Saturday, May 23, 2020

Tom Young

Tom Young served in Afghanistan and Iraq with the Air National Guard. He has also flown combat missions to Bosnia and Kosovo, and additional missions to Latin America, the horn of Africa, and the Far East. In all, Young logged nearly 5,000 hours as a flight engineer on the C-5 Galaxy and the C-130 Hercules, while flying to almost forty countries. Military honors include the Meritorious Service Medal, three Air Medals, three Aerial Achievement Medals, and the Air Force Combat Action Medal. Young retired from the Air Guard in 2013 after more than twenty years of service.

In civilian life he spent ten years as a writer and editor with the broadcast division of the Associated Press, and currently he works as an airline pilot based at Reagan National Airport near Washington, D.C. Young holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Young’s well-received military adventure novels include The Mullah’s Storm, Silent Enemy, The Renegades, The Warriors, and Sand and Fire.

His new novel is Silver Wings, Iron Cross.

Recently I asked Young about what he was reading. His reply:
This year brings the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II—a fitting moment to read about the war, its causes, and its legacies. And we seem to need it: Too many people know too little about the most significant event of the 20th Century—an event that still shapes our world. A couple of years ago, a survey by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation turned up disturbing results: Six in ten respondents didn’t know which countries the U.S. fought during World War II.

We can look to the Allied victory for inspiration, as well. During this Covid-19 pandemic, it helps to recall we’ve faced worse things. Then, as now, entire populations were asked to make sacrifices. Then, as now, young people found their plans for education and careers interrupted by events beyond their control. Then, as now, brave and innovative people sought ways to overcome a threat that at times seemed insurmountable.

So, I’ve made it a goal this year to read up on World War II—and to offer a challenge. I’m asking folks to read at least two books about WWII. On social media, I’m promoting a hashtag: #WWIIBookChallenge. Your two books could be anything—a historical novel, a nonfiction book, or a veteran’s memoir. Naturally, I would like one of them to be my new novel, Silver Wings, Iron Cross. But the larger point is to read something. And I’ll bet that once you start, you won’t stop with just two books.

My own reading this year began with a classic: The Winds of War, by Herman Wouk. It’s a magnificent epic that follows a Navy family from the war’s beginnings in Europe through the attack on Pearl Harbor. Wouk continued the epic with another volume, War and Remembrance. That’s next on my list. I’ve always been a fan of the great WWII novelists who were veterans of that war—a list that includes Wouk, Norman Mailer, and James Jones.

My reading has also included a more recent work, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris. It’s a wonderful tale based on a true story about a rare happy ending in one of the darkest phases in world history.

I invite anyone who joins me in the #WWIIBookChallenge to check in with me on social media. I’d love to hear what you’re reading. We owe much to the Greatest Generation. The best way to honor them is to know what they did.
Learn more about the book and author at Thomas W. Young's website, blog, Facebook page and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 17, 2020

J. M. M. Nuanez

J. M. M. Nuanez's debut middle grade novel, Birdie and Me, was published in February 2020 by Penguin Random House.

In her spare time, she likes to read, garden, and build miniature things. She's a committed fan of cats, pizza, and YouTube.

I asked Nuanez about what she was reading. Her reply:
The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor

As a writer of middle grade fiction, I’m always trying to read a mixture of old and new books aimed at kids in upper elementary school and middle school. Mason Buttle was one I’d had on my list for a long time – I’d first heard about it a couple of months before it came out in January 2018 – and wasn’t able to get around until this spring...and oh how I wish I’d read it sooner! Rarely does a literary voice (in children’s literature or otherwise) so grab me and hold on long, long after I finish it. The narrator and hero of the book, Mason, is bursting with heart, courage and wisdom. He is dealing with a truly difficult situation, and nothing is sugar-coated, and yet he is so full of optimism. As I got further along in the book I found myself thinking that perhaps I, too, should be more optimistic in times of hardship – for insistence, right now during this confusing and frustrating time of Covid-19. Mason Buttle is such a wonderful read, one I know I will buy for my permanent collection so that I can return to it again and again in the future.
Visit J. M. M. Nuanez's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Isla Morley

Isla Morley grew up in South Africa during apartheid. She is the author of Come Sunday, which won the Janet Heidinger Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the Commonwealth Prize. Her novel Above was an IndieNext pick, and Best Buzz Book, and a Publishers Weekly Best New Book. She lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband, daughter, three cats, and five tortoises.

Morley's new novel is The Last Blue.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m on a short story and essay kick right now, switching between two books each night, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro and This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett. Everything Alice Munro writes is flawless, and here she again distills the complexity of human relationships in blindingly insightful short stories where small, almost imperceptible micro domestic dramas amplify the tension of huge interior shifts. Ann Patchett’s essays are similarly perceptive, and “The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir about Writing and Life” is condensed, amen-worthy writing advice at its finest. Both books feature stories that explore the theme of marriage with the kind of honesty, nuance and layering you expect from these writers, and having just reached the twenty-five year milestone in my marriage, they are a means to reflect on my own experience. My new novel is about improbable love and the nature of belonging, so it’s no surprise that these two books have become companions in an ongoing study of the human heart.
Visit Isla Morley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Martha Waters

Martha Waters was born and raised in sunny South Florida and is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her lifelong love of England and romantic comedies inspired the writing of To Have and to Hoax, which is her first novel.

Recently I asked Waters about what she was reading. Her reply:
I tend to bounce around a lot in my reading – I’m a children’s librarian, so I read a lot of kids’ and teen books to stay on top of my job, but I write historical romantic comedies for adults, so I also read a lot of contemporary rom-coms and historical romance. I also dabble some in adult literary fiction and nonfiction. Recently, I’ve been immersed in:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – a book about the aftermath of an apocalyptic global pandemic might seem like an odd reading choice as we live through a global pandemic, but this had been on my to-read list for years, and now felt like a curiously appropriate time to finally tackle it. I found it both deeply moving and incredibly unsettling all at once; I finished it feeling incredibly impressed by Mandel’s skill as a writer, but also wanting to not think about it too hard, given the present moment we’re living through.

Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory – this was a nice palate cleanser after Station Eleven. It’s a romantic comedy about a relationship between a lawyer and a U.S. senator who are trying to navigate the complications of dating in the public eye, and it was exactly the sort of fun, fluffy read that I was looking for, to take my mind off the state of the world. It doesn’t come out until June, but I’m glad I read it now; it did wonders for my mood this weekend.
Visit Martha Waters's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Serena Burdick

Serena Burdick is the Toronto Star, Publishers Weekly and international bestselling author of The Girls with No Names, now out in the US, Canada and Australia. It is forthcoming in Portugal, Spain, Lithuania and Russia. She is the 2017 International Book Award Winner for Historical Fiction for her novel Girl in the Afternoon. Burdick studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence, holds a Bachelors of Arts from Brooklyn College in English literature and an Associates of Arts from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in theater. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two sons.

Recently I asked Burdick about what she was reading. Her reply:
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong

A book of original brilliance. A letter from a son to his mother, a mother who cannot read and therefore will never hear her son’s words, which give those words a freedom one rarely has when confronting the ones who loved and tormented us the most. Vuong speaks truths so deep and painful and beautiful it tears at your heart, his prose unfolding with unprecedented skill in a language all his own. The story, while simple and real, the telling of childhood and a coming of age, is also complex with ideas about who we are, what we mean to each other, and how we move forward as unique selves while carrying the burdens and scars of our ancestors.
Visit Serena Burdick's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Girls with No Names.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Amy Engel

Amy Engel is the author of The Roanoke Girls and The Book of Ivy series.

A former criminal defense attorney, she lives in Missouri with her family.

Engel's new novel is The Familiar Dark.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve always been a big reader, but the pandemic and subsequent quarantine has given me even more time to dive into books. I recently finished Long Bright River by Liz Moore. I’m drawn to stories with a strong sense of place and this book, set in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, oozes with authentic atmosphere. Long Bright River is billed as a mystery, and the main character’s search for both a serial killer and her missing sister does propel the story forward. But at its heart this is a book about family, poverty, and the life-altering impact of addiction. Once you start reading, you won’t be able to put it down.

The book I’m currently reading actually hasn’t been published yet. We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin will be released on August 11, 2020. If you’re a fan of well-written, character-driven mysteries, you’re going to want to put it on your to-be-read list right now. Set in small town Texas, the novel employs a series of distinct voices to unravel a decade old cold case and a more recent crime. The book is full of gorgeous writing, interesting and unique characters, and will keep you guessing until the very end. Highly recommended!
Visit Amy Engel's website.

