Friday, December 23, 2011

Cats in the Doll House: Great Chanakah Gift

The Cats in the Doll Shop
By Yona Zeldis McDonough

I don't review books for children. Not, that I am saying I don't enjoy it. But the chance never came about, till the publisher of The Cats in the Doll Shop asked. I am glad she did. I enjoyed reading this chapter book.

This is a story about a Jewish, little girl, named Anna, and her two sisters. They live above a doll shop that her parents own. One day, her parents tell her, her cousin from Russia will be coming to live with them.
In the mean time, Anna spies a neighbor, harming a mother cat, and her babies.

These are the two intersecting conflicts in the story. As a adult, I enjoyed reading this story. I could see the story unfolding vividly. I liked the historical background, of the Jewish experience in NYC, immigration life, living above the doll shop, and the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah, and Chanakah, 

I thought the story, was so wholesome, and charming. How Anna cared about her cousin, and the mother cat, and her kittens. Anna had such empathy for both of them being not wanting. Where Anna's sister did not want any part of it.  Just loved the story, how it was put together.

 There is a glossary for Jewish terms, and  historical references in the back of the book as well to explain the story.

I don't have young children any longer, but a 21 year old son. But, my niece who is 10 years old I would recommend to my sister-in-law.  This would be a nice book to give as a gift for Chanakah.
Thank you for allowing me to review.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Everything Closed for Christmas: Chinese Dumplings

I saw this recipe on the Jewish Forward. It is perfect, to try out when all the restaurants are closed for Christmas. I am going to try it. We Jews, have a tradition to go out for Chinese, since nothing is usually open for Christmas. I think I am going to try it out. I found this on the blog, the Jew, and the Carrot.  There is a video, that explains it all. Great, for me since I am more visual for instructions.  Happy Chanukah!!!

Chicken Soup Dumplings
Soup Filling
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons water
1 package unflavored gelatin (If you don’t have access to a supermarket that carries kosher gelatin, it is available online.)
1) Bring broth to a boil
2) In a separate bowl, combine gelatin with water
3) Combine the broth and gelatin and transfer to an 8-inch square dish
4) Refrigerate for about 5 hours, or until it solidifies. This can be made the night before.
2 cups flour + more for dusting
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup each boiling water and cold water
1) Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add hot water 1/3 at a time, stirring constantly, until you have a course meal mixture. Add cold water 1/3 at a time, gathering mixture until it forms a ball.
2) Knead dough on a floured board for 20 minutes (adding more flour is necessary to prevent sticking) until dough is smooth. Cover with a damp towel and let sit for at least 20 minutes. This can be made the night before.
3) Roll out 1 1/4 inch balls of dough to 3- 3 1/2 inch circles, making sure to avoid the center of the discs while you’re rolling. The edges should be as thin as possible, while the center should be slightly thicker.
Meat Filling
3/4 pound ground chicken
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 stalks finely minced scallions
1/3 cup chicken broth
Combine all ingredients
To shape dumplings
1) Fill each wrapper with about 2 teaspoons of meat and 1 teaspoon of soup filling.
2) Using your thumb and pointer finger, start at one end of the wrapper and then gather the edges, little by little, to form small folds and pinch them into the center.
3) Steam on a layer of blanched cabbage placed in a steamer for 10-15 minutes.
Serve with a sauce that is two parts Chinese black vinegar and one part soy sauce poured over freshly grated ginger.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Chanukah

Tonight is the start of the Jewish holiday, Happy Chanakah to everyone!!!  I always love the smell and sound of the Latkes sizzling in the oil. My stomach is started to rumble already, with the anticipation of the the latkes, and being surrounded by family watching my son light the menorah.  That is really what the holiday is about the traditions, sounds, and surrounded by family.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I am excited about the change on the Jewish Book Council's website. It is much more user friendly. Giving tips for book clubs, and book recommendations and reviews on their site. It is also has many book links and resources. I wanted to share this with my readers. Here is the link if you are interested.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Home in the Morning: Book Review

Home in the Morning
By Mary Glickman
Courtesy of Open Road Media

Home in the Morning takes place in the turbulant years of the 1950's and 60's, in Guilford, Mississippi. The Sassaport's, are a well to do Jewish southern family living in Mississippi.
Jackson, is the eldest son, and is overly protected by his mother, a genteel southern lady.

