Tuesday, April 30, 2024

April 2024 Books #MyLifeInBooks


Hmm, most of this month was a little bit meh for reading. I'll have to work on some better choices for May!

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid - I did like this one. Apparently, it's also a movie, which I should find and watch. A really lovely inspection of how we find love, how we grow through and with love, and how we change. 

Unfortunate Side Effects of Heartbreak and Magic by Breanne Randall - I really like magic stories, but this one was just trying to be a few too many things for me. I wanted to love it, since it was advertised as "gilmore girls meets magic" but I wasn't quite there.

Bride by Ali Hazelwood - I usually like Ali Hazelwood's science-themed romances. This was a bit of a new path for her, and I'm not sure that I really loved it. As a fan of the Vampire Diaries, I thought I would care more but it just didn't work for me.

Amen Effect by Sharon Brous - breathtaking and important. I'm sure you'll hear lots of rabbis giving sermons about this one. We need each other.

Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford - I read this because one of my kids did, and it was interesting and hard. I am still processing this one.

Expiration Dates by Rebecca Serle - Good, yes, but not great. I knew there had to be a couple of twists, and they didn't disappoint. Get busy living or get busy dying - ultimately a sweet and good message.

Previous Months...

March Books
February Books
January Books

Sunday, April 7, 2024

#BlogExodus #ExodusGram 5784


Rosh Chodesh Nisan is Tuesday, April 9th.

This year is so different. Since October 7th, nothing has felt quite right.

And of all the holidays we've observed since Simchat Torah, Pesach is the one that feels...off. I was able to celebrate Chanukah and Purim, but Pesach...how? 

And yet - we will. We must.

We are told, each year, that we should see ourselves as though we came out of Egypt. That ability to imagine freedom kept our ancestors going through so many hardships of our history. That ability to hold a vision of a better future...and we will get through this dark time too.

We are a people with a future. Pesach reminds us of that. It reminds us that spring is coming, renewal is coming, and soon, we hope, peace is comign. 

I'll admit that I'm having a hard time picking out menus, feeling more desperate as the days pass and we await the return of the hostages and some kind of feeling that we're able to begin to heal. 

And yet...I'm also trying to find hope, to find normalcy in the cycle and rhythm of our year and our beloved holidays.

I spent a lot of time trying to decide if #BlogExodus and #Exodusgram should happen this year. And I decided yes, I would offer two different graphics and a list of prompts. As I say each year, the themes are open to your own interpretation, and they're words that can hold a lot of meaning in a lot of ways for different people. 

May this season of Nisan, of Pesach, bring us all hope and healing, and may we find blessing in each other along the way.

#BlogExodus #Exodusgram topics for 5784:
1 Nisan - Launch
2 Nisan - Exalt
3 Nisan - Rise
4 Nisan - Cleanse
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, March 30, 2024

March 2024 Books #MyLifeInBooks


I've mostly moved on from the 2023 recommendations and now I'm into some new stuff. What is on your TBR list?

The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict - I knew nothing about Hedy Lamarr's story and this told it well. My complaint about her books is that they read too much like a wikipedia entry - meaning, not enough imagined insight into the character. Mostly a somewhat dry retelling of the life. I feel like a biography might have done better! 

The Collected Regrets of Clover by Mikki Brammer - A book about a "death doula" but really it's a book about found-family, and I usually like those kinds of stories where there's a mishmash cast of characters who all come together to make their own worlds just a little brighter and better. Heartwarming and sweet. 

Life Intended by Kristen Harmel - a little bit like Sliding Doors, a what-if kind of story, but somehow not quite? I'm not even sure how to explain this book and the story, and that's how I felt while reading it also. But I kept going mostly because I couldn't quite figure out what the point was. (But it inspired me to watch Sliding Doors with one of my kids and that was fun!)

Meant to be Mine by Hannah Orenstein - cute premise but just a little bit uninspiring. 

The Phoenix Crown by Kate Quinn and Janie Chang - Oh! So good!! Really loved this historical fiction about the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. Very compelling, couldn't put it down. I love Kate Quinn's novels and now I want to go check out Janie Chang's. Sometimes a team-written novel can feel uneven but this one felt seamless.

