Best Books of 2021

  1. The Four Winds: Kristen Hannah has done it again. Her Cinderella-esque tale of a woman who resecues herself from a live of drugery, poverty, and low self esteem is one to be read again and again.
  2. Jewish Pride: Rebuilding a People: Ben M. Freeman‘s treatise on Jews, and Jewish history is a must read for anyone who for once and for all wants to defeat antisemitism and all forms of hate.
  3. Girly Drinks: A World History of Women and Alcohol: Mallory O’Meara‘s non fiction book explores how inspite of a certain image, women have been creating and drinking all forms of alcohol for centuries.
  4. I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J Trumps Catastrophic Final Year: The subject of you know who will be on the lips of writers and political historians for years to come. Authors Carol Leonning and Philip Rucker examine how the former President believed that he did not need help in running the country.
  5. Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood: Writer and podcaster Mark Oppenheimer tells the story of how a single neighborhood was affected by the murders of eleven Jewish residents in 2018.
  6. Peril: Bob Woodward and Robert Costa take a deep dive into how close the American democracy got close to destruction.
  7. The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh: This JAFF by Molly Greeley gives the spotlight to Anne de Bourgh, a minor Pride and Prejudice character who has yet to be fully seen or appreciated.
  8. Three Ordinary Girls: The Remarkable of Three Dutch Teenagers Who Become Spies, Saboteurs, Nazi Assasins-and WWII Heroes: This fascinating and powerful tale of three young ladies who led an underground war against the Nazis during World War II.
  9. Why She Wrote: A Graphic History of the Lives, Inspiration, and Influence Behind the Pens of Classic Women Writers: Written by the Bonnet at Dawn podcast hosts, this book examines the life and works of the women writers we have loved and respected for generations.
  10. The Matzah Ball: A Novel: Jean Meltzer’s Chanukah themed rom-com about two people who are secretly in love, but cannot speak the words due to the current and past trauma.

Here’s to the books we loved in 2021 and the books we will love in 2022.

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The Matzah Ball: A Novel Book Review

The beauty of a romantic comedy is the nearly endless narrative possibilities. The reader/audience can only hope that the writer(s) chooses to color outside of the lines instead of sticking to the same story we have all seen far too often.

The Matzah Ball: A Novel, by Jean Meltzer, was published in September. Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt is living a double life. To her readers, she is the best-selling writer of Christmas romance novels. In real life, she is the daughter of a respected Rabbi and Doctor who has been living with a debilitating illness for years. When her publisher requests a tale based around Chanukah, Rachel is at a loss.

Enter Jacob Greenberg, her preteen camp crush/nemesis. Returning to New York after his mother’s death, he has a successful career as a party planner. His sole intent is to host the Matzah Ball, a party celebrating Jewish music on the last night of the holiday. He has every intention of returning to Paris the night after the event. What he does not know is that Rachel will come back into his life, needing a way into the festivities.

Their initial meet-cute after nearly twenty years of separation does not go well. But as they spend more time with each other, the hurt and questions from their mutual summer together may turn into something else completely.

I loved this book. It has a perfect Pride and Prejudice undertone with layers of complexity, characters who are thoroughly human, and a holiday chronicle that is utterly charming, My only problem is that I found the character of Mickey, despite his background, to be a little too cookie-cutter. The role of the GBF (gay best friend), is usually nothing more than a stereotype and a sounding board for the female lead. It would have been nice if the author had stepped out of the box a little and not relied on the 2D trope that has been done too many times.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Thought On the First Night of Chanukah and the First Anniversary of the Jersey City Shooting

History is not always made by the powerful. It is sometimes made by those who have been pushed to the margins of society. It is easy to remain quiet and just go about your business. It is infinitely harder to stand up for your rights and beliefs.

Today is the first night of Chanukah.

Today is also the first anniversary of the shooting in Jersey City. Motivated by antisemitism, the killers walked into a kosher grocery store and started shooting. They killed four innocent people, two of whom were targeted because they were Jewish.

As I write this post, I write it in honor of the victims who are not here to celebrate the holidays with us this year.

May their memories forever be a blessing.

P.S. I thought I would lighten the mood a little, because after all, Chanukah is a celebration of overcoming adversity and the push to assimilate. Thank you, Daveed Diggs for making us laugh and smile in this time of darkness.

Thoughts On the Monsey Stabbing

The holiday season, (regardless of which holiday you celebrate), is about family, coming together and taking the time to appreciate the good things in your life.

It is not a time to hate and kill.

Last night was the 7th night of Chanukah. It was also the sight of hatred and bloodshed. In Monsey, a stranger entered Rabbi Rottenburg’s shul and started stabbing members of the congregation who were in attendance. Five were stabbed, two of those injured in the attack were the Rabbi’s young children.

