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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

March 2021 Books #MyLifeInBooks


Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris - I'm always looking for fun and light things to read in between the tougher books. This was suggested to me and I enjoyed it...but I don't feel any compulsion to read more of these. But if you like vampires...read this! (Also, Yael is into a couple of vampire shows and so I have been half-watching with her and so this was fun. I remember that I liked the Anne Rice vampire books and of course there was the Twilight series....)

Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman - This is billed as a Middle Grade novel, but it reads a little darker and deeper than that. I've never read anything fictionalized about the Chernobyl disaster and this was powerful and memorable. 

Beheld by TaraShea Nesbit - Highly recommended from the 2020 lists, I had big expectations for this book about the Plymouth Colony...but I was somewhat disappointed. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either. It was just...okay. 

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman - I fully admit that the start of this book actually MADE me anxious! The writing was so good that I FELT the anxiety of the characters pouring off of the page. Once I got through that, the book was marvelous and the payoff in terms of the story was excellent. 

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu - I loved this one! Such a great story of female empowerment :-) Can't wait to see the new movie. 

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo - Do you like books that are written in verse? This one is written in a kind of free verse poetic style that I very much enjoyed. A really compelling story about two girls who both experience grief after the death of their father.

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn - I am a fan of Kate Quinn's books and I really like historical fiction! This one is about Bletchley Park, the famous code-breaking facility during World War 2, and it was really intriguing and enjoyable. I did feel like it took a loooong time to get to the end and then the ending felt a little rushed. But I liked this one a lot.

The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear - this is the newest book in the Maisie Dobbs series. Maybe you'll recall that I read almost the whole series in 2018, and I was so happy to have a new book about my favorite British detective. It was a little weird reading the book while thinking about The Rose Code, which I had just finished - there was even a mention of the "code breakers" in passing. The books were precisely the same time frame, from two totally different perspectives. Anyway, I loved it as always and I won't spoil the ending but I'll tell you that it made me happy.

The rest of 2021:
January Books
February Books

Sunday, March 14, 2021

#BlogExodus Day 1: Launch


Last year, we launched Pesach in a whole new way.

And we were certain, absolutely sure, that we would never need to launch Pesach this way again.

And yet, here we are. Even less certain about where we are at all!

Do we gather with those who are vaccinated? Do we sit outside? Do we share the escape from Egypt together, apart, on Zoom, or some combination of all of these?

But what I said last year is still true:

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.

Friday, March 5, 2021

#BlogExodus #ExodusGram 5781 - 10th year!


Rosh Chodesh Nisan is on Sunday, March 14, 2021. 

What a year it's been, since we last gathered here for BlogExodus. Last year, we were in a totally disbelieving state of mind. No one could even imagine that we were going to spend our Seders in a "lockdown" and I am pretty sure we all imagined that we would be together again this year.

And yet, for most of us, we are still in Mitzrayim - we are still in the narrow space of this terrible global pandemic that has taken so many lives. But still....Passover beckons. It comes for us, reminding us that the cycle of our calendar continues. It is here to offer a respite, perhaps, from the ordinary, and, just like it did last year, give us something bigger than ourselves on which to focus.

And so, 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 5781
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!

Sunday, February 28, 2021

February 2021 books #MyLifeInBooks

 

A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum - Powerful story about generations of Arab women living in America. It was very difficult to read, and to imagine how this story was received within the author's own community. Much to discuss in here! 

Every Stolen Breath by Kimberly Gabriel - a young adult thriller set in Chicago, it was appropriately creepy, scary, and riveting.

The Way Back by Gavriel Savit - This was one of the Sydney Taylor Award winners (Notable Book) and I try to read as many of those as I can! It falls into the category of magical realism, which I usually like, and this was good. I got a little tangled up in the allegory and metaphor near the end, but overall it was enjoyable. The shtetl setting, the ton of Jewish supernatural imagery, it all made for a rich world!

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah - a story of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, WOW. I'm a big fan of her books, and especially her historical fiction (read Winter Garden, please). Also, it feels like everyone I know is reading this book. Definitely a winner.

The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly - Three different time periods, one garden. I really liked each time period, and I liked seeing how they came together to create a lovely story. I may have glossed over some of the gardening details, but the rest was enagaging.

