Monday, November 30, 2020

November Books #MyLifeInBooks

 Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey by Kathleen Rooney - I loved this author's previous book, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk. Highly recommend that one! This one....I did not like as much. Half of the book was told from the perspective of a messenger pigeon named Cher Ami, and right from the start, that didn't really work for me. But I did try to stop in the middle and I felt compelled to contine and so I did finish! I haven't read a lot of novels about the first World War, and I really didn't know anything about how pigeons were used as messengers by both sides. Also, at the end I discovered how much of the story was actually true, and I do appreciate a good history lesson. But....I don't really recommend this book. 

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory - finally, I reached the end of these books! I was excited to read this one because I already knew most of the characters and it was delightful albeit totally predictable. (I'm now starting a new romance series for these interludes between some of the more difficult books!)

Reverie by Ryan La Sala - This was the "Big Library Read" in November and it was interesting. I liked the idea of personal daydreams becoming real, and it seemed like a really good concept. I was a little confused by the characters but overall an enjoyable read.

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam - This book was creepy in a verrry subtle way. I will admit that I couldn't put it down because I was waiting for the reveal...which unravelled in a slow and eerie way. After I finished the book, I read several reviews, and now I like and appreciate the book even more. In many ways, the book is the perfect book for 2020 - it's uncertain, uncomfortable, and confounding. What really happens? Does it really matter? Who are we when we don't have all the answers??? (P.S. One reviewer called this "the most lowkey and vague thriller" and I thought that was an excellent description)

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron - I loved this re-telling of Cinderella and its breaking down of the tropes of traditional fairy tales. I am a big fan of re-told fairy tales, and this one did not disappoint! 

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab - Wow. I loved this book and I couldn't put it down. What happens when no one remembers you? How can you make an impact on the world without making your own imprint? What does it mean to inspire others? Loved this story about how we find our way in the world...

Saturday, October 31, 2020

October 2020 Books #MyLifeInBooks


American War by Omar El Akkad - This book broke me. Seriously. It was about a second American Civil War and a terrible plague. Published in 2017, it felt waaay too close to home to read right now. I kept going because I was hoping for a happy ending...but honestly, it haunted me. Beautifully written, a good read, but maybe not the right book to read in October of 2020. 

Because American War broke me....you'll notice that the next FOUR books are all RomComs. Yep. Just a whole bunch of delicious, sweet, wonderful romantic comedies. Not my usual thing but oh....it took all of these to get over the dystopian-all-too-real book.

Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn - adorable and sweet romance. Also, if you like hand-lettering and/or fonts, a fun theme.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory
Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory
If you have a great formula, stick with it (Law and Order, anyone?)! Jasmine Guillory has a great one. Each book is sooo similar but totally delightful. I want to pal around with all of her heroines and I want to eat with them too (they always have the best food). These are like the perfect candy - not too sweet, a little salty, with a deliciously predictable crunch. I'm not sad about reading these at all!!! (And there's one more to be found.) 

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Adhieh - a good but not great re-telling of Sheherezad and the 1001 Arabian Nights. I wanted to be transported by the retelling but I didn't feel like it added much, however the ending seemed to pick up a little and while I'm unlikely to read any sequels, I am a little curious as to what happens next. 

Followers by Megan Angelo - It started out slowly, but once I realized the connection between the two stories, I was fascinated and couldn't put it down. A really interesting and unique look at how our social media-influencer-culture is so very challenging right now...and yet, there was this tiny bit in the back of my mind wondering how the pandemic would have made this story different....good and frightening and very compelling.

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano - ah, I felt like I was back to reading again. This was a powerful book that handled grief and disaster in a way that felt a little removed from my own reality (unlike that American War book) but in a way that let me sink into it, feel the pain, and live the journey with Edward as he grows up with this weight on his shoulders. I felt like this book hinged on the question "what makes a meaningful life?" and therefore felt its resonance deeply. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

September 2020 Book #mylifeinbooks

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger - This was an extraordinary and beautiful book, heartbreaking and haunting. I honestly didn't want this story to end. I think I will certainly put this one into the top five books I've read this year. 

Gone by Michael Grant - this is the first in a very popular dystopian YA series. All the grownups disappear, and kids start developing super powers...and....I found it very dark and a little convoluted. I'm not compelled to read any more of the series, but mostly because I have a very long to-read pile! (It also could be that I read it right after This Tender Land, and so it just didn't quite hold up to that standard.)

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory - a delightful sudsy read...like a delicious bag of candy that I enjoyed and didn't even mind that there wasn't any real nutritional value! Also, a lot of nicely represented diverse characters....

Love, Loss, and What we Ate by Padma Lakshmi - I loved the Hulu series on food in America, but I have never watched Top Chef, so I felt like she was a total unknown to me! I had no idea that Ms. Lakshmi had such an interesting and fascinating story. I found the book to be a little bit long, but I was really curious. She seemed very honest, a little self-centered (it was a memoir, though, so you've gotta give her some credit there), and I liked the focus on food (it made me hungry)!

Need to Know by Karen Cleveland - A fun spy novel (think: The Americans) even though I was slightly disappointed by how clueless the main character seemed to be...

