Intimidating Books on my Bookshelf

I have a few intimidating books on my bookshelf and I can’t be the only one. Sometimes it can be the size of the tome, the genre, the author or specific concerns about a book or series. Today I thought I’d share the most intimidating books on my TBR pile with you.

An author I’d like to read but have been too intimidated to try: is Haruki Murakami. I just don’t know where to start and whether I’ll understand his magical realism.

A book I haven’t read because I’m worried I won’t enjoy it is: Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis. It’s the latest book in the Vampire Chronicles and while Anne Rice is a favourite author, I’m terrified I won’t enjoy this. I hated the previous book Prince Lestat (find out why here) and I’m worried in case this isn’t much better.

The classic I’m most intimidated to read is: Macbeth by William Shakespeare. It’s intimidating for obvious reasons, it’s a play and it’s Shakespeare!

A book I haven’t read because it’s kind of embarrassing: I have two books in this category. Perv by Jesse Bering and My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday. Less said the better?

The series I’m most intimidated to start is: A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) by George R.R. Martin. I love the TV series and I’m worried I won’t be able to keep up with the mammoth cast of characters and complex sub-plots in the books. The series is very long and currently comprises: A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, A Dance with Dragons, The Winds of Winter (forthcoming) and A Dream of Spring (forthcoming).

A series I haven’t finished that haunts me is: The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. Stephen King is one of my favourite authors and I know The Dark Tower series is his ‘Opus’ but I just couldn’t get into it.  I read The Gunslinger (#1) and The Drawing of the Three (#2) but haven’t progressed any further; despite owning the entire series. I’m a completionist so this bothers me quite a bit.

The most intimidating book in my TBR pile is: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. I have the Penguin Clothbound Edition and it comes in at more than 1200 pages which is intimidating enough as is. An adventure novel written in the 1840s it’s translated from French and I just haven’t picked it up yet.

What books do you find intimidating? Have you read any of the above? Let me know in the comments below.

Release of Beauty’s Kingdom by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)

Long before the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, Anne Rice was writing a raunchy series of erotic novels in the 1980s under the pseudonym A.N. Roquelaure. The Sleeping Beauty series contained the following three novels: The Claiming of Sleeping BeautyBeauty’s Punishment and Beauty’s Release. The trilogy has been very successful for Anne Rice, and in the 1990s, she revealed her identity as the author behind the pen name A.N. Roquelaure.Beauty's Kingdom A.N. Roquelaure

The latest and most exciting news is that a new book has just been released, and Beauty’s Kingdom is the fourth in the series and the first in 30 years. Before I tell you about the latest release, let me give you a brief overview (or reminder) of the series in case you haven’t come across it before. And if the erotica genre is not for you, then click here for some art therapy to cleanse your mind, and I’ll bid you farewell.

The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty is certainly not your typical fairytale, nor is it appropriate for children. Beauty is woken from her 100 year sleep, not with a kiss from a handsome prince, but with copulation. The prince takes her to his kingdom and in gratitude for waking her from her spell, Beauty is trained to become a plaything and sex slave. Don’t worry though, Beauty enjoys her encounters and falls passionately in love with a male slave. The sex is submissive and features elements of BDSM and pony play.

In Beauty’s Punishment, Beauty is punished for her affair with a fellow slave and is sold at auction. She is purchased by an innkeeper and captures the attention of the Captain of the Guard, who takes over her ‘education in love, cruelty, dominance, submission and tenderness.’ At the end of the book, Beauty and several other slaves are kidnapped and sent to serve in the palace of the Sultan.

In Beauty’s Release, Beauty finds herself in a new realm and a prisoner within a harem belonging to an Eastern Sultan. As the title suggests, she does escape her predicament and marry, but to tell you any more would be a spoiler. As the blurb says: ‘Anne Rice makes the forbidden side of passion a doorway into the hidden regions of the psyche and the heart in this final volume of the classic Sleeping Beauty trilogy,’ and I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Throughout the Sleeping Beauty series, themes of desire, discipline, pleasure, pain and surrender are all explored, and the writing is evocative and erotic.

Beauty’s Kingdom is the latest release, and is set 20 years after the events at the end of Beauty’s Release. Other than that, I don’t know much more, but I can’t wait to read it.

