What’s your fetish?

Fetish, n. Something irrationally reverenced

Not all fetishes are sexual, Daniel Dalton writes at BuzzFeed. Sometimes you just really love something inanimate, intangible, or non-human…

LogophileDaniel Dalton / BuzzFeed / Via unsplash.com

Oh, I suffer from SO MANY of these…

But this next is NOT one of them!
StegophileDaniel Dalton / BuzzFeed / Via unsplash.com

See all the others HERE

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Graffiti Artists make over a school

This is amazing, a project that fires the imagination of the kid in the prison-like white-walled school and transforms those bare walls into something that takes FLIGHT.

And I have no words to express my gratitude to the people involved. Every one of those kids will be the richer for this experience, even though a staggering percentage of them (from the statistics quoted in the video) are “below the poverty line”. Sometimes life is NOT just about bread alone. It’s about dreams, too.

At Huffington Post, Eleanor Goldberg reports on a low-income school that shares a zip code with an Art Basel mecca, but was neglected for years. When 73 graffiti artists found out about it, they decided to give its 30-foot white walls an unbelievable makeover.Painting schoolSee the video HERE

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15 obsolete words we should still be using
crapulousCrapulous = overindulging (Photo: Everett Collection/Shutterstock)

Some words fall into disuse, Laura Moss writes at Mother Nature Network, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable. Words like

“Apricity: noun. The warmth of the sun in winter”; “Callipygian: adjective. Having shapely buttocks”; “Cockalorum: noun. A boastful person…”

And “Slugabed: noun. Lazy person who stays in bed long after the usual time for rising”, a word my ludicrously early-rising husband sometimes calls me.

See all the words HERE

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The Glass Ceiling: The Invisible Authors

Glass-CeilingAs a former professor of English literature,” Anthony Servante writes, “I can tell you the history of female authors who used male pseudonyms (but) …Why are women still using pseudonyms today, 150 years after Emily and Charlotte Brontë began the practice?”

Billie Sue Mosiman’s essay, Literature’s Glass Ceiling, accommodates Servante’s article, along with two female authors who use male pseudonyms to answer some questions about their practice of hiding their gender in the hopes of selling more books.

Read the article HERE

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Feminist writers are so besieged by online abuse that some have begun to retire
FeministsWashington Post illustration)

Writing in The Washington Post, Michelle Goldberg looks at the harassment women writers face online.

Jessica Valenti is one of the most successful and visible feminists of her generation. As a columnist for the Guardian, her face regularly appears on the site’s front page…And she tells me that, because of the nonstop harassment that feminist writers face online, if she could start over, she might prefer to be completely anonymous.

“I don’t know that I would do it under my real name,” she says she tells young women who are interested in writing about feminism. It’s “not just the physical safety concerns but the emotional ramifications” of constant, round-the-clock abuse.

Read the article HERE

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THIS ‘n THAT
Amish snowbirdLeaving buggies behind, Amish snowbirds flock to Florida for winter

Relaxed town of Pinecraft in Sarasota suburbs hosts thousands from up North seeking sun, sand and more modern ambiance

Read the story HERE

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Jeff Wysaski has been adding some new sections to his local bookstore
Shirtless

See the rest HERE  

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The Woman Who Feels Everything

“Amanda” physically feels everything experienced by those she around her. If you eat in front of Amanda, she feels food being shoved in her mouth. When you stub your toe, she feels the same stabbing pain. This phenomenon is a type of cross-wiring in the brain.

More about this extraordinary condition HERE

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Quote of the Day

Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.” ~ Rita Mae Brown

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Alma Alexander      My books      Email me

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German Indians

There is a bookstore in Novi Sad, the city in which I was born – a place that smelled of books, and of yellowing paper, and of aging book binding glue, and of silk paper bookends; a place with a hint of ancientness and mystery where old cloth-bound books felt rough with use under your fingertips, or worn smooth by the many hands that had held the book before yours, a place where people spoke in low voices, as though they were in a library or a temple. It was a treasure trove, books stacked on shelves and on top of shelved books tucked between book and the shelf above it, piled on the floor below, often with an attempt at order but all too frequently subject to serendipity.

They actually modernised that shop, in later years, and it became much more stiff and formal and – well – by-the-book, if you like, and a part of me mourned that – but I digress.

It was here that I picked up my first Karl May volumes, in translation, of course, when I was maybe seven or eight years old.

This comes to mind because of a fascinating Utne article in which Laura R. Graham and H. Glenn Penny examine German fascination with North American Indians. They note that:

“American Indians became deeply ingrained in German culture during the 19th Century, their stories became ciphers for modern struggles during the 20th…The unrelenting breadth and depth of this preoccupation is remarkable…By writing about American Indians, German novelists became best-selling authors…The most prominent of these was Karl May, whose books sold over seventy million copies by the 1980s.
German IndianGerman hobbyists call their effort to study, simulate and emulate aspects of North American Indian life “practical ethnology.” Photo by Fotolia/Shchipkova Elena

Back when I was that eight-year-old child, I picked his books up and fell into them, drowned in them, happily. I LOVED Winnetou, the Apache chief. I loved all of it, the set-up, the context, the milieu, the characters – so much so that my father bestowed upon me the nickname of Ntsho-chi, Winnetou’s sister. Other girls, other generations, might have grown up with a Disney Princess called Pocahontas who sang about the colors of the wind, but when I was growing up Ntsho-chi was the Indian Princess who was the lodestar.

Everything in those books was a wonder. It was one of the first books to totally immerse me, to hold me, to make me cry.

It took me YEARS to unlearn everything I thought I knew about the Apache, from reading this book.

