Monday, December 17, 2012

Belated Chanakah Book Club







This month, our book club Beach Babes Book Brigade,  did something different.  Instead of discussing the book, we decided to do a book review on the book that you would like to swap. 

My team of book club members went into action. They cooked up scrumptious latkes of different kinds, salad, and different desserts.  After that I am stuffed. I did not want to review anything I was stuffed.

We went around to each member to discuss our best, and worst book club book of 2012.  I have been in a existing book club for about 7 years.  But, they don't usually like to do anything different. Just discuss the book.  The book club, Beach Babes Book Brigade has been in existence since March.

From the books we read, this is all the members take on books we chose. Everyone loved Forgotten Garden, a few picked Dovekeepers. The worst, was G-ds from Alabama.  My personal favorites, was Paris Wife by Paula McLain and Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.

The books that members chose to review and swap was:

I reviewed Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingslover. You can read my review below this post.   Also, Little Bee by Chris Cleeve, Winter Garden by Kristen Hannah which will be discussing in the summer. Rachel Simon's true account of her disabled sister on the bus.  Another was Private, by James Patterson.  The book club member that reviewed did not think it was his best.
 One person did not read the instructions and brought a book that she did not read. But, I gave it to her. Unfortunately, I did not remember the book too much. If I had known I would have brought notes from my blog.   The only thing, I  remembered it had spiritual undertones about Judiasm. The book is called, Kitchen's Daughter. I remember loving it. 


The books we will be reading in the following months with some with special speakers:

Jane Eyre will have a guest speaker from CCU on Jan. 28th at California Dreaming.
 February-In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson.
March- Raquella by Ruth Gruber in honor of Hadassah's 100th B-day.
April-Story of Beautiful Girl by Ruth Simon
May- Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
June-Rav Hisda's Daughter- This will be a Jewish Community Read. Guest Speaker Rabbi Debbi Slavitt will be speaking.
July-Winter Garden by Kristen Hannah
August- Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern( Magically Novel).

To recap to do different next year.  We will wrap the book, and do it as a white elephant.
I hope to next year do something crafty. I have seen some book clubs make book marks with the year of books that chose.  If anyone has done book marks using their books for the year. Please leave your comments below.

Hag Sameach!!!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Middlesteins: Packs a Whallop






Middlesteins
By Jami Attenberg

What is the Jewish obsession with food?  Ever since I can remember when I was growing up, we Jews use any excuse to eat. We associate celebration with food. We Jews always eating at every life cycle event, birth, Bar, or Bats Mitzvah, Wedding, finding any excuse to eat. 

Here is article that Jami Attenberg wrote in the Forward it ties into her novel, the Middlesteins.   It is a conversation with her, and her father, enjoy!!! Here is a awesome review by Christian Monitor.

 Middlestein's,  Richard and Edie, and their grown children, Robin, and Benny, and their twin grandchildren.

Robin is single, and a teacher with a boyfriend. She is angry about her mother's situation.  Benny, is the pot smoker.  He is married to Rachelle.  Rachelle is the daughter in law, that tries to fix her mother in law.

 Edie is a well educated woman, she graduated law school. At one time she worked as a partner in a large law firm.   She stopped working as her weight increased so much. She was afraid to go out of the house, why you ask? What is her  flaw, you ask?   Her weight, and her uncontrollable  eating habits, not just a little, but over and beyond,  As she grows older into middle age, her weight has risen to 350 lbs.

 With obesity and other health issues, on the eve of her surgery, her husband of over thirty years abandons her.  Her daughter, Robin is very angry at her father. Rachelle, tries to help her mother in law. She gives her advice that her mother in law doesn't want to follow, she  follows her mother in law, and practically stalks her.  Watching her every time she goes in her car, following her, watching what she eats, Chinese restaurants, McD's, and Burger King. Through it all,  Poor Benny, is loosing his hair.

 To add to the stress, Rachelle, and Benny are planning their twin children's over the top bar-mitzvah.

Book Review:
 
I enjoyed reading, Middlestein's.  It is a small book, with lots of punch and emotion.   There are parts that are comical, and quirky, and serious at the same time.  Each chapter,  Edie adds the pounds. each chapter shows her weight increasing as the years go by, and into her marriage, and her later years.

Is the family responsible for you, if you can't help yourself? Or are you ultimately the one who is responsible for yourself?  Yes, it eats you up seeing someone so compulsive. They can't help themselves. You see the person hurting them self and you can't do anything but stand at the side lines. You are the only one that can help yourself.  No matter how much you intervene, it the person, not you, the enabler. In so many situations, domestic violence, smoking, gambling, drugs, alcohol.

At times it was a fun read, but other hard to take, to watch. I can understand Richard's situation. He couldn't stand to see his wife do this to herself.  Enough is enough.

As a person having knowledge of what obesity can do to you, it is heartbreaking.  Some people just can't control themselves.  I think most American's can't identify to this as a illness.  But, it is.  Just like cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, and gambling is a disease, so is obesity. Most people substitute eating for love when they are overweight.

It is even harder when you are watching a family member get heavier, and heavier.  Harder still when it is a person middle age, and they have health issues, such as diabetes, heart disease.

While reading there is a scene, she is about to have surgery the next day. She is contemplating eating, even though she realizes she is told nothing by mouth after 12 am. She thinks to herself what harm can that do?  That is so sad, that someone can contemplate eating, even when she will have surgery the next day.  This part was so heart wrenching and sad to me.  I am not going to tell you the rest, there is more to come to this story.

The point of the book, who is responsible for you? yourself? or your family?
The argument that I have. You are the only one that can help yourself.  No matter how much your family loves you. It is your responsibility. You can ask for help, and there is a point that the family can help, the rest is up to you. 

I don't mean to get on my soap box, I am sure Jami Attenberg didn't mean for this book to be a discussion about enabling,  and eating disorders. If you are in the health field, or psychology field, like my niece( works with eating disorders), I would suggest this book, for you, and your clients.

There is so much to talk about in book clubs.  Health issue, obesity, compulsions, enablers, etc. This would be a good book for book clubs, There is lots of emotion, in such a small book.

Thank you Evan from Grand Central Publishing for allowing me to review, and post my thoughts.  I enjoyed reading.

 
 

 

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Train in Winter: Book Review





A Train in Winter
By Caroline Moorehead



Very hard to read, because of the content. But, it is important part of history that should not be forgotten. The books that are written usually has the Jewish perspective. This time it from a objective point, from a journalist. It is a important part of history, about the French Resistant that no one knows much about. It takes place during after and the war. Most of the Resistant fighters, were women, yes you heard right women.

I was happy to read this, because as a Jew, I thought no one was helping us. But, in reality there were people that were helping to end the war and the atrocities of Hitler. We just did not know many of them. I am not talking about a few, but thousands all over Europe in particular France.

These people were ordinary people, doctors, writers, singers, dental surgeon, teachers, students, mothers, grandmothers, parents, ordinary people with ordinary lives. The French did not like what was happening in Spain, or Italy.

They wanted to spread the seed of communism. They wanted to see change in the political arena in Europe. The French wanted to see communism in their country because of what was happening of the effects of Spain, with the likes of Franco, and in Italy what was happening with Mussolini in their country.

