Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog NO MORE MULBERRIES by Mary Smith (@marysmithwriter) An immersive trip into rural Afghanistan #Afghanistan

Hi all:

Many of you probably know and follow the blog of the author whose first novel I’m reviewing today. I hope she is feeling better.

No More Mulberries by Mary Smith

No More Mulberries by Mary Smith

Scottish-born midwife, Miriam loves her work at a health clinic in rural Afghanistan and the warmth and humour of her women friends in the village, but she can no longer ignore the cracks appearing in her marriage. Her doctor husband has changed from the loving, easy-going man she married and she fears he regrets taking on a widow with a young son, who seems determined to remain distant from his stepfather.
When Miriam acts as translator at a medical teaching camp she hopes time apart might help her understand the cause of their problems. Instead, she must focus on helping women desperate for medical care and has little time to think about her failing marriage. When an old friend appears, urging her to visit the village where she and her first husband had been so happy. Miriam finds herself travelling on a journey into her past, searching for answers to why her marriage is going so horribly wrong.
Her husband, too, has a past of his own – from being shunned as a child to the loss of his first love.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005RRDZ12/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B005RRDZ12/

https://www.amazon.es/dp/B005RRDZ12/

Author Mary Smith

About the author:
Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She wanted others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.

Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan.

Mary loves interacting with her readers and her website is www.marysmith.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000934032543

Twitter: https://twitter.com/marysmithwriter

Blogs: http://novelpointsofview.blogspot.co.uk

http://marysmith57.wordpress.com/2014/07

My review:

I know I can go on with my reviews, and although I’ll try not to test your patience, I thought I’d offer you a capsule summary of my opinion. Do yourself a favour and read it. This is one of those novels one can’t help thinking about and talking about to anybody they meet. To begin with, I loved the clinical cases and the little stories embedded in it (all those events and lives that touch the protagonist’s life) although I wasn’t so convinced about the main characters. As the novel evolved, I came to appreciate and gain a better insight into the characters as well and came to accept them and like them too.

I was familiar with the author’s blog and had read some of her posts about her life in Afghanistan, so I knew she had plenty of local first-hand knowledge, a wealth of anecdotes, and could tell a story. She does have a sense of humour as well, although that isn’t too evident in the novel (the circumstances the characters are living through are very difficult, so it’s not surprising). I had had her books on my list for a while, and I decided it was time to read her first novel. Having read it, I’m eager to explore her writing further.

The description offers readers a good idea of what to expect. Miriam (born Margaret. She became a Muslim and adopted a new name when she married her first husband, Jawad), a Scottish midwife, and a widow who lost her first husband in tragic circumstances (although she doesn’t know the full details of her first husband’s death at the time we meet her) is back in Afghanistan with her second husband, Iqbal, a doctor who has set up a clinic in the little village where he was born. They have been married for five years, have a daughter together, and also live with Miriam’s son from her first husband, a quiet child who works hard but isn’t too close to his stepfather. Miriam can’t help but compare her two husbands and has put her dead husband on a pedestal nobody can reach. Iqbal resents this, and finds it difficult to cope with being back in his village, where he can’t escape expectations, tradition, and prejudice, regardless of how much he has achieved since his childhood. They are both unhappy and unable to talk about it, trying to do what they think the other expects of them. When Miriam ends up spending a few weeks away at a training medical camp, she gets confronted with her unhappiness and has to face some hard truths about the past and about herself. It’s make or break for her relationship and her life in Afghanistan.

There are elements of romance in the story (a romance where cultural differences take centre stage); grief and how different people deal with it is an important theme, as are also: the role of family; tradition and expectations; life in rural Afghanistan; international organisations providing education and health aid; and how far and deep you need to go sometimes to find your true self.

