Must he be likeable?

In one of the most polarizing (series of) books I know, books which you either despise or passionately defend against all blasphemers, there is a character known as… Thomas Covenant.

I am in THAT camp. The one over there. The one whose collective reaction to Thomas Covenant was to tell him to, oh, just DIE already or should just GET OUT OF MY WAY and stop whining about everything. I could not get past the UNLIKEABLILITY of the protagonist. I could not get past it to the point that I simply could not find anything he said or did sympathetic, or understandable, or even defensible.

In one sense that might be considered a vindication – ANY character that creates that strong a reaction is its own kind of success; it’s a memorable character, and does not suffer from the wishy-washies in any way shape or form. Love him or loathe him, Thomas Covenant is someone you REMEMBER,

So – just how important is it to whether or not you read a book, to whether you are ABLE to read a book, is a character’s basic likeablity? If you honestly and genuinely dislike/hate/despise the character who carries the story – for reasons that are good and true FOR YOU – can you ever allow yourself to get past that and read the story and even reach – if not sympathy – then an understanding?

There’s a reason I ask.

RandomI wrote a book called “Random”. That book was narrated by a young lady by the name of Jazz, and Jazz had an older brother, Mal. In “Random”, Jazz;s book, Mal is a secondary character – an important one, to be sure, but still, secondary. Mal is (at the moment in which this book takes place) seventeen-going-on-eighteen, he’s a Bad Boy, he gets into fights, he’s moody and bitter and sarcastic, even vicious. To summarise, he’s something of a troubled teen. Readers of “Random” noticed him, however – they noticed his PRESENCE. Some called him intriguing and said that they were looking forward to seeing more of him. Others just called him “whiny”, and “hard to like”.

Ah. Unlikeability.

Wolf CoverThe second book in this series, ‘Wolf’, came out not so long ago… and it is an answer to those who wanted to know more. This is MAL’S book, HIS version of events, told in first person, from the inside. And the responses have been … interesting.

Some readers have called him a “hostile witness”. Some say he still whines, at least in the beginning of the book. All true. He is all these things, and more. He is, as I said, a troubled teen. At least one reader who loved ‘Random’ confessed (after she bit into ‘Wolf’) that she was uneasy about a whole book with Mal at the helm because she hadn’t really liked him in the first book. And there it was in a nutshell, the potential problem on my hands.

I had created a Real Boy and I had a character on my hands who would not bend to public opinion in order to become likeable. He was the way he was because of good solid reasons. These reasons would be touched on and explored and explained in ‘Wolf’, and in my eyes they made this character one of the best people I’ve ever written about, flaws and all. But would those people who had found him unlikeable in the first book… follow him far enough into the second to learn more about him?

The reader who confessed to her uneasiness about Mal’s being promoted to protagonist… also confessed to being in tears at the end of the book.

And to me, that is the story. This is a character who was tempered by life and events over which he either had no real control or which he might have botched his choices on… and it is a character who then took on the consequences of these events and these choices and made something real and unique and strong out of them. Built a life. He may not have easily fit anywhere, into any sort of box or slot, but that was okay – in the end he shaped the box to fit HIM.

I respect that. I admire it. I know that this is a flawed character, someone with cracks which are both deep and wide… but those cracks did not break him. In the manner of those wonderful Japanese pots, where cracks and crevices are fillled in with gold which both repairs them and throws them into stark relief – they are fixed, but their existence is freely confessed and not hidden or swept under a rug in any way. This is a character who allowed his damage to make him a better person, a stronger person, who used his cracks to build a more solid foundation on which to raise himself into something better, something bigger, something that transcends.

This is not an easy thing to do, and the process of doing it might render a character… somewhat less than likeable. But for those who persevered with Mal, the rewards were there. They ended up at the book’s conclusion with tears in their eyes – but they were the tears of triumph. If they stuck with him long enough, if they stayed the course which he had set himself to run and ran it at his side, he redeemed both himself… and the reader. He grew.

In the end, what makes a character in a work of fiction compelling? Likeablity (someone who is a cast-iron Hero with a Capital H and can do no wrong) or Respect (for someone who might have failed, might have failed hard, or often, but who will not let failure have the last word in his life)?

Read ‘Random’. Then read ‘Wolf’. Go meet Mal. I promise you, he’s worth it,

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Angelas_Library headerFor more on Mal, check out the guest post I wrote about his creation for Angela Cabezas at Angela’s Library HERE.
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And then take a look at Angela Cabezas’s review of Wolf:

“I loved watching Mal come into his own over the course of this book, rolling with everything the Lycans throw at him, even the stuff wholly outside of his comfort zone. He grumbles, and struggles, and balks…and then he grits his teeth, puts his head down, and soldiers on, because it’s the only way for him to move forward. It was so rewarding to see this grouchy, self-pitying boy grow and mature and become someone I was so proud of.”

Read the whole review HERE

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In honor and loving memory of a lion called Cecil, a blog entry I wrote on LiveJournal a few years back

The First Star, and the First Candle

I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.”