The Gestopo, was watching one man, head of the French Resistance, he was a teacher. By the name of Andre' Pican. He was the head of the Front National of the Resistance in the Seine-Inf'erieure. He was thought to lead them to other Resistance Fighter.

March 1941, there was a round up, by the French Police. 113 people, were detained, 35 of them women, the youngest a 16 year old, and the oldest a 44 year old farmer's wife. What the French police confiscated were notebooks, addresses, false ID's, explosives, revolvers, tracts expertly forged ration books, and birth certificates, typewriters, and much, much more.

By 1943, they were taken with the rest of the French Resistance of a total of 230. as political prisoners to Aushwitz, and some of them sent to Birkenau~ the death camps. There were only 49 left of the French Resistance after the war and able to return to France.

The story was about the resilience of these women, their friendship, looking after each other, and share the mutual danger they were able to fight to stay alive. Some of them claim it was just luck that saved them.

In Vichy, and Paris, France, and all over France. Communism was spreading all over Europe, this helped spread the French Resistance It also was happening all over Europe(in Italy, and Poland, etc). The women were more involved then the men. The men were off in the war, and the women left to their own devises at the home front.

Women had safe houses to protect Jews, they spread flyers all over France, wrote propaganda to spread the cause, let other countries know what was happening, attacked trains, etc.

The women, were lonely, and had to hide from their families, to protect them. Do you think you would have done this? I don't know what I would have done. They believed in the cause. To save their country. But, what about your children? They felt they were saving their children. But, they sacrificed themselves for the cause.

Why, how, and where and what happened to them, is the first part. This part of the book is about how each of them got into the resistance. Who they were. How the French were treated after the German's invaded France. How these normal people got involved, and why. What happened to them, while they were in the underground, how it affected them, and their families, and children, and loved ones, and the eventual round up.

Part 2, of A Train in Winter takes place on, January 24, 1943. They rounded up the rest of the French Resistance and sent them to Aushwitz. The decision to work, Aushwitz, or death~ Birkenau. 230 Women were taken to the station.

The second part of the book was very tough to read. The conditions of how they found themselves. They had no idea where they were going. They, as you know were treated horribly. What made this book more awful, than others. This is a journalistic record, not one or a few persons experiences, but that of the whole. Which made this more heart wrenching, and horrible.

The clothes, the food, and staying with thousands of concentration camp prisoners were held out side for roll call in the dark of night, how many do you think were out there in the death of winter? 4,000 possibly in roll call. How long do you think it took to call everyone? a hour, try the next morning. Then the medical experiments, that were done to women. What they did to babies, and children, the survival, and not survival of the women, and prisoners of the concentration camps. I am not going to go into the conditions because like myself, I thought I heard it all. But, I hadn't, but I don't want to keep writing about it to sound redundant, and too awful to repeat.

But one thing that kept a few of these women alive was the comradery, friendship, the shared fear, love of their families, France. " Despite their differences of age, background, education, and wealth, were friends. They spent months together in Romainville very close together and it was a train full of friends, who knew each other's strengths and frailties', who had kept each other company at moments of terrible anguish, and who had fallen into a pattern of looking after each other, that they set out for the unknown".

My critique of the book, this for sure did not read like a grip me read. There is intrigue, and conspiracy, it does remind me of spy novels, from WW2.

My biggest gripe was trying to keep the names and places straight. I did have a notebook by my side. But after a while it was too difficult and I gave up. The book is such a broad topic, and not just a few experiences, that is why so many people, places.

I found it interesting for the first time, that a non-Jew wrote this book. Most Jewish historians think they own this time period. I am happy to read from a non-Jews perspective. I did not realize the French Resistance, or the Resistance in general was so vast.

If you are looking to read this in a day or two, I would not pick this up. This is a tough book to read, but important.  I usually don't read books about the holocaust anymore, since I read many of them when I was younger. I thought I knew everything.  I found part two of Train In Winter, much more engrossing, and engaging then part 1. Not sure why.

This is different, it gives you a wider, and broader topic. I recommend it to anyone that wants to know about the history of WW2, and the time period. To understand what happened in the home front to ordinary citizens, especially women helping the war effort. There were women that wanted, and tried to make a difference, unfortunately most of them did not survive, and they sacrificed their lives.

I was given a copy by TLC Book Tour, and I would like to thank you. I have been wanting to read this since it was first published.         
                         

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Time Keeper: Book Review- Mitch Albom





Time Keeper
By Mitch Albom


 This is the story of three main characters. Dor, Sara, and Victor.  Dor wants to have more time with his wife Alli, who is gravely ill, and on her death bed. He then gets to heaven and longer than he wishes.

 Because of this he is stuck  for a long while in heaven. He goes up to the heavens and is stuck there for 6,000 years.  He is sent to earth to save Victor and Sara.

He is told to find two people. One person that is asking for a short time to live. The other wants to live much longer.

Victor, rich, and 14th wealthiest person in the world. He is dying of cancer. He wants to be put to sleep in a cryolab, until they find a way to cure cancer. Once they find the cure, he will be awakened.   He doesn't consult his wife. Instead he is just driven to the lab. Without any concern about his family.

Sara, a teenage girl, book worm, quiet, awkward socially, and smart, she doesn't have any friends, and lonely. She has a crush on Ethan.  This is her first love. She has no experience with guys. She meets him in a homeless shelter.

He tries to get her drunk and have sex. Luckily Sara, knows the difference from right and wrong.
But she moons over him, and gets so absorbed with him. She lets everything fall to the wayside.  She buys him a expensive watch, which he brushes off, and tells her forget it.  She decides she is going to try another tactic, instead, she will send a private message on facebook. She goes on facebook, and she is humiliated. She wants to commit suicide.

By the end of the story, like all of Mitch Albom's books it is a happy ever after. Father time is able to get back to his wife. But, how? You end up asking questions about your life, and time.  Is there a happy ever after? For Father Time? You will have to read Time Keeper to find out.

Reading the story, reminded me of Christmas Carol. Because when father time is helping them realize what they are doing. He is discussing the future, and present and past. Look what you are doing to your mother, or your wife. Do you realize the consequences of what could happen.  It makes you think of your own life. When things get bad, there is always hope that things can get better. You keep on trucking. There are the bad days and good days, each one of us have.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

TLC Blog Tour: Bookie's Son


                                                Welcome to another stop for TLC Book Tour
I received Bookie's Son from TLC Book Tours. This is the first time I am participating.

Bookie's Son by Andrew Goldstein

Bookie's son was written based on the life of the author, and I'm sure was embellished in some parts of the novel.  I am afraid I won't give it the justice it deserves.  This is a great story. While reading it I felt like it ran like a movie in my head. I liked that the chapters were short, and sweet. Each chapter had cute illustrations of the characters.

The story captivated me from the first. I loved the characters, even though they were a bit over the top. But, that is what made it fascinating, a dysfunctional family. I loved the setting, of the Bronx.  I have never lived in the Bronx, although I could picture it in my head.

When I was young, my parents would take me to my bubby( my great grandmother) house, in Boston, Mass.  The book reminded me of that place. I still remember the trolley passing and going through the streets. The antique furniture, the smells that resonated through the house during Shabbat. People outside rather than inside.   I love the story when place is character.