Not least the fact that not everything good and advanced and (I hate to use the word, but that’s what was being portrayed) “civilized” came to the noble savages through the agency of a white Ubermensch, and specifically a German one. – actually, two German ones, one old and dying philosopher-type and then his inheritor, WInnetou’s gung-ho blood brother who sported sixpack abs and steely blue eyes and blond hair and went by the name of Old Shatterhand because of the way his handshake crushed people’s fingers into bone stew. The guy who could outride and outshoot and outswim and outthink anybody at all, Superman in fringed buckskin, and yet humble and full of humor and faith…the ultimate, in fact, of what I later learned to know as a Mary Sue character. A beloved incarnation of May himself who (as far as I know) never actually went near the pueblos of which he wrote or met a single Indian.
Karl MayKarl May booksEven back when I read those books for that first magical time, after I carted them home from that magical bookstore, there were things in it that bothered both the mystical and the pragmatic in me.

I could buy it all – everything – all the bits of window dressing, every tchotchke, every eagle feather on every warbonnet that everyone, of course, wore – ALL of it.

But there was one thing that made me grind my teeth, even back then.

The ending.

Where the “noble savage”, the heathen Indian, the man who ran around under God’s own sky and in His trees but called Him the Manitou instead of Jehovah and didn’t require anyone to die for his salvation, suddenly heard the sound of a church bell in a (you guessed it) German settlement of pious Christians, and for some reason all of it went away and nothing would do but Mary and Jesus from then on – the Christian faith, the Holy Holy Holy Christian faith, the thing that obviously trumped the ignorance and the innocence of the savage heathen who inhis last hours found his salvation (and possibly found himself, bewildered and with an odd sense of being cheated, trying to figure out St Peter and the angels of the heavenly choir while trying to find out where the Happy Hunting Grounds had got to…)

Nothing against faith. Nothing at all. A sincerely held faith is a beautiful thing.

But this was not that. It was possibly one man’s sincere faith, all right – but it was being stuffed into a character where it did not belong at all and where it could only mar and not enhance and the writer, the character’s creator, the one who had MADE the great and glorious Winnetou who ruled a number of my childhood dreams, could not see that he was ruining his creation for the sake of that faith. It stopped being a story. It began to be preaching and indoctrination and “thou canst not be saved and brought to the feet of (the only) God untill and unless thou first bow thine head in transcendent surrender when the first sound of a church bell reaches thine ears”.

And that is part of what the German re-enacters are actually buying into. They’re re-enacting the “noble savage” – but they know that they themselves are NOT that, cannot be that, because they are really those German settlers in the story who had built the church with the heavenly bell, they are really the manly man of Old Shatterhand who ruled the West just as solidly as Winnetou (and who was portrayed as belonging there as much if not more than his Indian friend and blood brother, the man who was born of that world and who carried it inside him to an extent that the white dude never did, never could….)

It’s a different kind of fairy tale, a novel one that caught and fired their interest, distant enough from their own home and from everything they know and understand to be fascinating, and knowing (as Karl May taught them) that they were the coming of salvation, the coming of God, and they could play both the pre-Christian innocence and nobility and the post-Christian saintliness and oh GOD (so to speak) it is just irresistible.

And in the meantime, still remembering with a melancholy sense of loss the sights and smells of that old bookstore and the dreams that dwelled within, I am stuck out here in the cold, unlearning the untruths behind the fairy tale of the Old West as told by a German dreamer who may well have sincerely and genuinely believed that – in one way or another – it was his destiny to raise the red man out of the Garden of Eden and straight into Heaven itself.

I will choose to remember the joy it gave me. I will choose to remember the frisson of delight that ran down my child-sized spine when my father called me lovingly by a fictional Apache princess’s name.

The rest… I will learn from the people who can actually and regretfully close the book on the dream… and tell me about what REALLY happened.

Meanwhile, read the Utne article HERE

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Quote of the day

We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.
~ American Indian Proverb

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Alma Alexander       My books       Email me

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Who’s your favorite spy?

SpiesThe Greatest Spies In Pop Culture

In fiction — as well as the real world — spies are everywhere. At io9, Katharine Trendacosta and Meredith Woerner picked 50 out of hundreds that merit special attention.

GarakGarak, Deep Space Nine
My husband was charmed that they chose one of his favorites, a fellow who he claims had the best line in the Deep Space 9 series.

When a human told the Cardassian Elim Garak that the meaning of the saying “the boy who cried wolf” is that if you tell lies, no-one will ever believe you again, Garek explains that he has it wrong:

“It means that you should never tell the same lie twice.”

Included on their list is one of my favorites, Christopher Foyle from the British series Foyle’s War. Although he started as a police officer, Foyle was so good at his job he ends up recruited by MI5. This, despite that scrupulously honesty is one of his defining features. “That’s right, he’s so good that a spy agency wanted him even though he doesn’t like to lie.”

Others on the list include George Smiley from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, James Bond, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Ethan Hunt of Mission Impossible, Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin from the Man from U.N.C.L.E., John Steed and Emma Peel, Jason Bourne…the list goes on and on. Who is your favorite?

See the whole list HERE

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I’m giving a reading tonight…

 'Fan of the fantastic? We're thrilled to welcome back @[67938071280:274:Alma Alexander] tomorrow (Feb. 20) at 7pm with her latest Young Adult novel about shapeshifters, Random: Book One of The Were Chronicles. </p>
<p>http://www.villagebooks.com/event/alma-alexander-2/20/15'

If you are anywhere near Bellingham, Washington this Friday, you might want to drop by Village Books at 7 p.m where I will be reading from Book 1 in The Were Chronicles…and a snippet from Book 2.
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100 Biographies & Memoirs to Read in a Lifetime

OK, this is a sales pitch for Amazon and they don’t really need any more promotion —

but still …

it’s a fascinating list and contains a number of books I’d recommend myself.

A Walk in the WoodsTake a “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson, for just one example, a book that both my husband and I loved to the point we’d follow each other around the house reading passages out loud.

