Friday, May 29, 2015

Kristy Woodson Harvey

Kristy Woodson Harvey holds a degree in journalism and mass communications from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s in English from East Carolina University.

Her debut novel is Dear Carolina.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
A few days ago, I had the pleasure of doing a joint signing with Natasha Boyd, an internationally beloved writer of escapism that is particularly fabulous! I met Natasha at a writing conference, and we became fast friends. And she is the perfect person to do a book event with because her South African accent is so fabulous that everyone wants to listen to her all night! I flew through her first two books, Eversea and Forever Jack. So, now, I picked up her latest, Deep Blue Eternity, and know it will be as wonderful as her first two! A couple of chapters in, I can already tell that this novel is shrouded in mystery. Natasha has a great way of intertwining romance with keep-you-on-your-toes plots. This one is no different!

I also just started Sonja Yoerg’s House Broken and am captivated already by this story of family dynamics, a topic that is also very prevalent in Dear Carolina. Sonja is in a group with me called the Tall Poppy Writers, and she is such a supportive friend, always full of advice and the first person to share her knowledge. House Broken is Yoerg’s very successful debut novel, and, though I’m not even finished yet, I’m already eagerly anticipating her next, The Middle of Somewhere!
Visit Kristy Woodson Harvey's website.

My Book, The Movie: Dear Carolina.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Susan Pedersen

Susan Pedersen is Professor and James P. Shenton Professor of the Core Curriculum at Columbia University. She specializes in British history, the British Empire, comparative European history, and international history. She is the author of several books, including Eleanor Rathbone and the Politics of Conscience. Her new book is The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire.

Recently I asked Pedersen about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve always got a number of books going at once. I live with a pile in my office, and another pile on the living room table, and another pile next to the bed (those tend to be the novels and biographies). Here’s what’s at the top of the piles right now:

I’m a chapter or two into Frederick Cooper’s Citizenship between Empire and Nation: Remaking France and French Africa, 1945-1960 (Princeton University Press, 2014). I’m reading this for a lot of reasons. Cooper has been writing African and imperial history for decades, and here he’s tackling a really important moment: the period of decolonization in French colonial Africa. What he wants to do, I think, is to challenge the nationalist teleology that we’ve all somehow accepted. We tend to assume that all colonial territories were striving manfully (usually “manfully”) for independence, and that the nation-state was the inevitable and only valid outcome. But we also now know how hard it is for new nation-states to thrive in a globalized world in which they often have very little economic power or autonomy. Cooper argues that African leaders were well aware of those dangers, and worked hard to imagine an alternative models – federation, for example – that might preserve some tie between the component parts of the French empire while ending racial hierarchy and subjection. After writing The Guardians, I tend to think that no alternative to what I’ve called “normative statehood” was really possible after 1945, but I want to see whether Cooper can convince me otherwise.

The other book I’m reading is very different, and speaks to some personal dilemmas I’m facing – along with millions of other fifty-somethings with aging parents – right now. This is Jane Gross’s A Bittersweet Season: Caring for our Aging Parents – and Ourselves (Knopf, 2011). My father died two years ago, and my mother is in her eighties and living on her own in Western Canada, where she grew up and has friends; all of her children live thousands of miles away. She’s losing her short-term memory, and her four children have been engaged in a fierce email debate (she won’t use email) about what we should do. Entirely typically, two children felt it was imperative she move into an assisted living facility where she’d get some meals and at least a daily check; two (including me) felt we shouldn’t force her if she didn’t want to move. Gross wrote this book after coping with her own mother’s move from Florida to an assisted living facility and then a nursing home in New York, and she’s incredibly illuminating about what she learned in the process. She helped me recognize some of the mistakes we were making: we were absolutely falling into the pattern of heroic early intervention, thinking that we would find some solution that would “solve” the problem of my mother’s isolation and aging and give us our lives back. Gross helped me see that that’s illusory: we’re all in this for the duration; we should slow down and make deliberative decisions, involving my mother and honoring her wishes as much as possible. That’s hard: we all have busy lives with lots else to do; we also are genuinely worried about her living on her own. For now, we have compromised on having a home help come in; we’ll bow to her desire to remain in her own home, but she has to agree to have some help. I really recommend Gross’s book to anyone else dealing with these difficult issues.