Since the first time I picked up Isac Dinesen and met Karen Blixen, I’ve been transfixed by that first line. This is someone writing from love and memory, a sentence steeped in the scent of regret and remembrance, looking back at something forever lost.

The veils between worlds are so thin out in Africa that in some places they barely exist at all and it is entirely possible to look up at a sky streaked with wildly improbable sunsets – or out across the open savannah, alive with herds of gazelle and wildebeest and zebra, from a viewpoint halfway up a mountain slope – and have the perfect sense, enough to lift the hairs on the back of your neck, that you are looking at something that is entirely otherworldly, adrift in time and in space, something “once-was but never-to-be-seen-again” or something that is yet to come and that you have no business whatsoever knowing about right here and right now.

Houses in Africa Cover

 

 

My own foothold in Africa was not a coffeeplantation on the slopes of a Kenyan mountain – but I walked those dusty roads and even wrote about it. I touched Africa, and it touched me, and there is a mark where it touched me which will never go away again.

 

Read my whole essay HERE

 

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Boy who couldn’t afford books now has thousandsA boy and his booksWhen 12-year-old Mathew Flores asked Ron Lynch for extra junk mail because he couldn’t afford books, the mailman posted a note on Facebook…

Read the whole story HERE

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10 Of The Best  #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter  Tweets

Twitter’s trending hashtag proves writers are even more misunderstood than we thought (especially poets).

I joined in on my Twitter page with a couple of my own, including this one:

‘Oh… and who are YOU?” (overheard at a mass signing, from a fan glancing at another writer next to a Name…)

Read the whole story HERE

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THIS n THAT

Muggles42 Harry Potter Tattoos

See 41 more HERE

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Where did Morse and Lewis get their names? The Guardian asks,

Detective duos in fiction quiz HERE

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Wind PowerOne problem with wind power is that it’s expensive to build and hard to find the space. Problem solved.

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Alma Alexander      My books      Email me

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Even women?

After a bit of nudging from Maria Popova at Brain Pickings, neuroscientist Sam Harris selects:

12 Books Every Intelligent Person Should Read

“From Bertrand Russell to the Buddha, or why you should spend a weekend reading the Qur’an,” the subtitle says.

12 booksIllustration by Marc Johns

I don’t know. It all sounds a tad pretentious to me. “Every intelligent person”? By whose reckoning? I consider myself both intelligent and educated and I think I might have a problem reading something described, as one book is, “Brilliant and written as though by an alien intelligence.” (‘Reasons and Persons’ by Derek Parfit: “A truly strange and unique document…”)

And then there is the fact that his original list consisted of only eight books, all written by men,

Popova asked him to correct the…unh, ‘oversight’ that not one of the books he deemed essential reading was by a woman so he added an addendum to the list. But it’s a ‘oh, okay,okay, okay have your flaming wimmin folk… lessee… how about THIS ONE?’

They certainly don’t get anything like the attention the guys got. Them wimmin don’t rate a descriptive paragraph — oh go ahead and read them if you have to, but this potentate will be DAMNED if time will be wasted by writing a word about WHY those books made the cut.

Forgive my rant but…

Honestly. Sometimes.

Anyways, take a look at the books

“Every Intelligent Person Should Read” HERE

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Too much TVIt turns out that too much TV might damage your brain and also raise the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, Fredrick Kunkle reports in the Washington Post.

Researchers who have investigated the association the risk of developing dementia found that people who watched a lot of television — namely, four hours or more per day — scored significantly lower on measures of cognitive performance in middle age.

Kristine Yaffe, a professor of psychiatry, neurology and epidemiology at the University of California in San Francisco, said the results have important implications for children and young adults, who are more than ever glued to the screens of electronic gadgets as part of a sedentary life at home and in the workplace.

I keep telling you to read.

Read the whole story HERE

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A night under the stars with the world’s oldest treesBristlecone  pine

The Milky Way and an uprooted Bristlecone Pine

The rugged and remote White Mountains, just east of California’s Sierra Nevada, contain the Ancient Bristlecone Pine forest, Stuart Palley reports at Mashable, “including the oldest tree in the world” at over 5,000 years.

Tangled in the gnarled roots of the specially adapted Bristlecone Pine are layers of annual tree ring growth so small that the trees become concrete like, allowing them to withstand heart rot and other afflictions that cause a shorter life span for lesser trees.Living Bristlecone Pine

A living Bristlecone Pine in Patriarch Grove painted with light under the Milky Way

See more magnificent pictures HERE

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No Comment Dept.PubPub Chalkboard Of The Day from The Poke

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THIS n THAT

Data from the Kepler Space Telescope reveals a planet that hits the triumvirate of being just right: It’s the right size in the right place, and is circling a star similar to our sun.

The most earth-like planet yet

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Cat expressionsYou will rue the day you were born! RUE IT!

Distractify offers 25 cat expressions and what they mean

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Quote of the DayQUOTE Trollope~~~~~
Alma Alexander      My books      Email me

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Free books!

