Monday, June 26, 2017

Mary Kubica

Mary Kubica is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of four novels, including The Good Girl, Pretty Baby, Don't You Cry and the newly released Every Last Lie.

A former high school history teacher, Kubica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Kubica's reply:
The majority of the books on my nightstand are mysteries and suspense, like Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke’s The Good Widow, and Alice Feeney’s Sometimes I Lie, which I’m so eager to read. Just this morning I finished The Deep Dark Descending by Allen Eskens, an elegant and heartbreaking mystery about the great lengths one man, a Minnesota homicide detective, will go to find his wife’s killer and avenge her death. A thought-provoking and compelling read, I highly recommend fans of Eskens keep an eye out for this one when it arrives in October.

When I’m not reading mysteries, I enjoy historical and women’s fiction, and am currently immersed in Karma Brown’s In This Moment – about how a split-second decision alters one woman’s life – and Colleen Oakley’s Close Enough to Touch, a love story with a protagonist who’s both reclusive and allergic to human touch. I’ve loved Brown and Oakley’s previous work, and these newest releases are no different. Heartbreaking and humorous in their own way, they make the perfect summer read.
Visit Mary Kubica's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Elizabeth Anderson

Elizabeth Anderson is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies at the University of Michigan. She is the author of The Imperative of Integration and Value in Ethics and Economics. Her newest book is Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don't Talk about It).

Recently I asked Anderson about what she was reading. Her reply:
Since the stunning result of the Presidential election, I have been reading books that help explain what happened. At the top of my list is Jan Werner-Müller's brilliant What is Populism? Everyone knows that populist politicians back "the people" against "the elites." While this rhetoric is common to all populists, it cannot distinguish them from non-populist politicians, because nearly all politicians in democratic regimes talk this way. The key to populism is rather that "the people" is always defined exclusively, as a subset of the citizens and permanent residents of a state, and in contrast with those who are not "real Poles" (because they are Jewish or liberal), not "true Finns" (because they are Muslim, or have immigrant ancestry), not "real Americans" (because they are coastal city dwellers, Black, Muslim, Latino/a, or liberal), etc.. Populist politicians gain support from the "real" people by telling them that they are being taken advantage of, humiliated, or threatened by enemies, both foreign and domestic (where the domestic enemies are those citizens and/or permanent residents who don't belong to the "real people"), and that elites are to blame for this. Populism is inherently authoritarian and anti-democratic, because it rejects a core constitutive feature of democracy, which is the legitimacy of opposition. The "real" people can never be legitimately opposed, since their will exclusively defines the nation. Hence, opposition parties and politicians are always "corrupt," an independent judiciary is always "unfair" when it checks the power of the populist politician, an independent press is always lying when it corrects the lies of the populist politician, elections must be rigged if the populist doesn't win, but are legitimate if he wins, and so forth. Werner-Müller shows in detail how Trump, far from being a new type of politician, campaigned straight out of the same populist playbook as Silvio Berlusconi, Marine Le Pen, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and Viktor Orbán. I consider What is Populism? an absolute must-read for anyone who wants to understand not just what has happened in the U.S., but why populism is affecting many democracies across the world, and what can be done to stop it.

