Hidden Humor

A recent blog post by Shannon Hale about funny girls getting shushed got me thinking about women writers who are really stinkin’ funny, but not usually marketed or thought of as humor writers.

Find The Importance of Being Alice in the SPL catalogThen I looked on my nightstand and saw a Katie MacAlister book.  The Importance of Being Alice is labelled a romance, the cover art is all flowy white dress, and just based on these, you would never guess how many times the words inside made me ugly-snort-laugh.  Yes, it has the structure of a romance, yes, romances can be funny, but the absurd situations, delightfully odd supporting characters, witty banter, and slapstick moments are pure comedy.  This one is a contemporary romance, but she also writes paranormals (dragons! vampires!), historicals (earls!), and some romances that defy categorization (the pirate virtual reality game one! seriously!).   So, if you don’t mind some spicy sex scenes and people falling in love, try some Katie MacAlister, she just might be your next favorite funny woman.

What hidden humorists have you found cloaked in other genres?  Is there a gumshoe that induces giggles? Funny fantasy? Witty westerns? Sci-fi that makes you snicker?

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Nightstand Reads: Seattle author Bridget Foley shares some favorites

We are thrilled to have Seattle novelist and screenwriter Bridget Foley, author of Hugo & Rose, here today to share a few favorites from her nightstand pile.

Hugo and Rose

Eleven years ago when I moved in with my husband I insisted that we keep no bookshelves in our bedroom. Since we are both writers, we are drowning in books, and I think I was hoping to stem the tide by making a breakwater around the marriage bed. Knowing me, I probably sold him on it by making some proclamation about dust.

The result is that instead of shelves in my bedroom, I have stacks. There are currently 34 books divided between my nightstand, bureau and the floor between. There are two lost in my comforter and one that lodged itself between the mattress and the bed frame last night as I fell asleep.

Of the number which have made it past the breakers, seven are library books, four were written by friends, two are about child loss and one is an outdated Frommer’s about Washington state I will probably never open. One I bought because I liked the title, but have no current plans to read. Three of them are signed copies (only one of these from a buddy) and one is my own book, which looks strange and out of place and should probably make its way back to the living room.

It’s dangerous to ask me to recommend a book because I treat a one-time solicitation like an open door; Subject Line: YOU MUST READ THIS! Followed by some hastily thumbed title. No reply necessary.

But with door opened, the following are the books I’d enter with:

Henry's HandAny and all books illustrated by Ross MacDonald
Childhood is too short for lousy picture books — and I don’t think childhood’s end is a good reason to stop appreciating the incredible art, humor and complex story-telling available in the very best picture books. Instead of looking through the children’s section myself, I always ask a librarian which picture books he would recommend after listing a few of my own established favorites. This is how I discovered MacDonald’s work, which uses antique letterpress and gorgeous watercolor “Dick & Jane-esque” illustrations to create a wonderfully modern, fresh style. I’m partial to Achoo! Bang! Crash!  But my son loves Henry’s Hand.

And Exact ReplicaAn Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken
My infant daughter passed away a little more than a year and a half ago. One of the cruelest symptoms of my grief was that for a time I lost the ability to read anything longer than a paragraph. While I still struggle, it was McCracken’s beautiful memoir about the still-birth of her first son and the subsequent live birth of her second that finally made the words stop swimming in front of my eyes. McCracken’s writing is the most clear, distilled and deeply human writing about what it feels like to lose a child that I have found. This book was a life raft for me and I am so very sad and yet so terribly grateful that she had to write it.

Flicker MenThe Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka
One of the perks of being a writer is getting to make friends with really talented people and read their books before everyone else does. Ted is a friend, a fellow Seattle area writer, and his book THE FLICKER MEN is coming out this July — and it’s very rightly getting all sorts of love from reviewers ( Both Publishers Weekly and Library Journal gave it a glowing star). The book features a physicist who, while replicating a classic experiment about the behavior of photons under observation, happens upon possible scientific evidence of the human soul. The book is smart, the writing is lyrical and the conclusion is action packed.

On Retirement75 Poems on Retirement, edited by Robin Chapman & Judith Strasser
Seattle has a vibrant poetry scene, much due to the fostering of poets at Hugo House under the leadership of Tree Swenson. Living here has opened my eyes to the exciting work of local poets like Kelli Russell Agodon and EJ Koh (neither of whom are featured in the above collection, but should both be sought out on their own merits.) I picked up 75 Poems on Retirement from the library on a whim — since I am nowhere near retiring — and it is one of the few books that has driven me to purchase a new copy while I still had one checked out. Large and small meditations on age, realities of life and the necessities of death make reading this book a thoughtful joy. I’ve come to realize that poetry is particularly suited to our 140 character obsessed, Instagram-quotes-pasted-on-pretty-pictures modern world, because poetry can deliver something profound and carry you to new shores with only a few lines. This is a fact I hope more people will discover.

