October 30, 2014

Becoming Un-Orthodox: A Review

I received this book from Oxford University Press via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
This has freaked some people out apparently.

So Davidman is a professor of Modern Jewish Studies, Sociology, and Religion at Kansas University.  She researched Ex-Hasidic Jews- people who chose to leave the enclosed group of Orthodoxy.  This is a book written for an academic audience.  Davidman used anecdotes from the ex-Hasidic Jews via in-depth interviews to research  the changes and adjustment to the changes in the daily routines and personal habits after leaving.

The book was readable but I have to say it took me right back to graduate school.  It is that dry.  I've read many academic papers and I am reading another academic book from Oxford University Press right now, and not all of them are as dull and lifeless as this book was.  I learned a couple of interesting things about the daily habits and rituals of Hasidic Jews, and how those who left began their process by slowly eliminating these daily rituals one by one to see if God would harm them for not performing them.  I found this interesting.  It was not, however, 200+ pages of interesting.

Davidman was extremely repetitious, saying the same thing in a different way.  She is a bit long-winded.  Academic papers should be succinct and to the point.  Share the information, move on.  This was like reading a college student's paper.  Her findings were intriguing but her sharing of the findings left something to be desired, needless to say.

After I finished reading the book I rated it three stars - it was okay, I learned something, but it had it's problems.  It was not great.  Five days later along comes OJPAC on Twitter, cautioning me against believing anything I just read.

OJPAC is  the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council.  They were eager to tell me that Davidman is a well documented false prophet. However, they did not have any documentation on that to share, and on top of that they had not actually read the book.  OJPAC found me on their own and here are the tweets:


Here is the link they sent me in that first tweet.

So, yeah, why are you telling me not to believe someone's book - a research book put out by a prestigious university press - when you haven't read the book?  Got something to hide, perhaps?  It felt very much like they were freaking out and trying to recover their reputation that Lynn Davidman has butchered, in their eyes. I am fascinated that their PR is so aggrieved over this book that they feel the need to write a press release and then share it with her reviewers.

The thing is, Davidman's book didn't reveal any crazy top-shelf secrets in this book.  I've read more damaging material to the Orthodoxy in several other places.  Not sure why OJPAC is worried.  Perhaps Davidman has been on their radar for a long time with her other two books.  I have no proof whether or not Davidman falsified or exaggerated her findings, nor if she takes quotes out of context.  It just seems very fishy to me how OJPAC responded.  Kansas University and Oxford Academic were included in the tweet OJPAC sent, they did not comment on the accusations.

October 29, 2014

Nest by Esther Ehrlich

Nest is a middle-grade fiction story about "Chirp" and her family in 1970s Cape Cod.  Chirp is so nicknamed because she loves birds and often goes bird-watching with her "binocs" and knows all about red-throated loons and other birds.  Chirp has an older sister, Rachel, her dad, the psychotherapist, and her mom, once a beautiful dancer, now regaled to multiple sclerosis, and subsequently depression.

I identified both with Chirp and her mother.  I don't have MS but I understand a bit what it is like to have your body betray you.  I felt for Chirp's mom.

I love that Ehrlich named the book Nest.  There are various references to different kinds and ways of nesting - the nest of Chirp's home and family being disrupted, the nests she makes herself to comfort herself, etc.

I think this is a tough subject matter but it still helps older children/young adults understand how they relate to not only the world but also their place within their family. When these dynamics shift, how do we know what our place is?

Nest, if you ask me, borders on YA in terms of subject and plot, but the way it is written is definitely for a middle grade audience. I appreciated the layers to the story.  I think Ehrlich has written a book that will southg out for years and years to come.

October 28, 2014

Top Ten Characters Who I Would Totally Want To Be For Halloween

Ten Characters I Would Want to Be For Halloween

1. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games Trilogy

2. Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games Series

She has the best outfits.

3. Alex Vause of Orange is the New Black by Piper Chapman

4.  Lisbeth Salander from Steig Larsson's Millennium Trilogy

5. Cersei Lancaster from Game of Thrones Series

Complete with goblet of wine and eye roll.

6. Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice

Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice Photo: BBC

If Darcy could appear, too, that'd be great.

7. The White Witch of Narnia

8. Nefertari (niece of Nefertiti) in The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran

9. Jane from Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan by Robin Maxwell

Note that it is not a half-shredded, leopard-print bikini thing.
Jane was smart, not a jungle hooker.

10. Elizabeth Tudor from pick a Tudor historical fiction book


If I had ever read a book about Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, or if my complete basis for choosing her wasn't based on the costumes from the TV show, Reign, I'd choose her.  Obviously the show is only loosely based on historical facts, but the dresses though.  If this were based on TV shows, she is who I would dress as!


