Thursday, February 22, 2018

The White Crucifixion: A novel about Marc Chagall by Michael Dean

(Thank you to Holland Park Press for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

Fiction. Art. Jewish Studies. THE WHITE CRUCIFIXION starts with Chagall's difficult birth in Vitebsk 1887, in the present-day Belarus, and tells the unlikely story of how the eldest son of a herring schlepper became enrolled in art school where he quickly gained a reputation as "Moyshe, the painting wonder."

The novel paints an authentic picture of a Russian town divided by belief and wealth, rumours of pogroms never far away, yet bustling with talented young artists.

In 1913, Chagall relished the opportunity to move to Paris to take up residence in the artist colony The Hive (La Ruche). The Yiddish-speaking artists (Ecole Juive) living there were all poor. The Hive had no electric light, or running water and yet many of its artists were to become famous, among them Amedeo Modigliani and Osip Zadkine.

The novel vividly portrays the dynamics of an artist colony, its pettiness, friendships and the constant battle to find the peace and quiet to work.

In 1914 Chagall and Bella make what's supposed to be a fleeting visit to his beloved Vitebsk, only to g
et trapped there by the outbreak of the first world war, the subsequent Russian revolution, and the establishment of the communist regime which is increasingly hostile towards artists like Chagall.

Yet, Chagall keeps on painting, and the novel provides a fascinating account of what inspired some of his greatest painting. He manages to return to France and is reunited with his paintings only to be thwarted by yet another world war which proves disastrous for the people he knew in Vitebsk which include his uncle Neuch, the original "Fiddler On The Roof."

THE WHITE CRUCIFIXION is a fictionalised account of the rollercoaster life of one of the most enigmatic artists of the twentieth century.

my thoughts:

Wow! What a wonderful story - a fictionalized account of one of the greatest artists, Marc Chagall.  We learn about his birth, his upbringing, his art, his love, his passion, etc..  Talk about an exciting life!  I loved getting to know Chagall through this book - learning about the personal so that we could better understand his passion.  Michael Dean has written a beautiful novel chock full of emotion, history, and creativity - I loved it!

The White Crucifixion details different moments in Chagall's life as he grew and expanded into his artwork.  We learn about the ways in which war and his country inspired his paintings.  We read about the ups and downs he experienced throughout his life.  And we find a man who paints, paints, paints the world around him.  Its mesmerizing to read about Chagall's life - I found myself looking up his paintings as I read this book. I was captivated by the colors, images, history that flowed through his creations.  What a rich reading experience!  I would happily recommend this novel to fans of Chagall and anyone looking for their next great read - you will LOVE this book!

Thank you to Holland Park Press for providing me with a copy of this book!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Three Floors Up: A Novel by Eshkol Nevo

(Thank you to Other Press for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

Finalist for the Fiction and Book Club categories of the 2017 National Jewish Book Awards

Set in a Tel Aviv apartment building, this best-selling Israeli novel examines a society in crisis, through the turmoils, secrets, unreliable confessions, and problematic decisions of the building’s residents.

On the first floor, Arnon, a tormented retired officer who fought in the First Intifada, confesses to an army friend how his obsession with his daughter’s safety led him to lose control and put his marriage in peril. Above Arnon lives Hani, known as “the widow.” Her husband travels the world for work while she stays at home with their two children, increasingly isolated and unstable. When her brother-in-law suddenly appears at their door begging her to hide him from loan sharks and the police, she agrees, in spite of the risk to her family, if only to bring some emotional excitement into her life. On the top floor lives a former judge, Devora. Retired and eager to start a new life, Devora joins a social movement, tries to reconnect with her estranged son, and falls in love with a man who isn’t what he seems.

A brilliant novelist, Eshkol Nevo vividly depicts the grinding effects of social and political ills played out in the psyche of these flawed, compelling characters, often in unexpected and explosive ways.

my thoughts:

Wow! What a book! This tender, moving story provides such fascinating observations about flawed, sympathetic characters that will haunt you for days.  I absolutely LOVED Three Floors Up by Eshkol Nevo - it is truly a must-read.

