Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"The Bone Sparrow"

Zana Fraillon was born in Melbourne Australia, but spent her early childhood in San Francisco. She has written two picture books for young children, a series for middle readers, and a fictitious book for older readers based on research and recounts of survivors of the Forgotten Generation. She lives in Melbourne, with her three sons, husband and two dogs.

Fraillon applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Bone Sparrow, and reported the following:
Wow. I had never heard of the page 69 test before, but it is like some strange sort of magic. Having gone to my own books, I then stumbled into a kind of page 69 hysteria and ran around the house turning to the 69th page in each book I came across. I love this test! How does it work? Is this some strange publishing trick I don’t know about…?

Anyway, the 69th page of The Bone Sparrow is a surprisingly good representation of the book. The Bone Sparrow tells the story of Subhi, a young boy who has spent his entire life in an immigration detention centre. On page 69 the reader is introduced to Subhi’s friend Eli, ‘strong walking his way back to his tent’, and we get a glimpse of Subhi’s desperate hope for his ‘Someday’ to come: ‘I spend the next five nights watching the sky, watching for those lights to dance. Even though Eli says we can’t see them from here, not ever, Maá always used to tell me that sometimes ‘not ever’ can change’.

We also discover that a girl from the Outside has made her way into the camp, and we meet the rubber Shakespeare Duck, with his self-proclaimed ‘sparkling wit and fascinating conversation’ talking to Subhi. Harvey, one of the few nice guards at the detention centre, is also mentioned, and the reader learns how much Subhi looks up to Harvey.

These are all themes and ideas which resurface towards the end of the story, and the passage about Subhi watching the sky is among some of the first passages I jotted down when Subhi’s character first emerged in my imagination.

I shall never again turn to the first page of a book when deciding whether or not to read on – from now on, it will be page 69 every time.
Follow Zana Fraillon on Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: The Bone Sparrow.

Writers Read: Zana Fraillon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 27, 2016

"To The Last Drop"

Sandra Balzo is an award-winning author of crime fiction, including nine books in two different mystery series from Severn House--the Maggy Thorsen Coffeehouse Mysteries and Main Street Murders, set in the High Country of North Carolina. Balzo's books have garnered starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, while being recommended to readers of Janet Evanovich, Charlaine Harris, Mary Daheim, Joan Hess and Margaret Maron. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, Balzo now lives on the Central Coast of California.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, To The Last Drop, and reported the following:
Seems like such a random thing, doesn’t it? Pick a page, any page. But in this case, it’s not even just any page. Pick page 69. Period.

Turns out, that particular section of To the Last Drop does a particularly nice job of setting up the book, while still not giving anything away.

From page 69:
... three of us had sat. Sarah had already scrubbed it once but I’d be damned if there weren’t still sticky smudges where she’d sat. I tossed her the rag. ‘Go over that table again.’

‘It’s interesting, though,’ my partner said as she re-cleaned her tacky mess, ‘that Lynne has suddenly decided it’s not suicide. She can say all she wants that her change of heart is because Rita Pahlke’s appearance here is suspicious, or she doesn’t want the kid to feel responsible, but I like my theory about the life insurance policy better.’ She sent the damp cloth back airmail.

I caught it. ‘You mean that she’s discovered there’s no payout on William’s life insurance policy in case of suicide? But he’s been dead for less than twenty-four hours – there’s no death certificate yet and it’s a Saturday to boot. Could she even have filed a claim?’

‘No, but how long does it take to go home, pull out the policy and a magnifying glass and read the fine print?’

About as long as the interval between my leaving Lynne at her office and her showing up at Uncommon Grounds. ‘She is a planner, I guess, by her own admission.’

‘And she’s planning on using you to turn this into a homicide investigation. And I might point out that if that happens, your ex will be on the list of suspects right behind Crazy Rita and the grieving widow.’

‘Don’t forget Clay Tartare. Though Rita is my fave for now. So tidy,’ I waved the dishrag, ‘when the person who finds the body is also the killer.’