Player Profile: Natasha Walker (aka John Purcell), author of The Secret Lives Of Emma Trilogy

Natasha Walker (aka John Purcell), author of The Secret Lives Of Emma Trilogy

574488-erotic-book-authorTell us about your latest creation:

The Secret Lives of Emma: Unmasked is the final book in The Secret Lives of Emma trilogy. After getting herself into trouble Emma breaks free and heads off to reclaim herself and live the life she always meant to live. Leaving her husband David facing a challenge – accept her for who she is or lose her forever.

9780857980434Where are you from / where do you call home?:

I was born in Sydney and now call the northern suburb of Davidson home.

When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

When I was a kid I wanted to be involved in politics or be David Bowie.

What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:

The Secret Lives of Emma: Unmasked is my best work. I really enjoyed letting Emma be as wild as she liked.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:

I write in a tiny room I call the library. It’s a room which is too big to be a cupboard and too small to be a spare bedroom. I lined the walls with bookcases, filled them with books and plonked a desk in the middle. A perfect little writing room.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

At the moment I am reading outside my comfort zone. My job requires me to keep up with the latest trends, prize winners and blockbusters. Unobserved I retreat to my true love, the classics.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:

The book which I consider to be the catalyst for my reading life is Catch-22. If a friend hadn’t handed it to me I don’t think I would be the reader or writer I am today.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?:

Zorba. Because he is everything I am not.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:

I am a homebody. When I am not reading or writing I am building bookcases, or painting the deck, or fixing something (probably something I broke). I love to paint pictures, too. But I haven’t found the time recently.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

My wife’s Toad in the Hole (look it up) and beer.

Who is your hero? Why?:

I don’t have one hero. I suppose my heros and heroines are scientists, great writers, philosophers, politicians and lawmakers.

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:

Big data. Algorithms which mine our use of the internet to predict what we shall want to buy next. Eg: If you read this you’ll like this. I see such a service as reductive. We should never be our own teachers. I think it was Constable who said, A self-taught individual has a very ignorant teacher.

Blog URL: http://secretlivesofem.tumblr.com/
Facebook Page URL: https://www.facebook.com/thesecretlivesofemma
Twitter URL: https://twitter.com/NatashaWalkerAu

The Single Most Important Reason To Switch To Ebooks

I realised today the most important reason and deciding factor for me moving across to ebooks. It actually emerged from hearing a single, throwaway sentence. Before I continue, I should say that you may not wish to be eating or drinking while reading this blog, because it comes with an ‘ewww’ warning. Oh, and sorry, but this one’s not for the kids.

The sentence? ‘Every time you read a book, you leave a little bit of yourself behind in it.’ No, we’re not talking about some existential contribution to the universe and human knowledge. We’re talking about physical, mostly invisible, sometimes visible parts of you. Like skin cells, hair, saliva, mucus. In short, anything you can shed or spread. Kind of makes those library books a little less appealing, doesn’t it?

I’m not sure what followed this sentence, because hearing it immediately transported me back in time to when I was at uni and worked part-time as a bookseller. And it’s here that the ewww kicks in.

Every retail job comes equipped with some colourful (or not-so-colourful) characters who keep your job ‘interesting’, or who simply provide grist for the writers’ mill (hence this blog post). Many of them become regulars, and new staff members learn these customers’ quirks the hard way while older staff chalk up encounters to the retail chalkboard of horror.

Invariably, the greater the horror experienced by one staff member, the greater the amusement experienced by all the other others who escaped it first hand, but who get to be shocked, awed, and downright thank-goodness-it-wasn’t-me-who-copped-it amused.

My un-funny, uber-eww situation involved an older gentleman who frequented the store and who used to purchase erotic fiction. That in itself is not a bad thing, and more than anything I felt sorry for him. I figured he was a lonely guy, and who knew, maybe he was reading the books for the quality writing and compelling stories.

The problem was that he would then return the books for a refund, with all manner of excuses. He was so frequent and had such a system worked out, that he was known not just in the particular book store I worked in, but others in near-by neighbourhoods.

I can’t remember if he was given a name like Mr Itchy, the rampant, smash-and-grab shoplifter who was known for specialising in stealing sci-fi (that’s another story altogether), but I suspect not—he creeped us young female staff members out too much to warrant a term-of-endearment name.

The refund reasons varied from the books not being suitable, to that they were given to him as a gift, that he realised he already owned a particular one, and so on. Basically, they were the kinds of reasons for which we had to give a refund.