See Engel's list of five top novels in the complicated literature of daughters and mothers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Jack Heath

Jack Heath is the award-winning author of more than thirty thrillers, including Hangman (for adults) and 300 Minutes of Danger (for children). His novels have been translated into seven languages and adapted for film.

Heath's new novel is The Truth App.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Heath's reply:
I'm reading Either Side of Midnight by Ben Stevenson. It's a crime novel in which a late night TV show host kills himself live on air, and his twin brother enlists the help of a disgraced documentary filmmaker to prove that the host was somehow murdered.

The book hasn't come out yet, but I got an early copy because Ben Stevenson happens to be my literary agent. He's also an infuriatingly good writer. His debut novel, Green Light (about the same documentary filmmaker) pulled the rug out from under me so many times that I started to get carpet burn. Either Side of Midnight is shaping up the same way.

What I like most about the book is the emotional complexity of the male relationships in it. The hero's interactions with his stiff father and his comatose brother are layered with meaning, more than you usually get from male characters in a crime novel (or most other genres). Jack Reacher, for example, does have a dead brother, but he would never feel irrationally responsible for his brother's demise, and that guilt would certainly not metastasize as an eating disorder. The tension this novel can squeeze out of a single slice of birthday cake is extraordinary.

Don't tell Ben I said any of this, though. He might quit his day job, and I really need to have a good agent.
Visit Jack Heath's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 3, 2020

Clarissa Goenawan

Clarissa Goenawan is an Indonesian-born Singaporean writer. Her award-winning short fiction has appeared in literary magazines and anthologies in Singapore, Australia, Japan, Indonesia, the UK, and the US. Rainbirds, her first novel, has been published in eleven different languages.

Her new novel is The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida.

Recently I asked Goenawan about what she was reading. Her reply:
The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao.

The novel opens with Gwendolyn, still in comma, trying to retrace her memories. She is the sole survivor of a poisoning incident that wiped up her entire family and their circle of friends, some of the wealthiest Chinese Indonesian families. From the beginning, we know that the culprit was none other than her sister, Estella.

With such an impactful opening, I knew I couldn’t miss this book. Rather than a thriller, I would say it’s more of a family drama. The story itself is page-turning and Tiffany writes well, but what touched me the most is how relatable everything is. As an Indonesian-born Singaporean Chinese, I see so many familiar scenes in the book—good and bad, though mostly bad—which makes me ponder about my identity. Highly recommended!
Visit Clarissa Goenawan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Ed Ruggero

Ed Ruggero is a West Point graduate and former Army officer who has studied, practiced, and taught leadership for more than twenty-five years. His client list includes the FBI, the New York City Police Department, CEO Conference Europe, the CIA, the Young Presidents Organization, Forbes, among many others. He has appeared on CNN, The History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and CNBC and has spoken to audiences around the world on leadership, leader development and ethics. He lives in Philadelphia.

Ruggero's new novel is Blame the Dead.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Ruggero's reply:
Ernie Pyle in England by Ernie Pyle

The down-home, just-us-folks style that made Pyle one of the most famous correspondents of World War Two is everywhere apparent in this collection of columns, all written before Pearl Harbor, when England stood alone against Hitler. Pyle had a talent for painting pictures of the common people on whose heads the war fell. What strikes me now, reading this alongside more recently written accounts of the period, is how much Pyle sanitized things. In all his months traveling throughout besieged England and especially bomb-smashed London, he seems to meet no one other than plucky, defiant civilians who are uniformly happy to do their part and offer nothing but praise for isolationist America. Yet subsequent studies show that some people took advantage of the chaos to commit crimes, and certainly there had to be some English man or woman, somewhere, who was miffed that America was letting England fight on alone against the Nazis. Pyle was too sophisticated an observer to miss the tawdry side of England during the Blitz, which makes me wonder if he was just delivering what he knew his newspaper audiences at home wanted to read, or maybe what the censors would allow through.