‘You’re usually that person,’ she reminded me.

There was that. ‘At least this time I had a witness with me.’

‘Your son would lie for you in a heartbeat.’

‘I’d like to think so,’ I said with motherly pride. ‘If you believe I’ll let Lynne manipulate me, relax. The medical examiner will find for suicide and the case will be closed.’ I chewed on the inside of my cheek.

‘But . . .’ Sarah prompted.

‘There was a blow to William’s forehead, did I tell you that?’

‘Happens when you hit the ground with it.’ Sarah’s expression changed. ‘Could we be missing something here?’….
So, what does this tell us?

First, it gives us a glimpse into the relationship between Maggy Thorsen and Sarah Kingston, her partner in Uncommon Grounds. Sometimes prickly, often ornery, Sarah always has Maggy’s back. Except when she doesn’t.

Page 69 also, conveniently, sets up the crime. Assuming it is a crime. We know a man—oral surgeon William Swope--is most certainly dead. That death may be ruled a suicide at any moment, but the victim’s wife says her husband was murdered and is pressing Maggy to investigate. And, despite her protestations, Maggy seems to have her own questions.

So, who might have wanted the oral surgeon dead? We have some clues to that here, too. A mysterious woman named Rita Pahlke and a man named Clay Tartare. Maggy’s ex-husband Ted, who was William’s partner, is also a possibility. And what about the victim’s own wife, Lynne? She seems to have a number of axes to grind.

And finally, page 69 tells us something about Maggy—a self-described “corpse-stumbler”--and her son Eric, who was co-stumbler in this case. Maggy is certain he has her back, thereby keeping her out of the suspect pool this time around.

Where might page 70 take us? I hope you’ll pick up the book to find out.
Learn more about the book and author at Sandra Balzo's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Triple Shot.

The Page 69 Test: Murder on the Orient Espresso.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 25, 2016

"The Infinity of You & Me"

J.Q. Coyle is the joint pen name of Julianna Baggott and Quinn Dalton. Dalton is an acclaimed writer who has published short story collections and novels. Baggott is the author of over twenty novels.

Baggott applied the Page 69 Test to their new novel, The Infinity of You & Me, and reported the following:
On page 69 of The Infinity of You & Me, you’ll find yourself in the middle of a fight scene. Alicia’s absentee father has shown up in the back yard with a gift for her on her 15th birthday – and he also has a warning. Her father is seen as a real threat. There’s a restraining order against him, and Alicia hasn’t seen him since she was a toddler. Their strange and poignant conversation is embedded with clues that Alicia has to unlock over the course of the novel.

But the conversation is cut short because Alicia’s uncle walks out into the back yard and sees his brother, the black sheep. Uncle Alex has come to the party with a couple of his grad students who chase her father down.

As her father is being hauled off, he says to Alex, “You’ve got me now. You’ll leave her alone then, okay? That’s my daughter!”

This is the first time Alicia has heard her father claim her as his own. This is a pivotal scene. It really changes everything. Alicia suddenly doubts what she’s been told about her father, and some of the things he says resonate with Alicia in a way that completely upends her.

What she does next sets the rest of the novel into motion. From here on out, it becomes a fast-paced full-sprint mystery – including a chase through alternate parallel universes.
Visit the websites of Julianna Baggott and Quinn Dalton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"A Most Novel Revenge"

Ashley Weaver is the Technical Services Coordinator for the Allen Parish Libraries in Louisiana. Weaver has worked in libraries since she was 14; she was a page and then a clerk before obtaining her MLIS from Louisiana State University.

Weaver applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Most Novel Revenge, the third Amory Ames mystery, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I think one of you knows the truth. I want you to tell me.”

