Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Matter of Mercy: Review and Giveaway

Published in 2014, A Matter of Mercy by writer Lynne Hugo is an emotional story from the start.  Set in Wellfleet, MA, a fishing village, A Matter of Mercy focuses on the traditional way of life in Cape Cod.  The story is told in the third person, mostly from the perspectives of two main characters, Caroline Marcum and Ridley Neal, and to a lesser extent from the point of view of Truro's librarian, Teresa DiPaulo.  At the beginning of the book, Caroline's mother, Eleanor, a potter, is dying of ovarian cancer, and is being cared for by a kind hospice nurse, Elsie.

Caroline, 40, has stayed away from Wellfleet after her DWI car accident in Provincetown over six years ago, when she hit a mother and her child, which killed the four-year-old boy, Alexander.  Caroline has returned home to Wellfleet solely because of her mother's grave illness.  Rid, who's a couple of years younger than Caroline and always calls her CiCi, is also from Wellfleet.  He spent four and a half years in prison for using and selling drugs.  Now Rid is an aquaculturist who works the flats on a 5-acre grant that his father left him, raising and harvesting oysters and quahogs (hard-shell clams).  Rid loves his profession, his dog, Lizzie, and his way of life.  Caroline went to college and became a teacher, but she lost her certificate to teach and also spent time in prison, due to the fatal accident. One evening, Caroline sees Rid working outside and goes out to help him right before a big storm hits.  They end up having a few drinks, and spend the night together, which will alter the course of their lives.  Rid soon learns that a disgruntled homeowner named Pissario has filed a lawsuit against him, Tomas, and Mario (other nearby aquaculturists), and that they may lose their grants.  A bit later in the book, Caroline accidentally encounters Terry, the mother of the child who died in the accident, at the library where she works, and she's forced to revisit her painful past. 

"The sun slid below the horizon degree by degree, a great read neon ball being lowered from an invisible string held by God, fiery and benign.  The bay answered with tongues and darts and minnows of color."
~ A Matter of Mercy, Lynne Hugo

Inspired by a 1996 lawsuit, A Matter of Mercy is a very touching book, that has gotten a lot of wonderful reviews.  It paints a picture of Cape Cod, a complete seascape, with sound, scent, and ocean spray.  While I was reading it, I felt as if I lived on the Cape, and I became immersed in and enamored by a subject that was completely new to me, aquaculture.  The author did extensive research for her book about aquaculture and the aquaculturists, who "live in respectful harmony with the tides and ecosystem of the bay".  In the Author's Note at the beginning of the book, Lynne Hugo mentions an aquaculturist who was especially helpful to her, Barbara Austin.  I was able to "meet" Barbara Austin in a fascinating YouTube video (there's also a character in the book named Barb who's an aquaculturist, mentioned by Rid several times, although this novel is fiction).

A Matter of Mercy is a novel that deserves close attention. The characters and the setting are very well drawn.  The descriptions of the seascape in Cape Cod are magnificent, and the main (and secondary) characters are flawed, realistic, and (mostly) likable.  They make mistakes, they suffer, and they don't communicate freely or honestly.  (After their first chance meeting, Caroline keeps visiting Terry at the library, pretending to be a journalist researching a story; this was painful to read about.)

We have mercy for the characters, and want them to be happy, or at least happier.  The matter of mercy comes up several times in the book, and there are different instances of it throughout.  In this way, the book highlights the need for mercy.  Mercy is compassion or forbearance shown, especially to an offender; it can also mean something for which to be thankful, a blessing (Rid's grant is a blessing to him, from his father).  The last notable instance of mercy was surprising to me, but perfect for this story.

When Lisa from TLC contacted me about this novel, she called it a literary book.  It is a literary book.  I'd definitely like to read other novels by Lynne Hugo.  She has created a story that brings the characters and setting to life, quite vividly.  I was hooked by this story in the first chapter, and my attention remained strong through the very last chapter.  The writing is beautiful and poignant.  I took my time reading A Matter of Mercy, and I truly savored it. 

Thanks to the author and TLC, I'm thrilled to offer my readers a giveaway for a copy of A Matter of Mercy (U.S.A. /Canada).

