Monday, May 22, 2017

Helene Stapinski

Helene Stapinski began her career at her hometown newspaper, The Jersey Journal. She is the author of the memoirs Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History and Baby Plays Around: A Love Affair, with Music. Her essays have appeared in several anthologies, most recently, Drinking Diaries: Women Serve Their Stories Straight Up. Stapinski has also written extensively for The New York Times, for Travel & Leisure, Food & Wine, Salon, Real Simple, New York magazine and dozens of other newspapers, magazines and blogs. She’s been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, The Today Show and as a performer with The Moth main stage.

Stapinski's new book is Murder In Matera: A True Story of Passion, Family, and Forgiveness in Southern Italy.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I'm about a quarter of the way through The Sellout by Paul Beatty, a social satire about an African American man's unorthodox upbringing and his appeal before the Supreme Court after his attempt to reintroduce slavery to a Los Angeles neighborhood.

The book is simultaneously incredibly sad and laugh out loud funny, no easy feat. I have a problem with self-serious, pretentious writers who are afraid -- or maybe are just incapable -- of making people laugh. You can tell a moving story and still manage to entertain your reader. Beatty, so far, has managed to tell a painful, contemporary tale, while using wicked, biting humor. His social commentary and riffs come so fast and furiously that I can only read a chapter at a time. It makes my head spin. But in a good way. My first book was described as "heartbreaking and hilarious," which is what I'm usually going for in my own writing. So I'm loving The Sellout.
Visit Helene Stapinski's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Jason M. Hough

Jason M. Hough is the New York Times bestselling author of The Dire Earth Cycle and the near-future spy thriller Zero World, which Publishers Weekly said is "a thrilling action rampage that confirms Hough as an important new voice in genre fiction.”

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Hough's reply:
As usual I'm devouring two books at once, because I'll do one in print when I have genuine reading time and the other as an audiobook when I'm driving or doing chores.

Right now in print I'm reading an advance copy of Scott Reintgen's Nyxia, which is a wonderful YA sci-fi novel about a planet with a unique and powerful element that the locals will only allow children to mine. It's extremely good and sports a great cast of characters.

On audio I'm listening to A Divided Spy by Charles Cumming, which is the 3rd book in his Thomas Kell spy series.I really enjoy these novels, which are much more calculating and cerebral than, say, a Jason Bourne thriller. Lots of great tradecraft and an extremely engrossing main character.
Visit Jason M. Hough's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 19, 2017

Lucinda Riley

Lucinda Riley is the New York Times bestselling author of The Orchid House, The Girl on the Cliff, The Lavender Garden, The Midnight Rose, and The Seven Sisters. Her books have sold more than five million copies in thirty languages She lives in London and the English countryside with her husband and four children.

Riley's latest book to appear in the US is The Shadow Sister, the third installment in the seven book series, The Seven Sisters.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m currently tackling the beast that is James Joyce’s Ulysses, as I promised a friend I would attempt it again for the third time to try and make sense out of the book! Having just moved back home to Ireland, it's a fitting time. I’m always fascinated by the background story of the author when he/she was writing a novel and I was told that Joyce was taking medicine prescribed by his doctor while working on Ulysses, which may have contained hallucinatory properties. This has made me see the novel in a different light. Perhaps I’ll be brave enough to take on Finnegan’s Wake next … or maybe I’ll pick up something ‘lighter’, like one of my beloved Inspector Linley novels, by Elizabeth George.

Aside from reading about Leopold Bloom’s journey through Dublin, I’ve been immersed in research for my next book, The Moon Sister, the fifth in the Seven Sisters series, which is focused on the character Tiggy. Paco Sevilla’s biography of the dancer Carmen Amaya, Queen of the Gypsies, has given me fascinating insight into the passion and art of flamenco, and when I was doing research in Granada, Spain I saw the breathtaking dances for myself. I will be tapping my feet to the rhythm of flamenco as I write The Moon Sister.
Visit Lucinda Riley's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Storm Sister.

My Book, The Movie: The Storm Sister.