I have also been reading J. D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. Vance narrates a critique of his own group--poor white Appalachians--through a compelling and sympathetically drawn account of his own dysfunctional family and of the similar families in his community. One way to interpret this book is as an application of the conventional conservative culture-of-poverty story to poor rural whites rather than blacks: he's saying that white Appalachians are lazy, welfare-dependent, alcoholic and drug-addicted, disdainful of education, prone to violence, domestic conflict, and divorce, with unstable family relationships, fathers who have sired and left multiple children with different mothers, and mothers who cast off one male partner after another. On this reading, government isn't the problem and can't help solve the problem; what's needed is for the community itself to reform its values, and for individuals to study and work hard and climb up through personal grit and determination. This certainly captures a strain in his book. But it's not the only one. Another way to read the book is to reflect on Vance's deep sympathy and love for those he criticizes. In the larger public discourse, conservative culture-of-poverty narratives are used to whip up white resentment against blacks, who are the public face of poverty, and who are depicted as wholly to blame for their own problems, and wholly deserving of scorn, rejection, and state neglect on that account. But Vance shows how resentment, scorn, rejection, and neglect are morally stunted and inhumane responses to distressed communities. People are complicated. They deserve sympathy for their problems even when they bring some of those problems on themselves. Moreover, the same people who behave badly also have powerful virtues that deserve recognition. His grandmother, who, like many in her community, regularly escalated conflict out of all proportion, in conformity with Appalachian honor culture (she once poured gasoline on her husband and lit him on fire to get the better of him in a domestic conflict), also loved Vance deeply, provided the key source of stability in his life, and insisted that he study hard. If only white America viewed poor blacks with comparable sympathy and admiration for their virtues, we would have a very different country. Vance, who draws explicit analogies between poor Appalachian whites and poor blacks, invites all Americans to view the latter in the same light with which he views his own community. A third way to read the book is to appreciate his sociological awareness. He shows through his own experience how the ability of children to overcome their disadvantages through personal striving can be severely undermined by domestic conflict and unstable relationships with adults. Childhood trauma is real, and it undermines agency, sometimes in ways that radically restrict the opportunities a child will have in adulthood. He also shows through his own experience how individual success is predicated on "social capital"--having access to networks of trusted others, outside one's own disadvantaged community, who can open doors of opportunity and teach one the informal norms of more advantaged social classes, mastery of which is needed to join them. No one succeeds wholly on his own. He thereby invites those who were born into functional families with great parents and lots of social connections to discount their own pride and appreciate how much they owe their success to good luck and the assistance of others. Definitely worth reading for insights into what a humane conservatism can look like.
Learn more about Private Government.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 23, 2017

Cynthia Eden

Award-winning author Cynthia Eden writes dark tales of paranormal romance and romantic suspense. She is a New York Times, USA Today, Digital Book World, and IndieReader best-seller, and a three-time finalist for the prestigious RITA® award. Since she began writing full-time in 2005, Eden has written over eighty novels and novellas.

Her new book is Wrecked (LOST Series #6).

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Eden's reply:
I’ve accidentally returned to required summer reading days… The very last book I read was The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. My son had this title on his required reading list, and after reading the blurb… I was curious. I’ll confess—blurbs always hook me. I can’t turn away from a good blurb, and The Westing Game lured me in fast. Before I knew it, I’d just done some required summer reading—only it hadn’t exactly been required for me. But, sometimes, taking a walk with a book outside your genre can be fun.
Visit Cynthia Eden's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Tristan Donovan

Tristan Donovan is a British author and journalist. His books include Replay: The History of Video Games and Fizz: How Soda Shook Up the World. His writing has appeared in BBC News Online, The Atlantic, The Times of London, Stuff, Wired, The Guardian, Eurogamer, and Kotaku, among other publications.

Donovan's newest book is It's All a Game: The History of Board Games from Monopoly to Settlers of Catan.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Donovan's reply:
I’ve just finished reading Jonathan Taplin’s Move Fast and Break Things.

It’s a nonfiction book and examines how the web has gone from being this exciting, utopian beacon of hope to a nightmare of hate mobs, intrusive advertising, and domineering corporations like Google and Facebook invading our privacy.

Taplin does a good job of clearly charting how we ended up here. From the cynical attempts of tech companies to dismantle the protections of copyright law to how social media has undermined the quality and trustworthiness of news and empowered online hate mobs.

It’s familiar criticism, but no less powerful or important for that. However, Taplin’s remedies to the problems he identifies aren’t nearly as convincing - not least his call for the US to create a tax-funded broadcaster modelled on the BBC, which seems about as likely to catch on as chocolate teapots.