And, even though we knew that he knew that we knew he was full of bull, we were polite young booksellers, he made us feel uncomfortable, there were invariably other customers listening in who weren’t aware of his long history of dodgy-ness, he was careful to hit up different stores each time so it was hard to pin down his story and disprove it, and we weren’t getting paid enough to care enough to kick up a significant stink.

Anyway, the second part to this story is that there were rules about when we staff members could go to lunch, and one particular day I was starving well before my allotted break. So starving, in fact, that every other staff member knew about it. It had become a bit of a joke and I was counting down the seconds of the minutes until I got to go, warning everyone not to get between me and my meal once the time rolled around lest they be eaten by mistake.

Of course, it was really busy when my break time turned up and, feverishly hungry though I was, I felt bad leaving the guys at the counter to contend with the swarm of customers. To help out and to alleviate my guilty, food-focused conscience, I decided to serve one more customer before I went. Of course, I should have sized up said customer before I said that, because it turned out that the next person in line was he who shall not be named but who bought and returned erotica.

The particular book he slid across the counter—and I mean slid, because he never handed you the book and never quite looked you in the eye—had clearly been read and probably carted around in a bag or two too. The cover’s corners were mushed and tattered, the spine cracked and lined, and the book fell open in the hyper-extended manner of one that had been bent back on itself.

One of the conditions of refund is that a book must be in saleable condition. This clearly wasn’t, but the customer continued to assert that he hadn’t read the book, it was given to him as a gift, and this was the condition it had arrived in.

I was trying to politely explain the myriad reasons why we couldn’t accept it back when something caught my eye. For a moment I thought it was a ribbon that he’d used as a bookmark, but closer examination revealed it to be much, much worse. It was a long, grey, curly, wiry pubic hair.

I’d like to say that I sent Mr Erotica packing without a refund, but I think I relented just to get him away from me, us, and the book store. Despite the repulsive proof that he’d read the book (or at least flicked through and handled it), he was adamant that he hadn’t. And really, you can’t reason with a man who’s prepared to stand there and debate you and deny ownership of a pube.

Suffice to say that once he was finally gone, I couldn’t wash my hands enough and was no longer hungry.

So, remember that line about leaving something of yourself behind in a book each time you read it? Yeah. Most of us wouldn’t leave our nether region’s hairs, but the point remains the same. That line and this story reminded me of the single most important reason for moving across to ebooks. Shudder. No more library or possibly refunded books for me. At least if I loan them out, I’m not going to get trace matter on my electronic copies.

The Internet is for Porn (And So are Ebooks)

We all know it’s there, and there are a lot of us out there who use it – so why does the civilised internet like to pretend it doesn’t exist? That’s the question James Ledbetter asked in a column in Slate this week, when talking about erotica appearing on the Kindle store. Snip:

As I write this, the most downloaded item for Amazon’s Kindle is a novel by Jenna Bayley-Burke called Compromising Positions. Here is part of the plot description: “David Strong knows how to do a lot of things—run an international fitness company, finesse stock portfolios and stay out of emotional entanglements. That is, until he gets tangled up with Sophie Delfino and her Sensational Sex workout. He’s supposed to help her demonstrate Kama Sutra positions for her couples-yoga class. … And his co-instructor unexpectedly tests his control to the limit.”

As Ledbetter goes on to point out, one of the many reasons Compromising Positions (go on, look it up, I’ll wait) appears on the top list for fiction is that the publisher is giving it away free to promote the author or the series. This is one of the many ways in which producers of adult entertainment (and by adult, I mean porn) push the envelope of what is possible and experiment with new technology. And by that I mean with sales, distribution, content and marketing, not teledildonics.

Rule 34: If it exists, there is porn of it.

What annoys me about the article in Slate, however, is the presumption that given enough time and attention from the wrong sorts of people, Amazon may be forced to censor their listings.

Is it valuable to the company to goose interest in the Kindle with erotica giveaways, or will the presence of e-books like Compromising Positions at the top of Amazon’s charts sully the e-reader’s reputation?

My question for you today is simple: is this something we need to worry about? Is this another example of the way American prudishness is ruining the internet? Or should we be thinking of the children? Is erotica something we ought to be scared of, or something we should be happy about because at least people are reading it, instead of having it injected into their eye sockets? You decide – sound off in the comments and let me know what you think.