I have mentioned before that I didn’t connect with the characters straightaway. Although the story is narrated in the third person, it is mostly told from Miriam’s point of view, and she has a keen eye for observing and zooming on little details, gestures, and things, that makes the book quite cinematic in many ways. She can observe a movement, a dirty finger, she can marvel at an oven, or a night sky, but she is also at times quite blind to her own behaviour and the way she might be making matters worse for herself and others, and I was quite impatient with her attitude at times. That is not to say that her husband’s actions help matters, although there is a point in the novel when we get to read about his traumatic childhood from his own point of view (also in the third person) and that makes him more sympathetic. The author cleverly shares the main characters’ flashbacks/memories (Miriam’s most of all) that slowly, layer by layer, help unfold the events that got her to Afghanistan. We read about her love story with her first husband, we hear about their life together, and this is contrasted with her experiences with Iqbal. Events that take place later on, and the advice offered by some of Miriam’s friends help us understand that her memories are not always accurate, and there is more to the story and the characters than meets the eye. Miriam is an unreliable narrator, not only for the readers, but also for her own self.

Apart from the protagonist couple, we have many other characters, like their children, both lovely, Western characters (with their own prejudices and good points), neighbours and friends (wise, peculiar, amicable, gossiping, warm-hearted, mean…), all distinct and familiar, no matter how different their circumstances and way of life might be. They all feel like real people and are recognisable as such, even in the cases where we might not fully understand the motivations behind their actions and/or might dislike what they do, and there are many I’d love to have as friends.

Despite the changes in time-frame brought in by the flashbacks and memories, I felt the book flowed reasonably well, and I didn’t find it confusing. The author uses unfamiliar words to describe objects, clothing, places, characters, and actions, and although the meaning of most can be worked out from the context, I’ve noticed that some reviewers asked about a possible glossary. In some cases I felt an image would be better, for instance when describing clothing. The descriptions don’t overwhelm the book or slow its pace, and the author manages to give us a real sense of life in rural Afghanistan, and makes us not only see, but also feel, taste, and smell all aspects of it. She also makes us pay attention to the unspoken gestures and to the silences of the characters, to the importance of the things that go unsaid, and that is a difficult thing to achieve using only the written form.

I leave you a couple of examples of the writing, so you can judge by yourself.

On moonless nights the Milky Way was a magical white path through stars that didn’t twinkle —they blazed. Constellations her father had taught her to recognise when she was a child —Orion, the Plough, the Seven Sisters —demonstrated proudly that here, they possessed far more jewel-bright stars than she had ever seen in Scotland.

Although they had no decent sized pockets, waistcoats took the place of handbags. Safety pins and sewing needles were embedded in the fabric, matches stowed away in a small side pocket while, pinned to the inside were the keys to unlock the tin trunks in which were stored sugar and sweets and other household valuables.

I won’t talk too much about the ending, but yes, I liked it. I found it perfectly fitting.

So, as I started this review by recommending everybody to read this book, I can only repeat it. If you’re interested in stories about Afghanistan, in stories with protagonists that make difficult choices and are not always wise or likeable, in stories where people try to find themselves and to find a place to fit in, appreciate good writing and have always wondered how it would be like to share your life with somebody from a totally different culture, you should try this book. Oh, and check the author’s blog. I must go and catch up on more of the author’s books.

Thanks to Mary (and hope she is feeling better soon), thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, keep smiling, visit Mary’s blog, and stay safe.

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview Z-FAST: A Simple, Proven Intermittent Fasting Method by John Zehren An honest, simple, and clear explanation of intermittent fasting as a weight loss method and good tips on how to implement it. #weightloss #diet

Hi all:

This is not one of my usual reviews, but I felt curious about this book and I thought I’d share it with you. As I say, I haven’t had a chance to try the method yet, but perhaps I’ll revisit it in the future.

Review of Z-Fast by John Zehren
Z-FAST: A Simple, Proven Intermittent Fasting Method by John Zehren

Z-FAST: A Simple, Proven Intermittent Fasting Method by John Zehren

Learn How Intermittent Fasting Can Help You Ditch the Diet Merry Go Round and Lose Weight for Life!

