Sunday, March 31, 2019

Ayesha Harruna Attah

Ayesha Harruna Attah is the author of three novels: Harmattan Rain, nominated for the 2010 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize; Saturday's Shadows, shortlisted for the Kwani? Manuscript Project in 2013; and The Hundred Wells of Salaga.

Recently I asked Attah about what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished Bisi Adjapon’s Of Women and Frogs, a novel about a girl’s sexual and emotional awakening in a world where the adults can’t stop lying to her about life. Esi is a feisty half-Ghanaian half-Nigerian girl who questions everything she sees. Her father has mistresses and yet chastises his daughters for having boyfriends. She is caught between adoring her father and loathing him for his hypocrisy. Her intelligence means she’s privy to the secrets everyone around her is keeping, and yet, a big secret is also being kept from her, that of her mother’s whereabouts. This book doesn’t hold back on the juicy details that come with Esi’s awakening and growing up, while highlighting the political upheaval Ghana goes through in its early post-colonial years. Adjapon’s skill is in making us laugh one minute, and then crushing our hearts the next. Highly recommend this book.
Visit Ayesha Harruna Attah's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 29, 2019

Mariah Stewart

Mariah Stewart is the award-winning New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of numerous novels and several novellas and short stories. A native of Hightstown, New Jersey, she lives with her husband and two rambunctious rescue dogs amid the rolling hills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, where she savors country life and tends her gardens while she works on her next novel.

Stewart's new novel is The Goodbye Café, book three in The Hudson Sisters Series.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I love thrillers – suspense – police procedurals – mysteries. I thought I’d read just about everyone but then I stumbled over John Sandford and slapped myself on the forehead. How had I missed John Sandford? I’d picked up one book in the supermarket – we live in the country and there is no such thing as a local bookstore – on a day I had nothing to read and snow was in the forecast. I wasn’t aware the book was part of a series, but by the time I’d finished it – the following day, by the way, time off for eating and sleeping only – I wanted all the books in the Prey series and I wanted them right then and there. Accepting the sad fact that even I could read only one book at a time (I do read really really fast!), I started ordering them three at a time. My plan was to read three books/week. That’s worked out pretty well, actually.

So I’ve gone from the first book in the series (Rules of Prey) straight on through to Twisted Prey (and yes, I’ve preordered Neon Prey, which goes on sale on April 23). So what, you ask, is the big deal? Sandford begins each book with a hook, and with fewer words than one might expect, you’re immediately into the story, right there whether in the midst of a cold, bitter Minnesota winter or a hot, muggy Minneapolis summer. The characters are so strong and so well-defined, you know them, from womanizer Lucas Davenport to the crew who works with and for him. He can be a jerk, yes, I realize that, but he’s written with such humor and humanity, I can’t hate him for it. Actually, I have a sort of crush on him, truth be told. Besides, he does grow and change as the series progresses, marrying a surgeon who is very much a feminist and who puts an end to his days as a player.

Sandford’s characters, like his plots, are multi-dimensional. The bad guys are really bad, but they’re never clichés and they don’t always behave the way you expect. As first a Minneapolis detective, and later as head of the Minnesota Bureau of Investigative Apprehension, Davenport is a stone-cold killer when he has to be, but he’s also a man with a heart so soft, he brings home an orphaned twelve-year old girl (he and his wife adopt her). In another book, he angsts for days after he meets the five year old child whose mother had been murdered. He’s also smart and savvy and might be the sharpest knife in the block.

Some books in the series are better than others, admittedly, but they’re all worth a read. I’m disappointed there’s only one more book to go – I hate to see my time with Davenport and company come to an end. But I’ve heard the other series is great too. I’m going to have to check it out. This detective, Virgil Flowers, sounds like a guy I’d like.
Visit Mariah Stewart's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Samantha Downing

Samantha Downing currently lives in New Orleans, where she is furiously typing away on her next thrilling standalone.

My Lovely Wife is her first novel.

