‘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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brave Knights  poster  ~~~~~
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Terry in quotes

Terry PrachettTerry Pratchett on an archive picture. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe/Eamonn McCabe

As the literary world mourns the death of Discworld creator Terry Pratchett, The Guardian has selected some of his most inspiring and memorable quotes. Including:

“Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can.”

More Terry Pratchett quotes HERE

He said WHAT?
Writers' insultsFamous Writer Insults

Shari Stauch puts together what writers REALLY think of their brethren.

For example:
Faulkner HemingwaySee them all HERE

Literary Instagrams worth a look

I haven’t tried Instagram yet, but at HuffPost Claire Fallon has written a story that has me thinking about it. While tweeting has become important among the literati, Instagram’s more visual platform hasn’t caught on to the same degree.

Twitter encourages writers to use words more conscientiously, engage in conversations with other authors, and hop on to bookish hashtags; Instagram asks us to think aesthetically, Fallon notes. “We book nerds love a good visual as much as anyone, especially if that image includes our favorite things: books.”

Author and artist Miranda July greeted fans with a provocative twist on a book announcement pic: her new novel posed between bare, spreadeagled legs.  “The birth of my Instagram account,” she dryly captioned her first photo on the site. After just this one post, July already has over 6,000 followers.
Book Birthhttps://instagram.com/mirandajuly/

And, of course:

Cats Only Book Club
Cats+books=yes. Yes forever.
Cats and booksOther bookish Instagram sites HERE

I got 71. Wow. I spend a lot of time reading.

How about you?

NPR’s Top 100 Science-Fiction & Fantasy Books

More than 5,000 of you nominated. More than 60,000 of you voted. And now the results are in, NPR says. The winners of NPR’s Top 100 Science-Fiction and Fantasy survey are an intriguing mix of classic and contemporary titles. There are no young adult or horror books on this list, but those genres will come another time.

The Top 100 HERE

What Am I Looking At?!
IllusionCanadian artist Rob Gonsalves is a genius when it comes to optical illusions. His surreal paintings seem ordinary enough at first, but move your eyes across the frame and suddenly the scene is something completely different.

In Gonsalves’ paintings, up is down, down is sideways…

More illusions HERE

11 Essential Reads for Women’s History Month

We are all familiar with Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Doris Lessing, Simone de Beauvoir, and the contributions they made to feminist literature, Off the Shelf says. But great literature concerning feminist themes is not confined to these classics.

Many of our most exciting contemporary literary writers are expanding and complicating our understanding of what it means to be a woman today. Encompassing the thrill, rage, devastation, and range of the female experience, these essential voices should not be ignored. I’d argue that my own The Secrets of Jin-shei fits that, though it wasn’t among the 11 they chose.

One remarkable book that was picked was:
AmericanahAmericanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: This powerful story of race and gender is centered on Ifemelu, a brilliant and self-assured young woman who departs military-ruled Nigeria for an American university where, for the first time, she is forced to grapple with her identity as a black woman. Ifemelu faces difficult choices and challenges, suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, and eventually achieves success as the writer of an eye-opening blog about race in America. Fearless and gripping, Americanah is a richly told story set in today’s globalized world.


See the others HERE


Author Katharine Norbury includes one of the funniest books ever written, one I hectored my husband into reading, Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome, in her list of:

The top 10 books about rivers
GilgameshCuneiform tablet with Gilgamesh Flood Epic. Babylonian, c17th century BC. Photograph: Universal Images Group/Getty Images

She also includes The Epic of Gilgamesh: The oldest story ever told, or at any rate, ever written down, was inscribed onto 11 clay tablets around 1800 BC and rediscovered in Mesopotamia in 1853 AD. In 1998, the opening lines turned up in a vault in the British Museum. Rivers run through it, as they do through all the great origin myths.

Her other fascinating choices HERE

I never wrote a novel about rivers, but I did produce an anthology filled with stories by some wonderful writers.

[My anthology, River, HERE]


Maine bed & breakfast owner will sell her inn to anyone for just 200 words

10 words we’ve forgotten how to pronounce

Pronounce THIS

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Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.” ~ Terry Prachett

Alma Alexander     My books     Email me

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Who said it first?

