From what book…?

I have just sent out the first edition of the long promised newsletter. PSA:  It may have its share of the usual startup problems, which I hope will be worked out by the next edition. If you received the first one and you find things that need fixing, let me know!

Wings coverThere’s going to be news on what’s going on in the writing life, special offers, snippets of works in progress, news about my newest book, currently Wings of Fire…).

Ask questions, if you like. Tell me what you want me to talk about, what you want to see, what you want to know.

And there will be the occasional quiz. Here is a quote from one of my books. I would be DELIGHTED if you know and recognize it I will tell you if you are right in the next newsletter…

“She muttered a soft curse under her breath. The kitten’s tiny, vulnerable face, the delicate suckling on {…}’s finger,the scrabbling little wounded paws… […] jabbed a repair hook too deeply into the rope sole of her broken sandal, annoyed at the kitten’s insistent hold on her mind’s eye. She had interfered because two of the torturers had been Guard, damn it all, not because she was a bleeding heart for waifs and strays.She didn’t care what happened to it, after. She didn’t. She could swear she didn’t.She was glad the little thing had clung to life, but she’d tried to dismiss the creature from her orbit and she had every intention of forgetting about it. Especially now that she knew it had survived.”

What book is this from?

If you would like a copy of the next newsletter, drop me a line at

Museums I have known
A matter of faith

It was Sunday and the Montreal 2009 Worldcon was done, so a friend – Canadian West Coast novelist Donna McMahon – and I decided to go for a wander in the cobbled alleys of Old Montreal. We finally washed up on the stone steps of the chapel known as Notre Dame de Bon Secours.

You could enter directly into the gorgeous church itself, full of gilt and glory and stained glass, or you could tiptoe past all that along a narrow corridor to the side of the place, leaving the chapel itself till last, and buy tickets for the attached museum as well as access to the chapel’s tower which promised views of the river and the rooftops of the Old City.

Chapel photoAscending to the top of the tower was accomplished via a narrow twisted stair whose one wall was stripped down to expose the ancient stonework; along the uneven and creaking stairwell, signs popped up exhorting patrons to tread carefully on the “antique staircase” (although I have to admit that the “escalier patrimonial” concept was by far the more endearing than a mere antique stair…)

The top of the tower was a narrow little balcony guarded by two angels green with age, one on each side:

The roofs and alleys of the old city, lying revealed beneath us, and the river glimpsed across treetops a little futher away were a view worth the careful climb up the “escalier patrimonial”. The place inspired at least one subsequent short story (look it up, if you like – it appears here).

The view was fantastic because this edifice was built on top of an ancient promontory over the river, once a campsite for the native tribes who lived in this area before the first European settlers arrived, and subsequently the heart of one of the very first suburbs of the city founded by those settlers, the city beneath the mountain which was named Mount Royal, Mont Real. Once you descent the tower you can look at the history of the chapel whose foundation helped build this great city – traces of an old camping ground which dates back more than two millennia, and the remnants of the original stone chapel first built by Montreal settlers three hundred years ago.

There is a deep sense of history that’s wrapped up in the stones of this building, something that you can’t help but take in, by osmosis, through the air that you are breathing, looking at stones centuries old which were laid here by human hand and around which a whole city began to grow.

And when you make your way to the actual museum area, you discover that much of the history of this place is inextricably tied to one woman, Marguerite Bourgeoys, who lived in 17th-century Montreal and is the founder of the original Congrégation de Notre-Dame on this site.

It is Marguerite, one of the founders of this chapel and the first teacher at the associated school, who is being commemorated in the small museum housed here. Marguerite, born in France in 1620, and was only 20 when she experienced the call to a lifelong vocation of service and the foundation of a devout faith which would last her whole life. She had a remarkable ability, it would seem, to be the tie that binds, to gather up people and focus them all on a single goal, towards the achievement of a single cause.

She was recruited to the new colony of what was then Ville-Marie in 1653, becoming nurse, friend and confidante to the new colonists who arrived to triple the population of proto-Montreal. She was still a relatively young woman but she joined Montreal’s founder, Maisonneuve, and the hospital administrator of the settlement as an equal – she understood right from the start that the role of women in the new colony would be significant, and she started workshops and classes where ordinary women could learn skills which enabled them to earn a living.

