Friday, March 30, 2012

Picture Day Friday: Mongolian Landscape

Where Mongolia, China, Kazakhstan, and Russia meet at 9,800 feet.

(Click on the image for a much better look. Photo copyrighted by kitseeborg.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Hilarious Guide to Toasts for Gentlemen from 1914

"A toast is to a good fellow what the hole is to the doughnut—the hole doesn't mean anything off by itself. Neither does the toast. [For] a good fellow—well, a toast improves his flavor, so to speak. It's like the chap who tells you, 'My, you're looking fine!' You knew it before, but now you're sure."

Image copyrighted by Printed in 1914 by The Reilly & Britton Co. of Chicago, The Good Fellow's Toast Book by George N. Madison, offers a collection of 400 toasts for many different occasions that a gentleman might encounter in the course of his life: bohemia, bachelorhood, drinking and conviviality, temperance, friendships, girls, love, kisses, hosts, mothers, and new years among many others. A "good fellow" here means a talented but slightly dissipated and reckless gentleman.

Image copyrighted by The book warns gentlemen against the pitfalls of a hasty toast given in response to a hasty request: "It takes talent to make an old toast sound sincere; it takes genius to get a chuckle out of last season's joke." So..."forearmed is better than forewarned." In other words, carry this book in your coat pocket or purse and consult it frequently.

Here are a few samples from the book:

Drink, and the world drinks with you;
Swear off, and you drink alone.

Let us drink to the thought that where'er a man roves
He is sure to find something that's blissful and dear;
And that when he is far from the lips that he loves,
He can always make love to the lips that are near.

Image copyrighted by When turkey's on the table laid,
And good things I may scan,
I'm thankful that I wasn't made
A vegetarian.

Here's to the chaperon;
May she learn from Cupid.
Just enough of blindness
To be sweetly stupid.

God made the world—and rested,
God made man—and rested,
Then God made woman;
Since then neither God nor man has rested.

Image copyrighted by A wedding is the only function which can't go off smoothly unless there is a hitch in the proceedings.

To Home—the place where we are treated best and grumble most.

Here's to our bachelors, created by God for the consolation of widows and the hope of maidens!

Here's to the Love that lies in Woman's eyes,
And lies—and lies—and lies!

In conclusion,
A good toast and a good glass go well together;
The one tells me you have the right spirit;
The other tells me I have it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My Faves of RWA RITA & Golden Heart Finalists

Yesterday was the day that Romance Writers of America (RWA) announced it's 2012 nominees for it's prestigious RITA Awards (for books published in 2011) and Golden Heart Awards (for unpublished manuscripts submitted in 2011).

Here are my favorites of the nominations...

RITA for Historical & Regency Romance
Always a Temptress by Eileen Dreyer
The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne
Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt
Silk Is for Seduction by Loretta Chase
Unveiled by Courtney Milan
The Devil in Disguise by Stefanie Sloane
How to Marry a Duke by Vicky Dreiling
How to Seduce a Scoundrel by Vicky Dreiling
A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare
When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James
Heiress in Love by Christina Brooke

RITA for Romance Novella
"One Wish: a Christmas Story" by Jodi Thomas in A Texas Christmas

RITA for Romantic Suspense
Secrets of Bella Terra by Christina Dodd

RITA for Strong Romantic Elements
Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros
How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O'Neal

GH for Contemporary Single Title
Blackjack & Moonlight by Magdalen Braden
Meant To Be by Terri Osborn

GH for Historical Romance
The Last Light of Dusk by Joanne Lockyer

GH for Young Adult Romance
The Suspicions of Cairo Jones by Mary Danielson

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tales from the Sanskrit Hitopdesha

Image copyrighted by Recently, I ran across a curious book of fables from India, translated from the original Sanskrit book into English. Tales from Hitopdesha is by Asha Bhalekar and published by Subhash Publishers, Mumbai, India in 1987.

Alternately written in history as Hitopdesa, Hitopdesha, and Hitopdessa in English, this collection of tales is meant to be used as guideposts in daily life, as hita (hee-tuh) means beneficial for welfare and upadesh (oop-deh-sh) means counsel or advice.

The Panchtantra of India is among the most outstanding collections of animal fables existing in the world. Over the centuries, the stories have influenced many different fable collections: Aesop of Greece in Greek, the Arabian Nights from the Middle East in Classical Arabic, Hazār Afsān of Persia in Pahlavi, and Jataka Tales of Buddha in Pali. The Hitopadesha was originally collected by Narayan Pandit under the patronage of King Dhavalachandra in the 12th century, and it follows the pattern of prose, verse, and composition of the Panchatantra.