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline - This was a powerful and moving novel about women, convicted of fairly crimes, sent from England to Australia as punishment. I was somewhat unfamiliar with this particular episode of history (I knew that Australia was a convict colony, but I didn't realize that whole boatloads of women were sent there!) and I found the story to be well-told, compelling, and heartbreaking. 

Heating Cooling: 52 Micro Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly - delightful and fun bite-sized bits of memoir. I liked how it made me think about minimalist writing - what's the shortest way to say something? I'm a fan of the 6 word memoir and the short-short story, so I'm not surprised that I enjoyed micro memoirs too! I'd like to think about writing some of my own!

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd - I wanted to like this book but I was very frustrated by it. I am sure she did a lot of research, but there were many things that just felt frustratingly wrong, including most of the Hebrew dates and how the calendar works. It's a book about Ana, the fictional wife of Jesus. It felt like Ana was a little too "woke" for her time...I just found it mostly uninteresting. 


Monday, August 31, 2020

August 2020 #mylifeinbooks



Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall - Predictable and boring. I actually put it down a couple of times and then went back to it. 

House on Endless Waters by Emuna Elon - beautiful, moving. An incredible back-and-forth story of finding one's identity in a story that was really haunting. (Looking forward to discussing this one later this year!)

Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan - I really enjoyed the Crazy Rich Asians series, but this one was disappointing. It felt like it wound around for a long time to an inevitable ending that didn't feel worth the wait.

The Braid by Laetitia Colombani - My dad recommended this one and I really enjoyed the intertwining stories of three different women. It took a little while to see how they all would come together, but I really liked how it didn't really beat you over the head with it. Subtle and lovely.

The Nesting Dolls by Alina Adams - I really enjoyed this one! A generational story that was a good read. I liked the insight into the different aspects of Russian history and how generational trauma carries through. And I loved the end.

The Darwin Affair by Tim Mason - A fun, historical crime drama about attempts to silence Charles Darwin. Aside from the interesting period nature of the piece, I thought it was a good reminder that there have often been people who have tried to silence science....

Good Talk by Mira Jacob - WOW. I loved this graphic-novel-memoir about who we are, how we define ourselves, and how society defines us. With gratitude to the friend who shared it with me!

36 Righteous Men by Steven Pressfield - This was interesting. Someone described it as a fantasy-thriller, another called it apocalyptic-murder-mystery. It's set in the future, has an unusual writing format, and there's a Jewish theme too. I think it worked, but I'll be curious to hear how my discussion group likes this one later this year. Also - there's a huge climate change element in this story, and I read it as two hurricanes were bearing down on the Gulf Coast and fires rage in California, so there was that too. 

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett - This book was like a cross between The Handmaid's Tale and the Hunger Games....and I couldn't put it down. Teen girls spend one year banished to live in the wilderness. There's a Lord of the Flies element here too, and a whole bunch about female empowerment inside of a patriarchy. It's not for everyone, but it was really good.

The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel - Good, readable story about a French-Jewish woman who ends up working in the Resistance in France during the war. I'll fully admit that a back-and-forth story between past and present does take away some of the suspense in the story, but I still found it compelling and interesting. 

The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz by Laura Toffler-Corrie - this was a PJ Our Way book that came into our house and I like to read them to see what's going on over there. This one was cute and funny but not my favorite. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Prayer for the Start of a (Pandemic) School Year

In 2011, I wrote a prayer for the start of school.
(It's odd, since the child who started Pre-K that year is starting 8th grade this one.)

A friend recently asked if I'd updated this prayer for a new year, and I thought it was an excellent idea. More than ever, we need a little encouragement as we start this new school year, so fraught with uncertainty and strain. So many of us are worried and waiting, wondering and wishing. What will tomorrow bring? We don't know. So we put one foot in front of the other, act with patience, and pray that the new year brings promise.

A Prayer for the Start of our Pandemic School Year (hopefully never to be used again)

May it be a year of learning and growth, a year of new experiences and understanding. 
May they outgrow their shoes and may they not lose their masks. 
May the hand sanitizer be plentiful so their hands are clean, but may they have clean hearts too.
May each day bring something new and may routine guide their steps.
May they be flexible and resilient, with a strength far beyond their years.
May their pencils be sharp and their minds even sharper.
May the internet be strong, and the links be true.
May they revel in the joy of each new fact learned, each right answer, each small accomplishment.
May the erasers on their pencils get as much use as the tips, and may their chatroom comments be kind.
May they learn that wrong answers can be just as important as right ones.
May they ask questions, lots and lots of questions, and may their teachers be patient. Very patient.
May their teachers encourage their growth of spirit and may they see deeply into their eyes, even through the pixels of the screen.
May they make friends and build relationships, and may they make lifelong connections.
May they appreciate the little moments of connection and learn to find joy in their own company as well.
May they be kind and polite and each one a mensch of the highest order. 
May this year be a stepping stone, a moment in time, and may we take its lessons to heart as we find blessings along the way.

From delivering David to his freshman year at UIUC

Friday, August 21, 2020

#blogelul 1: prepare

 


Are we ever fully ready?
Each year, I notice that we're all
overwhelmed
busy
stressed

and we can't quite wrap our heads around the idea of
preparing
for
the
High
Holy
Days.

It's ominous.
They loom
large
over us.

But perhaps
preparation
is
a
gift
we give to ourselves.