My Book, The Movie: The Shadow Sister.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wayne Franklin

Wayne Franklin is professor of English at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. His biography James Fenimore Cooper: The Early Years was selected as an Outstanding Academic Title in 2008 by the AAUP and Choice magazine.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Recently, I read J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy because I’m always looking for books that open up seemingly neglected areas of American experience, especially if they have a strong spatial component. One of my favorite books of all time, All God’s Dangers, Theodore Rosengarten’s 1974 account of the life of black Alabama sharecropper and labor activist Ned Cobb, shows considerably more power than Vance’s more modest book can muster. But Vance does tell, from personal experience, the tale of twentieth-century Scots-Irish migration from rural Tennessee to industrial Ohio, capturing the sense of social and spatial dislocation that his title is meant to suggest.

After Hillbilly Elegy, I turned to Michael Finkel’s The Stranger in the Woods, the not-quite-as-told-to story of Maine loner Christopher Knight, who spent twenty-seven years living in a secret place amid a maze of huge rocks near vacation cabins and camps that he systematically rifled for food, clothing, fuel, gear (and books) to sustain himself. His story inevitably recalls Jon Krakauer’s 1996 title, Into the Wild, about Christopher McCandless’s briefer, more tragic withdrawal into the Alaskan wilderness.

Also recently, I re-read Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and, for the first time, her An American Childhood, published in 1987. The first book, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1974, the year before All God’s Dangers won the National Book Award, is by now a classic of modern environmental prose, notable for its spiritual depth and, again, its avid pursuit of the lessons that loneliness can teach. An American Childhood is a much chattier, more worldly memoir of Dillard’s life (as a privileged young woman named Meta Ann Doak) in the Shadyside/Point Breeze neighborhoods of Pittsburgh from the 1940s to the 1960s. Since I spent five year in those same neighborhoods just about the time Dillard went off to college in Roanoke, near which Tinker Creek runs its course, American Childhood offered me not only some insight into how Meta Doak became Annie Dillard but also into a city I, too, recall with great fondness. I agree with the profound point she makes about space in the opening paragraph in that second book: “When everything else has gone from my brain—the President’s name, the state capitals, the neighborhoods where I lived, and then my own name and what it was on earth I sought, and then at length the faces of my friends, and finally the faces of my family—when all this has dissolved, what will be left, I believe, is topology: the dreaming memory of land as it lay this way and that.” As to me, I recall from Pittsburgh the fact that my neighborhood was quite literally Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, too, since he lived a half mile or so from me. (Dillard had left Pittsburgh before his first show aired there, so she not surprisingly does not speak of him.) I also recall that Fred Rogers, despite his cheery public face, had a security system warning sign out front of the big brick house. But that’s another story.
Learn more about James Fenimore Cooper: The Later Years at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 15, 2017

William Christie

William Christie is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a former Marine Corps infantry officer. He is well into middle age, and is the author of eight novels, five under his own name and the latest two under the pen name F.J. Chase, which was basically a publisher’s marketing ploy. He also wrote SEAL Team Seven: Direct Action, for Berkley Books, under the name Keith Douglass, because he needed a new car at the time.

Christie's new novel is A Single Spy.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
This is hard, because when I'm writing a novel I try not to read fiction. Or at least the genre I'm writing in. Because when I'm impressed I sometimes find myself writing in that writer's voice. And when I look at the day's work I find myself saying: what the hell? But in writing a historical novel I kept coming back to Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. Not just that it is brilliant writing and brilliant use of history. But because she took as her hero Thomas Cromwell, one of history's great villains. Henry VIII's consigliere and brutal fixer. Showing us that with enough skill any character can claim us, if shown according to their own time and their own lights. Hilary Mantel and her novels have nothing to do with my character Alexsi in A Single Spy, but she showed me what was possible.
Visit William Christie's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Single Spy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sam Wiebe

Sam Wiebe's novel Last of the Independents won the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize and an Arthur Ellis Award, and was nominated for a Shamus award. His second novel, Invisible Dead, was published by Random House Canada and Quercus USA. His short stories have appeared in Thuglit, Spinetingler, and subTerrain, and he was the 2016 Vancouver Public Library Writer in Residence. He lives in Vancouver.