Image copyrighted by These nested tales-within-tales rip the cover off sneaky, cowardly, and unkind behavior and go straight for the truth as it exists, as is common knowledge, as should be emulated. By giving examples of both good and bad behavior in common human situations and showing the consequences of that good and bad behavior, these tales seek to illuminate and educate the reader. As a 12th century Persian Sufi poet Attār said, "With your whole heart and soul, seek to regain Reality, nay seek Reality within your own heart, for Reality, in truth, is hidden within you." The stories also show that finding clever solutions for problems is something to be admired and desired. For as a 13th century Sufi Persian poet Rumi said, "You have feet; why pretend that you are lame?"

Image copyrighted by The Lake of the Moon God: Once, there was a severe drought in the land, and a herd of elephants traveled far and wide in search of water. Eventually, they found a small lake. Unfortunately, when the elephants went for their daily drink of water, they willy-nilly trampled on many hares who had their homes near the lake. In despair, one wise hare approached the elephant king as an emissary of the Moon God and took the king to the lake to see the reflection of the moon in the water. The ripples on the lake gave the impression that the Moon God was shaking with rage at the wanton destruction of the hares who were his friends. The elephant king repented and took his herd elsewhere to live.

The Hare Who Wasn't Harebrained: A lion was trapped in a cage and was trying unsuccessfully to escape. Seeing a passing holy, but naive, man, he requested to be set free and promised that he wouldn't eat the man as a gesture of goodwill. However, once free, the lion reneged on his word. He gave the man an hour to ask of others whether the lion was justified in his action or being unjust to the man. Everyone the man enquired of, said that there are always injustices in the world, and this one wasn't particularly wrong. However, the hare said that he would have to meet the lion and hear from him the other side of the story, before tendering his verdict. The hare appeared to be constantly puzzled over the details and couldn't seem to follow the sequence of events. So he asked the lion to start from the beginning of the action. When the lion went into the cage to start his story, the hare locked him back in.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Picture Day Friday: Wee Precious Baby

A baby gorilla was born on February 9, 2012 at the Pittsburgh Zoo. Proud parents Moka and Mithra have been doing their jobs, he of hovering protectively, she of nurturing, holding, and feeding. (link)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

RWA Academic Research Grant

I'm always curious about who the Romance Writers of America (RWA) selects as the recipient of its academic research grant every year.

I was very pleased this year to note that Dr. Stacy Holden from Purdue was awarded the grant for her work: Not Deserted after the Storm: Images of Arab Political Systems in Romance Novels Published after 9/11.

Broad top-level questions for me are: Has the popularity of sheikh novels in Harlequin Presents and Mills & Boon Modern lines gone down, as in fewer are being accepted for publication? Are fewer readers reading these novels? On the other hand, how have the novels changed to adapt to shifting reader views on the events of 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?

And my all time biggest question mark is of religion. It has always been downplayed significantly to being virtually non-existent in books before 9/11. Has this changed since 9/11?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bookish Meme: Reading Habits

The following meme is modified from the original by Booking Through Thursday.

What's your favorite time of day to read?

In the late afternoon in between Mom Shuttle driving stints and at night after everyone's in bed.

What's your favorite place to read?

During the day, when I'm outside the house, anywhere will do (even in the line at the post office). At home, it's the red rocking chair in the bedroom during the day and the bed at night.

Do you read in bed?

I really shouldn't...all sleep hygienists say I shouldn't...but I do.

Do you read during meals?

Sometimes, when the younger sub-section of the eating populace is talking far too much and taking far too long to eat.

How many hours a day would you say you read?

Two to four.

Do you read more or less now than you did, say, 10 years ago?

Definitely more.

Do you consider yourself a speed reader?

Nope. I'm a slow reader, and the more complicated the nonfiction book, the more plodding I get.

Do you carry a book with you everywhere you go? And if yes, then is there a particular type of book you carry with you?

I carry whatever book I'm currently reading everywhere with me, be it a nonfiction hardcover tome or a mass market paperback romance.

Do you write in your books?

Yes, I do. Parenthetical remarks, editorial corrections, proofreading marks, notes to all goes in the margins.

If you had one piece of advice to a new reader, what would it be?

Books are so much fun. Because of books you get to go places, meet people, experience events, and think of things you would never otherwise have the opportunity to do so.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Books I Look Forward to Reading in 2012

Here's my list of the books I will be buying (and have bought) for this year. So far, I don't have anything for November or December set up, but this list in one in progress anyway, so things will change from month-to-month.