The suggested reading list includes works old and new — Malcolm X, Mark Twain, Vladimir Nabokov, Tiny Fey, Jack Kerouac, Joan Didion, Anne Frank…

So check the list put together by Amazon’s Books Editors. You don’t have to buy the books online; you can always get them from your favorite bookstore.

 

See the whole list HERE

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Indies revenge

And speaking of favorite bookstores…

When huge chain bookstores spread across the country decades ago, they drove many independent booksellers out of business. Then most of the chains faltered and many went belly up.

When Borders liquidated a few years ago, for example, it left many communities without a bookstore, Judith Rosen writes at Publishers Weekly.

Most independent booksellers were hesitant about leasing the smaller vacated stores, and shopping centers were unwilling to carve up cavernous locations once occupied by the chain’s superstores.

Now, the bookselling landscape is changing once again. Independents are taking back some of the physical bookshelf space that had been lost.

Time needed to pass for the consumer, the landlord, and the bookstore market to figure out what should fill that space. It’s not another 20,000-sq.-ft. store, but maybe it’s two 4,000-sq.-ft. stores on different ends of town,” said Robert Sindelar of Third Place Books, which recently announced that it will open a third bookstore in the Seattle area.
Third Place BooksThird Place Books in Lake Forest Park, Wash. photo: thirdplacebooks.com

Read the encouraging story HERE

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23 Reasons

Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel about the role of women in a totalitarian state, “The Handmaid’s Tale”, is one of the best books ever written, Krystie Lee Yandoli writes at BuzzFeed.
The Handmaidens Taleinstagram.com
It has empowered people to think for themselves outside of conventional social norms.

See the other 22 reasons HERE

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The top 10 novels featuring works of art

I never wrote a novel featuring a painting, but I did win a BBC contest for my short story, The Painting.

Novelist Sophia Tobin chooses her favorite books with paintings at their heart, from Dorian Gray’s hidden portrait to Donna Tartt’s stolen Goldfinch.
Girl with a Pearl Earring by VermeerGirl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (1999)

The book that inspired a play, a film and thousands of mini-breaks to The Hague. Looking at the Vermeer painting of the same name, Chevalier was inspired by the latent intensity of the sitter’s gaze as it meets the viewer/artist. From this she creates the story of Griet, a servant girl who, through her interest in art, becomes close to her employer, Johannes Vermeer. The influence of Netherlandish art is clear in Chevalier’s luminous version of Delft and her subtle portrait of love and loss, as coolly lit as one of Vermeer’s paintings.

See the others HERE

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THIS ‘n THAT
Dan ReeveArtist Daniel Reeve created and re-created calligraphy and maps for Peter Jackson’s films of the Tolkien adventures in Middle-earth. His gallery of images includes maps and illustrations as well as calligraphy and lettering.

See his work HERE

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Quote of the Day
QUOTE John Gardner~~~~~
Alma Alexander     My books     Email me

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Tomato eyes?


At the Ted talk blog, Helene Batt and Kate Torgovnick May examine 40 brilliant idioms that simply can’t be translated literally

As our Open Translation Project volunteers translate TED Talks into 105 languages, they’re often challenged to translate English idioms into their language. Which made us wonder: what are their favorite idioms in their own tongue?

For example:
The idiom: ชาติหน้าตอนบ่าย ๆ
Literal translation: “One afternoon in your next reincarnation.”
What it means: “It’s never gonna happen.”
Thai translator Kelwalin Dhanasarnsombut

Other languages this idiom exists in: A phrase that means a similar thing in English: “When pigs fly.” In French, the same idea is conveyed by the phrase, “when hens have teeth (quand les poules auront des dents).” In Russian, it’s the intriguing phrase, “When a lobster whistles on top of a mountain (Когда рак на горе свистнет).” And in Dutch, it’s “When the cows are dancing on the ice (Als de koeien op het ijs dansen).”

About those tomatoes
tomato_eyesThe idiom: Tomaten auf den Augen haben.
Literal translation: “You have tomatoes on your eyes.”
What it means: “You are not seeing what everyone else can see. It refers to real objects, though — not abstract meanings.
German translator Johanna Pichler

See all the idioms HERE

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8 Hot Book-Based Movies
dakota-johnson-fifty-shades-of-greyDakota Johnson in ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’/Image © Focus Features

If it is hot you want, Jay A. Fernandez and Word & Film has eight movies beyond “50 Shades of Gray” for you to look at, from “Dangerous Liaisons” to “Nine 1/2 Weeks”  — and some honorable mentions.

You know about that movie, of course. “The film adaptation of E.L. James’s mega-selling erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey is out and hearts and other delicate organs are all aflutter at the prospect of Jamie Dornan’s billionaire control-freak Mr. Grey finally introducing Dakota Johnson’s naïve college grad Anastasia Steele to the exquisite joys (and pains) of BDSM on the big screen…if you find yourself hungry for more book-based, big-screen eroticism, here’s our ranking of some of the steamier options on offer (on a scale of one to five shades). Curious?”

Hot enough for you? HERE

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Girl Canon

Girls read more than boys, a Flavorwire article notes, but the classic, canonical growing-up books tend to represent the male experience. Emily Temple asks, where are the books for girls to grow up on?

I wondered the same thing myself at the start of the Harry Potter tidal wave and set out to something about that with my Worldweavers YA series. Its central figure, Thea Winthrup, was The Girl Who Couldn’t who became over the four books, The Woman Who Saved The World. Quite a role model.

Temple offers 50 other “Essential Books about the female experience.

Check out her list HERE

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Dawn of Magic

 

Speaking of Worldweavers, the fourth and  final book in the series, Dawn of Magic, is now out and I am sponsoring a giveaway at Goodreads.

Go to the site and enter your name for a chance to win a copy of the book in which Thea, Nikola Tesla and Corey the Trickster rescue mankind’s stolen Core of Magic..

