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

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Lee Irby

Lee Irby teaches history at Eckerd College and lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. He is the author of the historical mysteries 7,000 Clams and The Up and Up.

Irby's new novel is Unreliable.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I’m reading a massive study of the Gulf of Mexico, entitled The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea by Jack E. Davis because (1) he is one of my best friends and an incredible historian and (2) this work is monumentally important and explores a subject we think we know but really don’t, the Gulf of Mexico. I’m surrounded by this body of water and yet I understood little of its unique history. Davis has a way of taking a topic and finding the most compelling way to examine it--often through personal stories, but he has also mastered the ecology, geology, and biology of the entire Gulf coast, from South Padre to Key West. He is just as conversant about the mound-building Calusa as he is the advent of commercial fishing. But Jack Davis isn’t your average academic--he sold suits at Sears and spent time in the Navy, and so he possesses a view of life forged from the kelsen of experience. I know how much effort he put into this--not just the research but the prose itself. I consider him to be one of our finest writers; he truly labors over each word like a poet, though this work exceeds 600 pages. This book has truly enriched my own interactions with the water I have swam in and paddled over for 25 years. It’s an epic in the best sense, audacious in scope and generous in spirit, authored by a historian at the pinnacle of his powers.
Learn more about Unreliable.

My Book, The Movie: Unreliable.

The Page 69 Test: Unreliable.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Elizabeth Boyle

Elizabeth Boyle has always loved romance and now lives it each and every day by writing adventurous and passionate stories that readers from all around the world have described as “page-turners.” Since her first book was published, she’s seen her romances become New York Times and USA Today bestsellers and has won the RWA RITA® and the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Awards.

Boyle's new novel is Six Impossible Things.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Boyle's reply:
I always look forward to Laura Lee Guhrke’s books, and her latest, The Truth and Love and Dukes, is no exception. I know before I open one of her romances, that the story is going to be moving and quite possibly tear jerking, but most of all a great read, but what I love most about her books is that there is always a point about 50 pages in where she manages a twist that sends the story in a new direction I was not expecting.

That moment as a reader (and a writer) where I think to myself, “Oh, no, she didn’t.” Well, she did. She always does.

The other book that I quite simply devoured recently was Beatriz Williams’ The Secret Life of Violet Grant. The dialogue just slayed me—smart, inventive, wickedly funny, with a cast of characters who just step out of time and yank you into the story.

I picked this book up because several friends had insisted I read it. You know the sort of recommendation, the one that comes all breathless and shocked that you haven’t already discovered this gem of a story. You must read this. I was sure glad I did.

Finally, I am a huge Game of Thrones fan, so I am always looking for a great epic fantasy sort of read with a huge cast of characters and lots of story. So I was thrilled when I found Blood Song by Anthony Ryan.

I saw it sitting deserted at the library check out desk—it was definitely a case of a cover that caught my eye--and since no one was claiming it, I checked it out immediately and took it home. Okay, there might have been some guilt involved that the person was in the bathroom or something, but I got over it quickly as it is a story that grabs you.

Best of all, Blood Song is the perfect read while waiting for the next GOT season and/or book. The story had me at the opening where the hero is dumped as a small child at a monastery and kept me enthralled to the very end—which was just a heart wrencher. Best part: there are two more books in the series.
Visit Elizabeth Boyle's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Cassandra Rose Clarke

Cassandra Rose Clarke's novels have been finalists for the Philip K. Dick Award, the Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award, and YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults. Her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons and Daily Science Fiction.

Clarke's latest novel is Star's End.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m a multi-reader, so here are the three books that currently have me totally ensnared:

It, by Stephen King: I have never read this before, despite reading Stephen King quite a bit in junior high. I was always most interested in his short stories; as a kid his novels intimidated me. Actually, they still intimidate me. The paperback version of It that I bought at Barnes and Noble the other day has a two and half inch spine. Seriously, I measured it. I’m only about a quarter of an inch in, but already I can see why this book has the reputation it does. I’m not one to really be scared by books, but already I love the complexity of the alternating timelines and the propulsion of finding out what It is.

Winter Tide, by Ruthanna Emrys: I’ve been waiting for this book since it was announced. It features a world and characters first introduced in a short story called “The Litany of Earth” which was one of those stories I fell in love with and tried to get everyone to read back when it first came out. The story and the novel are takes on Lovecraft, except told from the perspective of the Deep Ones, the frog people from The Shadow over Innsmouth. It’s a book that undermines Lovecraft’s racism and sexism with huge doses of pathos and empathy by presenting the Deep Ones not as monsters but as feared and misunderstood humans (ie, not frog people). I’ve never been able to get through Lovecraft’s actual writing, but I adore this book.

Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff: I was in the mood for a literary book when I started this one, and boy has it delivered! I love unreliable narrators, and Fates and Furies has a great one in Lotto, whose voice takes up the first half of the book and who also, it turns out, could only tell half of the story. At its core, Fates and Furies is a book about a marriage, and the structure itself mirrors a marriage, in that you can’t see the whole picture without reading both parts—including all the lies of omission that ultimately make a marriage work.
Visit Cassandra Rose Clarke's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Mad Scientist's Daughter.

