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

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Books I Read in June 2022 #MyLifeInBooks

The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett by Annie Lyons - I really loved this really lovely and moving book about how we create family and what our lives mean. Perhaps a tiny bit heavy-handed, it was still delightful to read.

True Biz by Sara Novic - I liked everything about this book except the way it ended - abruptly! But other than that it was a great story and really continues to have me thinking about how we communicate in the world, and what an incredible road the Deaf community has paved and continues to walk. 

To Night Owl from Dogfish by by Holly Goldberg Sloan, Meg Wolitzer - I liked this "parent trap" style story told in letters between two girls whose dads fall in love...it was suprisingly long for a middle-grade novel, but definitely enjoyed!

The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez - Apparently this is a sequel! But I didn't know that until I was done, and it was fine without the first book. I liked it. I'm not sure the musical element "mattered" to the story but I liked it overall. 

May Books
April Books
March Books
February Books
January Books

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

May 2022 Books #myLifeinBooks

 Jerusalem as a Second Language by Rochelle Distelheim - A really wonderful book exploring what it means to find yourself in a new place. It's about a Russian family that makes aliyah. Each family member experiences the change differently. My book discussion group loved this one!

If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy - The first of a new series of Disney-movie-based romance novels (this one is Cinderella) and I found it so fun! A clever and delightful retelling of an incredibly familiar story.

By the Book by Jasmine Guillory - The second of the Disney series, this one is Beauty and the Beast. Each one is written by a different author (she's one of my faves) and she did such a great job of working so many fun Disney details into the great retelling.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus - I think this is one of my favorites of the whole year, and we're only five months in! It was just....wonderful. Set in the 1960s, it features a woman-scientist-turned-cooking-show-host who bucks all the gender stereotypes handed to her. I couldn't put this down.

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff - Apparently, this is a classic AND a classic movie, and I loved it. It's a set of letters between the author and the whole staff of a bookshop in London. Delightful!

French Braid by Anne Tyler - I really enjoyed this woven-together family tale from the 1950s to the COVID-era. Figuring out what makes each family member tick is really a gift of this book. 

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams - the premise of this book made me giggle and it was well-executed. I think my only issue was that it felt like it was actually written to be a movie! 

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway - a little sad, a little sweet, and really a good story that I couldn't put down. Three siblings, all separately fostered or adopted, reunite and realize that family is both blood AND choice. (National Book Award winner)

Book Lovers by Emiily Henry - Yes, this was just as good as it should have been. It sorta made fun of its own genre a little but it totally worked! And there was a little fakeout at the end and I should have seen it coming but I was totally caught and therefore I loved the ending even more. 

I'm feeling a little behind on my reading goals for the year, but this month had so many good reads, I think I feel like I'm back on a roll. I have a whole "to read" list but it never hurts to add more....what should I read next?

Saturday, April 30, 2022

April 2022 Books #MyLifeInBooks


Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert - a sweet and charming romance novel about a young woman with a chronic illness who is trying to explore the world, and along the way, falls in love! I really enjoyed this one. (A little on the spicy side, just FYI)

Oh, William! by Elizabeth Strout - a beautifully written book - a character study much more than a plot-driven story. It wasn't my favorite book but I know it was a "good book."

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera - the premise of this YA novel is that Death-Cast can call you any night between 12-3am and let you know that you're going to die that day. Two unrelated characters get the call and their lives begin to intertwine. While the title is true and therefore you'd think it was going to be depressing, it's really uplifting and lovely. 

Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison - You wouldn't think that a story about a landscaper who finds meaning and love in his life would be interesting and good, but it definitely was! A little sad, a little sweet, and felt full of truth. 

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir - my husband finished this book and insisted that I put down anything else and read this next. It was great! A little too many scientific details (I glossed over those) and I'm not sure I needed the potential alien-life-form-destroying-the-world worry, but a really compelling and engaging story about interstellar travel and friendship. 

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn - Great historical fiction about a Russian female sniper who befriends Eleanor Roosevelt! It is based on a true story - and it was a great read.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

March 2022 Books #MyLifeInBooks


The Every by Dave Eggers - I couldn't put this down and I absolutely hated it. It's basically the story of our lives with computers and phones and the internet and it was terrifying.

Starfish by Lisa Fipps - a really wonderful middle grade novel-in-verse about a girl who is bullied for being overweight. A must-read.

The Tunnel by A.B. Yehoshua - I didn't love this book but I really liked the main character, and after a wonderful discussion with my book group, I really ended up liking it so much more. The portrayal of aging and dementia were really meaningful and powerful. 