October 27, 2014

What I've Read, Am Reading, Will Read Next - 10/27/14

This week I finished three books, all good books.  I also abandoned one book and started another book for review.  I only read half as many pages as last week, but then again last week was the Readathon so I have to keep that in mind!


A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
*Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge*
Last Week: 0 pages
This Week: 123 pages
Thoughts: Review here.

Nest by Esther Ehrlich
*For Review from Random House Children's via Net Galley*
Last Week:47-58%
This Week: 58-100%
Pages Read This Week: 167
Thoughts:  Review to come.

The Aftermath by Jen Alexander
*For Review from Harlequin Teen*
Last Week: 41-63%
This Week: 63-100%
Pages Read: 192
Thoughts: Review to come


A Place Beyond the Map by Samuel Thews
*Started for Readathon*
Thoughts: I just didn't connect or care about the character. I didn't think the fae all that interesting, either. It just fell flat. Also, my understanding was this was YA but it is definitely middle-grade fiction. It would've been cool if there was anything to keep me reading.


Atheist Awakening: Secular Activism and Community in America
by Richard Cimino and Christopher Smith
*For Review from Oxford University Press*
This Week: 0-11%
Pages Read: 24
Thoughts So Far: Interesting sociological research topic - focusing on the community building and activism of the modern atheist movement, as oppose to focusing on individuals within the movement.  I am quite interested to see what they find out about this as a social movement.


The Review Books:

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman
*For Review thanks to Random House Crown via Edelweiss*
Last Week: 0-11%
This Week: 11-21%
Pages Read This Week: 31
Thoughts: I really like Newman's narrative style.  I've already identified with her and am rooting for her and I'm only 63 pages in.

Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Translation by Katie Rain Hill
*For Review thanks to Simon and Schuster via Edelweiss*
Last Week: 0-17%
This Week: 17-28%
Pages Read: 32
Thoughts This Week: To be going through an identity crisis at six years old is heartbreaking.  I knew logically what transgendered people experience growing up, but Katie has evoked from me more feelings and empathy when I thought I had so much already.  Just want to keep reading and reading!

Against the Country: A Novel by Ben Metcalf
*For Review from Random House and Netgalley*
Last Week: 10-23%
This Week: 23-30%
Pages Read: 24
Thoughts: Is anyone else reading this?  I am *this close* to giving up on it.  As another reviewer on GR put it, not sure if it's brilliant or just rambling.

The Hidden Ones (Legacy of the Watchers #1) by Nancy Madore
*For Review from Author*
Last Week: 54-61%
This Week: 61-61%
Pages Read: 0
Thoughts: I didn't get to this one this week.  I wish I knew how to get a book from Kindle for PC onto my phone or Kindle because it is hard to want to read from a computer very often.

The Reading For Fun Books:

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
*Started during Readathon*
Pg. 46 of 323
Last Week: 36 pages
This Week: 10 pages
Thoughts This Week: I think this might be a book of reading in short spurts.  At least for now it seems to be that way.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
*For Fun*
On pg. 486 of 579
Last Week: 252
This Week: 70
Thoughts: This is soo good!  


Total Pages Read Last Week: 1230
Total Pages Read THIS Week: 673

Books Reading for Review: 5
Books Reading for Readalongs/Challenges: 0
Books Reading for the Fun of It: 2

Total Books Currently Reading: 7
Total Books Read So Far This Year: 90



~What are you reading right now?  
~What did you just finish?  
~What book are you looking forward to reading next?  
Share in the comments

October 26, 2014

The Aftermath by Jen Alexander

Claudia Virtue woke up three years ago.  She remembers nothing of her life before.  Her life now though is a small clan of survivors trying to ward off the ever-present threat of cannibals called Flesh Eaters.  While on a mission to find food and water, Claudia gets knocked out.  When she awakens, her world starts to make less and less sense.  She feels like the words she is speaking are not the words she wants to be speaking, her actions not what she intended to be doing.

That's because Claudia's life is not her own.

Claudia discovers she is nothing more than a pawn in a game with all of her actions being controlled by another girl in another place.  She tries to escape, but there's no way out - that is, until she meets a moderator named Declan.  But things are never what they seem in Claudia's world.

I thought The Aftermath was a good debut novel for Alexander. There was excellent character development and it wasn't the same old same old story.  There were times I could predict what would happen and times I was surprised.

The romance was pretty banal so don't read it for that.  Also, the beginning is a bit trite and she underestimates the reader a bit, but it gets much better.  I am not convinced the reason she tells things easily figured out isn't because she is trying to demonstrate Claudia coming into awareness.  It could've been executed better, but the farther in you read, the better Alexander seems to handle this.