“The truth?” Beatrice spat out. “What do you mean? Since when have you concerned yourself with the truth?”
Page 69 of A Most Novel Revenge is part of a tense conversation about the events surrounding a mysterious death. At a house party seven years before, a young man was found dead under strange circumstances. One of the party guests, a woman named Isobel Van Allen, wrote a novel—a thinly-veiled account of the event—that accused a fellow guest of murder. A massive scandal ensued and Isobel left the country in disgrace. Now she’s back, claiming there are more secrets to be revealed.

A reader glancing over this page would see an indication of the conflict that occurs when all the guests present at that fateful party are called back to the scene of the event and must confront Isobel and their past. In this sense, it is a good representation of the mystery that lies at the heart of the novel. However, what this page doesn’t give is a clear picture of the narrator, Amory Ames, or her voice. A reader wouldn’t get an idea of who she was from this page alone. The scene also lacks some of the lighter moments and amusing interplay between Amory and her husband, Milo. Readers would need to keep reading to discover the relationship between Amory and Milo Ames that is an important part of both this novel and the series as a whole!
Visit Ashley Weaver's website.

Writers Read: Ashley Weaver.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 21, 2016

"City on Edge"

Stefanie Pintoff's first novel, In the Shadow of Gotham, won the Edgar® Award for Best First Novel of 2009 and earned nominations for the Anthony, Macavity, and Agatha awards. In the Shadow of Gotham introduced turn-of-the-century New York Police Detective Simon Ziele, who appeared again in A Curtain Falls (2010) and Secret of the White Rose (2011).

Pintoff launched the Eve Rossi series of thrillers in 2015 with Hostage Taker, a Barry Award nominee for Best Thriller.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the newly-released second Eve Rossi novel, City on Edge, and reported the following:
What’s on page 69 of my new thriller, City on Edge, isn’t actually part of the story. It’s special extra material—the kind readers can linger over if they want to immerse themselves more fully in the world I’ve created. Specifically, it’s the official FBI dossier of ADIC Henry Ma, who runs the New York office. He’s a “political animal always seeking out the next opportunity or promotion”—and he succeeds because his abilities match his ambitions. However, he also treats those he supervises “as pawns in the larger game that he plays”—and this is important, because it often puts him at odds with my protagonist, Special Agent Eve Rossi, and the secret and unconventional FBI unit at the heart of my book.

That unit—Vidocq—is modeled after the example of notorious 19th-century criminal Eugène Vidocq, who gave up his life of crime to become a legendary crime-fighter and head of the French Suréte.

In my own modern-day story, smart and by-the-book Eve Rossi runs the Vidocq Unit, leading a group of ex-convicts with extraordinary talents, oversized egos, and contempt for the rules. They accepted a simple deal: Put their skills to work for the government – or do hard time in jail. Now, they operate under the radar, solving crimes using methods that ordinary agents never could.

Vidocq is a unit designed to serve the FBI during moments of crisis. Whenever they need someone to save the day. Or failing that, when they need someone to blame.

In City on Edge, this moment of crisis involves rescuing a kidnapped girl—the Police Commissioner’s daughter—when she disappears as the giant character balloons are inflated the afternoon before New York City’s trademark event, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. The commissioner, aware that he has a target on his back due to recent altercations between the police and ordinary citizens, doesn’t know who to trust. He turns to Eve and her team — and what follows is a cat-and-mouse chase, set against the backdrop of the parade, as they work to save a child and protect the city itself.
Visit Stefanie Pintoff's website.

The Page 69 Test: In the Shadow of Gotham.

The Page 69 Test: A Curtain Falls.

The Page 69 Test: Secret of the White Rose.

Coffee with a Canine: Stefanie Pintoff & Ginger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 19, 2016


Stephen Aryan was born in 1977 and was raised by the sea in northeast England. After graduating from Loughborough University, he started working in marketing, and for some reason he hasn't stopped. A keen podcaster, lapsed gamer and budding archer, when not extolling the virtues of Babylon 5, he can be found drinking real ale and reading comics.