Free booksPhoto from JetBlue

As part of its Soar With Reading program, Laura Willard reports at Upwothy, JetBlue is placing book vending machines in communities it calls book deserts.

The machines are stocked with books, and the kids can take as many as they want, free of charge. To get started, they’re putting three vending machines at different locations in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Read the whole story HERE

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The Beginning of Little Free Libraries

For Todd Bol, the first Little Free Library was a charmed idea triggered by a lost job, a cross-country road trip, and a garage sale, Margret Aldrich writes at Utne. After turning his garage into an office, Bol decided to build a model one-room schoolhouse from the old garage door in honor of his mother, a former teacher and a lifelong reader.
Little Free  LibraryPhoto by Flickr/Tony Webster

On a Saturday in May 2010, he held a garage sale that launched a thou­sand Libraries. He  mounted the model schoolhouse full of hardcovers and paperbacks on a post. People were drawn to the Library, stopping to admire it, ask about it, buzz around it, browse through it, and generally get excited about it. The rest is history.

Read the whole story HERE

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The Hardy BoysImage credit: Tony Delgrosso, Flickr

About ‘The Hardy Boys’ …

Frank and Joe Hardy have been blowing mysteries wide open for almost 90 years, Jabet Burns says at Mental Floss, combating ghosts, thieves, monsters, and shifty characters to the delight of several generations of kids. In its own shady case file, the series involves changing American tastes, furious librarians, and the shadowy, corrupt business of kids’ books.

For example:

In the beginning, they were shrewd anti-authoritorians. Coming out in the late 1920s and ’30s, they showed a gritty, no-nonsense world where Frank, Joe, and their pals functioned as fearless private eyes, taking on the pursuit of justice because of authority’s impotence. Bumbling policemen often interfered with their investigations and even briefly jailed them as stuffy retribution for the boys’ ingenious work.

But starting in 1959 and carrying on through today, the boys have seemingly done a 180 regarding their distaste for authority and, some critics argue, now work to defend The Man.

Read the whole story HERE

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12 Crazy Things Found on Earth, and Some Still Can’t Be Explained

There are some truly amazing things that have been found throughout the years on earth, Dominic Trombino writes at OMG Facts, from ancient cities to objects that remain a huge mystery.

For example:
The Voynich ManuscriptThe Voynich Manuscript is a mystery that remains to this day, with plenty of theories as to what language it is written in. In 2014, two different groups came forward claiming to have solved the puzzle. The only problem was they both had completely different views. One believed it was an extinct Mexican dialect, while another thought it was a coded Asian language.

Read the whole story HERE

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Nightmarish figures made from old tapes wander in frozen Iceland
Philip-Ob-Rey sculptureCreepy and darkly beautiful giants have risen on Iceland’s frozen landscapes, Lucy Wang writes at Inhabitat. These faceless figures seem like the stuff of nightmares, but take a closer look and you’ll see they’re actually made of a material we’re all once familiar with: VHS tapes. Artist Philip Ob Rey created the “V” HS Project, an installation/photography project made from discarded and tangled webs of VHS tapes. The haunting creatures were partly inspired as protest against plastic pollution and mass media.

See more photos HERE

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No Comment Dept.

29 book lovers pics
Dead favorite charactersWhen you mourn the death of a fictional character

See the others at Buzzfeed HERE

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THIS n THAT

Roberts Liardon’s first book, ‘I Saw Heaven’, published in 1983 when he was 17, has sold 1.5 million copies.

Christian bestsellers

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Quote of the Day

There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does
not know till he takes up the pen to write.” ~William Makepeace Thackeray

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Alma Alexander     My books     Email me
 
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Where countries meet

At OMGfacts, Dominic Trombino offers us
21 Photos of the Places Where One Country Ends and Another Begins

National borders can change very drastically awfully quickly, and when you see the actual borders you can often tell a lot about the two (or more) countries there.

As here:
Haiti and The Dominican RepublicHaiti and The Dominican Republic, which have very different environmental protection laws

And sometimes not so much. As here
Norway and SwedenNorway and Sweden

See all the photos HERE

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AUTHOR’S NOTE: This week’s second blog entry will be much shorter than usual because of circumstancies beyond my control. Things will be back to normal next week.

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At the Los Angeles Review of Books, Nicola Griffith writes ‘A Letter to Alice Sheldon’

The Women You Didn’t See

DEAR ALICE SHELDON,
You were brilliant, I think, but consumed by the inevitability of the abattoir. In your fiction, all the gates are closed; characters are funneled down a chute to flashing knives. In your best fiction, the characters know what is happening, but the knowledge makes no difference; there’s no way out.

You didn’t believe in the possibility of escape. Assuming the nom de plume and persona of James Tiptree, Jr., meant at least you could step outside the chute and be the one wielding the knife. As Raccoona Sheldon, on the other hand, you were bound — as were we — inside the doomed and running cows;…for you there was no way out.

