‘I fell out of bed laughing’

Funny Books poster

‘There’s a snobbishness in our literary world that equates laughter with shallowness. How untrue that is’ … Deborah Moggach. Illustration: Leon Edler

At The Guardian, David Nicholls asked some writers to name their favorite funny book. I was happy to see that one of them picked ‘Three Men in a Boat’ by Jerome K Jerome because that’s the funniest damn thing ever.

Another one of my choices would be a book I have tried to read out loud to my husband several times but never succeed because I continue to crack up when trying to do so — ‘The Once and Future King’, an Arthurian fantasy novel written by Terence Hanbury White. The duel scene between Sir Grummore and King Pellinore in the forest is exquisite and belly-aching funny, as well as the construction of the Questing Beast (“Puce? what is that? And anyway, we don’t have any!”)

And we can’t forget “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson,  

You can see all the other writers’ choices at The Guardian HERE


Some kind words about my words.

Cary Ballew-Renfro wrote on Facebook:

I am starting a new series of posts, talking about the best books I read in 2016. First off, the great series by Alma Alexander. Random, Wolf, and Shifter. Without giving anything away, let us just say werewolf stories told as science fiction, not fantasy, thus perhaps a new genre – urban SF.

At the end of Random, I had to read Wolf to see what happened next.

At the end of Wolf, you guessed it – had to read Shifter.

At the end of Shifter I was in tears – truly a three hankie ending and if you read it and aren’t bawling you don’t have a heart.


On Sherlock

Now that the last episode of this season of Sherlock – and possibly the series – is out of the way, a moment of reflection. If you are leery of spoilers please look away now.  

Sherlock exploded on the scene with its first season and it was UNBELIEVABLE. Everything we thought we knew about the story and the characters was still there but it was beautifully brought forward into the world of high tech and high science and smarphones and computers.

And I loved what it did to ancient established relationships. John Watson was fleshed out and made into a Real Boy (TM) to the point that had never even been attempted before, made into Sherlock’s almost-equal in all but that insane deductive reasoning ability. And Mycroft emerged from the shadows as a brilliantly re-drawn character.

When they brought in Moriarty, it was another epiphany. That character has never been more elegantly sketched, and the casting was nothing short of perfect. It all worked beautifully.

Loved it. LOVED IT. It was a glorious thing.

And then the series gained a fan following. That perhaps is the reason the series fall in love with itself, and the results… were not so great.

In Season 3 the introduction of Mary the love interest… might well have worked, and did, in small doses – but then somebody made the fateful decision that MARY MUST HAVE AN EXPLOSIVE ENOUGH BACKSTORY to make her rank up there with the two stars, and in stepped the ex-secret-agent-assassin-who-just-wanted-a-normal-life.

That got away from them fast. The show became ‘clever’ in that it tried to weld together two stories which didn’t go together very well. The moment Mary became a front-and-center thing, the main relationship of the series got upset and wobbled dangerously.

In the Season 4 it fell over. The whole Holmes gestalt got thrown out in favor of some sort of psychological game which put Holmes and Watson in supporting roles. Mycroft devolved into a caricature. And the whole promise of that cliffhanger Moriarty “Miss me?” thing which had ended Season 3 – turned out to be a massive smelly decaying red herring.

I was BORED during the vast sequence of improbabilities in the final episode of Season four — the weird game playing and random murders orchestrated by the randomly invented wild-card Evil Sister who appears to be omnipotent and who is so much cleverer than EITHER Sherlock or his ‘smarter brother’. Mycroft is, in fact, suddenly transformed into a complete blithering idiot. Moriarty? With THAT SISTER? Unsupervised? For a “Christmas treat”? Please.)

I don’t know if they plan on bringing Sherlock back for another season and the worst thing is that right now, I don’t really care. In the past I had eagerly awaited new Sherlock episodes. In Season 4 I went from anticipation to trepidation, and now I’ve gone beyond, to disinterest.

Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE complex stories and complexity in story telling. Read any of my own books and you’ll find that out, in spades – I practice what I preach.

But what I resent, here, is throwing in things because they thought they were shiny, clever. This sister thing, where did that come from? And could they not have even TRIED to make it remotely plausible?

The early Sherlock seasons gave me, the viewer, the fan, respect. This last season was a jigsaw puzzle which was forced together from pieces that almost but not QUITE fit and then hammered in where the series creators wanted them, whether they organically fit there or not.

I am vastly disappointed, Sherlock. The game may have been wonderfully afoot, but somehow it twisted its ankle and fell in an ungainly heap by the wayside. And no amount of crutches, in this last season, could possibly suffice to hide the fact that what once flew now stumbled, limping badly, towards the shadows which were gathering under darkening clouds  ahead of it on the story road.

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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


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. 

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.

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

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

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

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

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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