Aryan applied the Page 69 Test to Battlemage, the first book in his Age of Darkness trilogy, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Battlemage is a moment that’s both humorous and scary. The Mad King has now declared himself Emperor of the world and, as the name suggests, he’s a few beers short of a six pack. He’s asking his Generals how the war is going and it becomes clear very quickly that he’s not living in the same version of reality as everyone else. The whole chapter is told from the point of view of the Emperor’s servant, who is utterly petrified and living on a knife edge. He has no idea if he is going to survive the next hour, never mind if he will see tomorrow, as the Emperor’s mood swings and violent outbursts are tremendous.

I really like this chapter and point of view as it shows the terrifying and ridiculous nature of one of the main villains in the book. As far as a lot of people know the Emperor is this malevolent, religious figure who is idolised, but in reality he’s like a confused and incredibly powerful child who doesn’t understand the simplest things. At the same time everyone is afraid to tell him the truth as he might give the order to have their heads chops off. So everyone is walking on egg shells while trying to carry out his wishes to the best of their abilities.
Visit Stephen Aryan's website.

My Book, The Movie: Battlemage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 17, 2016

"Spy Ski School"

Stuart Gibbs's middle grade novels include Space Case, Belly Up, Poached, Spy School, Spy Camp and the Last Musketeer series. He also writes for TV and film. Before all that, he studied capybaras, the world's largest rodents. Really.

Gibbs applied the Page 69 Test to Spy Ski School, the fourth book in the Spy School series, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Spy Ski School is very representative of the rest of the book. (In fact, when I do public readings from SSS, I often read a section that includes page 69, rather than starting from from the beginning of the book). SSS is the fourth book in the Spy School series, which follows 13-year-old Ben Ripley’s misadventures at a top secret academy run by the CIA. In this book, Ben has finally earned the right to go on an authorized CIA mission, but as is always the case in this series, nothing works out quite as well for him as he’d hoped.

Page 69 takes place during a scene where star spy-in-training Erica Hale has convinced Ben Ripley, our hapless hero, to join her on a reconnaissance mission — and then uses him as a diversion to forward her own agenda. Thus, on this single page, there is comedy, action, intrigue and danger, which I strive to have a nice blend of throughout the series. It’s a tough balance to achieve: often, some scenes are more comic, while others are more focused on the action. But page 69 is a nice combination of everything that I want this series to be.
Visit Stuart Gibbs's website.

The Page 69 Test: Space Case.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

"The Waiting Room"

Leah Kaminsky, a physician and award-winning writer, is Poetry & Fiction Editor at the Medical Journal of Australia. Her debut novel, The Waiting Room, is followed by We’re all Going to Die. She conceived and edited Writer MD, a collection of prominent physician-writers, which starred on Booklist. She is co-author of Cracking the Code, with the Damiani family. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Kaminsky applied the Page 69 Test to The Waiting Room and reported the following:
From page 69:
Rain tapped on the window. The baby stared at her with huge eyes, as if he were not quite of this world yet; still in the process of being born, laboring to arrive. With his birth, Dina landed with a jolt onto solid ground. The child demanded of her only food, shelter and love. And the woman she had been vanished that day, as she held Shlomi for the first time. The child seemed to ask questions before he knew words.
This page of The Waiting Room hurls us straight into the mind of the main protagonist, Dina Ronen, an Australian doctor who immigrates to Haifa after meeting her husband, Eitan. Although the birth of their first child brings with it hope, and the promise of a better future, this passage also reflects Dina’s struggle with the tension between love and terror. A reader opening the book on this page will immediately be struck by the delicate balance between light and darkness that the themes in the novel explore. Alice Nelson captures this in her eloquent review of The Waiting Room: “The story weaves between public and private life, between beautifully rendered dailiness and the equally acute claims of the larger narrative of haunted legacies and restless ghosts.”
Visit Leah Kaminsky's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Waiting Room.

