Block was born in Los Angeles, sometimes known as "Shangri-L.A.," other times "Hell-A," depending on how the day is going. The daughter of a poet and painter, she attended the University of California at Berkeley. Francesca was a riot grrrl before the term was coined. She read the novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez while at college; his magical realism became a major influence. Block's work is grounded in urban realities, though she sees pixies and genies in that "jasmine-scented, jacaranda-purple, neon sparked city." She missed Los Angeles and wrote her first novel to cure homesickness. That novel was Weetzie Bat, and it made a big, wet splash in young adult literature.
Louisa May Alcott did not write because she had the need to get the stories out. Louisa May wrote for one reason: she wanted her family to be rich.
It's the time of year when skies turn gray, dead leaves are underfoot, and horror stories feel just right. I've found some corkers for you: things with teeth or bad intentions. There are novels; for those who prefer their horror in small, uh, bites, there are short stories, too. All are written by women. Have fun and pleasant dreams!
Novelists have bills like the rest of us. They could be writing novels and need auto repairs but cannot wait until they get the advances on the novels. What to do? Short pieces, book reviews, and articles in magazines help a bit. Writers with a journalism background will publish a collection of pieces filed from a war front; others have something they cannot work into novels and publish the ideas separately, as essays. Either way, readers win.
Big books: let's say, over 500 pages. They give hours of reading pleasure, sometimes minutes of meh, or worse, frustration and anger. Big books: big fun or big boredom. If it is "hafta read," all one can do is put the head down and press on. Reading a long book is a trip among sometimes enjoyable landscapes with interesting people. Lots of them.
Finding a specific title one is looking for is fun all right. The real fun starts when a book that proves engaging and worth reading is found by chance. Ah, the old serendipity effect. Here is a list of some chance finds.
Scandinavian raiders, known as Vikings, are all over movie and TV screens these days. Thor movies, a show on the History Channel, and, in general, an uptick in interest as well as a "rehabilitation" of their reputation in some circles. You can visit a "Viking" village in York, England—Jorvik, as it was known then, in the heart of the Danelaw lands. There is even a "Viking" school in Norway!
I never saw my grandfather read a book; his reading was confined to maps. He and his fishing buddies would pore over maps for places and routes for their fishing treks way up into Canada. That was my first inkling of the function of maps; Gramp always came back.
A gray day, perfect for revisiting a twitchy acquaintance: Edgar Allan Poe. Roderick Usher and family inhabit their cracked, creepy house in one of his best short stories, “The Fall of the House of Usher." The Poe story has been used by other authors since he wrote it, even made into an opera. One offers a different perspective from Roderick Usher’s doomed sister, Madeline; the other features the descendants of Madeline and Roderick, from a master of modern horror, Robert McCammon.
“The sharper your knife, the less you cry.”
Chefs dominate the cooking industry; the big ones have TV shows, cookbooks, their own magazines. Because of them, there are cooking shows for every taste and better produce in your local market. Here is a selection of notable memoirs; two of the authors uplifted home cooking in America.