 

Enter Contest HERE

 

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50 Books Guaranteed to Make You More Interesting

At Flavorwire, Emily Temple offers a list of books that will make you smarter, funnier, deeper, and yes, more interesting — at least to some people.

Take, for example:
The Gilda Stories,The Gilda Stories, Jewelle Gomez: OK: this is a feminist lesbian vampire novel, a coming-of-age story starring an undead escaped slave that spans some 200 years as the title character works her way from Louisiana in 1850 to New Hampshire in 2020. It’s bound to teach anybody something new.

And one more:
Lone Ranger and TontoThe Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Sherman Alexie:  Not only one of the best, funniest, and smartest books about the Native American experience in America, but also one of the best, funniest, and smartest books. Alexie’s interwoven shorts will improve you in almost every way.

See the other 48 HERE

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Sounds of Silence

Silence has become an endangered species. Gordon Hempton writes at Daily Good, and that is bad for us and the planet.

“Our cities, our suburbs, our farm communities, even our most expansive and remote national parks are not free from human noise intrusions. Nor is there relief even at the North Pole; continent-hopping jets see to that.”  
Silent Forest“Silence is not the absence of something but the presence of everything. It lives here, profoundly, at One Square Inch in the Hoh Rain Forest, part of Olympic National Park — arguably the quietest place in the United States. It is the presence of time, undisturbed. It can be felt within the chest. Silence nurtures our nature, our human nature, and lets us know who we are…To experience the soul-swelling wonder of silence, you must hear it.”

Read the profound lyrical essay HERE

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Quote of the Day
QUOTE Great book~~~~~
Alma Alexander      My books      Email me

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You killed her!

I write books. I tell stories. I create worlds, and the characters who inhabit them. I know I have hit my mark when I get a reaction from readers — like the one who once called me up at 3 AM to wail in anguish:

“You killed her! I can’t believe you killed her!”

I know this place. I’ve been there myself, with other writers’ characters. Ones I could not believe the author would have the heart or the gumption to kill them off. So I understand very well where James Varon is coming from when he lists the following as one of the

17 Times Your Love Of Books Was Officially Out Of ControlOut of controlFlickr / Patrick Gage Kelley

# 9 - “When you get halfway through a book and you’re so painfully invested in the characters that you almost don’t want to finish the book in case something bad happens to them. What if one of them dies!!!!”

And #15 also hits the mark: “When you meet someone who loves a book that you also love and you…practically do nothing but just discuss books until both your voices are hoarse. And then when you marry that person because having books you love in common.”

Because that’s what I did.

Read the rest HERE

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I’m at Radcon this weekend in Pasco, Washington. I visited a school, where one girl grabbed the bookmarks for my various new books, marched to the school librarian to pick up copies — and was outraged to discover they hadn’t acquired them yet. Bless her.Alma and Jim Hines

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Bookmarks For Bookworms

I love some of these. The HippoMark is inspired and I’d like one myself, although I have my doubts about how useful it is or how easily it would get knocked right out of a book it was marking if it was laid down carelessly. This one is much more useful.
Fox bookmarkThe ones I make, as promo swag for my books are useful bookmarks, but aren’t nearly as natty as some of these are.Bookmarks spread

See ALL the bookmarks HERE

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This century’s 12 greatest novels, so far

What are the greatest novels of the opening years of this tumultuous century? Jane Ciabattari and the BBC asked prominent book editors, critics, and reviewers to name the best novels published in English since 1 January 2000. The critics named 156 novels in all, and based on the votes, these are the top 12.
The-Brief-Wondrous-Life-of-Oscar-Wao
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The winner in this BBC Culture critics’ poll is Junot Diaz’s first novel, about New Jersey ghetto-nerd Oscar, who dreams of being the Dominican-American Tolkien and finding love.

“It is a big deal for me to fall in love with a book when its DNA is science fiction, fantasy and testosterone,” says Elizabeth Taylor, The Chicago Tribune’s literary editor-at-large.

See all the others HERE

 

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Remember that line:? All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there. “

And of course Europa is THE one we want to go to. Well, we were warned… But DAMN, it’s going to be exciting.
EuropaIllustrations by Ron Miller

We’re Going To Europa

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All the world’s a page

One woman’s year-long quest to read a book from every country
World-BookAnn Morgan read a book from 196 states in 12 months (AFP/Getty)

The response from bibliophiles around the globe was a story in itself, Ann Morgan writes in The Independent.

Read her story HERE

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THIS ‘n THAT

Quiz: Can you identify the detective from their description?

From hardboiled PIs to mustachioed gentlemen amateurs, fictional detectives give detailed descriptions of suspects but rarely talk about themselves. Can you pick these iconic detectives out in a lineup

Name that detective

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“fic·tion·ar·y’

A free look-up capable custom Kindle dictionary of fictitious terms, places, and people in literature.

Read more HERE

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These 23 Unbelievable Facts will destroy your Understanding Of Time

Time has always perplexed the human race. We’ve tried to define it, track it, and measure it since the emergence of civilization. However, facts like these listed here show us how distorted our perception of time can be and how much we still need to learn about the fourth dimension.

