Blog Business World Review for The Reluctant Matchmaker by Shobhan Bantwal

Wayne Hurlbert shares his review for The Reluctant Matchmaker by Shobhan Bantwal on his blog –

For more information: about The Reluctant Matchmaker and Shobhan Bantwal’s other books, visit or to get your copy today. The full virtual tour schedule is available at:

Leadership Garden Shares a Review for Utopian Frontiers

Debra Slover of the Leadership Garden, shares her review for Utopian Frontiers –

For information about Utopian Frontiers, the book, the organization or the music, visit To learn more about the book and to get your copy, visit

Review for Utopian Frontiers on Purposeful Growth Blog

Jerry Lopper shares his review for Utopian Frontiers on his blog –


For information about Utopian Frontiers, the book, the organization or the music, visit To learn more about the book and to get your copy, visit


Share the Immigrant Experience with Shobhan Bantwal Author of The Full Moon Bride

Chelle Cordero shares a guest post about the immigrant experience on her blog –

For more information about Shobhan Bantwal and The Full Moon Bride, visit or If you missed any posts from her virtual tour with Promo 101 Promotional Services, find all the links to guest posts, reviews, interviews and more at


Soul Food by Melanie Ehler (Excerpt from Female Nomad and Friends)


Melanie Ehler

When I was a child, my Nana would take me along to the Old Reg’lar Baptist meetings at her church.  Full of good-hearted people, we had a much higher preacher-to-sinner ratio than your average church.  The Old Reg’lar Baptist meetings generally went through three or four different preachers during the same service, and the sermons often lasted several hours.

To a kid, they seemed interminable, as infinite as salvation itself, though not nearly so sweet. Most Sunday mornings, I would busy myself in ways other than spiritual.  First, I would rearrange the contents of my Nana’s patent-leather purse, eating all the interred peppermints and circus peanuts.  Then, I’d lean back in exaggerated repose and vigorously wave one of the church’s paper fans, overly enthusiastic in my attempt to be mistaken for a Southern belle. The fans were the old-fashioned, paddle-type that had a vibrant Biblical scene on one side with the name of a funeral home underneath it. The message seemed to be, “Just because Lazarus was revived after four days, it doesn’t mean you’ll be. Buy your coffin early.”

I would interrupt my fanning five or six times to make trips to the drinking fountain. All these activities never took up more than fifteen minutes. Once I’d gone through my routine, I’d stretch out on one of the wooden pews for a nice, long nap.  My casual attitude provoked a story that still circulates in my family.  Upon being asked how I liked church, I purportedly answered in a peevish tone of voice, “It’s fine for the most part, but the preachers keep waking me up when they holler ‘Amen!’”

At any rate, for both somnolent sinners and attentive saints, a certain earthly reward was attached to the church meetings, and that was the church supper.  All the good ladies of that church knew how to cook, and they did not waste their talents doling out dainty portions of haute cuisine. No, these soft-bellied, gentle souls served up homey foods, comfort foods, soul food, every Sunday creating a sumptuous spread that covered three fold-out tables.  Immediately following services, a line of people gathered in front of those tables, and the prayer that was given before supper was always the shortest one.

Even the everlastingest preacher couldn’t ignore the tables laden with home-cooked food.  There were mashed potatoes piled in high, snowy peaks, sitting side-by-side with thick pools of gravy; there were mounds of dandelion and turnip greens picked fresh from the nearby woods. There were tureens of red beans in savory sauce; there were round cakes of golden-grained corn bread and white corn pone.  On occasion, there was turkey with stuffing or dumplings bobbing in gravy.  And there was fried chicken.  Always and forever, there was fried chicken, a crowd pleaser that just about everybody piled on their plates.

And so it was, many years later as a graduate student, living far from the comforts of home, alone and hungry, and perhaps a bit homesick, that I got a hankering for fried chicken.  Now, meat of any sort was not a regular part of my diet in those lean years. I was supported solely by the money garnered from my assistantship.  As per the usual assistantship trade-off, in return for teaching freshmen classes, the university offered to pay my full tuition, along with a bit extra to cover living expenses–so long as said living expenses didn’t include luxury items, such as heat in my room or more than one meal a day.