Once the chapel was built, Marguerite was instrumental in establishing a school where the settlement’s children could be taught such things as counting, reading, writing, and of course catechism; the older girls also learned the domestic skills they would need to become wives and mothers and managers of their own households.

This was not a nunnery – the women were not cloistered – and although the community, the Congregation de Notre-Dame, survived and flourished and did lots of good works the approval for such a community by the Church was not actually granted until as late as 1698, only two years before Marguerite’s death. But Marguerite herself was a doughty soul, a woman with a mission, and she neither asked for nor needed such approval (from Bishop or from King) in order to continue doing the work she saw as her duty and her destiny.

She was canonized in 1982, and her remains were brought home to Notre Dame de Bon Secours in 2005, to rest in a crypt in the stone chapel which she had helped raise as a beacon of her faith.

But it is the museum rooms devoted to Marguerite’s life, not the aftermath of it, which is fascinating. It is… oddly childlike. There is a room which is devoted to envisioning the time-line of the colony, chapel, school and the woman who ran it all done in a series of dioramas populated by dolls, and the effect is rather like a very large and very busy and very detailed dolls-house, one into which you might walk and become immersed in its subject matter.

Another room features shadow boxes where similar scenes are depicted with the aid of images and holograms; you have to go and duck your head into a hood-like overhang, almost like one of those old-time photographers who covers his head with a cloth when taking a picture, and then the thing comes alive in front of your eyes. More playfulness; more invitation to learn from the simple things, the simple faith, the simple beginnings.

When we were done with the museum and finally made our way back into the chapel, I confess to feeling rather strange – I had just learned a great deal about this strong and gentle and pious woman who worked so hard to build a community and educate its women and children, and now I was in a position in which I had never been before, in that I was standing in her presence. In the presence, at least, of her mortal remains – the Church would have her spirit up there at the right hand of God, where the saints get to go when they die. It was the first time – and probably the last – that I stood in the presence of a saint.

Certain lyrics in Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” are apparently descriptive of this very chapel – the lines “And the sun pours down like honey/on our lady of the harbour” refer to the statue of the Madonna which adorns this particular church.

The concept of faith and the poetry of Leonard Cohen have a great deal in common, really. If you examine them closely, rationally, empirically, they make no real sense whatsoever – but put it all together, in a song like “Suzanne” or a chapel like Notre Dame de Bon Secours, and a bigger picture emerges, something that you understand with instinct and heart and spirit rather than with mind. With faith, you don’t KNOW. You BELIEVE.

And it takes an odd little museum in an ancient stone church with an “escalier patrimonial” to remind you of that.

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How many reviews?!!

Goodreads infographicIn late 2006, I wrote the first book review on Goodreads,” Otis Chandler writes on the website’s blog.

“It was a simple, two-paragraph review of ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ by Bill Bryson (5 stars – I recommend it) and I had no idea how popular a book recommendation and review site could become…I think Goodreads reviews are the best book reviews anywhere!

“Today, we have reviews that share personal experiences, reviews that include actor photos for dream casts of the book’s characters, quick-but-sharp summary reviews, and so many enthusiastic “you have got to read this!” reviews. There are reviews that push your thinking, and ones that create deep discussion…What’s your favorite Goodreads review?”

To read more and see the whole infographic, go to HERE

At io9, Charlie Jane Anders offers us

10 Authors Who Wrote Gritty, Realistic Fantasy Before George R.R. Martin

When George R.R. Martin released ‘A Game of Thrones’ in 1996,” she writes, “he helped to change the game with his grounded approach to fantasy tropes. At the same time, people sometimes talk as though Martin was the first to bring realism to epic fantasy. So here are 10 other authors.”

For example:

Mary Gentle cover imageMary Gentle: Her novel Grunts is an epic fantasy story from the point of view of the Orcs who have to go into battle and die by the thousands for a cause that they barely understand. At the time when it was published, in 1992, its darkly comic approach of viewing the story from the point of view of the ‘villains’ was considered revolutionary, and it became famous for a joke about Orcs raping Elves that probably wouldn’t be considered funny today. But there’s also funny scenes of the Orcs eating their own wounded, and the war crimes trials that ensue. It’s hard to get less uplifting, and nastier, than Grunts.