Finally, I just finished Hermione Lee’s lovely biography of Penelope Fitzgerald. I gave some rather posh lectures at Oxford in 2014 (The Ford Lectures), and the experience was difficult: I was in Oxford without my family; I had to march into a cavernous lecture hall every Friday and hold forth to whoever happened to show up. But people were kind; I made some new friends; and I took advantage of some empty evenings to read every novel by Penelope Fitzgerald and Jane Gardam. I fell so lastingly in love with Fitzgerald that I had to read Lee’s biography, which I found perfect: revelatory but also respectful. Fitzgerald didn’t have an easy life: she married an attractive but often drunken Guardsman; she found herself the main support for three children; she was a proud woman who insisted on keeping up intellectual standards however bad things got; she only became a successful author late in life. The novels are beautiful and consistently surprising, and Lee honors Fitzgerald’s brilliance and grit. I loved this biography.
Learn more about The Guardians at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

K.J. Larsen

KJ Larsen is the pen name for three guilty sisters who write the Cat DeLuca Mysteries.

Their latest novel is Bye, Bye Love.

Recently I asked the authors about what they were reading. Their reply:
Kari: I’m rereading Paulo Coelho’s charming tale about a shepherd boy. The Alchemist is a parable of discovery, self empowerment, and transformation. I first read this book a decade ago. It still gives me goose-bumps.

Julianne: I’m reading Jo Nesbø’s newest mystery, Blood On Snow. This Nordic crime novel is about a dyslexic hitman named Olav who falls for a woman he’s contracted to kill. It’s a fast read with snappy dialogue and some dark humor.

Kristen: I just finished Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese poet and Buddhist monk. This collection of teachings has a simple, readable style. The peace activist teaches mindfulness and the healing power of peace. It’s sound advice. Just breathe in and smile!

My next read is the Ming Tea Murder, by Laura Childs. This is the sixteenth installment of the Teashop Mystery Series. I’m already hooked!
Visit K. J. Larsen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 25, 2015

Will Walton

Will Walton is a book-selling, pop music fanatic who grew up on a farm and now works at the Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia.

His new YA novel is Anything Could Happen.

Recently I asked Walton about what he was reading. His reply:
I love this question. Today, I’ll be reading The Transcriptionist, by Amy Rowland—I’m totally smitten with the concept: a lonely transcriptionist in New York who’s starting to lose her grip on reality! I just read a book from the stellar 33&1/3 series: Exile in Guyville, by Gina Arnold. I’m a big fan of Liz Phair’s album, Exile in Guyville (I even got the working title for my second book from one of its tracks!). In her 33&1/3 book, Arnold masterfully dissects the spirit of the culture surrounding Guyville’s release in 1993, as well as some, if not all, of the reasons the album has stood the test of time.

In other recent reading news, my co-workers at Avid Bookshop and I are obsessed with this new novel, A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara. It’s devastating and beautiful and complete magic. It’s over 700 pages long, but, in many ways, it feels like a kind of anti-epic. At its core, it is a quiet and intimate portrait of friendship, as well as a close investigation of childhood trauma. Other recent loves: The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, My Feelings by Nick Flynn, The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.
Visit Will Walton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 23, 2015

E.E. Cooper

E. E. Cooper lives in Vancouver Canada with her husband and one very spoiled dog.

Her new novel is Vanished.

Recently I asked Cooper about what she was reading. Her reply:
I read a wide variety of things and am always collecting suggestions from other people of what I should read next. I tell myself that I’m not going to buy any more books until I read the ones I already have--but I have zero willpower to resist two books that I’m recommending now for totally different reasons are:

So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson: This book is non-fiction and tackles the phenomenon of Internet shaming where someone does something wrong and then what must seem like the entire world piles on social media to make sure they are taken to task for what they said or did. It’s an interesting form of bullying and as someone who is involved in social media, and is interested in psychology, why people do what they do--it’s a really great read. It also makes me make sure to think before posting.

