Thursday, September 30, 2021

Books in September '21 #MyLifeInBooks


Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro - what is humanity? what does it mean to love? This is a lyrical book that explores those questions. Did I like it? I'm not sure. Am I thinking about it still? Yes. 

Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian - I've never read a book that had so much to do with forks. My whole family heard me talking about "the fork book." Other than this oddity, I really enjoyed this one!

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang - I really like these romance stories by this author. There's always such a different and interesting perspective. I found myself aching for the main character, and so happy for her too. 

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner - I'm a little bit over books that bounce between modern and historical. This one had a good concept but was a little boring, predictable, and a little annoying.

The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee - Basically "Gossip Girl" in a futuristic setting...I didn't realize that it was the first of a trilogy but let's just say that I don't even feel like I need to read the rest of the series. 

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

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Books in August #MyLifeInBooks

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune - I really loved this story, which felt both real and allegorical all at the same time. What a beautiful way to talk about loving people for who they are. 

Malibu Rising by Taylor Reid Jenkins - Great family drama story, breathlessly waiting to find out how it all came together. 

Verity by Colleen Hoover - people LOVE this book but I did not. I do like romance novels, but this was a "romance thriller" and let me tell you, those two things did not marry well for me. I had a pretty good idea of how the twist might play out, and I was just reading to find out if my hunch was correct.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez - An interesting look at an immigrant family struggling to find their place in Chicago. A tough story that felt full of truth.

The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian - This one somewhat underwhelmed me. I think I kept wondering "is that historically right?" and some of the story lines felt a little too modern for the 18th century setting. The love story was interesting but the rest of the plot was a little plodding.

When the English Fall by David Williams - File this under "TikTok made me do it" since I saw a review of this one on that platform (yep, just outed myself there). I have always read dystopian-world-ending literature but tried to put it on hold during the whole ACTUAL pandemic scenario, but I picked this one up because the premise was so interesting. What would happen to the Amish community if the world ground to a halt? Interesting, sad, and a good read. 

Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand - I have not read ALL of her books, but I have read several. This one was a little....odd. I'm not sure this book needed the paranormal element. Without it, it might have still been an interesting family drama. The paranormal just felt...unnecessary. Okay, I said it. 

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

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Books I Read in July #MyLifeInBooks

I'm sure you're wondering where my drawings went - just ran out of time this month!

How To Disappear Completely by Ali Standish - a sweet middle-grade book about a girl with a skin condition and her grief over her grandmother, and the whole combination was warm and wonderful to read.

The Chicken Sisters by K.C. Dell'Antonia - two sisters, two competing chicken restaurants, and a reality TV show - this book was fun and sweet, and it made me hungry. 

Float Plan by Trish Doller - This book was about grief and starting over, and figuring out what your life is like when you've planned it around what someone else wants. How do you make that dream your own...or change it? If the chicken book made me hungry, this one made me want to see the world. But not on a boat, that makes me seasick.

The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer - I was given an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) of this book and I LOVED it. I'm newer to loving the romance novels, and this one had the whole formula down, with really good Jewy elements. Super fun, there were some great "inside baseball" jokes, and while it probably won't be up for any of the big Jewish book awards, it was definitely one of my favorites this year.

The Cellist by Daniel Silva - Each year, these books greet me like an old friend. And this one didn't disappoint. The formula is great, the story was timely, and I am glad to know that Gabriel Allon is still out there in my fictional world, making sure we're all safe. I was not disappointed with this year's installment in his tale.

The Assignment by Liza Wiemer - This is a YA novel about high school kids given an assignment to argue in favor of the Nazis' Final Solution. Some of them protest the assignment, and it gets some national coverage. Along the way, these kids learn a lot about themselves and their town - with some great conversations about how we learn about history and how we live in our stories. A tiny bit after-school-specialish, but maybe that's because it reminded me of The Wave. I really liked it and I recommend it highly!

That Summer by Jennifer Weiner - it seems like Jennifer Weiner bounces between fluffy and serious books. This one was one of her more serious - an exploration of how one high school night could impact several lives forever. A good read!

While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory - As I've said - big new fan of the romance genre. Jasmine Guillory's books are so much fun. This one did not disappoint. I loved this set of characters, and I was so happy to lean into their slightly improbable love story. I love how she links the stories, so I can't wait to see who the next character to find love will be....

Field Notes on Love by Jennfer Smith - a sweet story about one of a set of sextuplets who sets off on a cross-country train ride with a total stranger and...well....I'm guessing you can tell what happens based on the title. Delightful read. 

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

Saturday, July 24, 2021

#BlogElul #ElulGram 2021


#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 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 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'll try to link to as many posts and pics as I can - won't it be amazing to all share in the Elul journey together?