Writers Read: Leah Kaminsky.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 13, 2016

"The Ladies of Managua"

Eleni N. Gage's books include the travel memoir North of Ithaka, which describes her experience living in Lia, the small Greek village where her father was born, the novel Other Waters, about an Indian-American psychiatrist who thinks that her family has been cursed, and most recently, the novel The Ladies of Managua.

Gage applied the Page 69 Test to The Ladies of Managua and reported the following:
Any page a reader opens to in The Ladies of Managua will leave out two-thirds of the story. That’s because the novel is told in the alternating voices of three generations of Nicaraguan women. There’s the grandmother, Isabela, who attended convent school in New Orleans in the middle of the last century and is an unapologetic member of Nicaragua’s haute bourgeoisie. Her daughter, Ninexin, was a key Sandinista fighter during the Nicaraguan revolution of the late 1970s and early 1980s, and is now an important member of the Nicaraguan government. While Ninexin was busy building the new Nicaragua, Isabela raised Ninexin’s daughter, Mariana, in Miami, where they fled to avoid the civil war back home. When the book begins, Mariana, who now lives in New York, is flying to Nicaragua for the funeral of her grandfather. Each women has a secret she is hiding from the others, and all are trying to come to terms with their complicated relationships to each other, and to their homeland.

Telling the story in the voices of these three women allowed me to explore how differently we all see the same events, each looking at the world through our own lens, informed by our own experiences, resentments, hopes, and relationships. It’s amazing, sometimes, how little we know about even the people who are closest to us. Writing the book was a constant reminder of how important it is to try to look at the world through each others’ eyes.

Page 69 is part of an extended flashback Isabela has while sitting at her husband’s wake. Something Mariana shows her stirs up her memories of high school in New Orleans, where she was involved in an ill-fated romance with a young Cuban. She remembers a conversation she had with the Betsy, the African-American maid who worked on her floor.
I asked her, without even thinking about it, if she wouldn’t mind receiving mail for me from Mauricio, if he could send letters to her house, and she could give them to me when I saw her, or leave them in my underwear drawer, hidden under my balled-up stockings. She hesitated for a minute; I can see now that I was asking a lot, too much, maybe. I might have been suspended if we had been found out, but she would have been fired, and I knew her parents counted on her salary to help with her siblings, and needed everyone to do his or her share. But I was young and selfish and in love and I didn’t think of this at the time.
I loved writing in the voice of each of the ladies of Managua, but this scene illustrates one of the reasons I enjoyed writing Isabela the most. Older women they carry so many different selves within, they can constantly look back and reevaluate who they were in order to better understand who they are now. It’s a multitude of experiences I find infinitely fascinating.
Visit Eleni N. Gage's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Ladies of Managua.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 11, 2016

"We Are Still Tornadoes"

Michael Kun is the author of the novels You Poor Monster, The Locklear Letters, and A Thousand Benjamins, among other works of fiction and non-fiction. He is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Virginia School of Law. He practices law in Los Angeles. Susan Mullen is a graduate of Duke University, where she studied English literature, and the University of Virginia School of Law. She practices law and lives in Northern Virginia.

Kun applied the Page 69 Test to their new novel, We Are Still Tornadoes, and reported the following:
This is what I was afraid of. This is exactly what I was afraid of.

When you asked me to write about page 69, my first thought was, "Please don't be the Prince letter, please don't be the Prince letter." Sure enough, it's the Prince letter. Dammit.

Let me explain.

We Are Still Tornadoes is the story of two high school friends, Scott and Cath, when one leaves for college and the other stays home. It takes place in the early 1980s, and it’s told entirely through their correspondence.

Not surprisingly, one of the things that Scott and Cath write about is the great new music that they discover. R.E.M., Elvis Costello, the Pretenders, the English Beat, etc., etc.

And, on page 69, one of the characters writes excitedly about discovering Prince's music for the first time, specifically "Little Red Corvette."

And, now I've just made myself sad.

Like the characters in our book, I discovered Prince's music in the early 1980s. Instantly, I had a favorite new artist. While I can't say that I enjoyed everything Prince produced over the next 30+ years, the list of albums and songs that I loved is a very, very, very long one.