When I take the time to
prepare myself
for the High Holy Days,
really
prepare
myself,
I know that
I am better.
The holidays are better.

I feel the words.
I breathe the music.
I do the work.

Preparation is a gift.

In Elul
we
unwrap
it.
(Reposted from 2016)

The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with prayers of forgiveness, but I like to think of it as a whole-person preparation activity. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... I will be blogging here, and sharing #Elulgram photos on the same themes at imabima.tumblr.com and on Instagram @imabima. Follow me on twitter @imabima for all the #BlogElul posts, not only mine but others' as well! Read more about #BlogElul here.http://imabima.blogspot.com/2020/08/blogelul-elulgram-2020.html

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

How to Fold A Fitted Sheet: A Parenting Lesson

It started with the fitted sheet (XL twin, to be exact).

The whole room was tossed with bags and clothes and towels and miscellaneous pre-college stuff that clearly has to fit into the blue Ikea bags in order to get squeezed into the fun-size dorm room.

And there were two fitted sheets (one to use, one to wash, of course). 

"How do I fold this thing?"

And so we started - each of us with a sheet in hand, as I tried to walk him through the process of folding a fitted sheet. I could see his frustration growing. I could feel my own frustration growing too.

And then he started to panic. "I can't do it!" 

And then I started to panic: If he can't fold a fitted sheet, what else doesn't he know? What else isn't he ready for? If I haven't taught him to fold a fitted sheet, have I also failed to teach him all the Important Skills that he will need for his life? Is this evidence of a Disaster of Parenting? What other things doesn't he know? The thoughts tumbled, pell-mell, as I felt the tears rising. I tried, unsuccessfully, to teach him again. Tempers rose...

And then I took a breath.

Wait, I thought. Wait. This isn't the Everything. This is One Thing. Just ONE THING.

I took the sheet from him. I said, "don't worry - it's just a sheet." I could see the relief in his eyes. Perhaps his thoughts had taken the same path as mine? I folded the sheet. I'm his mom -- I can still do things for him. He watched intently and then took the sheet and shoved it unceremoniously into the already-full duffel bag. 

We've taught him to be brave and kind. We've taught him to be thoughtful and inquisitive. We've taught him to be careful and daring. We've taught him to have fun and to laugh. We've taught him how to cook and how to do (most) laundry. We've taught him how to make phone calls and how to fill out forms. He knows so much. And he knows how to ask for help when he needs it.

I may not feel ready to send him away in these uncertain times. But it's not because HE isn't ready. It's not because he hasn't learned so many important lessons. And when I remember that, when I look at the good human that he is, I know that he is ready...and so am I. 

Perhaps someday he'll even learn how to fold a fitted sheet.



Wednesday, August 5, 2020

#BlogElul #ElulGram 2020

Is blogging still a thing? I’m sure it is!

#BlogElul is a project that I started in 2010, although it wasn't until 2012 that I created the list of topics. Since then, I haven't always completed the whole month of blogging, although I know that many of you have. I also know that the online world has changed so much since 2010, when blogging was one of the only ways to publish your online content easily. 


Now we have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, and other platforms...so many ways in which to express ourselves and dive deeply into the themes of the High Holy Days. And so here we are….I've added #ElulGram to the #BlogElul family and the borders of this project are so wide that they reallly don't exist at all. This project is really whatever YOU want - however YOU want to spend your time preparing yourself for the holiest season in the Jewish calendar. 


Elul -- that wonderful and terrifying month that precedes the High Holy Days. A month of introspection and considering, a month of personal reflection and preparation.


Who can participate? ANYONE. It's yours. I gift it to you. Elul is for anyone and everyone. 


How could one do it? You don't have a blog… No worries. Maybe you have Facebook or Twitter? Maybe you're a big fan of Instagram? Be creative and find your own path! Maybe you don't want to do it daily. Maybe you just want to dip your toe into the experience, or just read (and share?) what others write. It's totally up to you. I always love to see the creative things that the #BlogElul community comes up with.


There are no rules. I provide the topics (see graphic or below for text) for each of the days of the month. Use the hashtag to share your post (I like to put it in my titles) and share other people's posts as well. This could be a way to revitalize your blog, kickstart a new project, or even just get yourself ready for the holidays! I know that lots of people use #BlogElul as a spiritual exercise each year, and I'm so proud to be a part of their yearly journey through Elul.


And what about #ElulGram? This one is even more interpretive. Photos, art, illustrations, quotes -- what kinds of images can you put together to explore and interpret these High Holy Day themes? You don't have to limit your picture-sharing to Instagram (even though I totally appropriated the name), you can use any image-sharing site you'd like, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. Whatever you do, tag it with #ElulGram so we can call share and follow.


These themes and ideas are broad and open, and again -- remember, there are NO RULES except the ones you make for yourself!


And yes, I know that the dates include Shabbat. I personally don't blog/tweet/Facebook on Shabbat, but I will post before and after Shabbat. You can do whatever you like!


Are you going to play along? Let me know! Leave me a comment here, send me a tweet, or send up a signal fire.... Feel free to grab my pretty badge to announce to the whole world that you're part of BlogElul. It is amazing to all share in the Elul journey together through the vastness of the internet.


I'm looking forward to sharing this journey with you. Elul begins on Friday, August 21 (it's always on time), so I wanted to give you a head start if you're going to pre-write some of your posts. 