I'm looking forward to sharing this journey with you. Elul begins on Monday, August 9th (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 5782 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

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Books I Read June 2021 #MyLifeInBooks

Becoming Duchess Goldblatt by Duchess Goldblatt - one reviewer called this book "charming," and it was. It's a little bit sad and a little bit sweet and totally fascinating and fun. To be honest, I hadn't followed her before on Twitter, but I found the whole thing to be funny and lovely. 

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston - if you enjoyed Red White and Royal Blue (by this author), know that this book is different. It is bascially a time-travelling queer romance meets Nancy Drew. Yep. Which makes for an interesting, albeit reality-suspending, read. I think it was a little too long and I am looking forward to seeing where this author goes next. 

And the Bride Closed the Door by Ronit Matalan - I think I need to discuss this book with a group, so if you've read it, let me know. It is short and snappy, and it has gotten good reviews....but I'm not sure I actually understood all of it. 

Raising A+ Human Beings by Bruce Powell and Ron Wolfson - this book made me want to move to LA and put my kids in this high school. A lot of great stuff in here about how to think about kids and values and creating community....I will be unpacking this one for a long time. 

Last Summer at the Golden Hotel by Elyssa Friedland - this book read like a movie - I can almost imagine the screenplay is already written. Two families who run a Catskills resort come back together to decide what to do about their aging property. I hate to say it, but the title is a little bit of a giveaway. Oh well, I still enjoyed it! 

The Woman With the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff - this is another nice piece of historical fiction from Pam Jenoff. The story revolves around two women in occupied Krakow during the war. One is hiding in a sewer with her family, and the other helps them out. There are endless tales of bravery and resilience from this historical period....

To Be a Man by Nicole Krauss - these are short stories (not usually my jam) and each one was exquisitely put together. I don't usually want to revisit books, but I really hope I get to discuss this one with my book group this year so we can dive into several of these stories. 

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado - I loved this book about a teenager who is working to celebrate her body and live in a world that just doesn't. I appreciated the perspective and haven't been able to shake some of the big ideas inside Charlie's head. 

The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris - An interesting look at London's ultra orthodox community, but a little flat or two-dimensional. The characters didn't have a lot of depth so it was a little tough to fully process their motivation. It was a quick and enjoyable read, however. 

Up til now...
January Books
February Books
March Books
April Books
May Books

Monday, May 31, 2021

May 2021 #MyLifeInBooks

Rebel Daughter by Lori Banov Kaufmann - I liked this historical fiction based on an inscription on a old grave! A young Jewish woman survives the Roman conquest of Jerusalem and the story is fascinating. I was told this is YA, but I think it reads more as a grownup book.

Our Year of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon - a sweet story about two teens who have been friends forever...and as they try to navigate their relationship along with a kidney donation between them. I'm a fan of this author, and this one was very readable and enjoyable!

Majesty by Katharine McGee - The sequel to American Royals, and I was totally disappointed. I wanted to see what would happen next in the story, but it turns out I didn't really need to know. I just felt like it leaned too far into some boring romance tropes. If you liked American Royals (I did) you might prefer to skip this one!

The Lines Between Us by Rebecca D'Harlingue - Okay, so I read this one thinking it had some Jewish content and it really didn't (until about 75% in, even though I had hunches, it wasn't overt). Aside from that, it was a well-written book with an interesting and compelling story. 

Evening by Nessa Rapoport - Told over the course of a week of shiva for the main character's sister, this was not especially plot-driven but a really good character study. I'm usually "in it for the story" but I couldn't put this one down!

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid - This book was like a feast! I loved it. I loved the interwoven tales, and I loved the twist, and I loved the whole thing. Read this one.

While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams - this was good, interesting, and very compelling. I admit to being a trifle lost in the technical aspects of some parts of the story (genetic research is a little over my head) but I read around that and it was great. I look forward to seeing what else this talented woman can do!

The rest of 2021:
January Books
February Books
March Books
April Books

Friday, April 30, 2021

April 2021 Books #MyLifeInBooks

 Sweetshop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan - loved this sweet (pun intended) story about Rosie, who finds her way into her great-aunt's candy shop business. I really liked learning all about British candy! And of course, predictably delightful love story. 

Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson - this was a fascinating premise for a book, and I had listened to the Nerdette Book Club podcast so I had a little bit of insight before I read the book. I liked the world-building and character development, but I did think the book was much too long...

Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley - I loved this book! I couldn't put it down - it had so many interesting elements about the Native culture in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. At the end, the author's note said that she was trying to write a "Native Nancy Drew" and that is exactly what it felt like! 

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May - a fascinating personal memoir about the power of periods of dislocation. This book has gotten a lot of play in this dislocating times and it felt like the perfect book to read during this period of enforced isolation. 

The Children's Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin - I remembered learning about this story and I thought I had a pretty good idea of how this story was going to end, but to be honest, it was so well done that it kept me completely engrossed all the way through. It was well-told and a really beautiful story of human endurance.

Adulting by Liz Talley - This was a quick read, about a movie star who is just getting out of rehab and works with a "life coach" - it's mostly predictable but was still a fun book to enjoy.