1999, Purple Rain, Sign o' the Times, Around the World in a Day, etc., etc.

“When Doves Cry,” “Purple Rain,” “Raspberry Beret,” “I Would Die 4 U,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Little Red Corvette,” “1999,” etc., etc.

Okay, I just popped Purple Rain into my CD player so I can listen to it while I write this. (Yes, I still have a CD player. Shut up.)

Here’s a point about Prince. He had a great song called "Take Me With You." I’m listening to it right now. It’s a perfect pop song. For most artists, a song like that would have been the best thing they would ever produce. For Prince, it was the fifth best song on the Purple Rain album. Maybe sixth.

He was remarkable.

He was incomparable. I know that “incomparable” is a word that gets tossed around to describe artists, particularly when they die, but I have chosen that word carefully and mean it in its true sense. Prince was incomparable because you can’t compare him to anyone else. Don’t believe me? Fine, go ahead and try to compare him to someone else. See, you couldn’t.

He wrote all of his own music, and frequently played all of the instruments on his albums. Not some. All.

He produced.

He sang.

He had an incredible stage presence. He was about the size of a box of Junior Mints, and you couldn’t take your eyes off him.

He was so good at so many things that people sometimes forget that he was one of the greatest guitarists we'll ever see. People from an earlier generation would say Jimi Hendrix was the best ever. Others would say Eric Clapton. But here’s one of my favorite rock quotes of all time: when a journalist asked Clapton what it was like to be the greatest guitarist alive, he answered, “Go ask Prince.” So, there.

And now he's gone.

It's been six months or so since Prince died unexpectedly. It sucked then, and it sucks now.

I could never have imagined how hard it would hit me when Prince died. Normally, I try to reserve my emotions for people I actually know -- friends, family-- and tend not to be too affected by what happens to celebrities. But Prince was somehow different, for me and for so many other people I know. And I had the hardest time explaining to our 10-year old daughter why her father was moping around the house for weeks -- no exaggeration, it was weeks -- and why he at times looked like he was on the verge of tears.

The best I can tell her, beyond what I’ve already written here, is that Prince's music transcended typical musical boundaries.

Was it rock? Yes.

Was it funk? Yes.

Was it R&B? Yes.

Was it pop? Absolutely.

And, perhaps as a result, his music transcended gender and age and race. Somehow, he had found a way to write great music for everyone. When his songs would come on at a party or a club, everyone would hit the dance floor. Girls, boys, black, white, Asian, straight, gay, everyone.

Looking at the performers who first became popular around the same time, I can say that I know many people who loved Springsteen. And I know people who couldn’t stand him.

I know many people who loved Madonna. And I know people who couldn’t stand her.

I know many people who loved Elvis Costello. And I know people who couldn’t stand him.

I don’t know anyone who didn’t love Prince.

Not one person.



When I learned that Prince had died, one of the first things I thought of was our book. It was already at our publisher’s, and they were already typsetting it. I sent an email to my co-author to ask her to remind me what we'd written about Prince in our book so I could make sure we hadn't said something we would regret.

And what we wrote about Prince is on page 69.

It's nothing we would regret. As I've said, it's one of the characters writing, with much excitement, about discovering his music for the first time. There's a little joke about the not-too-hidden meaning of "Little Red Corvette." (Hint: it’s not about a car.)

It makes me sad to see his name on page 69, but I’m also glad to see it there. I'm glad we acknowledged just how great he was in our book.
Visit Michael Kun's website.

Our Book, The Movie: We Are Still Tornadoes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Marcus Sedgwick's "Blood Red Snow White"

Marcus Sedgwick was born and raised in East Kent in the South-east of England. He now lives in the French Alps.

Alongside a 16 year career in publishing he established himself as a widely-admired writer of YA fiction; he is the winner of many prizes, most notably the Michael L. Printz Award for 2014, for his novel Midwinterblood. Sedgwick has also received two Printz Honors, for Revolver in 2011 and The Ghosts of Heaven in 2016, giving him the most citations to date for this prize.