Recently I asked Downing about what she was reading. Her reply:
Right now I’m reading Milkman by Anna Burns, novel that recently won the Man Booker Prize. Immediately I was struck by the language, which both intrigued me and drew me in. The female narrator is eighteen years old and is dealing with unwanted advances from an older man. All women can identify with this at some level, especially at such a young age when you are insecure and unsure of how to handle the situation. This is an enlightening book on so many levels. I didn’t expect that and am delighted by it. I love being surprised by a book.
Visit Samantha Downing's website.

The Page 69 Test: My Lovely Wife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 25, 2019

Joy Fielding

Joy Fielding is the New York Times bestselling author of Someone Is Watching, Now You See Her, Still Life, Mad River Road, See Jane Run, and other acclaimed novels. She divides her time between Toronto and Palm Beach, Florida.

Fielding's latest novel is All the Wrong Places.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I've recently discovered Swedish writer, Fredrik Backman, and am greedily devouring all his books. A friend recommended Beartown, the story of a small town whose worship of its high school hockey team is put to the test by a shocking act of violence, which I thought was one of the best books I've ever read. I've since read A Man Called Ove, Britt-Marie Was Here, and The Deal of a Lifetime and Other Stories. I've also got his latest, Us Against You, a sequel to Beartown, that I'm looking forward to.

I've also recently finished David Sederis's collection of humorous essays called Calypso, Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale, and am currently reading Michelle Obama's beautifully written book, Becoming.
Learn more about the book and author at Joy Fielding's website.

My Book, The Movie: All the Wrong Places.

The Page 69 Test: All the Wrong Places.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Karen Odden

Karen Odden's interest in the Victorian era goes back to her New York University doctoral dissertation, which explored how the medical, parliamentary, and literary representations of nineteenth-century railway disasters helped to create a discourse out of which Freud and others fashioned their ideas of “trauma.”

Her first book, A Lady in the Smoke, was a USA Today Bestseller and won the 2017 New Mexico-Arizona award for eBook Fiction.

Odden's new novel is A Dangerous Duet.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished reading several books, all of which I’d recommend, for each has fed my writing spirit. I am currently writing my third book, A Trace of Deceit, and with roughly 80% written, I feel like the Kraken with that giant maw, gulping inspiration and energy from all sorts of directions.

One book is Miss Burma, an historical novel by Charmaine Craig, who came to Phoenix to speak. She shared that she drew upon her own family’s story for this book: her mother was “Miss Burma” (as in the tiara-and-sash variety) and a highly public and political figure. I knew very little about the country itself—I had to pull out a map to follow parts of the plot—and (much like Pachinko) this novel takes us across generations, beginning in pre-WWII. My novel A Dangerous Duet takes place in 1875 London, and I know how hard it is to build a convincing world on the page; Craig does a lovely job with Rangoon, particularly with respect to architecture, tastes, and smells.

A second book: The Lost Art of Listening. I sometimes find parenting books tedious or too “pop”; but this one challenged me in productive ways. It positions listening as an intentional act, offering both some astute psychological insights about what sort of emotional baggage (anxieties, mistaken beliefs) prevents us from being good listeners, as well as practical suggestions for cultivating our abilities. (The section on listening to teens was particularly useful!) This book fed several of the characters I’m writing now, particularly my next heroine, Annabel Rowe, who must both challenge her unconscious assumptions and listen beyond the words to find the truth about her brother’s past.

Third book: Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England. This is one of those books on my research shelf that I reread periodically because it has all kinds of juicy tidbits about London houses and objects. It theorizes the relationships between physical spaces and Victorian social norms, such as the separation of work and home and of parents and children. It discusses mundane objects such as counterpanes, towel rails, bed pockets made of Japanese fans, wardrobes with shelves (there were no hangers until the 1900s), and bed curtains, including whether the latter protected one from nighttime miasmas or trapped them inside with the hapless sleeper!