This is a story that epitomizes the notion that you never really know someone, you just don't.  In this case, three stories are told by neighbors who live in an apartment building in Tel Aviv.  They each reside on separate floors and will appear in each other's stories in the background, but their connection is merely proximity.  Each floor is meant to represent Freud's theory of the id, ego, and superego -  as each character shares a deeply personal story, their struggles with the boundaries of guilt and morality becomes quite evident.  You can't help but engage with these characters and find yourself immersed in their confessions - its simply unputdownable.

I don't want to write about the stories, because they are just so emotional and riveting.  They must be read for you to experience their depth and strength - character studies of people and their flaws.  Plus, you will just love the descriptions and details about life in Tel Aviv - the culture, customs, politics, etc..  Three Floors Up is just such a terrific book - I loved it! 

I would definitely recommend Three Floors Up to anyone and everyone looking for their next great read - you will LOVE this book!!

Thank you to Other Press for providing me with a copy of this book!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Curses, Boiled Again! A Lobster Shack Mystery by Shari Randall

(Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

Welcome to the seaside hamlet of Mystic Bay, where the fish is always fresh, the folks are ever-friendly, and murder is on a roll. . .

Allie Larkin was living her dream as a ballet dancer when a bad fall put her out of business. Now she’s back home in Mystic Bay to heal a broken ankle while also helping her dear Aunt Gully get her Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack off the ground. Nothing would help Gully more than winning the local food festival’s Best Lobster Roll contest. The competition is sure to be killer―especially after one of the contest judges dies after eating a roll from one of Gully’s biggest rivals.

Soon, all eyes fall on Gully as the prime suspect. Allie may only have one good leg to stand on, but she’s not going to let her aunt go down for a crime she never could have cooked up. Can Allie, along with her devoted crew of friends, family, and customers, find a way to trap the killer and claw herself out of this hard-boiled murder case?

my thoughts:

Cozy mysteries are where its at! They are fun, quick and easy reads that hook you in right from the start.  Chock full of quirky characters living in a small town, you can't help but get caught up in their dramas, town gossip, and murder mysteries.  I know that I love to gobble up these stories as often as I can - they always seem to cheer me up with their light, engaging stories.  Plus, there are so many to choose from, which I just love.  The latest series is a new one called, A Lobster Shack Mystery and the first book is Curses, Boiled Again!  How fun is that title?!  I have to admit to cracking up when I saw the cover and the title - I just knew I was going to be in for a treat.

Allie is a ballet dancer who is living her dream, when a bad fall leaves her with a broken ankle and out of work.  So, she travels back home to Mystic Bay to recuperate and help out her Aunt Gully, who is trying to get her lobster shack off the ground.  There's going to be a food festival and Aunt Gully is aiming to win the Best Lobster Roll contest - she knows it will do wonders for her business.  Unfortunately one of the judges dies after eating a lobster roll from Gully's biggest rival, which leaves everyone to believe she is behind the deadly lobster roll.  How crazy is that?!  Allie knows she has to save her Aunt Gully from these false charges, so she rustles up her friends and family to help her solve the mystery of whodunit. 

Talk about a fun and cute story! I just loved getting to know the citizens of Mystic Bay through their dramas, town gossip, and this murder mystery.  This book was such a delight to read.  The twists and turns made the murder/mayhem aspect thrilling, while the descriptions of the town and its people made for some light humor.  I really enjoyed trying to figure out who the culprit was, along with cheering on Allie as she worked to solve this crime. 

I would definitely recommend this book to fans of cozy mysteries - you will LOVE this new series!! 

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Book Mail!