His books have been shortlisted for over forty other awards, including the Carnegie Medal (six times), the Edgar Allan Poe Award (twice) and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize (four times).

Sedgwick applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Blood Red Snow White, and reported the following:
Since this novel is actually three novellas that intertwined, it would be asking a lot to expect one page to capture it all. But yet again the page 69 test seems to have done its thing… Here’s page 69 [inset left; click to enlarge], which rather uncannily comes just moments before the end of Part One of the book. This first part is a retelling of the Russian Revolution in the form of a fairy tale, but just towards the end, I allow the beginnings of the next story (and in fact the main idea of the book) to start to appear. And that story is the (true) love story of how the British writer Arthur Ransome met and fell in love with Leon Trotsky’s personal secretary. Ransome was a naive man in his youth; he often found himself in situations by accident, and one frequently has the idea that he himself did not know what he was looking for. Yet through chance or the unconscious of the divine, he had an unerring knack of finding just what he needed. In this case, it was the woman who would one day become his wife.
Visit Marcus Sedgwick's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Ghosts of Heaven.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 7, 2016

"Strudel's Forever Home"

Martha Freeman is an author of books for children of all ages, including The Orphan and the Mouse, the First Kids and Chickadee Court mysteries, and The Secret Cookie Club: Campfire Cookies.

Freeman applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Strudel's Forever Home, and reported the following:
Strudel’s Forever Home is one of those books where the animals can talk to each other but not to the people. (Writers create universes. Universes have rules. Those are the rules in this one.)

On Page 69, Strudel is conversing with a pigeon named Johanna who is “surprisingly pretty, with lustrous gray feathers, brilliant red feet and a snazzy purple rainbow on her neck.” Strudel, cooped up on his little patio, has hailed Johanna in hopes she will give him the 4-1-1 on the stray cats that have been terrorizing the neighborhood.

Not being a feline fan herself, Johanna is quite willing to help and tells him just now greedy and cruel the cats really are: “They gobble that food then gobble up more – the pups, the chicks and the eggs from every nest. In their wake, they leave a trail of blood, only a bloody trail.”

(Johanna tends to redundancy.)

At the end of the section, Strudel watches Johanna fly over the fence and feels a “peculiar sensation,” envy for a creature that isn’t a canine. Also, he hopes that maybe he can recruit her to form an alliance.

Oh, and BTW, I love cats. But what would be the fun of writing, or reading, if you didn’t try to see the world from a vantage other than your own?
Visit Martha Freeman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Strudel's Forever Home.

Writers Read: Martha Freeman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 5, 2016

"Just Another Jihadi Jane"

Just Another Jihadi Jane is the Indian writer Tabish Khair’s sixth novel, just published in USA, where it has been nominated for the $50,000 Kirkus Prize.

Khair applied the Page 69 Test to the new novel and reported the following:
Just Another Jihadi Jane is the story of two British Muslim girls of South Asian origin who, soon after finishing high school, run away to join the so-called jihad in Syria/Iraq. Page 69 of the US edition of this novel presents a crucial turning-point. The two girls, Jamilla and Ameena, have moved into the same flat, after finishing high school. The beautiful Jamilla, brought up in hijab by a religious and resentful father (recently dead), has sometime back converted the feisty Ameena to her narrow brand of Islamic fundamentalism. A new convert, and with her own demons to escape, Ameena has entered the online world of Islamism with great enthusiasm. This online world enables both the girls to escape from their immediate disappointments and imagine a far-away place of Islamic perfection. (They will be disabused of it, but that is yet to come.)

On page 69, Jamilla returns to the flat to be given news of Islamist advances by Ameena, who is online with Hejjiye, an older Arab woman, who, it turns out, is a recruiter for Daesh (ISIS or the Islamic State). Along with the news, Hejjiye has posted a photo of the baby born to one of her co-wives. Ameena also informs Jamilla that she might marry a ‘jihadi,’ Hassan, she has met online.

