Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lunch with Buddha: Review and Giveaway

By the time On the Road (a novel based on the travels of writer Jack Keroauc and his friends across the United States) was published in 1957, countless Americans have been captivated by road trips.  Road trips provide a vast opportunity for adventure, and seem to be a rite of passage for many people. Over the years, I've taken numerous road trips. When I was first married, my husband and I shared the driving in a long road trip from the Midwest to San Diego, stopping in many different states along the way.  I experienced a real sense of freedom and possibility--along with contemplative moments about my new status--as we drove through the changing landscape and arrived at our new home.

Published in 2012, Lunch with Buddha by Roland Merullo is the sequel to Breakfast with Buddha, and features the same main characters as the first book, Otto Ringling (and his family), and Volya Rinpoche and Cecelia (Otto's sister), who now have a daughter, Shelsa.  Like its prequel, it's a road trip book; this appealed to my bohemian side, which relishes the thought of getting into a car or truck with just a few things and going on a true, unscripted adventure.  In Lunch with Buddha, the road trip is from Seattle, Washington to Dickenson, North Dakota.  Otto and Rinpoche (everyone calls him by his last name) drive through Washington State, across the Idaho Panhandle, across Montana, and into North Dakota, and experience a myriad of fun adventures.

"There were cherries by the pound and salmon jerky for sale in roadside stands, a small white chapel to the left, closed up.  We passed another sign for espresso--they were everywhere in this state; perhaps people slept so deeply in the wonderful air that they needed help waking up--and then Bubba's Road House, wiith a sign that read, EAT BIG FOOD."
~Lunch with Buddha, Roland Merullo

Lunch with Buddha focuses on a spiritual quest or journey as well. Many of their adventures involve water of some sort (Old Faithful, Boiling River), which may symbolize the desire for renewal as well as the need to be fluid and flexible in life, to "go with the flow".  Otto, the protagonist and narrator of this novel,  is presently in need of some answers and comfort in his life, and although he's analytical and skeptical, he senses (and hopes) that his brother-in-law Rinpoche, who's a spiritual guru to many, may possess the wisdom and peace he seeks.  On this road trip, Otto, who's  both a "foodie" and an editor of food books, is searching not only for culinary bliss but also for internal sustenance and meaning, and answers to some of life's most profound and perplexing questions.

I found myself marveling over Roland Merullo's appealing, lucid, insightful, and, yes, "enlightened" writing, which is equally sensitive and humorous.  The idea of the physical, external journey being connected to the inner, spiritual journey is endearingly presented in this novel, with ample humor and grace.  Lunch with Buddha is a delicious and divine novel, and although it stands alone quite well, I cannot wait to also read Breakfast with Buddha.



Would you like to win a copy of Lunch with Buddha?  The publisher, AJAR Contemporaries, is generously offering a copy of Lunch with Buddha to one of my readers (U.S./Canada only).

  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower.
  • For an additional chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.
  • For one more chance, leave a brief comment about a road trip you enjoyed. 

Enter by 5 PM PST on Monday, December 10.  One winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, December 11.  


Special thanks to Lisa from TLC for sending me this book.  To read more reviews of this novel, please visit the other stops on TLC's book tour for Lunch with Buddha.




Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Really Random Tuesday #57: Two Book Winners, Homemade Yogurt, and Mailbox Monday

Two books are better than one!  In celebration of this month's paperback release of Crazy Enough by singer-songwriter Storm Large, Kristin from Simon & Schuster offered to give away two copies of this bold and absorbing memoir.  Please help me to congratulate my two randomly chosen winners, hkmichellec87 and Lainy from So many books, so little time (so many of us can relate to that!). Congratulations to you both! 





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There are many recipes in Jamie Oliver's Great Britain that I'd like to try, but this one sounded so good and easy, and I had the two ingredients required on hand to make homemade yogurt--milk and some yogurt or "starter"--so I quickly mixed some up this morning.  I've made yogurt in my yogurt maker numerous times, but I liked the idea of mixing it up in a bowl and just letting it sit and become yogurt, fresh and homemade, without using a machine of any sort.  It's a very simple recipe (I think this is how my grandmother made yogurt), and I hope Jamie doesn't mind if I highlight it here.  Basically, I just added four heaping tablespoons of yogurt to 2% milk that I'd heated up slowly to a simmer.  I let the milk cool a bit and then I mixed in the starter (since I have a yogurt maker thermometer, I used that to make sure the time was right).  I'll leave this bowl out to "incubate" until I go to sleep tonight, then I'll put it in the refrigerator.  Tomorrow morning, I'll try a dollop or two of this yogurt on top of my oatmeal. 

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Although I don't get a ton of books in the mail each week, Mailbox Monday is one of my all-time favorite memes.  Originally created by Marcia from The Printed Page,  Mailbox Monday has been on tour for the past couple of years, and I'm honored to be the host for the month of December.  I hope you'll join me as we share our new books during the holiday season.
 
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Appearing on random Tuesdays, Really Random Tuesday is a way to post odds and ends--announcements, musings, quotes, photos--any blogging and book-related things you can think of.  I often announce my book giveaway winners in these posts.  If you're inspired by this idea, feel free to "grab" the button for use on your own blog, and leave a comment so I'll know to stop by.

Your comments are welcomed, as always. 
 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Really Random Tuesday #56: An Ugly Word?, a Book Winner, and a Thank You List

Blog is a four-letter word, but is it also an "ugly" word?  The protagonist of the book I'm currently reading, Lunch with Buddha by Roland Merullo, calls it ugly. :(    (I'll admit that there have been times when I wished I could call this a book website instead of a blog for that very reason.)  Aside from feeling a bit insecure about this (ugly itself is an ugly word, isn't it?), I'm enjoying the book a great deal so far; please stay tuned for my upcoming review and giveaway of Lunch with Buddha





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Today I have a book winner to announce, as I often do in these Really Random Tuesday posts.  Please help me to congratulate Leslie from Under My Apple Tree, the winner of Lola's Secret by Monica McInerney.  I think Leslie  will enjoy this sequel to The Alphabet Sisters.  If you didn't win this time, please check the other giveaways posted on the right side of my blog, which are often updated.






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Happy Thanksgiving

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I came up with a list of book-related blessings I'm thankful for:

  • Google and Blogger, who provide the opportunity to have a book blog that's international
  • Amazon.com, who has revolutionized the way we shop for books and much more
  • My followers, occasional readers, and "the competition", other book bloggers (many who've become friends)  
  • TLC Book Tours, who feeds my addiction to books and provides them for giveaways 
  • Packages from Random House, Putnam, and many other publishers
  • Authors who share their work with me
  • People who leave comments on my posts
  • Those who tweet my posts and giveaways, or link to them on their own websites or Facebook 
  • Books I've won, including a recent win, a brilliant, new cookbook from the blog of Peppermint Ph.D. (in conjunction with TLC), which I'm super excited about, Jamie Oliver's Great Britain
  • My daughter, who helped me set and photograph this table 
  • Time to read--whether it's a few minutes, a few hours, or somewhere in-between, reading is a favorite pastime

Can you think of anything to add to this list?

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Appearing on random Tuesdays, Really Random Tuesday is a way to post odds and ends--announcements, musings, quotes, photos--any blogging and book-related things you can think of.  I often announce my book giveaway winners in these posts.  If you're inspired by this idea, feel free to "grab" the button for use on your own blog.  Your comments are welcomed!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Perseverance: A Writer's Best Friend: A Guest Post by Gayle M. Irwin

"Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th."
~Julie Andrews

According to Dictionary.com, perseverance is a noun that means a steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.  

And here is what my guest, author Gayle M. Irwin, has to say about this trait, which is especially valuable for writers, and which also plays a part in her new book, Walking In Trust : Lessons Learned with my Blind Dog

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Perseverance: A Writer’s Best Friend
A Guest Post by Gayle M. Irwin

Writers need perseverance.  Whether we hurdle fear of rejection, bump into the wall of writer’s block, or navigate the time-sucking venue of social media, we writers must be persistent in our endeavors just like a farmer who plants and harvests – we know there are many obstacles, and layers to the process, yet what an incredible harvest we will reap when we persevere!