Living in the south during the 1960's was horrible enough, but in this story the divide of White, Black, Christian or Jewish was worse. There were hazing, beatings, civil rights movement, and anything to cause the divide of White and Black. He becomes friends with a Afro-American boy, named Lil Bo'key.

In the house is Katherine Marie, a Afro American housekeeper. They become close friends. He's friend Lil Bo'key and Katherine Marie become boyfriend and girlfriend.

Jackson, a reform Jew eventually does leave Mississippi, to go to college at Yale University. He meets Stella Godwin a Orthodox Jew. They eventual marry and move back to the south. Where he rebuilds his friendships with Katherine Marie.

Jackson, has a younger brother that is coddled by his mother. He is troubled, lazy, and is often in trouble for one thing or another. But, he's mother always seems to help him out of the trouble he gets out of by paying someone off.

My Review: I read this novel, because the author is from Charleston, SC. Not too far from my house.

I picked up the novel, Home in the Morning because I liked the synopsis of the Jewish Southern experience during the 1960's. Has to be a great read, right. Sorry to say it was a let down.

Anyway, it took me about 100 pages in to finally connect with the characters, and finally understand what was going on.

Finally after the 100 pages, I was captivated by the story. I kept wanting to flip the pages, it was getting intense. But, by the end of the book, what a let down. I am not going to tell you, just in case you may want to give it a try. I did not like the ending it ended abruptly.

I think the author had a good story, but it just did not go anywhere. I really enjoyed one part of the story when the cousin, Lil Mo and Jackson ganged up and threatened his brother. I wish the author had done more about this part of the book. Also if she wrote about the Jewish Southern experience during the 60's, and Jewish-black divide. This would have enriched the novel, she did snipets but nothing more.

I really wanted to like this book, because of the reasons stated above. I really cared though for the characters except for Jackson's brother. There are many other readers that did enjoy reading this. I would still give it three stars.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

            Here it is, the book I have been anticipation for, drum roll!!!
Still waiting for the cover to be unveiled.

The Little Bride
By Anna Solomon
Expected publication-early September 2011

This is the novel, that I am anticipating to read in September. I heard quite a buzz, at BEA. I am sitting on pins and needles in the anticipation of this one. I have not read many books that take place in the midwest, during the 1800's, and the characters are Jewish. I am very excited as you can tell.

The Story:When 16-year-old Minna Losk journeys from Odessa to America as a mail-order bride, she dreams of a young, wealthy husband, a handsome townhouse, and freedom from physical labor and pogroms. But her husband Max turns out to be twice her age, rigidly Orthodox, and living in a one-room sod hut in South Dakota with his two teenage sons. The country is desolate, the work treacherous. Most troubling, Minna finds herself increasingly attracted to her older stepson. As a brutal winter closes in, the family’s limits are tested, and Minna, drawing on strengths she barely knows she has, is forced to confront her despair, as well as her desire.

Here is the author's website, Anna Solomon


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Harold U. Ribalow Prize Awarded

