Thursday, May 24, 2018

Christina June

Christina June writes young adult contemporary fiction when she’s not writing college recommendation letters during her day job as a school counselor. She loves the little moments in life that help someone discover who they’re meant to become – whether it’s her students or her characters.

June is a voracious reader, loves to travel, eats too many cupcakes, and hopes to one day be bicoastal – the east coast of the US and the east coast of Scotland. She lives in Virginia with her husband and daughter.

Her debut novel, It Started with Goodbye, was released in May 2017; the newly released Everywhere You Want to Be is its companion.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. June's reply:
I just finished the wonderful A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole. It's a contemporary romance with a royalty bent. A woman who grew up in the foster care system, and is on her way to becoming a successful scientist, turns out to be the long-lost betrothed to a handsome prince from the fictional African country, Thesolo. It's Coming to America meets The Princess Diaries plus a woman in STEM. I loved it. Naledi is a fantastic heroine--she is smart, funny, and never once casts herself as a victim, despite having endured many challenges in her life. She is sure of herself and what she wants, which is a career where she makes a difference. The romance is just the cherry on top for her. She's a fantastic role model. Prince Thabiso was also a well-drawn character, with a witty sense of humor and sizzling chemistry with Naledi. I appreciate that every step of their relationship was driven by mutual respect. Cole has a companion novel coming next, starring Naledi's best friend Portia and I can't wait!
Visit Christina June's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Kathleen George

Kathleen George is the author of The Johnstown Girls, a novel about the famous Johnstown flood. She has also written seven mysteries set in Pittsburgh: A Measure of Blood, Simple, The Odds, which was nominated for the Edgar® Award from the Mystery Writers of America, Hideout, Afterimage, Fallen, and Taken. George is also the author of the short story collection The Man in the Buick and editor of another collection, Pittsburgh Noir. She is a professor of theater arts and creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh.

George's new novel is The Blues Walked In.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I had surgery on January 16 and it was a big one that involved my spine top to bottom, so ... I read. I read a lot. I read at least 30 novels since then and have slowed down a little since I am now out and about. I read a good number of the much talked about current books like An American Marriage and Tangerine and I was appreciative of almost everything, but I will talk about the ones that still haunt me.

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende caught me up in a redefinition of passionate love. The characters were interesting, ragged, unconventional and so was the secret love affair that lasted a lifetime. I was touched to think of such deep feeling. And the strength of secrecy.

Ali Smith’s Autumn (there is a theme here) amazed me with an unconventional young woman who never apologized for her passion for an idiosyncratic old man. In fact there is the feeling that they kept each other alive and that nobody could provide criticisms that could shake this relationship.

A quarter of the reading public complains that Amor Towles’ A Gentleman In Moscow isn’t dark enough, that nobody can believe such positivity and wit in a story of decades of house arrest amounting to imprisonment. But I believed it. I identified with it. And I am in the majority. To maintain wit, sensitivity, sensual pleasure, and kindness when one has no freedom is a triumph. I loved asking and asking, “When will this break down?” And being lifted again and again.

There is a character based on Philip Roth in Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday. The narrative question was, “This can’t go on and on, can it? Isn’t it bad for this young woman, his love interest?” The affair went on and on and it was bad but also it wasn’t and it was and it wasn’t. The book is smart, so smart.

Also sticking with me is Love and Ruin by Paula McLain. She is known for The Paris Wife about Hemingway’s first wife and has told the story in her newest book about Marty Gellhorn, his third wife, in the first person. Marty and Ernest and Dos Passos are all convincing and the novel is full of history and information as well as a scalding portrait of a doomed love affair.

All I can say is thank God for books, the ones you can let go and the ones that haunt. They filled me.
Visit Kathleen George's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Julie Clark

Born and raised in Santa Monica, California, Julie Clark grew up reading books on the beach while everyone else surfed. After attending college at University of the Pacific, and a brief stint working in the athletic department at University of California, Berkeley, she returned home to Santa Monica to teach. She now lives there with her two young sons and a golden doodle with poor impulse control.

The Ones We Choose is her first novel.