Before Gameboy, and Atari, Play Station, etc. Kids did play outside, and congregated. Where they played stick ball, and sat out on the stoop to be outside. Where women kibbitz, and gossip and talk about their families.

The story is  a coming of age story, and forgiveness, redemption, and the importance of family no matter how crazy they are. There is some sprinkling of Yiddish, and a lot of Yiddish humor.  I don't want to give it away. But, the book is timeless, and makes you think about the Jewish holydays coming.

Ricky grows up quickly, and literally. He sees what is going on around him with the family troubles, and what happens to his father. The timing is perfect with the bar mitzvah approaching, and the decisions Ricky has to make.

Bookie's Son  takes place in the 1960's in the Bronx.  Ricky about to become a bar mitzvah.  He's mother, Pearl works as a secretary to a talent agent.  He's father is a "cutter, and a gambler, and owes money to the loan shark.  He's grandmother who can hardly hear well takes care of Ricky.

Ricky's father owes money to Nathan, lots of money. Where is he going to come up with that kind of " dough"? Nathan and Pearl used to be a item many years ago. Nathan uses that against him. He tells him if you let me have one fling with your wife, I will forget about the money. What is he going to do?

Ricky has he's own problems between worrying about his father's bookie business and helping with that, and a kid on the street, named Tony. He is always threating and harassing Ricky, until something terrible happens.  Ricky, meanwhile has a thing with his neighbor downstairs. There is a lot of growing up to do. One day something terrible happens, and the friendship of the girl down stairs will never be the same.  Through all this, will Ricky learns in time  his Haftorah in time for his bar mitzvah?

One thing Ricky loves and protects is his grandmother. She is hard of hearing. There is one part that is so funny. Two guys come to the apartment looking for Ricky's father, to pay up. The father is on the run. Ricky's grandmother, who's hearing is not so wonderful.  Mistakes some word, and offers them cookies. You have to read it to understand the humor.

Pearl and her husband don't care if they still owe money to Nathan. They are going to have a party of a life time.  As Jews, you don't care how bad in hock you get. You party first, and think about it later. Pearl, and the family get in deeper and deeper over their heads.

Pearl embezzles money out of Elizabeth Taylor's account. She will think about later how she will give it back.  Meanwhile, Ricky and he's grandmother are in the grocery store. She staged a accident in the grocery store. She breaks her hip.

If you want to read a something nostalgic, fun, and zany for a good laugh pick up Bookie's son.  I really enjoyed reading it. I did not know what to expect since most books I review are from big publishing houses. This one is not. That teaches me not to judge a book by it's cover.

Andrew has written a funny piece here,  enjoy.



Losing It


At a dinner party, not long ago, my friend posed the question to the five of us, all of us 60+ years, Do you think you’re losing it? Everyone except for me answered yes.  After all I had recently published my first novel, The Bookie’s Son. I wasn’t losing it.  Undermining my perception were three incidents over the past ten years that tell a different story.

  1. Ten years ago my wife was in Paris on business. I had never been there so we decided that I would join her for a long romantic weekend together. At our age, having been together for decades, anything even hinting of romance sounds appealing. I even packed the night before my flight, which I knew would impress her. As I pulled into the airport parking garage I said to myself, that’s funny, I don’t remember putting my suitcase in the trunk. Too late to drive back home, no longer allowed for a suitcase to travel by itself on a later plane, too expensive to ship, I flew to Paris without any clothes...except for what I was wearing. I tend to look on the bright side and told myself, it’s nice to travel light.



  1. Eight years ago I was sitting at my messy desk at work when the phone rang. I reached my hand to answer it but instead of lifting up the receiver I picked up my glasses. With one of the plastic covered metal arm tips by my ear and the other by my mouth, I said, “Hello” and the phone rang again. “Hello, hello.” Another ring. Now I’m getting annoyed, at the imbecile on the other end. It was around the fourth or fifth ring that I realized the identity of that imbecile and quietly slinked away from my desk.



  1. The phone incident happened only once so it didn’t scare me. As the years passed an  occasional age related memory lapse, like I’ll leave my glasses at work because I have something else in my pocket and my brain is tricked. No big deal (I’m not losing it.) In December, I was taking care of my nine month old grandson. My daughter likes to keep the heat low to save money and the environment. Fine, I bring extra clothes. She doesn’t want me to track germs into the house. Fine, I take off my shoes. The week before I left a pair of sneakers there. So this time when I was leaving I make sure I have everything. Extra clothes, sneakers, cell phone, keys, glasses, wallet. Proud of myself, I strut down the ten steps to the front door, turn around, wave my free hand at my grandson and shout in a baby voice, “Bye bye, bye bye”. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice my sneakers still on the floor upstairs. How could this be? What could I be carrying in my other hand that tricked my brain. Hint: There are two of them, approximately 3 inches long––my grandson’s sneakers.

   Of the five of us, I think I won the losing it the most contest. The closest contender was a woman who drove to her mailbox to pick up the mail but instead of opening her mailbox she walked around her car and popped the trunk.

Thank You TLC Book Tours for inviting me to join the blog tour.

Here are the other stops for TLC Blog Tour:

Tuesday, September 4th: Lit and Life
Wednesday, September 5th:  A Patchwork of Books
Thursday, September 6th:  Man of La Book
Wednesday, September 12th:  Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, September 13th:  The Perks of Being a JAP
Friday, September 14th:  House of the Seven Tails
Monday, September 17th:  Broken Teepee
Tuesday, September 18th:  Life in Review
Wednesday, September 19th:  Unabridged Chick
Friday, September 21st:  Raging Bibliomania
Monday, September 24th:  Fiction Addict
Tuesday, September 25th:  WV Stitcher
Wednesday, September 26th:  I Am A Reader, Not A Writer
Thursday, September 27th:  Between the Covers
Friday, September 28th:  Mom in Love with Fiction



                                               

Sunday, September 16, 2012

This is the first time I am hosting the Jewish Book Carnival,  I am excited hosting for the first time.
Especially, since this is the eve of Rosh Hashanah. I would like to welcome y'all for visiting me at Bagels, Books, and Schmooze. 

 
The Jewish Holiday season starts tonight at sundown. This is the holiest season of the year for Jewish people. The holiday season starts during the month of Tishrei  

 During the holydays,  Teshuvah, literally means "return" and is the word used to describe the concept of repentance in Judaism. Only by atoning for our sins can we restore balance to our relationship with God and with our fellow human beings.  Jews are encouraged to make amends with anyone they have wronged and to make plans for improving during the coming year

. Even though the theme of Rosh Hashanah,  is life and death, it is a holiday filled with hope for the New Year. Jews believe that God is compassionate and just, and that God will accept their prayers for forgiveness.

During this time, we greet each other with saying, La Shana Tova~ Good New Year, or La Shana Tova Tikvatevu~ May you be inscribed  and sealed for a good year.

These are some of the food traditions for the holiday of Rosh Hashanah. Eating pomegranates, apples dipped in honey, making a round challah with raisins, instead of the traditional challah.


I have a couple nice treats to share with you before I share the other posts.
I reviewed this month Rav Hisda's Daughter by Maggie Anton, and Bookie's Son by Andrew Goldstein.


