Tuesday, January 31, 2023

January 2023 - Books I Read


Welcome back to a new year and some great new reading!

Here are all the books I read in January, 2023

Keeper of the Lost Cities - Books 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 - They're delightful - a rich and beautiful world of magic and intrigue between a team of teens, their grownup allies, and their dark and shadowy enemies. Annoying, each book ends wtih a total cliffhanger, which means I just want to keep going! (I will say that the cliffhanger for book 7 was slightly less compelling to me, so I read the first chapter of book 8 and now I'm taking a short break!) Each one is over 600 pages, so I've read a LOT of pages this month!

An Affair of Spies by Ron Balson - this was not my favorite of his books. Perhaps the dialogue felt a little too modern? Or the whole thing felt a smidge too simplistic? Obviously, a book about spies in Nazi Germany shouldn't be simplistic, but it just didn't work for me. 

The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama - I really enjoyed hearing her voice come through again, and I didn't listen to an audiobook! But I could almost hear Michelle speaking the words. A lovely and heartfelt memoir.

The Matchmaker's Gift by Lynda Cohen Loigman - I don't know how I never got to this one in 2022, but I loved it. This is my favorite kind of story - one that spans a lifetime and has just a tiny hint of magical realism. I didn't want this book to end. 

Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro - I'm often spoiled in January, as I read everyone else's "best of" books from the year before. This one did not disappoint me - the interlinked story of children, parents, and spouses - really an excellent and engrossing read. 

The People We Keep by Allison Larkin - I loved the characters and the journey they took together. It reminded me a little of that Natalie Portman movie - "Where the Heart Is" and I saw April as that young Natalie Portman character who finds her way to a chosen family. Definitely enjoyed this one!

Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner - I loved this sweet book about a London bookstore post-war, and the women who work there. The characters interact with all sorts of real-life famous people, and it was cozy and lovely. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

November Books I Read #MyLifeInBooks


The Many Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford - one of my favorite reads of the year, I loved this back-and-forth-through-history look at the way generational trauma can carry through our history. I have been recommending this one all over town!

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng - I really wanted to love this book but it didn't all work for me. I do like the whole librarians-as-heroes plotline! It was not my favorite of her books.

One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin - I wish I knew how I got to this book. I almost quit right away when I realized that Lenni was a teenager with a terminal illness, but I was totally hooked by the storytelling style and I ended up loving this sad and sweet book. 

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan MacGuire - This was the second in the Wayward Children books, and I didn't plan to read it until someone mentioned that they'd read the whole series in one sitting and I felt like I needed to revisit. This was the backstory of one of the side characters in the first book, and now I'm hoping that the rest of the books all track through other characters as well. Just a good twisty fantasy story. 

Midnight Children by Dan Gemeinhart - A wonderful middle-grade novel about friendship and family, about finding your passion and finding your people. Just a hint of magic, and it was wonderful. I definitely want to read all of his books now!

More Than I Love My Life by David Grossmann - Catching up for next month's book discussion. This was NOT an easy read - another story of generational trauma as it plays out in Israeli society. Come to the December book discussion to talk about it!

The Measure by Nikki Erlick - Hmm. I liked the premise of this book and I really liked how the various storylines ended up interwoven. It was a bit too simplistic and predictable, but the ending was mostly satisfying. 

Eight Nights of Flirting by Hannah Reynolds - A CHANUKAH ROMANCE NOVEL! Okay, it's for teens. But I loved it. It was adorable and sweet, and of course, Jewish! I had a few issues (as one does) but overall, it made me very happy. 

October books
September Books
August Books
July Books
June Books
May Books
April Books
March Books
February Books
January Books

Monday, October 31, 2022

October Books #booksIRead #MyLifeInBooks

The Latecomer by Jean Hanff Korelitz - One of my favorite books of the year, I could not put it down. The style was so unique, the story was great, the characters were incredibly layered, and I loved so many of the big questions that it raised. 