Recently I asked Clark about what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished an ARC of The Summer List by Amy Mason Doan. This is a gorgeous debut that will completely capture your mind and heart. It's the story of childhood friends Laura and Casey, who are re-united after many years of estrangement. As they navigate their own memories of the past and what tore them apart, they are forced to reconcile what they each believed happened with a secret that was concealed from them both. It releases June 26, and I'm certain it will be one of the summer's hottest books!
Visit Julie Clark's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 21, 2018

Glenn Cooper

Glenn Cooper is an internationally known bestselling thriller writer who has sold over seven million books in thirty translations. His first novel, Library of the Dead, sold over two million copies. Of his thirteen published novels, many have become #1 fiction bestsellers in various European markets. He graduated from Harvard University with a degree in archaeology and got his medical degree from Tufts University School of Medicine before becoming an infectious diseases specialist. He later went onto medical research and biotechnology and became the Chairman and CEO of a large, publicly-traded biotech company in Massachusetts. During his free time he wrote screenplays and then tried his hand at novels, culminating in Library of the Dead, which is now in development as a TV series. His current series of religious conspiracy thrillers, beginning with Sign of the Cross, features Cal Donovan, professor of history of religion and archaeology at the Harvard Divinity School. Cooper lives and writes full-time in Sarasota, Florida.

Recently I asked Cooper about what he was reading. His reply:
I’m currently writing a new book, the fourth Cal Donovan in a new series of religious conspiracy thrillers that begins with the just-released Sign of the Cross in the US/UK. Parenthetically, the explanation for this English-language publication lag is that my European publishers have a leg-up on the schedule. While I’m writing, I tend to avoid fiction because I’m something of a magpie – i.e., in the heat of battle, I’m given to plagiarizing words, phrases, physical descriptions and whatnot. So leadeth me not into temptation. That’s why I’m reading non-fiction. Incidentally, in the brief inter-regnum between books, I eagerly read and enjoyed Le CarrĂ©’s A Legacy of Spies.

I’ve got a number of books on my table, mostly for research for my work-in-progress, one for pleasure/work. The latter is Foreign Devils on the Silk Road by Peter Hopkirk. My college degree is in archaeology and I try to keep up with new developments in the field for personal and professional edification (translation: fishing for new ideas for Cal Donovan who’s an archaeologist). The Hopkirk book is a revelation to me because it details an archaeological subject of which I was wholly ignorant—the wholesale looting at the turn of the twentieth century of China’s medieval cultural heritage by European, American and Japanese archaeologists and adventurers. It’s a gripping read and I’ve already got ideas spinning around that might land in Cal Donovan’s lap one day.

The other things I’m reading all involve historical background for my newest Cal Donovan book that draws heavily from the Elizabethan magus and polymath, John Dee, who exhaustively chronicled his conversations with angels that he summoned with his medium, Edward Kelley, to try to understand the mysteries of the universe. Dee learned how to speak and write the angelic language and I’m trying too without much success. It’s complicated.
Visit Glenn Cooper's website.

The Page 69 Test: Sign of the Cross.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Mindee Arnett

Mindee Arnett is the author of the critically acclaimed sci-fi thriller Avalon as well as the Arkwell Academy series and the newly released Onyx and Ivory. An avid eventer, she lives on a farm near Dayton, Ohio with her husband, two kids, and assorted animals. When not telling tales of magic, the supernatural, or outer space, she can be found on a horse, trying to jump anything that will stand still.

Recently I asked Arnett about what she was reading. Her reply:
As usual, my reading material has been all over the board in terms of genre and themes. I started the year off with young adult fantasies like An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson and Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. Then I switched to sci-fi for a little while, reading book 3 in The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey (which the awesome TV show of the same title is based on), and then Obsidio, the third and final book in the stellar Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, and now I’ve moved onto some middle grade.

But the book I want to talk about most, the book that has stayed with the most so far this season, is The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. This is a portal fantasy about a girl who’s spent her whole life on the run from people obsessed with a set of fairy tale stories her grandmother published years ago—and from the characters in those stories as well. This book is trippy, beautiful written, and utterly gripping. I read it far too fast, and I keep going back to it in my mind. I have a feeling it’ll be one of my seminal reads, a book I go back to again and again simply to re-experience them (other books on this list include the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, The Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor, and Harry Potter of course).

I think the reason why The Hazel Wood has made this list is because of the way it makes me feel—like magic is real, like the fantastical is waiting just around the corner, in the shadows beneath the bed, or in that faint movement out of the corner of my eye, the one I can’t quite catch no matter how fast I turn my head. Do you know the feeling I mean? The Hazel Wood made me feel like anything was possible while reading it, and that’s a feeling I’ll return to forever.
Visit Mindee Arnett's website.

The Page 69 Test: Avalon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Ryan Kirk

Ryan Kirk is an author and entrepreneur based out of Minnesota. He is the author of the Nightblade series of fantasy novels and the founder of Waterstone Media.

Kirk's latest novel is Nightblade's Honor.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Kirk's reply:
I have to confess that 2018 has been a great year of reading so far. There have been a few stories that stand out to me.