Fourth book: I’m rereading (for the third or fourth time) Geraldine Brooks’s first novel, Year of Wonders, which is probably one of my favorite historical novels. It is set in 1666 in England and told from the perspective of a young woman who lives in a town that sequesters itself from the rest of the world to keep the plague from spreading. (This novel has some elements in common with the WWI version of this plot, about the Spanish Flu epidemic, in Thomas Mullen’s The Last Town on Earth, which was also very good.) Brooks won the 2005 Pulitzer for March, which represents the story of Mr. March (from Little Women), but Year is still my favorite of her books.
Visit Karen Odden's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Karen Odden and Rosy.

My Book, The Movie: A Dangerous Duet.

The Page 69 Test: A Dangerous Duet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Amber Royer

Amber Royer writes fun science fiction involving chocolate, aliens, lovesick AIs, time travel, and more. She teaches enrichment / continuing education creative writing classes for both teens and adults at UT Arlington.

Royer's new novel is Pure Chocolate.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished Twain's Feast: Searching for America's Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens by Andrew Beahrs. Twain was definitely an early influence on my sense of humor. ("The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County" is the first short story I can clearly remember reading.) So it’s been interesting learning more about him as a person (I knew a bit, like that Twain was a steamboat pilot, but I underestimated how dangerous that occupation was – and understanding that gives the fact that he chose “Mark Twain,” which basically meant safe depths, as his pen name more profound), and seeing a critical look at the times he was living in and his complicated context within those times. This book starts with a list of foods Twain said he enjoyed. Then it explores history in the context of those foods. I’ve always felt that food is a good entry into understanding any time period or culture. (I write sci-fi, and I’ve actually taken the time to develop culinary traditions for the invented cultures my alien characters belong to. It makes them have so much more context, and makes their invented planets seem so much more real.)

I’ve also been binge-reading cookbooks, since my husband and I have been working up a revised and expanded version of the chocolate-paired-with-herbs cookbook we self-published back when we were doing events for the local herb society. One of the most fascinating was Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio. It’s a book about principles. Knowing the basic ratios that will give you different doughs, batters, stocks and sauces allows you to insert your own preferred ingredients to create unique recipes. It also teaches you how to look at a recipe and figure out how to scale things up and down. I recommend reading it cover to cover. It will change the way you think about food.

I did a reading out of Free Chocolate at the Dallas Chocolate Festival, and I met the guys from Dandelion Chocolate, a craft chocolate company out of San Francisco. They have a book out now called Making Chocolate: From Bean to Bar to S'more. It actually goes into the nuts and bolts of chocolate making, with detailed photographs, charts and graphs. It also talks about the creativity and innovation that sometimes goes into the process on a small business scale, because some chocolate-processing equipment is dang expensive. It’s a compelling read, and did I mention the gorgeous photographs? Because they will make you hungry.

On the fiction side of things, I just finished All Systems Red by Martha Wells, the first in her Murderbot Diaries series. They’re novellas, which make them quick reads, and I have an hour commute on the days I teach, so audiobooks really help me get in reading time. It was cool from a fellow-writer perspective to see how much sympathy and tragic backstory she wove into a story about a cybernetic being meant to be a killing machine that would really just rather watch the entertainment feeds – without slowing down the story.

In hard copy, I’m currently working through Asimov’s Foundation Series. It is one of those classics that I somehow never got around to reading. So far, it sounds like they’re building Wikipedia, though that’s just part of laying the groundwork for a much larger conflict. I intend to study it to see how the galactic-scale worldbuilding was done but I’m having a little trouble with the fatalism implied by psychohistory. I’ve always said that genre is a conversation, so you need to be conversant with what other authors have said in the past to say something new and relevant.
Visit Amber Royer's website.

The Page 69 Test: Free Chocolate.

My Book, The Movie: Pure Chocolate.

The Page 69 Test: Pure Chocolate.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Vanessa McGrady

Vanessa McGrady spends time thinking about feminist parenting, high-vibrational food, and badass ways to do things better. She often wonders why people aren’t more freaked out about plastic in the oceans. Whether in New York, the Pacific Northwest, or Glendale, California, she is grateful to call each place home.

After two years of waiting to adopt—slogging through paperwork and bouncing between hope and despair—a miracle finally happened for McGrady. Her sweet baby, Grace, was a dream come true. Then McGrady made a highly uncommon gesture: when Grace’s biological parents became homeless, McGrady invited them to stay.

McGrady's new book is Rock Needs River: A Memoir About a Very Open Adoption.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m furiously consuming more memoirs. Right now I’m ‘halfway through Educated by Tara Westover, but I just finished A River Could be a Tree by Angela Himsel and Maid by Stephanie Land. I’d also recommend Priestdaddy and The Glass Castle. It’s sort of horrifying to think how tough it is for some people to just survive childhood. What a triumph it is to be able to get that story in the world. I bow down to these authors who made it happen.
Visit Vanessa McGrady's website.

My Book, The Movie: Rock Needs River.

The Page 99 Test: Rock Needs River.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 18, 2019

Katia Lief (aka Karen Ellis)

Karen Ellis is a pseudonym of author Katia Lief. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and The Authors Guild. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, NY.

Her new novel is Last Night.

Recently I asked Lief about what she was reading. Her reply:
When I realized that I’d never read Shirley Jackson’s seminal story “The Lottery,” I got a copy of the collection The Lottery and Other Stories. Because this story has been embedded in the literary zeitgeist since it was first published in 1948, I forgave myself for thinking I’d read it—I had seen a short film based on it, so I knew the essentials of the story—but now I craved the experience of reading it in the author’s own words.

I turned to the table of contents, found the titular story at the very end, and started reading. It was short, clear, clean—and powerful. Spoiler alert: A housewife in a small town waits with her neighbors in an annual rite in which someone is randomly selected as a sacrifice believed to bring farming luck. When to her horror her name is chosen, her friends and neighbors gather round and stone her to death.

Jackson’s tour de force in “The Lottery” was showing the shattering effects of rote social custom and thought on the individual. It’s a theme that she revisited in many of the collection’s other stories, and that feels eerily relevant today.

Next up on my TBR pile is Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin. I’m so curious to learn about the woman behind all that dark brilliance.
Visit Katia Lief/Karen Ellis's website.

The Page 69 Test: Last Night.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Devin Murphy

Devin Murphy grew up near Buffalo, NY in a family with Dutch roots. He holds a BA/MA from St. Bonaventure University, an MFA from Colorado State University, a PhD from the University of Nebraska—Lincoln, and is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Bradley University. He has worked various jobs in national parks around the country and once had a three–year stint at sea that led him to over fifty countries on all seven continents. His fiction has appeared in over 60 literary journals and anthologies, including The Missouri Review, Glimmer Train, The Chicago Tribune, New Stories from the Midwest, and Confrontation. He lives with his wife and children in Chicago.

Murphy's new novel is Tiny Americans.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
The last few novels I’ve read were all wonderful.

The Vegetarian, by Han Kang, was certainly the most unsettling book I’ve read in a long time. My wife read it first and handed it over when she finished with this sort of concerned expression. The book is broken into three sections that each take a different path into a character’s extreme mental illness. At the start of the story, the focal character can’t get enough sunlight, and is constantly bearing herself to the sky, which was such a strong image that I think of her every time I feel the sun on my own skin now.

Elise Hooper’s Learning to See, about Dorothea Lange, delivers a fascinating look at a rebel who challenges a society set up to suppress women by developing an aesthetic that hews toward the honest beauty and terror found in a single face. Lange becomes the perfect tour guide through the era of the Roaring 20’s, the Great Depression, and The Japanese Internment, asking all relevant questions: What do we do from a place of comfort when we see injustice being done to others? What value does art hold in the face of pain and loss? How do we deal with having cameras in our pockets that both capture a moment and keep us from it? This is a fantastic historical novel that shows off the impressive talent Hooper has for compelling stories.

Lisa Duffy’s This is Home is a phenomenal novel which reveals such unique and endearing characters struggling through upheaval and loss in order to forge the true shape of their family. They face each day with humor, grit, and vulnerability that draws the reader in. Libby, Quinn, Bent, and even the world’s smelliest dog rush to life on these pages and have carved out a place for themselves forever in my imagination. Duffy is a master of writing hope into heartbreak.

