Tuesday, April 29, 2014

For National Poetry Month: Poet Sweta Srivastava Vikram

In 1996, the Academy of American Poets created National Poetry Month, to be celebrated each April.  During the month of April, schools, libraries, booksellers, poets, and bloggers throughout the U.S. celebrate poetry by participating in readings, festivals, workshops, and other special events.

April has gone by too quickly!  I wasn't organized enough to be on the schedule for the National Poetry Month: Reach for the Horizon Blog Tour hosted by Serena from Savvy Verse & Wit, but I did want to post something worthwhile in honor of National Poetry Month.

Over the past few years, I've had the pleasure of reading four powerful books of contemporary poetry by award-winning writer Sweta Srivastava Vikram, Because All is Not Lost, Kaleidoscope: An Asian Journey of Colors, Beyond the Scent of Sorrow, No Ocean Here, as well as her striking novel, Perfectly Untraditional.  I've reviewed each of these books on my blog, and I also posted an exclusive interview with Sweta in 2010.  If you visit her website, you'll learn more about this prolific, multi-talented author, and you'll be amazed (but not surprised if you've read any of her work) at all of the honors and awards she's won!  When I heard the recent news that her poetry books were traveling to Scotland to a university library as well as to the Glasgow Women's Library, I decided I'd found the perfect subject for my poetry post.

In the nick of time, before National Poetry Month draws to a close, I'm privileged to present one of her poems from the book No Ocean Here, a collection of poetry published in 2013, about women from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.  This book, which has become an Amazon bestseller, gives women a voice against the violence and oppression they face far too frequently.

Sweta Srivastava Vikram

The poet prefaces her poem, "Superwoman", nominated for the Pushcart Prize, with the following statement:

Even in educated, modern families, men and women are not expected to do an equal share of housework despite both the husband and wife keeping jobs.


Her poems smell of onions,
even the raw air disapproves.

She is tired of being a superwoman--
slicing her dreams,
for dinner, running
from wall to cement,
picking up pieces
of wishes not her own,
looking beautiful during the day,
abandoned by prayers at night.

She turns on the water in the sink,
it drowns the sound of her tears.
Sighing, she pounds her fist into bread dough
until the blue veins on her fingers squirm
and she blames the onions.

I think this poem will resonate with women worldwide, with those who work outside of the home, as well as "only" in the home (man may work from sun to sun, but women's work is never done).

Thank you for graciously sharing your poem on my blog, Sweta.  Your poetry possesses style, eloquence, and depth, and I look forward to reading your new work.

Comments are welcomed.

(PUBLISHING DISCLAIMER: “Superwoman” excerpted with permission from the book No Ocean Here published by Modern History Press.  Copyright (c) 2013 Sweta Srivastava Vikram.  All Rights Reserved.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

World Book Day 2014

In honor of World Book Day, Books for Africa mailed out 33,000 books to Zimbabwe and Nigeria this morning!  Created in 1995 by UNESCO, World Book Day is an annual event celebrated on April 23 to promote books and reading.  In the United Kingdom, World Book Day is celebrated on the first Thursday in March (this year it was on March 6).  Some book bloggers, including Bellezza from Dolce Bellezza, will be giving away free books on World Book Day/Night, while others, like Tracy from Pen and Paper, will join in by reading a book from a list of books that are being distributed.

How will you celebrate World Book Day?  Please feel free to leave a link in the comments if you're giving away books, or celebrating in another manner.  Today, especially--thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Really Random Tuesday #80: Gardening Fun, Yellow Flowers, and a Book Winner