Author of Pictures at an Exhibition  receives  annual literary award
NEW YORKHadassah Magazine  presents  the 2010 Harold U. Ribalow Prize at a 3:30 p.m. ceremony on January 31 in New York. Every year, Hadassah Magazine honors an author who has created an outstanding work of fiction on a Jewish theme.
This year’s winner is Sara Houghteling, author of Pictures at an Exhibition, which was published in 2009. Set in Paris in the 1930s and 1940s, Houghteling’s first book tells the story of Max Berenzon, the son of a French Jewish art dealer, as he searches the city for his father’s art, stolen by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
Houghteling was chosen by an independent panel of judges that included Elie Wiesel, N. Scott Momaday and Peter Manseau, the 2009 Ribalow Prize winner. A nominating committee consisting of three members of the Ribalow family and three representatives from Hadassah Magazine identified the initial list of nominees, which was then sent to the judges.
“It’s a humbling honor to receive this award and to know that Dr. Wiesel read my novel – his writings have been a moving, powerful presence throughout my life,”Houghteling said. “One of the wonderful aspects of receiving this award is that my parents and I have heard from our family and friends all over, some long-lost and far-flung. It gives me a renewed sense of my connection to other members of the Jewish community.”
Among the writers who have received the prestigious Harold U. Ribalow Prize since its inception in 1983 are Aharon Appelfeld, Louis Begley, Joseph Epstein, Jonathan Safran Foer, Todd Gitlin, Dara Horn, Anne Michaels, Francine Prose and Tamar Yellin.
About the Author: Sara Houghteling, originally of Brookline, Mass., graduated from Harvard College, then received a master’s in fine arts from the University of Michigan. She spent a year in Paris as a Fulbright scholar, and recently from a fellowship at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France. Pictures at an Exhibition was a National Jewish Book Award finalist and was named a New York Timeseditors’ pick. She is the recipient of the Moment Magazine Emerging Writer Award, a Wallant Award and first prize in the Avery and Jules Hopwood Awards, as well as a John Steinbeck Fellowship. Her writing has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicleand the New York Times. She currently lives in Berkeley with her husband, fellow author Daniel Mason.
About the Award: Hadassah Magazine’s annual literary award for outstanding Jewish fiction was established in 1983 by the friends and family of the late Harold U. Ribalow, an editor and writer known for his passion for Jewish literature and his interest in promoting the work of many now-famous Jewish writers. Ribalow was inducted posthumously into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 for his contributions to society through Jewish sports writing.
Founded in 1912, Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, is the largest women’s, largest Zionist, and largest Jewish membership organization in the United States. In Israel, it supports medical care and research, education and youth programs, and reforestation and parks projects. In the United States, Hadassah promotes health education, social action and advocacy, volunteerism, Jewish education and research, Young Judaea and connections with Israel. For more information, visit

Friday, June 10, 2011

Jerusalem Maiden

Jerusalem Maiden
By Talia Carner

Jerusalem Maiden, is about a young ultra orthodox Jewish girl, Esther Kaminsky. She is living in Jerusalem before the fall of the Ottoman Empire(this is today known as Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Israel, etc). Young Ultra orthodox girls, are known as Jerusalem Maidens. They become of age at the age of 12 in the Jewish religion. Once they hit this age it is their duty to marry young and have many male children to hasten the arrival of the messiah.

Esther, the main character of the story has a artistic hand. Her art teacher notices her passion. She encourages her to pursue her art. But, the Jewish religion,
"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image"
She continues to draw without any one's knowledge. Her cousin Asher has a plan. Asher also wants to follow his art, music. He has a plan, marry me and we both can pursue our dreams and passions.

But, then tragedy strikes her mother, she dies. She believes it is her fault. G-d has punished her, because her mother dies. She puts down her art. Her father has arranged a marriage to a wealthy gentleman. At the wedding, just like Jacob, in the bible she thinks she is marrying Asher. Until her veil is lifted.

She becomes a dutiful married ultra orthodox woman, with many children and household chores. But, it is not as bad as the other women because she has married a wealthy man. Most women in Jerusalem are poor, and suffer the hands of the Ottoman empire, and their brutal husbands. . She does not understand the traditions and rituals of her husband. Because he doesn't follow them he isn't as strict with the traditions and rituals of the Jewish traditions.

Then opportunity knocks, she gets the chance to go on a trip to France. Then everything changes. Does she pursue her dream and passion of art? Should she forget about her responsibilities at home in Jerusalem? Live as how she was raised a Orthodox woman? or as a gentile?

My Thoughts: I did enjoy reading this book. I think this is a good Jewish book read. I will most likely recommend this to our book club. It is a great jumping off point to talk about women(especially Orthodox vs. other jewish women).

It did bother me when something tragic or something that did go the way she planned. This was g-d's plan. The synagouge, I attended since I was a young girl, always taught us you make your choices don't blame it on g-d. You can always do something about it.

I am a Jewish feminist. I don't believe religion and men should dictate and tell you what to do. Me, myself I don't think g-d wants to restict women. I think he wants women to express themselves and do what you believe in, as long as it does not hurt anyone else. I think the entire message of the book, BE TRUE TO YOURSELF!!! thats it...

When I was reading this book, I knew where this book was leading. Talia Carner, believes in women's rights in other countries. She also has worked for women's magazines.

The novel, reminded me of a book, Loving Frank. In both books the main character's left their children for their passion. In loving Frank, it was a man. In Jerusalem Maiden, it was her art.