Long Bright River: A Novel by Liz Moore

Moore’s best-selling novel is set in Kensington, a section of Philadelphia hard-hit by the opioid crisis that also happens to be where both my parents and the protagonists of my book Blame the Dead grew up. I knew I was in the company of a great writer in the first few pages when she hits the reader with a couple of lists (I won’t spoil it for you). These are as simple, clever and wildly effective as the metaphor Tim O’Brien uses to construct his brilliant The Things They Carried. I cared about Moore’s protagonist, Mickey, a Philadelphia cop whose life is upended by the chaos around her. And while I’ve never been a cop and don’t claim to know any more about real police procedures than anyone else who watches TV, several times I found myself wanting to yell at Mickey, “Don’t do that!” like some crazy person in the back row at a scary movie.

Running with Sherman: The Donkey with the Heart of a Hero by Christopher McDougall

I picked up this book as an antidote to the bleakness of Moore’s Long, Bright River. Try to picture a city-savvy writer and his family adopting a rescue burro in rural Lancaster Country, Pennsylvania. Having trouble conjuring that image? So did I. Fortunately, McDougall’s writing is so vivid that you’re soon rooting for his success. When McDougall is told that the donkey, Sherman, needs a job, he settles on marathon-length races in the mountains of Colorado. McDougall is a runner, though not a marathoner (which is an entirely different religion), he has never been an animal trainer, has never driven a horse trailer, has never competed at altitude—the list of all the reasons he’s unqualified go on and on. All of which just makes the story both funny and compelling. My favorite parts were about the physiological benefits to humans of animal contact. I knew this instinctively, as evidenced by all the time I spend petting and walking our dogs, but it was nice to read about the science behind it.
Visit Ed Ruggero's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 30, 2020

Patricia Marcantonio

Patricia Marcantonio was born in Pueblo, Colorado. She has won awards for her journalism, short stories and screenplays. Her children's book Red Ridin’ in the Hood and Other Cuentos has earned an Anne Izard Storyteller’s Choice Award and was named an Americas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature Commended Title, and one of the Wilde Awards Best Collections to Share with recommendations from Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. She now lives in Idaho.

Marcantonio's first Felicity Carrol mystery is Felicity Carrol and the Murderous Menace.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

I'm a fan of Margaret Atwood and The Handmaid's Tale so I had to continue the story in The Testaments. Atwood's writing instantly takes you into this brutal world of Gilead. Her female characters are amazing and interesting--women of hope and courage and yes, even Aunts. Atwood is such a powerful storyteller. I can hardly wait to see how the book ends.
Visit Patricia Marcantonio's website.

The Page 69 Test: Felicity Carrol and the Murderous Menace.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Katy Simpson Smith

Katy Simpson Smith was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. She received a PhD in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She is the author of We Have Raised All of You: Motherhood in the South, 1750-1835, and the novels The Story of Land and Sea and Free Men. Her writing has also appeared in The Oxford American, Granta, Literary Hub, Garden & Gun, Catapult, and Lenny. She lives in New Orleans, and currently serves as the Eudora Welty Chair for Southern Literature at Millsaps College.

Smith's new novel is The Everlasting.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I've been on Jean Giono kick recently -- I first read his strange environmental-mystery novel Hill in January, and was so struck by the voluptuous, uncanny sentences that I went on to read A King Alone, which also features unaccountable deaths and a larger-than-life landscape. The books, written eighteen years apart, share an experimentalism that is both bizarre and totally readable, and that moves nature to the foreground of human dramas. It's been almost a century since Hill was first published, but its message -- that the natural world has as many rights and moods, emotions and powers as humans -- feels perfectly suited to our own time of crisis.
Visit Katy Simpson Smith's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Daisy Pearce

Daisy Pearce was born in Cornwall and grew up on a smallholding surrounded by hippies. She read Stephen King’s Cujo and The Hamlyn Book of Horror far too young and has been fascinated with the macabre ever since.

Pearce's new novel is The Silence.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Pearce's reply:
I’ve just finished reading This House Is Haunted by Guy Lyon Playfair in it’s original hardback form with the sinister cover. It’s a record of his time investigating the Enfield poltergeist in the late seventies. I’ve always been fascinated by the Enfield poltergeist story, and remember getting chills hearing the young girl’s voice suddenly deepen and sink into that of a gruff, bitter old man. This book is methodical, not telling a tale but recounting events - and here and there the cracks are visible where the girls’ story starts to fall apart. It’s illuminating in that sense, as you start to see beyond the sensationalism and the author’s credulity and realise that sometimes a yarn can spin itself out of control.
Follow Daisy Pearce on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: The Silence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown grew up on the Georgia coast. He has lived in Buenos Aires, San Francisco, and the mountains of western North Carolina. His books include the story collection In the Season of Blood and Gold and the novels Fallen Land and The River of Kings. All three books were finalists for the Southern Book Prize.