The first is Abaddon's Gate, by James SA Corey. This is the third book of the much-loved Expanse series, and for good reason. I was introduced to the world by the television series, but immediately knew I needed to read the books the shows are based off of. This story deserves all the success it has seen. Not only is it an imaginative romp through our solar system, the pacing and characters keep me turning pages almost as fast as my kindle will allow. I'm even more impressed that as the series grows I continue to love it. I'm three books in, and each one has been a stellar experience.

Another story I've loved recently is Daredevil: Redemption, a six comic miniseries. Last year, thanks to the gentle nudging of an editor, I began reading comics. It's been an eye-opening experience, and to me, this miniseries encapsulates why. Comics are capable of such variety, even inside of the tent pole studios like Marvel. This particular Daredevil story doesn't even have much Daredevil in it, instead focusing on a particular case Matt Murdoch is involved in. It's relentlessly dark, but I found the change of pace (from heroes punching villains) to be a fantastic exploration of the medium.

Finally, another book that piqued my interest was Skyfarer. I've been fascinated by the way in which sci-fi and fantasy have begun to merge, and this book in particular was a fun and enjoyable read.
Visit Ryan Kirk's website.

The Page 69 Test: Nightblade's Vengeance.

The Page 69 Test: Nightblade's Honor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell” is the pen name of John G. Hemry, a retired naval officer who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis before serving with the surface fleet and in a variety of other assignments. He is the New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Fleet series and The Lost Stars series, as well as the Stark’s War, Paul Sinclair, and Pillars of Reality series. He lives with his indomitable wife and three children in Maryland.

Campbell's new novel is Ascendant.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Campbell's reply:
I've been reading a mix of fiction and non-fiction lately. In non-fiction, I've been going back over Svetlana Alexievich's The Unwomanly Face of War. It's an incredibly powerful book, combining mostly untold history with a bottom up view of major events. For the most part the book consists of short pieces of interviews with Russian women who fought on the Eastern Front in World War Two. Their voices bring out clearly their sacrifices and their achievements without any boasting, just matter-of-fact accounts such as those of then-16-year old combat medics riding on the backs of tanks into battle so they could pull wounded men out of burning tanks and carry them back to safety. There's a bit from the book that sort of sums it up for me, by a member of an infantry battalion that helped capture Berlin. "I wrote my name on the Reichstag…I wrote with charcoal, with what was at hand: 'You were defeated by a Russian girl from Saratov.'" It's an amazing bit of history that is little known.

In terms of fiction, I just finished reading a book by a new author which was sent to me for a possible quote. Michael Mammay is a former US Army officer who has written Planetside. One of the things about what is sometimes called military SF (or just a type of space opera) is that the different "generations" bring perspectives born of their wars to the stories they tell. The WW II generation of writers often wrote of total war. The Vietnam era vets such as Joe Haldeman and David Drake brought their take on war. Cold War vets of the 70s, 80s, and 90s had yet a different "war" to form their tales, and now the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan such as Mammay and Kacey Ezell are telling their stories (which, sadly, bear some of the same marks as those of veterans of Vietnam). These stories show how every war is different and every war is the same. Military SF gives us pictures of personal history that are a step removed from non-fiction accounts, yet allow the varied perspectives created by setting those experiences in different times and places, and against different enemies. There are some truths, I think, that can only be seen by such methods. (Kacey Ezell is, though, an example of how poorly SF has done at predicting the future. If someone had written an SF story in 1967 about a female combat pilot operating UH-1 Hueys in a war set fifty years in the future, it would have been rejected as unbelievable for both the idea of a woman combat pilot and for the idea that we'd still be using UH-1s as front-line combat aircraft half a century later.)
Visit Jack Campbell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Samuel Miller

Samuel Miller was born and raised in Vermillion, South Dakota, and now resides in Los Angeles, where, in addition to writing, he directs music videos and coaches Little League Baseball. He began writing his first novel while on tour in a fifteen-passenger van with the rock band Paradise Fears. A Lite Too Bright is his debut novel. Currently he attends graduate school at the University of Southern California. He credits his existence entirely to two spectacular parents, three brothers, one sister, and the best and sweetest puppy dog on the whole planet, Addison.

Recently I asked Miller about what he was reading. His reply:
Right now, I'm making my way through Liu Cixin's Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy (I'm on The Dark Forest now), which is thrilling me in a way that most Sci Fi doesn't (particularly Sci Fi that's this...measured). The ideas are enormous & sprawling & deliberately force the reader to question how much we know, & how much we can know about the universe around us. I'm also a sucker for people staring down the end of humanity & talking existentially about it, & this book has...plenty of that.