One, Two, Three by Laurie Frankel - okay, this was ALSO one of my favorite books of the year. Each character's voice was so clear and distinct, the story was both heartwarming and heartwrenching, and I just couldn't put it down. (It was a good couple of weeks of reading)

The Spanish Love Deception - It was fine. A typical romance novel, and I found myself a little annoyed by the characters. 

June, Reimagined - another romance novel, this one with a little twist of a character who wants to reinvent herself and her life, along with figuring out how to handle a big family secret. Not bad.

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe - This is an autobiographical graphic memoir, and wow. It's a clear and interesting look at what it means to wrestle with and try to explain different gender and sexual identities, while one is also figuring them out for oneself! My sixth grader brought this book home, it was passed on from a friend. While I know he was proud to be reading a book that is "the most banned, Mom," I was also aware of the opportunity to have some big conversations after we both read it. I'm not sure I'd really recommend it for sixth graders, but I was glad that he felt he could share it with me. 

When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill - I loved this alternate-history story of a 1955 "mass dragoning," when thousands of women spontaneously turned into dragons. It was a really interesting look at how women's roles and power have changed over time, and how rage can be an important driving force for change. I did think that it was a little long - meaning, I got the "big idea" pretty quickly and the story could have been pared down a bit. But I did like this one a lot!

The Roughest Draft by Emily Wibberly - Back to romance novels, this one a book about two authors who work together on a hit book and then stop working together. Will they find a way to work together again? Will they fall in love? If you've ever read a romance novel, I think you can answer these questions for yourself :-) This wasn't bad, but it wasn't my favorite.

September Books
August Books
July Books
June Books
May Books
April Books
March Books
February Books
January Books

Friday, September 30, 2022

September Books I Read #MyLifeInBooks

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin - I loved this book - the characters, the storyline, the nuance...it was really a wonderful combination. There was a smidge of Jewish-element in this story (Sadie meets Sam because of her Bat Mitzvah!) but it wasn't interesting or deep enough. Other people have said this was the best book of the year, and while I really loved it, I did think it was a bit too long and so therefore it's good but not my favorite!

The Final Gambit by Jennifer Lynne Barnes I'm not always a completionist, but I really wanted to see how this trilogy ended. I thought this one was better than the second, and I liked how it all wrapped up. 

Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen She is one of my favorite authors, and it's been quite a while since she's written a new book! This one did not disappoint - I love the blend of magical realism and real life in this story about love and grief and chosen family. 

Thread Collectors by Shauna Edwards and Alyson Richman - what a unique story of the Civil War from two perspectives - Jewish and Black. I really appreciated these stories and how they wove together. There's some interesting stuff here about these two authors, too, as they both drew on their own family stories to collaborate on this book. 

My Fine Fellow by Jennieke Cohen - Such a fun gender-swapped My Fair Lady story, with a twist that Elijah Little (ya know, Eliza Dolittle) is Jewish to boot. It's also an alternate timeline history, which is a little steampunk and a lot of fun. Maybe a smidge too long, but I liked it overall. 

Shmutz by Felicia Berliner - Super provocative cover but the story itself was sad and dark, without a lot of redemption. I definitely didn't understand the goal of this book and the ending confused me a little bit. I don't really recommend this one. 

Love and Saffron by Kim Fay Quick read, a sweet epistolary novel set in the 1960s, focused on food and friendship. I really enjoyed this one, it reminded me of 84 Charing Cross Road. 

Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young Ooh, so good. It felt a little like a magical version of Veronica Mars! Mystery, secrets, magic...all in this one. 

August Books
July Books
June Books
May Books
April Books
March Books
February Books
January Books

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

August Books I Read #LifeInBooks


This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub - I need to say "wow" on this one. It started out pretty innocently, and then it turned into a time travel novel, and THEN it turned into a novel about grief and what it would take to spend just one more day with someone you love and I'm going to say "wow."

How The Light Gets In by Louise Penny - She's always on the list of "if you like Daniel Silva" and I asked a friend who is a fan to suggest a good starting point for an Inspector Gamache novel. After I got past some of the French, I found it very enjoyable and could definitely see myself reading all of these someday. 

