Review: Dracula and Frankenstein: Penguin Clothbound Classics

I spotted these Penguin Clothbound classics on Amazon, and I decided to take a look at them.

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula

I’m a voracious reader. I always thought I would be the last person to embrace the new trend of eBooks. I still write some of my books on paper before I type them up, and I do all my planning on paper, too, and type that up. There’s something reassuringly solid about a nice book, with pages that can be turned. However, there’s distinct advantages to ebooks when you read in the quantity that I do. If you only have 1 chapter left, you don’t have the dilemma about whether to cram 2 books into your handbag for the day, or whether to risk having nothing to read at lunchtime. Physical books take up far too much room if you can’t afford a large house. Before I moved in with my husband, I moved around a lot, because I didn’t really have anywhere permanent to live, which meant that about once every three months, I would have to fill up a stacking crate or two with books, and carry them (I didn’t own a car) to a charity shop. I feel sad when I think of all the books I no longer have, books I liked, and would like to read again, because I simply didn’t have the space to keep them all. I still remember dragging those heavy boxes of books, my arms nearly falling off under the weight, to make sure they found a new home.

I had a very strict rule, though; if I couldn’t carry it, I couldn’t keep it. That was borne from being homeless and destitute a few too many times, because when you get somewhere to live after being homeless, especially if some charitable agency donates clothes or books to you, it’s easy to accumulate a lot of things again in a short space of time, but not necessarily the most useful or appropriate things. You feel bad about getting rid of them, though, and so I wouldn’t. Then, every time I ended up homeless again, usually because my mother hadn’t paid our rent, or she’d threatened to stab the landlord/lady who owned the place we were living in, or she’d been offensive or violent toward another resident in wherever we lived, we’d end up homeless again. And when there were so many objects, it was hard to know what to take when we had limited space and only very short amounts of time.

As an adult, then, I held fast to that rule, and because I had to move so frequently for work, I found it difficult to let the books go, but sometimes you have to make hard decisions when you haven’t quite found a place where you and things go together (shameless Breakfast at Tiffany’s reference… another book I no longer have).

Then, one day, about six and a half years ago, I found a place where I and things might go together, only my husband had already filled it all with his things and there wasn’t really any room for me and I didn’t feel it was my place to say anything. So about eighteen months later, when we had to move to a different city for teacher training, we upsized and rented an enormous house, many times the size of the one we have now. That house had about 4800 feet of floor space excluding the garages which the landlord retained. It had two kitchens, a laundry, servants’ quarters (we kept the bunny down there), and the sort of staircase with a huge sweep to it. We accumulated a lot of stuff but I was still reluctant to indiscriminately bring things into the house. I will never forget the time I came home from a long day and found that my husband had ordered eight enormous bookcases to turn one of the huge rooms of the house into a library for his 2000 books. To match, he added a handmade wooden dining table which seated twelve. I was initially apoplectic at all this unexpected furniture, but I got used to it.

This was when we had money, and prospects, and all sorts of other wonderful things (like a future). Those things have all been in extremely short supply for the last few years.

We moved to this (much smaller, but still fine for 2 people, at 600 feet square) house in late 2013 and because we were both working 14 hours a day, five days a week, we had to move overnight (we did it ourselves as we had no money for a removal van) and we literally just moved everything with no thought as to what to keep. I put in a lot of hard work clearing out our house over the last couple of years to declutter it of all the things we had accumulated when we lived in that proper house. One of my hardest tasks was to read the first three chapters of every single book in my husband’s 2000-book library to decide which ones were worth keeping. I pared it down by about 60% (and ended up reading most of the books we kept). The thing is, those 2000 books (now about 800) were all sci-fi and fantasy novels, of varying quality and noteworthiness, so we didn’t have copies of quite a few very common books, but we did have duplicates of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, amongst other things. Since my husband came with such an enormous library, I haven’t felt able to buy books for myself. Ebooks came to the rescue, on that score, and before I got Kindle for PC/iPhone, I missed so many new book releases because I felt bad for adding to the unmanageable collection of books we already had.

So with all that in mind, it feels a little bit ridiculous that I recently realized the value in having a nice set of decorative novels around the house. So when I learned about the Penguin Clothbound Classics, I was very taken by the design. I took a look through the list to see which books had been clothbound, and imagine my surprise when I found they’d picked Dracula and Frankenstein.

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula

Frankenstein is a book that made a big impression on me when I first read it at fourteen (ditch the popular version retold a thousand times in film). It’s about a construct whose story reflects the otherness and isolation of trying to live in a world which often seems as though it’s made for a different type of person.

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula

What I really love about this version is it has anatomical drawings on the cover, of hearts, but they’re not pretty puffy hearts, they’re biology diagrams of hearts. I thought that was especially appropriate for the subject matter.

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a story I started reading on my Kindle for iPhone about a year ago. I love that you can get free ebooks of all the great classics, but the Kindle version of Dracula that I got was really badly formatted and I gave up after about 30 pages. I think some books are better suited to being in paper form, so I’ve bought this version. The cover is all black, and while the design is not as inspired as that on the Frankenstein, I still rather liked it:

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula

Here’s the title page inside each book:

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula bram stoker

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula mary shelley

Here’s a page at random from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, to show the text size and layout quality:

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula mary shelley

I’m really looking forward to reading Dracula next!

I’ve got a bunch more of these on my mental wishlist, but at £11.99-£14.99 I could only let myself have 2 this time. Perhaps I’ll have the whole set before we emigrate, which is very likely to be August now, but probably not. There’s about 40 of them all told, which is £800-£1000, and there’s no way I can spend that much money on books!! I can’t talk about where we’re emigrating at the moment because it’s all working out, for the second time in my life something is actually working the way it ought to, and I don’t want to jinx it all, but I promise I’ll tell you all before we depart.

Here’s Dracula on Amazon.com. Apparently Frankenstein is out of print in the US but it’s here on Amazon.co.uk.

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4 Exercises for the Eyes to Avoid Wrinkles

This is a set of 4 exercises to help avoid eye wrinkles.

I found these exercises in a book from 1972 called “Secrets of Natural Beauty” by Virginia Castleton Thomas. I think it’s a classic amongst my parents’ generation (my parents would have been 11 when this was published, so maybe a classic amongst people a bit older), because when I cleared their houses after their deaths last year, both my mother and my father had a copy of this book on their bookshelf. I have, however, re-written the description of these exercises so that this post is more readable as the phrasing was a bit old-fashioned.

1. To remove eye tension and strengthen the eye muscles: Sit upright and extend your right arm directly in front of you. Point forward with your index finger and focus on it with your eyes, then move the finger very slowly to the right, until your arm has moved so far that you can hardly focus on it any more, then bring the arm back to centre, slowly, still focusing on the finger. Repeat the exercise using your left arm, but this time, move the arm to the left instead of the right.

2. Keeping your head still, raise your arm upwards to the limit of your vision. Hold this position for a few seconds, then slowly drop your arm until it’s at the lower end of your vision range. Start by doing this once per day, but after you have done them for a few days, start building repetitions until you are doing a few reps each time.

3. Open your eyes wide and visualize a large-faced clock with the numbers painted just at the edge of your vision. Start at twelve o’clock and very slowly, without moving your head, move your eyes to one o’clock and on around in a clockwise direction, pausing briefly at each (visualized) number before moving onto the next one. After returning to twelve o’clock, repeat the exercise anticlockwise, moving the eyes from twelve to eleven, and so on.

4. Rolling the head without moving the shoulders is a good exercise for improved vision. This movement relaxes the eyes and reduces deepening wrinkles due to eye strain. Learning to do a loose head roll not only improves the vision by increasing circulation to the optic nerves, but can also relax the entire upper body. Personally I find the head roll very comforting and relaxing – it reminds me of yoga and gymnastics lessons at primary school. Do be aware that it’s best to avoid rolling your head backwards as this has been said to be dangerous (I’m not sure if this is a myth but I avoid it just in case, as I was told it during warm-ups by instructors of five or six different physical activities).

I tried these exercises out last night, and I don’t think I look any younger but the head roll was, as I predicted, very relaxing. The eye exercises made both my eyes ache slightly when I moved my eyes from 1 to 2 and from 11 to 10, so I think that might be an area of muscle weakness that I need to work on.

Virginia also writes:
“In addition to exercises for toning eye muscles, there are additional helps to control the marring of skin tissue by wrinkles, dark circles and frown lines. Learn to express your thought without grimacing. Many people are inclined to punctuate, describe or apologize for the contents of their speech by clown-like expressions.
The face should not be used to explain verbal expression. Well-chosen words will convey your meaning and be more appreciated without distracting facial expressions. Frowns, narrowing of the eyes and other manifestations of uncertainty do not present either a pretty or helpful picture. Use adequate speech and save your face.
That is not to say one should not have any expression at all. But these expressions should be relaxed, and show the more pleasant aspects of one’s personality. Laugh lines seldom seem to distress their owners as much as frown lines or wrinkles caused by squinting or habitually downturned lips. Laugh lines add animation to the face. However, the quick to laugh personality often pays for charm with crinkle lines around the lips.” (Secrets of Natural Beauty, 1972, page 133)

It sort of reads like she’s a slightly bossy teacher at a finishing-school trying to impress upon her charges the importance of understated expressions. I’m not sure I agree with the way she’s written it but the fact still remains that OTT expressions will age your face too soon, and apparently this has been known since at least the early 1970s. One thing I will point out is the women who were in their twenties in the 1960s and 1970s seem to have all stopped ageing around their late forties and early fifties, so they probably know what they’re talking about when it comes to beauty. While I couldn’t find any information on the internet about Virginia Castleton Thomas (and the book sadly appears to be out of print), it does say on the back cover that she was a beauty editor, and the introductory chapter shows that she has done a lot of research to find the beauty formulas she presents in this book, so I think she knows what she’s talking about. I will be writing more about this book, and the recipes for home-made cosmetics, as I try them out.

katie sun bathes
Katie had this natural beauty thing down so well that we didn’t know she was 7, we thought she was 2! Imma do what she did for my beauty routine – only use my paws to clean my face, eat everything in sight, especially if it is a plant, and spend lots of time in the sun with my Dearest.

What do you think of these facial exercises?  Would you do them?  Let me know in the comments!

11 words British people don’t actually say.

This article is about the “British” words and phrases we don’t actually use in Britain, so if you’re planning a holiday to England, Scotland or any other part of Britain, and trying to learn some colloquialisms, scratch these from your list – the consequences of saying some of them can be a fist to the face (which, curiously, we tend not to call “fisticuffs”). This article has occasional use of the f-word etc.

This article about British words came about after an American blogger mentioned how if he ever came to the UK he’d be sure to tip a bob to the waiter. That was shortly followed up with someone (also American) commenting on a page on dialects with some sense of authority that British people said “sitting room” or “parlour” instead of “living room” or “den.” If you’re writing a British character for a book, these words will throw up a big red flag that kills suspension of disbelief for anyone British reading the book, and if you’re coming to Britain for a trip or travel, you will be mocked for using these words.

So here’s the words and phrases we just don’t say (or very, very rarely) in the UK:

1. British Accent – we rarely classify ourselves as “British” as opposed to our individual countries. For example, I’m English, my mother was Irish (which ISN’T part of the UK), my father was Jamaican (we say Afro-Caribbean not Afro-British, BTW), the man on my birth certificate was Scottish, my best friend at uni was Welsh. So we would start by saying “English accent” or “Scottish accent.” Then we’d get more specific, such as “Northern accent” for people from the north of England.

2. Bob – we call it money or cash, we use the word quid to mean pounds, or p (pronounced “pee”) to mean pence (multiple of penny). If you say “pennies” (multiple of penny) to anyone from the UK who speaks Polish, they will laugh at you because that’s how you pronounce the word “penis” in Polish.

3. Ta – Nowhere do people in the UK say “ta” for goodbye. That’s an Americanism you have imposed on us. “Ta ta” might be said by a posh elderly aunt (or a young lady with adorably misguided aspirations) from time to time, and “tara” (pronounced ter-rah with a long a at the end) is another word for goodbye, but we don’t say “ta” to greet someone’s departure. Ta is an informal way of saying “thank-you” in the North of England (as in, ‘ta very much’).

4. Cheero – Nobody’s said this since the second world war. Cheerio is sometimes used by older people, but again it’s dying out and it’s considered more old fashioned than roast beef. The last time I heard it was in the lyrics to a song in Oliver Twist, in the context “so long fare thee well, pip pip cheerio…” and we also don’t say “thee,” so it shouldn’t be considered an accurate representation of our modern language (it was made in the 1960s, after all).

5. Codswallop – Another old-fashioned term, we tend to say “bullshit” “bull” or “crap” (crap has three meanings – excrement, something that is really terrible, or something that is untrue). Our favourite, however, is “bollocks” when we want to call out something as untrue. The only time in living memory that a British person’s said codswallop was when Hagrid says it in Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone (we call it Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, BTW) – and that’s set in 1991 (if you do the math from the gravestones etc this adds up).

6. On your bike (actually, it was always “on yer bike”) – Very dated to the 1980s. We tend to say “fuck off” these days or, if we’re being polite, “sod off” or “get lost.”

7. Fitty – this isn’t a word. I’ve lived in Britain for 29 years, I’ve travelled all over, I’ve voraciously devoured literature, and nobody has ever used this word in any context. It’s made up. Some people would say someone is “fit” meaning attractive (or “she’s well fit” or “he’s dead fit”), and there’s the very outdated and generally offensive word “totty” which again no-one has used for a very long time, but we just don’t have the word “fitty.” It even sounds made up. Referring to someone as “fitty” will probably have people wondering whether you think they’re epileptic. If they buy into fear-of-rape culture, they might even use this opportunity to make a scene.

8. Rumpy Pumpy – if you suggest having some ‘rumpy pumpy’ to any woman under 45, she will tell you to fuck off. AVOID! Nobody’s used this word since 1995, and even then it was only in an ironic sense. Nobody actually uses this word to describe sex that they have had or are going to have.

9. Sweet Fanny Adams – no, we say “fuck all” to mean the same thing. Nobody’s used “Fanny Adams” to mean “Fuck All” since World War II.

10. Toodle Pip – again, the only time this gets used is by people who are being ironic. It’s a joke. People are taking the piss when they say this.

11. Cack-handed – I got this claimed as “I’m not co-ordinated” from this page but actually it’s a derogatory term meaning left handed (the hand that you wipe your arse with if you’re right handed), from the days when schools were run by a certain type of nuns (and other pro-social psychopaths) who thought that left-handedness was a sign of the devil. There are plenty of British people out there who hate on lefties due to their subconscious cultural conditioning. Use it anywhere near a left-handed person and prepare to get bitch slapped. It’s as offensive to a left-handed person as the N-word is to most human beings.

12. Fisticuffs – another one from Oliver Twist, people tend to call a fight a “scrap” a “punch up” a “brawl” or a “fight.” Then they tend to call the police. Assault is a crime in Britain, and is defined as “any unwanted physical contact” but people still do it and the police are utterly arbitrary in whether they choose to enforce it or not, like most other things here. I know someone who got a criminal record for putting their hand on someone’s shoulder, and I know someone who got away with trying to kill their child after years of abuse. It varies.

Generally when looking at British words and phrases, when faced with the choice between a bigger or smaller word, we will use the smaller one. Water will always find it’s lowest level, and it’s the same with language – think about what the minimum is that you need to say to make yourself understood instead of trying to dress it up with loads of words or phrases that might be inaccurate. Communication is about understanding, and the only real rule of communication (at least, general communication, not specialized e.g. academia) is that if most people can’t understand you, you’re doing it wrong. I stated “most people” not “all” because you can’t please everyone and some people will just never understand you.

My New Book: Warrior… Princess… Submissive…

(NSFW) So after yesterday’s terrible day, today just got worse and worse. Apparently these early pregnancy mood-swings feel like being in a mixed episode. For those of you who don’t know what that is like, you should hope you never have to find out. That’s not what today’s post is about, it’s about my latest book; and my first that I’ve published through Amazon Direct Publishing for Kindle. The process was very straightforward.

My newest book is out now on Amazon Kindle (you can download “Kindle For PC” or the mobile phone app if you don’t own a Kindle – I don’t own one either!) it’s titled Warrior…Princess…Submissive… and it’s pretty self explanatory but here’s the blurb (because I spent time writing it):

“When Macedonian fighting female Karis challenges the enigmatic warlord Damien to a swordfight, she’s confident that she’ll win, so she agrees to let him spank her if she loses. When he defeats her, however, she runs out on the promised spanking, overcome with new emotions that she can’t reconcile with her strong personality. Before she can make things right, she’s tricked into surrendering her army to the evil Hector the Invincible, who puts her in his personal harem, threatening to crush her country with his army if she escapes his clutches. Can the hardened warrior woman accept help from a man, and more importantly, can she learn how to willingly exchange the awesome power she wields?
“Set in Ancient Greece, this genre-busting story will explode on your Kindle, breaking all the rules and pushing the boundaries of “spanking romance” – Jasmine Honey Adams has finally done what no-one has dared to do before – take on the challenge of writing a book about a firecracker female character, a real warrior princess, who just so happens to be submissive. There’s also a plot. This book will take a sword and carve its own niche in erotic spanking romance fiction.

“This story is intended for adults and contains adult themes such as BDSM, spanking and swords. If such things offend you, then click the big red “X” in the top right of your browser window!”

If this sort of thing is your cup of tea, then you can buy it here.

If people wrote reviews (even anonymous ones) on Amazon, that would be very very much appreciated!

Basically I was fed up of “strong female” submissive characters being erotic-romance-speak for “argumentative whiny bitches who capitulate at the first sign of pressure.”

The title is based on the Xena: Warrior Princess episode “Warrior…Princess…Tramp…” although in my case the title adjectives are all describing facets of the same character. And, yes, the main character is very loosely based on Xena in spirit although I wouldn’t go so far as to say my story was either a) derivative or b) fanfiction. If it was b) there would DEFINITELY be some lesbian action in there because, let’s face it, Xena is blatantly bi so if you’re looking for fanfic you’ll be disappointed.

I’ve got a sequel that I’m editing, which will be out soon, which focuses on two different characters, and will be more BDSM-heavy than Warrior…Princess…Submissive.