I hope that our shared preparation for 5780 brings meaning and hope, inspiration and enlightenment for all of us. 


Elul 1: Prepare

Elul 2: Act

Elul 3: Search

Elul 4: Understand

Elul 5: Accept

Elul 6: Know

Elul 7: Be

Elul 8: Hear

Elul 9: See

Elul 10: Count

Elul 11: Trust

Elul 12: Forgive

Elul 13: Remember

Elul 14: Learn

Elul 15: Change

Elul 16: Pray

Elul 17: Awaken

Elul 18: Ask

Elul 19: Judge

Elul 20: Dare

Elul 21: Love

Elul 22: End

Elul 23: Begin

Elul 24: Hope

Elul 25: Intend

Elul 26: Create

Elul 27: Bless

Elul 28: Give

Elul 29: Return


Friday, July 31, 2020

July 2020 Books #mylifeinbooks


The Girl from Berlin by Ronald Balson - okay, I've done it! I've read all the books so-far in this series. A tiny bit formualaic but I am not complaining. I loved it. Twisty and turny historical mystery.

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare - what a gorgeous book. A young Nigerian girl finds her "voice" and the writing just pulled me along....I definitely highly recommend this one!

Cleo Macdougal Regrets Nothing by Alison Winn Scotch - This one was enjoyable and quick. It was almost like the fully-fictionalized version of Rodham!

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett - this book deserves all the buzz it's getting. It was really good, and I continue to think about it.

The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner - I read a lot of Holocaust literature, and I often take a big deep breath before I start...this one had a little too much sweetness in it, but it was really beautiful and well-done.

The Order by Daniel Silva - What can I say? My favorite reading day of the year is when the newest Gabriel Allon book comes out and I was definitely not disappointed this year. I love the whole thing. More history of the Catholic Church than usual but well-researched and interesting! A perfect summer ritual.

The Royal We by Heather Cox - Hmm. I did not like this book. In fact, I gave it up once and then went back to it mostly because I really did want to find out what happened. I just thought the characters were pretty flat and the romance was not believable. Meh. I will not be reading the sequel....

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid - So good! Deserving of all the buzz it's getting too. Plus, so many issues that are really relevant in my own neighborhood. I couldn't put this one down.

Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland - Really enjoyed this story of a period of American history that was so interesting. A few elements almsot wanted whole books of their own - the land bust in Florida, the incubator babies display in Atlantic City, the swimming of the English Channel, and yet there was enough to keep me reading and enjoying the snippets of each story. A really good read.

June's List
May's List
April's List

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

June 2020 Book #mylifeinbooks


So...here's June's books. I'm halfway through the year and WOW have there been a lot of great things to read so far this year. What are you reading? 

The Trust by Ronald Balson - perhaps you've noticed that I'm working my way through his books. I liked this one since it was a little different from the other books that feature Liam and Catherine. Set in Northern Ireland, it dives quite a bit into the conflicts there and the long lasting effects of those battles. I only have one of his books left to read before I've caught up to all of them!

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes - wow, this one was hard and sad and beautiful all at once. Reading in the wake of the current protests, thinking about George Flody and so many others killed by police, and bringing the Emmet Till story into the mix...it was really well-done. This is intended to be a middle-grade novel, but I'm not sure I would hand it to a kid without really having some hard conversations alongside it.

Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi - I've read Ibram Kendi's book "How to be an Anti Racist" and several others, but I liked this "not-history" book, as the author puts it, because it was less of a prescription and far more of a how-did-we-get-here kind of book. It's the YA version of "Stamped from the Beginning" (which I haven't read) and I highly recommend it. So much history here that I just didn't know - so much about how the concept of race was constructed to keep, hold, and maintain power structures. So much to think about and to re-learn.

The Book of V by Anna Solomon - Anyone looking for a straightforward historical fiction re-telling of the Vashti/Esther narrarive will not find it here, but it was a really interesting back-and-forth look at how women have dealt with their powerlessness in different ways through history. It felt a little unfinished, a little unsatisfying, but still readable - the writing was great but I kept waiting for a real plot to develop...

I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown - After listening to Austin speak on Brene Brown's podcast (highly recommend), I wanted to read her book and I was not disappointed. It was a highly personal memoir that really laid bare the exhaustion that Black people feel in America today. I think I want to re-read this one, and I've been recommending it all over (and above some of the other books on the anti-racism reading lists that are going around) because I found it so compelling and readable. So much to think about and to re-learn...I continue the work every day.

In Five Years by Rebecca Searle - hmm. I liked this book, ultimately, but I wasn't sure I liked it while I was reading it. I couldn't tell where it was going to go, but I think I appreciated where it ended up. This is a good summer read (even though it's a bit of tear-jerker too).

Invisible as Air by Zoe Fishman - A quick read but I think this one will stick with me. Each character's perspective on a massive family grief experience cut through me. I kept thinking - that could have easily been our family.... Addiction of multiple kinds, death of a child, and a Bar Mitzvah - this one was a tough read but I recommend it.

Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah - this reminded me of Room, and it was sweet and sad but also totally predictable in a comfortable-sweater type of way. I read this in one Shabbat mostly in my hammock, and that should tell you everything you need to know about this book!