Rav Hisda's Daughter by Maggie Anton:



Before I share with you the links of fellow book bloggers. Here is some exciting news. To commemorate the Jewish holiday season, Maggie and her publisher are allowing me to give away two copies of Rav Hisda's Daughter book Giveaway. Thank you, Javier for supplying a couple copies.
To Enter, You must comment on the end of the post or contribute to the Jewish Book Carnival.   

Bookie's Son by Andrew Goldstein:

I received Bookie's Son from TLC Book Tours. This is the first time I am participating.

Bookie's Son, I am afraid I won't give it the justice it deserves.  This is a great story. While reading it I felt like it ran like a movie in my head. I liked that the chapters were short, and sweet. Each chapter had cute illustrations of the characters.

The story captivated me from the first. I loved the characters, even though they were a bit over the top. But, that is what made it fascinating, a dysfunctional family. I loved the setting, of the Bronx.  I have never lived in the Bronx, although I could picture it in my head.

When I was young, my parents would take me to my bubby( my great grandmother) house, in Boston, Mass.  The book reminded me of that place. I still remember the trolley passing and going through the streets. The antique furniture, the smells that resonated through the house during shabbat. People outside rather than inside.   I love the story when place is character.

Before Gameboy, and Atari, Play Station, etc. Kids did play outside, and congregated. Where they played stick ball, and sat out on the stoop to be outside. Where women kibitz, and gossip and talk about their families.

The story is  a coming of age story, and forgiveness, redemption, and the importance of family no matter how crazy they are. There is some sprinkling of Yiddish, and a lot of Yiddish humor.  I don't want to give it away. But, the book is timeless, and makes you think about the Jewish holydays coming.

Ricky grows up quickly, and literally. He sees what is going on around him with the family troubles, and what happens to his father. The timing is perfect with the bar mitzvah approaching, and the decisions Ricky has to make.

Bookie's Son  takes place in the 1960's in the Bronx.  Ricky about to become a bar mitzvah.  He's mother, Pearl works as a secretary to a talent agent.  He's father is a "cutter, and a gambler, and owes money to the loan shark.  He's grandmother who can hardly hear well takes care of Ricky.

Ricky's father owes money to Nathan, lots of money. Where is he going to come up with that kind of " dough"? Nathan and Pearl used to be a item many years ago. Nathan uses that against him. He tells him if you let me have one fling with your wife, I will forget about the money. What is he going to do?

Ricky has he's own problems he has a problem with a kid on the street, named Tony. He is always threating and harassing Ricky, until something terrible happens.  Ricky, meanwhile has a thing with his neighbor downstairs. One day something terrible happens, and their friendship will never be the same, for not standing up to Tony. Through all this, will Ricky learns his Haftorah in time for his bar mitzvah?

Pearl and her husband don't care if they still owe money to Nathan. They are going to have a party of a life time.  As Jews, you don't care how bad in hock you get. You party first, and think about it later. Pearl, and the family get in deeper and deeper over their heads.

Pearl embezzles money out of Elizabeth Taylor's account. She will think about later how she will give it back.  Meanwhile, Ricky and he's grandmother are in the grocery store. She staged a accident in the grocery store. She breaks her hip.

If you want to read a something nostalgic, fun, and zany for a good laugh pick up Bookie's son.

Now on with the Jewish Book Carnival:

 Over on My Machberet, Erika Dreifus dips into the children's-book market and tells us about Zayde Comes to Live, by Sheri Sinykin.

Kathe, at  Life is like a  Library, wrote a review thinking this was not Jewish content, but dig a bit deeper and you will find Jewish thought.

A  audio interview at Book of Life with author Betsy Rosenthal about her novel Looking For Me in this Great Big Family.

 The Whole Megillah | has a nice interview with Northampton, Mass. Poet Laureate and award-winning children's book author, Rich Michelson.

Lori, from Jewicious authored, The Way into Judiasm Into The Envoirment.

My favorite Jewish book source, the Prosen People. Submitted their post for the high holidays at Jewish Book Council.

Jonathan, sent his story, it is in the Jewish Journal, Danny Danon's Israel: The Will To Survive.

Barbara, shared her interview  Lesley Simpson, she authored a children's story book about the Simcha Bat( The baby naming ritual), called Song For My Sister.

To add to this marvelous collection of book bloggers, Needle in the Haystack contributed her post for the blog.  Her post is about antique Judaica collection of books, she submitted a bit late, but I thought it was a great post to add to the Jewish Book Carnival.

The author, Andrew Goldstein doesn't have a book blog, instead he asked me to post this for him.

Losing It


At a dinner party, not long ago, my friend posed the question to the five of us, all of us 60+ years, Do you think you’re losing it? Everyone except for me answered yes.  After all I had recently published my first novel, The Bookie’s Son. I wasn’t losing it.  Undermining my perception were three incidents over the past ten years that tell a different story.

  1. Ten years ago my wife was in Paris on business. I had never been there so we decided that I would join her for a long romantic weekend together. At our age, having been together for decades, anything even hinting of romance sounds appealing. I even packed the night before my flight, which I knew would impress her. As I pulled into the airport parking garage I said to myself, that’s funny, I don’t remember putting my suitcase in the trunk. Too late to drive back home, no longer allowed for a suitcase to travel by itself on a later plane, too expensive to ship, I flew to Paris without any clothes...except for what I was wearing. I tend to look on the bright side and told myself, it’s nice to travel light.


  1. Eight years ago I was sitting at my messy desk at work when the phone rang. I reached my hand to answer it but instead of lifting up the receiver I picked up my glasses. With one of the plastic covered metal arm tips by my ear and the other by my mouth, I said, “Hello” and the phone rang again. “Hello, hello.” Another ring. Now I’m getting annoyed, at the imbecile on the other end. It was around the fourth or fifth ring that I realized the identity of that imbecile and quietly slinked away from my desk.


  1. The phone incident happened only once so it didn’t scare me. As the years passed an  occasional age related memory lapse, like I’ll leave my glasses at work because I have something else in my pocket and my brain is tricked. No big deal (I’m not losing it.) In December, I was taking care of my nine month old grandson. My daughter likes to keep the heat low to save money and the environment. Fine, I bring extra clothes. She doesn’t want me to track germs into the house. Fine, I take off my shoes. The week before I left a pair of sneakers there. So this time when I was leaving I make sure I have everything. Extra clothes, sneakers, cell phone, keys, glasses, wallet. Proud of myself, I strut down the ten steps to the front door, turn around, wave my free hand at my grandson and shout in a baby voice, “Bye bye, bye bye”. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice my sneakers still on the floor upstairs. How could this be? What could I be carrying in my other hand that tricked my brain. Hint: There are two of them, approximately 3 inches long––my grandson’s sneakers.

   Of the five of us, I think I won the losing it the most contest. The closest contender was a woman who drove to her mailbox to pick up the mail but instead of opening her mailbox she walked around her car and popped the trunk.

Everyone have a happy, healthy and sweet new year for 5773.
La Shana Tova,



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Rav Hisda's Daughter: Book Review




Rav Hisda's Daughter
By Maggie Anton


I became interested in knowing about Jewish sorcery, and magic, after reading about it in the novel by Alice Hoffman, Dovekeepers. I was always under the impression that Jews, did not believe in sorcery, and magic. It was a eye opener to find it that this is not the case.  I always believed us, Jews believed in prayer, not magic.

