"Have you had any time to read lately?" she asked.
"Well, yes, actually I've been reading quite a lot of Napoleanic-era naval fiction..."
"Oh," she asked brightly,"You mean like Hornblower?"
I felt my face heating up, because yes, I have been reading an awful lot of Hornblower, but that which I have been reading is mostly slash, some of it quite smutty, and really Not Safe For Church. A year ago I would have steered clear of it entirely in favor of gen choices. Now I read it all, because I love Horatio and Archie so much that I just want them to get some love, but I still wouldn't want to recommend the smutty slashiness to, say, my nine-year-old daughter, nor to my young, single, probably virgin, pure-minded church friend. Does anyone else have this dilemma? Am I just a hypocrite here? Answer: probably. Commence mental hand-waving.
Anyway, so my pure young friend had seen all the movies (presumably without registering the slash, since she was thinking of getting them for the church library - yay! I've been going through withdrawal since my VPN stopped working, because I can't watch them on YouTube in China without said VPN, woe!) and she was very interested in reading the Hornblower books:
"Are they any good?"
"Well, I loved them when I was fourteen, but that was before I saw the movies and" (lowering voice, conscious of husband sitting a meter away) "fell in love with Archie Kennedy. He's not in the books, you know. Except a paragraph. But the books were good besides that."
She was still interested. So I told her all my secret sources of free fiction on the Web. Would you like to know them too?
First, for downloadable ebooks that are NOT public domain, there's this amazing Russian website called Podelise. They have the entire Aubrey-Maturin series (which I recommended to my friend: "Like Hornblower but with Jane Austen added when they're ashore!") and I'm pretty sure they have all the Hornblower too, as well as some of the Richard Sharpe books and a lot of others. To find them, go to your search engine of choice, and type the title of your desired book (in quotes) and podelise. (The Aubrey-Maturin series uses the American titles. I looked them up on Wikipedia.)
So Yahooing '"Mr Midshipman Hornblower" podelise' will get you this:
And '"Master and Commander" podelise' will get you this:
On my iPhone, I put them in reading mode, scroll down until the entire book is downloaded, and then save a PDF to iBooks.
"So, you know that you can go to Project Gutenberg for books published before 1921, right? PG Wodehouse, Wooster and Jeeves, Anne of Green Gables, Jane Austen?"
She didn't know. So I showed her http://www.gutenberg.org/ . I recommended she try Mr Midshipman Easy, by Frederick Marryat:
In return, she recommended The Mysterious Island, by Jules Verne: "It has ships and pirates!"
(I also recommend Cecilia, Memoirs of an Heiress, by Fanny Burney, because Jane Austen read it and mentioned it in Northanger Abbey. Belinda was good too.)
And then we talked about Shakespeare, because Archie, and how reading it on the page can be rather dry. "For that you need free audiobooks by Librivox! I use the Audiobooks app on my iPhone. (It has a dark blue icon with an open book and a pair of headphones.) Most of the books are free. That's how I listened to The Tempest. And anything by Jane Austen is so much nicer if it's read to me in an English accent!"
So, those are my roughly Napoleanic-era reading recs of the day... safe to recommend to innocent friends, even if I no longer am! *Blushes guiltily*