The Aftermath is a story about Claudia but it is also a story about humanity's humanity- keeping it, losing it, faking it. I liked that this was not just a story - but a message.  It makes you think and consider - something YA books often lose track of in their quest to be the next mega-million movie deal.  I appreciated that it was a message other than "government bad", which, to be honest, is officially a pedestrian concept now.

Overall, I think Alexander wrote a good debut novel and I am interested to see how she steps it up for the next book.

October 24, 2014

Blogger Shout-Outs #15 - TONS of good links this week!

This week has been pretty freaking spectacular on the book blogs, my friends!  I found so much good stuff that I just had to stop adding links at one point because I was getting tired. And I didn't do this all in one night!

Not only were the discussion posts plentiful, but so were the reviews!  Great fantastic review work, bloggers!  I give you an honorary medal. Writing reviews is challenging and this week probably didn't make any of us any review-writing happier, so kudos to you all.  You ass-kickers you.

 Tell me! What is your favorite shout-out this week?


1. Kim's review of Without You, There is No Us by Suki Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness.

2. Katie @ Doing Dewey's review of The Woman Who Would Be King by Kara Cooney.

3. Andi's review of Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican.

4. Tif's re-review of The Discovery of Witches, a book I am reading now.

5. Charleen of Cheap Thrill's review of Peter Pan Must Die by John Verdon.

6. The review by Charlene of Bookish Whimsy of Halton Cray by N.B. Roberts, a Jane Eyre-inspired story.

7. Kathy's review of Jean Kwok's Mambo in Chinatown.

8. The This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash review by Tanya M.

9. Mari Read's review of The Barter by Siobhan Adcock.



1. Historical Tapestry featured a great guest post by author Andrea Zuvich called, Why I Love the 17th Century.

2. Mindy @ Magical Urban Fantasy Reads expresses her concern over Hale's actions.

3. Chrisbookarama pokes fun at those like Hale, Rice, and others who think all book bloggers are an Evil Secret Society out to damage authors just for the giggles!  I mean, aren't we also in contract for the movie rights of Mean Girls: The Book Bloggers Version?

4. If you haven't, read Nicole's side of the KH story

5. Jamie @ The Perpetual Book Blog dressed up her 5 Favorite YA Couples for Halloween!  Love it!


6. Wesley @ Library Educated shares Books That Go Bump in the Night on Traveling with T's blog.

7. Parajunkee argues the pros and cons of reviewing DNFs. Where do you stand on the issue?


1. Nonfiction November starts next week.  Check out the books you all voted for for the readalong.  Yes, there will be 2!

2. Sci-Fi November is also taking place @ Oh, the Books! and Rinn Reads.

(I didn't find any new ones this week, so if I missed stuff, tell me in the comments!)


1. Book Hounds has a giveaway hop for 2 Kindles.

2. Stuck in Books has a spotlight and giveaway for The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan by Stephanie Thornton.

3. Giveaway for Delirium by Barbara Scott Emmett on Words and Peace.

4. Spooktacular Giveaway Hop via Rainy Day Ramblings.

5. One of several giveaways @ Passages to the Past this week? Sinful Folk by Ned Hayes.

6. Win a copy of Cancel the Wedding by Carolyn Dingman @ Bermudaonion's Weblog.

7. I found 2 book giveaways @ Luxury Reading - Owning Violet and A Breast Cancer Alphabet.


1. whatsheread
2. Becky R.
3. Sarah's Book Shelves
4. Anita LeBeau
5. Rachel
6. Leah @ Books Speak Volumes
7. Tasha B. 
8. Marie Harris
9. Trisha Dandurand
10. jilllora
11. Bermudaonion (Kathy)
12. Petra
13. Yvonne
14. Mallory @ The Local Muse
15. Shannon @ River City Reading
16. Katherine P.
17. Jennifer Hartling
18. Tanya M. 
19. topazshell5
20. Catherine
21. hillary roberts
22. Trish
23. Leila @ Reader's Oasis
24. Charlene @ Book Whimsy
25. Reviews from a Bookworm
26. Katja
27. Introverted Jen
28. Reading Wench
29. Karen M.
30. Freda Mans
31. Kaitlin Snider
32. Elodie
33. Julie @ Smiling Shelves
34. JoAnn @ Lakeside Musing
35. Shannon
36. Greg Hill
37. Chrissi Reads
38. Fay C.
39. eeyorenyk
40. Charlotte @ Books and Baby
41. Kate Towery
42. Sue Jackson
43. Caitlin @ Books and Window Seats


*I will be thanking the top 6 commenters with some bookish swag at the end of the year!*

1. Bermudaonion (Kathy)
2. Tanya M.
3. Tasha B.
4. Charleen Lynette
5. Emma @ Words and Peace
6. Shannon @ River City Reading

YOU! Could be on this list. So many so close!
Leave comments, win prizes as thanks!