AliceWhen you were little, you saw filth, death, deprivation, and suffering in India and Africa… you were alone: a pretty, pampered, privileged little girl plunged unprepared into violent contradiction — then exposed by your writer mother just before puberty to the hot breath of public scrutiny. You had no herd protection, no people just like you, nowhere to turn for comfort or shelter….

… it is why, if I had to guess, you hid all your life. Why you picked up professions and dropped them as soon as you got good, and why, when you found writing as an adult, you took pseudonyms: the best way to stay safe was not to be known. You could rotate a facet of yourself before a curtain with a single slit. No one ever got to see the whole, not even you.

Read the whole ‘letter’ HERE

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At Bustle, Dina Gachman explains why

Every Writer Should Read Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set A Watchman’
Go Set a Watchman

When you encounter an artistic masterpiece, it’s easy to feel it came from the author fully formed and finished. We don’t see the first drafts of most masterpieces but with Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’, we get that chance.

Written before ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’, Gachman writes, the book is a mess compared to Lee’s magnum opus,  but as a historical document, it is a fascinating read.
 

Read the whole article HERE

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Hey! Look at meHey! Look at me

From the The Literary Cat site

“When you have a good book and a lap full of cat, what more could you possibly need?”

See more cats and books HERE

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THIS n THAT

Self-driving cars won’t violate traffic rules — and that may be a problem for cities. No violations, no fines.

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Quote of the DayQUOTE Grief~~~~~
Alma Alexander     My books     Email me
 
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The only rule

At The Literacy Site, Will S. examined:
What Science Is Saying About Fiction Readers

Among other things, he noted that the authors of one study said that what you choose to read is important:

“We believe that one critical difference between lit and pop fiction is the extent to which the characters are complex, ambiguous, difficult to get to know, etc. (in other words, human) versus stereotyped, simple…”

i.e, What they are saying is that it’s literary fiction vs genre, with literary at the top, of course.

Well, some reviewers have said that I write ‘literary genre’ fiction. So there.

A readerBut seriously, genre fiction does not have to be – although admittedly it can be – one gigantic trope, or a bingo card where you’re supposed to check off genre boxes. A good book is a good book, and that depends on the writing.

Many genre books that are sniffily dismissed by the cognoscenti are considerably better and more engagingly written than some of the more pretentious literary stuff that is intended to be as woolly, ‘intellectual’ and impenetrable as it can be. THOSE books make you run from reading.

It’s the books about people, about strong characters, about what happens to them and how that changes them, that teaches readers the empathy that science is discovering is one of the major benefits of reading.

A book carried by strong characters who are part of a strong story can be genre, or it can be literary. Anyone who tells me that literary offerings are better than a book by Ursula le Guin, by Guy Gavriel Kay, by Octavia Butler, by Neil Gaiman… is basically an utter pretentious and supercillious ignoramus. In truth, ‘literary’ is just another genre, not superior to all the others.

Not every science fiction or fantasy book is about D&D quests. Not every Western is about shootouts at high noon in a deserted dusty street of a Hollywood Wild West set. Not every book with romance in it is going to be a bodice-ripper. Not every mystery is going to be a straight-up whodunnit.

These books are stories with genre tropes embedded inside. They are no less literary for all that. Read good books, and don’t worry about what “genre” they are. That’s the only rule.

Read the whole Literary Site article HERE

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Alice in Wonderland at 150

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. But what has it meant to different generations? Rosa Silverman asks at The Telegraph. Is it innocent fantasy or dark and druggy?
Alice in WonderlandPhoto: Royal Mail

Walt Disney made a film of her. Jefferson Airplane wrote a song about her. And now Royal Mail has released a set of stamps in her honour.

Alice in Wonderland celebrates her 150th birthday this year and we are still enthralled by her spell – or rather, the spell cast by Lewis Carroll when he wrote the much-loved children’s book in 1865.

Read the whole story HERE

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Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second“. ~ Marc Riboud
Life-long loveLove That Lasts: Couple from Khalilov, Russia, have been happily married for 65 years.

This isn’t my usual, mostly book-related fare, but I couldn’t resist these pictures by Kindness Blog that celebrate what humanity can be like at its best.

19 of the Very Best ‘Uplifting Photos of the Day’

Human Beings. Animals. Family. Fun. Friendship. Love. Laughter….What more could you need?”

See all the photos HERE

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The 10 Best Short Story Collections You’ve Never Read

At Publishers Weekly, short story author Mia Alvar says that a great short story collection can cover as much ground as an epic doorstopper, one brief vignette or character at a time.

