Saturday, September 30, 2023

September 2023 Books


Unorthodox Love by Heidi Shertok - Not bad, but not my favorite Jewy romance novel. I wanted it to move faster! And I wanted to see how they'd "mix" their Jewishness. 

Love Theoretically by Ali Hazelwood - Loved this science-themed romance! Especially since we're also watching the Big Bang Theory, so it dovetailed with some of that too. 

Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross - Honestly, did not love this one. It has been all over the bestseller lists so I was excited for this fantasy enemies-to-lovers book, but I found it fairly forgettable. As in, I almost can't remember finishing it!

Kiss the Girl by Zoraida Cordova - I adore this Disney-themed romance series. This one was Little Mermaid inspired, and I was not disappointed. 

Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley - Loved this author's first book, and I also really enjoyed this look into the Native community in Northern Michigan. I love the cultural and linguistic insights in the characters and the story of reclaiming stolen artifacts was intense and heartbreaking. 

What are you reading?

Thursday, August 31, 2023

August 2023 books #MyLifeInBooks


Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros - This has been on the top of the best seller lists and I haven't read a lot of fantasty lately. This one was great - it reminded me of the Dragonriders of Pern books (loved those) with a nice dose of romance. The world-building was interesting but a little uneven (it bothered me that they used our swear words - I like when a fantasy book comes up with swear words that fit with the culture) but overall, I look forward to the sequel!

Hotel Cuba by Aaron Hamburger - A good twist on the immigrant tale, featuring a pair of sisters who end up going to Cuba instead of the USA when leaving Russia. The way that Cuba imprints differently on them, and how the Jewish community in both Cuba and the US help them to land with their older sister - a well-told and interesting read. 

Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton - A ridiculous and fun fantasy-historical romance. If that sentence piques your interest, this book is for you. It was both silly and delightful. 

Weyward by Emilia Hart - Slightly magical tale of three generations of women and the way that they each survive abusive relationships. A powerful story, but it was a hard book to read because of the subject matter.

The Celebrants by Steven Rowley - I wanted to love this book but I just found it a little confusing and disjointed. I didn't quite get how all the pieces came together and ultimately, it didn't work for me. 

The Donut Fix by Jesse Janowitz - A sweet middle-grade story about a kid who moves from NYC to a small town and decides to start a donut business. Enjoyable, but could someone please explain to me why this was a PJ Our Way selection? I missed any Jewish content in this book.

The Blonde Identity by Ally Carter - This book didn't quite know what it wanted to be - it was a mashup of a spy novel with a romance novel, and I'm not sure that either story really held up. But I did keep reading and I didn't hate it. 

Kissing Kosher by Jean Meltzer - I loved this one. Such a fun read, the story of a kosher bakery and its cross-the-street rival; enemies-to-lovers with a few interesting twists relating to chronic illness. And the rabbi! Oy! I couldn't stop reading and I giggled with all the Jewish and baking puns. (We won't talk about the one glaring "full moon on Rosh Chodesh" gaffe though, right?)

What are you reading?

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

Monday, July 31, 2023

July Books #MyLifeInBooks

The Witch of Woodland by Laurel Snyder - I really wanted to love this, it's magic and a Bat Mitzvah put together into a book. I didn't feel like it quite hit the mark with me. I did appreciate that the rabbi wasn't terrible.

Symphony of Secrets by Brendan Slocumb - really liked this author's first book and I really liked this one too! A musical mystery uncovering a secret about a (fictional) "great American composer." Even though the story is all fiction, it feels like it could have been totally true. 

The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton - I strongly disliked this book. Not because of the potential environmental nightmares it left me with, but because I just didn't understand the magical element and felt like it actually took away from the story. (I usually really like magical realism, I was just confused by this one.) Extra props for a character named Phyllis, though. 

Diary of a Lonely Girl, or the Battle Against Free Love by Miriam Karpilove (translated by Jessica Kirzane) - The Yiddish version of Bridge Jones' Diary....published serially in 1916ish in Yiddish and brought together into a book. It wasn't a "fast" read and I think it was a little draggy because it was originally published serially. But I was fascinated by the idea of an "independent woman" in this particular era, and her arguments against "free love" were pretty compelling (it's really only beneficial to the men, she says). 

The Collector by Daniel Silva - My yearly date with Gabriel Allon was perfect. It did not disappoint. It followed the usual formula and it's like slipping on a favorite sweater. 