January 2012
"A Secret in Her Kiss" by Anna Randol

February 2012
"Rainshadow Road" by Lisa Kleypas
"A Scandalous Countess" by Jo Beverley
"Bringing Up Bébé" by Pamela Druckerman

March 2012
"When Maidens Mourn" by C.S. Harris
"At Your Pleasure" by Meredith Duran
"The Saint" by Monica McCarty
"A Lady Awakened" by Cecilia Grant
"About That Night" by Julie James
"A Kind of Honor" by Joan Wolf
"The Guardian" by Joan Wolf
"Snapped" by Laura Griffin
"A Kind of Honor" by Joan Wolf
"The Guardian" by Joan Wolf
"The Gilded Shroud" by Elizabeth Bailey
"The Summer of Living Dangerously" by Julie Cohen

April 2012
"The Garden of Happy Endings" by Barbara O'Neal
"Just Down the Road" by Jodi Thomas
"The Tender Texan" by Jodi Thomas
"Paris in Love: a Memoir" by Eloisa James

May 2012
"A Night Like This" by Julia Quinn
"Beguiling the Beauty" by Sherry Thomas

June 2012
"Scandal Wears Satin" by Loretta Chase

July 2012
"Ravishing the Heiress" by Sherry Thomas
"The Secret Mistress" by Mary Balogh

August 2012
"Deception" by Kris Kennedy
"The Ugly Duchess" by Eloisa James
"Dream Lake" by Lisa Kleypas

September 2012
"The Good Woman" by Jane Porter

October 2012
"Tempting the Bride" by Sherry Thomas

Friday, March 16, 2012

Picture Day Friday: Roman Library of Celsus

The Library of Celsus in the Roman city of Ephesus, in modern-day Turkey, was considered one of the greatest libraries of the ancient world.

Image copyrighted by

Designed by the Roman architect Vitruoya, the library was built in the memory of Celsus Polemeanus, who was a Roman senator, the General Governor of the Province of Asia, and a great lover of books. Celsus's son, Julius Aquila, began the construction in 110 AD, and it was completed by Julius Aquila's successors in 135 AD.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

DABWAHA March Madness for Romance Novels

Dear Author Bitchery Writing Award for Hellagood Authors Today is fill-your-bracket time till 11:59 central time, and tomorrow the mayhem starts with voting and trash talking on Twitter via the #dabwaha hashtag.

Dear Author Bitchery Writing Award for Hellagood Authors (DABWAHA) is a March Madness scheme for romance novels run by the enterprising Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches Trashy Books and Jane Litte of Dear Author.

These are the finalists for this year. You enter your picks by first, registering your name and email address and then, by clicking on each book title to select it for the next round. Be sure that you do select a final winner as well as a tie breaker number.

Once you've done that, you're ready for voting for your favorites, which starts March 15 at midnight central time and goes in four sets of twelve hours each for a total of two days for round one.

The overall schedule is posted on the site, so you can plan your voting times. Don't forget to lobby for your picks on Twitter. People are vocal in their support for their favorites, and authors promote their books vigorously (some even with videos!!).

Here's my bracket. My final round favorites are: The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne and Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh, with the Bourne as the top favorite. Let's see how I do this year.

[Edited 3/23/12: My original bracket is toast. Here's my bracket for the second chance tourney of the final sixteen.]

Comparing Top Book Favorites of 2011

As mentioned earlier, I read 144 books in 2011. For a complete list of my books, go HERE. Also, as mentioned earlier, these are my top ten books of 2011:

Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase
The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne
The Other Guy's Bride by Connie Brockway
A Lady's Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran
Welcome to My World by Johnny Weir
Kissing Comfort by Jo Goodman
A Place Called Home by Jo Goodman
The Comforts of Home by Jodi Thomas
How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O'Neal
Where Shadows Dance by C.S. Harris

Now, let's see how I fared when I compare my list with the Best Of 2011 lists for romance put out by others. This what I have in common with them.