The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb - Ooh, this one was good. A mystery about a black classical violinist with a super-special violin. So many layers and I really liked this one a lot. 

Cyclorama by Adam Langer - Let me start by saying the first half of the book was SO cringey with the teacher's behavior that I almost quit it - but a friend's review kept me going and I thought it was really great. A Chicago high school puts on a production of The Diary of Anne Frank in the first half of the book, and the second half follows each of the actors AND keeps the Anne Frank connection going - it was really unique and powerful.

How High We Go In the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu - This book was breathtaking. It starts out innocently enough with a discovery in the Arctic, and spans decades of heartwrenching, interlinked stories that speak to who we are as humans, and what we are willing to endure and what will we become...heavy and a little bleak, but wow.

Mr Perfect on Paper by Jean Meltzer - let's just say I needed a little fluff after the previous book, and this was great. A little heavy-handed on the "Jewish marriage" thing but overall a fun read. (Also, big fan of the Jewish romance genre!)

Every Summer After by Carley Fortune - Delightful small-town Canada romance story. Girl-next-door meets summer-boy-next-door. 

July Books
June Books
May Books
April Books
March Books
February Books
January Books

Monday, August 15, 2022

#blogElul #elulgram 2022


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.

#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 FacebookTwitterInstagram, 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.

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 Blogging Elul. If you let me know that you're doing it, we can cross-post, or guest-post, or even just do some virtual hand-holding as the days grow closer to Tishrei. 

I'm looking forward to sharing this journey with you. Elul begins on August 28th (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 5783 brings meaning and hope, inspiration and enlightenment for all of us.

The list:
Elul 1: Decide
Elul 2: Seek
Elul 3: Prepare
Elul 4: Choose
Elul 5: Commit
Elul 6: Want
Elul 7: Understand
Elul 8: Hear
Elul 9: See
Elul 10: Forgive
Elul 11: Trust
Elul 12: Count
Elul 13: Remember
Elul 14: Learn
Elul 15: Plan
Elul 16: Pray
Elul 17: Awaken
Elul 18: Ask
Elul 19: Speak
Elul 20: Fill
Elul 21: Love
Elul 22: End
Elul 23: Begin
Elul 24: Hope
Elul 25: Change
Elul 26: Create
Elul 27: Bless
Elul 28: Give
Elul 29: Return

Sunday, July 31, 2022

July Books I Read #MyLifeInBooks

(Sorry there are no links today, GoodReads was down!?)

Windy City Blues by Renee Rosen - I loved this book because it was full of historical things I never knew about the music industry and Chicago...I kept looking things up to learn more about my city! I thought it was a good story. This one made the cut for my synagogue book club this year too!

The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd - This was a really interesting story. I am a big fan of the "magical realism" - things seem perfectly normal and then there's just a dash of magic...I like books like that. This one was also a bit of a mystery, so it was compelling and I couldn't put it down!

Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover - Okay, let's establish that I've read two other books by this author and I'm not the biggest fan. But at camp...some of the teenagers were trying to convince me that she's the Best. Author. Of. All and so I made them tell me their favorite (this one) and I read it while they were on a canoe trip. It wasn't terrible. It was a little bit sad and very predictable, and it filled a few nice hours of reading while I was waiting for....

Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Daniel Silva - always one of my favorite days of the year when the new Daniel Silva comes out! Gabriel Allon is older now, and he's retired. But somehow he still got involved in solving a big mystery. And it was awesome. Like putting on your favorite sweater. I loved it! I was supposed to hear him speak last week but something came up and I had to miss it. Always a delight!

Funny You Should Ask by Elissa Sussman - I liked this sweet romance about a journalist who interviews her celebrity crush. It was romance-novel-predictable. I liked the casual Jewishness of the main character, mentioning Shabbat dinner in passing, for example. A quick and enjoyable read.

June Books
May Books
April Books
March Books
February Books
January Books