“On top of trying to please her parents, Rabbi Goldblatt and Dr. Rubenstein, and manage a chronic illness, Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt is secretly a best-selling author. Why is it a secret? Because she writes Christmas romance novels! When her boss requests a Hanukkah romance, Rachel isn’t sure she can find enough inspiration in the Festival of Lights to create the same magic as her Christmas books. Just when life couldn’t get any crazier, Jacob Greenberg comes back into her life, arriving in New York City to throw the ultimate Hanukkah party with his successful entertainment company. The two of them have very different memories of what transpired eighteen years ago, but one thing is clear: both of them walked away from that summer at Camp Ahava with a broken heart. Can Rachel work alongside Jacob long enough to find book inspiration at the Matzah Ball, or will the reappearance of her camp archenemy ruin the double life she’s worked so hard to maintain?”
Jews come from so many different backgrounds, making our worldwide family equal parts incredible and meshuggeneh. Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt’s upbringing doesn’t mirror my own, but this messianic Jewish girl still found common ground and comfort in her story. Rachel’s dad is a rabbi so she grew up under intense scrutiny, trying to meet the high expectations of her family and community. I was nodding my head at every single sentence because my dad’s a pastor, and life as a pastor’s kid is the same as that of a rabbi’s kid; eyes are on you at all times, people scrutinizing everything you do and gossiping the minute something doesn’t meet their approval. I do not say this lightly: I get it. I totally get it! That’s the biggest reason why I connected to this book beyond surface-level enjoyment.
If you’re a fan of the enemies-to-lovers trope, Jacob and Rachel’s romance is for you. Thanks to miscommunication spanning eighteen years, they hold a grudge against one another for post-summer camp broken hearts. I am ridiculously persnickety when it comes to character flaws and couldn’t help feeling annoyed at the lies and secrets for no good reason. However, I fully understand that’s a major detail supporting the plot and don’t officially consider it a negative. Afterall, the conflict is what makes the ending that much sweeter. Sweeter than Sufganiyot!
For the most part, this book is a home run. Minor details were repeated when unnecessary, such as adult Jacob’s memory of young Rachel’s high ponytail and hot pink shorts (pages 56 & 78). Some Jewish phrases were explained while others were not. There are enough context clues to keep you out of the dark, but I can understand why it might frustrate non-Jewish readers, though I would encourage a quick Google search for the sake of education. In the final pages the onstage moment between Rabbi Goldblatt and his wife Dr. Rubenstein led to a sweet parent-daughter moment, but the set-up was too cheesy for my taste, the overheard dialogue unnatural.
There were very few negatives within 385 pages, but I’m leaving room for improvement because this is Jean Meltzer’s author debut, a mighty impressive one I might add. Four out of five stars. There is familiarity for members of the tribe and common ground for gentile readers. No matter who you are, it will take mere pages to feel like you’re wrapped in the cozy warmth of a Hanukkah blanket. Read this book with my blessing. Chag Hanukkah Sameach!