Library Journal: Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase

Amazon: Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase

Publisher's Weekly: none

Just Janga: Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase, The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne, The Other Guy’s Bride by Connie Brockway, and A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran

GoodReads: none

The Good, The Bad, The Unread: Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase

All About Romance: Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase, The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne, and The Other Guy’s Bride by Connie Brockway

Goossamer Obsessions: none

Monday, March 12, 2012

The 10-10 Reading Challenge for 2011

Copyright by Melissa Klug In January 2010, I was challenged by Melissa Klug, director of marketing for Glatfelter book paper manufacturers, to take up the original 1010 challenge for Reading in 2010. The challenge called for reading 10 books in 10 categories by October 10, 2010. We were to report in to the challenge on the 101010Reading blog.
Used and Discarded Books a series of painting copyrighted by Ephraim Rubenstein

I modified the challenge as follows: Read any number of books in 10 categories, other than romance, by December 10 to finish the challenge. Also the overarching aim was to reduce the to-be-read TBR mountain. (For a complete list of my books, go HERE.)

Detective, Mystery, Crime, Thriller
—"Talking About Detective Fiction" by P.D. James
—"The Snake, the Crocodile and the Dog" by Elizabeth Peters
—"The Hippopotamus Pool" by Elizabeth Peters
—"Seeing a Large Cat" by Elizabeth Peters
—"The Ape Who Guards the Balance" by Elizabeth Peters
—"The Falcon at the Portal" by Elizabeth Peters
—"He Shall Thunder in the Sky" by Elizabeth Peters
—"Lord of the Silent" by Elizabeth Peters
—"Tomb of the Golden Bird" by Elizabeth Peters
—"Unnatural Causes" by P.D. James

—"Funny in Farsi" by Firoozeh Dumas

—"How to Bake a Perfect Life" by Barbara O'Neal

Young Adult
—"Princess Academy" by Shannon Hale
—"Before Midnight" by Cameron Dokey

Mythological Tales
—"Norwegian Folktales" by Peter Christian Asbjørnsen & Jørgen Moe

Biographies & Memoirs
—"All You Need to be Impossibly French" by Helena Firth Powell
—"Welcome to My World" by Johnny Weir

Organizational Advice & Spiritual Guidance
—"What Am I Feeling" by John Gottman
—"Being Perfect" by Anna Quindlen
—"A Short Guide to a Happy Life" by Anna Quindlen
—"Jonathan Livingston Seagull" by Richard Bach

Writing Craft
—"A Time to Write" by Kelly Stone

Writing Research
—"North American Romance Writers" edited by Kay Mussell
—"Dangerous Men & Adventurous Women" edited by Jayne Krentz

—"Kauai Handbook" by J.D. Bisignani

Categories for 2012
—Detective, Mystery, Crime, Thriller
—Women's & Literary
—Children's & Young Adult
—Mythological Tales
—Biographies & Memoirs
—Parenting Tips
—Spiritual Guidance
—Organizational Advice
—Writing Craft & Research

Friday, March 9, 2012

Picture Day Friday: Ancient Nalanda University

Nalanda was one of the first great universities in recorded history. Founded in 427, it survived until 1197. It was located on 35 acres in the Bihar region of northeastern India (just south of India's current border with Nepal). It was devoted to Buddhist studies, but it also trained students in fine arts, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, politics, and the art of war.

Image copyrighted by Wikimedia Commons

According to this article: "Nalanda university was an architectural and environmental masterpiece. It had eight separate compounds, 10 temples, meditation halls, classrooms, lakes, and parks. It had a nine-story library where monks meticulously copied books and documents so that individual scholars could have their own collections. It had dormitories for students, perhaps a first for an educational institution, housing 10,000 students in the university’s heyday and providing accommodations for 2,000 professors. Nalanda was also the most global university of its time, attracting pupils and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia (modern-day Iran, Afghanistan, and various countries of central Asia), Turkey," and Greece.

Nalanda means "insatiable in giving" and comes from Buddha's visit to that region where he talked about giving "alms without intermission." For an academic institution, the name's very apt.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Analysis of the Books I Read in 2011

I found the source for this blog from Fizzy Thoughts and modified it a bit. (For a complete list of my books, go HERE.) Without further ado, here are the stats...

How many books did you read in total?

144: an average of one book every two-and-a-half days

How many works of fiction and how many non-fiction?

Nonfiction: 9, Fiction: 135 (wince), a ratio of 1:15. In 2010, the ratio was 1:57, so hopefully the upward trend will continue in 2012

Which percent of male versus female authors did you read?

Male: 7, Female: 137 (double wince), about 20% of the total. Of the seven books, four were nonfiction and three were fiction (two in the Ancient category). In 2010, the number was 3% of the total

What were the categories of the books?

Ancient, Medieval, Georgian, Regency, Victorian, Edwardian, Western, Contemporary, Mystery & Historical Mystery, Young Adult, and Nonfiction

How much romance versus all other genres?