I lived on the thin of things, always on the fringe of hunger. I existed on a diet that consisted chiefly of bananas and cereal moistened by water.

Upon occasion, I would see fit to reallocate my meager food budget.  That is to say, I would sometimes spend my grocery money on admission to a local swing dance.  After such occasions, I would, from necessity, scavenge samples at the local grocer’s for my next meal.  Whatever food samples were being offered, I would take two, sly vulture that I was, and after circulating the store twice, my stomach would be full, or at least it would stop growling for a few hours.  I certainly had nothing in my budget that would allow for eating out, not even at the most humble establishment.

Yet, there I was, this one particular day, hungry as could be; and nothing could divert my mind from fried chicken.  I could not make fried chicken, my cuisine art was limited to microwave food and toast, and so, with little-exercised extravagance, I went into a local diner.

“How many pieces are in the adult portion of chicken?” I asked the waitress.  “Five pieces,” she answered.  “And in the small?”  I asked.  “Three,” she responded.

I did not need to finger the money in my pocket to know how much I had.  The thing with being poor was that I always knew, down to the last cent, how much money I owned.  I had enough for the large portion, unless they charged tax.  I could never remember if restaurants charged tax, and then there was also the embarrassment of leaving a cheap, nearly non-existent tip.

“I’ll have the small portion,” I said in a tiny voice.  Perhaps my eyes looked hungry.  I might have also sighed.

When the waitress brought me the plate, it was heaped with fried chicken.  It did not contain three pieces, or even five pieces, it brimmed with ten pieces of chicken, all coated in a crisp, peppered, golden skin and, as I found out by sampling, with tender white meat inside.  Thin curls of steam rose from the chicken.  I ate and ate and ate.  I ate that hot, delicious chicken until I was full, and then – oh, unheard of luxury – I kept going and ate past being full.  Even so, I couldn’t manage to eat all the chicken.  I carefully wrapped the remaining pieces in paper napkins and discretely deposited them in my purse.  They would be for tomorrow.  When I got the bill, the total cost was listed as $3.99,  the  price for a child-sized portion.

I was too embarrassed to thank my waitress properly.  I just smiled shyly when paying, hoping she’d understand.  Some hunger can be satisfied with food, but there is also another, more intimate type of hunger which can only be appeased by kindness.  I was filled that day with both food and compassion.  I’ve never felt more full.  And I’ve never been richer.

Melanie Ehler has paddled a gondola down Venice’s Grand Canal, fallen asleep during a root canal, and eaten at Burger King when they ran out of burgers.  She’s danced the tango in Prague, the blues in St. Louis, and lindy hop everywhere from grocery aisles in Ohio to cocktail clubs in Oahu.  Several years after obtaining her Master’s degree in English, Melanie decided to spend a year living in Seoul, South Korea, and from there, she will circumnavigate the globe.  Follow her most recent adventures at:

Reprinted from “Female Nomad and Friends” by Rita Golden Gelman. Copyright © 2010.  Published by Three Rivers Press/Crown Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc.

We invite you to join s on the Female Nomad and Friends virtual tour. The full schedule can be seen at You can learn much more about Rita Golden Gelman and her work on her website – The book can be preordered on Amazon –

Click here to download the Female Nomad and Friends Excerpt – Soul Food

What Happened to Chana by Jan Byer (Excerpt from Female Nomad and Friends)


 Jan Bayer

            Each of the four holy cities of Israel represents one of the four elements, and Safat is air.  I’m a Gemini.  Maybe that’s why I felt so peaceful there.

A walking tour with my guide, Shlomo, my first morning in town, made the history of Safat come alive. He sent chills up my spine with legends about the ancient synagogues, rabbis, and battles as he pointed out the bullet shells still embedded in the old city walls. I tried to hide the tears that welled up in my eyes from the overflow of emotion.