We will be having a Jewish Grand Strand Community Read. We will be doing Rav Hisda's Daughter. Luckily it is already in paperback. That is why, and how I contacted Maggie in the first place.

  Maggie Anton is the historical fiction author of Rashi's Daughter. She has done it again with, Rav Hisda's Daughter.  You can read a article at the Jewish Forward reviewing her novel and the background information of Rav Hisda's Daughter, becomes a Enchantress and learns the craft of becoming involved with sorcery, and amulet's such as incantation bowls.

 If you don't know much about the history during this time, and Babylonia and Palestine do your own google research while reading the introduction.  You can also go on Maggie Anton's website there are resources to help you, and enrich the novel as well.  I found Jewishvirtuallibrary.com a good place to find all the info.

Maggie, has supplied us with a map, glossaries, and names of people that was helpful while reading.

It was interesting to find out about the politics of the Jewish temple, before it was destroyed the second time.  The three groups, Pharisee, Sadducees, and Essenes. What happened to Jewish practice after the temple was destroyed, after the second time.  The culture and traditions of the Jews in Babylonia( which is Iraq, and Iran now), and Palestine are different. Just like Sephardic, and Ashkenazi are different.

 To learn about the Persian culture, their strictness toward women was more severe than Jewish tradition.  When they menstruated, they stayed in a windowless hut, without any contact with anyone. In a observant Jewish home, you could not touch your husband but you would still be in the same room with him( Jews were smart, they need the women to cook and clean~don't think Persian society was thinking about that-LOL!)

I liked how the author blended, and weaved the traditions and Jewish cultures in the story without feeling like you are being lectured.  There is so many fascinated thing that I learned by reading Rav Hisda's Daughter.  About inheritance, Does the daughter inherit, what happens if no one is left, does the daughter inherit. Good question. You will have to read to find out.

The part I liked was, Hisdadukh, traveled with her father to Palestine. Weaving the story with the lives of people in Palestine, customs, and traditions. To learn about the art of the mosaics, and weaved the story in was interesting.  The author used her own imagination, and skill being a Talmud scholar. This helped weave the story. It did not sound ridiculous, it blended well.

What I had a hard time, and could not understand. If you become a widow, even your small child goes back to your husband's family. You didn't  raise him. I had a hard time grasping this one.

The most fascinating was, I had no idea there was " Incantation Bowls". These bowls, were written in Hebrew, to keep the evil eye away. Once the bowls were made you buried them in the corner of your house. the bowls had to be upside down to capture the demons.   You can read about this on her website. It is fascinating.

 I just can't believe Jews, did even Rabbi's believed in magic. What a eye opener.

Amulet's around your neck with the hamsa, and the evil eye. Never realized how that was started. Think about the Jewish Traveler's Prayer, or anything around your neck. It made me think about it.

Synopsis:

After the destruction of the Jewish temple, new traditions and culture's of the Jewish people are learned, and taught by the sages. Rome is taking over, Christianity is born.

Rav Hisda's Daughter's name is Hisdadukh she attends her father's Yeshiva classes with the other boys. Which in Jewish tradition is not heard of.  She is asked, still a young child she is asked to pick one of the Rabbi's students to become her husband.  Instead she picked both boys, Rami and Abba.  Abba says he wants to be last. It is like destiny, or mystic  how that happens as you read into the book.

As she matures and becomes older, she learns about Jewish magic, the occult, and making, and  blessing the incantation bowls.  To become a professional scribe you must make them three times. Once you do that, you are titled a "Enchantress".

Once she passes her Bat Mitzvah, she is matched with Rami. She is madly in love with him. They marry, and have children. But, his mother casts a evil eye on the family. The rest you will have to read yourself.

If you are interested in this time period as much as I. To know how synagogue practices started after the destruction of the temple. Why woman, are separated from the men. What about Magic, and the cultures, and traditions, and the romance, and historical fiction. If you like to read about this, then I recommend Rav Hisda's Daughter.

I reviewed Rav Hisda's Daughter in commemoration of the high holydays. I thought it would be perfect for the review, and the Jewish Book Carnival that I am hosting. I will be doing a book giveaway during that time. A big thank you goes to Javier Perez, Maggie Anton's book publicist for supplying a couple copies of Rav Hisda's Daughter for the Jewish Book Carnival and for donating a few copies for our Hadassah event in October.

If you are, or live in the Myrtle Beach area and are interested in coming to the Hadassah Sipping to the Ocean, a membership tea, please contact me. I will contact you to the person to get in touch with.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Unorthodox: Book Review

 
 
Unorthodox by Debrah Feldman
 
 
 
SPOILER>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>SPOILER>>>>>>>>>>>>>SPOILER>>>>>>>>>>>>>
I read this book because one of the ladies in our book club wanted us to discuss this book. I wanted to find out what the hoopla was about.

I don't know much about the Satmar community, in Williamburg, NY.  But, I do have some knowledge about the Chabad community because I am Jewish, and living in Myrtle Beach, SC.

I will say, any book that is a memoir, is the author's experience. It is not set in stone that everyone she is talking about is the same.

Debbie's parents have troubles from a arrange marriage from the beginning. Her Zayde, arranges a marriage for his son to a British woman.

The father has some mental issues. It is never said exactly what is wrong with him. But, we do know he can't take care of his daughter after the get(divorce). Also in the community, these things are tucked under the carpet. It is sad, because he never received any kind of help( therapy).


 Usually when a get is arranged, the father gets custody of his children. Her mother leaves the community, and becomes a secular Jew. Debbie is raised in a unloving, strict and dysfunctional home. But, she still loves her grandparents.

It is arranged after her parent's divorce Debbie is living with her grandparents. Not a great situation to be in. Her Aunt, who Debbie is not particular found of gets in the middle of every conflict.

Debbie becomes rebellious, and sneaks off to libraries, to read secular books which is a no-no. They are not allowed to read newspapers, and watch or listen to the radio. They basically are hidden from the world.

There is one situation I do question. Debbie goes into a bookstore owned by Jews in Williamsburg. Where only men are allowed she sneaks in, without anyone's knowledge and buys a Talmud. I don't thinks she would be allowed to buy one. One I don't think the book store owner would sell it to a girl. He would report it, if he did. So, I wonder about the accuracy of this part of the story.

Women, and young girls are treated like nothing. They are not allowed to have a mind and speak out for themselves. The community, doesn't speak English, but speak only Yiddish. The school they go to is not recognized by the New York State board. They do not receive a secular education. They don't receive a high school diploma when they graduate.

What they do receive is religious instruction, and instruction to be modest, and eventually marry. Women's duty is to marry and have many babies in the Orthodox community.

When Debbie, is matched with the young man. Debbie finds out later, that her husband is a wimp and doesn't stand up for him or her. Always running to his parents to tell them intimate things about their marriage..

They have marriage classes after the match is made. They are taught about sex. But, neither one of them has ever touched a girl. In school boys, and girls are separated. The girls, and boys have not spoken or touched except with their brothers and sisters.. I can't imagine what that is like.

Debbie's experience at the Mikvah, five days before the wedding is a disaster. It is suppose to be a spiritual and uplifting experience. It is implied that something happened, that shouldn't have.