  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or indicate that you're already a follower.
  • For an additional chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.
  • If you have read another book by this author, such as Graceland, mention it here for another chance at winning.

Enter by 5 PM PDT on Monday, February 9.  One winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, February 10.  Good luck to all!


Special thanks to Lisa from TLC for sending me a complimentary copy of this novel.  Please visit the other stops on TLC's book blog tour for A Matter of Mercy

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Really Random Tuesday #89: A Book Winner and Literary Coffee Mugs

 


Please help me to congratulate Carl Scott, the winner of Humbled by the Journey: Life Lessons for My Family... and Yours by Miguel "Mike" Benito Fernandez (with Martin Merzer), or Mike Fernandez.  Congratulations, Carl!  Next month, I will post my full review of this memoir, which I spotlighted earlier this month.   

Thanks to everyone who participated in the giveaway for Humbled by the Journey.  If you didn't win this time, please take a look at the other giveaways listed on my blog.  You may find other books you're interested in.


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Book Shaped Saucer & Stackable Cup


Are you having a snow day?  Many parts of the United States are getting some heavy snow right now.  Please stay safe, and if necessary, stay indoors (and read!).  I live in CA, so we're having our usual, lovely weather, 63º and sunny, but I'm a big coffee drinker in the cool mornings here.  Regardless of the weather, though, winter is a good time to enjoy a hot cup of coffee or tea. Why not treat yourself, or another book lover, to one of these clever literary mugs from GoneReading.com, a fantastic online shop?  These mugs are reasonably priced ($11.99 - $12.95), and all of the after-tax profits go to help fund libraries and reading programs around the world!  And, if you order before the end of February, input the code SUKOS15 to get 15% off any non-clearance merchandise!

First Lines of Literature Mug


Banned Books Mug

Which one is your favorite?  I've featured just a few here, but there are many other literary mugs available, as well as numerous other fun items for book lovers.  I'm a huge fan of GoneReading!

                                                       
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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 have miscellaneous book news to gather up and are inspired by this idea, "grab" the button for use on your own blog, and add your link to the "master" Mister Linky on the Really Random Tuesday page.

Have a terrific Tuesday, and thanks for stopping by! Your comments are welcomed.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Why I Write Poetry, not Prose: A Guest Post by Laura Foley

Laura Foley is the author of four collections of poetry: Joy Street, The Glass Tree, Mapping the Fourth Dimension, and Syringa.  As if being a poet isn't enough, she's also a volunteer chaplain, yoga teacher, and creative arts facilitator in hospitals, who resides in Vermont with her partner, Clara, and their three dogs.  In connection with yesterday's review of Joy Street, here is an exclusive guest post by Laura Foley, which includes a poem.

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Laura's workspace

Why I Write Poetry, not Prose: A Guest Post by Laura Foley

For this blog post, I am asking the question why I write poetry, not prose.  Many of the poems in my new chapbook, Joy Street, originated in a writing group for prose writers.  I was the only poet, and I wanted to see what it would be like to try prose.  As it turned out, everything I wrote came out in little bursts of images, emotional explosions.  Some people call them prose poems, some people call them poems, some say it’s flash non-fiction. Whatever the name, writing these small stories is what I most enjoy doing, and feels genuine to my experience.  I love the process of working an image into a shape, to chip at a block of remembered experience until it shines with it’s own essence.  When I was a kid, I liked to collect postage stamps, exotic animals from Africa, a queen from Spain, an Indonesian palm leaf: lovely little worlds.  Also as a child, I had a mineral collection, each one in its own little box.  I’ve written a poem about this which I’ll include here.  Maybe it explains a little about why I write poems?  In any case, whatever I write, I hope it shines.


Little Rooms

In fourth grade I made a box
for stones, twenty little rooms, 
each gem tidy
on its cotton-puff bed: 
limonite, quartz, azurite; 
each name printed neatly on paper labels
in royal blue: garnet, 
muscovite, feldspar. 
Twenty little rooms
equal in comfort, 
labeled with certainty: 
pyrite, gypsum, magnetite; 
each owning definite properties: 
could scratch lines on another, or not, 
shine like gold, streak like chalk, 
or break glass-like
into fragile prismatic shards.


Thank you very much for your guest post and poem, Laura!  I enjoyed reading this "small story", as well as the ones in Joy Street.  Your poems truly are "like crystal: delicate, sharp, clear, full of light", as poet Patricia Fargnoli says, and they emanate joy.

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Special thanks to Serena from Savvy Verse and Wit and to Lisa from TLC for the opportunity to present this guest post.  Please visit the other stops on TLC's book blog tour for Joy Street.  

Your comments are appreciated.  If you'd like an additional entry in my giveaway for Joy Street, please indicate that in your comment here. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Joy Street: Review and Giveaway

“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.”
~ Mark Twain 

Published in 2014, Joy Street by poet Laura Foley is a chapbook of thirty-three poems.  I read Joy Street quickly and intently one afternoon, then reread it on a different day, and jotted down some notes.  I read a few of the poems out loud (when I was the only one at home) because poetry is meant to be heard.  I'm never quite sure how to best read or review a collection of poems (or short stories), but I suppose there is no right or wrong way.

The poems in Joy Street are honest and personal, and could be autobiographical.  Some of the poems (or poetic narratives) are written as descriptive paragraphs, rather than in stanzas.  Below is a short example of this style, in Laura Foley's poem about writing, which will resonate with writers.


On Sense

After two beach weeks, sun-tanned and sandy, I perch, air-deprived as 
a pet canary, amidst piled books, diligently marking paper with pen, 
while anybody with any sense enjoys the air at the nearest body of 
water, as I follow the urge to make sense of surf, to make waves that 
may outlast memory. 


The title of the collection, Joy Street, is found in the poem, No GPS Necessary, although the author's profound sense of joy is present throughout the book.  Laura Foley expresses the joy she feels in various poems: while buying fruit in Springtime at the Grocery Store, when she sees her partner, Clara, gardening in Voyeur, while Clara is at the hospital in Like Teenagers, and elsewhere. This poet shares her joy with readers in a clear, direct, and distinct manner.  The collection is aptly titled, and these poems gracefully capture moments of joy.  I found the poems interesting and I enjoyed reading them.  Joy Street made me think about the joy I feel in my own life (my cup runneth over at times), and it made me feel appreciative.

Thanks to the author and TLC, I'm very pleased to offer a giveaway for this book (U.S.A. /Canada).

  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or indicate that you're already a follower.
  • For an additional chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.
  • For another chance, share some joy!  Name "a little thing" that gives you joy (mine is panang curry with tofu). 
  • For one more entry, leave a comment on tomorrow's guest post with Laura Foley.

Enter by 5 PM PDT on Monday, February 2.  One winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, February 3.  Best of luck to all!


Special thanks to Serena from Savvy Verse and Wit for inviting me to participate in this tour, and to Lisa from TLC for providing a copy of this book.  Please stop by again tomorrow for my guest post with Laura Foley.  For more reviews, giveaways, and other features, visit the other stops on TLC's book blog tour for Joy Street.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Metabolism Solution

"The Metabolism Solution is the way to get into the best shape of your life, guaranteed."
~ The Metabolism Solution, Lisa Lynn


Motivated by the author's own struggles with weight loss, The Metabolism Solution: Lose 1 Pound Per Day and Melt Belly Fat Fast! by celebrity fitness and nutrition expert Lisa Lynn begins with Lisa's personal story.  Born into a family of alcoholics and addicts, Lisa became a compulsive overeater who sought comfort from food as a young child.  When she was older, she wanted to lose weight, but regular dieting and exercising didn't seem to help her much.  Ironically, she was interested in health and fitness, and had started to work in the fitness business, although nothing worked for her personally.  While working out at the gym in 1991, Lisa met Dr. Fred Hatfield, an internationally renowned fitness expert, who was looking for trainers to help with a study he was conducting.  Through her work with Dr. Hatfield, Lisa learned a great deal, and she went on to explore even further the effects of food and exercise on metabolism.  She discovered that certain foods could boost metabolism and speed weight loss, and that more exercise was not always better (she had been working out obsessively).  Lisa also learned that specific supplements could help with weight loss.  She realized that her approach to weight loss was fear-based, and that she needed to change this.  Before too long, Lisa became known at the gym as the trainer who got "fast results".  One morning at the gym, Martha Stewart asked for her help, and she soon became Martha's trainer and friend (as mentioned in my spotlight post, Lisa has appeared on The Martha Stewart Show, and The Dr. Oz Show, numerous times).  Over the years, she has earned four educational certificates from the International Sports and Sciences Association’s Professional Division: Certified Fitness Trainer, Specialist in Performance Nutrition, Fitness Therapy, and Elite Trainer.  Lisa took what she learned from Dr. Hatfield, combined it with her own extensive research and experience, and wrote The Metabolism Solution, which was published in 2014.  

