Friday, January 31, 2014

Picture Day Friday: Mohabbat Maqbara, Junagarh, India

Mohabbat Maqbara in Junagarh, India was built in 1878-92 by Mohabbat Khanji and Bahadur Khanji. It houses the grave of Nawab Bahaduddinbhai Hasainbhai.

The yellow mausoleum, with its combination of Indo-Islamic and Gothic architectures, "is a masterpiece of its kind with finely designed arches, vertical columns and elaborate stone carvings on the walls and windows. Its silver-decorated portals, the winding staircases encircling its four tall minarets, the old step-well in the grounds, and its onion-shaped dome contribute to its splendor." [Wikipedia]

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Anatomy of a Janeite

According to the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), "In 2008, a prime opportunity arose for taking a more systematic look at this interesting community of Austen readers. The theme for the annual meeting of JASNA was to be 'Austen’s Legacy: Life, Love, & Laughter.' Believing that Jane’s greatest legacy is her devoted readership," a detailed survey of their membership was conducted. The Anatomy of a Janeite are the results.

  • Respondents were overwhelmingly female, with a median age of 40
  • Ninety percent came from English-speaking nations
  • Typically working women
  • Well-educated: 81% had a college degree, almost half had achieved a master's degree
  • Households are slightly more affluent than the median
  • More outgoing than shy
  • Well-traveled, including international travel. Almost half had visited Austen sites in England
  • More tea than coffee afficionadoes
  • Cat-lovers as opposed to dog-lovers

    And so on. Go to the full survey results here.

    An aside: Here's a humorous look at what a typical Janeite would look from the point of view of Austen's various books.

    [Edited 5/28/14: It has come to my attention that the image below is copyrighted by Sandra Florance and is available for purchase as a 5x7 notecard at the Etsy store Turtle Doves.]

    [Click to see a more readable image.]
    Image copyright by

  • Monday, January 27, 2014

    Analysis of the Books I Read in 2013

    For a few years now, I have been collecting data on the books I read and then analyzing the information I collected. 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, whether I owned it or borrowed it, whether I was re-reading it, and if someone recommended it. For a complete list of my books, go HERE.

    Without further ado, here are the stats...

    How many books did you read in total?

    109: an average of one book every three days. I read 173 books in 2010, 144 books in 2011, and 148 in 2012. So this was a slow reading year for me.

    What was the average star rating?

    3.9 (where ratings were from 1 to 5, with 0 for DNF (didn't finish)). This is a rather high average, which I blame on all the re-reads, in addition to, new books by authors known to me.

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

    Nonfiction: 7, Fiction: 102 (wince), a ratio of 1:15. In 2010, the ratio was 1:57, in 2011, it was 1:15, and in 2012, it was 1:18. Hopefully, there will be more nonfiction in 2014.

    Which percent of male versus female authors did you read?

    Male: 5, Female: 104 (double wince). So the male authors read were about 5% of the total. In 2010, the number was 3% of the total, in 2011, it was 5%, and in 2012, it was 7%. All of the five books by male authors were nonfiction.

    How much romance versus all other genres?

    13 non-romance vs. 96 romance, which is 88% romance of the total number of books read. In 2010, I read more than 85% romance, 79% in 2011, and 82% in 2012. All the non-romance books were in the following categories: children's and young adult fiction, literary fiction, mystery, poetry, and non-fiction

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

    Medieval (1), Georgian (2), Regency (66), Victorian (10), Western (7), Contemporary (5), Mystery (2), Chick-Lit and Women's Fiction (1), Literary Fiction (2), Children's & Young Adult (1), Novellas (12), Poetry (1), Memoirs (1), Parenting (3), and general nonfiction (2)

    How many books did you read each month?

    Jan (8), Feb (8), Mar (10), Apr (5), May (15), Jun (12), Jul (9), Aug (16), Sept (8), Oct (10), Nov (5), Dec (2)

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

    I borrowed marginally more books from the public library than re-read from my personal library. I borrowed in the first half of the year and re-read in the second half. I bought very few books this year, as compared with other years, when I mostly bought most of my books.