Tiny milkweed plants

Cherry tomato sprouts
Strawberry plants ready to be potted

Now that Easter is past, I hope the spring weather has arrived for everyone, and that the warmer days will inspire gardeners to get outdoors and spend time in the garden.  We're lucky in Southern California as the weather is usually mild, and even though we have a lack of water, it's easy to have a garden year-round.  Much to my surprise, I've been able to grow many herbs outdoors, including oregano, sage, mint, rosemary, and basil, which have been thriving in my garden.  Even my lavender plant looks healthy!  Currently, I'm thrilled that my cherry tomato seeds have sprouted, as well as the milkweed seeds I planted.  There's something especially wonderful about growing plants from seeds.  I'll leave the cherry tomatoes in pots, but hope to be able to transplant at least some of the milkweed to the milkweed section of my garden, when the plant are larger and stronger.  Some of my mature milkweed plants have disappeared, mysteriously, but at least I have two healthy looking plants left, to attract the monarchs.  I suspect one of the outdoor feral cats removed the milkweed plants, although I'm not certain.  (This sounds like it could be a storyline in a cat cozy mystery: The Case of the Missing Milkweed: A Meow Mystery.)  I'll plant the strawberry plants in the planter after I drill some drainage holes in the bottom of it.  I haven't had much luck growing strawberries in the past, but I can't resist trying again (hope springs eternal).  If you enjoy gardening, what do you like to plant in the springtime?


Yellow flowers are supposed to make you feel happy (or happier).  At the very least, they signify spring.  I photographed these cheerful yellow roses with my phone at the California State Capitol in Sacramento, during the recent Key Club convention (I went along as a chaperone).  The tulips are a lovely Easter hostess gift from my sister-in-law's parents.  I love the color!  I'll plant the bulbs outside after the blooms are gone, to enjoy them next year.


Traveler is the randomly chosen winner of The Idea of Him by Holly Peterson.  Congratulations!  I hope you'll enjoy the author's new novel.

If you didn't win this book, please take a look at the other book giveaways listed on the right side of my blog.  I update this list frequently as a courtesy to my readers.


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.

Thanks for reading!  Your comments are welcomed.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Really Random Tuesday #79: Anniversary Giveaway and a Book Winner

Happy Tuesday to all!  I have only a couple of random items today. 

France Book Tours will be having a grand 1-year anniversary in just a few days, on April 18.  I've enjoyed working with Emma and participating in three France-related book tours over the past year, namely, The Summer of France and I See London I See France by Paulita Kincer, and Unravelled by M.K. Tod. To celebrate this special anniversary, France Book Tours will offer a mega book giveaway from April 18 - 25, so be sure to stop by.  Book winners will be chosen on April 26.


The lucky, randomly-chosen winner of The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh is Pat from Posting For Now, a well-written book blog I enjoy visiting frequently.  Congratulations, Pat!  I hope you'll enjoy this book as much as I did.

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway.  I value my readers, and I offer numerous book giveaways to show my appreciation.  I have other current giveaways listed on the right side of my blog, so take a look if you'd like to try to win a book, and remember to stop by France Book Tours' celebratory giveaway, beginning on April 18.


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

Your comments are welcomed!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


INVENTORY ITEM: Vintage, a novel by Susan Gloss
ITEM DESCRIPTION: Advanced reader's edition of Vintage, a novel for women about clothing and friendship and following your dreams.
SOURCE: TLC Book Tours and William Morrow Publishers

Like many women, I'd love to have my own shop.  While I know it would be a lot of work (endless work, perhaps!), it still sounds like fun to me.  I can picture myself selling one-of-a-kind, eclectic items like clothing, accessories, and small housewares.  I have a friend who'll be opening a shop soon, and I'm thrilled for her.  She will even feature some handmade beaded jewelry a friend and I purchased from artists in central Mexico.  I'm looking forward to the grand opening of her shop next month!

I've heard it said that timing is everything, and this book came along at just the right time for me.  Published last month, Vintage by Susan Gloss is a novel that focuses on the life of Violet Turner, who owns a vintage clothing shop in Madison, Wisconsin.  After her marriage ended, Violet moved from Bent Creek to Madison to follow her dream to open a vintage clothing store, Hourglass Vintage.  Her shop is not only the means by which she makes a living, it's also a meeting place for her.  In the first chapter Violet meets April Morgan, an 18-year-old who wants to return her vintage wedding dress because she doesn't need it, and Amithi Singh, a traditional wife and mother who brings in saris and scarves to sell after she learns of her husband's betrayal.  In the first chapter, too, Violet is served with an eviction notice at her shop, to her great dismay. 

