Thursday, February 28, 2019

Stephanie Kate Strohm

Stephanie Kate Strohm is the author of It's Not Me, It's You; The Taming of the Drew; Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink; Confederates Don't Wear Couture; The Date to Save; and Prince in Disguise.

Strohm's new novel is That's Not What I Heard.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished reading Persuasion, by Jane Austen. The summer before my senior year of high school, I read all of Austen's books...except this one. I'm not sure why I skipped it - I was reading them in the order they'd been published, so perhaps I just ran out of steam at the end of the summer - but I am so glad I returned to it! It was absolutely wonderful. Captain Wentworth is every bit as swoony as Mr. Darcy (maybe more swoony?!) and the letter where he declares his love has got to be one of the most romantic pieces of fiction of all time.
Visit Stephanie Kate Strohm's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Stephanie Kate Strohm & Lorelei Lee Strohm-Lando.

The Page 69 Test: That's Not What I Heard.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

John Wall

John Wall has a BA from Ohio State University, worked as a journalist at Pacific Stars and Stripes in Tokyo, Japan, the Toledo Blade, Insight magazine and the Altoona Mirror. At the Mirror he also was a syndicated movie critic for Thomson Newspapers.

In 1994 Wall left journalism to become a writer-editor at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences and later worked as director of media relations at Juniata College, a tiny liberal arts college in rural central Pennsylvania. He's now retired and lives in Altoona, Pa. and is mulling over ideas for his next project.

Wall's latest book is Streamliner: Raymond Loewy and Image-making in the Age of American Industrial Design.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Wall's reply:
Typically I switch my reading between non-fiction biographies, histories and crime fiction (with the occasional spy thriller thrown in for momentum). Lately, I've taken to re-reading books already in my collection because I'm running out of bookshelf space.

The newest title is Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann, an involving investigation into a turn-of-the-20th century crime against the Osage nation in Oklahoma. Grann details how the ruling elite systematically murdered Native Americans to steal lucrative oil leases. Trivia fans will recognize that the Oklahoma town of Pawhuska, where several stories are set, is where "Pioneer Woman " Ree Drummond lives.

Ghettoside. Jill Leovy, a former reporter for the L.A. Times, takes the reader deep into a single murder case in gang territory, South Central Los Angeles. The case focuses on the murder of the son of an LA cop and the investigators who try and solve the murder. Levy goes beyond the murder book by astutely analyzing the reasons why metropolitan crime statistics may not be totally accurate.

Dancing in the Dark. Morris Dickstein writes an involving and quirky cultural analysis of the songs, books, films and stage shows of the Great Depression years into the 1940s. Dickstein covers the greatest hits: Steinbeck, Astaire, Gershwin. But he also gives more obscure authors their dues and folds in the influence of designers.

Mystery Train. Rock critic Greil Marcus' essential book is a book I re-read every few years. Marcus weaves an intricate analysis of how the American melting-pot is reflected in the work of musicians Elvis, Robert Johnson, Sly Stone, Randy Newman and the Band. If you must read one book about music, this is it.

Deep Freeze and Twisted Prey. Former reporter John Sandford has two distinct and entertaining detectives. Deep Freeze's cop is Virgil Flowers, who seems inspired by Justified's (and Elmore Leonard's) Raylan Givens. The Flowers novels are funnier and are usually placed in small Minnesota towns. The Prey novels feature Lucas Davenport, a harder-edged detective whose work is focused in the Twin Cities. Sly humor is sprinkled between Davenport's merciless hunt for his "prey."

The Other Woman. Daniel Silva struck gold with his art-restorer/assassin/spy hero Gabriel Allon. This latest installment brings in some "ancient" history. Allon must trace the effect British spy Kim Philby has had on British intelligence agencies, while also dealing with Israel's currently tenuous hold on issues in the Middle East.
Learn more about Streamliner, and visit John Wall's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Kristyn Kusek Lewis

Kristyn Kusek Lewis is the author of Save Me and How Lucky You Are. A former magazine editor at Glamour and Child, Lewis has been writing for national publications for nearly twenty years. Her work has appeared in the New York Times; O, The Oprah Magazine; Real Simple; Reader’s Digest; Glamour; Self; Redbook; Cosmopolitan; Marie Claire; Parents; Allure; Good Housekeeping; Cooking Light; Health; Men’s Health; the New York Daily News; and many more. Lewis is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross and the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she earned an MFA in creative writing.