Here’s a list of (my) favorite collections that … share what every great story collection has in common: fully realized worlds compressed into a few pages, and a multiplicity of perspectives shedding light on what it is to be human in the world.

e.g.
Dubravka UgrešićLend Me Your Character: Author Dubravka Ugrešić herself has described this collection as “stories [written] by altering other stories.” Her sources range from Tolstoy, sensationalist news items, Slavic folk tales, and editorial pitch letters. ‘A Hot Dog in a Warm Bun,’ for instance, channels the absurdities of Gogol’s “The Nose” into…a different member of the (male) anatomy. Her characters—almost all of them blocked writers, fretting over their literary legacies—struggle with the impossibility of creating a truly original story nowadays…These stories were written in a nation “that no longer exists” and a language that “too has divided, in three.” In light of that disruptive and tragic history, Ugrešić’s quirky humor, irreverent feminism, and playful postmodern style often had me wincing through my laughter.

See all Mia Alvar’s selections HERE

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THIS n THAT

Pluto

 

NASA’s New Horizons probe has reached Pluto more than nine years after leaving Earth. The spacecraft will perform a flyby of the icy dwarf planet, capturing the most detailed images ever seen. Aboard are the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, the American astronomer who discovered Pluto in 1930.

 

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To get boys to read

“I have boys, and boys are particularly resistant to reading books. I had some success recently with Sherman Alexie’s great young adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian–I told my son it was highly inappropriate for him, and one of the most banned books in America. That got his attention, and he raced through it.”
~ author Nick Hornby in an interview with the Daily Telegraph

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The New York Times has removed ‘A Time for Truth: Reigniting the Promise of America’, by Ted Cruz from its bestsellers list, claiming that “strategic bulk purchases,” have skewed the book’s sales figures. Amazon and HarperCollins denied the allegations.

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Quote of the Day
QUOT Caitln Moran~~~~~
Alma Alexander     My books     Email me
 
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#BooksNotBullets

booksnotbulletsMalala Yousafzai

Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai notes that

Just eight days of military spending could educate the world

To bring attention to that, she has launched the #BooksNotBullets hashtag and asks people to post a photo of themselves holding one of their favorite books and a statement on why they prefer “books not bullets.”

Anyone here want to add their selfie?

Read more HERE

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At Buzzfeed, Farrah Penn gives us

11 Charts That Accurately Sum Up Being A Book Nerd
Book nerdSee the rest HERE

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At Mental Floss, Jennifer M Wood looks at

11 Famous Books That Have Proven Impossible to Film

Historically, Wood writes, about a third of all Hollywood productions are adaptations of novels, and that over the past three years, at least half of each year’s 10 highest-grossing films have been adapted works.

But just because a book reads well doesn’t mean it will film well (see: Dune), which is why history is filled with much-beloved books that have proven impossible to film (though not always from a lack of trying). Here are 11 of them.Confederacy of DuncesRead the whole story HERE

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The Author Who Wrote in Bookstore Windows

Writer in the windowIt was a challenge, a dare, Jake Rossen tells us at Mental Floss.

One by one, the pages went up in the window.

The author started at 1 p.m., craning the necks of passerby outside the shop. They wondered about the man sitting in the window, hunched over a typewriter. It was like a piece of glass that allowed you to see the gears and pistons of a machine.

When the Dangerous Visions bookstore in Sherman Oaks, Calif., closed that day, Harlan Ellison had completed a short story that included a pregnant corpse and three suspects.

Read the whole story HERE

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9 of the World’s Most Beautiful LibrariesAdmont Abbey Library, AustriaAdmont Abbey Library, Austria

Indulge your inner bibliophile. Whether you’re a voracious reader or you haven’t picked up a book since college, swoon over these spectacular libraries.

Read the Pure Wow story HERE

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THIS n THAT

How well do you remember The Baby-Sitter’s Club books?

Take the quiz HERE

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Quote of the DayQUOTE not hoarding~~~~~
Alma Alexander      My books      Email me

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Only six?

It’s been said on the Internet that the BBC believes that most people will have read only six of the 100 books below. Extraordinary, but you have to believe it because everyone knows that everything on the Internet is absolutely true.

Actually, List Challenges reports, the BBC never claimed that, and the list of books isn’t really their list. It was created by an unknown individual and spread around the internet as a meme called “The BBC Book List Challenge.” It was probably loosely based on another list of books that was the result of a survey carried out in 2003 by the BBC in which three quarters of a million people voted to find the nation’s best-loved novels of all time.

The “only six” was an unlikely stretch from the start but it’s fun to keep score. I’ve read 71 of the 100 myself. How about you?

“The BBC Book List Challenge” HERE

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10 Captivating Short Stories Everyone Should Read

A fascinating list, although personally I’d add two more, both by Arthur C. Clarke – “The Star“, and “The Nine Billion Names of God.” Both are unforgettable.

Number 1 on johnnylists is:

1. The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell — The story of a big game hunter finding himself stranded on an island and becoming the hunted.

Read the list HERE

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17 Tremendous Terraced Rice FieldsTerrace-rice-fields-in-Yunnan-ProvinceLike an abstract painting: Terrace rice fields in Yunnan Province, China – Photo by JialiangGao

Terraced paddy fields are very common in rice farming where the land is hilly or mountainous. Terraced rice fields helps to decrease erosion and work well for rice crops which need to be grown in a flooded area. Terraced paddy fields are built into steep hillsides by intense physical labor.