On their wedding night, Debbie and her new husband, don't even consummate the marriage. Because neither one of them understand what they are suppose to do. Debbie doesn't even know where the opening is where the Penis goes.

All the things we take for granted because we are not segregated by the world. We can go to a computer, or a school, or library to do research but not this community.

Debbie, has to check to make sure what she is clean, by checking her menstruation. I would be so embarrassed to take the cloths to the Rabbi and make sure you are clean to touch your husband.

While they are living in Williamsburg, where everyone knows your business, even your sex life. The entire community seems to be on the watchful eye of everyone. Debbie and her husband go to a sex therapist, and many doctors to find out why she can't get pregnant.

Finally, Debbie and her husband get a break, after the birth of her son. most people that are not happy with the strictures of the Satmar community are allowed to leave, and go to the community in Monsey, New York.

The first step is moving to Monsey to get her independence from her community. The second is to go to school, and get a education. She doesn't want this for her son to be raised in a orthodox community. She gets admitted to Sarah Lawrence, she doesn't tell her husband the exact truth.  She finally breaks away.

My Review: The writing is ok, not a prize winner. But, learning a few things about the Satmar community opened my eyes.

I have never been in Williamburg, only movie scenes. I remember my father told me once he by accident got lost, and went down the street during Shabbat. The Yeshiva boys were throwing rocks at his car.

I did live near Monsey, New York. When I used to drive in the area. You would see many observant Jews, walking on Shabbat. I did not realize what community they were. When the author spoke about it, I could relate to the area. Remember once or twice going to the kosher market, and the Jewish store.

Most people, even Jews stayed away from them. As I was growing up, it was just known you did not speak to them. Observant Jews, I was taught did not associate themselves to the outside.

This is Debbie's experience. I am not sure if all families come from a cold, unloving family.

I know Chabad is not like that. Once when I was teaching, I was so shocked. One of the Rabbi's daughters was in my nursery class. He came to change his daughter.
To see Rabbi Yossi change his daughter's diaper was awe inspiring moment I will never forget. I was always under the impression. Rabbi's in the orthodox community, had their nose in a book, constantly. Never taking any father duties seriously. I am glad I was mistaken.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Book Club Guest Vist: Jean Naggar


This morning we discussed the book, Sipping From the Nile by Jean Naggar.

I tried to sway the book club to discuss the book, before Jean called in( all arranged by her publicist-Wiley). But, it was not meant to be.  Instead, it was 5 minutes of discussing the book before the author called in, and then became a social conversation, about everyone and everything. But, it turned out ok.

Jean, I am sure is a marvelous speaker. By, the questions, we all asked her. She was so informative, which filled in the gaps of the book.

What was interesting was the Ashkenazi experience vs. Sephardic experience in the United States when she moved here as a young bride. She did tell us she did not expect her memoir, to do anything except be a legacy left to her family. She was surprised at first to hear the response of other older people are thinking of their own legacy.

  She was not aware of the political turmoil growing up in Egypt. Which was caused by the Muslim Brotherhood during the Suez Canal Crisis. Does she worry about the political arena in the presidency race in the United States?  What does she think about fundamentalists VS. Moderate Muslims? Jean, told us not to forget there are the Fundamentalists that are fanatics, and the moderates just like in the United States.

 What I had heard, and Jean confirmed was, that anti- Semitism blossomed after the Holocaust. Jews, and Muslims lived side by side without incidence before that. But, after Israel became a independent state, this caused problems for Jews living outside of Israel.

She talked about her growing up years, and her memories how vivid they are, or were confirmed by her cousins, and other relatives. How Egyptian Jewish families, wanted their family to stay with their own kind. It was not about the families wealth, by about the culture differences.

The interesting stories about the early days to impress her husband cooking, the traditional Egyptian recipes and stir up the memories was a joy to read.

The most unique I recall, her family had their own  synagogue, on their property.   Her family was not observant, but traditional in their Jewish ways, and rituals. That was different. I wish I had asked why did her family?, and why did the family feel the need to have one? Did other people in the community use it? or not?

You can visit Jean on her website.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sipping From The Nile: Amazing Life

 
 
Sipping From The Nile
 
 
 
 
 I was wondering, why would I be interested in a wealthy Egyptian Jewish family? of course, I am Jewish but why else?  There isn't any thing out of the ordinary. There wasn't any abuse, or financial crisis, there isn't any psychological, drug, or alcohol, or rape, incest.

  So, why write this book? Or was it a  legacy to leave for her children. They would be the only ones that would connect to her memoir. Because her story seemed to be what her children, and grandchildren would be interested, not the general reader.  But, once she leaves childhood and grows into the teenage years, and adulthood, you become immersed, and flooded(into the Nile) with emotions especially toward the end.

  Jean Naggar, was raised in a very prestigious, privileged  family, with great wealth. Did you know that the Jewish Egyptian's were the wealthiest people in the middle east( interesting)?
 She comes from a long line of Sephardic Jews from Italy, on one side, and the Middle East on the other. She writes extensively, about both sides of the family. It becomes a bit tedious.

Jean is born to privilege she travels to different places, and goes abroad to Manchester England to boarding school.  She talks about her grand home, and the maids, and the help that take care of the home.  I enjoyed reading about her Aunt Helen and her grandmother's ( grand matriarchs of the family) 

I wondered, this story can't just be tedious about growing about and talking only about herself, and the riches that surround her. She keeps talking about herself and her family. But, it does go with the story because, her family is tightly knit. I would have liked her to write about her friends, and experiences, Egyptian life, less about herself and her family.

I think as a young girl, I was thinking she in a fairy land. You remember when you were growing up you idolized your parents, and your parents could do no wrong. Everything they said, was law and you believed them. She was wearing rose colored glasses.  This is how I took her memoir as a child until she grew up, and discovered the other world.

Then in 1956, the Suez Canal Crisis took shape. The British, and the French colonized Egypt for years. In 1956,Britain, France, and Israel tried to take control of the Suez Canal. Because Egypt would not allow Israel to use the canal.  There was bombing by Israel, Britain, and France.

  When this happened, Egypt made conditions terrible for the Jewish Egyptians. They had no other alternative but to leave.  After, Israel became a independent state, 1948.   The Jews of Egypt were treated differently. The German's influenced the Middle east to treat Middle Eastern Jews with hatred, and not to tolerate them. This started anti-Semitism in the middle east.

During the fall out of 1956, there was rioting in the streets. Jews had no access to their money, and their finances, to their homes, trying to get a visa was impossible. Some of Jean's family did stay on, but did eventually left.

I enjoyed reading her experience when she came to the United States. How did she ever fit in with the rest of American society? How did she fit into the Ashkenazi Jews vs. Sephardic Jews? That is interesting.

 Because, when I moved to Myrtle Beach there is a Ashkenazi community and Sephardic community. I always thought if I was Jewish you can fit anywhere. Not true, when I was go to a Israeli restaurant, or Chabad which are mainly Israeli's they treat you differently. I am sure it was the same way for Jean.

I enjoyed reading about her first time in her American kitchen, cooking a traditional Egyptian cookie. I had to look it up online, be hold it was on youtube. I wish we had acess to multiethnic foods here as much as in New York City( my home), but it is not to be. It would have been nice to get the traditional cookie for our book club on Monday.