During the first four months of my six-month-long trip around the world, I visited Japan, China, Thailand, Bali, Singapore, and Egypt.  Along the way, I learned some of the history of each of the cultures, but no history had come so alive as the one I heard from Shlomo that morning in Safat. I realized in my traveled-out stupor that what I was learning now was personal the story of my own people. My energy felt renewed.

Because Safat is an artist’s colony, I was drawn there to visit fellow painters.  After Shlomo’s tour, I wandered through the galleries of this hill town built of stone. It was there that I met Chana. She radiated a peace and confidence that I admired. She was sitting in the doorway of the Hassidic (Orthodox) Art Gallery, and when I said hello, she answered in English. We began to chat and soon discovered we were both Americans. She invited me to sit next to her and her story began to unfold.

Chana, who was thirty-seven-years old, ran the gallery with her artist husband. In the tradition of married Orthodox Jewish women, she wore a wig to cover her hair in public. I saw a shiny new wedding band on her finger.  Chana, as she now called herself, had grown up in a Christian family in Cleveland, Ohio. She confided she had always been drawn to Jewish friends, but didn’t realize until five years ago that she herself longed to be a Jew. She told me, “I was born with a Jewish soul but had to be raised in a non-Jewish family so I could make this journey of discovery.”  In Cleveland, she began to study and convert but couldn’t meet an Orthodox mate there with whom to share a religious life.

So two years before I met her, Chana had decided to move to Jerusalem. With the help of the community there, she studied and worked.  The matchmakers sent her to meet prospective spouses in different towns all over Israel.  Eventually she was sent to Safat.  When she met Yacov, her husband of four months, she knew at once he was the one.

At dusk a few evenings later, the town square was lit up like a stage set.  A large circle of us were dancing to Israeli folk music. Afterwards, I ran into Chana and met her husband, a bearded man wearing a traditional black coat and hat. They said they were hoping to be blessed with a child soon. Later, over tea at Chana’s home, I told her that I  longed to re-marry and was eager to find a life partner.  I wondered how she’d had such fast results in finding a husband and a new life in Safat.

She said, “I knew exactly what I wanted and prayed to God for it.” She added, “Here in Israel, especially in the holy city of Safat, one is closer to God than anywhere else on earth.”

I believed her. Then she added that the most direct pipelines to God are from the Wall in Jerusalem and from the old cemetery on the hillside of Safat where the most famous rabbis and scholars are buried.

“How morbid,” I said.

“I know,” she said.  Chana then told me that when she was sent to Safat by the matchmakers, they told her she must go to the cemetery and pray. She had already met two men in Safat, but she wasn’t interested in either of them. So under pressure from friends, she forced herself to go to the cemetery. She felt self-conscious–everyone knows what a single woman is doing in the cemetery.

Her prayer was apologetic. “I made sure to tell God that I wasn’t so desperate to find a mate that I had to come to a cemetery to pray for a husband.  I had only come to please my friends.  I assured God that I knew He had already heard my prayers.  It was all right to answer them in His own time.  I could be patient.”

Then Chana told me that two hours after this prayer, she was introduced to her future husband, Yacov!                                                                                                                                                                                                                         I didn’t sleep well that night. I woke up at seven, before the heat of the summer day set in, and followed my map down the hill on the rocky winding path to the old cemetery. My whole body was trembling. Near a secluded grave site I hid behind a tree and made my speech to God: “This is Jan here. Chana sent me. You answered her prayer so quickly. I want to pray for a husband too.  But there’s one difference between Chana and me. I…………………………am desperate!

That was many, many years ago. The question is, of course, Did it work? The answer is, No. Thank God. I’m happily single.


Jan Bayer also tells the tales of her travels through her vivid oil paintings. Grateful to have inherited both the travel gene and artist gene, much of her creative inspiration has come from living, studying, and traveling around the planet.  During her twenty-five years as a professional artist, Bayer has sold her work through galleries on the East and West coasts. Now living in southern California, she can be found painting on the cliffs above the sea or indulging in another passion–eating burritos.  View Bayer’s paintings at her website: or email: (when writing, please put “Chana” in subject line)

Reprinted from “Female Nomad and Friends” by Rita Golden Gelman. Copyright © 2010.  Published by Three Rivers Press/Crown Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc.