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld - At first, I was a little put-off by the author choosing to write this book in the first person, since it was obviously not penned by the real person. But as the book progressed, I'm not sure I could have had it any other way. I was riveted by the what-might-have-been, but also by the way that women have to act in order to get to the top of their game. I thought it was a powerful statement about how hard it will actually be to get our country to elect the first woman president, and it faced, head on, some of those issues.

The Betrothed by Kiera Cass - preditctable, silly, and felt like a weird opposite-land to Rodham. I probably won't read any more of the books in this series (I can always find people to whom that is anathema) but I passed a lovely Shabbat afternoon in this book. So who's complaining?

A Room Away from the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma - totally did not understand this book. I kept reading, hoping to understand and figure out the plot. But I just didn't get it. If you've read it, please help me. Also, I feel better now that I've read several other readers' reviews that say they didn't get it either. It had a really cool feel to the writing and the storytelling, I just didn't really follow it all!

Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg - I usually read on a Kindle, and this may have been easier on a real book - I had a bit of a hard time keeping track of the different voices, but once I figured out their different styles/tones, I really enjoyed this one. A tough story about a mother and daughter told in an incredibly interesting style of a catalogue of a photography exhibit. Really great! (I almost burned dinner because I was distracted by reading...)

May's List
April's List
March's List
February's List
January's list

Sunday, May 31, 2020

May 2020 Books #MyLifeInBooks


The Plot Against America by Philip Roth - how is it that I have never read this one before? Perhaps I'm not the biggest Philip Roth fan. But anyway. I read this one while watching the HBO miniseries, and they really did a nice job of complementing each other. I'm not sure I would have fully understood all the nuances of the TV show without the book, and I enjoyed having the visuals to go along with it as I read. I think the book did a better job of tying up the ending (maybe a little too neatly) but the TV show updated the message a little - reminding us that democracy is messy and unpredictable. Definitely worth the read!

Saving Sophie by Ron Balson - the second book in the Liam-and-Catherine series, and I liked it a lot. Perhaps things got a little too easily sewn up but it was still a great read, and I enjoy the characters and the writing. (Looking forward to reading the next one. I do like a series that already has a bunch of books waiting for me!)

The Imperfects by Amy Meyerson - this book reminded me a little of the Immortalists in the family dynamic sense of it, with a twist of historical mystery thrown in. Very readable and enjoyable. I found myself drawn to the historical mystery a little more than the family drama, but I liked both storylines and it kept my attention for the whole read! (Plus, I liked the ending.)

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo - I can't believe I've never read this before. Our school's whole third grade is reading it and Solly has declared it his "favorite book EVER that isn't Harry Potter" so I knew I had to read it. Delightful, of course, and thankfully, I can now discuss it in VERY detailed detail with him. Whew. (P.S. The movie is available on Disney+ right now and it's also good. And if you'd like Solly to give you a blow-by-blow account of the ways that the book differs from the movie, feel free to give him a call.)

Karolina's Twins by Ron Balson - okay, so remember how I said I like a series that has a bunch of books waiting for me? Still true. Also true: I am a sucker for a good procedural, and these are just non-formulaic enough to keep me reading and guessing. The third book in the Liam-and-Catherine show did not disappoint, and in fact, kept me up very late one night to find out what happened at the end!

How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones - what an incredible memoir. The writing was superb and the personal story was painful to read but also beautiful to know that the writer got to this point, to crafting this work. It is his personal story of growing up in Texas while gay and black. A double whammy, as he makes clear through his telling. This one feels like a gift to the world. (But it is not G or even PG-rated....)

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner - a fun read that didn't really have a lot of depth to it. Sometimes that is soooo good. I liked the social media aspect and the body-consciousness that came with it.

Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins - this is a pre-quel to the Hunger Games series, and I liked the way that it laid out how the Hunger Games as we know them came to be...It suffered, as prequels do, from any real uncertainty about the future of our main character, since we know who they turn out to be. But still, I liked returning to Panem (even though I hate Panem) and it was definitely a fun read!

Turtle Boy by M. Evan Wolkenstein - I received a review copy of this one and I really enjoyed reading it. The main character is a 7th grader who lives in Wisconsin. The story was sweet and touching, with a lot of self-awareness about how we find compassion for our friends, for others, and for ourselves. As a Wisconsin Jew myself, I was a tiny bit surprised by how many Jews lived in this small town, but I can suspend my disbelief for that! Overall a good read - I'm looking forward to convincing Yael to read it so I can hear the opinion of a 7th grader!

All Adults Here by Emma Straub - this was another slightly-dysfunctional-family-story but an engaging one. Much of this story was about the difference between privacy and secrecy - the author even spells that lesson out at one point - and I thought that was meaningful and powerful. It's a huge and important distinction that is hard to learn. This was a good one to add to your summer reading lists.

An Unorthodox Match by Naomi Ragen - I used to love her books and then I got turned off by her politics and some of her stridency. This one felt a little preachy but pretty compelling, even though you pretty much knew how it was going to end. I appreciated the "lifting of the veil" on mental illness in the Jewish community, since that is a fairly important issue. Very readable, even if the characters felt a little bit caricatured (especially the mom).

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley - jumping on the bandwagon of books-about-bookshops and teen-romances-in-anonymous-letters, this one was a sweet and sad love story. I enjoyed it as an easy summer hammock read...