Lewis's latest novel is Half of What You Hear.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I am an equal-opportunity reader—I like highbrow, lowbrow, and everything in-between. I am also usually reading two books simultaneously—one fiction, one nonfiction.

I recently finished the Pulitzer Prize-winning Less by Andrew Sean Greer, which is a bittersweet satire about a failing novelist who, on the cusp of his fiftieth birthday, accepts a number of not-so-great invitations to literary events around the world to escape his own heartbreak and feelings of self-doubt. It is hilarious and heart-wrenching and endearingly wise all at once. I loved it.

In 2019, I am on a quest to make a dent in the list of books I have been meaning to read for years and never got around to for one reason or another. One of those, which I just finished, is Pat Conroy’s My Reading Life. It is essentially a love letter to reading and describes how books both shaped Conroy as an author and provided comfort to him throughout his life. I especially enjoyed the passages about his mother, a voracious reader whom Conroy credits for his love of literature.

I’ve just started two books—Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, which I am enjoying every bit as much as I expected I would—and, from my “books I’ve been meaning to read forever” list, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.
Visit Kristyn Kusek Lewis's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 25, 2019

S. Andrew Swann

S. Andrew Swann is the pen name of Steven Swiniarski. He’s married and lives in the Greater Cleveland area where he has lived all of his adult life. He has a background in mechanical engineering and— besides writing— works as a Database Manager for one of the largest private child services agencies in the Cleveland area. He has published over 26 novels since 1993.

Swann's new novel is Marked.

Recently I asked the author about what he as reading. His reply:
I've been on a Space Opera kick recently. I've been reading stuff by Alastair Reynolds and Iain M. Banks. I've always had a soft spot for star-spanning civilizations, and both authors have a way of vividly bringing the idea to life without it being some misplaced analog of some other historical period. Especially refreshing in both authors' work is the idea of new social structures, in both cases envisioning something that's arguably utopian (In Banks' case the Culture, in Reynolds' case the Demarchists) and in both cases subverting the utopia by imagining all the logistical details that would be necessary to make the "utopia" work. In both cases they've also occasionally cast their "utopia" as the villain. In Reynolds' case, we're five or six books in his Revelation Space series before we go back in time to see the high point of the Demarchists, and by then we already know it will all come to a bad end. It think this abuse of "utopia" is especially appealing to me because I've tried to do a similar thing in my own work in the Space Opera genre, the Hostile Takeover Trilogy in particular.

The book I'm in the middle of at the moment is Elysium Fire by Alastair Reynolds.
Visit S. Andrew Swann's website.

The Page 69 Test: Marked.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Jo Perry

Jo Perry earned a Ph.D. in English, taught college literature and writing, produced and wrote episodic television, and has published articles, book reviews, and poetry.

She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, novelist Thomas Perry.

They have two adult children. Their three cats and two dogs are rescues.

Perry's latest novel is Dead is Beautiful.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Right now I am neck-deep into David Keenan's astounding, moving, brutalist/rhapsodic This Is Memorial Device: An Hallucinated Oral History of the Post-Punk Music Scene in Airdrie, Coatbridge and environs 1978–1986, a fictional memoir that I picked up as research for the book I'm currently writing, but which is so spectacularly good that I'm reading it because of its pure, melancholy energy, and the miraculous, anatomical way it recreates the dangerous, intoxicating and mysterious evanescence of experience.

Recently I read Matthew Phillips' Know Me From Smoke (F13Noir/Fahrenehit Press). The cover, which pictures two Day of the Dead calaveras embracing, sold me right away. Know Me From Smoke is hypnotic. The perfectly taut, plotting, gorgeous, masterful writing and dark power of Phillips' San Diego noir novel blew me away.