The Page 69 Test: Star's End.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Nicole Helget

Nicole Helget is the multigenre author of The Summer of Ordinary Ways, The Turtle Catcher, Horse Camp, Stillwater, Wonder at the Edge of the World and The End of the Wild.

Recently I asked Helget about what she was reading. Her reply:
I have a different book or reading device in every area of the house, in the car, and on the porch. Next to my bed, I keep Sarah Kendzior’s essay collection, The View From Flyover Country. She’s a fantastic journalist, who has spent her career studying totalitarianist regimes and whose twitter feed is the first thing I consult in the morning before I turn on the news and get my morning fix of rage and inspiration to be a better writer, teacher, neighbor, and citizen. Her book is a collection of some of her best works on the economy, globalization, academics, and culture. I am daily in contact with rural people, many of whom voted for Trump, and I’m also working on my own essay collection, Requiem, a book that hopefully tells a national story through the tight lens of the life of a rural woman, me, and that comes out with Minneopa Valley Press sometime next year. The project often feels too large, overwhelming, and Kendzior keeps me motivated and reminds me that there’s room for voices from flyover country.

In the car (while parked and waiting for the kids to get out of school), I’m reading Louise Erdrich’s LaRose again. I already read it, but the first time through, I absorbed it like a reader. Now, I’m going back and examining it as a writer. I randomly select paragraphs here and there and really scrutinize her sentences, everything from their length and construction to their detail, diction, and music, and then I just sit back and appreciate the cumulative effect. One word, one sentence, one paragraph at a time, Erdrich demonstrates her artfulness.

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes is my porch reading. Even though I have now written two middle grade novels, I am still learning a lot about the craft of writing for children. While writing, I lean toward long sentences that wax on and on, usually about setting. I also tend to interrupt my forward-motion with back story. I do many other things that work better in adult fiction than in stories for young people. Middle-grade is very story focused. I think Parker Rhodes is one of the best MG writers out there, so I’m immersed in the world of Deja, the main character, as she navigates family, friends, school, community, and nation in a post-9/11 world, learning how to be a better writer for this population of readers.
Visit Nicole Helget's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Turtle Catcher.

The Page 69 Test: The End of the Wild.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Brian Staveley

Brian Staveley is the author of the award-winning fantasy trilogy, The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne. After teaching literature, philosophy, history, and religion for more than a decade, he began writing fiction. His first book, The Emperor’s Blades, won the David Gemmell Morningstar Award, the Reddit Stabby for best debut, and scored semi-finalist spots in the Goodreads Choice Awards in two categories: epic fantasy and debut. The entire trilogy, which includes The Providence of Fire and the The Last Mortal Bond has been translated into over ten languages worldwide.

Steveley's new novel is Skullsworn, a standalone.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Silk, by Alessandro Baricco, is a stunning novella that’s one part fairy tale, one part historical fiction, and one part heartbreaking romance. It tells the tale of Hervé Joncour, a merchant who travels the world to find silkworm eggs to sell in the French town where he lives. As the European and African silkworms succumb to disease, he must travel further and further, leaving his wife, Hélène, for months at a time. At last, his travels bring him to Japan, where he falls in love with a woman to whom he never speaks.

The story covers years and thousands of miles, but rather than try to render everything, Baricco chooses his moments. Joncour will cross all of Europe and Asia in a short paragraph, but then we get the chance to linger on exchanges like this:
For days Hervé Joncour continued to lead a retired life; he was hardly seen in the town, and spent his time working on the plan for the park that sooner or later he would build. He filled sheets and sheets with strange designs that looked like machines. One evening Hélène asked him,

“What is it?”

“It’s an aviary.”

“An aviary?”

“Yes.”

“And what is its purpose?”

Hervé Joncour kept his eyes fixed on those drawings.

“You fill it with birds, as many as you can, then one day, when something lovely happens to you, you open the doors and watch them fly away.”
This exchange constitutes perhaps ten percent of the total dialogue between the two, and it is from such delicate miniatures that we are asked to reconstitute their entire inner lives. Reading this book is like glimpsing an elegant hand—the nail polish, the lines in the palm, the fine and faded scars, the rings—and imagining an entire life. That simple fact that, in the above passage, Joncour keeps his eyes on the page, tells us volumes about his mental and emotional state, as well as the condition of his marriage. Baricco relies on details like this throughout. As a result, when we arrive at the end, which has a heartrending twist, we are forced to see anew every aspect of the story, even the seemingly inconsequential details.

This is a gorgeous story about love, sacrifice, and the temptations, opportunities, and dangers of the human imagination. I can’t recommend it enough.
Visit Brian Staveley's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Providence of Fire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Nina Sankovitch

Nina Sankovitch is the author of Tolstoy and the Purple Chair and Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Celebrating the Joys of Letter Writing. She was born in Evanston, Illinois, and is a graduate of Evanston Township High School, Tufts University, and Harvard Law School.