April's List
March's List
February's List
January's list

Friday, May 1, 2020

April 2020 Books #mylifeinbooks



(I can't decide if these lists should be in order or in reverse order...and does it matter? Sometimes I find myself in an interesting sequence of books...so sometimes sequence matters. Usually it's irrelevant, though, so I'm just writing this header to make a note of it!)

The Opposite of Love - this was not my favorite of this author's works. I have found her writing about teens and grief and love to be really moving and lovely. This one was a little disappointing, although I wanted to know what would happen. I'm pretty sure this was her first book, and it took her a little bit to find her voice in her later books!

An Everlasting Meal - I wish I could remember who recommended this (was it you?) but this was delightful. Especially in a time when I'm constantly thinking about what to cook my family for dinner and how to make something from what is in my pantry...but even in a time of plenty. I enjoyed her style and her approach to food and cooking. I am definitely sharing this one with David, who will be heading out into his own kitchen someday soon....

Untamed - Writer Glennon Doyle has made quite a shift since her first book (which I read too). In her first book, she felt real but there was something that rubbed me a little wrong...and it seems as though it may have bothered her a little bit too (ha, that's meant to be an understatement). I liked the slightly disjointed style, as though I were just having a conversation with her, and I liked seeing how she pieced the elements of her story together. "We can do hard things" is not an original idea to her but it certainly found its mark with me as I read it during this time of worldwide trauma. Highly recommend this one!

4-3-2-1 - let me start by saying that this book is loooong. By long, I mean that my kindle told me it would take me over 12 hours to read and it is over 800 pages. It was totally worth it. But wow. It's such an interesting premise - one character followed through four different life-paths. A little like the movie Sliding Doors. I had a little bit of a hard time following each of the paths fully, since they were broken up (chapter 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, and then 2.1, 2.2...etc, so it wasn't four separate novelas but instead each life path carried on and then you went back to the next one). The chapters were long, too, so I didn't always remember which life-path I was reading, but I just kept going with the flow, and I didn't care too much which storyline I was reading! To be honest, I think it was a little too heavy on the history, name-dropping, book-list/movie-list-making, etc - and could have been pared down a little to tell the story. But....all that, it was a great read.

Chosen Ones - new book from the author of Divergent, and it was a nice break to read something a little flighty and escapist. Magic, bad guys, good guys-who-might-be-bad, all of that. A reluctant heroine....overall, I enjoyed this quick read!

P.S. This seems like such a short list! Hopefully I will read more books in May....

March's List
February's List
January's list

Thursday, April 2, 2020

#blogexodus 8: expand

it's almost funny
to think about
expanding

while we're
contracting
constricting
limiting
squeezing
compressing
restricting

but even in this time
we can
e x p a n d
our
compassion
joy
blessing
hope
goodness

and above all else
l o v e.

What's #BlogExodus? Read more here.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

#blogExodus 6: Retell



I keep lists of the stories I tell. And yes, I tell them over and over. I try to vary them, to keep them fresh, and to tell them in different sequence. And I love when I can find a new story to add to my general repertoire. But overall? I tell the same stories again and again.

And we all love it.

Think about the child who watches the same movie over and over. Or reads the same book again and again. It's joyous, it's immersive, it's comforting.

One might even say that we NEED those retellings. How else does a story become a part of the very fiber of our being if we don't tell it over and over again?

So it is with the Exodus.
Over
and
over
and
over
we tell the same story.
We never get tired of sharing our journey from slavery to freedom. It never gets old.
We work the story over, like a ball of putty, making new shapes from the same material, and yet always returning back to its original form.

It is in the re-telling, the tell-me-again, the turn-it-and-turn-it, that we find our deepest meaning.

What's #BlogExodus? Read more here.

March 2020 Books


Have you noticed that the world feels topsy-turvy? (that was a joke) It's been hard to focus and I feel like I'm working around the clock, so there have been fewer books in March than in previous months...but I'm still over here reading. 

The Cactus - this was a little bit of a meh read for me. It felt a little like Eleanor Oliphant but not as compelling. Maybe I wouldn't read this unless you were stuck at home and didn't have much else to do....

Wunderland - I read a lot of books about the Holocaust, and this one was a little bit unique in its perspective of two young women in Berlin as the Nazis come to power...and in the aftermath of all of that. One of the women discovers a family secret (it's a spoiler for me to tell you, I think, but I'm betting you can guess) and it changes her whole life. This one was definitely worth reading!

House of the Broken Angels - last month, I read American Dirt, and I committed myself to reading another book by a Latinx author to balance the controversy. I chose this one because I heard this author specifically speak against the American Dirt book. House of the Broken Angels was a little bit of a tough read for me, but it also might have been due to the chaos that seems to have erupted in the world while I was reading it. The story was powerful and strong, a saga of a Mexican-American family and their immigrant experience. It was also interesting to compare to my own family's immigrant story.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January  - a fantasy tale about the power of words and stories. In this world, there are "doors" that open into other worlds, and people who want to close them all down. Sound familiar? My favorite quote: "I believe I already know what happens to a world without doors." I really liked this one.