Read all the facts HERE

~~~~~
Quote of the Day
QUOTE - C.S. Lewis~~~~~
Alma Alexander      My books      Email me 

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Goodbye — and Thank You

I was nineteen years old and a ‘seasoned’ writer who had written between three and six novels, depending on whether you counted only the ‘good’ ones or everything, when I hit upon a brilliant idea.

I would rewrite the Matter of Britain, the body of medieval literature associated with legendary heroes like King Arthur.

In the first person.

As the Queen.

I wrote the book. entitled “I, Guinevere”, and got so identified with it that my boyfriend at the time used to send me cards addressed to “the Princess” (I still have those cards. They are little treasures.)

It was a serious attempt to come to grips with a topic I passionately loved, with characters whom I’d known well for years through dipping into their stories as told by many other people, with the kind of lush language with which I was to become familiar as my writing later grew more fully into that shape.

“I, Guinevere” was promptly handed by my father to a South African publisher who loved it. I was close enough to a published book to smell it.

He said that the novel had to go to a beta reader first for his report. And off it went.

The beta reader… was Andre Brink.

André Brink, 1982André Brink in 1982

He was one of South Africa’s great writers, a Name, and I was stunned. But Brink was perhaps the last person who might have had any sympathy for the kind of writer I was – or I was shaping to be – or for the subject matter that I had chosen.

I waited for his report with something like existential dread.

When it came back, it opened with a sentence which still takes my breath away.

I have no doubt at all that this work was written by someone who will be a great writer one day.

If you can smell the next word, you’re right. It was

But...”

One of the reasons he gave for my novel’s having missed its mark was that it lacked, as he put it, “what Nikos Kazantzakis called madness“. (It was because of this that I went on to read Kazantzakis whom I had not read before then – so thank you, Mr Brink, for Zorba the Greek.) What he meant, I suspect, was that it lacked the rawest kind of passion, a sexual energy with which this story was charged – but with which I had failed to imbue it.

It rankled, then, but of course he was utterly correct – I was nineteen years old, and a very young and innocent nineteen, and my attempts to write adultery in THE FIRST PERSON (even adultery decorously clad in the robes of High Chivalry) were probably laughable.

I say “were probably” because, to my chagrin, I seem to have permanently lost every last copy of that manuscript. I would love to read it now all these decades later just to see by how much I had sailed past my mark but that is no longer possible. All I have is a memory of that nineteen-year-old girl and her romantic-but-attempted-to-be-gritty vision of Camelot and its shenanigans, and of the book that was born out of that.
dad and me lonelier roadA portrait of the writer as a young woman — Alma at 19 and her late father, Hamo Hromic, with an early book of her poetry

And that sentence. The sentence that – in spite of himself – in spite of all his misgivings and his caveats and eventually his veto – Andre Brink could not help but give me.

Thank you for that, sir.

With gratitude, and respect, I bid you farewell. And may Nikos Kazantzakis greet you with a does of ‘madness’ out there in the light where the passion of words (which you have always carried with you) blazes like a star,

Alma Alexander