I also recently read the YA Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn. This is a psychological thriller where a boy’s sister has just been released from a mental health institution for a crime she committed. Part of him is hoping to never see her again, but she’s threatening to reveal a secret from their childhood. It has a great twist at the end that I didn’t see coming.
Learn more about Vanished at E.E. Cooper's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 22, 2015

Melissa Grey

Melissa Grey is a writer of young adult fiction powered entirely by candlelight and cups of tea. She can also ride a horse and shoot a bow and arrow at the same time.

Grey's debut novel is The Girl at Midnight.

Earlier this month I asked the author about what she was reading. Grey's reply:
I like having several irons in the fire when it comes to reading. If I want to prolong one book or if I hit a spot that isn’t right for whatever mood I’m in, I can pick something else up and not lose my reading momentum. Here’s what I’m reading right now:

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman – This is a book I’ve tried to read several times but the timing was never quite right. It’s one of those books where I really needed to be in the right frame of mind for the story’s slowly building atmosphere. Gaiman’s prose is beautiful and I’m really enjoying how he’s slowly building the mythology around Anansi and his sons.

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman – I’m on a Gaiman kick right now (let’s be real, my whole life is a Neil Gaiman kick). I love his short fiction – he’s a particular talent for making you believe his stories are the tips of icebergs. You’re getting a snippet of a world that you know in your heart is so much bigger than that one short piece of fiction.

Get In Trouble by Kelly Link – I had first come across Kelly Link when a friend lent me Pretty Monsters, another short story collection, and I was blown away. Naturally, I rushed to pick this one up at the bookshop as soon as it came out. Like Gaiman, Link has an uncanny ability to build worlds of which you , another short story collection, and I was blown away. Naturally, I rushed to pick this one up at the bookshop as soon as it came out. Like Gaiman, Link has an uncanny ability to build worlds of which you see glimpses (and they always leave you feeling satisfied but also wanting more).

The Bread We Eat in Dreams by Catherynne Valente – And yet another short story collection! I’m super into short stories right now. I’m a huge fan of Valente – Deathless is a masterpiece, Palimpsest is like no other book I’ve ever read, and The Melancholy of Mechagirl is the kind of gorgeous writing that I can only aspire to. My favorite story in this collection so far is “A Voice Like a Hole.”
Visit Melissa Grey's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Charlotte DeCroes Jacobs

Charlotte D. Jacobs, M.D. is the Ben and A. Jess Shenson Professor of Medicine (Emerita) at Stanford University. A native of Kingsport, Tennessee, she graduated from the University of Rochester and studied medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. As a professor at Stanford University, she engaged in teaching, cancer research, and patient care. She has served as Senior Associate Dean and as Director of the Clinical Cancer Center. Her academic honors include election to Phi Beta Kappa, Kaiser Foundation Award for Innovative and Outstanding Contributions to Medical Education, Rambar Award for Excellence in Clinical Care, and the Distinguished Alumni Award from Washington University. She has published ninety scientific articles and three books which reflect her cancer and medical education research. She currently cares for veterans with cancer at the Palo Alto Veterans Medical Center.

Jacobs's first biography, Henry Kaplan and the Story of Hodgkin’s Disease, was published in 2010. Her new biography is Jonas Salk: A Life.

Recently I asked Jacobs about what she was reading. Her reply:
I tend to read and study nonfiction books. Two of my favorites are Candice Millard’s River of Doubt and more recently Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat. Both are master storytellers who have mastered the craft of narrative nonfiction.

As for fiction, I am addicted to Jhumpa Lahiri’s stories and anxiously await her next work.
Visit Charlotte Jacobs's website.

My Book, The Movie: Jonas Salk: A Life.

The Page 99 Test: Jonas Salk: A Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ed Ifkovic

Ed Ifkovic taught literature and creative writing at a community college in Connecticut for more than three decades and now devotes himself to writing fiction.