We invite you to join us on the Female Nomad and Friends virtual tour. The full schedule can be seen at You can learn much more about Rita Golden Gelman and her work on her website –

Turkish Delight by Kay Moody (Excerpt from Female Nomad and Friends)


Kay Moody

At the age of fifteen, our son, Henry lived in Istanbul, Turkey, for a year as an exchange student.  Later he majored in Turkish studies in college.  While living in Turkey, Henry stayed with a family who had a son, Mustafa.  We made this a true exchange when we invited Mustafa to come to our home to spend a year going to school in America.  Our invitation of one year turned out to be ten years.  After Mustafa graduated from our local high school, he got his bachelor’s degree at our state university and his MBA from Loyola.  He began working in Chicago, and that’s when his parents informed their only child it was time for him to return to his home in Istanbul.  When Mustafa returned to Turkey, he met the love of his life.  Our family went to our Turkish son’s wedding and met his parents and his beautiful bride.

Before we left, we shopped for souvenirs to bring back home.  And, of course, we spent a day at the world-famous Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.  We had a long list of items:  silk scarves, leather bags, Russian caviar, teas and spices, painted pottery, the list was endless.  You cannot buy anything in the bazaar without bargaining.

We spent a long time in one shop. Each time the shopkeepers had a price for us, we added one more jar of caviar, another scarf, or more spices.  Any every time we added something, the owners of the shop conferred with each other to re-compute a price to include our latest addition.

My husband, daughter, and I kept haggling over the price and although the shopkeepers were fluent in English, they chatted back and forth in Turkish while we decided on our purchases.  After a very long time, still unable to agree on a reasonable price for all our items, one of the men looked at Henry and said, “You’re their son, aren’t you?  Why are you so quiet?”  In perfect Turkish, Henry replied, “Because it’s more fun to listen.  And, yes, my sister’s red hair is natural, and she is happily married and not available to go home with you; and I agree, my father is too fat and doesn’t need another can of caviar!”

The store owners were shocked to hear a young American speak flawless Turkish   but they appreciated the joke that was played on them and we all laughed together.  As Henry knew, Turks have a wonderful sense of humor.

Kay Gillett Moody and her husband James T. Moody have been married for almost 50 years.  Although they are in their 70s, both continue to work full time, Jim as a United States District Court Judge in the Northern District of Indiana and Kay as an owner, administrator, and instructor at the College of Court Reporting in Hobart, Indiana.  Kay is presently writing her sixth court reporting textbook for online students.  Her website is

Reprinted from “Female Nomad and Friends” by Rita Golden Gelman. Copyright © 2010.  Published by Three Rivers Press/Crown Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc.

We invite you to join s on the Female Nomad and Friends virtual tour. The full schedule can be seen at You can learn much more about Rita Golden Gelman and her work on her website – The book can be preordered on Amazon –

Click here to download the Female Nomad and Friends Excerpt – Turkish Delight

A Wet Shoe Story by Carolyn Soucy (Excerpt from Female Nomad and Friends)


Carolyn Soucy

In May of 2005 seven members of the New Hampshire Master Chorale took a two week trip to Vietnam. We were collaborating with the Vietnamese National Opera and Ballet (VNOB) for a concert series in Hanoi and Halong Bay.

We were informed when we arrived in Hanoi that our home-stay families would be parents of children in the youth choir. I met Minh Hoa and her five-year-old daughter, Cat Phuong, shortly after we arrived at the Hanoi Opera House, and they whisked me away on a very long cab ride to their apartment.

It hadn’t occurred to me until I was in the cab that I might not be entirely welcome in their home. After all, this was North Vietnam.  True, Minh Hoa had agreed to house me.  However, during our conversation at the Opera House, she mentioned she shared her home with her parents. Unlike Minh Hoa, her parents were old enough to remember the war, and I was worried they would not be enthusiastic about hosting an American.  Although Minh Hoa herself was friendly and kind, I knew I was completely at the mercy of this family. If the rest of her family harbored feelings of resentment, I wouldn’t know until I arrived, and I had no idea where I was going or how I could contact anyone else in my group.