~~~

Andre Brink dies at 79

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Quote of the day

If I speak with a character’s voice it is because that character’s become so much part of me that … I think I have the right then to imagine myself into the skin, into the life, into the dreams, into the experience of the particular character that I’ve chosen.” ~ Andre Brink

~~~~~
Alma Alexander       My books       Email me

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Bridge to history

One of the formative reading experiences of any child of my background and culture is the book “The Bridge on the Drina” by Ivo Andric.

Bridge on the Drina

 

It was a seminal work of historical fiction which goes to the heart of the formation of the melting pot that became a country called Yugoslavia in which I was born.  Andric won a Nobel Prize for Literature, for that and other works – but to most of the world it was a just a good book. To those of us who read it from the inside, it was searing. It was a reminder of a long and bloody history whose tentacles reach right to the present day and still pack a poisoned punch.

 

Letters-from-the-FireMany many years after Andric wrote his book, I co-authored a novel with the man I subsequently married called “Letters from the Fire”, whose subject matter was yet another war fought on that embattled piece of land that was once my country. Amelia Batistich, a New Zealand writer of some note and of Croatian ancestry, phoned me shortly after it was published to thank me for writing it.

Her true gift to me were the words that followed.

“It is the ‘Bridge on the Drina’ of our times.”

And to this day, the idea that I might have come close to emulating what Andric did for my people and my past makes me want to cry with humility, and with pride. And yes, sometimes the two can stand hand in hand and smiling at one another.
Drina BridgeWatch a video about the town, the book, and the bridge HERE

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Reading loveI mean, I love reading ALL YEAR, but what the hell – just go for it – and I DO have some brand new books for people to pick up after all :)

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What should I do?

Last year I went to the Rainforest Writing Retreat on the shores of beautiful Lake Quinault and wrote up a quiet storm – a large chunk of the novel then in progress, before I was blindsided by a short story which I had to write down right there.

I am going to try to do it again this year, even while aware that life, as has been famously said, is what happens when you’re making other plans

I am thinking about projects to concentrate on while I am there, and I have decided to see if all y’all have any preferences as to what you might want to see emerge FIRST.

The options:

1) The novel I wrote there last year was “Wolf”, the second book in the Were Chronicles series. That’s coming out in May. The third book, Shifter, is due by the end of the year.  publication date of end of this yea. BUT…

…there are other stories that have presented themselves in that universe. I’ve just sketched out a few notes, so far. But this might be a good time to launch into the first of those…?

2) Another Fat Historical Fantasy is long overdue and I have one in the wings waiting there very patiently. This is a distinct possibility. I could dive in and let the waters of this thing close over my head and not come up for air until it’s time to leave. And it will be a Big. Fat. Historical. Fantasy. Think Jin Shei.

3) Finishing up a half-written stand-alone fantasy which has been dropped several times. There are good bones there, and it might be time to put some flesh on them.

4) I am putting together a themed short story collection. Some of the stories are done but I need six or seven more. I could have a more or less finished collection ready by the time I leave the retreat.

So – what do you think? Vote in the comments, for #1,#2,#3, or #4. And I will take it under advisement… you have the rest of this month to make your opinions known. Which door…?

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Dawn of MagicDawn is here
There’s a Goodreads page for the final book in the Worldweavers series, Dawn of Magic, for your reading and reviewing pleasure.

See the Goodreads page HERE

You can buy it at Amazon in either paperback or ebook.

While it’s like choosing your favorite child, I have to admit that it IS my favorite of the four books in the series. Go read, enjoy, leave me LOTS of reviews…

Buy Dawn of Magic HERE

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8 tips for studying smarter

The way most students study makes no sense, two psychologists at Washington University in St. Louis say, according to a story by Joseph Stromberg at Vox.

Rereading an assignment, for example, is useless.
University student studying in library.Photofusion/UIG via Getty Images

Henry Roediger and Mark McDaniel have spent a combined 80 years studying learning and memory, and recently distilled their findings with novelist Peter Brown in the book Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.

Read what works and what doesn’t HERE

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Is Being a Writer a Job or a Calling?

Benjamin Moser and Dana Stevens discuss whether being a writer is just a job or a loftier ambition.

Benjamin Moser:
Benjamin MoserThere is something dreary about wanting writing to be a real job. The sense of inner purpose…distinguishes a writer from a hack. Emily Dickinson didn’t turn her calling into a job, and neither did Franz Kafka…or any of the millions of writers who have never earned a penny for their thoughts. A defrocked priest forever remains a priest, and a writer — independent of publication or readership or “career” — is always a writer. Independent, even of writing. Writing, after all, is something one does. A writer is something one is.  (Illustration by R. Kikuo Johnson )

Dana Stevens:
Dana StevensI still remember the moment I decided to be a writer — or, as I distinctly sensed it at the time, realized I would become one. I was between 7 and 8 years old, sitting in the lowest forking branch of a huge sycamore…I was thinking…the fact that books, those miraculous receptacles of meaning pulled off the shelf each night, were just objects created by people, and that when I grew up, I could conceivably be one of the people responsible for making them. Before that “could” was fully formulated in my mind, it had become a “would” — one day, this would somehow be my job. (Illustration by R. Kikuo Johnson )

Read the rest HERE

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THIS ‘n THAT

Well played

Native American Council Offers Amnesty to 240 Million Undocumented Whites

Read the story HERE

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Beware the robots

Brain surgeons, at least, don’t need to fear robots taking their jiob.

Or do they?

Scientists have recently developed a way to use a laser guided robotic arm that enters the brain through a tiny hole in the skull, then use nanoparticles to remove the cancerous tumor, leaving the healthy cells untouched. The process is still go through clinical trials.

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Meet the ultimate WikiGnome

One Man’s Quest to Rid Wikipedia of Exactly One Grammatical Mistake

Read the article HERE

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Quote of the Day
Saved by a squirrell~~~~~
Alma Alexander     My books     Email me

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What’s better than a bookshop?

Eureka Books
Eureka Books: For most of the 20th century this charming storefront in Eureka, CA was a rough-and-tumble speakeasy called the High Lead Saloon, where in 1933 the two owners had a shootout in the back hallway. It’s said that author Raymond Carver indulged at the High Lead. Today, the building is occupied by a slightly softer crowd. One of the last classic antiquarian booksellers on the west coast, Eureka Books offers first editions, ephemera, and new and used books.

The only thing that tops a bookstore full of amazing books, Jessica Doyle says at AbeBooks, is a beautiful bookstore full of amazing books – a bookstore so charming not even a TV-addict can resist it.

Many stunning bookstores list their books for sale on the AbeBooks marketplace, so we rounded up a few of the most alluring storefronts from Paris to Boston and everywhere in between….before you step inside to bury your nose in a book, take a moment to enjoy the view from outside.”

See the others HERE

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San Francisco’s Borderlands bookstore is closing...

…and I’m so, so sorry to hear it. This was a good bookstore with good people. It also had the distinction of having the scariest store cat in creation.