Recently I asked Wiebe about what he was reading. His reply:
My local bookstore owner recommended Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson practically at gunpoint, calling it “an aboriginal Twin Peaks.” It’s about Jared, a teenaged indigenous kid trying to negotiate his hellishly dysfunctional family. Robinson is from the Haisla First Nation, and her writing ranges from my hometown of Vancouver to the small towns of northern British Columbia. She writes characters who understand poverty and desperation, but her books also feature moments of humour and genuine kindness. As the title suggests, there are elements of the mythical and supernatural, but like Stephen King’s best work, Son of a Trickster is grounded in strong characters with real-life problems.

Ghettoside by Jill Leovy is a non-fiction account of LAPD homicide detective John Skaggs’s investigation into the murder of Bryant Tennelle, a black teenager in South Central who also happened to be the son of another detective. The book reads like a California version of The Wire—dedicated cops trying to do their job despite the realities of racial injustice, limited resources, and a culture dismissive of black-on-black murders. Leovy’s account is fascinating true crime, but also full of sociological insights into police culture, race, and the legal system.
Visit Sam Wiebe's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Bryn Chancellor

Bryn Chancellor’s debut novel, Sycamore, is now out from Harper. Her story collection When Are You Coming Home? won the 2014 Prairie Schooner Book Prize, and her short fiction has appeared in Gulf Coast, Blackbird, Colorado Review, Crazyhorse, Phoebe, and elsewhere. Other honors include the Poets & Writers Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award in fiction, and literary fellowships from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Arizona Commission on the Arts. She earned her M.F.A. in fiction from Vanderbilt University and is an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. A native of California raised in Arizona, she is married to artist Timothy Winkler.

Recently I asked Chancellor about what she was reading. Her reply:
During the semesters, it’s hard for me to do as much reading as I’d like except for what I’m teaching. I keep teetering stacks at my bedside to catch snatches when I can, and I have managed to read a few lately with more queued up for summer.

I just finished two shortish works: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, a beautiful, eerily magical novel about refugees and loss but also very much about the passage of love over time with a slow-building power and resonance that hits hard at the end; and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s extended letter Dear Ijeawele, Or A Feminist Manifesto In Fifteen Suggestions, which I wish could be required reading for the whole world.

I am currently reading Ottessa Moshfegh’s Homesick for Another World, a collection of stories so brilliant and unexpected that I find myself lying flat-backed and jaw-dropped after I finish each one. I also just started Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Refugees; I’m mesmerized and haunted by these stories thus far, especially the opener, “Black-Eyed Woman."

Next up are Helen Oyeyemi’s What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, which I picked up because I loved her dreamy, powerful reimagined fairy tale Boy, Snow, Bird; Kevin Wilson’s Perfect Little World, because Kevin’s voice and wild imagination and heart in his previous books always rock my world; Derek Palacio’s The Mortifications, because I heard Derek read an excerpt of it a couple summers back and still can’t get it out of my head; and finally, a bit of nonfiction with Lauren Elkin’s Flâneuse: Women Walk the City, a subject in which I am deeply interested. I teach a workshop in which we study writers who walk and then complete our own walks/writing, so I’m delighted to delve into this gender-specific take.
Visit Bryn Chancellor's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Avery Duff

Avery Duff was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he attended Baylor School and graduated summa cum laude. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he earned a JD from Georgetown University Law Center. He then joined a prestigious Tennessee law firm, becoming a partner in five years, before moving to Los Angeles. His screenwriting credits include the 2010 heist drama Takers, starring Matt Dillon, Idris Elba, Paul Walker, and Hayden Christensen.

Duff's first published novel is Beach Lawyer.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I’m reading two books at the moment, each for different reasons.

Pagan Babies by Elmore Leonard goes first because that’s where he belongs in my pantheon of writers, even though he wrote crime, as he put it, not mystery/thrillers. I’m studying this book—set in Rwanda among the Hutu murdering their Tutsi countrymen—not just re-reading it, trying to figure out how Mr. Leonard exposits this genocide in small, graphic bites without lecturing the reader–look, here’s my Rwanda research—as he introduces U.S. expat, Father Terry Dunn.