To read more, go to the io9 website HERE

World Poetry Day Quiz

Poetry is truth in its Sunday clothes,” said the French priest and poet Joseph Roux.

Throughout the ages, great minds have expressed themselves through this beautiful and often challenging medium.

For World Poetry Day“, Sam Rigby writes, “BBC Culture has put together a quiz to test your knowledge.”

No, I won’t tell you how I did.

But you can take the quiz at HERE

QUOTE of the DAY
GRR Martin quote posterPersonally, the way I do a story is by planting a seed in the ground and waiting for something to grow. I never know in advance if I”m awaiting a cabbage or a redwood. What grows, grows. I just tend it. So yeah, I am very much a “gardener”.

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What color is ‘C’?

She sees music, in color, and then she paints it.

Until artist Melissa S. McCracken was 15, she thought everyone constantly saw colors like she did – in books, math formulas, at concerts. But when she finally asked her brother which color the letter C was, she realized “my mind wasn’t quite as normal as I had thought.”

“Basically, my brain is cross-wired. I experience the ‘wrong’ sensation to certain stimuli. Each letter and number is colored (‘C’ is canary yellow, by the way) and the days of the year circle around my body as if they had a set point in space.”

But the most wonderful ‘brain malfunction’ of all, she says, is seeing the music she hears. “It flows in a mixture of hues, textures, and movements, shifting as if it were a vital and intentional element of each song.”

Here is an example of what a famous song looks like in color.All The Love In The World“All The Love In The World”

“Having synesthesia isn’t distracting or disorienting. It adds a unique vibrance to the world I experience.”

See more of her paintings HERE

fREADom22 Ways To Celebrate Banned Books Week

At Bustle, Alex Heimbach says that there are tons of great ideas on Twitter and Instagram.

“I’ve collected 22 of them. If you haven’t read these books, you should. There may come a day when you no longer can.”

Read all the suggestions HERE

Why BannedThis amazing library display features a line-up of literary characters from books that have been banned at one point in time. Created by Rachel Moani of the Lacey Timberland Library in Washington state for Banned Book Week, it highlights a few of the reasons the books have been banned by either a school or community library:

Such as “The Wizard of Oz” for depicting women in strong leadership roles, and “The Diary of Anne Frank” for being too depressing.

Banned Books Week is an annual awareness campaign sponsored by the American Library Association and others in the book community every September to celebrate the freedom to read and expose the dangers of restricting access to books.

Read a tribute to Judy Blume, an outspoken advocate against censorship, at  A Mighty Girl.

‘Protecting ‘The Books That Will Never Be Written” HERE

Book Review

‘Rad American Women A-Z’
Rad Women

Attention, parents and teachers: This is an alphabet book with a difference. A is for Angela Davis, Z is for Zora Neale Hurston. In between are scientists, poets, pilots and others, half of whom are women of color, who have long been left out of children’s history books.

Read the whole review HERE

Marie Curie’s Research Papers Are Still Radioactive 100+ Years Later

When researching a famous historical figure, access to their work and materials usually proves to be one of the biggest obstacles, Open Culture notes. But things are much more difficult for those writing about the life of Marie Curie, the scientist who, along her with husband Pierre, discovered polonium and radium and birthed the idea of particle physics. Her notebooks, her clothing, her furniture, pretty much everything surviving from her Parisian suburban house, is radioactive, and will be for 1,500 years or more.

Read the whole story HERE

The woman who saved American children
Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey

Pharmaceutical representatives came to Washington in droves to drive Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey back from her stand at the FDA over a drug being pushed by a muscular company and the men who ran it, William Rivers Pitt reports at The Smirking Chimp.

She said the drug was dangerous, and had the data to prove it. She was, in the parlance of the times, “a woman in a man’s job” despite her bedrock-strong credentials as a doctor and researcher, and she stood her ground when those men tried to brush her aside.”

The drug was thalidomide, a substance that came to be one of the most dangerous drugs ever unleashed on the human population and thanks to Dr. Kelsey, American babies didn’t get born without arms and legs.

Read the whole story HERE


Last Library Catalog Card
Last Library CardSince information seekers now use computer catalogs and online search engines to access library collections around the world, OCLC has printed its last card.