Like Lisa, I've learned about food over the years (although I haven't earned any educational certificates).  After I had kids, I didn't want my metabolism to change, so I became more careful about what I ate, and I began to exercise on a regular basis.  I thought the idea of this book sounded promising, and since I want to continue to have a healthy metabolism as I get older, I welcomed a review copy of this book.

"Hunger is a good sign. It means your body is about to burn fat."
~ The Metabolism Solution, Lisa Lynn 

I never thought of hunger in that way before; many of us think that feeling hungry is a bad thing, to be avoided at all costs (now I may actually welcome it).  Divided into nine chapters, with photographs, charts, and recipes, The Metabolism Solution is full of information and tips for boosting your metabolism.  Lisa has devoted nearly three decades of her career to personal training, specializing in metabolic weight loss and performance nutrition, so she has a lot to say.  Many of the chapters in the book are devoted to food.  (I won't reveal too much of the book's contents, but I will provide a handful of tidbits from the book.)  Lisa says that we may think we're hungry when we're really thirsty, and that by drinking enough water, we can boost our metabolic rate (note to self: drink more water).  She recommends limiting fruit to one or two servings per day for greater weight loss, because fruit converts to sugar very quickly during digestion.  (I eat a lot of fruit; in fact, I'm a fruitoholic.)  Chapters Two and Three are about using supplements to boost your metabolism, such as Omega-3.  Chapter Six is all about exercise.  One of the exercises in this section is called The Metabolic Core Walk, to rev up your metabolism, and Lisa also includes instructions for an intense looking 30-minute workout.  Did you know that being able to touch your toes is quite important?  I'll admit that I'd forgotten this (and that flexibility is something I need to work on).  One of the things Lisa says--and I love this, even though I do exercise--is that if you eat right, you can exercise less.  Chapter Seven pertains to the psychological and emotional aspects of eating, and Chapter Eight is titled, "GOD and Your Bod", where she stresses the importance of faith.  But back to food, in Chapter Nine, the final chapter--and some fun!

I love that The Metabolism Solution has recipes in it!  Chapter Nine is comprised of over a hundred thermogenic (fat-burning) recipes.  I tried out a couple of easy recipes (my favorite kind).  Both were "hits" with my family.  I altered Lisa's recipes a bit, but the ideas are from her book, told in my own words.  (I always cook with as many organic ingredients as possible, although I didn't label the ingredients as such.)

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LISA'S FAMOUS SAUTÉED SALAD



Ingredients:
Spray olive oil, or 1/2 tablespoon (or less) olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 clove minced garlic
3 or 4 white mushrooms, sliced
3 Romaine hearts (I used two), chopped up
1/4 teaspoon NoSalt (I used herbs instead, like oregano, and a touch of black pepper)
Grated (or shredded) Parmesan cheese (optional)


Directions:
We eat a lot of raw salads in our house.  I was intrigued by the idea of a sautéed salad.  This salad calls for three heads of Romaine lettuce, but three seemed like too much for us that evening, so I chopped up two.  (Trader Joe's sells a package of three organic Romaine hearts at a great price.)  Spray a bit of olive oil (from a  Misto) or drizzle oil into a medium-large skillet and sauté the mushrooms, onions, herbs, and a bit of garlic for about 10 minutes, on low heat.  Then add the Romaine, and let the mixture cook for several more minutes, stirring every so often.  That's it!  Serve with Parmesan, if desired.  My family seemed to enjoy this variation of salad. 


Sautéed Salad

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I also tried out Lisa's recipe for apple chips, several times.  They are super easy to prepare, delicious, and perhaps best of all, the house smells heavenly while they are baking.