But, that was the point of the story. I am sure there are many people that do pick up, at times in their life and are reckless and not take responsibility.

I enjoyed reading what life was like in pre-Israel, the religion, the culture. I was aware of traditions and rituals of the Jewish religion in the middle east compared to the United States is different.

I found it interesting to read about life in Paris for the art community in the early 20th century. This is very interesting to me because modern art was just starting to take off. I enjoyed reading about the incident of Picasso.

Also around this time in history, literary authors were coming from the U.S. to France, such as Hemingway, Fitzgerald and other famous authors.

But, most of all I enjoyed reading about the character's, and the different people that lived in pre-Jerusalem. There is a love interest and there are explicit sexual scenes. But, I think this is necessary for the book.

The book is separated in different sections of Esther's life, How the story intensified in different sections. I don't think I have ever read a book like this before. Jerusalem Maiden held my interest and won't be forgotten for a long time. I wanted to keep reading and not stop. I am sorry the book ended. I loved the surprise ended.

This is not a beach read, and at times sad. The novel is based on the author's grandmothers life. I don't know if this book was aimed at the Jewish community. But, because I am Jewish, I immediately connected and knew the traditions and rituals of Jewish girls, and women.

But, I think for the general public, a glossary of Jewish terms is needed. Perhaps the author on her website can put a short glossary there. But, there is another option, the book does change the type on words that do need translation. You need a computer handy, just google it.

Thank you Talia, for the review copy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Saturday Wife: Book Review

I am a bit late for the Jewish Carnival post, it is hosted by Marie, at  People of the Book. Sorry for posting so late, but I had emergency dental work. Then to make matters, worse the dentist made a mistake, and had to redo the work, Ouch!! I hate dentists, even more.

Saturday Wife
By Naomi Ragen

Our book club discussed this novel a few days ago. The discussion was led very well. There was alot of heated discussion over this book. If you went to my other blog at Susan's Literary Cafe, you would understand why.

The book, we found out by our book club leader is a satire. A satire, is making fun of something. Most of us were offended by this novel. We are not orthodox. But, some of the things the main character did or said was over the top, ridicoulous. We felt she was making fun of the Jewish community. 

We were trying to figure out if she was just having a good time, and not to take this so serious. But, it is hard not to do that. While reading this book. After I got over,the over the top antics of Delilah( which even her name is peculiar), just reading the book, then I just started reading it. It was a fun at times,comical read.

But, still felt like she was making fun of the Jewish community. This is the first book I read that I was actually angry at the author, and the characters she created.  I know this is suppose to be funny, but it was difficult to not take it seriously.

I know Mrs. Ragen is from the U.S., and then immigrated to Israel. She is a big, Jewish Feminist. But, if she does not agree with most of the Jewish laws, then why does she follow them.

 I don't agree, but I don't bad mouth, like she did., I just don't follow the observance of the Orthodox, instead I follow the observance where I feel confortable.

I am wondering, does she really feel this way, or did she just exaggerate a bit, and did not mean to offend anyone.

 It seems like she took every bit of Jewish law, went down the list and put a slant in the story. I did not like, the character of Delilah.  Even Delilah's name is ironic, with a name like Delilah Goldgrab, would you want her name.

She was very materialistic, and about me, me, me. Why would she marry Chaim, if she did not believe in her observance. I

At times, I can understand Rabbi's wives are under so much scrutiny, and pressure, they may think bad thoughts, but I am sure, they keep it to themselves.

One of our book club members added, she was putting the Madoff controversy in the novel(the swindler, Victor). look at the ending of the story, all the cards falling down. Interesting thought.  If any one else read this I would like to know what your thoughts are.

I am sorry, Mrs. Ragen for being so harsh. I am just hoping you don't feel this way.  That you just exaggerated the story over the top.

We did have a great discussion. These kind of books make great discussions. A few people liked the book. About half of us were offended by the book. Personally, if you are observant I would not recommend this book. I tried not to take this book seriously, but it was very hard not too.

I have read a few of Naomi Ragen's book and enjoyed them. This one was very different than her others. If you like soap opera type, with light reading, you would probably enjoy reading.

Now our next book will be very different. We will be reading in March, Dinner with Anna Karenina. Looking forward to that read...
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