Read the whole story HERE

The Guardian’s Mars in literature – quiz

Quote of the Day
LudditeIt’s so annoying to be called a Luddite for liking print books ~ Bustle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quiz: Which Fictional Home Is For You?

Quote of the DayQUOTE Real life~~~~~
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Read anywhere

Read anywhere“My name is Jakub Pavlovsky and I’m a 21-year-old supporter of reading books. A few months ago, I realized that people weren’t reading books as much as they did before. Nowadays, they prefer modern technologies rather than a lovely and interesting book. .

“Therefore, I created a project called “BOOKS CALLING” and I did it on social media – I want to spread a traditional idea through a modern system. The project’s motto is “Make Time For Reading. Anywhere, Anytime.” I keep the pose of sitting at the same angle and posture in all of the photos, as if the world and environment pivots around this pose throughout the day, every day.”

Read the whole Bored Panda story HERE

77 years later…Igeborg Rapoport

Ingeborg Rapoport was denied her PhD at the University of Hamburg in 1938 for “racial reasons” due to her Jewish heritage. Last week, the 102-year-old Rapoport at long last had the opportunity to defend her doctoral thesis on diphtheria before an academic committee — 77 years after she completed it.

After she aced her oral exam, her PhD was approved and the degree will be awarded to her in a ceremony next month in Hamburg. When this Nazi injustice from decades ago is finally righted, Rapoport will become the oldest person in the world to ever receive a doctoral degree.

Read the whole story HERE

A Brief Ode to a Long and Beautiful Marriage

“Calvin Trillin is not easy to sum up as an author,” Leslie Kendall Dye writes in Off the Shelf, “the good ones never are.” In a touching essay, she talks about a book he wrote about his wife Alice after her death.

About AliceAbout Alice is about Alice, but it is also about a marriage. Every now and then a writer has a chance to document finding a needle in a haystack: the perfect mate. Whenever we have a chance to etch a happy history into stone, we should take it.

Trillin performs a neat trick in this book. It’s about Alice, but it’s also by Alice. She wrote about fifty percent of it, because so much of it is quotations. I’m not sure there is a greater testament to love and adoration than a writer giving so much real estate to someone else’s words.



Read the whole essay HERE

How to live a middle-class life in New York City on less than $5,000 a year

Marie is a French woman living in Brooklyn who has no job, no visa, and lives in a three-story house for free. Her secret: living off the waste of others.Living freeDiscover how she does it HERE

Scientists examine why men even exist

“Sex is a messy, inefficient method of reproducing,” Rachel Feltman writes in the Washington Post, “but most multicellular organisms have evolved to rely on a partner regardless.”

Matt Gage, an author of a study on the matter, asks: “Why should any species waste all that effort on sons?”

A study using 50 generations of beetles suggests the answer.

You can find that HERE


Hot scenes in three words
red silk sheetsDescribing Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning

Others HERE

How Many Of These Books Adapted Into Movies Have You Read?

Take the BuzzFeed quiz HERE

Literary Places In Paris Every Book-Lover Must See

Bustle suggestions HERE

Quote of the DayQUOTE A writer is...~~~~~
Alma Alexander      My books      Email me

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Brilliant junkies

Distractify offers us:
20 Of History’s Most Brilliant Minds And Their Drug Of Choice

Lots of famous names here: Vincent van Gogh – Absinthe and Digitalis, Sigmund Freud – cocaine, Francis Crick – LSD, Carl Sagan – Marijuana, Benjamin Franklin – Opiates….

Charles Dickens – Opium
Charles Dickens

When this famous author walked its streets, London was rife with opium dens. He even described them in his final unfinished work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Dickens, like many other famous names of the Victorian era, was addicted to an opium tincture known as laudanum for many years and used the drug heavily right up to the time of his death (by massive stroke).


Read the whole story HERE

Books for a Better Planet!
9 Earth-Friendly Reads for Kids
Earth friendlyIllustration: Elizabeth Graeber

Kids appreciate our planet and her precious resources when they can feel, touch, and see the natural world, Melissa Taylor writes at Brightly.