The Good Son by Jacquelyn Mitchard - I felt like this one was a little too long and meandering. Also, I'm not sure that it really worked for me. That said, I grew to care about many of the characters...

Detransition Baby by Torrey Peters - Wow. This was on a lot of "best" lists from 2021 and I see why. A stunning portrayal of cis- and trans-women and the many elements of their lives. 

Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid - I needed something fluffy but this didn't really cut it for me. I was totally disappointed by the characters and the love story didn't feel believeable. 

A Sunlit Weapon by Jacqueline Winspear - The newest Maisie Dobbs novel was awesome. I love these books and I can't wait for the next one. Much like Gabriel Allon, I'm so happy when I can visit these characters each year, like old and well-loved friends.

#blogExodus #Exodusgram - 5782


Rosh Chodesh Nisan is on Saturday, April 2, 2022.

Passover beckons us. It calls....it reminds us....spring is coming. Renewal is coming. We are, all of us, a people with a future. The cycle continues. And, as always, Passover is here to offer a respite. I know that many people don't see Pesach in this way, as a resting moment, but I believe that it offers us just that - an opportunity to step back from the ordinary and to focus on something special, wonderful, and beautiful. 

It's easy to get caught up in the Pesach prep and to feel a bit of drudgery, a taste of the hard work imposed upon the Israelites. But there is spiritual preparation too, and that, I believe, is where BlogExodus and Exodusgram come in. 

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, 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. I'm also waiting for someone to take on #SnapTheExodus or #TikTokExodus? Challenge....

Grab and share my graphic and just jump right in!

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 5782
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!

Monday, February 28, 2022

February 2022 Books #myLifeInBooks


The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan - this book was so disturbing and also so powerful. What defines a "good mother" and is it something you can quanitfy? Oh my. Read this? Don't read it? I'm not sure what to even say about recommending this. It is really good. And very disturbing. 

Playing the Palace by Paul Rudnick - oh I wanted this book to be great. It was just a pale version of Red, White and Royal Blue. It had all the right elements of a good romance...just...a little flat.

Dead Wednesday by Jerry Spinelli - I read this one because Solomon is reading it. I didn't realize it was really about dead kids (oy) but it ended up being an interesting story. I'm not sure how I feel about what actually happens in this town, where every 8th grader is assigned the name and story of a teen who died...and then these deaths are used to help them "make better choices"?! I found this all a little troubling. I finished it so I could talk about it with Solly (waiting for him to finish now) and hopefully I'll have better insight after an actual middle schooler tells me what they think of it.

What did you read in February?

January books

Monday, January 31, 2022

January 2022 Books #MyLifeInBooks


I'm back at it, reading and writing short notes on all the books (I hesitate to say "reviews" - more like a little comment on each one). 

So here goes! What have you been reading?

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion - when I saw that she had died at the end of 2020, I realized I'd never read anything by her. This was powerful and hard, but wow, what a writer.

Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny - I loved this book. It doesn't have a complicated plot, and there's no great mystery - just a somewhat ordinary life intertwined with some other lives, and told simply and beautifully. I was sad when it was over.

The Inheritance Games
The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynn Barnes - the first two books in a trilogy (book 3 doesn't come out til August) that is comparable to the Westing Game and Knives Out - puzzles and intrigue and wealth and inheritance...I'm not sure I needed to read the second book, but I had a lot of fun while reading both. (the middle book of a trilogy is often the annoying one, right?)

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave - this was on a lot of "best of 2021" books and for some reason, I resisted it. But it came up in my Libby holds and so I dove in. It turned out to be readable and engaging, but a little far-fetched. I did end up enjoying it as long as I just leaned into the plausibility.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys - I really like when I can learn something completely new, in this case, about a terrible maritime tragedy during WWII. That said, I thought this book was convoluted and tried to do too many things at once, and so I felt like it ended up doing none of them very well. The characters felt flat and the emotion was confusing. 

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams - Loved this one! It seemed like it would be a fairly straightforward romance story, but it became so much more. I also want to be friends with Audre, the daughter. Highly recommend this one. 

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows - fun, silly, irreverent, a little fantastical, totally absurdist - a totally wacky retelling of actual Tudor history (okay, it takes a few liberties) and thoroughly enjoyable. Apparently, it's a series! But I'm going to move onto something else now. 

Our Woman in Moscow by Beatriz Williams - I liked this spy-ish novel, but it moved a little too slowly. It was more of a historical fiction trying to be a spy novel - I think I wanted more spy and less family drama. Still, an enjoyable read. (PS my dad says to tell you that he liked this one a lot)