The story is told in the third person from the perspectives of these three protagonists, Violet, April, and Amithi, although I saw this as Violet's story, first and foremost.  Each of these women have their own story, and struggles, and each is in a state of transition.  As a result of meeting at the shop, they become friends. The friendships in Vintage grow and develop at a believable pace, and I relished reading about the supportiveness that these friends show each other.

Author Susan Gloss uses articles of clothing (and other items, such as Fiesta dishes) to tell stories about the past which pertain to the characters.  This is how we learn their histories (or herstories).  Each chapter begins with a description of an item, and many of them have a special significance in the novel.  (Clothing can certainly have more than a material purpose; it holds memories for a lot of us; I remember what clothing I wore to significant events in my own life.)

The term vintage implies that something has gotten better with age, like a fine wine.  Things of value from the past shouldn't be discarded, but recognized and cherished; isn't that the whole the idea behind antique shops and vintage clothing stores?  If you're like me, and enjoy browsing in these shops, then you'd probably also enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at such a place.  I truly adored this book.  I was drawn into the lives of the main characters right away, and I cared about them (other characters in the book include Betsy, Lane, Karen, Jed, Naveen, Jayana, and Sam).  Vintage portrays women of different ages and in different roles in a very positive way.  It's a charming book that celebrates the beauty of vintage clothing, the value of friendship, and the importance of believing in yourself and following your dreams. 

Special thanks to Trish from TLC for sending me an advance copy of Vintage.  For more reviews and features, please visit the other stops on TLC's book tour for Vintage.

As always, your comments are welcomed.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Really Random Tuesday #78: Homemade Sun-dried Tomatoes, a Spring Surprise, and a Book Winner

Several months ago, I was intrigued when I found a recipe within a recipe for making your own sun-dried tomatoes on a vegetarian blog that my daughter loves.  The recipe is super easy, and I've made sun-dried tomatoes many times since then.  Unfortunately, I can't find the original recipe that sparked my interest, so I can't give credit and thanks where it's due.

Homemade Sun-dried Tomatoes
To make your own sun-dried tomatoes, coat a small pan (such as a toaster oven pan) with cooking spray or oil.  Slice desired quantity of cherry tomatoes in half and place upright on pan.  I usually get sugar plum cherry tomatoes from Trader Joe's; they are the best--sweet, tasty, and inexpensive--and they're organic!  (This year, I'm also trying to grow some of my own cherry tomatoes, from a Home Depot plant, as well as from seeds I've recently planted.)  Sprinkle sliced tomatoes with salt, spices, and herbs.  I like to use pink Himalayan or Hawaiian salt, and organic oregano, basil, and rosemary from my garden, or from Trader Joe's, and black pepper.  Then mist everything with some organic olive oil.  I use a Misto which is a nice way of controlling the amount of oil.

Cook tomatoes in a 200° or 225° oven for about 2 to 3 hours, until the tomatoes look like "real" sun-dried tomatoes.  This recipe is foolproof as long as you check on the tomatoes every so often and don't forget about them altogether.  Setting the oven timer helps me, especially when I'm multi-tasking.   :)

Before cooking

After cooking

Once they're made, it's hard to resist popping them into your mouth.  The flavor becomes so concentrated and delicious.  I like to add sun-dried tomatoes to pasta dishes.  I'm not sure how else to use them.  What are some more creative ways to use sun-dried tomatoes?


I wasn't expecting to see this "amarylllis" in the garden this spring, popping out above the geraniums and sea lavender.  I planted the bulb outside about a year ago, and basically forgot all about it.  And now it has bloomed!  I think it's grown because this area (the side of the garage) gets watered automatically and regularly. 
April 2014

February 2013


Please help me to congratulate Julianne from Outlandish Lit.  She's won a copy of  The Frangipani Hotel: Stories by Violet Kupersmith.