“My journey of Hanukkah,” Toby said simply, “has spanned ninety-one years. I have celebrated this holiday in Germany, France, New York and Paris, all over the world with my grandson, during good times and bad times alike.” She quieted, a small sadness sitting there at the tip of her throat. “But what I always explained to Jacob is that these candles are a metaphor. They remind us that we always have a choice. We can be someone who snuffs out another person’s candle and, in the process, makes the world a darker place. Or we can be the type of person who spreads light. Better to be the shamash–one candle that lights all the others and brightens an otherwise dark world.” – Bubbe Toby Greenberg, Page 182
Grammar & Spelling Page 107 – “Symbols” instead of “Cymbals” Page 166 – “Kendell Jenner” instead of “Kendall Jenner” Page 242 – “It that strange?” instead of “Is that strange?” or “Is it that strange?” Page 307 – “Leaning into whisper” instead of “leaning in to whisper” Page 354 – “Once Esther Shapiro is finished her set” instead of “Once Esther Shapiro has finished her set”
Sensual/Sexual Moments Page 89 – Sensual inner monologue about a man’s body Page 239 – Sensual inner monologue about a man’s body Page 307 – One kiss Pages 307 through 313 – Jacob visits Rachel’s apartment at night. It’s implied that they might sleep together, but nothing happens. Page 371 – One kiss Page 378 – One kiss, Jacob carries Rachel into her bedroom
Other Mentions of alcohol & drinking throughout the book plus an instance or two of drunkeness
“Thanks to a handful of nasty falls, mystery writer Agatha Krinsky is moved into an assisted living facility with the help of her nephew Sheldon. On her first day she gets lost and finds herself inside the library with a dead body. To her dismay, no one believes her story or offers to call the police. She is taken to the dining room where she meets Ukrainian PI Herschel Perlow, knitting enthusiast Miss Eppel, and husband and wife team Ronny and Rubles Bernfeld. As they take turns reminiscing a la “The Tuesday Night Club,” Agatha impatiently waits for another opportunity to bring up the body in hopes that someone will do something. Will her new friends help, or are they too distracted by their mystery-solving memories?”
In my search for Hanukkah books, this short story collection caught my eye because Agatha Christie is my favorite author. I was excited to start reading but also nervous because those are big shoes to fill. I couldn’t help but smile at all the details added to make her characters and stories Jewish. The names and Yiddish vocabulary and mentions of Hanukkah were great, but the transition was not flawless. The mystery-aspect got lost in the shuffle, leaving behind more novelty than quality. I know this is a short read for the holiday season, but don’t promise me Agatha and not deliver on the intrigue.
It’s hard to rate something that tugs on my Jewish heartstrings, but I have to be honest. 3 stars for novelty and 2 stars for quality which averages out to 2.5 Stars. If you’re a Jewish Agatha Christie fan, this book is good for a one-sitting read and some fun. Don’t expect too much from the mysteries and enjoy it for what it is.
Most of us are currently going through the motions on Black Friday still recovering from a (sweet, glorious) turkey coma. Not to mention the delicious leftovers! Now that Thanksgiving has come & gone, the coldest of hearts can admit that Christmastime has officially arrived. If you’re an eager gift giver, this blog post is for you. I have put together a Bookish Gift Guide for the readers in your life.
1. The products are organized by a common theme such as Book Sleeves, Candles, Home, etc. That being said, some stores in one category might have items from another, but I only focused on something specific. Make sure you take a good look at everything so you don’t miss out.
2. I am only human so naturally I have not purchased from every single one of these shops. I simply did the research & compiled a long list to give you as many ideas as possible. It is up to you to read reviews & decide for yourself whether or not you’re going to make a purchase. If you’re curious, I will indicate where I have shopped with a star – > 🌟
3. The pricing information, in American dollars, is based on what I saw while researching but is subject to change. If a store is from a country other than the United States, assume that I had to convert the prices using Google, & it may not be 100% accurate. Also, shipping charges are not included due to the variance from country to country.
4. Most of these businesses are small shops so products will be limited, & the time between purchase and arrival will take longer than a typical shopping trip. The face behind a small business is more often than not one single person doing everything so please show your holiday spirit & be gracious. Pro Tip: For the best updates, follow social media accounts.
5. Any images used that are not mine are credited to their owners. They are only being used for advertisement purposes & not for my own benefit.
🎁 Specialty: Bags inspired by book covers | Faux leather or leather | 5 sizes ranging from clutch to large messenger bag/tote | You can add a page of text from the book of your choice to the empty space that is revealed when you open the bag.
🎁 Specialty: They used to sell book jewelry but currently only have clear Christmas tree ornaments with miniature books inside. Keep an eye on their shop for future gifts because they might eventually bring their jewelry back.
🎁 Specialty: Gloves, headbands, & scarves that feature book passages | Each book has an assigned color & should match across the entire product line. | There are also pillows, shirts, & totes, and the pricing is included below.