Outside of that, I just read Dreamland, which is a painfully effective study of the history of opioids, which I think is essential reading in 2018 America, particularly for the parts of 2018 America where this suffering isn't readily apparent (I live in Los Angeles). I also just finished Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 which amused & delighted me... & made me want to be a better writer.
Visit Samuel Miller's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Martha Wells

Martha Wells has written many fantasy novels, including The Books of the Raksura series (beginning with The Cloud Roads), the Ile-Rien series (including The Death of the Necromancer) as well as YA fantasy novels, short stories, media tie-ins (for Star Wars and Stargate: Atlantis), and non-fiction. Her more recent fantasy novels include The Edge of Worlds in 2016 and The Harbors of the Sun in 2017, the final novel in The Books of the Raksura series. Her series of SF novellas, The Murderbot Diaries, from includes Artificial Condition.

Recently I asked Wells about what she was reading. Her reply:
I've just finished An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, which is getting excellent reviews for a good reason: it's an intense, gripping story that is brilliantly written. It's described as being about a group trapped on a generation ship which is under the control of a religious dictatorship and organized like the pre-Civil War south with decks segregated by race and treated like prisons. But it's also about smart people trying to find ways to survive and escape, about holding on to hope under the most extreme conditions possible, and continuing to fight no matter what.

I also read a lot of graphic novels, including Ms. Marvel and Doctor Who. Most recently I've read the latest volume of Paper Girls by Brian Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, and Matt Wilson. It's the story of four teenage girls from the 80s who meet early in the morning on Halloween and end up taking off on a wild and often deadly adventure. It's a bit like Stranger Things, but with time travel, alien attacks, a much faster pace, and an unlimited budget.
Visit Martha Wells's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 14, 2018

Madeline Miller

Madeline Miller was born in Boston and grew up in New York City and Philadelphia. She attended Brown University, where she earned her BA and MA in Classics. She has taught and tutored Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to high school students for more than fifteen years.

She has also studied at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, and in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School of Drama, where she focused on the adaptation of classical texts to modern forms.

The Song of Achilles, her first novel, was awarded the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction and was a New York Times bestseller. It has been translated into over twenty-five languages including Dutch, Mandarin, Japanese, Turkish, Arabic and Greek. Miller was also shortlisted for the 2012 Stonewall Writer of the Year, and her essays have appeared in a number of publications including the Guardian, Wall Street Journal, Lapham's Quarterly and

Her second novel, Circe, was an instant #1 New York Times bestseller.

Recently I asked Miller about what she was reading. Her reply:
The Verdun Affair, by Nick Dybek. I was surprised to be sent an advanced copy of this novel, since I usually receive ancient war books, not modern ones. But I did what I always do: read the first page to see if it grabbed me. And it did! The novel is set after the first World War, and focuses on a former ambulance driver who is collecting the bones of the dead in the French countryside. It is a haunting set up, which Dybek draws out beautifully, giving us a narrator who can evoke both the mundane and devastating aspects of the task. It is a book about big things: memory and war, about the effect of unfathomable violence on our human psyches, about love, and the struggle to move forward after trauma. But what really drew me in was the characters. So often books that have such sweeping scope aren’t grounded in specific men and women struggling with hopes and griefs, but Dybek manages to make both the characters and the ideas sing. I was with him the whole way, drawn in by his insight and elegiac, understated prose. Coming out officially June 2018.

The Unstrung Harp, or Mr Earbrass Writes a Novel, by Edward Gorey. Let’s be honest: I’m always reading Mr. Earbrass. It is the most brilliant and hilarious book about writing a novel that I have ever found. In it, Mr. Earbrass is a hapless yet somewhat famous author, beginning his new book (titled The Unstrung Harp—the title is chosen at random from a list of them he keeps in a drawer). We follow him through its creation to publication and beyond, and every page is funnier than the last, all serving up Gorey’s trademark mordant humor, his absurd and evocative art, but also a potent examination of the artist’s journey. I have so many favorite moments that it is hard to choose one, but I often think of Mr. Earbrass approaching his final edits with “a vast reluctance” because the manuscript has become “physically repulsive” to him. That’s why I have to love what I’m writing about so deeply: otherwise I could never get through the grueling rounds of revision! Gorey’s combination of skewering and sympathy makes for the perfect antidote to what ails any artist.
Visit Madeline Miller's website.

See Madeline Miller's top ten classical books.

My Book, The Movie: The Song of Achilles.

--Marshal Zeringue