Brown's new novel is Pride of Eden.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Brown's reply:
Lately, I've been a small tear reading nonfiction work that seems relevant to my new book, Pride of Eden -- at least philosophically. I think it started with James William Gibson's Warrior Dreams: Paramilitary Culture in Post-Vietnam America, which was related to another project I'm currently working on. I found the book absolutely fascinating, even prophetic of our current times. I was hungry for more of his work, so I picked up his newest book, A Reenchanted World: The Quest for a New Kinship with Nature, which really resonated with me -- one of those books that makes you nod your again and again while you read it, as if to say: "Yes, yes, yes!" And seem to express and articulate a lot of the underlying currents in Pride of Eden. That book made mention of Rick Bass's The Lost Grizzlies and Janisse Ray's Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, so I tore through those next. Most recently, I finished Underland by Robert Macfarlane, and found myself transported into deep time and the deeps of the earth -- highly recommended!
Visit Taylor Brown's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 22, 2020

J. Albert Mann

J. Albert Mann is the author of six 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.

Mann's latest novel published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers is The Degenerates.

Recently I asked Mann about what she was reading. Her reply:
Six Angry Girls by Adrienne Kisner

Millie, Veronica, Grace, Nakita, and Izzy are not living their best lives and the blame lies mostly with the Patriarchy. Dumped, cheated, overlooked, underestimated, ignored, and omitted these six girls fight back. The results are both heart-breaking and hilarious. This merry group of girls proves once again that winning isn't everything, it's nothing... without your integrity, your conscience, and your friends. Loved every minute of this read.
Visit J. Albert Mann's website.

The Page 69 Test: What Every Girl Should Know.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 19, 2020

David Hofmeyr

David Hofmeyr was born in South Africa and lives in London and Paris. In 2013 he graduated from Bath Spa University with an MA in Writing for Young People. The Between is Hofmeyr's second novel. His first book, Stone Rider, was published in 2015 and was shortlisted for the prestigious Branford Boase award for first-time novelists. He divides his time between writing and working as a strategist for Ogilvy & Mather.

Recently I asked Hofmeyr about what he was reading. His reply:
The Institute
Steven King

King is the master of storytelling. Accept no substitutes. I have long been a fan of his work. One of his most provocative early short stories, "The Long Walk" was inspiration for my first novel, Stone Rider. His writing is clever. Edgy. Familiar. And utterly compelling. The Institute is no exception. All his skills are on display here. King weaves friendship, resilience and terror into every sentence. Thrilling, chilling and fascinating in equal measure, The Institute tells the story of an unusual kidnapping. Twelve-year-old super smart Luke Ellis, who can move things with his mind, is abducted and taken to a facility deep in the woods of Maine. Here, alongside other kids with Telekinesis and Telepathic gifts, Luke is subjected to a host of weird experiments. This is a book I wish I’d written. It’s everything I love and King floors me with how blithely his prose reads. It’s vintage King, set in modern times – with echoes of Trump and caging children at borders and a world that can sometimes feel deranged. And it’s a blinder. Run to a bookstore and buy a copy today. It’s brilliant. Also, annoyingly, it makes me want to re-write vast swathes of my new book The Between, which shares many of the whacked out crazy themes of The Institute.
Visit David Hofmeyr's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Between.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Bridget Tyler

Bridget Tyler grew up in Berkeley, California. She went on to attend NYU, living in New York and London before completing her degree and moving to Los Angeles to work in the film and television industry as an executive and writer. She now lives in Oregon with her husband, who is a robotics professor at Oregon State University, and her daughter.

Tyler's new novel is The Survivor, a sequel to The Pioneer.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Reading is part of honing your creative skills as a writer - it's almost as important a part of my day as writing is. I'm just lucky I have a kindle, my TBR stack might bury my alive otherwise. I'm just starting The Night Country by Melissa Albert, which I'm been waiting anxiously for since I blew through The Hazel Wood in two days. I love how audacious Albert is about just diving into her story and parsing out refresher details about book one when they make sense. Having just finished writing a sequel I have deep respect for how effortless she makes that look.

