independent polygamous group where Linda is called to investigate a murder. Harrison writes a regular blog about faith and Mormonism at Huffington Post. She holds a PhD in Germanic Languages and Literatures from Princeton University and is an All-American triathlete..

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Harrison's reply:
I just finished reading Show Your Work by Austin Kleon, and it has inspired me to start posting regularly about my process. I believe in messy process rather than perfect, finished product and in what Austin suggests, which is that only ever showing the perfect product leads to aspiring creative types thinking that they'll never get better. This is completely untrue, and I'm a terribly messy writer. I went through 15 drafts of For Time and All Eternities (the latest Linda Wallheim Mormon Utah mystery) in 2016 alone. I'm not a good writer because I write flawlessly to begin with. I'm a good writer because I'm willing to do some very hard work when it comes to revision, and because I never prize a sentence above the purpose of my book. I can cut ruthlessly if that's what's necessary.

I also just finished Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. I went through a five year long depression after the loss of my sixth child and I've been interested in the different experiences of depression of others since then. Honestly, my experience was very different from Matt Haig's, but both of us ended up getting through without medication (not something I necessarily recommend). I dogeared a number of pages so that I can go back and use the book when I talk to friends who have depression, as well.
Visit Mette Ivie Harrison's website.

Writers Read: Mette Ivie Harrison (January 2015).

The Page 69 Test: His Right Hand.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Joe Starita

For the last twelve years, Joe Starita has held an endowed professorship at the University of Nebraska’s College of Journalism. He was the New York Bureau Chief for Knight-Ridder newspapers and a veteran investigative reporter for the Miami Herald. His stories have won more than three dozen awards, one of which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for local reporting. His books include The Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge, which won the MPIBA Award and received a second Pulitzer nomination, and “I am a Man.”: Chief Standing Bear’s Journey for Justice.

Starita's new book is A Warrior of the People: How Susan La Flesche Overcame Racial and Gender Inequality to Become America's First Indian Doctor.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
We are, it is often said, a nation of immigrants – a nation cobbled together from the restless, sometimes desperate spirits of ancestors who moved from their home base across an ocean with the idea of staying put in America, a place where they could make something of themselves. But I have always been attracted to the stories of two groups who were not – and have never been – a part of that traditional immigrant narrative: the Native Americans who were already here and the African Americans who arrived in chains. Consequently, it is not surprising that writers whose ancestors endured Trails of Tears and decades of enslavement consistently turn out riveting stories carved from their cultural heritage, powerful stories often littered with many of literature’s great themes.

So it is with Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy, a haunting piece of nonfiction I recently read about one man’s decades-long crusade to bring humanity and justice to the inhumane and unjust world of Alabama’s death row. It is often a painful, debilitating look at who we have been – as a people and a nation – but, in the end, provides plenty of inspirational firepower to up our game, to take charge of conditions and situations that we all have some degree of control over.

So it is, too, with The Underground Railroad, a novel of breathtaking risk and courage that funnels the reader into the body and mind of a young, female runaway slave. It’s a story that offers up an almost magical cocktail – part fantasy world and part stark, naked history – and never quite lets you off the hook. Long before the last page, you will have plenty to think about, plenty of opportunities to examine how the past informs the present – and what it portends for the future.

And so it is also with LaRose, the latest novel from Louise Erdrich, who deftly explores the many complications that arise when a Native man accidentally kills his best friend’s son and offers up his own boy to try to heal all of their wounds. Once again, Erdrich masterfully creates a Faulknerian landscape of characters and places, beautifully balancing the full range of Native humor and tragedy in the most human of terms.
Visit Joe Starita's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Elizabeth Heiter

Critically acclaimed and award-winning author Elizabeth Heiter likes her suspense to feature strong heroines, chilling villains, psychological twists, and a little bit (or a lot!) of romance. Her research has taken her into the minds of serial killers, through murder investigations, and onto the FBI Academy’s shooting range. Her novels have been published in more than a dozen countries and translated into eight languages; they've also been shortlisted for the Daphne Du Maurier award, the National Readers' Choice award and the Booksellers' Best award and won the RT Reviewers' Choice award.

Heiter's new novel is Stalked.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Heiter's reply:
I recently finished reading Karin Slaughter’s Pretty Girls. It was the first book I’d read by her, but it definitely won’t be my last. Gritty, dark and uncompromising in its glimpse into the world of sexualized violence, Pretty Girls was at times hard to read, but it was always hard to put down.

Coming up next in my TBR pile are Silent Scream by Angela Marsons, The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel, and Find Her by Lisa Gardner.
Visit Elizabeth Heiter's website.

My Book, The Movie: Stalked.

The Page 69 Test: Stalked.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Gerald Brandt

Gerald Brandt is an international bestselling author of science fiction and fantasy. He is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. His latest book is The Operative – A San Angles Novel. Brandt's first novel, The Courier, also in the San Angeles series, was listed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as one of the 10 Canadian science fiction books you need to read.

Recently I asked Brandt about what he was reading. His reply:
Reading has been such a precious commodity lately. I manage to get a few minutes in before bedtime most days, but a long block of time is rare.

Of the few books that I've managed to read this year, Jason Hough's Zero World is one of the ones that got a good chunk of time. Published by Del Rey in 2015, this novel is a fast paced science fiction thriller that grabs on to you right at the beginning and drags you along for a hell of a ride. To me, it felt like John Wick meets Jason Bourne meets alternate world.