No word I invented made the Top Ten list below, but “jin-shei“, my word for the sisters-of-the-heart relationship, that I wrote about in ‘Secrets of JIn-shei, has circled the world.

I have seen photographs of Italian girls pledging jin-shei to one another on blogs, and the idea of the jin-shei bao, the heart-sister, even made its way into fanfic inspired by Joss Whedon’s fabled Firefly. If you ever wondered why Jayne won’t kiss a whore on the mouth, there’s a fanfic story that explains it, and it involves jin-shei.

Authorisms: The top 10 words invented by writers
Catch-22Photograph: Alamy

Neologisms coined by authors which have entered the wider language have been enriching English for centuries. From Shakespeare to Joseph Heller, Paul Dickson selects his favorites:

Read the article

In Short

A review found on Amazon for ‘Gift of the Unmage’, the first book in my WORLDWEAVERS series (first published by HarperCollins, reprinted by Sky Warrior Books.)

Title: Four stars (no, seriously. That’s the TITLE of the review)

The review, in full:
A unique magic system. A treat.”

That’s it.

I believe it takes the prize for the pithiest review I have ever had, for ANY book.

Isn’t it funny how many of these are WINTER photos? There’s just something fairytale-ish about snow, period.

Fairytales Come To Life In Magical Photos
Fairytale wolfMargarita Kareva is a Russia-based photographer who specializes in fantasy art photography, Bored Panda tells us. Her photographs beautifully portray women that have been transformed into fairytale princesses and witches. She adds surreal elements to her shots that make the photographs really stand out.

See all the magic

32 Books Guaranteed To Make You Laugh Out Loud

You’ll probably want to read these books in private“, Erin Chack warns on BuzzFeed, “since spontaneous maniacal laughter may ensue.”

One of the books, A Hike in the Woods (below) is one of my own favorites. But this list has GLARING OMISSIONS. Where’s ‘Three Men in a Boat’? I challenge anyone to read the setting up camp scene without cackling out loud at some point. And where’s T.H. White’s ‘Once and Future King’? Go read the Sir Grummore/King Pellinore joust in the woods one more time, or the manufacture of the fake Questin’ Beast by Sir Grummore and Sir Palomides, and if you can keep a straight face through either of those scenes your funny bone is missing.
A walk in the woods

Two slightly out-of-shape hikers attempt to take on the Appalachian Trail. One of those hikers is Bill Bryson, prolific humor/travel writer.

This book is perfect for anyone looking for a laugh, or to be talked out of hiking the Appalachian Trail.


See all the books



From Trail of Tears to texting in the native tongue

In Aljazeera, Juliana Keeping writes about efforts to teach Cherokee children their own language

There’s something wonderful about an ancient language embracing a new world – taking something rich and old and valuable, giving it new wings fashioned out of cybercloud and electrons, and watching it fly under the strange light of an unfamiliar sun. Languages have concepts built into them that no other language can ever match..
Cherokee on screenRead the article

I’ve always loved foxes. There’s something intrinsically tricksterish, intelligent, bright, about their pointed red-furred faces. And they are unquestionably some of the most photogenic animals ever. They LOOK as though they could talk, if only they wanted to, if it was made worth their while.

And then you get the poor sad sodden little scraps like the very wet and very miserable little fox kit whom you just want to sweep into your arms and cuddle until he’s soft and furry and bright red and all mischevious all over again…
FoxletIntimate photos of foxes in one of world’s remotest regions

Ivan Kislov’s stunning pictures of foxes are guaranteed to take your breath away,” Dominique Mosbergen writes at the Huffington Post . Kislov is a mining engineer who works in Chukotka, a beautiful but desolate corner of the Russian Far East that lies partially above the Arctic Circle.

See all the amazing pictures


Tuszyn, Poland has banned Winnie-the-Pooh from a local playground because Pooh’s lack of pants and questionable gender are offensive and “wholly inappropriate for children.”

HarperCollins will offer a selection of bestselling titles to JetBlue passengers as the book content partner for the launch of the airline’s Fly-Fi content platform. Customers can read excerpts from more than 20 books, and each e-sampler includes buy buttons.

Quote of the Day

We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words.” ~ Ursula K. Le Guin

Alma Alexander      My books      Email me

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