I'm finishing Strong Poison by Dorthy L Sayers, which is delicious and surprising in every way. Lord Peter Wimsey is a dry, witty character but the emotional depth and really heart wrenching emotion that Sayers manages to evoke in his ethical and emotional struggle with crime solving is really extraordinary. I addicted to this series and I've been reading them along side other stand alone choices for a while.

I'm also reading Hope Dies, which is a compilation of issues 50-55 of the Star Wars comic book series from author Kieron Gillen as well as Star Wars Annual 4 from Cullen Bunn. I stumbled on this series while at Disneyland with my daughter this past year, and I really excited to find such a cool new exploration of the Star Wars galaxy that I hadn't found before. I'm a born and raised Star Wars fan and I've read and watched most of what's out there, so it's really exciting to find new stories in the universe that I love.

Octavia E Butlers's Fledgling is next on my list. I can't wait to dive in!
Visit Bridget Tyler's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Survivor.

The Page 69 Test: The Survivor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Susann Cokal

Susann Cokal is a moody historical novelist, a pop-culture essayist, book critic, magazine editor, and sometime professor of creative writing and modern literature. She lives in a creepy old farmhouse in Richmond, Virginia, with seven cats, a big dog, a spouse, and some peacocks that supposedly belong to a neighbor.

Cokal's first young adult novel, The Kingdom of Little Wounds, received several national awards, including a silver medal from the American Library Association's Michael L. Printz Award series. Her books for adults, Mirabilis and Breath and Bones, received some nice notice too.

Cokal's new novel is Mermaid Moon.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply: 
I tend to read several books at once, as I suppose we all do—for pleasure and for research, and for adults and teens. I keep different ones in different rooms so I always have something to pick up and read. The living room has mostly light reads, though I’ll read for research there too; there’s a lot of cultural history in my little study / writing room; and in the bedroom I have novels all over. It’s almost literally what’s called a memory palace, in that I compartmentalize genres and topics so they’re associated with specific points in space. It helps my brain click into the storylines or research lines (and a post-concussive brain needs all the help it can get to keep ideas organized).

By the way, I used literally in the correct sense above.

When I’m in a state of urgent, giddy amour fou with a particular book, I carry it everywhere. I can dip in when I get a chance, or I just have it with me so I can derive comfort like a child with a blanket, or a lover with a lock of hair. When I can, I’ll read it without a pause for breath or bathroom all in a rush. That happened to me most recently with Nick Hornby’s Juliet, Naked, which is a wonderfully funny, wistful, hopeful book about second chances and reasons to live. Loved it. Read and reread it and some of his others in that full flush of in-love-ness. Also watched the movie; Rose Byrne is so good as Annie.

Right now I’m enamored of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, which is wickedly clever and offers a few manifestos for women in and out of relationships—although they admittedly come through a problematic character, the Gone Girl herself. I flagged her sections on the trope of the Cool Girl in modern dating. Dead on. (I was single for many, many, many years, now miraculously happy in marriage.) She inspired me to eat a Moon Pie because it’s one of the things Cool Girls do to show they’re fun to hang around with—one of the things she says are actually pleasurable. And it was pretty good.

My next fiction reads, in their order in my bedside stack—all of them begun, all of them great for different reasons, just waiting for Gone Girl to go to her end—Lucky Broken Girl, by Ruth Behar (has a wonderful sense of how it feels to be incapacitated by injury); Downtown, a Betsy-Tacy story by Maud Hart Lovelace (a signed copy I bought myself for my birthday); I, Claudia, by Mary McCoy (interesting re-telling of I, Claudius in a gossipy high school). I’m also excited about Andrew Sean Greer’s Less and (Guilty pleasure? Not guilty!) Judith Krantz’s memoirs. Her novels were the ones we passed around secretly in high school, and I do love a good writerly memoir.

And for research, I’m reading for two projects. First I’ll mention Women in Frankish Society. It may be almost as dry as it sounds, but it’s also fascinating. I don’t know that much about the Dark Ages (yet), but I’ve long been intrigued by the legend of Saint Radegonde and the Grand’Goule, a dragon that terrorized Poitiers, France, and its nuns. I studied in Poitiers for a year in college, and I’m finally writing a novel about the place and the Goule.