Ripley_gargoyle_f
Store cat Ripley in her customary gargoyle pose on top of the computer

The world continues to disappoint. There’s enough money to pay a bunch of grown men a combined income that could run a medium-sized country to toss an inflated pigskin around a field, but a bookstore has to close its doors because we can’t be throwing money at READING now, can we…?

I’m sorry, Borderlands. You will be missed.

The company announcement blames the closing on the movement towards online shopping, mostly with Amazon, the shift towards ebooks, and the Great Recession. But says the final straw was San Francisco’s vote to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2018.

Read more HERE

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Endearing and charming letters from famous authors to their fans

Stylist has rounded up a series of some of their favorite responses from authors to their fans, from F Scott Fitzgerald to Charlotte Bronte.

Walt WhitmanWalt Whitman to Bram Stoker: In 1876, a young Dublin government clerk wrote to Walt Whitman, praising his poetry, and including a draft of some of his own work. Whitman replied, praising his “fresh and manly” work and asking him to “write to me again”. The young clerk was Bram Stoker, who went on to write Dracula. The two met in 1884.

 

 

See all the letters HERE

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What’s Wrong with Only Reading Half a Book?

Half bookDonna Tartt reading The Goldfinch from BBC

Kobo recently revealed which books its users read to completion, Lincoln Michel writes at Electric Literature. Much was made of the fact that Donna Tartt’s prize-winning bestseller The Goldfinch was only finished by 44% of Kobo readers, and that, in general, the Bestseller list didn’t match up at all with the Most-Completed list.

Michel concludes that “even those who don’t finish The Goldfinch or Gravity’s Rainbow or Ulysses may end up getting something out of their reading experience that they never would if they only read the books that an algorithm suggested they were most likely to finish. And what’s wrong with that?”

Read the whole article HERE

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36 Stunning Book Tattoos
Ankle tattooankle tattoo

See them all HERE

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Barbie As MedusaBarbie As Medusa

Barbie is really committed to her message that little girls can grow up to be anything! A stewardess! The President! Or even a nightmarish serpent-witch whose very gaze turns the unwary into stone for all eternity!

See all the weird Barbies HERE

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An Australian newspaper caused an outcry when it opened an obituary for Colleen McCullough with a backhanded compliment that focused more on her appearance than her work as a scientist and author.

People on twitter reacted to the description of McCullough by posting their own mocking obituaries, using #myozobituary.

Here’s mine:

Slightly weird, prematurely grey, occasionally depressed, sometimes luminous; not someone you’d *notice*… Oh, writes books. #myozobituary

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THIS ‘n THAT

Jim Edwards, who has spent half his life living in the US and half living in the UK, has some startling news for Americans – socialized medicine works better than privatized medicine in almost every conceivable way.
Buried in paper“Easily the worst aspect of US healthcare — the billing paperwork”

Read the article HERE

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Please tell me just WHY a freaking CEO is so damn valuable.
CEO Pay~~~

Kyriarchy 101: We’re Not Just Fighting the Patriarchy Anymore
A thoughtful and important essay about privilege

Read more HERE

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Quote of the Day

QUOTE book magic, Sagan~~~~
Alma Alexander      My books      Email me 

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TV meets Literature

In Flavorwire, Emily Temple tells us that TV tends to refer to refer to literature to make just about anything a little more highbrow, and adds that “nothing’s more fun than seeing books on the boob tube.”

She picks 50 of the greatest and most memorable literary allusions, shout-outs, cameos, and references on television, as well as real-life author appearances and whole episodes, or even whole seasons, based on books.

For example, she cites The Infinite Jest episode of Parks and Recreation, Maurice Sendak on Colbert, Norman Mailer was on Gilmore Girls, John Cheever and John Updike on the Dick Cavett Show, etc.

Mark Twain on StarTrekIn “Time’s Arrow”, Data and other members of the crew of the Enterprise meets Jack London and Mark Twain when slipping through a time portal. Twain travels with them back into the 24th century.

50 Literary Moments on TV HERE

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A very nice 4-star review of Random in Goodreads by Jen that begins:

“AAAARGHHHEEGEH :WKLEJWF”

I was so set to give this a 3-star review and be really glad to expand my reading horizons (Were-anything is not my usual go-to reading fare) and be delighted at Alma Alexander’s way with prose.

BUT NO. She had to go and create these passionate characters in a fascinating universe of differentiated Were clans and structures with adults with possibly shady moments and then THAT CLIFFHANGER ENDING (don’t worry, I won’t spoil it. But be aware, there is no way you can’t not track down the second book, whenever that comes out).

[Editor’s note: Book 2 due in the spring]

This wasn’t my favoritest book ever; I think Alexander expects a bit too much of her readers in terms of keeping information. In setting up the Celia story, she left the opening scenes to simmer–and, I think, risked burning them, because I for one had kind of forgotten the finer points when we returned to that time.

Then it felt like the two stories were running parallel for a while; it took me some time to really believe how all the various pieces connected… I

That said, here’s what Alexander is awesome at: the grey outsides.

What I mean by that is the places where you would not have thought there needed to be stories, but there do. I abso-freaking-lutely loved Alexander’s explorations of the Jazz-into-Jesse storyline, playing with sex and gender and all of the ways that male and female trip over each other. I loved her descriptions of Turning and how vivid it was; I loved that she didn’t immediately go for a love interest; I even appreciated the inclusion of the blogging…

Alexander is herself a transplant, and her descriptions of the Marsh family coming to the New World and reinventing themselves were heartbreaking and real, grounded in the confusion of language and mores that absolutely come with being totally out of what you always understood.

I can’t wait to see what Chalky becomes and the backstory of Peregrine. Will definitely be tracking down “Wolf”…even despite myself.

I think she’ll be happy with Chalky in Book 2, and I suspect even happier in Book 3 where he takes center stage. Book 3 is coming by the end of the year.

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Another new review comes from Paul Weimer at SF Signal.

PROS: Interesting exploration of a modern take on shapeshifters; epistolary format an excellently used narrative structure.
CONS: “Wham line” (a line of dialogue that radically alters a scene) ending does encourage continuance of the series at the expense of a complete story; vagueness in external world details didn’t work for me.
BOTTOM LINE: An interesting and fresh take on shapeshifters.

You can read the whole review HERE

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BTW, I will send a free ebook of Random to the next 10 people who pledge to leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads or ...

To accept the offer, just send an email HERE with the subject line “Free Random Offer

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11 Eulogies for Writers Written by Writers

At Mental Floss, Daniel Kolitz reflects on the fact that te literary eulogy is an ancient art form, and he offers a “grab-bag of belletristic mourning in all its forms, from 19th-century poetry to 21st-century magazine writing.”eulogyImage credit: getty images

e.g.

“Life in His Language,” Toni Morrison on James Baldwin
Toni MorrisonJames Baldwin

 

 

 

 

Toni Morrison was close friends with James Baldwin, and when Baldwin died in 1987 she penned this highly moving tribute for the New York Times. Written as a second-person letter to Baldwin, the piece describes the “three gifts” Baldwin gave to Morrison (and, by extension, world literature): Language, courage, and the ability to cut anger with tenderness.

