Learning to Love my Kindle

I would like to say that my absence during October was due to a flurry of crafting and creativity. I’d be lying, though. It was actually due to a lot of reading and the excitement attendant upon counting down the days to the end of a hated job. Yup, I got to leave debt-collecting for a much more me kind of job as a proof-reader.

In between times, though, I also dusted off my Kindle, went through the titles on it, removed a lot, and have begun to process of restocking my library.

I bought my Kindle many more years ago than I care to remember, back when they were relatively new and shiny and an internet connection was not as standard. In my excitement, I filled it full of classics I ought to read, and modern freebies which sounded interesting. I didn’t read very many. I discovered that I preferred a Proper Book. Especially for the classics. I was more easily distracted from my reading on my Kindle.

And so, pulling my Kindle out of storage, I reduced the titles on it from about 120 down to under 30. All of those worthy classics, gone. The freebies I never read, gone. I was left with those few which I had read, and enjoyed, and a plan to collect those books which I own in print, but which space dictates remain at my parents’. My Heyers, for instance. I find I can read eBooks, but only if I’ve already read and liked it in print. Or those few eBooks I collected, read, and enjoyed in the early days. In the main, though, I’m building my eBook library to reflect my print library, for travelling purposes, and perhaps getting copies of the library-books which I enjoy. The Judith Flanders’s Sam Clair mysteries, for example (most entertaining, by the way; makes editing seem a much more exciting and adventurous sort of career).

I’d forgotten how much I liked Horry, in Heyer’s Convenient Marriage.

What to Say, or Not…

They say that to become a good writer, you must first be a good reader. By which it is meant that you must read. Anything and everything.

Of late, my reading has been sketchy, mostly being just what I find on the internet. I try not to buy many books at the moment for the very simple reason that my current home has not nearly enough space.

Happily, my last week at home home has meant that I’ve been surrounded by the library I collected as a teenager. I have had the time and comfort to curl up and reread the stories I’ve loved for years.

I knew someone once who couldn’t see the point of rereading books. Once you’ve read it, you know how it ends. No surprises, so what’s the point?

I find rereading books I’ve enjoyed to be like catching up with an old friend. Reminiscing about things we’ve enjoyed, learning new details. My reading this week has mostly been Georgette Heyers, her detective novels as well as some romances. It’s been interesting comparing her approach to each.

The romances are filled with sartorial details, the mysteries not so much. I was particularly looking out for this because apparently someone somewhere, according to my mother, once said that the important difference between Heyer and Jane Austen, despite them writing about the same period, is that Austen was considerably less interested in the clothing choices of her characters. The reason for this is that Austen was writing about her own period. Her readers would know about the clothes and fashions. Heyer, on the other hand, was writing at least a century later and needed to help her readers set the story. I need to reread Austen to check this theory.

However, having compared Heyer’s romances to her contemporary mysteries, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this was found to be true. She, and the readers, would know about the pre- and post-WWII fashions. Detailed descriptions unnecessary.

It’s made me think about my own writing, about my fantasy world, and the necessity of detailed descriptions. I’m not sure quite what I’ve decided about it just yet.

What do you think? Do you like knowing the details of clothes, down to the last trailing thread? Or do you skip them because honestly once you’ve read one description of a dress you’ve read them all?

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library,”

said Jorge Luis Borges – and I really wish I had!

What sort of books do you like to read? Is there a genre you prefer? Or are you like me, and will read pretty much anything, if it interests you? Do you care if the author is male or female? Does the author’s name really register when you first pick it up?

In my habitual perusal of the ‘net, I stumbled across a campaign encouraging the reading of female authors’ works, despite the allegedly off-putting pastel covers. I’ve been a bit lazy in my reading of late, I will admit, but normally, I am a prolific reader. I also hate getting rid of my books. So I have children’s books next to adult books. Well, not really, that’s not how I organise my books, but you get my drift.

My shelves are, coincidentally, mostly full of female authors. Mostly because I’ve managed to collect the majority of Georgette Heyer’s novels, a decent handful or three of Agatha Christie’s and most of Dorothy L. Sayers. And I’ve still got a load of Enid Blytons (I don’t want to have to buy my children the updated, modern editions. I see nothing wrong with the originals). I don’t have these books because the authors are female and so am I. The only author whose books I discovered because of the author’s name (and therefore gender) is Celia Rees, and she I chose because we share a name. I continued reading her books because I liked them. Most books are recommended or were idly picked up while browsing in a shop.

Good books I read, and look for more by the same. Books which bore me, not so much. I don’t normally think about the author’s gender. I just want to know if the writing’s any good. Sometimes, easy reads are what I want, and I’ll read “chick-lit” for the simplicity, or television/film tie-ins – like those by “Richard Castle”! But usually, I just want a good story, told in such a way that the words paint pictures in my mind. Conan Doyle, Dumas, the above women, Tolkien. There is a host of great authors out there, too many to list them all here. Discover your own favourites, not just the ones that the Powers That Be decide everyone should read.

I think a book is a book and you should read what you like. Regardless of the author’s gender.

About as Much Use as a Chocolate Teapot…

I made a deal with myself many moons ago (well, okay, not actually as long ago as that implies, but never mind…) to make my own dresses and create a wonderfully glamorous and practical wardrobe. This is all fine and dandy; I’ve made skirts and cloaks in the past. I’ve even made a bag before (it wasn’t the best, but I was still in primary school at the time. Goodness that was a long time ago!). I’ve loved nice swishy skirts ever since I read one of Enid Blyton’s books about the group of kids who run away and live on an island. There was a later one where they end up in a robbers’ den and the girls have beautiful skirts with lots of layers in blue and silver. Anyway, my love of clothing was born there, and deepened when I began to read Georgette Heyer’s historical romances and her descriptions of all the clothes, men’s as well as women’s. (I think that mostly taught me to beware anyone who can’t dress with propriety or in colours which suit – the slimy characters always seemed to dress in a manner which offended the eye or taste…)

This love-affair with dress means that period dramas are right up my street. All the traditional ones based on Nineteenth Century stories (Austen and co.) and the current batch of Twentieth Century ones. And okay, I can take or leave late Regency period dramas – I always think those Grecian-style dresses make them all look pregnant – but the written descriptions are fantastic. I’ve always felt it was a shame that Heyer’s books were never filmed, but then, they would never have been done properly…One or two were made…I wouldn’t recommend them…

Anyway. To clothing and fabrics. To swooshing and swirling.  

So I duly found myself a dress pattern. Best to start simple, I think, so I found one which doesn’t involve anything much more complicated that a buttonhole. I have Butterick’s “Walkaway” dress, so-called because, apparently, you can begin it after breakfast and be wearing it by lunchtime. The pattern does indeed look remarkably straight-forward, and the instructions simple. I have hope.

The first snag, though, comes when I can’t find the bit where it tells me how much fabric I’m going to need is. I can find the types suitable, and the sizes and measurements, but not the amount. My friend can’t find it either, but she offers her advice as a more experienced seamstress and suggests that three metres should be ample. Because I’m a student and lazy and this is only a first attempt, I go to eBay and find cotton in emerald green. This arrives a day later, and it is a lovely colour. Normally I’m very picky about fabrics which I use and how they feel. I expect I’ll end up lining this dress, mostly just because I like lots of layers of material swishing about my legs.

However, here I must end, because I have no sewing machine. It’s true I could hand-sew it, which is what I’ve done in the past, but I’d really like this dress to last, and for the stitches to be strong. So I have a pattern and cloth, and they’re ready and waiting for when I get a machine. And okay, they’re probably more use than a chocolate teapot, but I need to use up my chocolate, so I’ll make one of them instead…Maybe I’ll find a use for one…Any suggestions?