People are starving, and not just for food.  They want information and entertainment.  Writers today are fortunate to have a variety of outlets for their words and thereby feed a starving society.  There are numerous options that twenty, even ten, years ago were hardly even considered, various venues through which writers can express themselves.  Blogs, editorial newspaper pieces, letters to the editor, magazine articles, and online commentaries are just a few of those added venues.  Even book publishing has changed dramatically: there is Kindle, other types of e-books, and many self-publishing options in addition to the traditional book publishing path.  No matter what publishing avenue a writer pursues, however, the common ingredient needed is perseverance.

I am fortunate to have witnessed many examples of perseverance and not just among writers. For more than ten years, I shared my life with a blind dog named Sage. There were many challenges, for both my blind dog and for me.  Sage walked into things, like furniture, hedges, and trees. Yet, she did not cower in a corner or sulk in defeat on the living room rug.  She persistently ran through the backyard in pursuit of squirrels she heard and smelled.  She navigated stairs in the house and walks through the neighborhood.  Sage was the catalyst for my book writing: The longtime dream I had of writing a children’s book blossomed as I witnessed numerous lessons – especially about courage and perseverance – from my blind dog.

My first book was published in 2007, a work I used in classrooms and libraries when Sage and I would visit such places, encouraging children to also be brave and persistent in life.  I have since published short stories about Sage in editions of  Chicken Soup for the Soul and my first adult nonfiction book, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with my Blind Dog was released recently by Cladach Publishing.  Though the journey has not been easy, it has been rewarding.

Chicken Soup for the Soul received 123 rejections, according to Jack Canfield, co-creator of the beloved books.  And Harry Potter received more than 10 rejections before being picked up.  These stories have inspired and entertained millions of people around the world, including myself.

I am thankful for the example set by writers and others (including my blind dog).  Something or someone inspires you.  Don't let that inspiration lie dormant.  Never give up.  Keep on going like a determined blind dog, sharing your words of wisdom and entertainment with the world!

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Thank you for this inspirational guest post, Gayle!  Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with my Blind Dog sounds incredible--I hope to read your stories before too long.  As a blogger, I've discovered that perseverance is paramount to success.  As an animal lover, I'm aware that our pets can teach us so much, if we're tuned into them.  Presently, we have a ginger-colored Persian cat with some health issues, Mugsy.  He's affectionate and communicative--and very cute--and we absolutely cherish him.  On a different note, as a child I was in awe of my friend's father, who was completely blind but went running and cross-country skiing--nothing stopped him from living life to the fullest!  His positive attitude was terrific and inspiring.   It's remarkable what can be accomplished through perseverance!

Reader comments welcomed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Crazy Enough Giveaway


Yes, you are seeing double!
    In January of 2012, I read and reviewed Crazy Enough, a memoir by singer-songwriter Storm Large.  To celebrate the release of this book as a paperback, Kristin from Simon & Schuster is offering a special giveaway to my readers (U.S./Canada only).  Two randomly chosen readers will win a copy of this book!

    • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
    • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower.
    • For one more entry, read my review and leave a comment here about why you'd like to read this memoir.
    • For an additional chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.

    Enter by 5 PM PST on Monday, November 26.  One winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, November 27.
     

      Thursday, November 8, 2012

      Lola's Secret: Review and Giveaway

      Move over, Miss Jean Brodie!  At the age of 84,  Lola Quinlan may be in the prime of her life.

      I've just read Lola's Secret by Monica McInerney, which was published in 2012, a sequel to the popular novel, The Alphabet Sisters.  The second book is set is South Australia, and starts right before the holidays.  Lola surprises her family by insisting that they spend Christmas away from her and the Valley View Motel in Clare this year.