🎁 Specialty: Magnetic bookmarks that resemble book characters | Lots of Young Adult options – A Court of Thorns and Roses, Illuminae, Shades of Magic, etc. | There are also book sleeves & pins, and pricing is included below.
🎁 Specialty: Standard size bookmarks inspired by characters, locations, & quotes | The overall style is not cartoonish but rather focused on the graphic design elements, sometimes veering into (what I would consider) minimalism.
🎁 Specialty: Book sleeves in the following sizes: Mini (mass market paperbacks), Indie (paperbacks), XL (standard hardcovers), & Jumbeau (Large, Harry Potter-size hardcovers) | They also sell Book Beans for $29.99, a pillow shaped with readers in mind.
🌟 Specialty: The website is currently down for maintenance so I can’t give exact information. What I can tell you is that I paid $16.95 for a paperback-size book sleeve & $19.95 for the hardcover size.
🎁 “Bring Your Own Book is the game of borrowed phrases, where players search through books for text to take way out of context. It’s easy. Players take turns drawing prompts from the deck, then race to find the best phrase in their own book that satisfies the prompt. Since you can use a different book each time, you can play it with any audience, and there’s a practically infinite supply of source material.” – Taken from the BYOB website | Think of the game as a bookish Apples to Apples! | An app version is currently in the works. | Made by Do Better Games
🌟 “After hearing the details of the case, you will move around the streets of London, visiting various locations where you will collect clues – cryptic, factual and even misleading – before using your powers of deduction to solve the case and returning to Baker Street with the correct solution.” – Taken from the John Lewis website | If you like Clue but crave a “meatier” game, this is for you. | Made by Jay Moriarty / Antler Productions
💰 Pricing: I purchased from John Lewis & paid $23.50
🎁 This bookish version of Trivial Pursuit is no longer sold officially. It sounds like an item worth searching for as a collector so let me know if you find it in good condition. | The multi-colored pieces you collect to win the game are miniature books that you store on a mini bookshelf. The Great Penguin Bookchase is the same game, but the book pieces look like Penguin editions. So adorable! | Made by Art Meets Matter
🛒 B Y T H E B O O K: A N O V E L S T A C K I N G P U Z Z L E 🛍️
Location: Massachusetts 🇺🇸
🎁 “In this original 3D puzzle, stack up to 12 differently shaped books – and one clever cat – so that the upper shelf lies evenly across the top. Use the special included level to make sure everything is perfectly aligned. Master all 40 challenges and you’re on a level above the rest!” – Taken from the Brainwright website | Ages 8 & up | Made by Brainwright
🎁 “In Ex Libris, you are a collector of rare and valuable books in a thriving fantasy town. The Mayor has just announced a new seat in the Village Council, Grand Librarian. The prestigious and lucrative position will be awarded to the citizen with the most extraordinary library! Unfortunately, several of your book collector colleagues (more like acquaintances, really) are also candidates. To outshine your competition, you’ll need to expand your personal library by sending your trusty assistants out into the village to find the most impressive tomes. Sources for the finest books are scarce, so you’ll need to beat your opponents to them when they pop up – especially if they match your library’s secret focus! You only have a few days before the Mayor’s Official Inspector comes to judge your library, so be sure your assistants have all your books shelved in time! She is a tough cookie, and will use her Official Inspection Form to grade your library on several criteria including alphabetical order, shelf stability, prominent works, and variety. And don’t think she’ll turn a blind eye to books the Council has banned! You’ll need shrewd planning, cunning tactics, and perhaps a little magic to surpass your opponents and become Grand Librarian!” – Taken from the Renegade Game Studios website | Ages 10 & up | Made by Renegade Game Studios
🎁 Liebrary is similar to Apples to Apples except you’re making up your own first line for a book; you win a round if your answer is chosen. | This game is not sold in stores anymore so you have to search on Amazon & eBay. | Made by Discovery Bay
🛒 T H E A R T O F C O N V E R S A T I O N L I T E R A R Y E D I T I O N 🛍️
Location: Australia 🇦🇺
🎁 “TAOC® comes with 300 starter questions plus a 32-page guidebook that includes informative and comprehensive endnotes . . . Even reluctant readers will be drawn in! Readers of all stages and ages will find themselves being educated, all in the name of fun . . . Ideal for book clubs, but can also be adapted to friends, family, workmates, students or even solitary readers . . . Covers all genres – fiction, poetry, drama, biography, autobiography, science fiction, fantasy, crime, romance, historical writing – essentially, the whole bookshop!” – Taken from the TAOC website
🌟 Specialty: Therapeutic Rice Bags | They can be stored in the freezer or warmed in the microwave. | My family has used them for cramps, migraines, & knee pain. | Small, medium, & large sizes available + eye masks with or without straps | Three scents available: Eucalyptus, lavender, & peppermint – You can purchase rice bags unscented.