But sometimes it’s nice to read a book that reaffirms what you think is wrong with the world, right?
Visit Tristan Donovan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Gail Godwin

Gail Godwin is a three-time National Book Award finalist and the bestselling author of twelve critically acclaimed novels, including Violet Clay, Father Melancholy's Daughter, Evensong, The Good Husband and Evenings at Five. She is also the author of The Making of a Writer, her journal in two volumes (ed. Rob Neufeld). She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts grants for both fiction and libretto writing, and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Godwin's new novel is Grief Cottage.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Jonathan Cott's There's a Mystery There: The Primal Vision of Maurice Sendak. I was going to take it on my book tour with me, but it's too beautiful. Mr. Cott takes us on a rare tour of the inner workings of a complicated and profound artist. It will be waiting for me when I return. So I am packing Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, which couldn't have come at a better time. To think that a person of humor and purpose and values is actually serving as a United States senator in this crazy sideshow of our history gives me more hope and delight than I can express.
Visit Gail Godwin's website.

My Book, The Movie: Grief Cottage.

The Page 69 Test: Grief Cottage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 18, 2017

David Housewright

David Housewright is the Edgar Award and three-time Minnesota Book Award-winning author of the Rushmore McKenzie and Holland Taylor novels as well as other tales of murder and mayhem in the Midwest.

His new novel is What the Dead Leave Behind.

Recently I asked Housewright about what he was reading. His reply:
I’ve been reading Your Oasis on Flame Lake by Lorna Landvik I’m embarrassed to say that like a lot of guys, I was very dismissive of what many called “chick lit” even though I have read very little of it. But I read Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen, and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison and now realize that I have been missing out on some terrific writing. I’ll try to be less prejudiced in the future.
Visit David Housewright's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: What the Dead Leave Behind.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 16, 2017

April Henry

April Henry is the New York Times bestselling author of many acclaimed mysteries for adults and young adults, including the YA novels Girl, Stolen and The Night She Disappeared and the thriller Face of Betrayal, co-authored with Lis Wiehl. She lives in Oregon.

Henry's new novel is Count All Her Bones, the sequel to Girl, Stolen.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I just read a great book called Wildman by JC Geiger.

“Geiger” is German for violin, and JC Geiger plays the reader like an instrument in this marvelous first novel. The book is about Lance Hendricks, high school senior, who has a mantra he repeats any time he has doubts:
You are valedictorian.
You are the first-chair trumpet player.
You have a full-ride scholarship.
Miriam Seavers is in love with you.
Lance is driving 370 miles home to what promises to be the best night of his life, an epic graduation party where he will finally get to spend the night with Miriam. But then his ’93 Buick breaks down in the middle of nowhere, the kind of place Lance, who is a worrier, thinks probably has meth labs and Bigfoot. Not only does he end up missing the party, Lance ends up stranded, waiting for his beloved Buick, which once belonged to his dad, to be fixed. And in a tiny town, Lance find himself outgrowing than the labels he has pasted on himself. The locals call him Wildman, and a girl named Dakota opens Lance’s eyes to the wider world - and to the fact that he’s more than he ever thought.

The writing is really marvelous in this book. I underlined so many parts, such as:
“Tow, he said, tasting the word’s weight. Three letters full of lost time.

Waiting for Dakota felt like warming up in the orchestra pit on opening night. Everyone tuning up their instruments. That awful, giddy flutter before a show.

All these words he'd been tossing out like candy from a parade float.

Lance pictured Bend High School's football coach/guidance counselor hunching over his computer with bent little arms like a Tyrannosaurus rex on a tricycle.
And the most amazing description of a first kiss:
He's holding this glass, moving so slow, so careful-but now their foreheads are nearly touching. Frozen time thaws to a rush and they're running downhill, the ground tipping forward, still tipping, and Lance's feet pedal air, and his stomach drops and he loses the Earth and presses his lips to her. Their mouths open to receive each other and everything is spilling, everything, everywhere.
Wildman is Geiger's debut novel. It's just been released.
Visit April Henry's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Girl, Stolen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Sarah Creech