Even when they’re not outside, kids can still expand their understanding of nature through books that celebrate the wonders of the world around them. Here are some great children’s books that facilitate a love and stewardship of planet Earth.

For example:

Trees for kids

Celebritrees: Historic and Famous Trees of the World, by Margi Preus, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon:

Did you know there’s a hollow oak tree in France that’s used as a chapel?

Or that Robin Hood and his men used a specific tree in England (an oak tree) as a hiding place?



Read the whole story HERE

How to Turn Down a Marriage Proposal Like Charlotte Brontë

At Brain Pickings, Maria Popova tells us about “the bold defiance of oppressive gender ideals, packaged as the ultimate it’s-not-you-it’s-me gentle letdown.”

hell hath no fury

From Hell Hath No Fury: Women’s Letters from the End of the Affair (public library)

Anna Holmes’s magnificent collection spanning centuries of missives, which also gave us Simone de Beauvoir’s exquisite breakup letter and this moving breakup moment from the Vietnam War — comes an outstanding contribution to the genre from none other than Charlotte Brontë (April 21, 1816–March 31, 1855).



Read the whole story HERE

QUIZ – How well do you know rewritten classics?

From Shakespeare to Jane Austen, new fiction is often spun off from old stories, Harriet Mallinson reminds us at The Guardian, and asks such questions as:

What was the title of Jane Smiley’s modernisation of King Lear, set on a farm in Iowa in the 20th century?

Take the quiz HERE


18 Literary Maps of the US states

At Mental Floss, Caitlin Schneider reports that The Library of Congress’ Language of the Land exhibit collects bookish state maps that chart the regions and the writers who loved them.
indianaSee all the maps HERE

Quote of the day
QUOTE Nietzche~~~~~
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Meet the Author

Meet Alma AlexanderRandom, The Were ChroniclesI’ll be at “The Author visits” all week, the first stop on a blog tour for Random, the first book in The Were Chronicles, my new YA series. There will be a book giveaway, an exceprt from Random, a review, a guest blog post from me, hints about What’s Next.

From today’s interview:

Which character in a book would you enjoy having drinks and dinner with?

I’d love to share a rowdy dinner party with the entire royal family of Amber (if I could sit next to Corwin), or perhaps I could visit the Wales of Llewellyn’s era, as portrayed by Sharon Penman, and share Llewellyn’s table (one assumes these invitations mean one can speak a shared language, although my current knowledge of 13th century Welsh is pretty much nil…), or maybe I could have tea with Merlyn from “The Once and Future King”…?

The whole interview here

10 Best Historical Novels

My novel, The Secrets of Jin-Shei, takes place in an Imperial China that never existed. In fact, I called my version of ‘China’ by another name and in an endnote discussed the differences between my world and historical Imperial China.

That didn’t stop my publisher from trying to position it as a historical novel, some
reviewers from discussing it as such, and some bookstores putting it in the history section.

This comes to mind now because of a story in Publishers Weekly by Alix Christie, author of Gutenberg’s Apprentice, in which she picks 10 of her favorite historical novels. One on her list is the novel, Memoirs of a Geisha, a book that Jin-shei and its sequel, Ember of Heaven, have been compared to.

Memoirs of a GeishaMemoirs of a Geisha by Arthur GoldenMuch has been made of how a male writer could so convincingly inhabit the character of a Japanese geisha. But the novel’s real strength lies in the lucidity and modesty of its storytelling, a lack of fussiness that mirrors spare Japanese aesthetics. Golden’s achievement is to open up a sealed and foreign world in the form of an affecting coming of age tale.

“The historical novels I admire,” Christie writes, “inhabit their worlds so fully that as a reader I feel I’m breathing the air of that distant place or time. This has less to do with historical detail than with a freshness of language, tone and incident that makes the concerns of the characters so recognizably human that they feel almost contemporary. The ability to transport us into different minds is a hallmark of good literature generally; the bar is set even higher when a story’s setting is truly foreign.”

Read the article

Buzzfeed asks:
Debut novelsFor example:

Try your hand at all 81 titles





Top 10 health and safety fails in children’s books

From The Hunger Games to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, children’s books can demonstrate a somewhat lax approach to disaster and death. Ross Montgomery, author of The Tornado Chasers, shares his favorite books for danger lovers.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea


The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr: Look, if you open the front door and there’s a tiger outside, the first rule is that you don’t invite them in. Don’t come to me acting all surprised when he’s eaten all the sandwiches and drunk all the tea in the teapot.



Read the article


Oxford Dictionaries Book Quiz of Last Lines

Though a book’s opening lines may determine whether or not you take the book home at all, it’s as likely to be the last lines that stick in your memory long after you set the book down: they may tidily tie up events, or make you question instantly if there is a sequel, or see you muttering “Thank goodness that’s over!”

Take the quiz

An Anti-Feminist Walks Into a Bar: John Scalzi brilliant’s Play in Five Acts
ScalziRead his blog

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee has been challenged for the past seven decades, the same amount of time it’s been in publication.

22 Mind-Boggling Facts About Banned Books In America

Terry Pratchett’s Fury

Quote of the Day

Daphne du Maurier
Alma Alexander
My books

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Bedroom Quirks

The Bedroom Quirks of 10 Great Authors
Bedroom quirksYou know that Shakespeare, James Joyce and Lord Byron were geniuses when it came to their ways with words, but as anyone who knows a writer can tell you, scribes frequently come with some serious quirks, Stacy Conradt writes at Mental Floss. I’m reading Secret Lives of Great Authors by Robert Schnakenberg, and the secrets definitely come out. So, without further ado, I give you 10 intimate quirks of some of the finest writers ever.
Read the Article

Teenage rebels in fiction – quiz

To celebrate the 66th birthday of SE Hinton, The Guardian wants to test your knowledge of the great tales of teen trouble-makers and asks: You got a problem with that?

I love the second choice in Question #4.

Take the Quiz

The 10 best bookstores … make that 11

The rumors of the death of indie bookstores have been greatly exaggerated, Leif Pettersen says in USA TODAY, then hedges:

Well, moderately exaggerated. The harsh fact is that these institutions are facing unprecedented competition from a website named for a river, and many struggle just to stay open. Still, a determined few are thriving.

He misses one of the great ones, Village Books in Bellingham WA, but lists most of the usual suspects. I’ve covered the best bookstores before but I like this one for all the great photos.
Skylight-BooksSkylight Books, Los Angeles – One of the most respected independent bookstores in the country. The hipster-ometer is buried in the red here (in a good way), from the eclectic customers, to the well-read staff, to Franny the store cat, to the arts annex two doors down.

Read the Article

Women’s Rights News says:
Women Didn’t Just Join Geek Culture, They Invented It
GeeksRead the Article

Mary Poppins Stumps for Minimum Wage Increase

Mary Poppins

A hilarious video. You will never hear “supercallifagilisticexpialliBULLSHIT”  the same way again.


Read the Article

Retirement Community’s Awesome Calendar Of Famous Movies

The Contilia Retirement Group in Germany released a calendar that featured  scenes from their favorite movies, Ashley Burns writes at Filmdrunk.

The folks at the Senior Living Communities in the US thought it was a spectacular idea and decided to give it a whirl. The result is an 18-month calendar that takes on classic movies from A Christmas Story to Cleopatra, as well some other great moments in pop culture history that your own great grand-grandparents might call the bee’s knees.
ghostbustersVia Senior Living Communities

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28 Beautiful Quotes About Libraries

The libraries of the world are under threat. At Buzzfeed, Daniel Dalton offers some reasons to care.
EinsteinRead the Article

Are you a book hoarder? There’s a word for that

How many books is too many books, Hector Tobar asks in the LA Times? What makes you a book hoarder? In Japanese, tsundoku is a noun that describes a person who buys books and doesn’t read them, and then lets them pile up on the floor, on shelves, and assorted pieces of furniture.

Just looking around our house – the books left to breed and multiply on the coffee table, the books stacked sideways on nearby shelves, the double-stacked books on at least three bookshelves in two different rooms – and then there’s the library…
Our libraryWe not only MEET the rather low-ball criterion they offer up in the article, we are POSTER CHILDREN for the Compulsive Book Hoarder Group. Still, there are worse things to be addicted to than books.

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Quote of the Day

Someone asked Pablo Casals when he was 90 why he still practiced every day.  “Because I think I am making some progress,” he answered.

Alma Alexander
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Dream Director Quits

The dream was the usual bizarrerie that inhabits my sleeping subconscious.

There was a – a – THING – there was a sort of pictogram I was loking at – the brown circles represented “normal” people and the green circles were another kind of “normal” people but the white circles were the rare outliers, the weird and special ones, the X-Men, if you like.

There I was in this warehouse-like space with a woman giving birth, and it was likely to a white circle person. I finally drifted outside of the structure because I was bored with waiting, and just as I wafted past an outside wall I heard a newborn baby cry out so I bolted back inside.

Up on a dais, a child was being held by a monstrous midwife – a huge mishappen blob of vaguely humanoid shape, its head a potato with mismatched eyes a la Picasso and fat cheeks and an open mouth which might have been smiling or else it was about to eat that child,. The thing was naked, one of its dugs hanging lower than the other, on its torso just above the baby that it was clutching in its white arms that were so fat-rolled they looked like the Michelin Man.

At this point I was informed by a disembodied voice that the person who usually directs these dreams had left to take up a better-paid position with a video game company. This actually explains a lot.

How to Quit Amazon and Shop in an Actual Bookstore

And why you damn well should
A real storetravisl90/Instagram

Purchasing print books in a brick-and-mortar building is something of a lost art, like taking snuff or drinking brandy after dinner, Stephen Marche writes in Esquire. But buying books in a bookstore is one of life’s great, quiet pleasures. It leads to the purchase of better books. It leads to a deeper relationship to reading. It is a joy in and of itself.

Therefore, for those who need reminding, and for those who perhaps are too young ever to have been in a bookstore, a short guide to buying books in them:

Buying books

The Absolute Worst Way to Teach Your Kids to Read

Reading kid

Apps that force kids to log book time as a way to earn Internet and TV access are a huge mistake, Laura Miller says at Alternet

Photo Credit: VP Photo Studio via


Recently, while cooling my heels at the airport, I overheard a boy of about 6 begging his mom to let him play with the family iPad. “No screen time until you do one hour of reading first,” was her reply. The child flung himself back in his seat and opened a paperback book with a disgruntled sigh.

I winced. Of course parents need to supervise their kids’ use of digital devices and the Internet. God only knows, plenty of adults have a hard enough time managing their own screen time, including people with a fundamental investment in literary culture, like novelists Zadie Smith (who uses the Internet-blocking software Freedom) and Jonathan Franzen (who has disabled the Ethernet portal on his writing computer. But there’s the rub: Reading should not be a chore.

Getting kids to read

30 of the Best Parents in Literature

Linda Rodriguez McRobbie picks the best parents in literature — and real life. One of her choices for Mental Floss is a biography.

Cheaper by the DozenThe Gilbreths // Cheaper By The Dozen by Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr., and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

The Gilbreths were actual people, not fiction, and this charming book, published in 1948, is a biography written by their children. But—and we mean this as a compliment—the parents are so lovely as to almost seem made up. Frank Gilbreth and his wife, Lillian, are world-famous efficiency experts whose studies in time and motion changed the way people worked. If Frank had his way, they would have also changed the way people raised children, especially after their incredible fecundity produced 12 kids. Having an even dozen children meant that the Gilbreths could apply some of their expertise in their Montclair, New Jersey, home. Hilarity ensues, as does an overwhelming sense of warmth and happiness.

The two children wrote a follow up book, Belles on Their Toes, recounting what happened after Frank’s death in 1924, which left Lillian with a house full of children, the youngest just 2 years old, and a business to run. Mother Lillian managed to keep it all together, with good humor and warmth, and the book manages to stay away from the maudlin.

A Wrinkle in timeAlex and Kate Murry // A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Tesseracts are real, and Meg and Charles Murry’s scientist father has disappeared into one—and it’s up to these two brilliant but socially awkward children to save him. When it was published in 1962, A Wrinkle in Time was a sci-fi gift to all those nerdy kids out there for whom Star Trek hadn’t yet been invented. And the Murry parents—beautiful and smart microbiologist Kate and tesseract physicist Alex—made being scientists seem so cool. Who wouldn’t want parents like that?

Great parents

The real story behind the war over YA novels
Anti YA
KendraMillerPhotography/Flickr (CC BY N.D.-2.0)

Few categories of literature, S.E. Smith says at The Daily Dot, seem to receive the level of hatred reserved for young adult fiction. It is the subject of nearly endless editorials on its supposed inanity, excessive sexuality, darkness, and girlyness. It doesn’t escape notice that there’s a strong whiff of sexism underlying the wave of YA hate—the genre is heavily dominated by women, and female authors can recount their experiences with sexism first hand.

War on YA

Quiz – Can you identify the book from its map?

How well do you know your way around literature? Leonie Veerman asks at The Guardian. Have a look at these maps and find out if you know which fictional worlds they chart
Book map Which world?

Quote of the Day

Sakespeare quote~~~~~
Alma Alexander
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50 Best Southern Novels

The American South has long carried the stigma of poverty, racism, and anti-intellectualism, Tyler Coates writes at Flavorwire. Yet the region has also produced a disproportionate number of intellectuals, poets, and writers, possibly because of the complicated and layered identities each Southerner holds within him- or herself.

These 50 novels are a reminder that the South cannot be defined solely by its failings; it is also responsible for shaping the minds of countless thinkers who offered to American literature essential insights about not only their region but the world at large.

The heart is a Lonely HunterThe Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

The hit novel written by the 23-year-old McCullers centers on the story of a deaf man and the people he meets in small-town Georgia — black and white (a tomboy, a diner owner, a physician, and an alcoholic). The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is a moving work about human connection. —Elisabeth Donnelly

The AwakeningThe Awakening by Kate Chopin

An early feminist classic, Chopin’s short novel follows Edna Pontellier, a New Orleans wife and mother who falls in love while on vacation and returns home to find that she can no longer stand to devote herself to social obligations and domestic drudgery. Although Edna’s fate is ultimately tragic, her embrace of an artist’s life and journey to independence make her one of American literature’s first liberated women. — Judy Berman

The 50 Best


The Last of Us

In Futures Exchange, Frank Swain offers “True tales of how various species went extinct,” some centuries ago, some practically yesterday.

The Dusky SparrowIllustrations by Jeannette Langmead 

The Last Dusky Seaside Sparrow

The Dusky Seaside Sparrow lived in the marshes of Merritt Island, Florida, until it was threatened by the development of the Kennedy Space Center. The last four surviving birds, all male, were moved to Discovery Island in Disney World for a hybrid breeding program. The effort was a failure, and in 1987 the final surviving member, an elderly male named Orange, passed away in the Magic Kingdom.

Going extinct


A disappointing Hans Christian Andersen birthday quiz

Hans Christian Andersen Fairy tale king … portrait of Hans Christian Andersen by Karl Hartmann. Image: Archivo Iconografico, SA//Corbis

The great Danish author was born this week in 1805, and in celebration The Guardian asks, do we really know his stories? The trouble is, the questions they ask are not so much about Andersen and his stories as a lot of peripherals.

For what it’s worth, I took the quiz and got a measly four right. Not because I don’t know my Andersen, but because I don’t necessarily know some contemporary ramifications of adaptations of his work. But whatever, quizzes can be diverting.

An Andersen quiz


How Being Bilingual Makes Your Brain Badass!

At Mind Openerz, we learn the merits of being bilingual and how it affects the brain.

I’m trilingual, myself, but I’ve lost most of the French I once knew. I used to read novels and plays in French (Camus and Racine, in the original), but I haven’t used it for years and it’s mostly gone now. I guess if I got dumped in the middle of some French countryside where nobody spoke anything else, I’d pick it up fairly fast. But anyway, I still have two languages,  my birth tongue, Serb, and English.

Language on the brain

According to not-so-new studies conducted in 2004, using magnetic resonance imaging, neuroscientists at University College London discovered bilingual test subjects “had increased density of the cerebral cortex in the lower part of the parietal lobe.“ Your cognitive skills (thought processing, awareness, attention) are governed by this. According to a site about old people, senior citizens learn foreign languages to strengthen a part of their brain to fight dementia: nature’s Neuralyzer (that memory erasing crap from Men In Black).

 Your brain on languages


Quote of the Day

 Words and the writer ~~~~~

Alma Alexander

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