For a different novel, I’m reading about Los Alamos and the Cold War. That’s the town and era in which I went to high school, and the terror I felt about living in the town that invented the Atomic Bomb and kept the arms race going was palpable, like my terror about climate change now. I can get the experience of going to high school there down because I have a good memory, but for some historical information I’m researching my own teen years. So, naturally, Trinity’s Children: Living Along America’s Nuclear Highway, by Ted Bartimus and Scott McCartney; Full Body Burden, by Kristen Iversen; and The Valley Girl’s Guide to Life, because in the midst of Cold War terrors there was that faddish embrace of vapidity. And every story needs some vapor.

So there’s almost half my stack and I’ve exceeded my space limit.
Visit Susann Cokal's website.

The Page 69 Test: Mermaid Moon.

My Book, The Movie: Mermaid Moon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 13, 2020

Phillip Margolin

Phillip Margolin has written over twenty novels, most of them New York Times bestsellers, including Gone But Not Forgotten, Lost Lake, and Violent Crimes. In addition to being a novelist, he was a long time criminal defense attorney with decades of trial experience, including a large number of capital cases.

Margolin's new novel is A Reasonable Doubt, his third book in the series featuring Robin Lockwood, ex-MMA fighter and Yale law school graduate.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Margolin's reply:
I just discovered the Dr. Siri Paiboun mysteries by Colin Cotterill. They are set in Communist Laos in the nineteen seventies and the detective is the seventy-year-old national coroner. I've read The Coroner's Lunch and Thirty-Three Teeth. The writing is brilliant, the mysteries are intriguing and the characters are unique, plus there are a lot of laughs.

I also re-read War and Peace, for the fourth time after a trip to Russia. This is one of my all-time favorites and it is still a fabulous read.

Finally, I am re-reading classic mysteries. The Dutch Shoe Mystery by Ellery Queen, my all-time favorite mystery writer, and It Walks by Night, by John Dickson Carr, the master of the Locked Room puzzle.
Visit Phillip Margolin's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Alma Katsu

Alma Katsu is the author of The Hunger, a reimagining of the story of the Donner Party with a horror twist. The Hunger made NPR’s list of the 100 Best Horror Stories, was named one of the best novels of 2018 by the Observer, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books (and more), and was nominated for a Stoker and Locus Award for best horror novel.

The Taker, her debut novel, has been compared to the early works of Anne Rice and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander for combining historical, the supernatural, and fantasy into one story. The Taker was named a Top Ten Debut Novel of 2011 by Booklist, was nominated for a Goodreads Readers Choice award, and has been published in over 10 languages. It is the first in an award-winning trilogy that includes The Reckoning and The Descent.

Katsu's new novel is The Deep.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
My most interesting recent read is The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni. It feels familiar at the start, in a cozy, comfortable your-favorite-bathrobe kind of way. A young woman going through a bad patch is informed, out of the blue, that she is the last of a noble European family. She will inherit everything if she travels to the family estate high in the Alps. She soon finds she’s stranded and that the family has a lot of secrets. Still comfy? From there it goes in a direction that is inevitable and yet quite daring. Only a writer as strong and fearless as Trussoni could pull it off. A must-read for fans of the Gothic, or anyone who likes a great story. The Ancestor comes out April 7.

Speaking of Gothic novels, if that’s your jam then you will also want to pick up Andrew Pyper’s The Residence when it comes out in September. It takes the true facts of the Franklin Pierce presidency and gives it a supernatural slant. He creates a wonderfully eerie atmosphere. No wonder the book’s been picked up for television already.

Another read I can’t stop talking about is The Ship of Dreams by Gareth Russell, a non-fiction book about the Titanic. It came out after I turned in the manuscript for The Deep, which I was pretty unhappy about because Russell was able to find a lot of tiny yet important details that had eluded me. He also does a great job putting the tragedy into historical context. Highly recommended for all Titanic fans or anyone who admires well-done historical research.
Visit Alma Katsu's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Taker.

My Book, The Movie: The Hunger.

The Page 69 Test: The Hunger.

--Marshal Zeringue