HOMEMADE BAKED CINNAMON APPLE CHIPS



Ingredients:
1 to 3 apples
1 teaspoon cinnamon (or to taste--I just sprinkle it on!)

Directions:
It doesn't get any easier than this!  But, they take about three hours to cook, so plan accordingly.  Slice the apple(s) very thinly, then sprinkle with cinnamon.  Cook in the oven at 200º for an hour on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (I used two toaster oven sized trays).  Flip apple pieces after about one hour.  Continue to bake them for another hour or two, flipping the pieces occasionally, until no longer moist.  These are a very tasty and nutritious snack, which I will make often.  I would never have thought to bake apples in this manner, but now I am obsessed with them.  :)

Cinnamon Apple Chips

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Many thanks to Laura from iRead Book Tours for sending me a complimentary copy of this book. Please visit the other stops on the iRead book tour for The Metabolism Solution for more reviews, giveaways, and other features. 

Thanks for stopping by!  Your comments are welcomed.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Humbled by the Journey: Spotlight and Giveaway



"I am grateful for the opportunity I now employ to share with you this journey--this journey not only through France and Spain but also through life."
~ Humbled by the Journey, Mike Fernandez

Having seen the movie The Way (2010), and more recently, Wild (2014), I am intrigued by the focus of this book: a long, arduous, and transformative walking journey.   Humbled by the Journey: Life Lessons for My Family... and Yours by Miguel "Mike" Benito Fernandez (with Martin Merzer)--or simply Mike Fernandez--is a memoir about the author's life, which features his 508-mile pilgrimage along El Camino de Santiago, from France deep into Spain.  Miami businessman Mike Fernandez is the founder of MBF Healthcare Partners and Simply Healthcare Plans, and is a major benefactor to Miami Children's Hospital.  In 2013, Mike hiked along El Camino, with a pledge for each mile that raised more than $5 million for the children's hospital.  Humbled by the Journey is Mike's remarkable story, a beautifully-designed book with photographs (and other pictures), which focuses on his family and his walking journey from the French town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago, Spain.  The author hopes his book will inspire others to achieve their dreams and to share their blessings.

Born in the small town of Manzanillo, Mike was 12 years old when his family was exiled from Cuba during revolutionary times in 1964; they traveled to America, and soon moved to New York City.  Through hard work, determination, and perseverance, Mike became a very successful business owner and philanthropist.  His business partner and NBA legend, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, speaks very highly of Mike in the book, whom he considers to be a friend and mentor.  I have not yet read every page of Humbled by the Journey (please stay tuned for my review, which will most likely include several excellent quotations from the book), but I've read enough to say that it's fascinating and inspiring!

I was honored to receive an early copy of Humbled by the Journey from Jessica Jonap. The book will be available later this month, but you can pre-order the book from Books & Books (more than 17,000 books have already been pre-sold).  All proceeds from book sales go to The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation, a nonprofit focused on early childhood education and “school readiness"--making high-quality health, education, and nurturing available and affordable for all children.

Thanks to Jessica and this exceptionally generous author, I'm thrilled to offer a giveaway for this book (U.S.A. only)!

  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or indicate that you're already a follower.
  • For an additional chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.
  • For yet another chance, include a favorite quotation about walking or hiking in your comment.

Enter by 5 PM PST on Monday, January 26.  One winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, January 27.  As always, thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

First Book of the Year 2015


I am a master at slow reading.  This is not because I wish to decelerate the pace of modern life, but simply due to the frenzy of the holiday season.  I've had a wonderful but busy time with family and friends, and consequently I did not have as much reading time.  This morning I slept in, and decided to participate in this marvelous meme, created and hosted by Sheila from Book Journey, First Book of the Year, at the last second, although I've kept it in the back of my mind since I first read about it (the adorable button is reason enough to join in).

My first book of 2015 is a novel by Lynne Hugo, A Matter of Mercy, which I'm reading for a TLC book tour.  I started this book a few weeks ago, and I'm still reading it (I have a few more chapters to go).  Please stay tuned for my review of it later this month.

Happy New Year!  I hope that 2015 will be a healthy and fortunate year for us all. Thanks for reading! 

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