See all the photos HERE

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Den of Geek offers us

15 under-appreciated books: sci-fi, fantasy, horror fiction

For example:
Humans – Matt HaigHumans – Matt Haig
This was the first book I finished after losing my dad, a bereavement that temporarily drained all the flavour out of fiction. Funny, clever and meaningful without being sentimental, Humans restored me.

Matt Haig writes about life and love and death with heart-singing clarity. That’s why, even if this book’s rave reviews and in-store promotions should probably discount it from a list like this, I can’t stop recommending it.

It’s about the arrival on Earth of an alien with a mission, and the chaotic ways that human life gets in his way. It’s something any Douglas Adams fan should enjoy with a story that barrels along, making you laugh and leaving you punch-drunk with fellow-feeling at the end. Towards that end is a short chapter in the form of a list of aphoristic advice from a father to a son. Read it, and see what I mean. ~ By Louisa Mellor

Check out the others HERE

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A Library That Plummets into an Abysslibrary artPhoto by Claire Voon for Hyperallergic

For her entry into the biannual Sculpture by the Sea in Denmark, Swedish artist Susanna Hesselberg installed this ominous library that plumments into the ground like a mining shaft.

Titled “When My Father Died It Was Like a Whole Library Had Burned Down,” the artwork makes reference to lyrics from Laurie Anderson’s song World Without End. The piece joins an additional 55 sculptures on display right now at the 2015 Sculpture by the Sea.

Read the whole story HERE

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Haunted Art Gallery for Kids

In an attempt to better engage the youngest visitors to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, Torafu Architects created a special art gallery just for kids called Haunted House. On entering the exhibition a few familiar artworks appear hung in frames around a large white cube, but something is clearly amiss as everything appears to be moving.haunted libraryPhotos by Yoshitsugu Fuminari.

The eyes in a portrait dart back and forth, a pair of hands emerges from Mona Lisa’s face and begins to manipulate the painting, the head of a portrait turns around in loops. A secret passageway leads to the cube’s interior where almost every artwork can be manipulated or altered from behind, a place where the art can be touched and kids are free to laugh, run and play while interacting directly with some of the world’s most famous paintings. A killer idea.

See more photos HERE

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THIS n THATSpock $5Bank of Canada urges ‘Star Trek’ fans to stop ‘Spocking’ their fivers”

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Whether it’s The Burrow or Gatsby’s mansion, fictional homes are pretty amazing

Quiz: Which Fictional Home Is For You?

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Quote of the DayQUOTE Real life~~~~~
Alma Alexander      My books      Email me

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Unputable downable

Buzzfeed Books asked subscribers of their newsletter to tell them about a book that they couldn’t put down. One reader talked about taking her choice to work and pretending to search her purse for something just so she could read another page. That’s unputable downable!

Their list of 53 books is heavily weighted toward the best sellers list, but there are some surprises and reasons given for each are fascinating.

The choices range from Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, to Who Asked You? by Terry McMillan, and Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin.

One selection:

The New York Trilogy

 

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

“I have never been so adamant about finding out what’s going to happen in a book, whilst at the same time feeling so baffled by the path taken to get there. Auster’s interlocking, genre-bending detective stories are something you really just have to dig into to understand. And, as amazing as this book is, it should really come with a warning: “Will ruin all other books for you by making them seem highly ordinary.” ~ Holly

 

 

See the other 52 selections HERE

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Dorothy Woodend asks rather plaintively at Alternet

Um, Now Can We Have a Girl’s Coming of Age Film?

and points out in these reawakening movies, it’s always about the boy. (article link below)

So, I read the article and all about the movies it describes. Neither would have induced me to part with money for a ticket, to be honest – it all sounds like SO much “more of the same” – I’ve seen these movies before,

it seems that only in fantasyland (the iconic “Hunger Games”, or my own Worldweavers series..) is the girl allowed the space and the privilege of doing her own growing up.

Contemporary lit of the YA ilk is often focused on the MALE half of the equation, with the girls’ own adventure presented as either as a side plot and an also-ran or simply glossed over altogether in her supporting role for the male metamorphosis.

And they say that boys won’t read NOW? Even though it’s all about them? Well, then, why don’t we simply go ahead and write the girl stories anyway? What is there left to lose? And I’d love to see a proper movie with a young female central character (who is not Katniss Everdeen) coming into her own…Me and Earl
In Dorothy Woodend’s piece, she discusses two of the most recent examples of men-in-crisis film are Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and Ben’s At Home.

“One is a Sundance darling…and the other is a low-budget Canadian indie. Superficially, they don’t look the same. One has stars, a showy cinematographer, and a big old budget, while the other was shot in Toronto for apparently five dollars…What they do have in common is the license given to the male lead to suck up all the attention, no matter what is happening around him.”

Read the whole story HERE

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And they tell ME I write books that put my characters through hell..