The Wind Knows My Name by Isabelle Allende - I'm pretty sure this is the first book I've read by this author. It was very readable, but I was disappointed that it felt a little too preachy instead of story.

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim - A sweet book of magical realism. I commented that it felt like an early Sarah Addison Allen, but set it in the Chinese community of San Francisco. Plus it made me very hungry for Chinese food!

Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club by J. Ryan Stradal - I liked the Minnesota folksiness, but I didn't connect with all of the characters and found some of them mystifying. I liked the author's earlier book better.

Business or Pleasure by Rachel Lynn Solomon - I mean, I didn't hate it. But it was just sorta meh. A sweet romance between two casual Jews. My favorite thing about her books is the casual Jewishness. It's just there, which I appreciate.

Happy Place by Emily Henry - I think this is my favorite of her books so far. It's a romance, yes, but it's also a lovesong to friendship and I thought that part was especially lovely.

What are you reading?

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

Friday, June 30, 2023

June 2023 Books #MyLifeInBooks

Iona Iverson's Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley - This is in the "found family" genre of stories and I am all here for this. I love sweet, heartwarming books where people step out of their regular lives and create magical found family communities. (Other books in this genre include The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett, One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot...)

Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Torzs - A readable and engaging story about a particular kind of magic. A little slow in places, but I was compelled to read to the end.

The Postcard by Anne Berest - A novel based on the author's family story. The various narrative styles were a little confusing to read (perhaps this was a function of reading on the kindle) and I felt that the "mystery" wasn't as compelling as the story itself. Overall, however, I think this was a good addition to the story of French Jews during the Holocaust, especially as it traced the modern survivors. 

The Change by Kirsten Miller - Oof, this was a powerful and gut-punching one. I love magical realism (if you don't, you may hate this one) and it packed a strong message about how the world views women of all ages. Many reviews said it was too long, but I didn't notice.

Candle, Feather, Wooden Spoon: New Jewish Stories by Rabbi Zoe Klein - such a fun set of original Jewish stories. A few didn't quite work for me, but overall I really love the way they felt new and also ancient. (And I bookmarked a few to work out a telling...)

Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune - I liked her first book better, but this was a solid romance read that I enjoyed!

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano - Wow, this is definitely going to make it into the top 10 for the year. A gorgeous story with just the right mix of joy and sorrow. I couldn't put it down and didn't want it to end, although I found the ending to be just right.  

Kantika by Elizabeth Graver - I really appreciated this family saga of a Sephardic clan, and the paths they took throughout history. Based on the author's family, it had real family photos even though the story was fictionalized, which I appreciated.

What are you reading?

January Books
February Books
March Books
April Books
May Books

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

May Books #MyLifeInBooks


Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld - Loved this romcom that took off on the idea of the writers' room at SNL (well, a fictionalized SNL) and then moved over into those first scary days of covid isolation. Couldn't put it down!

All of Us Villains by Foody and Herman - a YA novel similar to Hunger Games, with a magical element. Did not love that it is a "duology" because I'm not sure that I need to read the next book! A little gory for me. 

Queen Charlotte by Julia Quinn and Shonda Rhimes - If you watched the show, this is SO boring. If you haven't watched the show, skip the read and just watch! There was almost no new information gleaned here that wasn't in the show. 

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Mejia - This was on my holds list forever! It's a dystopian-type novel about a Handmaid's Tale-like society with strict roles and rules. I wanted to love this but it was a little too...simplistic in some of its telling. (Also this is YA)

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson - One of the best books I've read all year. WOW. What an incredible back-and-forth telling of a family secret - I loved every minute of this book. 

The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Henry - I really liked this story of two sisters evacuated from London during the Blitz, and the family mystery that it left behind. I liked the plot twist!

The Red Balcony by Jonathan Wilson - 1933 Palestine doesn't have a lot of fiction written about it! The plot was a little tricky to follow but I loved the historical setting and the writing was compelling.

January Books
February Books
March Books
April Books

Sunday, April 30, 2023

April 2023 Books #MyLifeInBooks


Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr - This author lives in my neighborhood so it's always fun to find the tiny local details in her story that spans generations and continents! Art scandal, romance,'s all here.

Maame by Jessica George - a story of a Ghanaian immigrant family in London, the main character is so lovable that this book was delightful! Her growth arc in the story is wonderful - what a special novel. 

