June 28, 2022

3-star review of "Murder at Monticello"

Murder at Monticello (Mrs. Murphy #3)Murder at Monticello by Rita Mae Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked Murder at Monticello by Rita Mae Brown less than her first two books in the Mrs. Murphy murder mystery series for several reasons. 1] There was an over-emphasis on Thomas Jefferson's family members and genealogy, some of whose names the author admits were fictional. 2] I greatly disliked the many apologetics for slavery and excuses for white men’s sexual use of black enslaved women. Considering that this novel was written in the 1990s, I can’t believe the editor let those views stay in. 3] While rumors of a relationship between Sally Hemmings and Thomas Jefferson were alive and well when this novel was written, although before DNA evidence had provided proof, the novel is written in a way that whitewashes history. According to the book, there was no way Jefferson fathered children with an enslaved woman, never mind that she was only ¼ black. All in all, the mystery part was good enough to keep me reading, and the animals’ criticism of humans’ racism [who cares if a cat’s fur is black, white or a combination?] was a clever counterpoint. View all my reviews

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June 25, 2022

3-star of "C is for Corpse" by Sue Grafton

C is for Corpse (Kinsey Millhone #3)C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn't like C is for Corpse as much as B and A. I was so eager to learn who did what to whom that I flew through the first few chapters, but the more I read, the more I was disturbed by what happened to the son and daughter characters. I knew they were fictional, but I very much sympathized with the grieving mother. I was put off by what seemed to be several disconnected threads, which I assumed that, like in A and B, they would all weave together at the end. Except they didn't. I also wasn't impressed with the ending: Kinsey works out at the gym and runs 3 miles a day, yet she couldn't escape the murderer who wasn't in that good a shape. Of course I knew he wouldn't actually kill her, as there are still volumes D-Y in the series, so the chase was more annoying than suspenseful. But I still intend to read D is for Deadbeat.

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June 22, 2022

4.5-star of "A is for Alibi" by Sue Grafton

B is for Burglar (Kinsey Millhone, #2)B is for Burglar by Sue Grafton
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The chapters are short and the story so intriguing that I finished B is for Burglar in two days. I enjoyed it as much or more than A is for Alibi. One missing woman, one murdered woman and a missing cat (thankfully the cat turns up unharmed with a new owner). Plus there are several burglaries, attempted and successful. Of course how they are all connected is slowly revealed as our sleuth continues her investigation. Like in the previous novel, the mystery involved money and love, and I was happy to go along for the ride to discover who done it and why.
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Posted by maggie at 05:22 PM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2022

My 3-star review of "All About Me: My Remarkable Life in Show Business" by Mel Brooks

All about Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show BusinessAll about Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business by Mel Brooks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first three chapters of All about Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business by Mel Brooks, about his childhood in Brooklyn through his army experience in WW2, were fascinating and hilarious. So many times I had to laugh out loud while reading. But the next two chapters, especially the interminable 45 page-long fourth chapter, seemed mostly name dropping of all these famous people he worked with. OK, that's the subtitle, but it bothered me that he skipped over his first marriage except when he briefly mentioned his three kids from it.

The more I read, the less I enjoyed the book. After the first three chapters, the only two I liked as much were those about Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, which I admit were my favorite films of his. Otherwise it's like a Facebook feed of memoirs, focusing solely on the good stuff. No introspection, no sad stories, nothing about what happened to the rest of his family. Once I got to Chapter 16, I pretty much skimmed the rest. I slowed down for the second to last and second longest chapter, his 25th, “Producers on Broadway.” Only because of that did I see the half a paragraph near the chapter’s end where he tells us, almost in passing, that his wife Anne lost her battle with cancer. I was more than disappointed; I was appalled that the death of the apparent love of his life rated merely four lines. I wanted to give this book only 2 stars, but then I recalled the excellent beginning and upped my rating to 3 stars.

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June 13, 2022

My 4.5-star review of "A if for Alibi" by Sue Grafton

A Is for Alibi (Kinsey Millhone, #1)A Is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
4.5-star review of A Is for Alibi by Sue Grafton. I've long been a fan of crime/murder mysteries, so when I saw this small paperback book at my local Little Free Library, I grabbed it for when I wanted a respite from the news. With its feisty female detective Kinsey Millhome, it's just the break I need; an homage to Ross MacDonald’s Lew Archer detective novels, even taking place in the same fictional southern California beach city of Santa Teresa (aka Santa Barbara). I greatly appreciated the switch from hardboiled male P.I. to hardboiled female P.I. Written from a first-person POV, the novels are framed as reports Kinsey writes in the course of her investigation, which are signed off in the epilogue. Thus I got to see everything through her eyes, giving depth to the narrative.

