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.

New Year’s Resolutions

This year I thought I’d make some New Year’s resolutions, so here they are:

  1. Use perfume more often. I went through a phase in late 2013 and early 2014 of buying perfume. Then I stopped wearing it. So now I have a heap of bottles, containing Avon Perceive, Avon Pur Blanca, Avon Far Away, Avon Romance, Charlie Red and J-Lo Glow (I’m dead classy, natch. Actually I went through a phase of only wearing expensive designer perfumes… it got expensive and most of them aren’t good for day-to-day wear) knocking around, and I never wear any of them. This year, that’s going to change. I need to use them all up before I emigrate.
  2. Read more books. I have SO MANY BOOKS that I haven’t read, and yet I find myself either re-reading old favourites or buying new e-books (they’re guilt free because I don’t have to store them anywhere) and reading them instead! Worse still is the fact that there’s so many books I want to read but haven’t even bought yet because I have such a backlog.
  3. Write more books. This year I’ve published 3 books but I have written 7. One of those is coming out on 6th January, but I go through 3 month periods where I don’t write anything! An example of this is the last 3 months, while I’ve been working hard at my MSc in Obscure Science. I want to get 6 books out in 2017; that’s one every 2 months.
  4. Wear my nicest clothes more often. I have some decent items but I tend to slouch around the house in my dressing gown (robe) or nightie, and when I have to go out, I throw on a pair of black trousers and any old top. Since writing is a work-from-home job, and since I no longer have a car and my unemployed husband doesn’t need driving to work, that means there are entire weeks where I don’t get dressed!!! I want to make more of an effort to dress nicely more of the time, just for myself, because I have so many things that don’t get worn enough.
  5. Wear my nicest shoes more often. I own 9 pairs of shoes (excluding roller skates and ice skates); some of them are truly pieces of art, but I tend to gravitate towards my rainbow-soled sneakers or my one pair of Vivienne Westwood pumps, so my pair of Doc Martens, all the jelly shoes, and my Irregular Choice ones get left in their boxes most of the time. I’m probably going to have to get rid of a lot of them when I emigrate, so I should wear them more now so that I feel less heartbroken. Maybe I should start wearing shoes in the house?? Nope, it’s just too weird, I can’t do that!
  6. Go skating more. Last week, I went ice skating for the first time in 6 years. Aside from my ankles being weaker, I was as good as I was last time I went, mostly because in 2016 I took up roller skating since I don’t live within 30 miles of an ice rink. At one point I was roller skating 6 miles a day. However, the last few months I’ve stopped roller skating too, because my bipolar medication made me exhausted all the time and I lost interest in any kind of physical activity. I plan to go skating (roller or ice) at least once a week next year, let’s see if I can’t do that Biellman spin again.
  7. Eat more new stuff. I have a list of foods I’ve never eaten. I need to get back onto that. I bought a tin of smoked oysters this week, and I’m going to try them tonight, to get 2016 finished with ticking one last thing off my to-experience list.
  8. Drink more alcohol. It’s usually found in social situations, and I shy away from them sometimes, and other times I’m just working too hard (I tend to put in 12-16 hours a day, because I really love what I do; people who know me IRL will remember that I used to ice skate 16 hours a day when I worked as an ice skating instructor; I’m also still trying to achieve a level of financial independence that’s bipolar-proof), so I plan to play harder and that starts with drinking more alcohol. The occasional day off won’t lead to financial ruin (says the girl who is, right now, sitting at home editing a manuscript to send in, rather than going out to any of the 4 New Year’s parties she was invited to, because she wants to get that next book in a better place before 2016 is through).

What are your New Year’s resolutions?

Keeping track of things

When I started Invoke Delight, I would read every blog post of everyone I was subscribed to, and I’d try to comment on them all, although sometimes I just didn’t know what to say (and I’m not so good at making up the “keep up the good work” type comments, they always sound stilted and forced coming from me).  But I’d still read everything, even though I didn’t always click like or comment.

More recently, I’ve still tried to read everything, but the output of some people is astounding, and as time goes on I’m finding it harder and harder to keep track of everything.

So I’m not going to.  I’m not going to read everything by everyone any more.  Sorry.  I’ve tried my best but I’m just getting fed up of constantly being behind and every day I go to bed just about on top of reading everyone’s blogs and I wake up and theres another billion for me to catch up on.  I can’t do it any more.

I will read articles that stand out as interesting.  I will comment if I feel it’s really necessary.  But I won’t catch up on every single post I missed every time I’m AFK for a few days because I just can’t.  There’s too many.

Sorry guys.  So if you want me to read an article, link me to it because I just can’t keep this up.  Otherwise I’ll just read what jumps out at me.

I feel really guilty about this because I feel like I’m letting everyone down by not reading every single thing you’ve written, but I know that I’m not getting time to update my own blogs enough because I’m spending too much time reading other peoples, which isn’t really right.

So please don’t be offended.  I haven’t stopped speaking to anyone or unfollowed anyone.  I’m just reading less stuff across the board and trying to feel less personally responsible for everyone else’s wellbeing.

Here’s a picture of some bunnies (Katie (ginger), Fifer (brown) and Sebastian (grey)):

Look at the bunnies... become one with the bunnies... the bunnies are all...
Look at the bunnies… become one with the bunnies… the bunnies are all…

Cities I’d LEAST like to visit AGAIN

It’s Travel Tuesday and I’d like to share the cities I’d least like to visit again. Obviously, this was limited to places I’d already visited.  I don’t have much in the way of photos as they weren’t the kind of places that inspired me to get the camera out.  Before you put pen to paper about the North getting a bad rap, stay tuned for next week, when I’m going to look at my favourite cities in the North of England.  I love a good city adventure, somewhere with style, romance, undiscovered cool stuff or great places to eat.  The following cities failed to deliver on more than one level.

#9  Boulougne Sur Mer
This is a seaside town, slightly off the main route to Calais, and there is literally nothing of interest here. Usually you can be surprised by an interesting place such as a random church or something. This had nothing.

#8  Reading
I kept misreading the signs, because it calls istself “City of Reading” instead of “Reading City” and I thought that was an accolade. Like international city of culture or city of lost dreams. Nope, it’s not the city of reading, it’s the city of Reading, (pronounced Redding), and their library and university are so-so.

Also it has far too many roundabouts and not enough traffic lights.

#7  Modena
Its traffic management system is akin to three drunk penguins trying to run away from a walrus.

#6  Milan
It’s a northern Italian city that’s renowned as the home of high fashion. Do you know why they invented such beautiful clothing? Because the city is really boring. There is nothing to do but worship at the altar of consumerism.

#5  Newport, Gwent
I had the dubious fortune of staying here a couple of years ago on my way to the Brecon Beacons. It’s had a facelift. but that doesn’t stop the skanky drunk women from shouting racial slurs at anyone who looks European.  I think if I’d stayed here longer, I would have learned to hate it with the same passion that I dislike Luton.

#4  Paris
Bleeeeeeeuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrgh. That is all.

#3  London
I hate my birthplace in a way you only can if you lived somewhere then got forced out by gentrification and riots. London has PROBLEMS.  You have to be uber middle class to live here and like it, or you will just keep getting kicked in the face until you get your head back under the poverty line.  It’s saturated with people who just grab at everything and leave nothing for anyone else, it’s the most needy, desperate city of human misery, decay and lost opportunities which I’ve ever been to.  But it doesn’t get the number one spot because I am aware it has several redeeming features such as the Natural History Museum.

The underground tube network: One of London's redeeming features.
The underground tube network: One of London’s redeeming features.

#2  Doncaster
It’s grey, it’s dull, it’s a shit northern town whose inhabitants like to shout racial slurs out of car windows at people who “look foreign” (i.e. Eastern European, i.e. anyone who doesn’t have the features inherent in the narrow gene pool from which Doncastrians draw their mates). Then they laugh about it with their friends later. It’s also the AIDS capital of the UK despite having none of the risk factors – they’re anti gay and anti foreign – because they’re so securely inbred that they refuse to take precautions so when one person got it, it spread like wildfire. The only good thing about Doncaster is that it was the birthplace of Jeremy Clarkson. Why do you think he learned to drive? To get the hell out of there!

Barnsley, Preston, Kingston upon Hull, Middlesbrough: More grim northern cities. I could quite happily go through my entire life by never seeing them again, as well. They’re all pretty much the same as Doncaster.

This is what it's like to cycle around Doncaster.
This is what it’s like to cycle around Doncaster.

#1  Luton
It’s got an airport. That’s its only redeeming feature. And Luton is on negative points to start with, for reasons such as the Labour MP used to put racist electoral propaganda through our door, and the Lib Dem opposition candidates tried to topple her by doing the same, because people in Luton are just that racist against a particular minority group, and it has no character or class, and their council is run by a goldfish who can’t talk to you on the phone because he lost his glasses. Oh and if you’re female and blonde? Expect to be sexually harassed on a daily basis. The whole place is a dump.

As you can see, racism, poor traffic management, and other completely arbitrary reasons earned many cities a spot on this list. My experiences are just that – my experiences, and Your Mileage May Vary. But what is travel writing, if not a way for people to share subjective experiences with other people for mutual benefit?

Where would you least like to visit again? Let me know in the comments.