Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Author Update #Reviews – Mary Smith and Bette A. Stevens

Welcome to the first of the cafe and bookstore updates this week with reviews for some of the authors on the shelves.

And the first author today is Mary Smith and a recent review for a wonderful novel No More Mulberries that I can also highly recommend..

About the book

No More Mulberries is a story of commitment and divided loyalties, of love and loss, set against a country struggling through transition.

British-born Miriam’s marriage to her Afghan doctor husband is heading towards crisis. Despite his opposition, she goes to work as a translator at a medical teaching camp in a remote area of rural Afghanistan hoping time apart will help are see where their problems lie. She comes to realise how unresolved issues from when her first husband was killed by a mujahideen group are damaging her relationship with her husband and her son – but is it already too late to save her marriage?

A recent review for the book on Goodreads.

Jul 09, 2019 James rated it it was amazing Five Stars

No More Mulberries is an international contemporary drama written by Mary Smith and published in 2009. The story focuses on Miriam, a Scottish midwife, who has married two men from Afghanistan during her lifetime. The tale unfolds by jumping time frames across different chapters to share the reasons why Miriam’s life has become what it is today. At times, her days have been heartbreaking, and at others, they have been an admirable source of strength. I chose this book because I’d seen many positive reviews and it fit the parameters for my month of international and/or autobiographical reads. Let’s chat more about this complex and wonderful story…

Miriam had a wonderful husband and life, but he passed away. She had a young son to raise in Afghanistan during a difficult period in the country’s history, especially for a red-haired Scottish woman with strong beliefs about how things should be. Knowledgeable in medicine, she won over some of the village, yet she always knew she was viewed differently. Then, she remarried and had another child with the second husband. At first, they had a strong love. Although she’d converted to Muslim, her husband, Iqbal was careful to find a balance between his beliefs and her beliefs. While he could be strict, he was by no means radical or excessively controlling of his wife. As tension rises between them, Miriam revisits her past to understand why her first husband died. Through the process, her eyes are opened about her own blame in the new marriage as well as as what truly happened to her first beloved.

The story is rich with a supporting cast who provide laughter, love, fear, and pain. Smith eloquently shares a culture and a lifestyle with her audience, some who may know little about the Muslim faith or Afghani culture. While I’ve read a few other books focusing on this part of the world, they tended to stick to the religious aspects of the Middle East rather than the social aspects. I was glad to experience a different side of the life through this story and the author’s wonderful ability to showcase both the good and the bad.

Questions of parenting, forgiveness, pain, tolerance, and curiosity quickly enter a reader’s mind. What will become of someone who defies her husband? Who will stand by you when you have no one else to trust? How do you ensure the village listens to your advice on bearing a child when the culture dictates the complete opposite solution? This novel helped me understand a different mindset, and while it wasn’t necessarily one I agree with or support, I found a balance of alternative ideas and options to push me to think more critically. It’s a great experience, and one we should all have when reading a book about something different than our own knowledge.

A great find, and something that would be a benefit for all readers with an open mind, a curiosity about life outside their own culture, and a small glimpse into the world that many know from the outside but little know from the inside.

Read the reviews and buy the book:

And on Amazon US:

A selection of other books by Mary Smith

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Read the reviews and buy the books:

And Amazon US:

Read more reviews and follow Mary on Goodreads:

Connect to Mary via her blog:

And finally an early review for the latest release by Bette A. Stevens…A poetry and photographic collection… My Maine.

About My Maine

Inspired by The Pine Tree State—Maine’s diverse landscape, natural beauty, rural communities, and independent people—the author’s 150 haiku poems, along with her photographs, reflect the Maine she knows and loves. Bette A. Stevens’s imagery draws the reader into her world of wonder and delight. My Maine takes readers on a poetic journey through Maine’s four seasons. Whether you’re a native Mainer or from away, Stevens’s short story poems and photographs will resonate.

The collection opens with a haiku tribute, “Maine Pines and People.” The journey continues with the rejuvenating spirit of “Spring Awakenings” and “Summer Songs”; then on to more of the magic and majesty of the places and people of Maine in “Autumn Leaves” and “Winter Tales.” This is a poetry collection to be slowly savored, made even more delectable with the author’s original drawings and photographs. In addition to its poems and photographs, My Maine includes state symbols and interesting facts about The Pine Tree State.

One of the early reviews for the collection

Reading My Maine: Haiku through the Seasons makes you feel as if you are taking a delightful stroll through the state of Maine in the USA. The poet takes the reader on a picturesque tour of this region using the medium of interconnected haiku’s to vividly describe the landscape and seasonal changes.

The book is divided into sections with the first section, The Pine Tree State, setting the environmental scene. My favourite verse in this small section described the majestic pine trees as:
“Pragmatic figures
Independence their calling
Rugged yet limber”

Spring Awakenings, the second section, describes the beauty of the countryside during spring and the poet’s amazement at the natural delights that she discovers daily. This series of haiku’s ends on a spectacular note as follows:
“Standing ovation
Awaiting next performance
Tulip petals bow”

Summer songs builds on the joy of spring and also introduces the reader to the power of American patriotism, a feature of American life that always pleases me greatly and is described by the poet in these words:
“American flags
Wave – God Bless America
Homage to the land.”

Autumn Leaves depicts the bright colours and splendor of the autumn season with this particular haiku presenting it perfectly for my mind’s eye:
“Splashed across woodlands
Blazing brush transforms the world
Into a canvas”

Winter Tales rounds the reader’s journey off with its appealing depictions of winter life in Maine, with its copious snow and the pleasures of Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, indulged in by the community as a whole. The following haiku perfectly captured the spirit of community present in this region:
“Neighbors, helping hands
Compassion – love in action
As storm clouds gather”

This book is embellished with some lovely photographs and some interesting facts about the state of Maine.

A truly delightful book and one I highly recommend to lovers of poetry and, in particular, well written haiku.

Read the reviews and buy the book:

And on Amazon UK:

Books by Bette A. Stevens

Read all the reviews and buy the books:

and Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow Bette on Goodreads:

Connect to Bette via her website:

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you will be leaving with some books under your arm… Sally.