Congratulations, Julianne!  I think you'll enjoy this collection of short fiction. Your blog is new to me and it looks quite inviting.  I'll visit it again as soon as I have a few minutes to spare.

Afternoon update:  I just found out that Julianne has won a copy of this book elsewhere, so I drew a new winner, Rebecca Orr.   Congratulations, Rebecca!

If you didn't win this time, don't be dismayed!  Please take a look at the other book giveaways listed the right side of my blog, and click on the book covers that interest you.


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

As always, your comments are welcomed!

Monday, April 7, 2014

On Surfing: A Guest Post by Holly Peterson, and a Giveaway

Holly Peterson is the author of the best-selling novel The Manny, published in 2007.  Last month, I participated in the cover reveal for her new book, The Idea of Him, and today I'm honored to feature her guest post on an unexpected topic.


On Surfing: A Guest Post by Holly Peterson

Many people don’t know that I surf.  Or that I started when I was 42 years old.  It’s a pretty crazy story that is very much linked to my writing this book.  I have to go back and tell you in my thirties, like so many women, I was charging ahead at full speed and had very little time to reflect.  Now I understand that was intentional. Three kids, a horrible Manhattan renovation, a job working for a very demanding magazine, and a beautiful sister-in-law who was dying of breast cancer.  All at once.  I had no time to breathe let alone manage the sadness of Meredith being ill.

Instead, I rushed full speed ahead to just tap dance as best I could.  That August when Meredith was really dying and there was no denying it anymore, I got into the Atlantic Ocean on a clear day in Long Island, paddled out for a surf lesson, got pushed into a wave, and actually stood up on my first try.  It was just exhilarating.  I did it again, and again, and again.  And then I started going in every morning and afternoon to feel that rush…always with an instructor pushing me into waves which is fully cheating on a major level…but the point is I was standing on the board for maybe a dozen waves an hour and I didn’t care how I got in them, just that I was doing it.

I started to realize it wasn’t the surfing so much as the slowing down to reflect.  It was also the saltwater.  I believe saltwater heals.  I also think since we all came from water, that there’s something “amniotic” about floating around in water…yes, it feels like the womb somehow and we get very elemental out there in those waves.  Surfers are so nuts about their time in the water and I think it's some kind of magic nirvana out there we feel that is linked maybe 40% to the sport and 60% to the craving for the sloshing of the ocean around us.

In the water that summer, I started coming to terms with some very important things in my life.  How I needed to be on my own, how my marriage, while a great partnership, was not fulfilling either of us, how terrified I was of taking a leap out of it…all those fears and tears I put into a novel called, THE IDEA OF HIM.  It’s out this week and the protagonist Allie is facing a tough marriage, a possible divorce, a soul mate from her past who haunts her and a new sexy guy who taunts her…most of all, she’s dealing with trying to find happiness for herself.

Like so many women, Allie’s trying hard to make things work well for her family, but the stumbling blocks are just huge.  Her swirl of emotions, her escape from her past, her fears of being on her own…are not “mine” per se…but I know I created a relatable, likeable character in Allie that so many women out there will feel for and relate to and laugh and cry with…and root for and she finds strength to make some better choices for herself.  I hope everyone takes some time to reflect through sports or hobbies that they feel passionate about.

Holly, I sometimes kid around and say that I want to be a blond surfer in my next life--it sounds so appealing!  Whenever I spend time in the ocean, (which is not very often, even though I live in CA), I don't want to get out of the water, because it feels so incredible and natural to me (as it did when I was child).  Thank you for this guest post, and best of luck with your new book!


Thanks to Teddy from Premier Virtual Authors Book Tours for including me on the tour for Holly Peterson's new novel, and to both Teddy and the author for offering a giveaway for one copy of The Idea of Him (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. 