Sarah Creech is the author of two novels, Season of the Dragonflies and The Whole Way Home.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Just yesterday I cracked open Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan—I was a little late to the Kwan trend when he first published Crazy Rich Asians. Of course, I’d heard of his debut just like everyone else, but I hadn’t yet made that far down on my reading list. I took a trip to New York City to visit my agent. While I was sitting in her office before a sushi lunch, she swept her arm back to her bookcase and said, “Choose whichever title you want.” The kid in the candy store cliché fits here: I immediately spotted Kwan’s book and I held out my hands and gestured with “gimmee” fingers. I read the book on the plane ride home and I was an immediate fan. I appreciate any author who transports me to an unexpected, highly original world. In this case, Kwan forces the reader to acknowledge the massive amount of wealth in Asia, and consequently, gross inequality on a global scale. And it’s more entertaining than any tabloid you could pick up at the grocery store. In this way, Kwan delivers much needed medicine in a spoon of honey.
Visit Sarah Creech's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Whole Way Home.

The Page 69 Test: The Whole Way Home.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Elizabeth J. Duncan

Elizabeth J. Duncan has just won the Bloody Words Light Mystery Award for Murder On the Hour (2016), published by Minotaur. The next book in the Penny Brannigan mystery series set in North Wales, Murder Is for Keeps, has just been published. Duncan is also the author of a second series, Shakespeare in the Catskills mysteries (Crooked Lane Books).

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m reading two books at the moment: a police procedural, and an autobiography.

The Slaughter Man, by Tony Parsons is the second in the DC Max Wolfe series. It’s gritty, dark, and fast paced. While Wolfe investigates an unimaginably brutal crime involving the gruesome death of a well-to-do family, he’s raising his adorable five-year-old daughter, Scout. Parsons puts the reader at the heart of a serious crimes investigation, and in his protagonist has created a conflicted but dedicated detective whose love for his daughter rises above all else. They live in London’s Smithfield Market area, and Parsons captures the rhythm of the city beautifully.

Musicians in general, and rock stars in particular, lead interesting lives. They always seem to be in the right place at the right time. Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen is great reading – and I haven’t even got to the best bits. Springsteen’s honest yet sympathetic descriptions of his eccentric upbringing in a working class New Jersey family are engaging, and his recounting of the early gigs playing up and down the Jersey Shore are entertaining. He’s an excellent writer, as the lyrics of his songs demonstrate. The audio version of the book is narrated by Bruce himself, so I’ve ordered that from the library and I’ll switch over to that to learn about the glory days with the E Street Band. I like the idea of Bruce reading to me.
Visit Elizabeth J. Duncan's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Elizabeth J. Duncan and Dolly.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 12, 2017

Alison Taylor

Alison Taylor is a Teaching Fellow at Bond University. In 2014, she received the Dean's Award for Outstanding Research Higher Degree Theses at the University of Queensland.

Her new book is Troubled Everyday: The Aesthetics of Violence and the Everyday in European Art Cinema.

Recently I asked Taylor about what she is reading. Her reply:
I’m gradually working my way through Michel Surya’s astonishingly detailed account of the life and writings of Georges Bataille (Georges Bataille: An Intellectual Biography). It’s a fantastic insight into a thinker I’ve always found intriguing (anyone who was judged too surreal for the surrealists is inevitably intriguing) and is filling in the gaps between the bits and pieces of Bataille’s own work that I’ve read over the years. While fascinating, it is a monster of a book, and not really conducive to long commutes, so while Bataille remains by my bedside, I have a less cumbersome book on the go.

Currently, this is Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, a beautifully composed mixture of memory and fantasy about one man’s experience of the Second World War. Vonnegut’s approach is one of graceful simplicity; the book reads like the world-weary sigh of someone who has seen too much, while still maintaining a sense of humour and humanity.

And, forever open is Amy Hungerford’s wonderful study of American literature, Postmodern Belief. This work examines the centrality and importance of belief for its own sake, rather than specifically tied to any one doctrine, in the works of great writers including Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, and Allen Ginsberg. McCarthy’s invocation of biblical prose across his works, and his imagery of the illiterate kid who carries a bible regardless towards the close of Blood Meridian are key examples. I say this book is forever open, because it’s the book I dip into before I write anything, and the book I return to when I have writer’s block. Beyond content, Hungerford possesses such a command over her material and argument that I hope such elegance will transmit to my own writing, even if only by osmosis.
Learn more about Troubled Everyday at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue