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Sunday, April 17, 2016

"UNorthodox" by Deborah Feldman

This memoir is a harrowing tale of a woman in search of freedom.  The author was raised in a Hasidic community, which is one of the strictest ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities there is.  There are extensive rules covering almost all aspects of life from what to eat, where to go, who to marry, and more.  Readers understand the interactions between men and women, the extreme modesty rules, and how arranged marriages work.  They also understand the limited education and censorship that goes on.  While not all readers will be Hasids leaving their old lives behind, there are many universal messages for all readers.  There is the universal desire for freedom, to break out of the molds one's family / society has placed upon them.  There is the lesson that, no matter how long the skirt or how loose the dress, there will always be men who lust after you.  There is the lesson that even the most religious and pious-looking communities have gossip, violence, pedophilia, and other "bad things and bad people."  While the author eventually leaves with her son to start a new life, her marriage is sad.  Before getting a divorce, the reader is stuck in a loveless marriage with a man who only wants her for her body.  While most readers will likely not be in arranged marriages such as this, I am sure there are women stuck with men who do not love them but rather only use them for their body.  For all those women, there is something better out there for you.  The story ends while the author is still a young woman, and she finds fulfillment in her child and career.  For any woman struggling with finding purpose, wrestling with religious identity, or just looking for a good read, this book is sure to broaden perspectives and have compassion on the "others" knows as Hasids...especially the women.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

"Counted With the Stars" by Connilyn Cossette

Every now and then I get a book that I keep turning the pages due to the suspenseful and gripping story.  However, very rarely do I get a book that has that and impacts me greatly on a personal level.  "Counted with the Stars" is a biblical fiction story.  It follows Kiya, a young Egyptian woman sold into slavery to pay her father's debt.  Her tale is told during the time of the Hebrew slaves leaving Egypt and the 10 plagues.  Kiya is forced to look inside of herself and question her beliefs as she leaves her idols to go after a faceless God.  Kiya's master is a cruel woman, and the readers learn why the woman is so bitter, giving them a perspective to think for themselves why others treat them so poorly.  Then there are the suitors.  Kiya is originally betrothed to one man, but that does not last.  There is a Hebrew she is attracted to, but he despises the Egyptian people.  Then there is an Amalakite who at first is dashing but later proves to be abusive and aggressive.  Readers will learn through Kiya about mistakes that come from rushing with men and not taking time to learn their character.  When the slaves--Hebrew, Egyptian, and whoever else wanted to join--leave, there are struggles and miracles in the wilderness.  Kiya witnesses danger and salvation as normal occurrences.  With regards to acceptance, Kiya faces the cold stares of Hebrews that despise her heritage.  She struggles with her past and whether or not she will ever be accepted as part of Israel.  All that drama aside, this book is beautifully written and feels so real.  Between emotions and dialog, there are vivid descriptions of life through a slave's eyes.  There is the touch of a donkey's ear, the rush of the Nile waters, the cool stone of a royal floor beneath calloused feet, and so much more.  I can not wait for the next book in this series.     

"Night Night, Daddy" by Amy Parker

After reading Amy Parker's "Night Night, Mommy," I could not wait to read "Night Night, Daddy."  This story follows a kid and father fox--how adorable--on their adventure through the day.  There is playing ball and flying kites.  Then the duo eats a huge stack of pancakes; don't worry, they clean up the maple syrup mess.  There is fort-building and playing on the beach.  The child fox is carried in the father fox arms and eventually laid to rest.  Both father and child pray together and learn about God.  This bedtime story is a must that can be read over and over. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

"The Flower Workshop" by Ariella Chezar

Who does not want a beautiful hardcover, full print huge book full of flower arrangements?  This book makes an excellent decoration in the home, a perfect distraction on a rainy day, and even a DIY book for those interested.  Readers will learn how to select vases, prune flowers, and make floral arrangements.  There are tips on selecting colors, textures, and even what types of flowers grow in different seasons.  Beyond that, there are the fancy sections on making head garlands, wreaths, and flower curtains--so beautiful!  I was also pleasantly surprised to read about using vines, branches, and even fruit to make floral arrangements.  This is not your run-of-the-mill flower book.  This is a professionally written book that will turn any passerby into a flower-arranging expert!