🎁 Specialty: Literary dolls such as Alice (in Wonderland), Anne Shirley, (author) Edith Wharton, Hermione Granger, & the Wicked Witch of the West | Custom options are available; just contact the shop owner Marcy. | Doll orders probably won’t be available until January, but now you know for the future.
🛒 L E T T E R F R O M M Y B O O K B O Y F R I E N D 🛍️
Location: Massachusetts 🇺🇸
🎁 Specialty: Thanks to Bookified, you can receive a letter from your literary crush. When you make a purchase, take advantage of the”Notes” section to specify exactly what you want.
💰 Pricing: $3.99 (3 lines, customized for an occasion), $6.49 (standard letter that is sent out over & over again, not personalized for you), $8.99 (5 lines, 1 page, customized), & $12.99 (10 lines, 2 pages, customized)
🌟 Unfortunately this shop no longer sells a customizable cellphone case, but it was one of my inspirations for this Bookish Gift Guide. It’s still open so you can take a peek here ➡️ etsy.com/shop/yazrajadesigns
🛒 S W E E T S E Q U E L S 🛍️
Location: Texas 🇺🇸
🌟 Specialty: Original art on prints & lifestyle products | Customization is available. I paid $235 for a custom oversized blanket with 9 total illustrations. Haleigh already had three of the book cover designs I wanted, and then I paid $30 for the six other covers ($5 each). I also requestedbacking that didn’t have long fur due to my sensitive eyes, and she was more than willing to oblige. I cannot recommend her shop enough!
Let’s ignore my slacking and move on to my Hanukkah tale:
For Vlogmas, I wanted to film a few Hanukkah-themed vlogs including a video on how to play dreidel. I dug through my memory chest to get my trusty old dreidel from a VBS years and years ago. I was surprised to find it missing but figured it must have been placed elsewhere in the chest. After a thorough inspection, I became slightly more frantic. Fast forward a few days later. I checked the chest one last time before trekking out to the garage; I was on the hunt for the backup dreidel stored with the Christmas decorations. I carefully went through each box which is no easy task when you’re paranoid about dying from black widow bites. I will now add some holiday humor to describe the fruit of my labor (or lack thereof): I rolled the dreidel, and it landed on nun. Two identical dreidels mysteriously missing when needed most. Target did come to my rescue, but I still can’t believe I had to buy TWELVE dreidels. Is it really that hard to sell one all by itself?? At least it was only $3. 😑
Carrying a large bag of trash and a medium sized cardboard box, Lauren walks down the creepy hallway and opens the door to the alley where the dumpsters are located. She looks for the brick used to keep the door open and finds nothing. The door will lock upon closing if she walks away to put the trash in the dumpster. She frantically looks around for something to keep the door open. She uses the trash bag as a temporary solution while throwing away the cardboard box. Resuming the search, she looks in all directions, her gaze eventually landing on her feet. It is the only way! She reluctantly removes her Italian-made boot, places it in between the door and door jamb, and moves as quickly as she can to and from the dumpster in one boot and one Hanukkah sock. She makes it safely out of the alley, and the boot fulfills its task without a scratch.