      I certainly don't want to spoil the secret (or secrets) of the novel, but I'll tell you a few things about the main character, the Irish-born matriarch Lola Quinlan (who's still trying to get used to Australia's intense heat).  This book is a real treat--in many ways--and it's because of Lola.  (L-O-L-A!)  She's a very engaging, funny, flawed (just a bit) and altogether irresistible protagonist, who's in her 80's but is decidedly young-at-heart, and always, it seems, up to some sort of mischief.  I adored her character, and the fact that she bashes many stereotypes about older people.  Lola's Secret focuses on relationships and connections with others, including those made on the internet.  Lola's pretty adept with computers and her "mobile" (as they are called in Australia). 

      "The truth was, she wanted to get into her computer before her shift was over.  It was two days since she had a chance to check her emails and she was getting twitchy."
       ~Lola's Secret, Monica McInerney

      She's not retiring but is like an actress, dressing in a unique and zany way, and completing her outfits with bright lipstick.  She helps run the family's Valley View Motel, volunteers at a thrift shop with other ladies, and cares very much about her family, which now includes great-grandchildren.

      Instead of a litany of complaints, Lola has ample spunk and energy, and tries to live each day to the fullest, fueled by imagination, zest, and reflection.  Lola's supporting cast is composed of family (Jim, Glenn, Ellen, Anna, Bett, Carrie, and others), prospective motel guests (Neil, Helen, Tony, Martha, Holly, Chloe, Belle), and friends (such as Luke and Margaret); their stories are ingeniously tied into the main character's.  Lola's character truly sparkled for me.  In fact, she deserves an Emmy.  

      If a unique Christmas story with a saucy and appealing protagonist sounds like your cup of tea, then I have good news for you.  Random House is generously offering a copy of Lola's Secret to one of my readers (U.S./Canada only).

      • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
      • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower.
      • For an additional chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.
      • For one more chance, name a book with an older protagonist that you've read and enjoyed. 

      Enter by 5 PM PST on Monday, November 19.  One winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, November 20. 


      Special thanks to Lisa from TLC for sending me this book.  My version included wonderful extras at the end: an interview with the author about the book, as well as the first chapter of The Alphabet Sisters, the prequel to this charming novel (Lola's Secret is a "spin-off" from that book).  To read more reviews, please visit the other stops on TLC's book tour for Lola's Secret

      Tuesday, November 6, 2012

      Really Random Tuesday #55: Election Day and Amazon Gift Card Winner


      Will you join the more than 90 million Americans expected to cast their ballots today? This is a special Tuesday because it's election day in the United States; the choices we make today will influence the next four years--and beyond.  If you live in America, please vote if you haven't already done so.  I plan on going to the polls this morning to vote.  Women's suffrage in America was gradually achieved during the late 1800s and early 1900s, culminating in 1920 with the passage of the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution.  It's as important as ever to make our voices heard by voting!

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      And now, the moment many have been waiting for!  The winner of my $25 Amazon gift card giveaway is Petty from Pen and Paper.  Please help me to congratulate her!  Petty increased her odds of winning by doing things to earn extra chances in this international giveaway.  As a side note, Petty not only participated in my reading challenge, The Jodi Picoult Project, but she read and reviewed three books for it months before I did (I needed the entire, allotted year to finish my three books!), and she exceeded the general requirement, which was to read but a single novel by this prolific author.  And now I want to read one of the books Petty recommended by Jodi Picoult, Plain Truth, which is set in an Amish community.  I've recently discovered Amish fiction, and I'm eager to read more.

      Another recent discovery I've made is that you can design your own gift card on Amazon, by uploading a photo or graphic onto it.  Consequently, I will be giving Petty a "Jodi Picoult Project" gift card soon.  Of course, she can purchase whatever she wants with the card, it doesn't have to be a Jodi Picoult book; in fact, it doesn't even have to be a book (or books); Amazon sells just about everything!

      If you didn't win this giveaway, don't be too disgruntled; instead take a look at the other terrific giveaways I have listed on the right side of my blog. 

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      Appearing on random Tuesdays, Really Random Tuesday is a way to post odds and ends--announcements, musings, quotes, photos--any blogging and book-related things you can think of.  I often announce my book giveaway winners in these posts.  If you're inspired by this idea, feel free to "grab" the button for use on your own blog, and indicate your participation in the comments so I'll know to stop by. Your comments are welcomed!

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