Terry’s hearing confessions from, among others, a Hutu, Bernard, the Hutu bragging about how he’d murdered Tutsis in Terry’s own church, Bernard having graphic visions about murdering Tutsis again and taunting Terry about the confidential nature of what he’s just revealed to Terry in confession.

As Bernard’s leaving the make-shift, thatched confessional, Terry calls out to him: “Hey, Bernard…I have visions, too.” (Even Mr. Leonard’s priests are cooool.)

I’m beginning to see that I learned about this genocide from inside (the characters) out. Beginning to see, too, that Mr. Leonard wasn’t in a hurry. As the story goes on, he slips in more exposition and reader knowledge grows. In my limited experience, that’s really hard to pull off and is something to shoot for in my future.

For entertainment, I’m about one-third of the way into The Dry by Jane Harper, her first novel, a fact that impresses and annoys me in unequal measure. The opening of this one is told from the POV of blowflies, the first to arrive at this small-town Australian murder scene. Never saw anything like it before, and the scene is filled with important information. I knew from page one I was in good hands—just took a minute to reread it and it’s better than I remembered. Again—unequal measures of impressed and annoyed.

Way to go, Ms. Harper!
Learn more about Beach Lawyer.

My Book, The Movie: Beach Lawyer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Marta Perry

Marta Perry realized she wanted to be a writer at age eight, when she read her first Nancy Drew novel. A lifetime spent in rural Pennsylvania and her own Pennsylvania Dutch roots led Perry to the books she writes now about the Amish.

Her new novel is Echo of Danger.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Perry's reply:
I tend to binge-read, like binge-watching, only with books. I recently found a treasure trove of mostly forgotten Golden Age British mystery authors on Amazon, and I've been working my way through them. This has been an unexpected benefit of switching to a Kindle for my recreational reading. I initially started using it simply because it was easier to read after spending a day at the computer on my own current manuscript. But then I discovered the array of books that were no longer or had never been out in mass market, but were only a click away with an e-reader.

First I read my way through a batch of Patricia Wentworth books that had preceded her popular Miss Silver mysteries. Now I've started on the Molly Thynne books. An actual member of the British aristocracy, Mary "Molly" Thynne wrote about the world she knew—an England between the wars. Independently wealthy, she wrote only six novels, and I'm already dreading coming to the end of them. They are intricately plotted, something that I know to my cost to be difficult at best, and they also show a very sympathetic and understanding eye for characters in trouble.

The current book is The Case of Sir Adam Braid, originally published in 1930, and Ms. Thynne used the now-familiar device of a victim who was disliked by so many people that Chief-Inspector Fenn has his hands full trying to sort them out, especially since the chief suspect is a young woman he cares for. Just the sort of book to inspire my own romantic suspense writing!
Visit Marta Perry's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Jenni L. Walsh

Jenni L. Walsh spent her early years chasing around cats, dogs, and chickens in Philadelphia's countryside, before dividing time between a soccer field and a classroom at Villanova University. She put her marketing degree to good use as an advertising copywriter, zip-code hopping with her husband to DC, NYC, NJ, and not surprisingly, back to Philly. There, Walsh's passion for words continued, adding author to her resume.

Becoming Bonnie, her debut novel, tells the untold story of how church-going Bonnelyn Parker becomes half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo during the 1920s. The sequel Being Bonnie will be released in the summer of 2018.

Recently I asked Walsh about what she was reading. Her reply:
A recently published book that I devoured was Girl In Disguise by Greer Macallister. I often enjoy “inspired by” or “based on” stories and this one checked that box. Girl In Disguise, set during the Civil War, features the first female Pinkerton detective, Kate Warne – and it was a ton of fun to read. Though, I’ll be honest that before I even knew the premise, I wanted to read this book because of its stunning cover. It stopped me in my tracks. The font, the coloring, the imagery is captivating. Fortunately, the book was equally captivating and I flew through the pages. Kate Warne was a remarkable woman: strong-willed, independent, clever (in both mind and tongue), and a trailblazer. I enjoyed the role other women played in the book as well, seeing a few names pop up from Karen Abbott's Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, a nonfiction book set during the Civil War that I also really enjoyed.