The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan (I read an advance copy of this book, it's not out yet) This is a funny premise for a book - a young rabbi brings a former-sex-worker-turned-internet-sex-educator to speak at his synagogue. You can imagine what happens next. I thought it felt like a balanced portrayal of some of the challenges faced by rabbis AND sex workers! It's a romance novel, so buyer beware, but a fun read. (A tiny bit preachy at the end, but what can you expect from a book about a rabbi?!)

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover - did NOT expect for this to be as good, powerful, and message-driven as it was. I honestly thought it was just a sweet romance novel until I was deeply invested. A really important story about how relationships are cyclical and how we can break out of patterns to stop domestic violence. 

The Charmed Wife by Olga Grushin - loved this book - it seemed, at the beginning, to be a re-told fairy tale. But it's so much more - so many threads and so many ways that the reality and fairy tale are woven together. It was a little breathtaking. (P.S. except for the mice. I didn't get that part and basically just skipped through that.)

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson - So many great elements in this book that surround a town obsessed with their prom. I giggled at the internal gossip-girl-style social network and the way that it was integrated into so many aspects of the life of the school. My goodness, high school stories are so much richer than they ever were in the past, and I am so grateful for the wonderful tapestry of YA literature! 

Send for Me by Lauren Fox - A short, readable story of mother-daughter pairs. There's not much that's new here in terms of pre-war Germany story, but I still found it compelling and readable. Plus, I liked the Milwaukee connection.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

January 2021 Books #MyLifeInBooks

 

Last year, I decided to write monthly reviews of the books I've read and I enjoyed doing that so much that I am hoping to continue into this year! Oh, and this month, I also drew all the covers. We'll see if that lasts from month to month...

So here's the January list. What are you reading?

To Sir Philip with Love by Julia Quinn
When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn
On The Way To the Wedding by Julia Quinn
It's In His Kiss by Julia Quinn - apparently, sometimes I can be a completionist, because I felt a strong need to finish the Bridgerton series. Although they were somewhat formulaic and predictable, they were also delightful reading candy. 

Sea Wife by Amity Gage - as a "family at sea" in the current world, I felt such a draw to this actual family at sea story. I get terribly seasick but I even found myself wondering what it would be like to spend a year on a boat. It was beautiful and terrible and gorgeously written. 

Admission by Julie Buxbaum - A re-telling of the Varsity Blues scandal, from the viewpoint of one of the teens. The character felt a little too blind to her own privilege, and yet that blindness felt pretty real and true, also. One of my favorite authors. 

Caste: The Origins of our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson - wow. Can't stop thinking about this one, if only for the commitment to changing our linguistic patterns around some of the biggest ideas / issues in our country. Looking forward to her keynote at the CCAR convention!

Dear Martin by Nic Stone - Important and gut-wrenching read. I appreciated that the author did not overuse the letter-writing and the growth of the characters was remarkable. I am grateful to live in a world in which all stories get told. 

Hope and Other Punch Lines by Julie Buxbaum - One of the few 9/11 books I've read, and this one examined grief, survivors' guilt, with a dose of teenage humor. Apparently, I've had this one on hold for a little while (I forgot) and it came up shortly after I finished reading Admission! 

You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman - a recommendation of my Confirmation students, I loved this book. It felt like such an interesting counterbalance to Admission, since this was about a student who was working very hard and worrying about their admission to school in a different way. I am so appreciative, aware, and fascinated by the amount of LGBTQ love stories in YA literature today. 

The Inquisitor's Apprentice by Chris Moriarty - I just finished reading this one aloud to Solly. We enjoyed it, even though I think it was a little slow-going! It was a fun alternative-history re-imagining of New York City with magic. And there's a sequel! So we'll read that one next. (Also this was a PJ Our Way selection, but I think it would have been hard as an independent read for Solly, a 4th grader)

A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet - So this is the time of year that I'm reading off of all the lists of books recommended at the end of the previous year. I have no idea who recommended this book, and I knew nothing about it as I started reading it. It was weird and chilling, and it definitely kept me up at night. It's a combination coming-of-age, generational divide, and climate change cautionary tale all in one. A really great book, even though it totally gave me nightmares.