There’s no question Baldwin profoundly influenced Morrison’s work, but what gives the piece its enormous power is that his influence extended not just to her prose style but to the act of writing itself. Morrison, who from Baldwin learned “the courage of one who could go as a stranger in the village and transform the distances between people into intimacy with the whole world.”

Eulogies for Writers HERE

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Inspiring quotes

Sometimes a writer’s own words offer the best eulogy. At Buzzfeed, Daniel Dalton selected 15 notable quotes.

e.g.
Gabriel García MárquezEdgard Garrido / Reuters / Daniel Dalton / BuzzFeed
Gabriel García Márquez (1927 – 2014)

See the others HERE

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Authors Older Than Sliced Bread

Sliced bread has been around since 1928, Off the Shelf tells us, and it has found some authors who are older than that.

e.g.
betty-whiteHere We Go Again: My Life in Television, by Betty White

Here We Go Again is a behind-the-scenes look at Betty’s career from her start on radio to her first show, Hollywood on Television, to several iterations of The Betty White Show, and much, much more. Packed with wonderful anecdotes about famous personalities and friendships, stories of Betty’s off-screen life, and the comedienne’s trademark humor, this deliciously entertaining book will give readers an entrée into Betty’s fascinating life, confirming yet again why we can’t get enough of this funny lady.

 

See the others HERE

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Quote of the Day

The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing. Isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination, consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing, and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.”  ~  Robert De Niro

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Alma Alexander     My books     Email me

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Encounter with Coyote

In Dawn of Magic, the last book in my Worldweaver series, Coyote comes into full flower. (I’m working the final proofs now.)

When I set out to write the Worldweavers books, I wanted to write a story which was an American YA fantasy, to ground the stories that I would write firmly in the New World. I began by exploring themes in the Native American mythos.

Avatars of the gods and spirits from that mythological sphere became characters in my stories. Grandmother Spider, who plays an important role in the creation of the world in the rich mythology of the American South West, became a mentor for my young protagonist

And since every light has to have a shadow, the Trickster God, Coyote, ambled onto the stage with a hat-tilt and a wicked grin aimed in my direction.

Initially, he was something of a simple stereotype, a literary equivalent of a simple pencil sketch. He was there to fill the hole in the narrative which required a touch of malice, a touch of trickery, a touch of the dark side. But then, the Trickster in my novels slowly Tricked me into becoming…well, a real boy. He developed tics and mannerisms and habits. He always wore cowboy boots which were always dusty, he was given to flippancy.

CoyoteFor reasons initially known only to himself, he appeared to be working in cahoots with the enemy. And yet Grandmother Spider tells my protagonist, “Coyote will always be on your side.” And it is the joy and richness of this character that both of those are true, and true at once, and they don’t necessarily cancel one another out. Coyote is a Schrodinger’s cat of a character, both good and evil inside that box and you don’t know which until you actually open it up and look. (And often even then you are not sure. He is Coyote, after all.)

My version of Coyote became something larger and deeper, something that forced me to color outside the lines and to ask harder questions and to glimpse all sorts of shadows into which my insights threw only the dimmest of lights, just enough light to know that there was more shadow beyond its reach than I would ever be able to understand or really do justice to within the scope of my story.

In Dawn of Magic, Coyote CAME ALIVE. The book is Thea Winthrop’s apotheosis, where she faces her greatest fears and has to stand firm in the face of them; this is the story of the redemption of Nikola Tesla, and his transformation into something that even I had not seen truly coming.

And above all this is the story of Coyote, the Trickster, the creature who cares deeply about everything even while he pretends not to give a fig for anything at all, who trusts instinct and not reason and gives his whole existence up to the power of that truth, whose role in creation is to test the mettle of men and to bring out the best and the brightest in them when times to try their souls are thrust upon them but who does this work with equal measure of playful malice and unplumbed depths of empathy and love.

This is the Coyote I came to know, and my own life is the richer for it.

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Are you a bibliophile?
How many 2OK. Sure you love books, but are you a REAL bibliophile? How Well-Rounded Is Your Personal Book Collection? Buzzfeed wants to know.

Theyr’e talking real printed and bound paper pages here. How many of the 81 (yes, 81) following types of books do you own?

I got 70 out of 81. I fell down when it came to manga… :)
How manyTest your bibliophile status HERE

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7 Reasons You Should Never Date Someone Who Doesn’t Read Books
Non-readerAs a person who was basically raised by books, Emma Lord writes, she cannot help but balk at dating non-readers.

I understand the sentiment. When I first started talking to a man online, I sent him one of my favorite books. He claims that I made it clear that if he didn’t like it, there would be no hope of a beautiful friendship. (He passed the test; he loved the book and he’s now my husband.)

Emma Lord, who is still single, says in Bustle, “I’m not sticking my nose up in the air at dating contenders because they haven’t read Proust or written a 17-page paper on some other dead guy…there is a book genre out there for everyone, and people who aren’t reading books are deliberately ignoring them and their brains are suffering for it.”

Read her reasons HERE

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15 YA Writers on Their Favorite Book for Adults

I wasn’t one of the YA authors asked, but I would have offered several books, including the one I sent as a test to my future husband, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by the British writer Louis de Bernières. I’ll tell you about some of my other favorites another time.

Writing for Flavorwire, Elisabeth Donnelly  asked some of our favorite contemporary young adult authors about their favorite books for grown-ups. The results, which feature responses that are both sly and serious, range from coming-of-age stories to science fiction adventures.

For example,

Favorite adultAndrew Smith: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer

One of my favorite adult literary novels of all time is Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. With rich prose and striking characters, the novel tells an inventive and enchanting story about the search for all things lost. It’s one of the very few novels I will read again and again.

Andrew Smith‘s books include Grasshopper Jungle and The Alex Crow, due in March.

 

 

Read the rest HERE

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Telephones in literature – quiz

It’s 100 years since Alexander Graham Bell inaugurated the US transcontinental telephone service, Greg Clowes writes at The Guardian. And to celebrate the occasion, he examined some memorable calls in literature. Can you get the right numbers for these questions?
TelephoneThe telephone – ‘a supernatural instrument’ according to one French writer. But who?

Take the quiz HERE

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THIS ‘n THAT

Chilling First Amendment Implications of a journalist’s five-year prison sentence

Read the article HERE
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Scarves growing on trees. To be harvested by those most in need of them. There are moments that people and their wacky and wonderful ideas really make me happy.
scarvesHundreds of hats and scarves have been spotted in cities that are experiencing freezing temps this winter. The message attached to one scarf says: “I am not lost! If you are stuck out in the cold please take this to keep warm!”

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Quote of the Day
QUOTE John Gardner~~~~~
Alma Alexander      My books      Email me 

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