I don’t want to give away any of the mystery’s plot, but the intriguing first paragraph states that she killed someone the previous day. I gave only 4.5 stars instead of 5 because I had trouble keeping all the characters, and their motives, straight. But like many murder mysteries, the culprits’ motives turn out to be love and/or money. There is no big surprise at the end, because the reader is privy to Kinsey’s suspicions and reasoning as the story unfolds. But that was a nice change to the typical who-done-it where the author seemingly pulls the real killer out of a hat in a grand finale. I’ve already put “B is for Burglar” on hold at my local library.
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Posted by maggie at 11:19 AM | Comments (0)

June 11, 2022

5-star review of "The Papercutter" by Cindy Rizzo

The Papercutter (The Split, #1)The Papercutter by Cindy Rizzo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Papercutter by Cindy Rizzo is a fascinating, well-written novel on a very timely subject: what happens a generation after the extremely polarized USA splits into the red God-Fearing-States (GFS) and the blue United Progressive States (UPR). Not surprising, neither country turns out to be good for the Jews. The Orthodox Jews in the GPS still suffer antisemitic attacks, both verbal and physical, from the racist evangelicals; think 1930s Germany. Yet the liberal Jews in the UPR must deal with being tied to Israel, a pariah because Palestinians still won’t accept a Jewish state; no, BDS hasn’t gone away.

I quickly became invested in the three teenage protagonists' stories, despite—or maybe because of—the fear and loathing the plot entailed. I appreciated all the Jewish content and was pleasantly surprised by the mystical/fantasy aspect, but was it necessary to make almost all the “good guy” teenage characters LGBT while all the adults are straight? Still, the basic situation was uncomfortably and frighteningly close to home. Even so, when I turned the final page, I couldn’t wait to read the trilogy’s second installment.
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Posted by maggie at 08:09 PM | Comments (0)

June 09, 2022

Listen to Eve Harrow interview me about my new novel. ’The Choice’. "Set in the 1950’s, it touches on many topics familiar to us today. She and Eve Harow discuss her wide range of plot lines including ritual baths, the OU kosher certification, misogyny, vitamins, and women learning Talmud. Just to name a few. Inspired by the late Chaim Potok’s coming of age novels, Anton takes similar characters and infuses them with a mature flavor and ideas taken from her own interesting life. The author of the 'Rashi’s Daughters' series and 50 Shades of Talmud, Anton is a prolific researcher and lover of texts. Just out, available in the usual places and some not so usual ones." Here's the link

Posted by maggie at 02:19 PM | Comments (0)

June 07, 2022

3-star review of "All Other Nights" by Dara Horn

All Other NightsAll Other Nights by Dara Horn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Right from the beginning of All Other Nights I didn’t enjoy the novel, set in the South during the Civil War, but I couldn't seem to put it down either. Spies and counter-spies, Yankees and Rebels, Jews and non-Jews wove in and out of the story, but though some were based on real people, they seemed like caricatures. Even half-way in I still couldn't figure out the plot. It was neither a romance nor a spy thriller, and none of the white characters were admirable, especially the protagonist Jacob, a complete nebbish.

Only near the end did more clarity emerge. Yes, it was a love story. But it wasn’t your typical spy novel like those starring James Bond or Jason Bourne; it was more about the destruction of lives and futility of espionage that John LeCarre wrote about. I could tell that Dara Horn did an immense amount of research into the lives of Jews during the Civil War—it showed—but it was way more than was necessary to set the scene. It seemed that much of what she wrote didn’t serve the purpose of moving the plot forward or revealing the characters’ arcs, but only showed off all her research. I did read the entire book, and learned a lot, but this novel is like a train wreck or giant auto pileup on the highway—death, disfigurement and devastation. I couldn’t look away, but I can’t say that I enjoyed it. Although what would you expect from a novel, set in the South, during the Civil War?
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Posted by maggie at 10:50 AM | Comments (0)