10 Dark Books for the Literarily Disturbed

If you’re seduced by the deeper, grittier side of literature, check out a list of the most subversive novels in literary fiction, chosen by Feed Your Need to Read. They add, “don’t say we didn’t warn you about these dark books.”

Tropic of Cancer

 

Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller

Henry Miller’s semi-autobiographical tale of a homeless writer’s bawdy adventures in Paris never shrinks from explicit detail. The mix of offensive language, vignettes, and aggressive social commentary led to the book’s immediate ban. As a judge at Miller’s obscenity trial raved, “It is a cesspool, an open sewer, a pit of putrefaction, a slimy gathering of all that is rotten in the debris of human depravity.”

 

 

9 other dark books HERE

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How the Modern Detective Novel Was Born

Golden Age of Murder

 

In a new book, Martin Edwards traces the detective novel through the decades, and the many forms its taken on the way to its current form.

The roots of the modern detective novel can be traced back to Trent’s Last Case, written by E.C. Bentley, and published in 1913. Bentley intended to write an ironic exposure of detective fiction, but the book’s cleverness and lightness of touch meant that readers took it seriously, and it became a wildly successful best-seller. Above all, it influenced a new generation of writers after the First World War.

 

Read the whole story HERE

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Blank pagesBlank pages … teenagers reading. Photograph: Cultura Creative (RF)/Alamy

Which books didn’t change your life?

Whether she’s weighing into Amazon or defending fantasy against the slights of literary novelists, Claire Armitstead writes at The Guardian, “Ursula Le Guin is always good value.”

This month on her blog, a request for a list of her top 50 books led to a meditation on the books that had failed to change her.

“What books didn’t influence me?” she writes. “If only someone would ask that! I’ve been waiting for years to answer it. Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, I will say, had absolutely no influence on me except to cause hours of incredulous boredom. I thought in all fairness I ought to try The Fountainhead. I gave up on page 10.”

Read the whole article HERE

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THIS n THATlocker booksTeachers Transform Lockers into Book Spines

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Font with agendaProject Seen: A font with an agenda

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Missing comma gets grammar nerd out of parking ticket

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Quote of the DayQUOTE kids only~~~~~
Alma Alexander      My books      Email me

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Sexy ereaders

Few benefits of the e-reader are as attractive as the privacy it affords, Calum Marsh writes at The Guardian, so after the launch of the Kindle, erotic romance really took off.

Spring FlingAn erotica publication geared towards the male market. Photograph: Ellora’s Cave

In public the anonymity is ironclad: you could be reading hardcore BDSM erotica on your Kindle or Kobo, but to your fellow commuters you might as well be poring over PG Wodehouse.

Print versions of erotica are mainly to please the authors because hardly anyone buys them in print.

 

 

Read the whole story HERE

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Planted in the stars
Beth Moon HerculesPhoto Beth Moon

Stunning Photos of Africa’s Oldest Trees, Framed by Starlight

At the Smithsonian, Melissa Wiley reports that for the past 15 years, fine arts photographer Beth Moon has taken pictures of really old trees. She has journeyed around the world in search of trees notable for their size, age and history, photographing during the day. Her most recent series, titled “Diamond Nights,” however, plays with starlight.

I was living in Zambia when I saw my first baobab tree. I always thought of Baobabs as “upside down trees” because they look like nothing so much as though a giant hand has torn them from the ground and then planted them again head first so that their torn and tortured twisted roots were the only thing that was left showing above the earth.

And now these pictures, which appear to show that these ancient trees are in fact rooted… in the stars.

Beth Moon has found something profound here.

Read the whole story HERE

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A Poet Describes Feelings In Color

Kelsey Danielle is a poet on Tumblr who describes emotions, as submitted by her followers, with the colors they feel like.

For example:
Color of loveThe project was inspired, Julia Reinstein reports at BuzzFeed, by a poem Kelsey Danielle wrote a few years ago on visualizing the things she feels as colors.

“It’s a poem that’s always stuck with me because I continue to attach colors to any emotion I’m feeling. I describe it a bit like feeling in colors. It’s been helpful for me over the years by having a visual to focus on when I’m upset or angry.”

Read the whole story HERE

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I just bought a book because the first line grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. The first line of The Martian by Andy Weir is:

“I’m pretty much fucked.”

It doesn’t include my find, but at BuzzFeed, Sarah Galo finds 53 of

The Best Opening Sentences In Literature
Look at all the booksCreative Commons 2.0 / Via Flickr: stewart

FROM
“All this happened, more or less.” —Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

TO
“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”
—The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

See all the first lines HERE

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Can you read?

Yeah, OK. You learned to read in early childhood. But you could always do better, right?

Gretchen Rubin offers
How To Become a Better Reader in 10 Steps

One of her 10 is reading audiobooks. My husband endorses this wholeheartedly. He has ‘read’ hundreds of books this way. Initially, he insisted it was a way to get more exercise. He would download books from the library and listen to them as he walked. His walks got shorter and shorter, but he still listens to a book whenever he has a boring household chore.