You could say Greer Macallister hooked me as a reader because after finishing Girl In Disguise, I picked up Macallister’s debut, The Magician’s Lie. This is another book I’d highly recommend, with an interesting, page-turning format of a story-within-a-story. Now I’m left waiting for Macallister to publish more books.
Visit Jenni L. Walsh's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 5, 2017

Elizabeth Wein

Elizabeth Wein was born in New York City, grew up abroad, and currently lives in Scotland with her husband and two children. She is an avid flyer of small planes. She also holds a PhD in Folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. Her books include the acclaimed Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire, and Black Dove, White Raven.

Wein's new novel is The Pearl Thief.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
In the past five years I’ve experienced great success as a writer, but I’ve found that it comes at the cost of reading for pleasure. I have a stack of books that I’m reading for research which, lined up, stretches across the room. The research relates to my current work in progress, a middle-grade non-fiction book about the women who flew as combat pilots for the Soviet Union during World War II. It’s fascinating reading, but it’s not reading for pleasure.

I’ve also received a lot of requests in recent years to provide endorsements for books for my fellow writers. This is a real honor, and it’s also a task I greatly enjoy. Still, there’s pressure: there’s always a deadline and responsibility involved, and I don’t choose these books myself. It’s still work rather than recreation, even if I’m lucky enough to have a job I love.

Then, about three months ago I received a surprise gift in the mail from one of my best friends. It was a stack of five very fat books, all by the same author, with matching covers each in a different color. The books are a series by Elizabeth Jane Howard called the Cazalet Chronicles. At an estimate I’d say that the complete series contains over 3000 pages – not a quick weekend read! With the gift of the books, my friend included a note saying how much she’d enjoyed them and how she felt she’d be “bereft” when she finished the series.

Intrigued, I started the first book: The Light Years. And I knew exactly what my friend meant. In these books plot is character, and character is plot. Through the window of Howard’s writing, we follow each member of the Cazalet family in England from the 1930s onward, as they variously grow, age, give birth, die, and are born – an endless litany of life events both big and small, all of it presented with humor, sympathy and clarity.

I’m now in the middle of the second book in the series, Marking Time. World War II is just beginning. Already someone is missing – I fear that several of the characters I’ve come to love are ultimately doomed, but as in real life, it’s impossible to know which, and all I can do is continue to love them, enjoy the gift of their company in the present, and hope for the best in the future.

My friend was right – I adore these books. I, too, will be bereft when I have finished them all. But it’s going to take me a long time to make my way through the entire series. I won’t be reading anything else for a while.
Visit Elizabeth Wein's website.

The Page 69 Test: Black Dove, White Raven.

The Page 69 Test: The Pearl Thief.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Carol Berkin

Carol Berkin is the Presidential Professor of History Emerita at Baruch College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. Her many books include The Bill of Rights: The Fight to Secure America's LibertiesWondrous Beauty: The Life and Adventures of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, and A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution.

Berkin's new book is A Sovereign People: The Crises of the 1790s and the Birth of American Nationalism.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I am rereading, for the sheer joy of it, Rick Bragg’s Ava’s Man. This is the tale of his hardworking and hard drinking grandfather Charlie Bundrum and his northern Alabama family who survived the grueling poverty that shaped this rural culture. In this book, as in the painfully beautiful All Over But the Shoutin’, Bragg reveals the deep affection for the world of Ava and Charlie that remained strong long after his remarkable talents carried Bragg far away. Although my upbringing—as a Jew in Mobile, Alabama—was far different from Bragg's, I knew men and women like those who people his books and I know his descriptions of these rural southerners ring true. I have stories to tell, too, if only I could write as well…
My Book, The Movie: Wondrous Beauty.

The Page 99 Test: The Bill of Rights.