My Dark Vanessa - has this ever happened to you: you start reading a book and think to yourself, "what on earth convinced me to put this book on my to-read list?" That was how I felt as I started this dark and really difficult book. Did you recommend this book to me? It was sad and hard to read this story of a young woman who was a victim of a sexual predator, a teacher at her school. The book is getting a lot of press, and I recommend you read some articles and interviews before you decide if you want to read this one...

Once We Were Brothers - how have I never read this book or any books in this series? So weird. (Thanks, Julie, for putting it on my list!) Anyway, I enjoyed this one. I was pretty sure I knew how it would end (I mean, come on...) but I still liked reading the story and seeing it play out. I've just grabbed the second book in this series from the library app so I'll probably tell you about that one next month. I also liked the Chicago setting... anyway, this was a good, readable, solid Holocaust telling.

February's List
January's list

What are you reading?

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Monday, March 30, 2020

#BlogExodus 5: Seek

We search
hunt
seek out
the chametz
the fluff
the puff

We look for it
so we can
sweep
it
away

and
emerge
feeling
free...

(repost from 2017)

What's #BlogExodus? Read more here.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

#blogExodus day 4: RISE


When we observe the period of shiva, the seven-day mourning period following a death, it is customary to sit on low stools. The mourners literally are brought low by the death of a loved one.

Thus, at the end of shiva, we say that one "rises from shiva."

In so many ways, the isolation that we are feeling in these days of physical distancing is like shiva.
We are lying low....waiting.
For many of us, it's impossibly difficult to be so far apart.

And so we talk about what we'll do when we rise.

We will go out.
We will visit friends.
We'll eat in restaurants and get our nails done.

"Rise" is on the BlogExodus list because of the rising that didn't happen in our bread. It's like we need to rise up in other ways to counteract the flatness of our matzah.

And so it is right now.
We talk about what we'll do when we rise from our isolation.
But, let us talk about how we will rise RIGHT NOW.

We rise together when we check in on our loved ones.
We rise together when we send meals to the staffs of our local ERs.
We rise together when we help others to heal.
We rise together when we join in virtual song, prayer, story, learning.
We rise.
Higher and higher.

Right now.
We rise.

What's #BlogExodus? Read more here.

Friday, March 27, 2020

#blogExodus day 2: exalt

exalt
praise
glorify
laud
celebrate

those are tough words
in the face of
a global pandemic

how can we find
gratitude
when we are
scared
worried
afraid
alone?

and yet...
the sun rises
and sets
the clouds make
beautiful formations
the lake sends
waves over the shore

we breathe

and then realize
that the
breath
itself

is worthy
of praise.

What's #BlogExodus? Read more here.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

#blogExodus Day 1: Launch


Today we launch the strangest Nisan ever.

With two weeks to go until the Seder, my house is full of chametz and not a box of matzah in sight.

My Facebook feed is not full of carmelizing onions or jokes about covering the whole kitchen in foil. Instead, it's full of posts about whether it's safe to bring in the mail and how to snag the last instacart time slot available for the week.

This year is different. Using the word "different" feels so small and insignificant. It's beyond different. It's monumentally, fundamentally, outrageously different.

And yet, we launch Nisan. Because the calendar doesn't slow down or stop. Because Passover is, at its very core, a celebration that we always need, even in the midst of darkness. Even when we are scared and worried and anxious and afraid, even when our focus is elswhere, the calendar launches us into Nisan.

So just for today, take a breath. Organize a thought. Consider the next step.

Launch into Nisan.

What's #BlogExodus? Read more here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

#BlogExodus and #ExodusGram 5780


Rosh Chodesh Nisan is on Thursdsay, March 26, 2020.
I know we're all in lockdown mode. I know it means that Passover is going to be VERY different this year.

And I also know that many people are out there, looking for ways to be creative, engaged, and focused on the real meaning and messages in our lives today.

So...with Passover around the corner, you might not be making brisket or matzah balls. You might have cancelled your big Passover plans and are planning a small seder (perhaps online!). And it's all so different. Which makes this a great time to have something to focus on, something to think about that is a little bit outside of our four walls.

Enter: BlogExodus and Exodusgram.

So what is this really about? #BlogExodus is really what you want to make of it. I've provided topics for the first 14 days of the month of Nisan. What you do with it is up to you -- write a blog post, tweet, Facebook, tumblr, or something that I haven't even thought of yet! Use the hashtag to share your post (I put it into the title of each post). It's a great way to kickstart a blog or rejuvenate your languishing blog or just get yourself ready for the holiday of Passover! I will be posting my #blogExodus posts here on this blog and I will tweet them out at @imabima.

Maybe you don't have a blog? I'll post an "open thread #blogExodus" each day on my Facebook page as well, so you could just post your thoughts, photos, comments, or haikus there. Maybe you're a yogi? What about a photo of a different yoga post each day related to the theme of the day?

There aren't any rules, so maybe you don't like the order of the topics? Maybe you want to write on only a few of them? It doesn't matter. It is what you make of it.

 #Exodusgram is a even more interpretive. While I love Instagram (I'm imabima, of course), I know some people don't. So maybe you want to share Exodus-themed photos via Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, Pinterest or....whatever! My #Exodusgram posts will go up on Instagram and then be shared to my tumblr, imabima.tumblr.com. Whatever you do, don't forget to tag with #Exodusgram so we can all share. (Note for some of my colleagues: this might make a fun teen project...who's up for #SnapTheExodus?)