Enter by 5 PM PDT on Monday, April 21.  One winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, April 22.  Please visit the other stops on this book tour for The Idea of Him for reviews and other features.  Thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Moon Sisters: Review and Giveaway

There's no time to lose, I heard her say
Catch your dreams before they slip away
Dying all the time
Lose your dreams
And you will lose your mind.
~ Ruby Tuesday, The Rolling Stones

Did she or didn't she?  Did Beth Moon kill herself, or was it an accident?  This is one of the questions posed in a new novel set in the fictitious tiny town of Tramp, West Virginia, The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh, published last month.  After Beth's death, the family is grief-stricken.  Her husband, Branik, turns to alcohol, while the Moon sisters, Olivia and Jazz, struggle with their feelings about her death.  Olivia, the younger Moon sister, is a synesthete.  She wants to believe that her mother's death was an accident, and to bring her mother's ashes to a cranberry bog.  She decides to go on the trip that her mother had wanted to take but never did, to a cranberry bog to see the ghost lights that may have inspired Mama to finish her book, A Foolish Fire.  Jazz, the older and more practical sister, wants mostly to start her new job, which would give her life a new routine.  But Jazz has always helped look after her sister, so against her better judgment, she follows Olivia, who has joined a tattooed guy called Hobbs and other train-hoppers, on a journey to the cranberry bog. 

Bad book blogger!  I've just read an uncorrected proof of The Moon Sisters, so I'm not supposed to quote from the book, but I'm including quotations from the book anyway, because this will give you examples of Therese Walsh's writing style and a taste of the book.  I've also taken the liberty of photographing a bit from the inside of the book.  (Please keep in mind that the final version of the book may be different.)

Many quotations from writers (and others) are sprinkled throughout the book.  One of my favorites, right at the beginning is:
"Action is the antidote to despair."
~ Joan Baez 

The first section in The Moon Sisters is called Ground Zero, The End of the Beginning, and it's written in the first person (as is the whole book), from Olivia's point of view.  After an ordinary Saturday morning in February, Olivia discovers that her mother is dead, in the kitchen.

"I was the one who found her later--not moving, not breathing, dead with her head on the kitchen table.  The gas on and the pilot light out, the windows and doors closed, sealing the room as tight as the envelope sitting beside her."
~ The Moon Sisters, Therese Walsh

Chapter One, The Foolish Fire of Olivia Moon, is written from Jazz's point of view.  Here, Jazz talks about Olivia's synesthesia and her sister's plan to go to the bog:

"My sister began staring at the sun after our mother died, because she swore it smelled like her.  For me, it would always be the scent of oven gas, since that's how Mama went--fumes pouring out, her breathing them in.  Like Sylvia Plath, my father said, because Mama was a tortured writer, too."
"My sister's reality had always been bizarre, though, with her ability to taste words and see sounds and smell a person on the sun.  So when she decided to toss our dead mother's ashes into a suitcase and go off to the setting of our dead mother's story to find a ghost light, I wasn't all that surprised.  She's never been the poster child for sense."
~ The Moon Sisters, Therese Walsh

Mama was not just a tortured writer.  She was estranged from her father, and very distraught over this.  She wrote letters to him about her life, asking for forgiveness, which are part of the novel, and which give Beth a voice as well in the book; we can understand her deep turmoil.  She was emotionally crippled by this alienation from her father, who she loved.

Reading The Moon Sisters made me think about the nature of hope, the audacity of hope.  In the book, Mama had dreams to finish writing her book.  She hoped that she would be reunited with her father.  And the Moon sisters--especially Olivia-- hope to help and understand their mother and her dream to succeed as a writer by making the trip to the cranberry bog.

Thanks to Crown Publishers, I have an extra copy of The Moon Sisters to give away to a reader (U.S. 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. 

Enter by 5 PM PDT on Monday, April 14.  One winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, April 15.

Special thanks to Lisa from TLC for sending me an advance copy of this spellbinding novel by Therese Walsh, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Writer Unboxed.  For more reviews and features, please visit the other stops on TLC's book tour for The Moon Sisters.

Some of the books featured here were given to me free of charge by authors, publishers, and agents. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


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