The Page 99 Test: A Sovereign People.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Jane Corry

Jane Corry is a writer and journalist and has spent time as the writer in residence of a high-security prison for men–an experience that helped inspire My Husband’s Wife, her suspense debut.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Corry's reply:
I Can't Begin To Tell You by Elizabeth Buchan. It’s a story about an Englishwoman married to a Danish aristocrat who find her loyalties torn during the Second World War. I chose it because I like to read outside my own genre and I’ve always been deeply moved by the emotional turmoil which war brings about. I’m only five chapters in but so far I’m really enjoying the main character and the choices she has to make. There is also a very good sense of setting. I can see it unfolding it before me like a film.
Learn more about My Husband's Wife. Follow Jane Corry on Twitter and Facebook.

My Book, The Movie: My Husband's Wife.

The Page 69 Test: My Husband's Wife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 1, 2017

Alyssa Palombo

Alyssa Palombo is a graduate of Canisius College with degrees in English and creative writing, as well as a trained classical musician. The Violinist of Venice, her debut novel, was released in late 2015.

Palombo's new novel is The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence: A Story of Botticelli.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
What I’m currently reading:

Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister: This is a historical novel I was absolutely dying to read since I first heard of it, and it has not disappointed. It tells the story of Kate Warne, the first female Pinkerton detective, and the challenges, triumphs, and prejudices she faces throughout her career. This is a sharply written and well-researched historical novel that reads like a thriller.

The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George: Margaret George has long been a favorite author of mine and is one of my biggest inspirations in the world of historical fiction, and so of course I snapped up her newest novel as soon as it was available. The book completely brings the world of ancient Rome and its cutthroat (literally) politics to life, and I am interested to see how she continues to take on the infamous character of Nero throughout the novel.

A Sea of Troubles by Donna Leon: This is one of the books in Donna Leon’s famous Venetian mystery series starring Guido Brunetti, and I am a big fan. I’ve been working my way through the series ever since I read the first book about a year ago now, and the books are just wonderful. Brunetti is a great hero, and I absolutely love the commentary on and exploration of modern Venetian society and customs, as well as of Italian attitudes, politics, and culture on the whole. And, of course, the fact that they’re set in my favorite city, Venice, really seals the deal for me. There are so many of these books now that it feels like I’ll never be out of new ones to read, and that’s just the way I like it!

What I’ve read recently:

Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste by Bianca Bosker: As a wine lover, as soon as I saw this book I grabbed it immediately. It very soon taught me how little I actually know about wine. It’s a fascinating look at wine industry and culture, told in a compulsively readable way. I absolutely loved this book, and it’s inspired me to be more thoughtful when tasting wines and to branch out more in what I drink.

Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis: I met Mindy at a writing conference about a year ago, and not only is she an awesome human being but she is a phenomenal writer. I just finished this book, her first fantasy novel, and it’s tough to put down. A large cast of characters is managed superbly well, and the story is imaginative and so well told.

The Mermaid’s Daughter by Ann Claycomb: I read this on a recent vacation and could not put it down. It’s a retelling/expansion of The Little Mermaid (the original story, not the Disney version) set in the world of music and opera. This is all completely up my alley, so I knew as soon as I picked it up that I would love it, and I did. The writing is absolutely gorgeous, and I know this is one I’ll be reading again.
Visit Alyssa Palombo's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Violinist of Venice.

The Page 69 Test: The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Stephen P. Kiernan

As a journalist and novelist, Stephen P. Kiernan has published nearly four million words. His newspaper work has garnered more than forty awards — including the George Polk Award and the Scripps Howard Award for Distinguished Service to the First Amendment.

Kiernan is the author of the novels The Hummingbird and The Curiosity, and the newly released novel The Baker's Secret.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I just finished The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve, which I enjoyed. The plot is deceptively simple, and the main character is so sympathetic I found myself rooting for her more fiercely with every page. I also just read Celine by Peter Heller, which has his strongest characters yet, and the story possesses a wonderful spooky charm. Chris Bohjalian's The Sleepwalker had his characteristic excellent hook and the ending was a total surprise.