I also read the ARC of fourth in Derek Farrell's Danny Bird mysteries which feature a gay pub owner, his friends and his family, a series I love. In Death Of An Angel, Farrell's great talent for mixing dark and light is at its most powerful and masterful. This is an ambitious, hilarious, heart-stopping and heartbreaking mystery that succeeds in every possible way. Death of An Angel comes out 2/28 from Fahrenheit Press.
Visit Jo Perry's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jo Perry & Lola and Lucy.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Beautiful.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Beautiful.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Christina McDonald

Christina McDonald is an author of suspenseful, emotional thrillers. She is also an avid bookworm and a devoted mother and wife.

McDonald was born in Seattle, Washington and now lives in London, England with her husband and two sons, where she enjoys reading, writing, hiking and lifting weights at the gym.

Her new novel is The Night Olivia Fell.

Recently I asked McDonald about what she was reading. Her reply:
Intricate, spellbinding, addictive, I was looking for a book that was twisty and unpredictable, so when I was offered a copy of Alice Feeney’s new novel I Know Who You Are, I knew I had to read it.

The book follows actress Aimee Sinclair, whose husband has suddenly disappeared. At first she isn’t too afraid—they had a big fight the night before—but as the chapters progress and we learn more about that fight (and other events) we begin to trust Aimee less and less.

Alternating with Aimee’s story is that of a little girl who was kidnapped years before. Alice Feeney is the queen of unreliable narrators and her books really define the ‘psychological thriller’ genre. They’re so cerebral that you really don’t know which way the book is going to turn, and I love the constant surprises that jump out from every corner.

Prior to that I read Heather Gudenkauf’s upcoming novel Before She Was Found, which was so amazing. This book is about three pre-teen girls who sneak out to the train tracks during a sleepover. One of them ends up almost dead. But who did it? And why? This is your classic who-dunnit (my favorite type of book!), and all along I really couldn’t figure out who or why. I could never tell who was telling the truth and who was lying.

I found the book so relevant now in the age of Slenderman and social media. The things teenagers—children, really—go through to feel good about themselves is heartbreaking. The themes were really impactful and it was a book I couldn’t get out of my head for days afterwards.

Coming up next is The Wife, by Alafair Burke, who is a completely new author to me, and I can’t wait!
Visit Christina McDonald's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Night Olivia Fell.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 22, 2019

W.K. Stratton

W.K. Stratton is the author of several books of nonfiction and poetry. He has written for Sports Illustrated, Outside, GQ, and Texas Monthly, and was named a Fellow of the Texas Institute of Letters in 2017. He is a longtime resident of Austin, Texas.

His latest book is The Wild Bunch: Sam Peckinpah, a Revolution in Hollywood, and the Making of a Legendary Film.

Recently I asked Stratton about what he was reading. His reply:
My work on Sam Peckinpah, a Revolution in Hollywood, and the Making of a Legendary Film brought me into contact with the fabulous author Luís Alberto Urrea. He’s a great guy, and I learned from him that The Wild Bunch is his favorite movie. Connecting with him led me to reread Urrea’s books I’d already read and seek out those I hadn’t. I knew Urrea’s novel The Hummingbird’s Daughter and his nonfiction masterpiece The Devil’s Highway, which should have won the Pulitzer Prize. Revisiting those did not disappoint; both are American classics. I relished the discover of his 2009 novel, Into the Beautiful North, an ironic (on several levels) retelling of the Western movie The Magnificent Seven; I consider it to be a feminist novel in its depictions of empowered women. It also made me laugh out loud. Urrea can be very funny. His early book, Across the Wire, contains first-rate reportage. His poetry collection, Ghost Sickness, was a delightful and moving surprise, especially in its treatment of his mexicano father and his Anglo mother. Because of the breadth of his writing ability and the instant masterworks he is writing, I think Urrea just might be the best writer at work in America today.
Visit W. K. Stratton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Laura Benedict

Laura Benedict is the Edgar- and ITW Thriller Award- nominated author of seven novels of suspense, including the newly released The Stranger Inside. On the lighter side of mystery, Benedict wrote Small Town Trouble, a cozy crime novel, for the Familiar Legacy series. Her Bliss House gothic trilogy includes: The Abandoned Heart, Charlotte’s Story (Booklist starred review), and Bliss House. Her short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and in numerous anthologies like Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads, The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers, and St. Louis Noir. A native of Cincinnati, she lives in Southern Illinois with her family.