📚 A Book You Chose For the Cover – The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi
I found this gem in my local library’s teeny tiny used bookstore. The bright yellow bird against a blue background hooked me, and the murder mystery synopsis reeled me in. I’m trying my best not to build expectations, but I really hope this book is as good as I want it to be.
📚 A Book With a Reputation for Being Un-Put-Down-Able – Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews about this book. Some people have said it’s one of their favorite books/duologies ever written. Of course I’m going to start with the first book, but I am optimistic that I will be purchasing book two very soon.
📚 A Book Set Somewhere You’ve Never Been But Would Like to Visit – The Curse of the Pharaohs by Elizabeth Peters
Fun fact: I am dying to visit Egypt!! Egyptology is one of my favorite subjects to learn about.
📚 A Book You’ve Already Read – The Rook by Steven James
The Patrick Bowers Files series is AMAZING. To be fair, I’ve only read the first two books, but how could it possibly go downhill from there?? I would actually like to read a few of the books in this series in 2017, but I’m setting the bar low so I don’t get too stressed. I want these reading challenges to remain fun!
📚 A Juicy Memoir – In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox by Carol Burnett
DUH! Who wouldn’t want to read behind-the-scenes stories about The Carol Burnett Show?!
📚 A Book About Books or Reading – Bookplate Special by Lorna Barrett
This book is part of one of my favorite cozy mystery series. It has been on my shelf for a few years, and it’s about time I got around to reading it. Fun Fact: The main character’s cat is named Miss Marple. How cute is that?!
📚 A Book in a Genre You Usually Avoid – The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
I rarely read and enjoy contemporary books outside of the mystery genre, but I’m willing to give this book a chance since it revolves around books.
📚 A Book You Don’t Want to Admit You’re Dying to Read – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
I’m not embarrassed about this book. It’s just weird to admit that I’ve never read such a beloved series. My aunt was kind enough to give me the first book for my birthday so I will definitely be reading it this year.
📚 A Book in the Backlist of a New Favorite Author – Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar
I received all of the books Tessa Afshar has published thus far as Christmas and Hanukkah gifts. I don’t want to set myself up for failure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I finish all of them before January 1, 2018.
📚 A Book Recommended by Someone With Great Taste – As Sure as the Dawn by Francine Rivers
My friend Gabby recommended the Mark of the Lion series years ago, and I finally got around to reading books one and two in 2015. The experience was so unbelievably mind blowing that I had to take a break. There is no longer a good excuse so I need to pick up book three NOW.
📚 A Book You Were Excited to Borrow or Buy But Haven’t Read Yet – The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
I am on pins and needles waiting to read this book. I’m going to watch the movie with my brother first since that’s what I did with Gone Girl. I realize that sounds like reader sacrilege, but I’m not your average bibliophile. Watching the movie first or liking it better doesn’t bother me. ;)
📚 A Book About a Subject or Topic You Already Love – Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
I haven’t actually seen the musical yet, but I am obsessed with the story and soundtrack. I liked The Wizard of Oz growing up but fell out of love with it for a period of time. Listening to the Wicked soundtrack every day has made me fall back in love with Oz, and I am ready to read the story that started it all. I am on page 32 and loving it so far. 💚
Merry Christmas & Happy 2nd Day of Hanukkah!! I hope all of you are having a wonderful holiday. My day started at church this morning. Afterwards, my family ate at Sizzler and saw Rogue One. I’ve been waiting on pins and needles to see this movie. I felt like the only person in the world who hadn’t seen it, and the rave reviews were driving me insane. We didn’t choose the best of theaters so the screen was dirty, but that didn’t dampen the experience. I absolutely loved the film! There were numerous amazing Rebel vs Empire fights, familiar faces like Bail Organa and Darth Vader, & awesome new characters like Cassian Andor and Jyn Erso. Can we just talk about freaking Donnie Yen?! His fighting scenes as Chirrut Imwe were off the charts. WOW! If you know me, you know that my favorite part of Star Wars will forever be the droids, and K-2SO is no exception. LOVE. HIM. The sass was abundant, and I could not stop laughing. (SPOILER) It was sad that everybody on the Rogue One team died, but it felt like the only appropriate ending considering the circumstances of the mission. They died because of the Death Star, the very weapon they were fighting to stop. A noble sacrifice for the good of the galaxy!