I could keep going. I’ve had a lot of great reads lately. There, There, by Tommy Orange, where Native American culture and history are put into gritty contemporary characters who we see interact and interweave in a plot that hammers all through the story, and all through Oakland.

Finally, I was drawn to Where the Crawdads Sing because of Owens' background as a naturalist, and man, does she deliver a stunning look at the natural world of the Carolina coastal region as the backdrop to great love story and murder mystery with a huge twist.
Visit Devin Murphy's website.

My Book, The Movie: Tiny Americans.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Margaret Verble

Margaret Verble is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Her first novel, Maud's Line, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She lives in Lexington, Kentucky.

Verble's new novel is Cherokee America.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I tend to buy a whole bunch of wildly different kinds of books in a one or two day period. Then I stack them on my bedside table, and select them for reading according to how I’m feeling at a particular moment, usually in the evening. If I’m writing on the early drafts of a novel, I go lightly on fiction, more heavily on background sources for my work, biographies, histories, or true crimes. Of the books I’ve read in the past two months, my favorites are these:

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Sanders, is the best novel I’ve read in a couple of years. It’s innovative in style, evocative of deep emotion, historically grounded, and spiritually intriguing. I will read it again. And again. Once is not enough to grasp fully its genius.

The Authenticated History of the Famous Bell Witch, by M.V. Ingram, was first published in 1894, and is the best account of a mystery that hasn’t been solved to this day. I grew up in Nashville hearing about this witch, which haunted the John Bell family in Robertson County, TN, from 1817 to 1821, and then again for a two week period seven years later. The witch was seen and heard by hundreds of people, including doctors, lawyers, legislators, preachers, and Andrew Jackson. The accounts of the phenomenon are so astonishing that I was worried I’d been tricked by a book that wasn’t what it purported to be. So I went to the online newspaper archives of the Nashville Tennessean to be sure it was really published over a hundred and twenty years ago. I quickly found it reviewed on June 26, 1910, as an old, but fascinating, read.

To help correct my deficiencies from being raised in the segregated South, I try to regularly include African American literature or history in my reading. I recently finished Aristocrats of Color: The Black Elite, 1880-1920. This isn’t the first book I’ve read on this particular subject, but the scholarship is sparse, and I am unaware of any first-class literary fiction that brings this fascinating caste of people to life since Edward P. Jones’s masterpiece, The Known World.

I generally avoid memoirs. I think too many are written, most of our lives aren’t as extraordinary as we think, and biography is a more honest endeavor. That said, I’ve recently read Tara Westover’s, Educated. I found it a harrowing page-turner, hard to put down, and so packed it could be the foundation of an entire semester’s inquiry into the psychology of abuse, the relationship between hyper-religion and mental illness, and the pathology of patriarchy. It's as good as everybody says.

Finally, last night I finished Andrew Morton’s, Wallis in Love: The Untold Story of the Duchess of Windsor, the Woman who Changed the Monarchy. I worked in the U.K. for nine years, and used to have a home there close to the edge of Windsor Great Park. I loved that home and miss it, so I often dip into British literature and history. This is neither the most scholarly nor most scandalous biography of the Duchess of Windsor I’ve ever read, but it certainly held my attention. I was sorry when it ended.
Visit Margaret Verble's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Claire Booth

Claire Booth is a former true crime writer, ghostwriter, and reporter. She lives in California. Her Sheriff Hank Worth Mysteries include The Branson Beauty and Another Man's Ground. The newly released third book in the series is A Deadly Turn.

Recently I asked Booth about what she was reading. Her reply:
I usually have both a fiction and a nonfiction book going at the same time. I’ve tried, but I just can’t read two novels simultaneously. If I do one of each, I find I get the most out of both.