I can't wait to read these two lovelies:



Tuesday, February 6, 2018



Harry is just about to graduate from college when he gets the news that his father has died.  He goes home for the funeral.  Its just him and his stepmother, Alice.  Harry doesn't really know Alice all that well, so he's a bit wary of her at first.  Alice has secrets that's she's been keeping for ages - some that are just too horrible to even speak of.  As the two spend some together, suspicions are raised and theories are made - was Harry's dad killed, and if so, why?  And, who is Alice?  The more Harry pieces together and the more we learn about Alice - lets just say, the more dicey the situation gets for Harry and anyone around him.  All The Beautiful Lies is a slow-going story that does captivate (at times), but I will be honest and tell you its not Swanson's strongest story.  I've loved his previous books, so I was super excited to read his latest one.  While I did enjoy bits of it, I wasn't completely satisfied.  I felt that the story lacked the excitement, suspense, and mystery that his other books have.  This one was rather flat in comparison.  Overall, it was a decent read. 


Based on the real-life kidnapping of Sally Horner and her captor (a news story that inspired Nabakov's novel, Lolita), this story provides a look into Sally's perspective and her family members' perspectives on how they struggled to deal with Sally's disappearance.  Its a heart-wrenching story that devastates.  This story grips you from the start as you read about this little girl who wants to befriend a group of girls in her class.  They challenge her to steal something from the local shop in order to join their club.  Sally hides a notebook beneath her sweater and starts walking out the door of the shop, but she gets stopped by a strange man who claims to be from the FBI.  He tells her he knows she's a thief and he must take her to talk to a judge about her crime.  Sally is terrified and looks around for help, but her new friends have fled from the store and left her alone.  The man threatens Sally some more and eventually kidnaps her.  She's scared and confused and doesn't understand why he won't just take her to the police.  Sally doesn't understand that this man is a liar and that he's kidnapped her.  She doesn't understand that he is a criminal who likes little girls.  She has no idea what he has in store for her.  All she knows is that she wants to go home to her mom and her sister.  Rust & Stardust is a terrifying story, because its based on Sally's story.  Its a compelling read that will have you crying, feeling horrified, and leave you bereft once you finish.  I couldn't stop reading, even though I wanted to stop so many times - it was just too hard to read about poor little Sally.  This is a book that will stay with you long after you've turned the last page.


Five little girls are playing volleyball on school grounds when a man dressed in workman's garb walks up to them. He claims to be working and needs some help.  All the little girls volunteer to help him.  He chooses one of them and takes her by the hand.  They walk away together and the rest of the girls continue playing.  Eventually they realize how late its getting, so they set out to look for their friend.  They find her body in the boy's changing room by the swimming pool.  The man is never found and no one is charged with the little girl's murder.  The four little girls are left haunted by their friend's death.  Especially after they visit with her mother a few years later.  The mother blames them for her daughter's death.  She tells them they have three options: find the murderer, pay penance, or do nothing and she will make them pay.  All four girls are terrified and as we read about their lives we find out how they dealt with such a crazy threat.  Its sad, heartbreaking, and unputdownable! I absolutely LOVED this book! Such a great read!


Its the last day of school and the teacher is making announcements.  She will no longer be teaching at the school come the new year.  Yes, her decision has to do with the death of her little girl.  Her daughter's body was found floating in the school pool and it was ruled an accident.  However, the teacher has discovered that two of her students are responsible for her daughter's death.  Yes, her daughter was murdered.  The teacher recounts details she has uncovered and though she doesn't outright name the two murderers, everyone in class knows who she is talking about.  She then confesses to the punishment she has decided to dole out to these two boys.  Lets just say, her confession begins a series of events that are truly unexpected.  Talk about a chilling read. The children in this book are beyond awful and horrifying - they are killers! And the cold, calculating manner in which they plot out their crimes is just terrifying to read about.  I found that I couldn't stop reading. I absolutely loved this story - it was scary, gripping, and unputdownable. Yes, its awful to read about these kids who are monsters, but its also fascinating to learn about their families and how they viewed and handled their sons. And, of course, I wanted the teacher to get her revenge.  I absolutely LOVED this book!  Confessions is a revenge story at its best!