Saturday, 16 October 2010

Some things I have been reading on my Kindle

I love my kindle, but it does have its disadvantages.  Every time I try to play with it I get distracted by novels, so I still don't really know how to do loads of things on it.  Though I have found that if you save a word document with a table of contents and then e-mail it to your kindle it preserves the table of contents for you, with links.  (I did this for the Douay-Rheims translation of the Psalms.  Of course you have to set up the styles and generate the Table of Contents properly, but if you use Word and don't know how to do this then it is definitely worth learning anyway.)

Anyway here are some reviews of books with links to where you can get them.  Many are cheap or free.  I don't think any of them costs more than a fiver, though for some you have to go to websites other than Amazon.  (I'm leaving aside for the moment books by K. J. Parker, about which I am going to blog separately.)
Dracula, Bram Stoker
Fantastic.  The lunatic who begs for a kitten is great.  The lesson is, if you're hiding from a monstrous super-human with unknown powers, best not to do it in mental asylum.  And if your wife wants to know what's going on, just tell her!  Don't treat her like some sort of morally-fragile pet.
Free at Amazon

The Beetle, Richard Marsh
Came out in the same year as Dracula.  Not really as good, but still has its spooky moments.  Very much a product of its time.  There's a good bit where an important politician is completely cowed by someone just going "The Beetle!" at him.  The Beetle!
Free at Amazon

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N. K. Jemisin
OK.  It's about a horrible ruling family and a grand-daughter who is brought in from outside for nefarious purposes.  Lots of odd bits where she has sex with gods.  I'm not sure I will bother with the sequels because it seemed somewhat melodramatic.
Amazon link

Carmen Dog, Carol Emshwiller
Brilliant.  Set in a world where nobody knows why some pets are turning into women, and some women into animals, but it's making men very worried about Motherhood.  Pooch finds herself taking on increasing household duties while her mistress becomes more and more snappish and uncommunicative, but when the mother of the house bites the baby she expects she'll be blamed by her adored master, and runs away to become an opera singer.  Mad but very excellent.  Go Carol Emshwiller!
$5.95 at Weightless Books.  (For a Kindle you want the .mobi file.)

The Bertrams, Anthony Trollope
Excellent Trollope stuff.  It's about two young men, one of whom gets a first- and another a second-class degree at Oxford, and their subsequent lives, particularly their marriages.  It's also a bit about an older friend of theirs who becomes a barrister.  More of this takes place abroad than is usual for Trollope, in the Middle East.  His feelings about the Holy Sepulchre are quite amusing though I feel a pang about how similar they are to mine.  But the Kindle edition, although mostly good, had an over-zealous editor who had done bad things to sentences, I think under the auspices of Project Gutenberg.  For example, s/he added the word in square brackets to this sentence, even though it reads much better without:
By degrees they both began to regard him with confidence -- with sufficient confidence to talk to him of Bertram; with sufficient [confidence] even to tell him of their fears.
And removed the square bracketed word from this:
I do not think he would have [him] come down here had he heard it -- not yet, at least.
And what made me raging mad beyond anything rational was that the editor changed the word "vicegerent" to "viceregent" in a reference to the Russian emperor as heir of the Byzantines.  Vicegerent is right!  Don't introduce errors into Trollope!  Do not!
72 pence at Amazon or free at Project Gutenberg

The Nebuly Coat, J. Meade Falkner
Excellent old-style mystery, largely set around an old church, where a young architect is worried that the arches cannot take the strain of the added tower.   This man also wrote Moonfleet, which I loved as a kid.  But apparently he was also librarian of Durham Cathedral.
71 pence at Amazon or free at Project Gutenberg

Or Else My Lady Keeps the Key, Kage Baker
The only Kage Baker I could find in ebook form.  Not her best, but still pretty readable and amusing.  It's about a man who accidentally becomes a pirate although he'd much rather be a bricklayer, and gets involved in a hunt for Prince Maurice, Prince Rupert's missing brother.
$5.00 at

Pretty Monsters, Kelly Link
Excellent mad short stories -- a bit spec fic, a bit slipstream, but good-humoured and interesting.  She also edits Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet which is a very good zine.  See also Small Beer Press and Weightless Books.  In fact those last three URLs deserve a blog post all to themselves in their excellence.
Amazon link

Sum: Tales from the Afterlife, David Eagleman
Very hyped, but worth the hype because extremely good.  It's a series of short stories giving different ideas of the afterlife.  Very Calvino.
Amazon link

To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis
An amiable and fun time-travel mystery, centring around Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat and the bombing of Coventry Cathedral in the Second World War.  It's a bit Importance of Being Earnest-y as well.  Good stuff if you're in a light-hearted mood.
Amazon link

Ayala's Angel, Anthony Trollope
An excellent Trollope book.  It's about two sisters whose artist father dies leaving them penniless.  One of them is to go to their rich aunt for a life of vulgar riches, and the other has to go to their poor uncle for a life of scraping genteel poverty.  The younger, Ayala, is a very romantic girl; men keep falling in love with her but she has an idea in her mind of the perfect man, and finds their attentions frightening and rather shocking.  Trollope writes women very well.  Even though Ayala is provokingly naive in a way which leads her to be inadvertently rude to quite a few people, you still can't help but be on her side.  And why shouldn't a nineteen-year-old girl be silly?  It would be more surprising if she weren't.  One of Trollope's funny novels.
Free at Project Gutenberg

Dr Wortle's School, Anthony Trollope
A shorter Trollope novel, e.g. two volumes not three.  Dr Wortle runs a very good school -- we're not in Dickensian territory here -- and he has found an excellent usher in the form of Mr Peacocke, whose wife does the linen and basically acts as a matron.  But Mrs Peacocke has a complicated past.  The novel is mostly about how Dr Wortle deals with the ignominy brought on his school when that past becomes known.  Not as funny as Ayala's Angel but still quite cheerful.
Free at Project Gutenberg

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