Recently I asked Benedict about what she was reading. Her reply:
Last year was The Year I Discovered Library Audio Books. Now, if I’m not asleep or around other people (and not writing), I nearly always have an audio book streaming through my AirPods. I rarely listen to music because it seems like an unnecessary interruption of a story. Audiobooks have been a part of my reading life for decades, but having access through the library means I can listen far more often. A few of the truly excellent ones I’ve listened to lately: Circe by Madeline Miller, American Housewife (essays) by Helen Ellis, Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, and Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Listening to Pillars of the Earth (which is about the building of a fictional cathedral), felt very nostalgic to me. I was a big fan of the family sagas of the seventies and eighties, and am also an English architecture geek.

I haven’t given up on paper or ebooks. There’s something about seeing the way a book works on the page that speaks directly to the writer in me, so I always have at least one going. Right now I’m treading through Robert Galbraith’s Lethal White. It’s enjoyable, but I need to give it more concentrated time because I keep losing the thread. Becoming Mrs. Lewis, by Patti Callahan Henry is terrific. It’s the story of writer Joy Davidman’s relationship with C.S.Lewis. Next up is the hardcover of Louise Penny’s latest, Kingdom of the Blind. I’ll be buying it in audio as well, because I do that with all of her books.
Visit Laura Benedict's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Stranger Inside.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Snowden Wright

Snowden Wright is the author of the novels Play Pretty Blues and the newly released American Pop. He has written for The Atlantic, Salon, Esquire, and the New York Daily News, among other publications. A former Stone Court Writer-in-Residence, he lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Recently I asked Wright about what he was reading. His reply:
The other day, as I sat down to work on my next book, I didn’t draw a blank so much as draw blankly. Everything I wrote came out as simultaneously functional and bland as grocery-store sushi. The sentences did not sing. The language did not effervesce. Even the dialogue with exclamation points seemed to be spoken in monotone.

Cue my usual solution to that kind of problem. I stood from my desk and wandered around my apartment, browsing my bookshelves, pulling down books at random, and reading the sentences I’d check-marked and underlined on first reading them. Rereading select passages from books I love rarely fails to jog my creativity. Here’s a sampling of what I perused that day.

“Sleeping in a cabin beside Henry in the first weeks after the sale, Moses had thought that it was already a strange world that made him a slave to a white man, but God had indeed set it twirling and twisting every which way when he put black people to owning their own kind.” Edward P. Jones, The Known World

I’m such an evangelist for this novel. As you can tell by that line—which artfully introduces the central concept of the novel via a character’s interiority—it concerns a black man in pre-Civil War America who owned slaves.

“Like most people who are anecdotal, he told me nothing.” Susanna Moore, In the Cut

Looking for a taut, beautiful literary thriller? Here you go. Sentences that I check-mark and underlined often veer toward the aphoristic. This novel is full of gems like the one above.

“Alex came out swinging, but was always hoping, or so she thought, for someone to wrestle her arms to her sides. She was a character in a screwball comedy searching in vain for a serious moment… She bought red shoes and only wore them when it rained because she liked how they looked on the wet pavement. She was a perpetual-motion machine that wanted to talk philosophy. When Alex wasn’t dancing, she was standing on her head.” Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces

How do you make a character summary fresh? You stand it on its head. You let it dance. You make it a perpetual-motion machine that wants to talk philosophy.

