June 15, 2021

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

I'm not usually a fan of "chick lit" but in preparation for publicizing the upcoming novel, I've been assigned the homework of finding at least 8 comps [novels comparable to mine]. That means recently published books that my audience would be reading. Ideally historical fiction with a Jewish component and female protagonist. When were they published, what Amazon category are they in, what size are they, what do their covers look like, what kind of front and back matter do they have, what do their authors' websites look like? Things like that.So those will be the next batch of books I'll be reviewing.

Big SummerBig Summer by Jennifer Weiner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

. Big Summer is a pleasurable soap-opera of a novel. Rich and famous characters [not our heroine though], fabulous clothes and homes, great location [Cape Cod], romance, adultery, illegitimate children, family dysfunction, revenge, and murder. And oh yes, hot sex in a hot tub. It's a fast fun read if you don't look too closely at the plot. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Posted by maggie at 01:23 PM | Comments (0)

June 14, 2021

"Zorro' by Isabel Allende

ZorroZorro by Isabel Allende

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had a difficult time deciding between 3 and 4 stars, but I gave it 4 because Isabel Allende's writing is so good. I'm a big Zorro fan, starting when I was a child watching the Disney series with Guy Williams and continuing with Antonio Banderas, so I was eager to read her novel about his origins. But the story was uneven. I really liked the first part, about his childhood in Alta California, and the part set on the ship taking him to Spain. But each section after that was less interesting than the one before. Except for the grand finale, when he returns to California and takes up the Zorro mantel. I could easily have skipped the sections where he flees Spain and encounters the pirate LaFitte in the Caribbean. Still, all in all, an entertaining read, especially for fans of the TV show.

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Posted by maggie at 01:09 PM | Comments (0)

June 07, 2021

Review of "The Orchard" by David Hopen

The OrchardThe Orchard by David Hopen

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I usually don't waste my time reviewing books I didn't like, but I disliked this one so much I had to post my review. First I must explain that I have been studying Talmud for over 25 years and am quite familiar with the tale of the four 2nd-century mystic sages who entered Pardes [the Orchard] hoping to encounter God. The disaster that happened to those sages, and to the protagonists in this novel, is the reason why later Jewish scholars ruled that a man must be at least 40 years old before he studies the Kabbalah and its teachings.

I found the male characters completely unlikable, irresponsible, dissolute moral failures. They seem to all sound alike, and with so much dialogue without attributions, I often couldn't tell one speaker from another. The protagonist almost immediately annoyed me by, after arriving at a party to which he's invited in order to be the designated driver, not only accepts the first drink he's offered, but gets so drunk he passes out and wakes up in a stranger's bed. And this is just the first in an interminable number of alcohol and drug fueled parties with his spoiled teenage buddies.

As if that weren't enough; between the the insular, anti-secular education Haredi world and the society of rich, self-centered Florida Jews, the author gave us two of the worst anti-Semitic stereotypes for his characters' communities.

The rabbi who teaches these boys Talmud is unbelievable, as are most of the girls. Honestly, would any pregnant Jewish teenager with wealthy parents go off for a year to have the baby rather than get an abortion? Speaking of parents; how can they remain ignorant of or uninterested in their destructive children's behavior?

Reading this book was like watching a train wreck or a freeway pileup. I knew it was going to be a disaster but I couldn't look away.

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Posted by maggie at 04:00 PM | Comments (0)

June 01, 2021

Back in the Blog saddle

Sometime in late 2018, my blog software stopped connecting with the infrastructure on the server that held my websites. Apparently it was out of date, and I had no idea how to update it.

At that time, I was focused on writing [and rewriting] my next novel, so fixing my blog was a not a high priority. Now that that manuscript is finished and on its way to the copyeditor, I realized that I needed to get my blog up and running before the book comes out next year.

Last year, I hired a new webmaster, who updated my websites for the latest book from Banot Press, Rabbi Rachel Adler's Tales of the Holy Mysticat: Jewish Wisdom Stories from a Feline Mystic. He fixed the problem, so here's my first blog post in 3 years.

Posted by maggie at 10:39 PM | Comments (0)