Fasting for weight loss is the cure for the avalanche of yo-yo diets, fads, pills, programs, equipment, and machines that offer empty promises to lifelong weight loss. Author John Zehren’s new book, Z-FAST: A Simple, Proven Method of Intermittent Fasting describes his new program for periodically skipping meals to help dieters win the battle against weight gain. Portioning, long hourly workouts, calorie counting, special meal programs, and massive weight loss fads do not work, and Zehren offers compelling evidence for why these other methods fail.

John says, “I had NO time to exercise and NO time for diets. I only had time NOT to EAT. FASTING WORKS.” In Z-FAST, John shares the story of his successful fasting weight loss, the three personalized, proven methods for fasting, and the many health-boosting benefits that come with what has been discovered to be a natural way of eating. This book contains the answers for all those people who have asked over the years, “Hey Johnny Z, can you write that fasting thing down for me?”

Z-FAST is a practical approach to weight loss consisting of a simple formula where skipping meals several times per month helps dieters achieve life-changing results. Z-FAST chronicles the newly discovered health-boosting benefits of intermittent fasting. Stored fat is burned, and the reduced caloric intake results in weight loss while shrinking the stomach muscle. There is substantial evidence of improved heart health for fasters, and regular fasting and better heart health is linked to the way the body metabolizes cholesterol and sugar. Fasting reduces the risk of weight gain and the potential to develop diabetes (two known risk factors for heart disease) while lowering blood insulin and blood pressure and increasing metabolism.

Some of the advantages of intermittent fasting include…

  • Visible Immediate Weight Loss
  • No Portioning Required
  • No Dieting Every Day
  • Burns Stored Belly Fat
  • Better Sleep on Fast Days
  • Shrinks Stomach
  • Not Relying on Exercise
  • No Counting or Measuring
  • Eat Normal 90% of the Time
  • Greater Concentration on Fasting Days
  • Win the Battle & Keep the Weight Off
  • Metabolic Rate Boost
  • Improve Insulin Levels
  • Improve Heart Health
  • Live Longer

Stop dieting and start living. Pick up your copy of Z-Fast today!

https://www.amazon.com/Z-FAST-Simple-Proven-Intermittent-Fasting-ebook/dp/B07DGRWSNJ/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Z-FAST-Simple-Proven-Intermittent-Fasting-ebook/dp/B07DGRWSNJ/

Editorial Reviews

Review

HUGEOrangePublication Review
Z-Fast, byJohn Zehren

Fasting is an ancient art and has been practiced for thousands of years. Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Christians all have fasting rituals. You may have wanted to try fasting for better health, religious reasons, or to lose weight but have hesitated because of scary information out there. Some say fasting puts your life in danger or makes you gain more weight. And hey, isn’t breakfast supposed to be the most important meal of the day?
Author John Zehren found himself overweight and unable to lose pounds after trying lots of popular diets. In frustration one day he vowed not to eat anything until he weighed under 200 lbs. He lost 5 lbs. right away and had stumbled into fasting.
I didn’t have time to exercise (well, not enough to lose weight) … and I didn’t have time to manage and stick to a special diet. But I did have time NOT to eat … and that is where the weight loss magic finally happened.
After losing 40 lbs. and keeping it off for years, he decided to share what he learned about fasting and how it worked for him. Z-FAST: A Simple, Proven Intermittent Fasting Method is a great guide for those wanting to dip their toes into the world of intermittent fasting as well as those who already enjoy the benefits and want to learn more. He covers just about any fact on fasting you can come up with and provides good, solid tips on how to start and stay with it.
I don’t possess a great deal of discipline when it comes to continuously portioning my food on a daily basis for life (like all the other diet fads require you to do).
He covers the science of it; how it works in your body; effects on your heart; cell, gene and hormone functions; and lots of other facts. If you want to start, you’ll learn about three different fasting methods and how they work together or separately. The methods and tricks he’s used over the years just might work for you too as they seem common sense and realistic. This is a guy who feels great, looks great, and is willing to share the secret of how he did it, why he did it, and exactly what it is with others. What do you have to lose? Give it a try and you might write your own book on a miracle. Recommended for all as a good addition to any library on health and weight issues.
You’ll have a lifetime commitment to your ideal weight and health WITHOUT using any fancy diets or extreme exercise regimens.