SStumbling On Happinesstumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
I did a great deal of research on neuroscience while prepping to write Hugo & Rose because I wanted to ground the story’s magical realism with real science about the human brain. I found John Brockman’s collections to be enormously helpful, but it was STUMBLING ON HAPPINESS that has stayed with me. Daniel Gilbert’s book is pop-science at its very best. The book addresses difficult concepts in a layman-friendly and humorous way. I find myself still referencing this book and thumbing through it on a fairly regular basis.

bridget foley

Bridget Foley — photo by Angela S. Torchia

Bridget Foley will be appearing at Elliott Bay Book Co. on Monday, June 1, at 7 p.m. (free event; details here).  In her debut novel, Hugo & Rose, a woman experiences fantastical dreams about a man and then stumbles across this dream man in real life, triggering unexpected questions, lies and obsessions that threaten everything she knows. A Booklist Magazine reviewer said: “Foley’s imaginative and insightful novel will hold readers spellbound as it builds to a stunning conclusion.”


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All in the Boat

By Di Z.

Fresh Off the Boat CoverEddie Huang is a brash, early-30s restaurateur and TV personality who’s been making waves in pop culture for the last half decade, which in today’s world seems like a lifetime. Those who have followed Huang can instantly recognize his quasi New York accent which he acquired from years of listening to Biggie and Wu-Tang Clan (he’s an Orlando native) and an apparently endless supply of quotables which suggests he is somewhat of a cross between street scholar and entertainer: “I love the idea of America. America is the best show running in the world right now.”

Currently you can catch Huang on several TV shows. He is a frequent guest on Rob Dyrdek’s Ridiculousness and Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory. Huang is also a judge on the MTV Food Show Snack-Off, where contestants each cook a meal in an allotted time and the judges decide which meal deserves the most props. Continue reading

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Science Fiction Checklist Challenge: Alternative History

~posted by Selby G.

History is a series of events. But what if some of those important events had a different outcome? What if the Soviet Union won the cold war or Kennedy didn’t get assassinated? How would that change the world? Science fiction writers are known for pondering the wild realms of speculation and that is exactly what they do in Alternate History Sci-fi.

Find Three Princes in the SPL catalogThe most popular premise for alternate histories is probably the Nazis winning World War II, but there are plenty of other options. Like, what if Egypt still ruled a huge chunk of the world into the 1800’s? If this idea intrigues you then check out Ramona Wheeler’s Three Princes. When Otto von Bismarck, the European terrorist, plots to overthrow Pharaoh Djoser-George, the princes Scott and Mik must work with the Incan empire on the other side of the Atlantic to keep the dynasty intact. Continue reading

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Seattle Cooks…Digitally

Everyone knows that The Seattle Public Library has an outstanding cookbook collection. But you may not know that you can check out “e-cookbooks” through OverDrive. If you’re a messy cook prone to spilling ingredients on page after page, then this could be the best option for you!

OverDrive has more than two dozen cookbooks, food and wine guides that celebrate the bounty and creativity of growers, farmers and chefs in Seattle, Washington and the Pacific Northwest. With chefs from Ethan Stowell to Renee Erickson, restaurants Cafe Flora to Skillet, local institutions like Ivar’s and the Herbfarm, sweet treats from Macrina Trophy Cupcakes, and guides to local cheese, beer and wine there’s something for everyone. Check them out right now!

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Mad Men is gone, but the Music lives on

~posted by Frank

There’s so much to miss about Mad Men. Multi-dimensional characters. Deliberate pacing. Cryptic dialogue. Glamorous production. Perspectives on the 1960s. Smoking and drinking. And, the music. Although much of the music was limited to the closing credits, they often captured the essence of the episode, and introduced me to some great music from the 1960s and before that I wouldn’t have known about any other way. Here are seven great songs from each of Mad Men’s seven seasons that you can listen to in Freegal or hoopla, right now. Warning: spoilers ahead.  Continue reading

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The Science Fiction Checklist Challenge: Hard SF

By Richard C.

Carbide Tipped Pens

Start your Hard Science Fiction Checklist Challenge with a just-published and aptly-titled short story collection, Carbide Tipped Pens. Number 1 is called The Blue Afternoon that Lasted Forever, and there’s more intensity in its 13 pages than you’ve ever had before. Yes indeed, you’ll find it a work of Hard SF that’s quickly read but never forgotten.

For a classic route, try Fredrick Pohl’s story Day Million in Digital Rapture, or either James Blish’s Surface Tension or Tom Godwin’s The Cold Equation in a book called Science Fiction Hall of Fame. Solaris Rising, Solaris Rising 2, Edge of Infinity, and Beyond the Sun carve out even more rock solid SF.

Continue reading

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