Right now, I’m immersed in the absolutely delightful Dreyer’s English. It’s by Benjamin Dreyer, the copy chief of Big 5 publisher Random House, and it’s a word geek’s dream. You might think it would be a dry lecture on grammar and usage, but it’s not. It’s a witty takedown of pretentious rules and an affirmation of the important ones, like the error of using an apostrophe to make a word into a plural (“For a modest monthly fee, I will come to wherever you are, and when, in an attempt to pluralize a word, you so much as reach for the apostrophe key, I will slap your hand.”)

Dreyer talks about everything from comma placement to dangling modifiers to often-confused words. This is one of my favorites: discreet and discrete (“often mixed up, not only but particularly by the authors of frisky personal ads.”)

I could go on and on, but I’ll leave you to discover the wonders of this book yourself. It’s a must for anyone who loves writing and language.

The other book I’m currently enjoying is Cathy Ace’s The Wrong Boy. Ace is Welsh and has set this book in her homeland. Her joy in this comes through clearly, even though the story itself is dark and layered in menace. Ace has always had a great ability to create really distinct characters, and she does it again here. I’m not finished with it yet, so I can’t weigh in on the ending, but I can say that it’s tightening itself around me like a vise, which I love. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to succumb to its pull and get back to reading!
Visit Claire Booth's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Deadly Turn.

The Page 69 Test: A Deadly Turn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 11, 2019

Crystal King

Crystal King is a novelist, editor, professor, social media professional, and critical & creative thinker.

Her debut novel, Feast of Sorrow, is about Marcus Gavius Apicius, the man whose name is on the world’s oldest known cookbook.

Her new novel, The Chef's Secret, is a story about a famous Italian Renaissance chef, Bartolomeo Scappi, who was the cuoco segreto (private cook) to several Popes.

Recently I asked King about what she was reading. Her reply:
Time travel has been on my mind lately, it seems. A desire to escape the things of this world? I’m not sure, but I’ve been fortunate to find a bookish escape in several time travel books in recent months.

An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim was one of my favorite reads last year. In the midst of a deadly flu pandemic, time travel has been developed as a way to thwart the virus. The cost of the cure is prohibitive for most, so the solution is to jump people ahead to the time when the virus has run its course. Sounds great, right? Except that there is a catch. If you can’t pay for the cure for your loved one in this time frame (interestingly, the 1980s), you can sell yourself into several years of indentured servitude twelve years into the future, working for big corporations to pay off the cost. But that cost proves to be even more devastating for our protagonist, Polly. Absolutely gripping.

I loved The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas for its take on how time travel was invented--by four women in 1967. One of them suffers a breakdown, is ostracized by her peers, and erased from the history of time travel’s invention. I loved the nearly all female cast, the inventiveness of moving through time, and how two women, Ruby and Odette, are at the heart of a really strange murder mystery. It begs so many questions, particularly--how can you kill a time traveler if they can always move ahead and see how they will die? A fantastic, fast-paced read.

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire isn’t out in the world as of this writing, but I managed to score an early copy. It’s my first introduction to the author, and wow, what a way to enter the world of her imagination. This is time travel of a totally different kind, a story that rips the reader through the worlds of two twins, one who sees and manipulates the world through math, the other through words. Ambitious, epic, and one I highly recommend for the TBR list.
Visit Crystal King's website.

The Page 69 Test: Feast of Sorrow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Soraya M. Lane

Soraya M. Lane graduated with a law degree before realizing that law wasn't the career for her and that her future was in writing. She is the author of historical and contemporary women's fiction, and her novel Wives of War was an Amazon Charts bestseller.

Lane lives on a small farm in her native New Zealand with her husband, their two young sons and a collection of four legged friends. When she's not writing, she loves to be outside playing make-believe with her children or snuggled up inside reading.

Lane's new novel is The Spitfire Girls.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I have just finished reading The Beantown Girls by Jane Healey. Jane and I are both published by Lake Union (Amazon Publishing), and this book is fantastic, a really great historical women’s fiction read. I liked that it explored something very unique that women were part of during WWII, and I particularly loved the ending.