I can’t apologize enough for my absence. To make up for lost time, I’m going to be blogging through Hanukkah. I will call it “Blogukkah.” Genius! I have a good excuse for not blogging this week. I worked myself into the ground and got the flu. I had the worst day of work possible Tuesday, and it went from bad to worse once I got home. I spent both my days off resting and reenergizing for my last two shifts before Christmas. I hope you follow my art blog and Youtube channel because I’ve been active on both those platforms all month long. I’m not sure why I haven’t been posting as often for Blogmas this year. I think it has a lot to do with my retail job. I’ve felt like such a grinch and haven’t done anything outside of working. No spirit and no fun means no good material for your reading pleasure. I do have something to share with you tonight so let’s jump right in. I watched Frozen for the first time. I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
Have you composed yourself? Alrighty then! I’ve heard a lot of different perspectives. People loved the movie. People liked the movie. People hated the movie, some only because of the ridiculous amount of attention and hype. I didn’t want my first viewing experience to be ruined by someone else’s opinion so I waited and waited and waited until the right time. I’m glad I did because I was pleasantly surprised. I knew the music would be good, but other than that I had no expectations. I ended up liking it much more than I thought I would. The animation is beautiful, and the characters are charming. Idina Menzel’s voice is beautiful as always, but Kristen Bell’s voice stunned me. WOW! I love the end (SPOILER) when Kristoff is available to save Anna with an act of true love, but she ends up being saved by sisterly love. That is a refreshing twist. It’s adorable how Kristoff’s gruff exterior is slowly melted by Anna’s quirks. I could watch an entire movie with him, Sven, & Olaf. Those three crack me up! I highly recommend this film if you love Disney, but wait until your mind is clear from the bombardment of other opinions.
Is sneezings even a word? Oh well! It sounds clever. ;) I stayed home from church today because I woke up feeling like I had been hit by a truck. Dairy-free egg nog and “The Great British Bake Off” on Netflix has proved to be a successful remedy. I really need to get better because I work tomorrow night. Lovely! Sadly, today was the last day of Hanukkah. I am grateful for all of the gifts I received. To commence the Festival of Lights, I will be watching “Maccabees: The Story of Hanukkah.” Here is a clip of the short, animated movie:
Last night I started reading “The Pawn” by Steven James. I have read it before, but I am starting over because the series is longer now so I want to refresh my memory of the first few books. The Patrick Bowers Files is a great series; in a nutshell, the books are thrilling crime/mystery adventures. The format is similar to that of “Criminal Minds” on TV because you read from many points of view including agent Patrick Bowers and the unknown serial killer. I will definitely be reading a few chapters before bed tonight. Smart decision! If you are interested in this series, click the link: Books
I am off work today so the only things on my to-do list are PJs, Christmas movies, and blogging. Even though Hanukkah is in full swing and Christmas is 15 days away, I am in holiday limbo right now. Perhaps starting the festivities early really is a December buzzkill. Either that or my long, emotional year full of changes is taking its toll on my mentality. Oy vey!! I love Christmastime. I’m pretty sure there is elf somewhere in my heritage. Why oh why is the Christmas struggle real right now??! I’m sorry readers. Despite my attempts to be holly jolly, I’m only human. That’s what this blog is all about, me being myself. Unfortunately that includes mood swings. ;) Perhaps eggnog, Chinese food, and quality time with my brother will boost my spirit. :D