This is hate, nothing more. This is Orthodox Jews being attacked because they are Orthodox Jews.

If the purpose of the attack was to make all Jews nervous, regardless of how religious they are, the perpetrator won. Though his specific target was Orthodox Jews are who obviously Jewish, his general target was the American Jewish community.

In the Holocaust, six million Jews were slaughtered because they were Jews. It did not matter if they were ultra-orthodox, Jewish in name only or somewhere in between. They were still murdered.

If his goal was to make me nervous, to hide who I am, he failed. I am proud of my faith and proud of my culture. I will always be a Jew, nothing and no one will ever change that.

I pray for the speedy recovery of the victims and the harshest punishment possible for the perpetrator.

Happy Sunday.

Thoughts On The First Night Of Chanukah

Tonight is the first night of Chanukah.

Chanukah, like many Jewish holidays can be summed up in one sentence: they tried to kill us, we survived, now let’s eat.

But, on a serious note, Chanukah is about fighting against forced assimilation and being able to be who you are without fear of persecution or prejudice. Judah Maccabee led the fight against the Greeks, who were forcing the Jews to assimilate. He didn’t know if they would win or lose the battle, but he had to do something. To stand back and do nothing was not an option. For me, the story of Chanukah, is not the story of a military victory, but the story of how a small band of soldiers fought for their people’s freedom and survival. We all deserve the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Sometimes, that unfortunately means we have to pick up a sword and fight for those freedoms.

To all who celebrate, haveĀ  Happy Chanukah.

 

 

Burning Bright: Four Chanukah Love Stories Book Review

Every story in every genre has to have it’s “a-ha” moment. The “a-ha” moment is the moment within the narrative that the audience or reader becomes hooked. In the romance genre, that moment usually takes place when the audience begins to see the potential of the main character’s coupling or re-coupling if they have been separated.

Burning Bright: Four Chanukah Love Stories, is an anthology of four love stories set around the Jewish holiday of Chanukah.

Ben just moved into Amanda’s building. Amanda is immediately attracted to Ben, but they get off on the wrong foot, partially due to Ben’s past.

Shari and Evan have been dating for nearly a year. All is perfect in their relationship, until pressure from Evan’s family gets in the way and Evan pushes Shari away. Evan may have to do something drastic to win her back.

Molly impulsively wakes up her neighbor, Jon to plan their building’s Chanukah party. What starts out as a friendship becomes something more, but not before a few obstacles get in the way.

Tamar is in Israel on vacation. She didn’t expect to meet Avi, a handsome soldier waiting at the same bus stop, but she did. The question is, will the relationship last beyond her vacation?

The key to any romance is the heat, the chemistry and quickening of the pulse that must be felt by the reader or the audience. There is the anticipation, the anxiety of the potential relationship that keeps the audience or reader wanting more. Unfortunately, I didn’t want more and frankly, I was bored.

While I very much appreciate seeing a diversity of characters and narrative within the modern romance genre, it was not enough to hold me.

Do I recommend it? No.

Chanukah

Tonight, Jews around the world will be celebrating the holiday of Chanukah.

The joke about Chanukah is the joke that revolves around most Jewish holidays: they tried to kill us, they failed, now lets eat.

One of the things I’ve come to believe in recent years is that if we are willing to do the work required to achieve our goals, our creator will give us a nudge when we need it.

The Maccabees, led by Judah, did not wait for a sign from a prophet or their creator to fight back against the Greeks who would have been more than happy to see the Jews convert and assimilate into the general population. They took a stand against assimilation and won. In response the victory, G-d provided Israel with just enough oil to last for eight days, even though it seemed like there was none left at all.

Happy Chanukah and to everyone celebrating Christmas tonight, Merry Christmas.

The Holidays

It’s that time of year again. The stores are advertising massive sales, the lights are on the houses and the weather has become rather chilly.

Christmas and Kwanzaa are just around the corner. We are halfway through Chanukah.

There are some, in the name of diversity and multiculturalism who believe that instead of referring to the individual holidays, we all should use the generic Happy Holidays message.

While I understand where they are coming from, I don’t quite agree with them.

If I see someone who celebrates Christmas, I say Merry Christmas.

If I see someone who celebrates Chanukah, I say Happy Chanukah.

If I see someone who celebrates Kwanzaa, I say Happy Kwanzaa.

If I see someone who has no particular religious faith, I say Happy Holidays or Happy New Year.

I believe that to foster co-existence and respect, we have to acknowledge the fact that our neighbor may celebrate a different holiday. To lump all of the holidays together out of fear that someone may feel offended does not do justice to this very multicultural country that we call home.

That being said, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. May we all enjoy this holiday season and the joys that come with it.

 

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