Author John Zehren
Author John Zehren

About the author:

Biography

John graduated with a degree in Biology from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. For more than 35 years, he has been employed in the medical and healthcare fields working to bring new cures and FDA approved technologies to the market, specializing in the heart and brain. Currently, John is the North American Vice President of Sales for the Neurovascular Division of a major American healthcare company.

As a busy medical device executive who has a demanding career, John has discovered the secrets to what it takes to live a vibrant and full life. John has been happily married for over 26 years, has raised three daughters with his wife, and enjoys living in Southern California as an avid surfer. John is often described by those who know him best as an innovator, highly motivated, fun-spirited and someone who never takes “No” for an answer.

After being asked about a million times how he manages to stay so fit, author John Zehren decided to share his passion for living life to the fullest and disclose a secret he has discovered. This resulted in the release of his new book, Z-FAST: A Simple, Proven Intermittent Fasting Method. John found that using the methods of Z-FAST allows him to maintain excellent health both physically and mentally.

John says, “I had NO time to exercise and NO time for diets. I only had time NOT to EAT. FASTING WORKS.” In Z-FAST, John shares the story of his successful fasting weight loss, the three personalized, proven methods for fasting, and the many health-boosting benefits that come with what has been discovered to be a natural way of eating.

For more information, contact John at jz@johnzehren.net or visit www.zfast.us

https://www.amazon.com/John-Zehren/e/B07DH15KZB/

My review:

I must confess that I have struggled with my weight from very early on (well, all my life) and, like the author of this book have tried (or read about) a variety of diets. In my case, if something doesn’t make sense to me, I don’t try it, especially if it is something long-term. (I am a doctor but I’ve worked mostly as a psychiatrist, and I cannot claim specific expertise on this subject, even if I’ve read plenty about it). I have been hearing about intermittent fasting for quite a while and know people who have tried some versions of it (like eating only 500 calories two days a week), and I felt curious when I saw this book on offer for free. After all, fasting has a long tradition and plenty of people and cultures adhere to it, in one fashion or another.

The book is easy to read (I read it all in one evening), and although it is packed with information, it is not overly complicated. There is some degree of repetition because some of the information is relevant to several of the points the author discusses but does not get excessive or boring. The style of writing is conversational, and it is easy to imagine that you are talking to the author, who comes across as a knowledgeable and likable person, fully convinced of the goodness of the method, and interested in sharing it with as many people as possible. I’d recommend checking a sample of the book to make sure it suits the reader’s taste.

While many books of this kind try to sell you something (a method that involves subscribing and paying for a programme or buying supplements or other books, foods to be delivered at home, an exercise programme), this is not the case here. The author clearly states that he does not have time to prepare elaborate meals or to exercise for hours on end, but what he can do is not eat. The plan might not suit everybody as it does require a big deal of discipline and strong will (most diets do) but it is pretty flexible, and it makes sense. Different people feel differently, but for some, it might be easier to have nothing at all to eat at times than to try to restrict the amount of this or that or engage in very complex routines. The book contains testimonials from a variety of people who have tried fasting as a method to lose and control their weight and have found it useful, some for a large number of years. I particularly liked the idea of having an emergency plan and making a strong commitment to take action if the weight goes over a certain level. Personally, I cannot say if the plan works or not as described, but I’d recommend the book as an interesting read for people considering fasting as a method to control their weight.

My only warning would be that readers must pay attention to the fact that the book mentions that it might not be a suitable method for people with certain medical problems as it does not place a lot of emphasis on that aspect. I’d recommend anybody with chronic health conditions or taking regular medication to check with their physicians before attempting this.

An easy-to-read book that proposes a simple weight loss and maintenance plan that will particularly appeal to those with little time and who prefer simple options (not easy, though).

Thanks to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for writing and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and keep smiling!

GET MY FREE BOOKS
%d bloggers like this:
x Logo: Shield Security
This Site Is Protected By
Shield Security