This is the first time the notion of running away to Syria is clearly aired. Soon, it will happen – and the rest of the novel is about the bitter fruits that this act will bear for the girls and for others.
Visit Tabish Khair's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Thing about Thugs.

My Book, The Movie: The Thing About Thugs.

Writers Read: Tabish Khair.

My Book, The Movie: Just Another Jihadi Jane.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 3, 2016

"Seriously Shifted"

Tina Connolly is the author of the Ironskin trilogy from Tor Books, and the Seriously Wicked series from Tor Teen. Her novels have been finalists for the Nebula and Norton awards.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Seriously Shifted, and reported the following:
I always love seeing what the Page 69 Test produces. Here’s the very first thing on that page for Seriously Shifted.
“Besides,” Sarmine said. “A classic love spell is problematic to apply. Because you want the crush to fall in love with the person paying you good money to work this spell, and not with you, the witch.”

“I thought you weren’t so big into people finding out we were witches.”

“I have a love-hate relationship with fame,” said Sarmine.

“Mm. And people paying you?”

“Obviously, Camellia, even witches have student loans. I worked my way through college via love spells.”

I started to say that that sounded a little naughty, but the look in her eyes dared me to make a joke. Some things you didn’t joke about to Sarmine Scarabouche.
I love this exchange, and it clearly shows a couple key things about the book. One, it shows the mother-daughter banter that runs through the story between wicked witch Sarmine and her not-so-wicked daughter Cam.

Two, Cam spends most of this book agonizing over the ethics of how to be a good witch. She doesn’t want to be a witch at all, but she is backed into a corner in chapter one, and has to learn spells in order to save her friends. But every time she tries to help someone, a new ethical dilemma arises. For example, love potions. On page 68, she starts asking Sarmine to explain them, and by the end of page 69, she’s busy telling her mother that they sound totally unethical. (They are!)

Sarmine gives Cam a gentler, kinder, “open to possibilities” spell, but even with that, deciding if and when it’s okay to apply it, and to whom, leads Cam into a whole new tangled mess of concerns and entanglements....
Visit Tina Connolly's website and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Seriously Wicked.

The Page 69 Test: Seriously Wicked.

Writers Read: Tina Connolly.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

"Skin and Bone"

Robin Blake is the author of the Cragg & Fidelis series, including A Dark Anatomy and Dark Waters, in addition to acclaimed works on the artists Van Dyck and Stubbs. He has written, produced and presented extensively for radio, is widely published as a critic.

Blake applied the Page 69 Test to Skin & Bone, the fourth Cragg & Fidelis mystery, and reported the following:
Page 69 is a actually crunch moment in the story. The year is 1743 and Titus Cragg (the narrator) is the Coroner at Preston, an English provincial town. Chapter 6 began with him consulting his progressive young friend Dr Luke Fidelis over the corpse of a new born baby. Cragg is about to open the inquest into the child’s death, and he has asked Fidelis to perform a post-mortem, since he wants to know whether the child was deliberately killed – a difficult matter to decide in those days before forensic science. Fidelis says he indeed has reason to believe the child was murdered and with this information Cragg proceeds to open the inquest. The most likely suspect in such cases would be the baby’s mother since for an unmarried girl to have an illegitimate child was almost certainly to ruin her life chances. But this baby has been found sunk in a tanner’s pit and the mother is unknown. As the inquest proceeds suspicion coalesces around one particular girl, an ex-servant who has since skipped town. Her mother has just come forward to the witness chair to speak up for her daughter when “ I smelled smoke creeping up between the floorboards around the stairwell wall. And then someone yelled in a hoarse, urgent voice, ‘Fire! Fire!’ ” These are the last words on page 69, and the last words of the chapter.
Visit Robin Blake's website.

--Marshal Zeringue