Wings of Fire by Tui T Sutherland - I picked this one up because a fourth grader was reading the 14th or 15th book in this series and when I asked her if I should read them, she did say "well, the first 10 books aren't good but they get good in the last five." I suggested that I might start with book #11, but she was appalled by this idea and insisted that I needed to start at the beginning. I can see why she likes these books so much, it was delightful. I probably won't read all 15 but I feel like I would enjoy them...and I can't wait to see her at Hebrew School to give her my review.

Sword Catcher by Cassandra Clare - I loved this fantasy-romance-magic book. Hints of Jewish elements made me smile. But about halfway through, I realized that there is going to be a sequel, there has to be, and then I checked. I think I have a new personal rule - no more unfinished series! I feel very grumpy to wait to find out what happens next. Couldn't put it down but I'll just have to wait for the next one!

February Books
January Books

Thursday, February 29, 2024

February 2024 Books #MyLifeInBooks

I am steadily making my way through the lists of all the end-of-year recommendations from 2023...but it's hard when new books come out too! It's a neverending saga....

You Have a Match by Emma Lord - a not-bad YA book about finding a "secret" sibling through a DNA testing service. Sweet and a little bit forgettable.

The Maid by Nita Prose - I didn't know anything about this one going in, and I was glad for it. Loved the "found family" story and the mystery was good too. I think this is the start of a series, but I'm probably done for now. 

Thank you for Listening by Julia Whelan - Great story and characters, I really appreciated the insight into the audiobook world, and I was rooting for the love story! What more can you ask for? (P.S. I'm not really an audiobook listener, but apparently the author is a famous narrator.)

Have you Seen Luis Velez? by Catherin Ryan Hyde - I adored this book. The intergenerational friendship just brought me so much warm joy, and the story was just beautifully told. Don't skip this one. 

Drop, Cover, and Hold On by Jasmine Guillory - love me a good, simple, HEA (happy ever after) romance. I wasn't sure if this one "counted" since it was more of a novella, but other people put it on their lists so I decided, why not?

Amazing Grace Adams by Jean Littlewood - I wanted to love this and it started out strong, but I got a little bogged down in the middle somewhere and never quite found my way back to loving it. I had a hard time keeping track of everything and definitely didn't see the grief part of this story coming. Sigh. 

The Women by Kristin Hannah - It's hard to believe how little I actually know about Vietnam and how I don't think I've ever read a novel about it. This was raw and painful and entirely engrossing. Plus, it included Kristin Hannah's signature deep female friendships, which I appreciate. I'm still reeling from this one. 

January Books

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

January 2024 Books #MyLifeInBooks


New year, new books to read! 

The Island of the Missing Trees by Elif Shafak - Okay, I'll admit it, I get a little cranky about a book with a non-human narrator. This one was saved by that narrator only having periodic chapters. But this particular bias aside, this was a good book with an interesting story about Cyprus - I knew almost nothing about the history of this island! And the universal story about how we determine our identities and what is the meaning of home was really lovely.

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson - This book was ...quirky.... The jist of the story is that there are these two kids who burst into flames. And a woman is hired to care for them, but becomes a loving parent to them. And...you'll have to read this one for yourself to see if you like it.

Don't Forget to Write by Sara Goodman Confino - really loved this story about a young woman who gets caught kissing the rabbi's son (!) and it turns her whole life upside down...in what turns out to be a great way. It was sweet and light, but also heartwarming. 

The Invisible Hour by Alice Hoffman - This was like two totally different books - the first part and the weird second part. I enjoyed the first part, and the powerful message that reading can help you to find personal freedom was appreciated. But the second part? So confused. And somewhat annoyed. I usually enjoy magical realism but this one threw me for a loop.

Kunstlers in Paradise by Cathleen Schine - Similar to Sara Confino's book above, a young person ends up in the home of an older one, only to learn deep secrets from the older person. (I'm sensing a trope here.) I look forward to discussing this one with our book group in February, if only to ask the question of whether we are ready for Covid19 Pandemic Novels. 

The Only Purple House in Town by Ann Aguirre - found family, casual magic, somewhat sweet romance...this was a little like eating a candy bar. Turns out it's part of a series, but I probably won't read the others. 

The Society of Shame by Jane Roper - Really liked this look at how "15 minutes of infamy" and the speedy news cycle in our crazy world lead to some ridiculousness. 

Can We Talk About Israel by Daniel Sokatch - I'm leading a discussion about this one next month, and there's a lot to unpack here. Readable, good background material, interesting perspectives. 

Yellowface by R.F. Kuang - Oh my. This book dealt with some major issues regarding race and appropriation - who gets to tell certain stories? whose stories get told? how do books get published and who decides what hits the zeitgeist and what doesn't? And truthiness certainly plays in. A powerful book, I couldn't put it down. (But it was a little like watching a slo-mo trainwreck. I knew it was going to crash...I just didn't quite know how.)

Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan - This felt like a classic Picoult, with a family drama/murder mystery/courtroom story all tied up with Issue Of The Day. Still, it was a good read and I was guessing until the end. (Also, my guessing was wrong, which means I should stick to my day job!)

Lots of good reading ahead in the rest of 2024, stick around! :-) 

Sunday, December 31, 2023

2023 Books I Read #YearInBooks


So many books! The reading world is a broad and beautiful place.

This year found me reading almost the entirety of the Keeper of the Lost Cities series (I started it in 2022), and I didn't get to tell you about it because I never did an end-of-2022 recap post! (We were travelling and by the time I came back, it felt very 2023.) I definitely would like to another one (waiting on book 10, Shannon Messenger!) but I was also glad to finish so I could move on with my life! I also read both Fourth Wing and its sequel this year and I liked them along with everyone else in the world, haha. 

Of course, the usual suspects are here - my annual Daniel Silva, a lot of romance novels, heavy on the Jewish content, and a bit of variety. I didn't like some of the books that other people loved and vice versa.

The end of this year was tough in the real world, and after a short slowdown, I was able to find escape in fictional worlds, which I really needed.

So here's the list:

  1. An Affair of Spies by Ron Balson
  2. The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama
  3. Everblaze by Shannon Messenger (Keeper #3)
  4. Matchmaker's Gift by Lynda Cohen Loigman
  5. Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro
  6. Neverseen by Shannon Messenger (Keeper #4)
  7. The People we Keep by Allison Larkin
  8. Lodestar by Shannon Messenger (Keeper #5)
  9. Nightfall by Shannon Messenger (Keeper #6)
  10. Flashback by Shannon Messenger (Keeper #7)
  11. Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner
  12. A Play for the End of the World by Jai Chakrabarti
  13. Legacy by Shannon Messenger (Keeper #8)
  14. Unlocked by Shannon Messenger (Keeper #8.5)
  15. Stellarlune by Shannon Messenger (Keeper #9)
  16. Summer of the Lost Letters by Hannah Reynolds
  17. Answers in the Pages by David Levithan
  18. We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman
  19. The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict
  20. Thistlefoot by GennaRose Nethercott
  21. Shadows of Berlin by David R Gillham
  22. Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert
  23. The Miniscule Mansion of Myra Malone by Audrey Burges
  24. The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear
  25. Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr
  26. Maame by Jessica George
  27. Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher
  28. Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
  29. Lost in the Moment and Found by Seanan McGuire
  30. Attack of the Black Rectangles by Amy Sarig King
  31. Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld
  32. All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody
  33. Queen Charlotte by Julia Quinn
  34. We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
  35. The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan Henry
  36. Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
  37. The Red Balcony by Jonathan Wilson
  38. Iona Iverson's Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley
  39. Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Torzs
  40. The Postcard by Anne Berest
  41. The Change by Kirsten Miller
  42. Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune
  43. Candle, Feather, Wooden Spoon by Zoe Klein
  44. Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano
  45. Kantika by Elizabeth Graver
  46. The Witch of Woodland by Laurel Snyder
  47. Symphony of Secrets by Brendan Slocumb
  48. The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton
  49. Diary of a Lonely Girl by Miriam Karpilove
  50. The Collector by Daniel Silva
  51. The Wind Knows My Name by Isabel Allende
  52. Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club by J. Ryan Stradal
  53. Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim
  54. Business or Pleasure by Rachel Lynn Solomon
  55. Happy Place by Emily Henry
  56. Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros
  57. Hotel Cuba by Aaron Hamburger
  58. The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton
  59. Weyward by Emilia Hart
  60. The Celebrants by Steven Rowley
  61. The Doughnut Fix by Jessie Janowitz
  62. The Blonde Identity by Ally Carter
  63. Kissing Kosher by Jean Meltzer
  64. Unorthodox Love by Heidi Shertok
  65. Love, Theoretically by Ali Hazelwood
  66. Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross
  67. Kiss the Girl by Zoraida Cordova
  68. Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley
  69. The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride
  70. My Roommate is a Vampire by Jenna Levine
  71. The Brothers Hawthorne by Jennifer Lynne Barnes
  72. B'nai Mitzvah Mistake by Stacey Agdern
  73. The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom
  74. All the Broken Places by John Boyne
  75. Same Time Next Summer by Annabel Monaghan
  76. The Enchanted Hacienda by JC Cervantes
  77. The Golem of Brooklyn by Adam Mansbach
  78. The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair
  79. Meet You in the Middle by Devon Daniels
  80. Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith
  81. The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
  82. The Lost Husband by Katherine Center
  83. Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros
  84. Witches Get Stuff Done by Molly Harper
  85. Cottage on Glass Lake by Amy Pine
  86. Hawaii by James Michener
  87. Emily Wilde's Encyclopedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett
  88. The Last List of Mabel Beaumont by Laura Pearson
  89. Tom Lake by Ann Patchett
  90. Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson
  91. What You Do To Me by Rochelle Weinstein
Here are all the mini-reviews:

It's hard to choose favorites (often it's what I'm reading right now) but here is a good list of the ones I liked best:
Secret Book of Flora Lea
Hello Beautiful
Romantic Comedy
Tom Lake
The Miniscule Mansion of Myra Malone
Iona Iverson's Rules for Commuting
Matchmaker's Gift
The People We Keep
Black Cake
Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune

While I'm going to continue tracking on GoodReads, I'm also going to set up a StoryGraph account to track simulatneously. Lots of Goodreads drama, so I'll just dip my toe into something new. Plus I'll share monthly updates here and on the socials so stay tuned.

What do you think I should read in 2024? What are you reading? What were your favorites of 2023?

December 2023 Books


The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman - Oh this was a sweet and somewhat predictable read. That did not stop me from enjoying it immensely.

The Lost Husband by Katherine Center - I did not mean to read two books back-to-back that were about young widows. It felt a little odd. But anyway, this one was similarly sweet and predictable, and also quite enjoyable. 

Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros - I wasn't going to read this. I was annoyed at the long-book-with-cliffhanger-ending of the first one, and I vowed not to read this one. But the hype got to me and I couldn't help it and oh my, did I enjoy it. It was a little too long but it mostly kept my attention and damn if I am not already planning to read whatever she throws at me next.

Witches Get Stuff Done by Molly Harper - a fun and silly paranormal romance set in the Midwest. A great quick read, especially after nearly 10 days on Iron Flame! Apparently a series, but I'm probably not reading more.

The Cottage on Glass Lake by Amy Pine - Casual Jewish representation! Shabbat dinners! A Wisconsin lake house! Romance! Delightful!

Hawaii by James Michener - Technically, this is a re-read. I read this in high school, when I was going through a read-the-biggest-books-on-the-shelf phase. Michener's books definitely qualified. I thought I was very grown up. Anyway, I never fact-checked this book back then, but apparently it's quite accurate historically, and was an amazing re-read that I finished as we landed in Hawaii! 

Emily Wilde's Encyclopedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett - a cozy fantasy that I didn't expect to enjoy but I definitely did!

The Last List of Mabel Beaumont by Laura Pearson - I am a fan of the older-woman-makes-chosen-family story. I can think of at least two or three others that fit into this category and I liked this one as much as the others (Iona Iverson, Lenni & Margot, Eleanor Oliphant...)

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett - Loved it! It felt so real to the pandemic experience of finding joy even when everything seems terrible, and connecting youthful love to married love...sigh. I didn't really want this book to end.

Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson - One reviewer pointed out that "nothing really happens" in this book, and I am usually a plot-driven kind of reader. And it's true, nothing really happens. But it's a really interesting look at how class and money have a real impact on our interactions and behavior.

What You Do To Me by Rochelle Weinstein - This book is the imagined story of what might have inspired the song "Hey there Delilah" and I liked it. I was also glad for the Jewish represenation, although I think that Sara's parents come off as a little too harsh even though Sara clearly loves her Jewish life. 

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