Once we arrived, I realized I had been foolish to worry. Minh Hoa’s family welcomed me into their home with the utmost grace and warmth. Her parents smiled at me and showed me to my room, which was probably theirs, as it was the largest bedroom and opened to a balcony overlooking the street. They were keen to ensure I was comfortable and well fed. At the midday meal, they insisted on filling my bowl every time it was empty despite my protests. Minh Hoa was the only person in the house who spoke English, and just a small amount at that. Translating through Minh Hoa, her mother said after lunch, “You should rest now. It is good for you,” and I was happy to oblige. It was clear there were no feelings of anger toward me even though the U.S. had been on the other side of the war in Vietnam.

On the second day of my stay with them, it started to rain in the afternoon. It began as a light shower and turned into a torrential downpour that lasted over an hour. The crowded city streets quickly flooded with four inches of dirty water, and traffic came to halt.

At 6:30 P.M., Minh Hoa called for a cab to take us to the Hanoi Opera House for our concert. By seven, the cab had still not arrived, which was not surprising, considering the depth of water in the street. Every time a vehicle dared to drive by, water flowed into the kitchen. At 7:30 P.M., the cab finally arrived, and we all headed for the door.

Minh Hoa’s father carried Cat Phuong to the car so she wouldn’t get her feet wet.

I readied myself for a wade. But before I stepped off the curb, Minh Hoa’s mother stood below me in the street and motioned for me to get on her back. I would estimate her mother at sixty-years-old, 5’2″ and 115 lbs. There I was, a twenty-six-year-old, 5’6″, 175 lb. moose compared to this petite woman. And she wanted me to get on her back.

I do not speak Vietnamese except for a few important phrases, and “I am not getting on your back” was not one of them.

She argued with me in Vietnamese, and I argued right back in English, our arms waving frantically. Ignoring my protests, she turned her back to me, and with her feet planted in the newly formed lake in the street, she enthusiastically patted her shoulders.  When I tried to step around her, she moved from side to side, blocking my path.  It was clear she didn’t understand I was saying “no,” but I kept objecting anyway.  Even though she couldn’t see me because her back was turned, I waved my arms and exclaimed loudly, “NO! Please!”

She turned around then and the look on my face of astonishment and stubborn refusal must have been enough for her to change tactics. As I again tried to step off the curb, she grabbed my arm and held out her hand, motioning for me to wait. She rushed into the apartment and returned with a pair of slip-on shoes and then helped me out of my own dress shoes and into hers. She handed me my shoes and smiled as I stepped into the muddy water.  I could hardly believe it. This kind woman, who barely knew me, gave me her best pair of shoes so that mine would not be ruined by the water. I was instantly filled with respect and love for these gracious and caring people.

Carolyn’s travel adventures began at the age of seven. In recent years she has participated in choral tours to South Korea, Vietnam, Brazil and Peru. Upon completion of her MA in Arts Administration and Cultural Policy, Carolyn plans to combine her two passions, music and travel, and continue to champion quality arts programming worldwide. A New Hampshire native, Carolyn currently resides in London. Visit the New Hampshire Master Chorale at

Reprinted from “Female Nomad and Friends” by Rita Golden Gelman. Copyright © 2010.  Published by Three Rivers Press/Crown Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc.

We invite you to join s on the Female Nomad and Friends virtual tour. The full schedule can be seen at You can learn much more about Rita Golden Gelman and her work on her website – The book can be preordered on Amazon –

Click here to download the Female Nomad and Friends Excerpt – Wet Shoe Story

My Favorite Organization Ever by Rita Golden Gelman (Excerpt from Female Nomad and Friends)

My Favorite Organization Ever

Rita Golden Gelman

Being a part of Servas is like having family all over the world. It’s actually better than family. People join Servas because they want you to visit them when you are in their country. Not always the case with family.