“He felt the embarrassment press into his face like the summer sun.” Pete Dexter, Paris Trout

Everyone should read this somewhat-forgotten masterpiece. I also recommend Dexter’s novel Deadwood, which focuses on its titular town but was not the basis for the HBO show of the same name.

“It was genuine because he himself was a character also, a living sturdy weed of gossip and laughter, of racing confessions about nights of fun and errors, of cooking recipes with unexpected olives, of fish sprinkled with chocolate.” Elizabeth Hardwick, Sleepless Nights

The same way characters are made of characteristics, novels are made of sentences, each unique to itself, a tiny part of a whole, all of them combining to become the amorphous “thing” bundled between two covers. Every sentence is a living sturdy weed of gossip and laughter. Every sentence is a recipe with unexpected olives.

I love how those racing confessions about nights of fun and errors can inspire a writer to create racing confessions of his own.
Visit Snowden Wright's website.

The Page 69 Test: American Pop.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Elinor Lipman

Elinor Lipman is the award-winning author of many novels, including The View from Penthouse B and The Inn at Lake Devine; one essay collection, I Can't Complain; and Tweet Land of Liberty: Irreverent Rhymes from the Political Circus. She lives in New York City.

Lipman's new novel is Good Riddance.

Just before Valentine's Day I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I know you think happy endings are for the sentimental and soft, for the unserious, for the romantically inclined; for the beach. Along the narrative path there is very likely love—its ups and downs, its pain and its pleasures. And if the author follows the excellent examples of William Shakespeare, you’ll probably get a marriage as the tale’s comic closure.

None of these titles are new or necessarily on my night-stand at this moment, but Valentine’s Day is approaching, and I love them with all my heart.

The Republic of Love by Carol Shields
I was lucky enough to review this book, a novel less known than her Pulitzer-Prize-winning Stone Diaries, when it was released in 1992, and I opened my rave, “Try to imagine a more delicious premise for a novel: a 35-year-old high-achieving folklorist who studies mermaid legends meets a thrice-divorced 40-year-old radio deejay, provoking an instant, intense devotion that neither -- as romance-starved as they are -- can fully metabolize.” I continued, “Ah, heaven: unabashed love at first sight, with a high I.Q. …perfectly rendered …a touching, elegantly funny, luscious work of fiction.”

The New Yorkers, possibly my favorite Cathleen Schine novel. I even love its flap copy (“Dogs bring people together unexpectedly, acting as cupids for the quiet, the struggling, sometimes lonely, eccentric people…”) and its dedication: “To the memory of Buster, who, in eighteen months taught me more about the city than I had discovered in thirty years.” Schine lovingly delivers the overlapping orbits of an ensemble cast of Upper West-Siders—for sure connected by love (or avoidance) of dogs, but foremost a people-rescue story.

How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life by Mameve Medwed is another smart, even laugh-out-loud gem of a novel, this one set in Cambridge, Mass., behind the downmarket stall in a antiques emporium Everything changes for the depressed Abby Randolph when she goes on Antiques Roadshow, cradling a chamber pot that once did service under the bed of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. For added sympaticomedy, there is Abby’s bleak romantic resume, with a self-actualized ex-husband, and an old boyfriend who revealed Abby’s shortcomings in a crummy autobiographical novel. As Kirkus Reviews said of this, Medwed’s third, very funny novel, “an adventure to which Jane Austen might have raised a celebratory glass of port.”

Happy All the Time by Laurie Colwin.
When Guido Morris spots Holly Sturgis for the first time he immediately senses that she will be difficult, quirky, and hard to live with. His cousin and best friend, Vincent Cardworthy, meets Misty Berkowitz—who from the get-go is cranky, bored, misanthropic. The story follows their courtships deliciously, sardonically, and give us four memorable characters who find love in spite of themselves. "Love made fools of everyone,” Vincent laments. “It was man's fate…. Sometimes I think it's love and sometimes I think it's sickness." It was because of Happy All the Time that I tried my hand at fiction, hoping I could do for readers what Laurie Colwin, who died at 48, did for me.