    Which was your top favorite book?

    "Hampshire Hoyden" by Michelle Martin

    Which was your surprise favorite book and why?

    "The Lightning Thief" by Rick Riordan. It was my first middle-grade novel, and I was surprised by the complex world-building, which remained true to the historical facts of the relevant time period.

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

    "Imprudent Lady" by Joan Smith (Sept 1978) and "The Countess Conspiracy" by Courtney Milan (Dec 2013)

    Which were the longest and shortest book titles?

    Longest Book Title: "What Would Michelle Do? : A Modern Day Guide to Living with Substance" by Allison Samuels

    Shortest Book Titles: "Frederica" by Georgette Heyer, "Arabella" by Georgette Heyer, "Isabella" by Loretta Chase, "Unlocked" by Courtney Milan, "Defiant" by Pamela Clare

    Which were the longest and shortest books?

    "Super Baby Food" by Ruth Yaron and "Amarillo by Morning" by Jodi Thomas

    Who were the most-read authors of the year?

    Joan Wolf (6), Jodi Thomas (6), Michelle Martin (9), and Georgette Heyer (13)

    Which authors were new to you in 2013? Would you want to read their entire backlist now?

    Would love to read Elizabeth Chadwick's, Carla Kelly's, Emma Jensen's, Michelle Martin's, and Dorothy Sayers's backlists.

    The other new-to-me authors were: Kasey Michaels, Joan Smith, Shannon Stacey, Allison Samuels, Gillian Flynn, Nonnie St. George, Nancy Butler, Elizabeth Chadwick, Narjorie Farrell, Michelle Martin, and Charlotte Louise Dolan

    Any books in translation?


    Any re-reads?

    Books Georgette Heyer, Loretta Chase, Joan Wolf, Michelle Martin, and Joanna Bourne by among others

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

    I wouldn't have discovered Michelle Martin without @younglibrarian's recommendation. @janga724 recommended the most number of books (6) and then @redrobinreader (3). Overall, I read 20 books on recommendations from friends.

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

    Georgette Heyer's backlist

    Which publishers' books did you read the most?

    Signet (18), Avon (14), Berkley (13), Harlequin (11), Sourcebooks (8), Fawcett (8), and Zebra (7)

    How many self-published books did you read?


    Which books that you read in 2013 do you think you will re-read in 2014?

    Books by Joan Wolf, Jo Goodman, Meredith Duran, Georgette Heyer, Michelle Martin, and Loretta Chase among others

    Which authors do you predict you will glom in 2014?

    Continue with Georgette Heyer and re-read Laura Kinsale

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

    Nonfiction and by male authors

    What information are you missing in your data collection for 2013 that you'd like to add to 2014?

    Whether the books came from my TBR (to-be-read) mountain and the number of pages in each book

    Friday, January 24, 2014

    Picture Day Friday: Venetian Grand Canal Apartment

    Wouldn't you want a room like this in your house, where you can hold grand squeezes of parties? This is in an apartment over the Grand Canal in Venice.

    Wednesday, January 22, 2014

    Romance Writers of America 2014 Annual Conference

    Registration is now open for the Romance Writers of America's (RWA) 2014 annual conference in San Antonio, Texas. The conference will be held July 23 through July 26 and in both the Marriott Rivercenter and Marriott Riverwalk hotels.

    According to RWA, "The RWA Conference is the place where career-focused romance writers meet, mingle, and get down to the business of being an author. At the conference, career-focused romance writers can anticipate: Education and information; Networking with fellow writers; and Interaction with editors, agents, publishers, booksellers, and other romance publishing industry professionals."

    Featured speakers at the conference are: author Sylvia Day, marketing guru Cindy Ratzalff, author Karen Rose, author Barbara Samuel, and author Simone Elkeles.

    The 2014 "Readers for Life" Literacy Autographing will be on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 from 5:30–7:30 p.m. at the Marriott Rivercenter Hotel in the third floor ballroom. Books by these publishers, as recognized by RWA as having met their bar for validity, will be available at the signing. You will get to meet nearly 550 authors! This event is open to the public and is free of charge to attend.