I've also been reading deeply in the subject of my next novel, but I don't want to talk about those books until I have a clearer plot in mind.
Visit Stephen Kiernan's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Curiosity.

The Page 69 Test: The Curiosity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 28, 2017

Suzanne Nelson

Suzanne Nelson has written several children's books, including Cake Pop Crush, You're Bacon Me Crazy!, Macarons at Midnight, Dead in the Water, The Sound of Munich, and Heart and Salsa.

Her new novel is Donut Go Breaking My Heart.

Recently I asked Nelson about what she was reading. Her reply:
I wish I could show you a photo of my nightstand here, because it's stacked to overflowing with dozens of books in my to-read and currently-reading piles. My reading tastes are eclectic and numerous.

I've loved reading To Capture What We Cannot Keep, by Beatrice Colin. The book's title and beautiful cover were what first drew me to it, but the historical premise and setting (late 1880s Paris, France, during the time in which the Eiffel Tower was under construction) appealed to me, too. I relish historical fiction, and this book, especially, with its glimpses into the lives of the now-famous artists, architects, and engineers of the period, was a pleasure to read. Caitriona Wallace is a strong, intelligent heroine struggling against the confines of her social position and role as a widowed woman in her thirties, and I rooted for her with every page I read. I also loved the descriptions and background the book gave into the construction of the Eiffel Tower and the people who had a hand in designing and building it.

Because I was a children's book editor for nearly a decade and now I write for children and teens, I love children's and young adult books. Much of my research for writing comes from reading; I read other authors' children's literature to gain insight into narrative voice, character development, and plotting. I just began reading Blood Rose Rebellion, by Rosalyn Eves, and am already enthralled with the story and writing. I love novels that draw on folklore and history that include a touch of magic. It's also hard for me to resist a book with a cover as lovely as this one! I can't wait to read more in this gripping novel!

For my daughter's bedtime reading right now, I'm reading aloud to her Princess Cora and the Crocodile, written by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Brian Floca. This is an utterly charming and often hilarious tale about a reluctant princess and her pet crocodile. It also offers up a subtle cautionary message about what happens when children (including princesses) are overextended and overscheduled. I'm giggling my way through this book right alongside my daughter. It's a book that begs to be read out loud, and the accompanying illustrations are as adoringly comical as the text.

I reserve audiobooks for when I take my dog on her daily three-mile walk, and a few days ago I finished listening to The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney. I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining and insightful look at how one family's nest-egg gone wrong impacts all of the grown children who'd been relying on it. The contemporary characters are relatable and realistic, the conflicts and dialogue true-to-life. I thought the portrayals of the sibling dynamics were especially interesting.

Sometimes after writing for hours, I'm simply too tired or word-logged to read even a few pages of fiction at day's end, but I still crave a book to unwind. This is when I pick up one of the poetry books at my bedside. Right now, I'm reading The Essential Rumi, by Jalal Al-Din Rumi and Felicity, by Mary Oliver. Rumi's poetry is thought-provoking and beautiful; Oliver's is refreshing and poignant, like a walk in the woods at twilight. Reading one or two poems before I sleep is a wonderful way to end my day and prepare my mind and spirit for the next one.
Visit Suzanne Nelson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Donut Go Breaking My Heart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ellen Meeropol

Ellen Meeropol is the author of three novels - House Arrest (2011), On Hurricane Island (2015), and Kinship of Clover (2017).

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Meeropol's reply:
I’m reading Earth As It Is by Jan Maher and I’m enthralled. Set in the 1930’s, the story is about Charlie, a heterosexual cross-dresser. I was initially interested mostly because my second novel, On Hurricane Island, has a heterosexual cross-dresser, and I was curious to learn more. I was quickly drawn into Charlie’s early struggles to understand his desire to dress in women’s clothes - hardly acceptable in small-town Texas society - and his transformation into Charlene, owner and operator of the beauty parlor in Heaven, Indiana. The pleasure of this novel comes both from the author’s strong, understated prose and the main character’s innate goodness in the face of an impossible situation.
Visit Ellen Meeropol's website.

The Page 69 Test: Kinship of Clover.

--Marshal Zeringue