Jean, writes beautiful prose about her adult life in the United States, and her older years as a grandmother. As you read this, it stirs up your own memories. Thinking about your children, and grandchildren if you are one.

Once you get past the family line, and she writes about the Suez it is all uphill. Many times I wanted to toss it aside, and thought I can't do that. I am the one that recommended Sipping From the Nile. I am making everyone else read this, it is only fair I read it.  I am glad I did not abandon it and kept reading. My book test is usually 50-100 pages. It took a bit longer, but worth the read.

I was not expecting to change my view of the book. I imagined it was going to be a terrible book review. But, thank g-d the experience turned around for me.   If you are interested in cultures, and history, you will enjoy reading.

Jean will be calling into our book club this coming week. I am looking forward to chatting with her. I would like to thank Wiley, in the first place for getting in touch with me. He asked me to review this marvelous book. then arranging for the books to be shipped for our book club, and arranging a chat with Jean.  Tune in Monday, when I post my blog live about the book discussion.

For added pleasure, I made the book interactive. Which may be the way of digital books. I made links to you tube, for the Suez Canal Crisis, and when she was describing how she made a traditional Egyptian Cookie. There is a interesting guest post on JWA( Jewish Women's Archive) This enhanced the book. Some day that may be the wave of the future and selling

Monday, August 13, 2012

Book Review: Flowers in the Blood


Gay Courter
Flowers in the Blood



Flowers in the Blood, is a book that was written over 20 years ago. I picked up this book because of the book discussion next week. I doubt I would have picked up this novel. But, that is why that is why there is a book club. Books you would not have picked up.

Flowers in the Blood is based on historical events in India in the late 19th century( during the Industrial age). Where Britain has taken power over the countries, for the products they have, in India, and China it is Opium.

The Sassoon family are a Jewish wealthy, successful, and powerful family in India. Her father is the owner of his opium business for trade. It is legal during this time.

He has a young daughter, Dinah and two brothers. Her mother, gets herself in trouble with bedding strange men, and smoking Opium.. Dinah, witnesses her mother's murder. Her father is away on business. Her mother is carrying on a affair with another man, and is using Opium, and other things a young women would not do. . They catch the man that murder's her mother, but for some reason he gets off.

When Dina gets older, her father takes her to far away places to learn about the Poppy flower, that is manufactured into Opium. . She is traveling with her father, and her curiosity about the business of the Poppy flower,  leads her to learn the business, and become business savy.

When she becomes of age, it is time to arrange a marriage, and a dowry. Unfortunately, Her father searches for a match, but because of her mother's reputation, the suitors and families turn away.
Her father is forced to find suitors that that are farther away, and isn't aware of her mother's  reputation.  Fortunately, her father finds a match, Silas. The son, of a man that owns a tea plantation and spice plantation.

Her family agrees to the marriage. He has he's own wealth, and business.. He only marries Dinah to please his father.

Unfortunately it is discovered that he likes to be with men.
He feels bad that it has come to this, and she leaves him and returns to her family.

Again, another marriage is arranged. She is absolutely, head over heals over Edwin. They marry, and live outside of Calcutta with he's family.

During one of his trips Edwin is away, one of he's friends tries to seduce her. She refuses. She takes it, that he is out of he's head with Opium.  Because he's family is a very wealthy and influential family. They are afraid of what trouble he will stir up. They decide to return to her family.

Dinah's father gives Edwin a job, and discovers that Dinah's uncle is skimming the books of billions of dollars of Opium. During this time, Silas, her ex-husband dies. He leaves her everything, a large income, the business, everything he owns.

Dinah, has a hard time dealing with what kind of business her family is in. Especially since they are becoming wealthy, from Opium. her mother died from the exposure of it. She hates people using Opium. Edwin for years was denying ever using Opium, but then one day she catches him and gives him a ultimatum.

The rest you will have to read your self, how she saves the company from ruin. Does she go back to Edwin?

One thing you have to realize is that Opium is legal as you read this. Because as you read, some of the things that are done, you would think twice now. But, in the late 1800's it was legal to grow, sell, distribute, and find buyers.


This is not my type of book to read. I love historical fiction. But, not when it is bogged down in facts. I like a novel, that is historical when it is not based on people. I like to read on different places and time periods when I have to do my own research.

Besides, I am not the type of person that reads long books. It gets tedious to me. The last part of the book was about the business end and the financial part of the business.  I was not interested and lost interest. I was getting irritated, it was tedious till the last few pages. Then she tied the string together for a happy ever after.  I don't like books that are romance, and I would consider this as one.   But, I would not say, I hated it. Just not the type of book I like to read. The author does have a website, and it full of resource material. I did contact the author for discussion questions. She was kind enough to send to me.

The book captivated me for the first 350 pages and then lost steam.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dovekeepers: Book Review




Dovekeepers
By Alice Hoffman


Alice Hoffman wrote this novel from  her visit to Masada. She wrote it on the basis of two women, and five children survived, according to Josephus  It took her five years in the making. 

In 70 BCE the Jerusalem Revolt is taken place. The Romans were treating the Jews terribly, unreasonable taxes, desecrated their temple, unable to practice their religion freely.   There are a few last holdouts that the zealot Jews went. One of those places, was the fortress, Masada.  Masada was a fortress made by King Herod.   Masada, was a valuable piece of land, it was situated in the best spot. Because this was the hub of highway from Rome to Jerusalem.  Four years before Masada was a fortress for the Roman soldiers.  It was taken by a small group of zealot Jews. 

The story is about four Jewish women, how they connect with each other by means of being a dovekeeper.

  Yael, is the first women we meet.  Her mother dies in childbirth with her.  Her father is a assassin, in Jerusalem.  He blames her for her mother's death. He doesn't want anything to do with her.  He distances himself, by hiring someone to take care of his daughter.   During the Jerusalem revolt, Ya'el and her father escape Jerusalem. They are traveling in the desert. While in the desert she meets, Ben Simon and he's wife.  There is a attraction between Ben Simon and Ya'el.  She becomes pregnant.....

Revka, is married to a Jewish baker.  He is killed during the Jerusalem revolt.  Her family, her daughter, and her son in law, and two grandchildren are traveling in the desert.  A group of Romans spy on to the group of two women, while the son in law is hunting for food.   They rape, and torture, Revka's daughter. The children witness this, and have severe trauma, they are without speech.

Aziza is a warrior's daughter and raised as a boy, she finds out the secret of her birth, and who her father is.  Shira, is Aziza's mother. She is the medicine woman, and healer, with powerful magic spells.

All these women's lives intersect because of the caring of the doves, in the dovecote.
The dovecote is where the doves stayed.
The picture above is a dovecote. If you see the opening.

I enjoyed reading Dovekeepers.  There are not many books written about women during biblical times.  There is plenty of romance books, but not historical fiction, with women as the main figures.
I learned so much reading, and of course did my own research. 

I enjoyed learning about these four women lives.  But also learning about how they cooked, baked, drew water, etc. Learning about how Jewish practices were in biblical times, how women were treated, Roman and Jewish history, what women thought, and what they thought of medicine, and magic.  What life was like living in a fortress tucked away from everything. How did they get food? nessesities? etc?  We all know what happens at the end.