Right now I’m finishing judging published romance books for Romance Writer’s of America’s RITA award, so those titles are top secret, but next on my reading list for pleasure is Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers. Liane is one of my favourite authors, her books are very addictive, and she’s my go-author for a great vacation read.

I also have Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sisters series waiting to read - we’re heading away in April to Australia, so I’m going to be carrying a lot of paperbacks with me! Yes, I’m very old school, I read on my Kindle for non-fiction research and some reading, but nothing beats holding a paperback.
Visit Soraya Lane's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Spitfire Girls.

The Page 69 Test: The Spitfire Girls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 8, 2019

Andrew Ridker

Andrew Ridker was born in 1991. His first novel, The Altruists, is out now from Viking/Penguin. It will be published in seventeen other countries. He is the editor of Privacy Policy: The Anthology of Surveillance Poetics and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Paris Review, Guernica, Boston Review, The Believer, St. Louis Magazine, and elsewhere. He is currently an Iowa Arts Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

Recently I asked Ridker about what he was reading. His reply:
I recently finished Falconer by John Cheever. I’ve long admired Cheever’s short fiction, but Falconer was unlike anything I’d ever read by him—or anyone, for that matter. In theory it’s the story of a man, Ezekiel Farragut, who is sent to jail for murdering his brother. But Cheever is less concerned with crime and punishment as he is the strange assortment of men who populate Falconer State Prison. Many pages of this short novel are given over to anecdotes delivered by the inmates and staff. These mini-stories are remarkable feats of voice, eccentric and yet wholly believable. Cheever was never incarcerated himself, but he taught a writing class at Sing Sing once, and drew on countless details from that experience while working on the novel. Gritty, unusual, and sexually frank, Falconer is time well spent.

Next on the to-read pile is Vivian Gornick’s memoir Fierce Attachments and Hanif Kureishi’s Intimacy. I loved Gornick’s The Odd Woman in the City, a memoir in fragments about living and walking in New York; it makes you feel as though no sensible person could live anywhere else. I’m a great admirer of Kureishi’s best-known novel, The Buddha of Suburbia, and by all accounts Intimacy is a brutally honest depiction of male selfishness and ennui—a turn-off for some, but catnip to me.
Visit Andrew Ridker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 7, 2019

David Downie

David D. Downie has called Paris and the Marais home since 1986. He has written for over 50 publications worldwide including Bon Appétit, The Los Angeles Times, Town & Country Travel, The San Francisco Chronicle,, and He is the author of the critically acclaimed Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light, three Terroir guides, as well as several cookbooks and crime novels. He lives with his wife, Alison Harris, a photographer, and creates custom tours via his "Paris, Paris Tours" blog site.

Downie's new novel is The Gardener of Eden.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Please understand, when I write “read” I mean listen: blind in one eye, I have low vision in the other. So, I listen to books, most of them read to me by my wife, or I use for audio. Right now, we’re reading A Legacy of Spies by John le Carré. I love his early books—A Small Town in Germany, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. Some of his later novels didn’t work for me. This one proves le Carré is still the measure of greatness, the best spy fiction writer, ever. The hero is Peter Guillam, now white haired, the last of the disciples of the fictional spymaster, Smiley. Wonderful, un-put-down-able so far, above all for the characters and dialogue.

If ever an old tale, told again a few years back, is a must-read right now, and too topical for comfort, it is Robert Harris’s flawlessly, masterfully written An Officer and A Spy, about the Dreyfus Affair. Polanski is turning it into a movie, working on the streets of Paris as I type this. And the anti-Semitism that drove that shockingly nightmarish affair is rife—again—in France and elsewhere.

A very oldie but a very unexpectedly goodie thriller in the detective genre is the unappealingly named Bat Wing by Sax Rohmer. He wrote the Fu Manchu series and dozens of other mediocre books but this novel is excellent. Voodoo, murder, an elaborate frame up, moody, creepy settings in London and the English countryside, plus a budding romance, all the ingredients come together in this reassuring classic.
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The Page 69 Test: The Gardener of Eden.

My Book, The Movie: The Gardener of Eden.

--Marshal Zeringue