Since I have no home, I’m always a traveler and never a host. Servas visits are for two nights, and everyone (hosts and travelers) is screened in a face- to- face interview. Servas charges a small annual membership fee, and travelers pay a deposit for host lists in the countries they want to visit. During the visits, however, no money changes hands.

My first Servas visit was with Gabi and Batsheva in Tel Aviv in 1988. Before the trip, I saw their names in the Israel host book; I wrote asking if I could stay with them when I visited.

They welcomed me as they would an old friend. They fed me, toured me, guided me, and shared their stories as I shared mine. I helped with the cooking and clean- up and bought a meal or a snack here and there.

After only one day we felt so close that we decided their single son, then living in the Dominican Republic, and my single daughter, then living in New York, should marry! Never happened, but we did have fun planning the meeting and discussing the wedding. It was wonderful getting to know them.

Their love for each other made being with them a pleasure. Gabi and Batsheva met in an orphanage. Their parents were killed by the Nazis. During and after the war, the surviving kids were taken from Europe to an orphanage in Palestine.

The two found themselves among the oldest children there and ended up working on the same projects and caring for the younger kids together. They fell in love. Batsheva had a sister, Tova, who was also in the orphanage. I never met Tova, but Gabi and the two sisters shared a special closeness as the only survivors of both families. The sisters meant everything to each other.

As we shared our stories, Gabi, Batsheva, and I developed a special bond. Servas is like that. A level of intimacy is quickly established, and you always leave feeling as though you have made a new friend— or extended your family.

Several years later I returned to Israel for my cousin’s wedding. I called Gabi and Batsheva. Gabi answered the phone. He was excited to hear from me, but he explained that Tova had recently died and Batsheva was devastated. He didn’t think she felt ready for guests. The two women had been incredibly close, he reminded me. I suggested that maybe this time I could take care of Batsheva. They talked it over and decided it was a good idea.

I didn’t exactly take care of her, but I did some cooking and a little cleaning; and Batsheva was able to share her happy Tova stories, as well as her pain.

On the second day of my visit, Batsheva received a letter from a Servas friend in Brazil. Claudia had heard about Tova’s death and written a sympathy note. She had included her e- mail address. I offered to write to Claudia on my computer.

In the e- mail I introduced myself to Claudia, and then Batsheva dictated her response while I typed. I left the next day, sad, but pleased that I had been able to help.

Four years later in Argentina, I once again connected with people through Servas. I was staying in my friend Gera’s home in San Miguel, outside of Buenos Aires, so I didn’t need a place to stay, but I wanted to meet people in Buenos Aires. I took out my host list and called a few people. The response was fantastic. Servas members invited me to share meals, parties, and excursions.

After I had met a number of hosts, they told me that a group of them planned on taking a boat across the river the next Sunday to meet Uruguayan hosts. Would I like to come?

Of course. Our two groups got together in the charming Uruguayan town of Colonia and wandered for a few hours before lunch. Everyone wanted to talk a little to everyone else, so two of us would walk and talk for a while, and then we’d switch. The fi rst two Uruguayans I met insisted that I come back as their Servas guest (which I did). I was able to converse with them in Spanish, although they both spoke better English than I did Spanish.

The third person I met asked me not to speak Spanish. “My Spanish is not very good,” she said. “My English is better.”

“But aren’t you from Uruguay?” I asked.

“No, I’m not. I’m from over the border in Brazil.”

It was at that point that we introduced ourselves. “My name is Rita. I’m from the United States.”

“Oh, my God,” she said. “I can’t believe it. I’m Claudia.”

Yes, she was that Claudia! We hugged like old friends. And cried. And a month later I was a Servas guest in Claudia’s house in Brazil.

If you’re a traveler and a connector, check it out. It’s an amazing organization: or

Reprinted from “Female Nomad and Friends” by Rita Golden Gelman. Copyright © 2010.  Published by Three Rivers Press/Crown Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc.

We invite you to join s on the Female Nomad and Friends virtual tour. The full schedule can be seen at You can learn much more about Rita Golden Gelman and her work on her website – The book can be preordered on Amazon –

Click here to download the Female Nomad and Friends Excerpt

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