‘The Matzah Ball’ by Jean Meltzer is a perfect holiday almost-fairy tale romance

The Matzah Ball
by Jean Meltzer

Matzah balls are soft and filling and satisfying in warm soup. However, “The Matzah Ball” by Jean Meltzer might better be compared to the rugalach that her characters love to nosh on, sweet and sometimes nutty, but made with love (and honesty) and with a texture that melts in your mouth. This story is filled with lots of love in the best tradition of any romance novel, but it’s also much more. Meltzer provides us with an inside look at a main character who is strong and successful, and at the same times struggles with a chronic disease.

Continue reading

‘See Her Die’ by Melinda Leigh is the second in the Bree Taggert series

See Her Die by Melinda Leigh

“See Her Die” is the second book in Melinda Leigh’s Bree Taggert series that started with “Cross Her Heart.” I had not read any of Leigh’s previous mysteries (which I plan to rectify), but I knew from the first page of the first book in this series that I was hooked. This second book is no different. While it works better to have read the first book to understand completely the family dynamics, this does work as a stand alone novel. But I enjoy seeing how relationships change and mature, so I’m glad I started the series at the beginning.

Continue reading

‘Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life with 600 Rescue Animals’ by Laurie Zaleski is touching, charming, and humorous

Funny Farm by Laurie Zaleski

“Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life with 600 Rescue Animals” by Laurie Zaleski is not what I was expecting at all. We know from the first page, the Prologue, that it’s about how Zaleski rescues animals, but what is unexpected is that more than half the book is about her childhood, her parents’ abusive relationship, and how her mother left and raised them in a tiny, dilapidated house where she also took in animals of every size, shape, and need. This book is the best kind of nonfiction—it’s nonfiction that reads like a novel, and it’s hard to put down. We want to know more about Zaleski’s family and how they will survive in the shack where they end up after leaving their very nice suburban home. We also want to know how Zaleski ends up with a farm and over 600 animals.

Continue reading

‘What About Will’ by Ellen Hopkins is a middle grade novel about love and family and addiction

What About Will by Ellen Hopkins

Ellen Hopkins knows a lot about addiction. Many of her young adult novels are about that very subject, and addiction’s deleterious effect on families is something she knows all too well. In “What About Will,” Hopkins writes about a younger brother who had a lovely family until he didn’t.

Trace Reynolds is twelve, and his older brother Will is the kind of older brother most kids only dream about. Even though Will is five years older, he has taught Trace to ride a two-wheeler, taught him to snow board, and taken care of him in myriad ways. Trace has known that Will loves him and would always be there for him. But after Will is in a horrible collision during a football game, everything changes.

Continue reading

“The Madness of Crowds”: A Brilliant Mystery

The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny

Louise Penny, author of “The Madness of Crowds,” is a literary artist. This latest work, a worthy addition to her “Inspector Gamache” series, exhibits all the brilliance that characterizes her every mystery novel. It’s exceedingly thoughtful, potentially controversial, and incredibly reflective of the contemporary issues which most of us find so exasperating, exhausting — even explosive.

Continue reading

‘Greek Mythology: The Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes Handbook (From APHRODITE to ZEUS, a Profile of Who’s Who in Greek Mythology)

Greek Mythology by Liv Albert

With this compendium of Greek myths, “Greek Mythology: The Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes Handbook (From APHRODITE to ZEUS, a Profile of Who’s Who in Greek Mythology)” Liv Albert presents an engaging and comprehensive book that provides information about both the well-known and some lesser-known Greek Gods and demigods and even just Greek royals. The language is very accessible. For example, each chapter begins with the heading “What’s Their Deal?” or “What’s His Deal?” The next part is “The Story You Need to Know” and then “Now You Know.”

Continue reading

‘Bluebird’ by Sharon Cameron is a stunning work of fiction based on real events that are shocking

Bluebird by Sharon Cameron

Sharon Cameron demonstrated her ability to write engrossing historical fiction based on real events in her masterful book, “The Light in Hidden Places.” In some ways, “Bluebird,” based on real, shocking events, is the antithesis of that story. As a contrast to the first story that focuses on heroes that appeared in unlikely places during WWII, “Bluebird” unveils true villains who masqueraded as heroes. The main character, Eva, is a veritable hero, but we meet many of the truly evil beings whose bigotry, arrogance, and racial prejudice stoked the fires of hate during that time.

Continue reading

‘An Observant Wife’ by Naomi Ragen gives readers an inside look at the Ultra-orthodox Jews in Boro Park, Brooklyn

An Observant Wife by Naomi Ragen

No one writes about observant Jews as well as Naomi Ragen, and her new novel, “An Observant Wife,” follows Leah Howard and Yaakov Lehman, a story that Ragen began in “An Unorthodox Match.” This sequel, which works as a stand alone book, begins with their Orthodox Jewish wedding, where we learn a lot just by reading that Leah’s mother, wearing a red dress with shockingly high red patent leather heels, walked her up the aisle. To say the least, Leah does not come from an Orthodox background.

Continue reading

‘An Unorthodox Match’ by Naomi Ragen is a brilliant peek into the lives of the Ultra-orthodox Jewish community

An Unorthodox Match by Naomi Ragen

Naomi Ragen first brought us “Jephte’s Daughter,” which is listed as one of the hundred most important Jewish books of all times, and now with “An Unorthodox Match,” she pulls back the curtains on the insular lives of the New York Ultra-orthodox communities, and how people, no matter their apparent piousness, are the same everywhere. We meet Leah Howard, a woman brought up like many Jews (myself included), with no formal Jewish traditions and a decided lack of any real religious training. Her mother literally ran away from her parents and their conservative Jewish lifestyle, and Leah was raised with total freedom from religious strictures.

Continue reading

You Will Remember This Novel: ‘We Know You Remember’ by Tove Alsterdal

We Know You Remember
by Tove Alsterdal

Swedish Author Tove Alsterdal has written a riveting mystery novel, “We Know You Remember,” that is a worthy addition to the series of novels by terrific Swedish authors that have captured the attention and praise of mystery lovers all over the world. The plot structure of this memorable work is brilliantly conceived and executed, and the development of an array of fascinating characters is impressive. As a matter of fact, the novel is as much a profound psychological study as it is a clever police procedural.

Continue reading

‘Willodeen’ by Katherine Applegate; because Nature knows more than we do

Willodeen by Katherine Applegate

Award-winning author Katherine Applegate’s last series, “Endling,” was about the near-extinction of a species. In her newest magical novel, “Willodeen,” she presents an alternative world with strange, exotic creatures. As in our own world, some creatures in this magical one are cute, and others are not only ugly; they smell atrocious. They are called screechers because of the sound they make at night. Main character and first person narrator Willodeen and her father had enjoyed watching them — from a distance — because if you get too close to them, you smell, too. They both loved creatures, and the yard of their cottage was filled with domestic animals and wild ones, like the “ancient river otter who could no longer swim.” Together, Willodeen and her father observed nature and enjoyed watching animals, both ugly and beautiful, until one of the ever-increasing fire events destroyed Willodeen’s house and killed everyone in her family but her.

Continue reading

‘Pony’ by R. J. Palacio is a superb new novel about devotion

Pony by R.J. Palacio

While the plot of “Pony” by R. J. Palacio reminded me a bit of another middle grade book about a pony, “Some Kind of Courage” by Dan Gemeinhart, the stories are quite different apart from being historical fiction with both boys having a horse that they love dearly. Each story is beautiful in its own right, and “Pony” is one that will not be quickly forgotten. In “Pony,” Palacio forces us to think about love, loss, and the connections that bind us to each other.

Continue reading