Selling the Lite of Heaven by Suzanne Strempek Shea
This book came in the mail, in pages, an unedited, unpublished manuscript that the author’s husband had asked me to read and evaluate. I started reading it on the walk back up my driveway. I went straight to my phone and left a message for the author, telling her that I loved it already, after one page. The premise alone tickles me: Not only left at the altar but for it when fiancé Eddie Balicki chooses the priesthood over marriage, the 32-year-old narrator is trying to sell her 2.75-karat engagement ring in the local Pennysaver. The ad brings to her parents' home a parade of potential buyers, and to the story, insightful, deliciously ethnic (Polish Catholic) kind, droll humor.

And in non-fiction:

In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle by Madeleine Blais.
This began as a New York Times Magazine cover story, which I’d read and loved. When I heard it was going to be stretched into a book, I thought it might get leggy, chapters added that felt like filler. Not so! Not wanting to spill the beans, I’ll say only that the book covers the astonishing 24-1 season of the 1992-93 Amherst-Pelham Regional High School Lady Hurricanes basketball team, onward to the final championship game against the mighty Hillies from Haverhill. No wonder it’s this good, written by Pulitzer-Prize winner Madeleine Blais.
Visit Elinor Lipman's website.

The Page 69 Test: Good Riddance.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 18, 2019

Amber Cowie

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

Her new novel is Rapid Falls.

Recently I asked Cowie about what she was reading. Her reply:
I read a lot, especially in the white and grey days of January when viruses knock incessantly at the door. I’m not sure if everyone is like this, but I tend to immerse myself in particular genres, depending on my life and leanings at the time. Last year, in the months before my debut psychological suspense novel, Rapid Falls, was set to come out, I didn’t read anything outside of the suspense/thriller category, which was amazing but slightly limiting. Though I will never be able to resist the newest works by masters like Ruth Ware, Tana French, Caroline Kepnes or Emily Carpenter, this year, I set a goal to read outside of that genre. It’s good to see the real world every now and then, so I started with memoirs and works of non-fiction.

One of the first non-fiction books I selected was more unsettling than any fictional murder I’ve ever read. I am still troubled by being inside a house with unlocked doors and I finished it about a week ago. The book was I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara and it details the brutal activities of a then uncaught killer and serial rapist who hurt and murdered people in the Bay Area for years. Due in part to the exhaustive work of McNamara, and the publicity that surrounded the book, the Golden State Killer was found and arrested. Sadly, tracking the man’s dark path contributed to the destruction of the author. Before the book was finished, her husband found her dead in her own bed. He worked with researchers to finish the book and it was published posthumously.

What captured me about this book is the ability of McNamara to put readers in the dark bedrooms of those who were hunted. Instead of laboriously detailing the bloody acts of the criminal like other true crime books I’ve read, the author gives us a glimpse of the real life horrors caused by his actions. It is troubling, stark and deeply affecting to be reminded of the fragility of life by such a skilled writer. I remain shaken and humbled by this book and only wish that there was a possibility of reading more by Michelle McNamara.

After finishing that one, I am now reading Educated by Tara Westover, which is equally harrowing though for different reasons. I think I’m going to have to go back to a suspense novel after this one so I can sleep again without one eye open.
Visit Amber Cowie's website.

The Page 69 Test: Rapid Falls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 17, 2019

J. Albert Mann

J. Albert Mann is the author of five novels for children. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Her new work of historical fiction about the early life of Margaret Sanger is What Every Girl Should Know. Born in New Jersey, Mann now lives in Boston with her children, cat, and husband listed in order of affection.

Recently I asked Mann about what she was reading. Her reply:
Unpresidented: A biography of Donald Trump by Martha Brockenbrough

An unapologetic, well-researched biography for young adults of our sitting president. Brockenbrough shies away from nothing. Not the lies. Not the lawsuits (close to 4000 of them). Not the infidelities. Trump’s life is laid bare in blue ink. Surprisingly, even though the unending press on Trump for the last two years has made me weary of his name and face, the book felt like a fresh read.