Read all her tips HERE

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THIS n THAT

‘Cisgender’ has been added to the Oxford English Dictionary: The term is defined as ‘designating a person whose sense of personal identity corresponds to the sex and gender assigned to him or her at birth.’

Read the whole story HERE

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Gilligan's Island cast15 Fateful Facts About ‘Gilligan’s Island’
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Bradbury bookendsRay Bradbury’s Demolished Home Turned Into Bookends

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Quote of the Day
Northshire BooksNorthshire Books in Manchester VT.

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Alma Alexander     My books     Email me
 
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Stories are alive

What is it that makes certain stories last?

That’s a question that Neil Gaiman explores in a lecture two and a half years in the making, part of the Long Now Foundation’s nourishing and necessary seminars on long-term thinking, an article in Brain Pickings tells us.
Neil GaimanGaiman suggests that stories are a life-form obeying the same rules of genesis, reproduction, and propagation that organic matter does. “Stories are alive – they can, and do, outlive even the world’s oldest living trees by millennia,” he says.

Read the article and listen to Gaiman HERE

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My first major success was ‘The Secrets of Jin-Shei‘, a novel of sisterhood set in a mythological land called Syai that resembles an Imperial China that never was. It is out in 13 languages so far.

The Secrets of Jin-sheiThe first Harper Collins hardcover edition of Jin-shei had a gorgeous cover. While the paperback is still available, the hardcover edition is out of print now and I have seen it being sold as a collector’s item. I have a few copies of my own stashed away that I am hoarding.

Published more than a decade ago, it is a story that fits Gaiman’s definition. It is a living thing. I still hear from or about women and girls who have pledged Jin-shei to each other like the characters in my story. Some time back, a teenager in Brazil posted a video about it on her blog. I don’t speak Portuguese, but she did seem to be enthusiastic about it.

At off the Shelf, Hilary Krutt takes a look at several other similar books:

 

11 Novels that Explore the Beautiful and Complex Bonds of Sisterhood

“The concept of sisterhood has always possessed an almost mystical allure for me,” Krutt says. “Growing up with no sisters of my own, my brother served as a proxy, begrudgingly allowing me to dress him up in old tutus and playing along with my extensive collection of Barbie dolls. He eventually grew out of it, but I always cherished the time when he allowed me to project my girlish whims on him. Whether you’re from a clan of sisters or sisterless like me, here are eleven books about the joys and challenges of sisterhood.”

e.g.

The Weird Sisters

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown:

Bianca, Cordelia, and Rosalind are the book-loving and wonderfully quirky spawn of Shakespeare scholar Dr. James Andreas. When the three sisters return to their childhood home to lick their wounds and bury their secrets, they are horrified to find the others there.

But the Andreas sisters soon discover that everything they’ve been running from might offer more than they ever expected.

 

Read the whole story HERE

 

 

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Another story that interested me because of the personal connection to one of my own books is a Flavorwire story on Internet novels. :

I didn’t write an Internet novel in the sense of the article below, but the man-who-was-to- become-my-husband and I wrote an epistolary novel together about NATO’s war on Yugoslavia in the form of an exchange of emails over the Internet between a pro-war American man, and a Serb woman living under the bombs. After the original bitter exchanges, the couple, despite themselves, fell in love.

Published by New Zealand HarperCollins, it was called ‘Letters from the Fire‘ and sold extremely well in New Zealand where I was living at the time. Now self published on the Internet… Well… No comment.

The books mentioned by Flavowire have made a lot more of a stir.

The Evolution of the Internet Novel, 1984 to Present: A Timeline

neuromancer

 

The article begins with, not surprisingly, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, published in 1984.

It may be argued that earlier novels, genre or otherwise, anticipated the Internet before William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984), but can any of them lay claim to the invention of the word “cyberspace,” or the cyberpunk genre, or the credible hacking novel?’

 

 

Read the whole story HERE

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ParbunkellsThe Word the Internet Didn’t Know

Ever heard of the word in the photo above? Maddie Stone asks at Gizmodo. Probably not, because, until this month, that word didn’t exist on the Internet.

That’s right: A 17th century English word that means “coming together through the binding of two ropes,” according to a 1627 publication housed at the New York Public Library’s Rare Book Division, was, until this month, dead to the digital world—and to almost every living person.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the internet knows everything, but it doesn’t.

Read the whole story HERE

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THIS ‘n THAT

New favorite review of ‘Wolf‘, second book in my The Were Chronicles. At Goodreads, a reader called Melani exclaims with glee,

They saved the day with SCIENCE!”

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The man who saved 2,000,000 babies

…and 14 other saviors of mankind

Read the whole Kindness Blog story HERE

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Scientists discover what’s killing the bees and it’s worse than you thought

Read the whole story of the bee apocalypse HERE

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Quote of the day

Stories should change you – good stories should change you.” ~ Neil Gaiman

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Alma Alexander      My books      Email me   

If you found this blog post interesting, amusing or helpful, then please use the icons below to share it with other writers, readers or the guy next to you on the subway.