The main character is an assassin who works for a corporation. He basically does what he's told when he's told to do it. The twist is that he has an implant that gets activated just before he takes on an assignment. When he's done the job, his memory is rewound to the point in time the implant was activated, essentially letting him forget all the nasty things he's done. Throw in the fact that he has a conscience and and you get a great lead character. Then couple him with a kick ass female lead that isn't just a story device, and you have something I want to read.

I'm hoping this is a series, and I get to have another adventure with these two.

Another favorite that I read this year is The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. I wouldn't have picked this book up at all, except for a solid recommendation from a bookstore in Toronto called Bakka Phoenix Books. I'd just finished a reading there and was wandering the shelves when the manager pulled it out for me. I have to admit I'm behind the gate on this one: it came out in 2014 from Tor.

The story follows a half-goblin who is the exiled youngest son of the Emperor. When the entire royal lineage is wiped out, the exiled son is brought in to rule the kingdom. I found some of the character's names hard to follow at first, but it quickly didn't matter. The world building in the novel is exquisite. There is nothing in the book that hits you over the head as world building, instead it's all woven into the fabric of the story itself. All the details of the society and people that inhabit the world are detailed, yet subtle. Very well done.

The last book I want to bring up is another old one: Black Bottle Man by Craig Russell. I first read this one in 2010 when it came out from Great Plains Publications, a small press from my home province of Manitoba. When I heard Mr. Russell was coming out with another novel this year, I went back and reread this one. For someone that doesn't get much reading time, that says a lot.

I read this one at the beginning of the year, and what I remember most about it is the tone. The author has a grasp of the English language that I can only dream of. To me, this one was like listening to music. The nuances this author has in word choice and sentence structure is a beautiful thing. And to top it off, it's an excellent story. His next novel, Fragment from Thistledown Press, is on the top of me to-be-read pile.
Visit Gerald Brandt's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Operative.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 16, 2017

Kathleen Rooney

Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, and a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand. She teaches English and Creative Writing at DePaul University and is the author of eight books of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, including the novel O, Democracy! (Fifth Star Press, 2014) and the novel in poems Robinson Alone (Gold Wake Press, 2012). With Eric Plattner, she is the co-editor of René Magritte: Selected Writings (University of Minnesota Press, 2016 and Alma Books, 2016). A winner of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from Poetry magazine, her reviews and criticism have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times Magazine, The Rumpus, The Nation, the Poetry Foundation website and elsewhere. She lives in Chicago with her spouse, the writer Martin Seay.

Rooney's new book, her second novel, is Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Rooney's reply:
My latest novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, takes place in New York City. The title character, Lillian, takes a 10-or-so-mile walk through the rundown Manhattan of New Year’s Eve 1984, and as she does so, she looks back on her life since she arrived there in 1926. I love New York, but I live and walk in Chicago.

I love my city and am always seeking ways to better understand it—the people who live here and why its neighborhoods are the way they are. Currently, I’m reading Natalie Y. Moore’s The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation, which is an immensely insightful examination of racism, disinvestment, and inequality and how these factors have historically shaped—and continue to shape—America’s third most-populous city. Walking through Chicago, it’s easy to see that the South and West Sides are vastly less resourced than downtown and the North Side. Moore’s book blends personal narrative, research, data and memoir to offer a smart, accessible look at how, as she says, “segregation amplifies racial inequalities” and how “the legacy of segregation and its ongoing policies keep Chicago divided.” So too does she offer remedies and solutions for how “Change is possible.”
Learn more about the book and author at Kathleen Rooney's website.

My Book, The Movie: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Christine Husom

Christine Husom is the national bestselling author of the Snow Globe Shop Mystery series, as well as the Winnebago County Mysteries, also set in central Minnesota. She served with the Wright County Sheriff’s Department and trained with the St. Paul Police Department, where she gained firsthand knowledge of law enforcement procedures.

Husom's latest Snow Globe Shop mystery is Frosty the Dead Man.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I have stacks and stacks of to-be-read books on my shelves, and each one seems to cry out, “Pick me, it’s my turn,” when I’m perusing through them. I discovered Up Like Thunder by Colin T Nelson was a treat to read. I first met Colin at a Twin Cities Sisters in Crime some years ago. Besides being a wonderful storyteller, he’s also a great guy, all around.

Up Like Thunder follows Investigator Pete Chandler from Minneapolis to Myanmar, the former Burma. Myanmar, after years of maintaining closed borders, began allowing tourists and limited business interests in the country in 2011. When Bridget Holmes, a young American woman who is working in the country, goes missing, her influential father contacts Chandler, and implores him to find Bridget and bring her home safely. Although it’s about the last thing on earth he wants to do, Chandler reluctantly agrees. He soon finds himself in a dangerous world he knows little about, with few people he can trust.

Up Like Thunder is written with the right amount of detail to fully engage, and yet not bore, readers. Nelson’s descriptions of people, and most notably Chandler, are very well done. Places in Myanmar are vividly depicted and bring sights, smells, and sounds to life. I appreciated the way Nelson wove the country’s history into their modern day struggles with poverty and government corruption. At times I was in awe, other times I was on the edge of my seat wondering if the good guys would prevail after all. Two thumbs up for Colin T Nelson’s Up Like Thunder, a great read!
Visit Christine Husom's website.

My Book, The Movie: Frosty the Dead Man.

The Page 69 Test: Frosty the Dead Man.

--Marshal Zeringue