    Monday, January 20, 2014

    Reading Challenges for 2013

    Used and Discarded Books a series of painting copyrighted by Ephraim Rubenstein In January 2010, I was challenged by Melissa Klug, director of marketing for Glatfelter book paper manufacturers, to take up the original 10-10 challenge for Reading in 2010. The challenge called for reading 10 books in 10 categories by October 10. We were to report in to the challenge by following the Twitter hashtag #101010reading and also on the 101010Reading blog. I enjoyed the challenge so much in 2010, that I have continued it since then.

    I modified the challenge as follows: Read any number of books in 10 categories, other than the categories I normally read, by December 10 to finish the challenge. Here's what I read in 2013. As you can see, this was not a good year for adventurous reading for me.

    Detective, Mystery, Crime, Thriller
    —"What Darkness Brings" by C.S. Harris
    —"Sweet Talk" by Julie Garwood

    Chick-Lit & Women's Fiction
    —"The Good Daughter" by Jane Porter

    Literary Fiction
    —"Girl Gone" by Gillian Flynn
    —"Remarkable Creatures" by Tracy Chevalier

    Children's & Young Adult
    —"Lightning Thief" by Rick Riordan

    Humor & Poetry
    —"Poetry of William Blake" selected by Peter Butter

    —"What would Michelle Do?: A Modern Day Guide to Living with Substance and Style" by Allison Samuels
    —"What Not To Wear" by Trinny Woodall & Susannah Constantine

    Biographies & Memoirs
    —"A Journal of My Son's First Son" by Anne Lamott

    Organizational Tips
    —"The Pomodoro Technique" by Francesco Cirillo

    Parenting Tips
    —"Super Baby Food" by Ruth Yaron
    —"On Becoming BabyWise" by Gary Ezzo & Robert Bucknam
    —"On Becoming BabyWise: Book Two" by Gary Ezzo & Robert Bucknam
    —"A Journal of My Son's First Son" by Anne Lamott

    On Writing

    I also took part in Wendy Crutcher's 2013 TBR Challenge. The challenge is where readers pick up a long neglected book from their TBR pile, read it, comment on that book on the third Wednesday of every month, and post links to the comments on social media sites (blog, Facebook, GoodReads, Twitter, a message board, etc.) The comments do not have to be extensive, could be as short as a small paragraph or pages of it, if you so choose.

    I decided to let my TBR do double duty, so I also signed up to participate in the Off The Shelf! reading challenge by Bookish Ardour. In order to participate, you have to choose a challenge level before you start (I was in the Tempted category). Only books from the TBR pile can be included. No books purchased after the challenge has begun or acquired any time during 2013 can be included.

    The different Challenge Levels are:
    Tempted — Choose 5 books to read
    Trying — Choose 15 books to read
    Making A Dint — Choose 30 books to read
    On A Roll — Choose 50 books to read
    Flying Off — Choose 75 books to read
    Hoarder — Choose 76-125 books to read
    Buried — Choose 126-200 books to read

    These are the books I culled from my TBR mountain and read in 2013. Like the 10-10 Challenge, I didn't succeed in meeting this goal, in fact, I got only halfway there.

    —"Poetry of William Blake" selected by Peter Butter
    —"What Not To Wear" by Trinny Woodall & Susannah Constantine
    —"Super Baby Food" by Ruth Yaron
    —"The Pomodoro Technique" by Francesco Cirillo
    —"On Becoming BabyWise" by Gary Ezzo & Robert Bucknam
    —"On Becoming BabyWise: Book Two" by Gary Ezzo & Robert Bucknam

    I have signed up for the 2014 TBR Challenge. Do sign up if you're likewise interested.

    Friday, January 17, 2014

    Picture Day Friday: Magic Portal

    Wednesday, January 15, 2014

    2014 TBR Challenge: Einstein's Dreams

    As part of Wendy Crutcher's 2014 TBR Challenge, here are my brief comments on Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman.

    For a debut work of fiction, the prose is assured and the whimsical, fantastical style is used effectively to explain the complex theories of time. The overarching theme is of Einstein working as a patent clerk drudge in Zurich, Switzerland as he dreams about his ideas about time and magnetism and physics and sends off paper after paper to journals explaining his various theories.

    Each chapter is a story, which explains one aspect of time. For example, the first chapter explores time as a circle, bending back on itself, and so that the world repeats itself endlessly. In the second chapter, time is a continuous stream, with occasional split-offs from the mainstream due to disturbances lead to those rivulets curving back in time. In one chapter, an infinity of worlds with an infinite number of choices at every crossroads is explored. And so on. Mechanical vs. cosmic time, cause and effect are erratic and out-of-sync, passage of time vs. passage of events, etc. The variations are many and discussed in a lighthearted and, at times, poignant fashion.

    Monday, January 13, 2014

    Best Books of 2013

    Unusually so, I read a lot of older books this year, including many re-reads. One of my goals for 2013 was to buy fewer books and to curb my buying habit, and in turn, to support my library by donating that money to the library and borrowing what I needed to read. I also ended p re-reading a whole bunch and re-discovering those books, which had brought me so much joy previously.

    I read traditional Regency romances Hampshire Hoyden by Michelle Martin (Fawcett, Jun-93) and The Mad Miss Mathley by Michelle Martin (Fawcett, Aug-95) thrice this year. I loved them both so much. They were true traditional Regencies with clever dialogue, nuanced and in-depth character development, developing romantic interest, only kissing, and wit.

    In the latter part of the year, I embarked on Georgette Heyer's novels and read 13 of them almost back-to-back. My most memorable reads were The Corinthian (Sourcebooks, Jan-09), Faro's Daughter (Sourcebooks, Jan-08), The Nonesuch (Sourcebooks, Jan-09), Sylvester (Harlequin, Jan-04), and Frederica (Sourcebooks, Jan-08). Three of the books have unforgettable heroes, while the other two unforgettable heroines. Heyer is such a gifted writer, able to create such distinctive characters, even secondary ones. Her leisurely writing style allows her to explore fine nuances of situations, quirks, and dialogue.

    More of my top faves in the traditional Regency realm were: Imprudent Lady by Joan Smith (Fawcett, Sep-78), The Sandalwood Princess by Loretta Chase (Avon, Nov-91), Mad Earl’s Bride by Loretta Chase (Avon, Jun-13), Lord Richard's Daughter by Joan Wolf (Signet, Jul-83), A London Season by Joan Wolf (Signet, Jan-81), Reforming Lord Ragsdale by Carla Kelly (Signet, Oct-95), and Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand by Carla Kelly (Signet, Dec-94).

    Joanna Bourne's spy romances set in France and England always rise to the top of my year's reading list every year I re-read them. The Spymaster's Lady (Berkley, Jan-08) and The Black Hawk (Berkley, Nov-11)

    Another series I love is C.S. Harris's St. Cyr Regency mysteries. This year's book What Darkness Brings (NAL, Mar-13) was no exception.

    The following authors never fail to produce books that land them on my top favorites list. Always in my Dreams by Jo Goodman (Zebra, Nov-04) is a Victorian book set in the U.S., Chance of a Lifetime by Jodi Thomas (Berkley, Jan-13) is a contemporary western, Unlocked by Courtney Milan (self-pubbed, Sep-12) is a British Victorian novella, and The Good Daughter by Jane Porter (Berkley, Feb-13) is a women's fiction novel (or what, Jane calls Modern Lit).

    The Wild Hunt (St. Martin's Press, Oct-91) was my first book by Elizabeth Chadwick and a haunting medieval at that. It certainly will not be my last. I look forward to reading other books in 2014.

    Poetry of William Blake as selected by Peter Butter (Everyman, Jan-96) is no surprise to anyone who knows me and my abiding love for the poetry of the Romantic Age.

    A surprising addition to my Best Of list is The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, a middle grade novel by Hyperion in Jan-06. Excellent world-building with close ties to Greek mythology with just enough variance to add a historical feel to the fantasy.

    I can't say enough good things about The Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo (self-pubbed, Oct-06). It's a time management technique that focuses on a single task done in 25-minute increments of time. I have blogged about it in detail here.

    My entire list of 109 books is available for you to look at, if you so wish.

    An aside: To read what books were popular in 2013 in romance according to Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers' Weekly, Library Journal, etc., please read Just Janga's Blog.

    Friday, January 10, 2014

    Picture Day Friday: Cotswolds Cottages

    Cottages in Bilbury in the Cotswolds, England.

    Wednesday, January 8, 2014

    Resolute About Resolving Your Resolutions

    Are you resolute about resolving your new year's resolutions this year? Here are some tips to help you on your way that have helped me tremendously. This blog is a repeat from last January 1.

    Don't make generalized resolutions, such as "Be Happy." Instead make specific, measurable ones, such as "Do a yoga retreat in Hawaii over the summer"—you can measure whether you achieved this goal or not and how you felt about it.

    By all means, make smaller sub-goals with deadlines that will keep the bigger goal on track to being finished.

    Work on only one habit at a time. Say, in January, you'll work on X and on Y in February.

    Start with the smallest, easiest habit first. And do it just for a few minutes once a day. Feeling a sense of accomplishment from the very start is what keeps the habit of habit-forming (heh!) going.

    And the first step in starting a habit is to simply start. Inertia, procrastination, a feeling of being overwhelmed can all lead to a tendency to want to only imagine you having the habit, but afraid to start the work in forming the habit. So, just start!

    Write it down. Well, the mind's not good about keeping everything in the foreground. Old things often get pushed into the background, even though when the thoughts first came in, they were deemed high priority. We forget; we fall into old habits by, well, habit; new issues crop up that require our immediate attention; we're tired so we say we'll do it tomorrow; etc.

    Accountability is the sticky glue that binds us to our resolutions on paper. If you have to report in to a friend or a group of like-minded individual or even to your online journal, it serves as a reasonably pressured deadline that has to be achieved.

    Don't have only negative or "you-must"s resolutions. Have fun ones as well, such as the yoga retreat mentioned above. If you plan only drudgery for the year, then it's guaranteed that your list of resolutions will have nary a checkmark. This is the main reason, I call them goals, not resolutions.

    And the complementary one to the above is that you should feel free to abandon a resolution part-way through or even before beginning, if you feel that it's something that's never going to happen no matter how many years it shows up on your list. For me, that would mean giving up on reading Tolstoy's War and Peace in this life at least.

    Revisit your list constantly to revise, add to, or subtract from the litany. It keeps the energy alive about what needs to be achieved next and it keeps the list fresh and current.

    Monday, January 6, 2014

    Mission Statements, Life Lists, Goals, Schedules: define, design, discharge

    Here are four of my posts that have proven to be among the most popular on this blog. They have all to do with architecting your life starting with small daily steps.

    A Personal Mission Statement is a set of mottoes for your life that define the boundaries of who you are, what your deepest held beliefs are, how you interact with others, and what you think of yourself.

    A Life List is a mondo-beyondo list of your life's dreams. There are no limits as to how many items there can be on this list. It's a personal list, so don't be shy of wishing for the most outrageous, the most selfish, the most greedy, the most anything. Every deeply held desire needs to be on this list. Don't compromise on your dreams.

    Goals Making and Keeping and committing to bringing your resolutions to fruition. Goals give you something concrete to work towards and to measure progress against. Goals also give you a sense of accomplisment once you've reached them.

    Scheduling Your Life is important, because if you don't label your time to dedicated actions, then that piece of time is either attached to another task or frittered away. The most basic rule of thumb when keeping to a schedule is: There is no making up lost time.

    Friday, January 3, 2014

    Picture Day Friday: Flower Shop Display

    [Image copyrighted by]

    Wednesday, January 1, 2014

    Happy New Year 2014

    Wish you all a very Happy New Year 2014 filled with joy, laughter, and success. And of course, tons of books!

    I would also like to take this opportunity to convey my deepest thanks to you all for visiting and reading my writings.

    [Image courtesy of the Getty Museum.]

    Image copyrighted by