Sankovitch's new book is The Lowells of Massachusetts: An American Family.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
People often ask me if I still read a book a day, as I did during my year of magical reading. Although I no longer can read six or so hours a day, I still enjoy two to three books a week as a very necessary dose of escape and comfort. I also read eight to ten books a month as a judge for Book of the Month Club, which is a wonderful way of finding out about all the great new books coming out. I picked Kathleen Rooney’s Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk for January, a lovely, engaging, moving, and unforgettable story of an older woman taking a very long walk through New York City on New Year’s Eve 1984 and looking back at her twentieth century life in the city.

I recently finished Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders and I absolutely loved it. I knew the story of Lincoln and the death of his son, and in my book Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Celebrating the Joys of Letter Writing, I write about all the condolence letters that the Lincolns received after poor Willie’s death. Saunders is a genius at portraying the grief of Lincoln and also the way in which both contemporaries of Lincoln and later biographers saw that period in his life. Civil War is on, boys are dying by the thousands, and how does this death fit in with all that sorrow? A beautiful, beautiful book. I am re-reading Lincoln in the Bardo now for one of my book groups, called “The Great Lines Book Group” because each of us has to bring to our monthly discussion a selection of our favorite lines from the chosen book. There are so many great lines to choose from in Lincoln in the Bardo, such as “These and all things started as nothing, latent within a vast energy-broth, but then we named them, and loved them, and in this way, brought them forth.” Just beautiful.

I am also in the midst of reading a selection of books I just picked up at my local library book sale, including The Rector of Justin by Louis Auchincloss, Curtain by Agatha Christie, and Aloft by Chang-rae Lee, all by authors I love.
Visit Nina Sankovitch's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Lowells of Massachusetts.

The Page 99 Test: The Lowells of Massachusetts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 17, 2017

G.M. Malliet

G.M. Malliet is the author of the Max Tudor novels Wicked Autumn, A Fatal Winter, Pagan Spring, A Demon Summer, and The Haunted Season.

The latest book in the series is Devil's Breath.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Malliet's reply:
I am a great re-reader of books. It takes a long time for any book to come to my attention but when it does and I love it, I will go back and back over it. It think I'm hoping talent is contagious. Tana French has this affect on me, for one. Agatha Christie, for another.

Right now I'm rereading Wolf Hall. A book I loved so much we renamed our house to match Seymour's and attached a little plaque out front. It is meant as a joke of course. It confused the mail and delivery and GPS services so much we had to stop using it as part of our official address.

Anyway, why do I love Wolf Hall? Because Hilary Mantel has managed to achieve what many writers of history fail at. She puts you right there, back in time. Seeing the world the way a man of the world in the 1500s would see it. I've no doubt she got it right.

An example of Mantel's beautiful use of language, from Wolf Hall:

"The faint push and pull of the ocean is steady and insistent as his own heartbeat."
Visit G. M. Malliet's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: A Fatal Winter.

The Page 69 Test: The Haunted Season.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mindy McGinnis

Mindy McGinnis is an Edgar Award-winning author and assistant teen librarian who lives in Ohio. She graduated from Otterbein University with a degree in English Literature and Religion, and sees nothing wrong with owning nine cats. Two dogs balance things out nicely.

Her latest novel is Given to the Sea.

Recently I asked McGinnis about what she was reading. Her reply:
I read all over the place, genre-wise and age range. Here's a glimpse of what's on my nightstand at the moment.

I'm currently reading one of the great unread classic authors, who I'd never heard of though she was born and lived not ten miles from me -- something that is unheard of out where I live. Dawn Powell was an amazing author who could handle with equal grace the setting of a small town, or life in a big city. All her characters are flawed - some comically, some hatefully - but always the reader is turning the page. She was called "our best comic novelist" by Gore Vidal and Ernest Hemingway was a fan of hers. The American Library issued two collections of her novels, and I've recently finished the first, and immediately dove into the second.

On a more adventurous note, I'm reading Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray, a fantastic SciFi YA adventure where main characters with opposing viewpoints are trapped into working side by side. When Noemi's home planet of Genesis rebels against Earth, the blue planet sends mechs (robot soldiers) to attack. Noemi loses a good friend, and ditches her unit to try to find medical help on an abandoned Earth ship nearby. But a mech - abandoned for 30 years - has been waiting inside, and though he's loyal to his Earth-maker, his programming dictates that he obey the orders of a human... and Noemi is the first one he's seen in awhile. I'm enjoying it a lot!

Lastly, I'm a big fan of picture books and Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper is killing me. Big Cat likes his solitary lifestyle, until Little Cat shows up. At first, he doesn't like the kitten in his life, then as the grow together, Big Cat learns to love his new companion. Until one day, Big Cat is gone. Little Cat is now the Big Cat, and he doesn't know what to think when a new kitten comes home...
Visit Mindy McGinnis's website.

The Page 69 Test: Not a Drop to Drink.

The Page 69 Test: In a Handful of Dust.

--Marshal Zeringue