Friday, May 27, 2016


Picture Day Friday: Ice Hotels


An ice hotel is a temporary hotel made up of snow and sculpted blocks of ice. Scandinavia is famous for its ice hotels, which are re-carved winter after winter. Now, China is getting into creating ice palaces, too. The ice buildings carved every winter aren't just hotels and castles. Some are even churches, like in eastern Europe and Canada.

The Absolut Icebar, serving Absolut Vodka and other drinks, is in the Jukkasjärvi Ice Hotel near Kiruna in Sweden. It was the world's first ice hotel.


[From Wikipedia.]

The Kirkenes Snohotell is located in Finnmark, Norway.


[Image copyrighted by Norway-Travel.com.]

The Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, in the outlying area of Alta, has been rebuilt yearly since 1999 in Finnmark, Norway.


[Image copyrighted by AspiringBackpacker.com.]

Frozen Ice Palace in China


[Image copyrighted by The Daily Mail.]

Ice Church of Romania


[From Wikipedia.]

Chapel in the Hôtel de Glace in Quebec, Canada


[From Wikipedia.]

More information on ice hotels is HERE on Wikipedia.


Saturday, May 21, 2016


Today is National Readathon Day #readathon2016 #amreading


Today is National Readathon Day organized by the American Library Association and Penguin Random House.

I shall not be stirring very far from my plush red rocking chair. Bottles of water, cups of coffee, crunchy, salty snacks will all fortify me in my journeys through the labyrinths of storydom. I shall be taking a few breaks now and then to post on Twitter. Come and join me in reading and tweeting.


Friday, May 13, 2016


Picture Day Friday: Auldjo Jug from Pompeii


The Auldjo Jug
Roman c.25-50
Blown and carved glass
H 22.8cm x D 14.3cm
Excavated between 1830-1832

From the British Museum:
"Jug in translucent dark blue and opaque white cameo glass, with trefoil mouth and high handle from rim to shoulder. The back of the neck is flattened and the shoulder slopes outwards to a carination marked by a white ground-line; ovoid body with rounded bottom. Ring-foot with moulded rim. The handle is decorated on the outside with two wide vertical grooves and a ridge at its base. A narrow white horizontal rib divides the shoulder from the body and also acts as a ground line for the shoulder decoration. Carved in white on the shoulder are acanthus leaves with tendrils enclosing rosettes. Birds peck at the tendrils. Two birds are perched either side of the handle pecking at leaves now mostly missing. On the body is a finely executed vine laden with bunches of grapes, intertwined with laurel and ivy with umbrels. In the centre a bird, with wings raised, perches to peck at an ivy leaf.
Broken and mended. Made up of several fragments with the body now considerably restored. Mouth partly broken. Neck handle and base complete except that the latter is chipped. Milky-white film becoming brown in patches covers the exterior of the vase and the interior of the mouth and neck. The white glass is worn away in places. Small bubbles in the blue glass and black flakes and bubbles in the white."


[Image copyrighted by the British Museum.]


Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Bookish Meme: Matching Book Covers from my Personal Library to the Category Titles


Thanks to Janani of The Shrinkette I found out about this bookish meme of matching book covers from my personal library to the meme category titles.

A book with the letter "Z" in its title or in the author's name:

On Writing Well: the Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser. My copy was published by HarperPerennial in 1998. I took a nonfiction writing class in 2000, and this was our textbook for the course.

A Classic:

How could I not choose this one? I have many editions of this book, including a board book!! This P&P by Austen is a Dover Thrift edition published in 1995. I acquired this book recently in 2015.

The oldest book on your shelves:


First Book of Botany: An Introduction to the Study of the Anatomy and Physiology of Plants: Suited for Beginners by John Hutton Balfour, M.D.. It was published by G.P. Putnam's Sons in 1876. This book is the pride and joy of my collection. I acquired it on May 20, 1993, and I've faithfully carried it through all the house moves I've made since then.


A book with a key on its cover:

Slightly Scandalous by Mary Balogh was published Dell in 2003. I acquired it on in 2010. The cover has a picture of a copper-colored key on it. This book is part of Balogh's famous Bedwyn series and is the story of strong-minded Lady Freyja and the Marquess of Hallmere. Balogh is one of those authors whom I'm dying to meet but haven't yet.

Something on your bookshelves that isn't a book:

This little fellow is a clay troll and he came all the way from Oslo, Norway. In the summer of 2002, I traveled over the North Sea from Newcastle, England to Bergen, Norway by a ferry. That ferry even transported a helicopter. I enjoyed watching it being loaded on. It was on this journey that I was introduced to the Scandinavian Smörgåsbord-style breakfast, which included many types of fish even for breakfast. After our excursion through the jaw-dropping fjords, I headed to Oslo on the fastest train I'd ever been on then. It was on my first day in Oslo, that I acquired this cheerful fellow.

A book with an animal on the cover:

The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans made a huge splash by Dell in 1995. There was even a movie made on it. I had always meant to read it, but for some reason, other books kept rising higher in the priority queue. I finally bought it for my husband at the end of 2006. Both of us really liked it.

A book with a girl on the cover:

In the late 2000s, publisher Sourcebooks reprinted many of Georgette Heyer's books with beautiful art on the covers, particularly featuring women. Many of the prints were from the collections of the Bridgeman Art Library. Black Sheep features one of the most memorable of Heyer's bad boy heroes. Miles Calverleigh is recently returned from India and riddled with a scandalous past and shocking manners. Naturally, he's very rich and is received in many places, except by the highest sticklers of the ton. Abigail Wendover is past her prime and grimly determined that her niece with a sizeable dowry not succumb to Miles's fortune-hunting nephew. The book features delightful gloves-off dialogue. This book was published in 2008, and I acquired it in 2010.

A non-romance book:

In September of last year, I attended a book talk by Salman Rushdie, which is where I acquired my autographed copy of Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights. While his commanding stage presence and formidable intelligence were on full display, what I had not realized was how witty he was and how swiftly he responded even to audience questions and remarks with funny ripostes. This book was published by Random House.

A book with stars on its cover:

If you peer closely at the cover of The Shadow and the Star, you'll two stars there, one above the word "the" and the other to the left of the word "Star." I have read all of Kinsale's books, and I have come away wowed by every one of them. She has more talent in the tip of one finger than most writers have in both their hands. The plots she weaves, the complex ways she expresses them, and the complicated characters she develops, all build up to marvelous stories. This book was published by Avon in 1991, and I acquired in October 2009. That was the year, I acquired all the Kinsales and read them back-to-back. I was shell-shocked after that experience for days on end.

A book with golden letters:

Oh, who doesn't love a Julie Garwood medieval historical? Ransom was my first Garwood and remains by favorite. And it's autographed, too! I treasure that autograph. It was published by Pocket in 1999, and I acquired it the same year. The book's set in the days after the death of Richard Coeur de Lion. It's a medieval book set partially in England and mainly in Scotland. There's a mystery and above all, there's a romance. It one of the Garwoods that launched medieval Scottish romances as a popular trope. Almost every historical romance reader worth their salt has cut their teeth on Garwoods.

This was a ton of fun. Thanks, Janani.


Monday, May 9, 2016


May 21 is National Readathon Day #readathon2016


May 21 is National Readathon Day organized by the American Library Association and Penguin Random House.

Read, read, read, and give, give, give. Your donations will benefit the Every Child Ready to Read initiative, "a program that supports the early literacy development of children in libraries across the nation."

If you're putting a reading party together, email readathon@penguinrandomhouse.com to have your event be featured on their Reading Parties page.

May 21 is a quiet Saturday for me. I shall not be stirring very far from my plush red rocking chair. Bottles of water, cups of coffee, crunchy, salty snacks will all fortify me in my journeys through the labyrinths of storydom. I shall be taking a few breaks now and then to post on Twitter. Come and join me in reading and tweeting.


Friday, May 6, 2016


Picture Day Friday: Plaster Painting from Ancient Egypt


Plaster Painting
Tomb of Nebamun
Thebes, Upper Egypt
18th Dynasty
c.1350BC
H 58.5cm x W 106cm

From the British Museum:

"Painting from the tomb chapel of Nebamen: fragment of polychrome tomb-painting divided into two registers. In the upper register a herd of cattle is brought to Nebamen; in front of the cattle the herdsmen bow down to a standing scribe who records the produce. The vertical hieroglyphic caption is damaged, and only a few-phrases can be read. In the lower register a man drives cattle towards some seated scribes. Two horizontal registers of hieroglyphs survive above."

Translation of the Hieroglyphs:
"Come on! Move off! Don't speak in front of this favoured one (Nebamen). People who talk are his horror! He does what is true; he will not pass over any complaint. Pass on (?) quietly, truly! He will not just do the bidding of people - he knows everything, does the Scribe and Counter of Grain of [Amun] Neb[amen]!"


[Image copyrighted by the British Museum.]


Tuesday, May 3, 2016


Detailed Analysis of the Books I Read in 2015


For a few years now, I have been collecting data on the books I've read and then analyzing the information I have collected at the end of the year. Over the years, I have curated the list of questions you'll see below. In 2013, I put together a spreadsheet that allowed me to record even more information: book title, author, star rating, category and sub category, publisher, publication date, which month I read it in, whether I owned it or borrowed it, whether I was re-reading it, and if someone recommended it. In 2014, I added the following information: number of pages and format. In 2015, I started writing short reviews in monthly recaps and tallying up my monthly book expenditure.

Without further ado, here are the stats...

How many books did you read in total?

84: an average of one book every 4 days.
I read 173 books in 2010, 144 books in 2011, 148 in 2012, 109 books in 2013, and 88 in 2014. The number of books has been steadily going down as I move away from reading only romance

What was the average star rating?