Brockenbrough’s narrative of the man in the oval office is neat, linear, and truly interesting. Trump’s life parallels the story of our country—it’s love affair with capitalism, disdain for working people, and the inability to move beyond race and gender as a way of defining ourselves.

On deck for me is Eugene V. Debs Speaks, edited by Jean Y. Tussey and Just What I Thought by Grace Paley. I’m on a political non-fiction reading binge! It happens.
Visit J. Albert Mann's website.

The Page 69 Test: What Every Girl Should Know.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 16, 2019

A. F. Brady

A.F. Brady is a New York State Licensed Mental Health Counselor/Psychotherapist. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Brown University and two Masters degrees in Psychological Counseling from Columbia University. She is a life-long New Yorker, and resides in Manhattan with her husband and their family, including Maurice the canine.

Brady's new novel is Once a Liar.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I am reading a small, but diverse pile of books these days because I am a mom to two little ones and I spend half my life rereading the same stories over and over to my kids. We are currently obsessed with Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry. My brother and I used to read this when we were children and I am extremely excited to be bringing it to my two-year-old now, and he delights in finding Goldbug on every page.

I have just started Becoming by Michelle Obama. I absolutely adore Michelle Obama, I admire her intelligence, poise, grace and ability to persevere in the face of obstruction. I am always interested to hear the stories of a public figure’s personal experience. We tend to think we know someone by how they appear on TV, and I’m very much looking forward to getting into her story and learning about her on a more personal level.

I have Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis on my nightstand right now. I am a practicing psychotherapist, and I love the way Rachel provides self-deprecating, honest representations of sometimes unpleasant truths, to help her readers put down the heavy suitcases we have been packing with society’s unreasonable demands. It’s a very accessible and understandable set of guidelines to steer readers toward a happier and unburdened life.

I’m also in the middle of Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field. Always trying to educate myself. Maybe one day I’ll write a screenplay, adapt a novel, make a movie, who knows? But it all starts with an education.

Hopefully, when I have some more time on my hands, I will pile a few more books onto the pile.
Visit A.F. Brady's website.

Coffee with a Canine: A.F. Brady & Maurice.

The Page 69 Test: Once a Liar.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 15, 2019

Darius Hinks

Darius Hinks works and lives in Nottinghamshire, England. He spent the nineties playing guitar for the grunge band, Cable, but when his music career ended in a bitter lawsuit, he turned to writing. His first novel, Warrior Priest, won the David Gemmell Morningstar award and, so far at least, none of his novels have resulted in litigation.

Hinks's new novel is The Ingenious.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I read in such an unfocused way. My reading is as messy as every other aspect of my life. I usually have half a dozen or so books on the go. At the moment, I’m re-reading the beautiful Peter Owen illustrated edition of Goose of Hermogenes, by Ithell Colquhoun. It’s an incredibly strange novel, quite unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Colquhoun was a surrealist painter (back in the 50s) and that really comes through in her writing. It feels more like slipping into a dream than reading a novel. Well, more of a nightmare than a dream – it’s pretty disturbing in places. I can’t say it makes a lot of sense but it’s so vivid and atmospheric I keep thinking about it and having to come back for another read. It’s highly recommended for anyone who likes surreal fiction about alchemists.

I’ve also been reading The Traitor God by Cameron Johnston, which is a rip-roaring, funny, gritty piece of grimdark fantasy.

Before that I enjoyed George Mann’s Wychwood – a clever mix of a modern-day police procedural and dark, occult, goings-on, all rooted in ancient, bloody, English mythology.

In complete contrast to all this sinister, nightmarish stuff, I’m reading a book of short stories by Tom Hanks. It’s not a book I would have been drawn to, but my sister has a habit of buying me random reads for Christmas and I’m actually really enjoying this one. Annoyingly, for someone who already has such a successful career, he writes well – unaffected, simple, conversational prose telling understated but quietly moving stories. I kind of hate him.
Visit Darius Hinks's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Ingenious.

My Book, The Movie: The Ingenious.

--Marshal Zeringue