The Romans take Masada. Before the Romans enter Masada, the Jews have taken their lives. They know what will happen if they lived. They would have become slaves. There was so much tension and fighting among the Romans, Jews, Women, Men,  all because of who was stronger.

 I actually got into the character's heads and could understand why they chose to do this. What a terrible time they lived in. Without too many choices, and resources. The only chose they felt they had was suicide. They did not feel G-d was going to help, and protect them.

If you like to read strong women characters, magic, and history this book you will enjoy. One of the reason, I enjoy Alice Hoffman's novels is her magical telling of story. There is plenty with some magic spells, and amulets.  At first the book is a bit confusing of places and names. But after awhile you will connect with them.  What I liked is she split the book in four parts, for each of the four women. It was told in her perspective, till it came to the conclusion.

Our book club, Beach Babes Book Brigade, or known as the 4B's Book Club had a guest speaker at our book club and opened it up to the Jewish Grand Strand Community.  Our speaker was, Rabbi Debbie. She was a Rabbi in the Boston area.  But, when she moved down here, she retired from that and began teaching at the local university.   It was great having her discuss Masada, and Dovekeepers. I will be doing a recap on my other blog at Susan's Literary Cafe. 






Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The World Without You: Book Review





The World Without You
By Joshua Henkin
Copy from the author


The World Without You, was given to me by the author a few months ago. I was very excited to receive this novel.  Joshua, had sent out mass emails for promotion of his books a few months ago.

He is a large promoter of book clubs. He was one of the first author's when I started our book club to ask if he would do a conference call, for his novel Matrimony. Unfortunately, that did not work out.

I just love how he believes in book clubs and goes out of he's way to to come to a book club. If you don't believe me, check out he's website. He will come to your book club if you live in the metro NYC area. Unfortunately, our book club does not. But, he will do a conference call or skype.  That is pretty impressive.

It is fourth of July weekend in the Berkshire Mountains. A Jewish family, the Glucksman's. have come together for a very unhappy reunion.  They all have come from different parts of the country, and  Israel for Leo's unveiling at their parents home in the Berkshires. .

Leo was a daredevil, and only son of three other sisters of the family. He was always trying to make the rights of the world. He was living with his free spirit girlfriend, Thisbe in California. Eventually they were married and had a child, named Calder. Thisbe never felt accepted by Leo's parents.  She always felt like a outcast.

His parents, Marilyn and David have been married for years. They have a winter home in the upper east side of New York City, and they have a summer home in the Berkshires.
 During the reunion, something slips about Marilyn and David. This will change the family dynamics for good.

Then there are the three sisters, and their husbands. Oh, what pairs they make for each other.
Clarissa, Lily, and Noelle.

Clarissa, the older sister watched over Leo. She was proud, maternal sister of her younger brother and hovered over him.    When she got married she did not know if she wanted to become a parent or not. Her husband Nathaniel has convinced her to have children.  Now, for the sake of their marriage she decided she will try. 

 On the eve of the reunion, she learns the news about her and her husband's fertility issues. Can she? or can't she?  Then there is the issue of Clarissa, and Lily, they are competitive siblings. 

On the drive up to the Berkshires, she was suppose to pick up Noelle and her husband and small children, they were traveling from Israel. Instead Lily, came through.

 Clarissa made some kind of  excuse, but she had Nathaniel had to stop at one of the sleezy hotels, as this was the best time to have sex according to the fertility stick. You just knew this was what was going to happen. It flowed with the story. I was cracking up, laughing.

Noelle, is the youngest sister to Leo. She  is a observant Jew, living in Israel with her young children, and her husband Amram.  Before she married, living in NYC.  She was not a studious student, she was the lost soul.  She was playing around with every guy she could meet, until she moved to Israel.  She became a observant Jew, where she met her husband. 

Noelle, was the last person to see Leo alive. He spent Shabbat dinner with them and then left for Iraq.
Where he was captured, and eventually killed.  She was the jealous sister. Always ratting on each of them and was jealous of each of their accomplishments. It felt like she regretted her decision to become observant.  Noelle spills the beans again about something. SHE JUST HAD TO TELL!! To make that person look bad.

 Lily is  independent, and self reliant.  She lives in Washington D. C. with her boyfriend Malcolm, a chef.

  There is FIREWORKS,  Actually, in this book there is plenty of fireworks, with family dynamics and emotions, on Fourth of July weekend.

My Review:
This was a terrific read. If I am going to read a book, on character study or family dynamics it has to hit me like a ton of bricks, and has to captivate me. Well, it did, right from the get go. You can read a most recent review in the New York Times.

 The story grabbed me, and did not let me go. I wanted to know what happened to the characters. There were characters I loved, and others not so much. Not because the author did a terrible job. But, because the story was that good. The story flowed, and I did not have to flip back, and say what. I did not want the book to end.

 There is a happy ending in the story. That is a first, most books like this have abrupt end. This one did not.

This story hit home for me because my youngest brother a journalist, for the Army Times.  He has been in Afghanistan and Iraq several times. Was it coincidence that I am reviewing? or fate, who knows. But, it connected me to the story thinking, what if.....

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Re-Posting of I Am Forbidden





I Am Forbidden
By Anoux Markovits


I am re-posting in honor of the author's publishing date is in May. I want to make sure to spread the word about a good book this is.

I Am Forbidden, takes place in 1939 in Transylvania in the Satmar Community.
Josef a little boy, witnesses the murder of his parents by the Nazi regime. He is rescued by a Christian maid.

Five years later. Josef rescues a Jewish girl, Mila after her parents were killed running to meet the Rebbe they hoped would save them. Josef helps Mila reach Zalma Stern, the leader of the Satmar Community. There the Zalman's raise Mila as their own with their own daughter, Atara.

Meanwhile Josef is sent to America, specifically Williamsburg, in New York City.
As the girls mature, Mila's faith becomes observant as any person would, being raised in the Satmar community. While Atara's faith is continually questioned with the love of books, arts, and learning not by the Satmar traditions but by the secular world. She continually questions the fundamental ideas of the Jewish, and Satmar community.

When the girls reach adulthood. Mila marries in the faith. But, Atara is banished by the community and her parents. For years the girls don't speak, or contact each other until one day.
Mila marries within the faith, while Atara continues to to question the fundamental ideas of the Satmar Jewish faith.

After 10 years of marriage Mila is unable to conceive. She makes one decision that will affect her marriage and her children for years to come.

My Review: I picked up this novel because it was about the Satmar Jews. I don't know much about this sect. I have been exposed to orthodox, modern orthodox, and Chabad, but never to the Satmar. I had to do my own research to find out about them.

Reading this novel, was a eye opener. The author wrote this to open up a discussion about fundamentalism. There is many things as I am reading the novel, I don't agree with. Some of the traditions are very extreme.

I would think if you were raised in the Satmar community you would not question because you don't know anything different. But, as you get older the world opens up to you.
Mila did something that was life changing and never told anyone. This lie cost her, her marriage and her family.

I enjoyed reading, most of the novel I could not put it down to the very end. If you like historical fiction, and Jewish Faith, and Bible, and Jewish communities, you will like I Am Forbidden.
 
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