Nettle and Bone by T. Kingfisher - A mashup of fairy tales but with a dark edge, and I loved this one. 

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim - I am really not sure if I liked this book or not. It was well-written and interesting, even though it was heartbreakingly sad. A group of people are all joined together by their association to a terrible accident - and the big question is "what would you do to protect the people you love?" 

Lost in the Moment and Found by Seanan McGuire - another installment in the Wayward Children series, I find these books to be so haunting and beautiful. 

Attack of the Black Rectangles by A.S. King - I liked this middle grade novel about censorship in a middle school. My 12-year-old listened to this as an audiobook, and then he also listened to The Devil's Arithmetic, which is the censored novel in the story. We both enjoyed this one a lot!

Friday, March 31, 2023

March Books #LifeInBooks


Here's what I read in March:

Shadows of Berlin by David Gilham - an interesting look at the life of Holocaust survivors in the immediate aftermath of the war. This wasn't my favorite read, but it made for an interesting discussion with our book group. 

Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibert - a cute little enemies-to-lovers romance, with a nice British twist. 

The Miniscule Mansion of Myra Malone by Audrey Burges - I liked this one, a sweet story with a bit of magic. 

The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear - From the author of the Maisie Dobbs books, which are my faves, I loved this one so much! I just love her writing and her storytelling. This one bounced between the two wars and the post-war period, and it was so good! Will there be more stories in this series? I would definitely not complain about that!!!

January Books
February Books

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

#BlogExodus #ExodusGram 5783

 Rosh Chodesh Nisan is Thursday, March 23, 2023.

Passover beckons us. 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 and #Exodusgram are 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! Maybe this year, someone will get #BlogExodus trending on tiktok!

Maybe you don't have a blog? Maybe you could just post your thoughts, photos, comments, or haikus on your Facebook page. Maybe you're a yogi? What about a photo of a different yoga post each day related to the theme of the day? Creativity is endless.

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.

Whatever you do, don't forget to tag with #BlogExodus and/or #Exodusgram so we can all share.

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! 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 5783
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!

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

February 2023 - Books I Read

This was a great month for books! What are you reading?

A Play for the End of the World by Jai Chakrabarti - We discussed this one at our synagogue book group and all agreed that it was quite interesting. A play staged in the Warsaw Ghetto by orphaned children is now, many years later, being staged in India. In both cases, the play represents the tragic situation of the time, and I think it's a powerful commentary on the importance of art even when the world feels like it's crumbling.

Keeper of the Lost Cities 8, 8.5, and 9 by Shannon Messenger - Okay, I thought I was headed into the END of the series but I didn't know there is a 10th book coming out sometime this year. I hope. Now I really want to just know what the ending is!!!

The Summer of Lost Letters by Hannah Reynolds - This was a little bit of a prequel to Eight Nights of Flirting (same universe). I liked it, the teen romance was a little messy (as teen romances often are) but the intertwining stories about the history of this Jewish family on Nantucket Island was interesting and a little bit unique. 

Answers in the Pages by David Levithan - I loved this middle grade novel about banning books and standing up for what you believe in. It had three intertwined stories, and I gasped when they all came together. A quick and sweet read.

We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman - A story of two life-long friends as one of them is dying in hospice. It's beautifully written and heart-wrenching, but boy oh boy, I did not need this book. It was deeply, terribly, horribly sad. Even though I also laughed. I just wanted it to be over. Because it was so sad. And that's my review.

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray - A really cool historical story about a young (secretly) Black woman who worked as JP Morgan's librarian for his own library. Interesting idea, r e a l l y s l o w moving, and also I was a bit irritated by the first-person narrative. It started out well, but I felt like the later chapters just weren't as interesting. I really wanted to love this since so many people have recommended it! After I finished it, I looked up her life and the book was quite true to it, which I do appreciate!

Thistlefoot by GemmaRose Nethercott - Let me start by saying this book isn't for everyone. It's a little dark and odd...and I kinda loved it. It is a revisiting of the Baba Yaga tales (Eastern European Jewish folklore) but with a modern twist, and my favorite parts were when the house itself (Baba Yaga had a house on chicken legs) told its story. The way this story demonstrated, through magical abilities, inherited trauma was intensely powerful and moving to me. I'm not sure who should read this one, but I liked it.  

January Books

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.