Thursday, December 8, 2016

Ten top cats in literature

Lynne Truss is the author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Cat Out of Hell, the newly released The Lunar Cats, and other books. One of her top ten cats in literature, as shared at the Guardian:
Thomasina, the Cat Who Thought She Was God by Paul Gallico

Mystical cat

Thomasina is a large tabby belonging to the small daughter of a Scottish vet – a stiff and angrily bereaved man. Thomasina requires the vet’s services on a day when he has his hands full and he orders for her to be put to sleep. His daughter, deranged by grief, becomes catatonic. Meanwhile Thomasina drifts into a past life in which she was an Egyptian goddess and is rescued by a nice witchy lady who heals sick animals by mystical means. As the poor child lapses into fever and reaches a crisis, Thomasina recovers her memory and returns home to save the day at the very last minute.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see the 25 best cats in sci-fi & fantasy and the top ten cats in children's books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Eight of the best portal fantasy novels

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog Martin Cahill tagged eight truly transporting portal fantasy novels, including:
Coraline, by Neil Gaiman

One of Gaiman’s earlier novels, with a successful movie adaptation from Laika Studios, Coraline is one of those deceptively terrifying books that draw you with mysterious descriptions, and then hold you tight as the scares and the creeps come faster and faster. Coraline and her family move to a new house, and young Coraline is pretty fed up with it; it’s old, it’s boring, and her parents do not give her the attention she wants. But when she discovers the key to a locked door in the living room, she goes through into a different world: a big, beautiful, lavish house, with parents who shower her with attention and treats, with entertainment around every corner. It is perfect. So perfect, she doesn’t even mind that her Other Mother and Other Father have buttons for eyes. And that they don’t like when she leaves. And, in fact, don’t want her to go at all. Gaiman’s spooky story is a prime illustration of how sometimes, an imperfect world is a perfectly fine thing, and that what you journey to find may have been in front of you all along.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Coraline appears among Keith Donohue's five notable books about puppets and living dolls, Christopher Edge's top ten parallel worlds in fiction, Aliette de Bodard's five creepiest monsters in fantasy, Shaun Byron Fitzpatrick's top seven awesomely scary novels, and Sam Leith's top ten alternative realities.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten tales of adventure

Jane Johnson has written a number of books under the pseudonym Jude Fisher: the official guides to Peter L. Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, and Fool’s Gold fantasy trilogy. One of her top ten tales of adventure, as shared at the Guardian:
Touching the Void by Joe Simpson

I defy anyone not to read this gripping story, Simpson's first book, in a single sitting. Even though my rational mind was whispering that the author must by some miracle have survived his horrifying fall on the way back down from an Andean peak, my heart was racing and (as a climber) my palm sweating in sympathy as the tale unfurled in all its appalling detail. Amazing, real-life adventure.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Five YA books for "Westworld" fans

Darren Croucher writes YA novels with a partner, under the name A.D. Croucher. At the B&N Reads blog he tagged five YA novels for fans of HBO's Westworld, including:
Girl Parts, by John Cusick

David is plugged in. He’s always online, and has friends everywhere. Charlie, not so much. However, David is clinically “disassociated,” and to help him learn how to connect, his parents buy him the newest Companion Bot, a redhead called Rose. David has some ideas about how he’d like to connect, but unlike in Westworld, this robot has strict intimacy protocols (and no “girl parts”), and shocks him whenever he’s being inappropriate. Useful trick. Rose gradually begins to understand what she is, and develops more emotional responses. Which is when she runs away, and runs into Charlie. The story focuses on Rose as she becomes more than a machine, but we also get two very vivid portraits of lonely teenagers struggling to relate to a world they don’t understand in David and Charlie. Friendship, love, and loss mix in this unique sci-fi fable.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Esquire's 25 best books of 2016

At Esquire Maris Kreizman and Angela Ledgerwood came up with a list of the 25 best books of 2016, including:
Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Evicted is one of those Important Books That Every American Should Read that you might pass up because it looks so Important and Not Fun. But you should know that it's worth a full read—the excellence of Evicted lies not only in the overall message that the housing crisis in America is an endless cycle of pain and inequality, but in the details that humanize the facts and figures that accompany the writing. Matthew Desmond is a sociologist and urban ethnographer who gets in on the ground of the poorest districts in Milwaukee and reports on eight families who are on the brink, along with the landlords and the city officials with whom they interact. With a presidential election coming up, there's no book that speaks more to the injustice of America's infrastructure.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 5, 2016

Roz Chast's 6 favorite books

Roz Chast is a New Yorker cartoonist and author of the award-winning graphic memoir Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? One of her six favorite books, as shared at The Week magazine:
The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

One of my favorite books of all time. The central character is a young man who goes to a tuberculosis sanitarium in the Swiss Alps to visit his ailing cousin and winds up spending seven years there. It's about sickness and health, but also about politics, religion, sexuality, and a continent on the brink of World War I.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Magic Mountain also appears on Annie Baker's six favorite books list, Lars Iyer's top ten list of literary frenemies, Edmund Morris's five best list of novels on time and memory, Brian Dillon's list of the five best books on hypochondria, Arthur Phillipss' list of five novels about life during the collapse of the Hapsburg Empire, and John Mullan's lists of ten of the best visits to the cinema in literature and ten of the best depictions of the Alps.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Five novels that represent the ins and outs of large families

At B&N Reads Hanna McGrath tagged five top novels that really represent the ins and outs of large families, including:
The Gathering, by Anne Enright (12 kids)

This winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize follows the Hegerty family, a large Irish brood raised in Dublin. As the book opens, the Hegertys are gathering for the funeral of their brother Liam. The novel centers on Liam’s sister Veronica, and the history of the family unfolds through her recollections and memories. There are so many elements in this book that fall into what is stereotypically “Irish”: drunken fights, domestic violence, melancholy, suicide, and pretty much everything depressing. But this book is so much more than that. Thanks to Enright’s command of language, the story doesn’t dwell (or depend too much) on these tragic tropes to move it along; rather, they act as idiosyncrasies of each character. Through Veronica’s memories, the reader is also asked an important question any family faces: How do you know what’s true and what’s fiction in stories when they become as much a part of a family as the people in them?
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Five books about human horror

J.A. Rock is the author or coauthor of over twenty LGBTQ romance, suspense, and horror novels, as well as an occasional contributor to HuffPo Queer Voices. One of her five "favorite horror stories where the real danger is human, rather than paranormal," as shared at Tor.com:
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Told from the perspective of the mother of a school shooter writing letters to her estranged husband, We Need to Talk About Kevin explores the question of nature versus nurture in determining human wickedness. When I told my mom I was doing this list and asked if she would consider Kevin a horror novel, she stared at me for a second and said, “That last scene, J.A. That last scene.” I agree. Though it’s technically literary fiction, and very much grounded in reality, this deft and unflinching portrayal of a family torn apart by violence is truly horrifying. The novel’s last few scenes are particularly brutal, culminating in a heave-up-your-lunch final image that is burned forever in my mind.
Read about the other entries on the list.

We Need to Talk about Kevin is on Dea Brøvig’s top ten list of books about mothers, Michael Hogan's list of the ten best fictional evil children, Fiona Maazel's list of the ten worst fathers in books, John Mullan's list of ten of the best sentences as book titles, and Shirley Henderson's six best books list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 2, 2016

Six classic mysteries

Charles Finch is a graduate of Yale and Oxford. He is the author of the Charles Lenox mysteries. His first novel, A Beautiful Blue Death, was nominated for an Agatha Award and was named one of Library Journal's Best Books of 2007, one of only five mystery novels on the list. His first contemporary novel, The Last Enchantments, was published in 2015.

In 2014, for USA Today, he tagged six classic mysteries every fan should read, including:
A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George (1988)

If you like, you can draw a picture of two opposing strands of mystery: the British one (the tidy drawing room solutions of Holmes and Poirot) and the American one (the messier darkness of Archer and Highsmith's other great creation, the title charlatan of The Talented Mr. Ripley).

Elizabeth George combined them. She gave murder back to the upper classes – one of her detectives, Thomas Lynley, is an earl – but she's an American, and all of her books, especially her early ones, have terrific psychological depth. She understood what Somerset Maugham said: that murder is so fascinating to us because it's the one act a person can't take back. In A Great Deliverance, a woman is found sitting with an ax beside her father's corpse, and immediately admits: "I did it." What follows is totally gripping, blending the old and new traditions of the mystery novel.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Ten top books about New Orleans

The Guardian invited its readers to come up with the best books about New Orleans. One title to make the list:
Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins (1984)

This novel features four main storylines, set in eighth-century Bohemia and modern-day Paris, Seattle and, of course, New Orleans. One of writer Patrick Ness’s top “unsuitable” books for teenagers – that he nevertheless enjoyed in his teen years: “I was amazed to discover that fiction could be, of all things, playful. That it didn’t always need to be polite. That it could have runaway metaphors just for a laugh”.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Top ten books about postwar Britain

Orange Prize winning and Booker Prize shortlisted author Linda Grant's new novel is The Dark Circle. One of Grant's ten top books about postwar Britain, as shared at the Guardian:
The Virgin in the Garden by AS Byatt

The optimism about the new Elizabethan age – anticipated after the Queen was crowned in 1953 – is reflected in Byatt’s novel about a group of young people in Yorkshire putting on a pageant to commemorate the coming coronation. In another part of the landscape a new university is planned, part of the concrete and plate-glass expansion of higher education that would arrive in the 60s. Byatt would follow her characters through to late middle age in subsequent novels.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Five sci-fi & fantasy books that treat mental illness with compassion

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog Ardi Alspach tagged five works of speculative fiction that address mental illness with compassion, including:
Planetfall, Emma Newman

Emma Newman is known for her Split Worlds urban fantasy series, the first of which was shortlisted for the British Fantasy Society’s Best Novel and Best Newcomer awards. She also hosts the Hugo-nominated podcast “Tea and Jeopardy.” Planetfall is her first science-fiction novel, and is absolutely stunning. Newman has been open about her own struggle with anxiety, and it clearly informed the direction of this novel, which follows a new colony of humans inhabiting a seemingly empty alien world. The setting is littered with the remnants of ancient alien architecture that prove key to solving the mystery surrounding the death of the colony’s founder and visionary, but the most fascinating element of the narrative is that we experience everything through the eyes of the deeply troubled Ren, who is coping successfully and not-so-successfully with isolationism, loss, and the burden of carrying secrets in a small, hermetically sealed society. When an impossible stranger enters their midst, the careful balance Ren has struck between herself and the other colonists is threatened. I hesitate to reveal more about the plot, as the shattering beauty of the book hinges so much on the journey of discovery for both the narrator and the reader. I’m very much looking forward to the companion volume, After Atlas, in November.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue