Thursday, 30 December 2010

Kindle - a bonfire of this week's Kindling

My first four days of Kindling has been most interesting. As I mentioned in my last post, I find that the stuff I am downloading to Kindle is a complement to my print library not a replacement.

That book in many's eyes doth share the glory, that in gold clasps locks in the golden story
The one exception is a book which has long been lingering on my amazon wish list - The Memoirs of Harriette Wilson by the notorious Harriette Wilson. I was about to purchase the new (print) edition of this, when I found the original as a free downloadable ebook on the Internet Archive In some respects it's a disappointing version. Whatever software was used to scan the text into a digital format has scrambled some of the words. Where 'rn' is written, for example, it is consistently read as 'm'. The Marquess of Lorne (or Duke of Argyll) is therefore presented as Lome throughout the book. Luckily I'm familiar with most of the names she mentioned, so this doesn't bother me too much - but it was jarring for the first few pages. Pretty soon however, I stopped noticing it entirely. Harriette's voice is so fresh and funny that she has me caught up in her world before I realised what was happening. She is irreverent, tongue in cheek and contemporary in a way I would not have believed possible. It is absolutely fascinating. I am just at the start of her adventures, but I want more. Thank heavens to those gentlemen who, like Wellington, declared "Publish or be damned!" If they had all acquiesced to her blackmail demands, we would not be in the possession of such a wickedly amusing record of regency London's gentlemen.

The other book I am halfway through is Stephen King's On Writing. I would never have thought that a guide to writing could be so enthralling (though when I think about it, it stands to reason that it should be so). It's as much a gripping autobiography as it is an treatise on creative writing. I love it - it is completely unputdownable.

So that is a 5/5 rating for the two autobiographies so far, if typos are to be ignored.

I also downloaded and rapidly hoovered up Mary Jo Putney's The Wild Child - in fact it has the distinction of being the very first novel to make its way onto my Kindle. I am a latecomer to Ms Putney's work, but a big fan. I was pretty much blown away by the richness of her Silk series, especially Veils of Silk, which I loved. I didn't think the Wild Child was in the same league, being slightly dubious about Meriel's rapid recovery from the post traumatic stress which had kept her dumb and otherworldly for the best part of two decades. However, I did very much enjoy the blossoming romance and the unconventionality of both the hero and the heroine. They have a very believable attraction and Dominic, the hero, is particularly likable. Mary Jo Putney often touches upon unusual themes in her works (impotence and miscarriage to give two examples) and this novel is no exception, dealing with mental health and spirituality in an engrossing and non-didactic fashion. Even when not at her best (in my humble opinion), Mary Jo Putney is still really good. She just sets the bar high.

The other book I chomped by way through (as a Kindle freebie) was Cheryl Brooks' Slave. It's a science fiction erotic romance and to summarise, it deals with a cat/man former slave and a human woman who set off to rescue the woman's kidnapped sister on a planet which resembles a jolly soft-porn version of The Handmaid's Tale. In the midst of their adventures, Cat-Man manages to receive fellatio from a number from a number of alien women whilst our heroine looks on, smiles and allows a large number of men to masturbate on her beaky nose. Erotic? I laughed my socks off. I can't help but think the author did too. Dodgy erotica aside there is the blossoming of a rather sweet romance and it is that more than anything which kept me turning the pages and ultimately, enjoying the novel, despite the heroine's annoying cowboy-esque way of speaking. Or maybe I'm just a sucker for a sensitive souled cat-slave whose planet was destroyed because the men were too damn good at making love and had ecstasy inducing spunk. I didn't find it remotely erotic, but it was fun and I enjoyed it.

...a rose by any other name would smell as sweet...
Science Fiction is also a bit of a departure for me. I've always loved Science Fiction and Fantasy but haven't read much for years. One pleasurable aspect of Kindle has been reacquainting myself with the likes of Andre Alice Norton, Philip K Dick and J G Ballard. I've now got a ton of Science Fiction/Fantasy to work my way through and I'm also interesting in exploring the related romance genres. I've stumbled across a few blog posts of late which question whether Science Fiction/Fantasy romances should rightly be included in the 'best of romance' lists. I don't get that. A romance is a romance whether it takes place in the present, in the past, in outer space or amongst supernatural types. It's just two (or more!) people falling in love.

I would argue that there are a lot of similarities between supernatural romance, science fiction romance and historical romance. They all set their stories in a world removed from the every day, which enables us to suspend our disbelief and not to judge the characters by our own cultural touchstones. Perhaps that's the reason I'm not a great fan of contemporary romance; I find myself saying 'but people don't do that!' Setting the romance in a different world allows me to dispense with that type of incredulity. I can have a lot more fun.

O Joanna, Joanna, wherefore art thou, Joanna Bourne?
On a different note, my sad discovery about the Kindle (from a brief internet browse) is that it doesn't seem to support adobe epub files, which seems to be the format used by a lot of romance publishers for their e-book stores. Sadly, therefore, I've got some time to wait before I can download the Joanna Bourne novels I fancy. They aren't available on the UK Kindle store, worst luck, and after reading The Spymaster's Lady (a definite 5/5 from me) I am hungry for more.

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