Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Four literary families who sabotaged each other’s careers

Jeff Somers is the author of the Avery Cates series, The Ustari Cycle, Lifers, and Chum (among many other books) and numerous short stories. At the B&N Reads blog he tagged four literary families who sabotaged each other’s careers, including:
Margaret Drabble and A.S. Byatt

Sisters Drabble (The Pure Gold Baby) and Byatt (Possession) have between them won dozens of awards, sold a mess of books, and earned literary reputations many would kill for. They also, in no uncertain terms, hate each other. They throw shade at one another in both interviews and in their fiction, and haven’t spoken in decades except through withering insults offered up in interviews. Neither ever fails to say something negative—sometimes openly hostile —when the other publishes a new book. The product of an intensely unhappy and ultra-competitive upbringing, each remembers the other being mother’s favorite, and resents it with a passion. It’s entirely possible that, had the sisters evolved different artistic interests, they’d have maintained a relationship. With both of them pursuing storied literary careers, however, their sibling rivalry was doomed to blossom into something that can be culled only with fire and blood.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Five books about loving everybody

Nisi Shawl's new novel is Everfair. One of her five favorite polyamorous tales, "stories about kissing and hugging and making love with everybody, without guilt or shame," as shared at
Tales of Nevèrӱon by Samuel R. Delany

Tales of Nevèrӱon contains one of my favorite polyamorous situations. Obviously thumbing his authorial nose at traditional anthropology’s tendency to reframe other cultures’ practices within its own values, Delany writes of the polygamous Rulvyn from a feminist viewpoint. Among these mountain people, the sage Venn explains, “a strong woman married a prestigious hunter; then another strong woman would join them in marriage—frequently her friend—and the family would grow.” Reversing the conventional interpretation of polygamy’s power dynamic while keeping numbers and gender identical, Delany calls familiar readings of such relationships into question. Yet the brief passage on Rulvyn mores is only one of the many neat tricks he pulls off in this stunning 1979 fantasy, which on its surface is simply another book in the sword-and-sorcery subgenre.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 29, 2016

The nine greatest (worst) urban sprawls in sci-fi

Jeff Somers is the author of the Avery Cates series, The Ustari Cycle, Lifers, and Chum (among many other books) and numerous short stories. At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog he tagged nine of the greatest (worst) megacities in sci-fi, including:
The Roar, by Emma Clayton

Clayton’s debut book for young readers is set in a future where the world’s population has retreated behind a huge wall after a plague turns every animal into a vicious predator. A poisonous agent has been introduced outside the wall to kill everything, while urban sprawl on the other side has made the world into one enormous city, overcrowded and unhappy. As Clayton’s main character, Mika, investigates his sister’s disappearance, he begins to suspect that the people haven’t been told everything. What sets Clayton’s sprawl apart is the sense of claustrophobia, as most of the population lives in crowded, flooded slums—and any attempt at finding some space means running up against the monolithic wall.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six top books with memorable characters

Lisa McInerney’s first novel, The Glorious Heresies, won the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Desmond Elliott Prize, was shortlisted for Best Newcomer at the Irish Book Awards, and longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. One of her six favorite books with memorable characters, as shared at The Week magazine:
Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr.

Nobody captured the desperation of lives lived on the periphery quite like Selby did. His full-tilt prose was as provocative as he was empathetic. Although it's impossible to elect just one masterpiece from his work, this 1964 tale, with its cast of hopeful losers and souls warped by disadvantage and environment, is surely a contender for the Great American Novel.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Last Exit to Brooklyn is among Richard Price's five most essential books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Eight top books set at the dawn of time

At the B&N Reads blog Ross Johnson tagged eight of the best novels taking us back to before the earliest stories of humankind were written, including:
Shaman, by Kim Stanley Robinson

Timeframe: 32,000 years ago.

Another writer best known for his science fiction, Kim Stanley Robinson set this novel among the early modern humans of Europe (in what is today southern France, to be specific, with references to cave art that Werner Herzog fans might be well familiar with). It’s the story of Loon, a young man who survives an early test of manhood, as well as a violent encounter with the “Old Ones” (humans that we would call Neanderthals), both events setting him on a path to becoming the shaman-in-training for his tribe, even as he skirts the rules and conventions by taking on a family in defiance of his master, Thorn. The book doesn’t suffer for having an author whose work is typically about looking ahead; Loon is himself deeply focused on the future, even if the future looks very different from the perspective of ice age-era France.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Four books that changed Iain Reid

Iain Reid is the author of two critically acclaimed, award-winning books of nonfiction, One Bird's Choice and The Truth About Luck, and the novel I’m Thinking of Ending Things. One of four books that changed the author, as shared at the Sydney Morning Herald:
The Loser
Thomas Bernhard

Funny, weird, and unsettling. I bought this special book for $2 at a secondhand bookshop and devoured it while living in Toronto, a couple of years after graduating university. I was, and remain, amazed at how often the book makes me laugh, considering the content. I enjoy returning to it once a year or so, as I always find something else that I appreciate. Intricate in the very best way.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Six modern adaptations of classic stories