4.2 (where ratings were from 1 to 5, with 0 for DNF).
Number of books and star ratings: 5 stars (5), 4 stars (20), 3 stars (12), 2 stars (3), 1 star (2), DNF (1)
I really lucked out this year with my reading material choices. It was a stellar reading year.

How many works of fiction did you read?

Fiction: 62, Everything Else: 22; the ratio of Other to Fiction was 1:3.
In 2010, the ratio was 1:57; in 2011, it was 1:15; in 2012, it was 1:18; in 2013, it was 1:15; and in 2014, it was 1:6

How many books by male versus female authors did you read?

Male: 19, Female: 65. Male authors read were 23% of the total.
In 2010, the number was 3% of the total; in 2011, it was 5%; in 2012, it was 7%; in 2013, it was 5%; and in 2014 it was 12.5%.
Last year, all books by male authors were nonfiction; this year, it was a mix of nonfiction, fiction, and poetry

How much romance versus all other genres?

54 non-romance vs. 30 romance, which is 36% romance of the total number of books read.
In 2010, I read more than 85% romance, 79% in 2011, 82% in 2012, 88% in 2013, and 68% in 2014

In which categories were the non-romance books?

All the non-romance books were in the following categories: children's and young adult fiction, general fiction, mystery, poetry, and nonfiction.

What were the categories of the books and how many books did you read in each category?

Medieval (3), Georgian (1), Regency (16), Victorian (2), Western (1), Contemporary (10), Mystery (8), Fantasy (3), Religious/Inspirational (3), General Fiction (8), Children's & Young Adult (9), Novella (1), Poetry (8), Memoirs (4), and General Nonfiction (7)

How many books did you read each month?

Jan (10), Feb (5), Mar (5), Apr (9), May (6), Jun (7), Jul (8), Aug (8), Sept (7), Oct (10), Nov (7), Dec (2)

Did you mostly buy, borrow, or re-read?

Public Library: 52, New: 14, Personal Library: 18

How much money did you spend on books?

$35 on new books

How many books did you read in the different formats?

Mass market paperback (35), trade paperback (20), hardcover (17), folio (1), e (9), audio (2)

Did you read books in any genres new to you?

Harlequin Contemporary Super

Which publisher's books did you read the most?

Signet (6), Harlequin (5)

How many self-published books did you read?

4

Any books in translation?

3

Which were the oldest and newest books, by pub date?

Oldest: North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell (1854)
Newest: Brown-Eyed Girl by Lisa Kleypas (2015)

Which were the longest and shortest book titles?

Longest Book Title: I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

Shortest Book Titles: Heartless by Mary Balogh, Madelena by Sheila Walsh, Shadowskin by Shveta Thakrar, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, Wonder by RJ Palacio, Truckers by Terry Pratchett

Which were the longest and shortest books?

Longest Book: Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale (544)
Shortest Book: Poetry of Walt Whitman by Edited by Jonathan Levin (47)

Who were the most-read authors of the year?

Mary Balogh (4), Loretta Chase (3)

Which of the authors who were new to you in 2015 would you read in 2016?

Anthony Trollope, Elizabeth Gaskell, Leo Babauta, Atul Gawande, Terry Pratchett, Helen MacInnes

Which author's books that you read in 2015 do you think you will re-read in 2016?

Laura Kinsale, Georgette Heyer, Joan Wolf

Which authors would you like to read in 2016?

Gretchen Rubin, Ray Bradbury, Salman Rushdie, Molly O'Keefe, Ellis Peters, Deepak Chopra, Donna Tartt, Steven Pinker

Which was your top favorite book?

Romance: This Gun for Hire by Jo Goodman
Other: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Which was your surprise favorite book and why?

Miss Cayley's Adventures by Grant Allen was a surprise given that it was written in the Victorian era by a man and featured a single woman's intrepid adventures as she traveled around the globe. Not quite Hester Stanhope, far more madcap, but very independent in thought and action. She was received with respect and on an equal footing by whoever she met. I enjoyed Allen's atypical characterization of his era

How many books did you read due to someone’s recommendation?

I read 50 books on recommendations from friends; 60% of the total number of books

Which book would you not have read unless recommended by someone?

The Warden by Anthony Trollope
His Wife for One Night by Molly O'Keefe

Did you read any books you have always been meaning to read?

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
The Great Wall of China by Franz Kafka
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Which types of books would you like to read more of?

General fiction, books by male authors, British police procedurals, poetry, plays, nonfiction, translated books, and most importantly, reading diversely.

What information are you missing in your data collection for 2015 that you'd like to add to 2016?

No new information for 2016. In fact, I decided to stop recording the month part of the publication date for next year. Most books have only the year mentioned on the copyright page, and I had to go hunting on Amazon for the month, which was not feasible for out-of-print books.