The themes are really up for your own interpretation. I was thinking broadly and openly about what makes Passover special and interesting to me. I hope it will translate into creative and inspirational posts from all of us!

Are you going to join in? Leave me a comment here or send me a tweet or just...jump in! I will try to retweet all the #BlogExodus and #Exodusgram posts through Twitter via @imabima. If I miss your posts, let me know so I can go back and be inspired by what YOU have to say!

#BlogExodus #Exodusgram topics for 5780
1 Nisan - Launch
2 Nisan - Exalt
3 Nisan - Cleanse
4 Nisan - Rise
5 Nisan - Seek
6 Nisan - Retell
7 Nisan - Read
8 Nisan - Expand
9 Nisan - Perplex
10 Nisan - Join
11 Nisan - Celebrate
12 Nisan - Reveal
13 Nisan - Welcome
14 Nisan - Thank

 *Yes, I know that I put the Shabbat dates there. I don't blog/tweet/Facebook on Shabbat but I will post on Fridays before Shabbat and on Saturdays after Shabbat is over. You can, of course, do it any way you like!

Saturday, February 29, 2020

February 2020 Books #mylifeinbooks


This month's reading...I'm trying to keep up with short reviews this year. So far, 2 months in a row seems like it might be a trend....

Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life-in Judaism (after Finally Choosing to Look There) by Sarah Hurwitz - I really like her voice. Of course, she's a speechwriter! But I really liked the way she put things, and my favorite parts were when she was sharing her own stories. It's also a very accessible basic-Judaism-text, which is always nice to have. Looking forward to meeting her next month.

Kaddish.com by Nathan Englander - Leading a book discussion on this one soon. I didn't expect to enjoy it at all - but it was a quick read and good food for thought. There were parts of this book that seemed a little far-fetched and I'm not sure I "bought" the main character. Looking forward to a group discussion on this one.

Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly - a sweet middle-grade novel about a Deaf girl and her yearning for connection. I just handed this one to Solly so I am looking forward to hearing what he thinks! Loved the main character....

The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali - I really enjoyed this one. It was an interesting look at Iran in the 1950s and I'm always fascinated by the changing roles of women in general. It's a little hard to believe in the ending, but at the same time, it felt satisfying and good.

Ban This Book by Alan Gratz - This is a middle-grade novel that's gotten a bit of press. It's about banned books (I bet you guessed that from the title) and a group of kids who love to read! It made me want to re-read some of my favorites from my childhood too. Well done!

White Fragility by Robin Diangelo - I am still thinking about this book long after I've put it down. What an interesting, fascinating, troubling (in a good way) read. I read How to Be an AntiRacist at the end of last year and this was such a remarkable complement. I'm looking forward to hearing the author speak next month and I am still processing. I think everyone should read this one, and I look forward to hearing what people have to say to me about it. Here's the quote that I think stuck with me the most (although there were several): "When I start from the premise that of course I have been thoroughly socialized into the racist culture in which I was born, I no longer need to expend energy denying that fact." And her use of some really interesting terms like "interrupting racism" - this has my mind spinning in so many directions.

The Unbreakables by Lisa Barr - I needed a little bit of lighter fare after White Fragility and this was a good one. Not too fluffy but a good story about a woman finding herself after her marriage implodes.

What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum - I picked this YA novel up because last month, I read a book by this author at Yael's suggestion. This author writes beautifully about grief. The main character in this book is on the autism spectrum and it seems like a really interesting portrayal (I am reluctant to say accurate) of insight into that person's character. Is it all wrapped up a little too neatly? Maybe. But I liked it anyway.

I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day - a middle grade novel that I can't quite tell you how it got on my shelf but I'm pretty sure it was from an article highlighting diverse voices in literature. A story about a girl trying to find her "home" and learning more about her own family's history. Heartbreaking look at the way that the Native population was torn apart by US policy...a good introduction for younger readers.

The Liar by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen - like her first book, Waking Lions, this book explores the meaning of truth and how lies multiply and escalate. I loved the slightly dreamy quality of the storytelling and the way that lies create circles that ensnare everyone in them.....highly recommend this one!

American Dirt by Jeannine Cummins - okay, so this one has sat for me for a little while due to all of the controversy. So many people have derided this book for a myriad of reasons but I have also heard that it was readable, compelling, and powerful. So what's a reader to do? I decided to go for it, and I did find the story painful and interesting, well-told, and I very much appreciated the author's insight at the end of the book as to her own misgivings about writing a story that some might feel she doesn't "have the right to tell." All that being said, I think any book shedding light on important topics is useful and I'd be curious to examine it with a group of people who could really tell me about its accuracy. Also, I've added a few Latinx authors to my to-read list to maybe balance out the controversial nature of this choice. What do you think???

The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater - Again, a recommendation from Yael, who is reading this book for her English class. Just this week, someone "misgendered" her (thanks to her newly shaved head) and it opened the door for us to have a really interesting conversation about gender and identity, all wrapped up in this story as well. This is non-fiction, but uses some really nice storytelling conventions like poetry, blog posts, news reports, etc, and multiple perspectives, to tell two really important stories of injustice that intersect in this one incident. I'm really really really looking forward to discussing with Yael and also to hearing/seeing how this is integrated into her 7th grade English class!

Here's January's list

What are you reading?

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