His new book is Café Europa, his sixth Edna Ferber mystery.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Ifkovic's reply:
One of many delights I have in my occasional lunches with my friend Carole Shmurak, a follow mystery writer, is our discussion of books currently being read. Recently Carole mentioned a book—and, in fact, a writer—I was unfamiliar with. The book was L. A. Requiem, and the author Robert Crais. Somehow this well-regarded novel had gone unnoticed by me—but not for long. Carole’s praise and enthusiasm inspired me to purchase the paperback that very afternoon, and I am now in the middle of reading the novel.

And revelation it is: I know I’ll be devouring all of Crais’ works in short order. It’s a habit formed as a bookish teenager. Whenever I discovered any writer I liked, I’d haunt the public library in town until I’d exhausted every volume on the shelves. Back then, I remember, I’d read George Eliot’s Silas Marner, and proceeded to read everything—including the ponderous book-length poem The Spanish Gypsy—to the point of exhaustion. The librarian even sent home a note to my mother, questioning my insane behavior. I went through Galsworthy, A. J. Cronin, Edna Ferber, and James Michener. And all of Patricia Wentworth’s mysteries! My tackling of the published works of Crais will be a thrill. I can count on that.

L.A. Requiem a fascinating novel, a mystery, true, but more so a complex, intricate novel that explores varying perspectives and plot lines with galvanizing dialogue and terse, breezy prose. Flashbacks in the third person alternate with omniscient points of view. Packed with hard-boiled street jargon in the tradition of, say, James Cain, the novel tackles monumental themes in the guise of being a simple mystery—who murdered troubled partner Joe Pike’s ex-girlfriend, Karen Garcia? Woven into that investigation is a rich, varying tapestry of intrigue, question, and wonder.

The minute I finish reading it I will have to begin reading it again. It’s a primer for any student who picks up a pen to write a novel.
Visit Ed Ifkovic's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 18, 2015

Linda Grimes

Linda Grimes is a former English teacher and ex-actress now channeling her love of words and drama into writing. She grew up in Texas and currently resides in northern Virginia with her husband. Grimes is the author of In a Fix, Quick Fix, and the newly released The Big Fix.

Earlier this month I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Reading? Hahahaha! I remember reading. It was fun. I miss it.

Okay, I'm in the middle of the craziness surrounding the release of book three (The Big Fix) of my series, so I haven't had as much time to devote to reading for pleasure as I'd like, but a recent read that I absolutely adored is Bright Before Sunrise, by Tiffany Schmidt. It's a young adult novel that takes place over the course of twenty-four hours. The story is told from the alternating points of view of Jonah, the new guy in school who has no desire to even try to fit in, and Brighton, the painfully perfect girl who makes time to help everyone except herself. Their awkward—and sometimes downright awful—night together ultimately left me with a warm spot in my heart. Though I am fervently grateful I am no longer a teenager, it was great to revisit the adolescent arena via this thoughtful and well-written book.
Visit Linda Grimes's website.

My Book, The Movie: In a Fix.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Nancy Thayer

Nancy Thayer's many novels include Summer House, The Hot Flash Club, Beachcombers, Heat Wave, Summer Breeze, Island Girls, and the newly released The Guest Cottage.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Thayer's reply:
Only last week did I discover that my sister Martha, who lives half the continent away, has what she calls “Just Before Bed” reading—and I had thought I was the only one.

We both have problems with insomnia, and both of us are mystery fiends. But it’s hard to fall asleep wondering who just eviscerated /poisoned/strangled a victim, so we buy another book and save it to read just before turning off the light.

I’m currently reading A Cold Dish by Craig Johnson. It’s not terribly gory, but it’s a good mystery with compelling characters and the plot does have me guessing, so I also have Jan Karon’s At Home in Mitford on my bedside table. One of her charming, humorous chapters is perfect for reminding me that the world is really a wonderful place. My favorite “Just Before Bed” reading is any of Spencer Quinn’s mysteries written from the point of view of a very funny dog named Chet. They combines mystery with laugh-out-loud humor. A good loud laugh before bed is just what the psychiatrist ordered!
Visit Nancy Thayer's website.

The Page 69 Test: Summer House.

The Page 69 Test: Beachcombers.

My Book, The Movie: Beachcombers.

--Marshal Zeringue