114 books, which is more than 79%. In 2010, I read more than 85% romance, so I branched out a bit in 2011. All the non-romance books were in the ancient, contemporary, historical mystery, and nonfiction categories

Which was your top favorite book?

The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne

Which were your surprise favorite books and why?

Norwegian Folktales by Peter Christian Asbjørnsen & Jørgen Moe (my first book of Nodic mythological tales)
Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas (my first book about the immigrant experience of someone from the Middle East; previously I've read about the immigrant experience of people from China and India)
Welcome to My World by Johnny Weir (my first celebrity memoir)

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

Born of the Sun by Joan Wolf (1991)
The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne (Nov 2011)

Which were the longest and shortest book titles?

Arabella by Georgette Heyer and Flawless by Carrie Lofty were the shortest book titles
All You Need to Be Impossibly French by Helena Frith Powell, Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing up Iranian by Firoozeh Dumas, and Scandal of the Year: Abandoned at the Altar by Laura Lee Guhrkee were the longest book titles

Which were the longest and shortest books?

Being Perfect by Anna Quindlen was the shortest book
Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwell was the longest book

Who were the most-read authors of the year?

Elizabeth Peters (Amelia Peabody series), Georgette Heyer, Laura Kinsale, Loretta Chase, Joan Wolf, and Elizabeth Hoyt

Which authors were new to you in 2011? Would you want to read their entire works now?

Joan Wolf and YES!!!

Any translated books?

Norwegian Folktales by Peter Christian Asbjørnsen & Jørgen Moe (my first book of Nodic mythological tales)

Any re-reads?

Books by Georgette Heyer, Jo Beverley, Laura Kinsale, Joanna Bourne, Loretta Chase, Mary Balogh, Connie Brockway, Eloisa James, and Elizabeth Hoyt among others

Which books you wouldn’t have read without someone’s specific recommendation?

His Lordship's Mistress by Joan Wolf recommended by Magdalen
Lady Be Good by Susan Elizabeth Phillips recommended by Janet
A Soldier's Heart by Kathleen Korbel recommended by Sunita

Which books are you annoyed you hadn't read before?

Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas
A Soldier's Heart by Kathleen Korbel

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

Being Perfect by Anna Quindlen
A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen
Jonathan Livingstone Seagull by Richard Bach

Monday, March 5, 2012

My Top Favorite Books of 2011

Of all the 144 books I read in 2011, some of the books were published in 2011 and some were from my to-be-read pile and those pubbed before 2011. As a result, I have a faves list of all the books I read in 2011 (some of them re-reads) and a Top Ten list of all the books pubbed in 2011 that I read in 2011. The items in the lists are in no particular order. (For a complete list of my books, go HERE.)

Pubbed in 2011

Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase
The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne
The Other Guy's Bride by Connie Brockway
A Lady's Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran
Welcome to My World by Johnny Weir
Kissing Comfort by Jo Goodman
A Place Called Home by Jo Goodman
The Comforts of Home by Jodi Thomas
How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O'Neal
Where Shadows Dance by C.S. Harris

Read in 2011

Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne
The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne
Sylvester by Georgette Heyer
Arabella by Georgette Heyer
No Man's Mistress by Mary Balogh
Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase
Miss Wonderful by Loretta Chase
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
The Falcon at the Portal by Elizabeth Peters
He Shall Thunder in the Sky by Elizabeth Peters
Lord of the Silent by Elizabeth Peters
Welcome to my World by Johnny Weir
Norwegian Folktales by Peter Christian Asbjørnsen & Jørgen Moe
Kissing Comfort by Jo Goodman
A Place Called Home by Jo Goodman
Where Shadows Dance by C.S. Harris
Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas
Lady Be Good by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O'Neal
As You Desire by Connie Brockway
The Other Guy by Connie Brockway
A Lady's Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran
Bound by Your Touch by Meredith Duran
Born of the Sun by Joan Wolf
The Road to Avalon by Joan Wolf
The Edge of Light by Joan Wolf
His Lordship's Mistress by Joan Wolf
A London Season by Joan Wolf
The Shadow and the Star by Laura Kinsale
The Prince of Midnight by Laura Kinsale
My Sweet Folly by Laura Kinsale
The Comforts of Home by Jodi Thomas
Candle in the Window by Christina Dodd
Heart of a Knight by Barbara Samuel

Friday, March 2, 2012

Picture Day Friday: Chocolate Cakes

Following Wednesday's post about a book featuring chocolate and chocolate recipes, here are two pictures of wedding cake confections.


By Charlys Bakery...