At B&N Reads Tara Sonin tagged six modern adaptations of classic novels, including:
Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi

The most literary of the books on this list, Boy, Snow, Bird is the most unique Snow White retelling I’ve ever read. In 1953, Boy Novak moves from New York to Massachusetts, looking for a new life. She marries a widower and by way of their marriage becomes stepmother to the beautiful and tempestuous Snow. Slowly, Boy finds herself becoming a wicked stepmother of fairytale lore, especially when her daughter, Bird, is born. Bird is dark-skinned, and Boy and her husband are exposed as light-skinned African Americans passing as white. A captivating examination of self-love, self-loathing, race, and gender in modern America, this is one fairytale you’ll never forget.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 26, 2016

Seven notable angry YA protagonists

At the BN Teen blog Sarah Skilton tagged seven notable angry YA protagonists, including:
Imogen in Bruised, by Sarah Skilton

Full disclosure: I wrote this one, and I put my heroine through the wringer. When Imogen witnesses a robbery and fails to prevent the shooting that follows, she blames herself for the loss of life. Why? Because she’s a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and has been training for years to handle that type of situation. Anger at herself, her womanizing older brother, her parents, her TKD instructor, and her friends manifests in the urge to participate in a real fight, no holds barred, no padding, and most importantly, no protective gear. Will she get her wish? And what will it do to her if she does?
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ten essential books about The Beatles

Jeff Somers is the author of the Avery Cates series, The Ustari Cycle, Lifers, and Chum (among many other books) and numerous short stories. At the B&N Reads blog he tagged ten top books about The Beatles, including:
Here, There and Everywhere, by Geoff Emerick

Emerick was the sound engineer on two of The Beatles’ most popular albums, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which arrived after the band gave up live performances to focus on working in the studio. The sound of these two albums reverberates through pop music today. Emerick offers a nice balance of engineering geekery and straightforward explanation that will make you hear the music differently.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see: Philip Norman's ten top books about The Beatles and five top books on The Beatles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten seaside novels

Alison Moore's first novel, The Lighthouse, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Awards (New Writer of the Year), winning the McKitterick Prize. Both The Lighthouse and her second novel, He Wants, were Observer Books of the Year. Moore's new novel is Death and the Seaside.

One of the author's ten top seaside novels, as shared at the Guardian:
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (2007)

In the summer of 1962, Edward and Florence are honeymooning in a hotel on the Dorset coast. On their first night, as they sit down to supper, they are all too aware of the view, through the open bedroom door, of a four-poster bed with a pure-white bedcover. With the point of view shifting tidally between them, the narrative traces the couple’s history, their anxieties, and the crucial failures of communication and understanding that lead to the story’s painful denouement.
Read about the other entries on the list.

On Chesil Beach also appears among Radhika Sanghani ten top books about losing one's virginity, Ella Berthoud's five top books on love, Eli Gottlieb's top 10 scenes from the battle of the sexes, and on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best honeymoons in literature, ten of the best beaches in literature, ten best marital arguments in literature, and ten of the best failed couplings in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Five terrific novels about art and artists

At B&N Reads Jenny Shank tagged five top novels about art and artists, including:
The Shadow Catcher by Marianne Wiggins

In this novel that seamlessly weaves together historical and contemporary fiction, a writer named Marianne Wiggins (who has some biographical overlap with the author) has written a book about Edward Curtis, the famed photographer of Native Americans and other inhabitants of the old West. Some disturbing news about her wayward father sends her on a roadtrip and gets her meditating on the life of Curtis. A section of the book is told from the perspective of Curtis’s frequently abandoned wife, Clara. Clara remembers what her dad told her about artists: “Talent, her father used to say, is more abundant than you think. You have to have the temperament to tolerate hard work. You have to flirt with luck. You have to take the chances that most people wouldn’t take.”
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Eight speculative works narrated by dead people

Jeff Somers is the author of the Avery Cates series, The Ustari Cycle, Lifers, and Chum (among many other books) and numerous short stories. At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog he tagged eight speculative works with dead narrators, including:
The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold

Perhaps the most famous modern example of the form, Sebold’s bestseller is both a meditation of what death does to the survivors who must reassemble their lives with one huge piece missing, and an exploration of one possible version of the afterlife. As the novel opens, 14-year-old Susie Solomon is cruising around a strange version of heaven that is shaped by her own living dreams and imaginings, even as she peers into the lives and hearts of her surviving family members—and spies on the man who murdered her. Though a literary sensation, this one could easily be shelved with other works of fantasy, as the speculative elements only become more prominent as the book reaches its somber, sad, ultimately uplifting finale.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Lovely Bones is among Nadiya Hussain's six best books, Judith Claire Mitchell's ten best (unconventional) ghosts, Laura McHugh's ten favorite books about serial killers, and Tamzin Outhwaite's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue