November 2021 Wrap Up

Welcome to my November Wrap-Up! I’ve exceeded my 2021 Goodreads reading goal and discovered some wonderful new authors. If you’ve missed any of my weekly reading lists or reviews, here is your chance to catch up.

It has been a fantastic month of books. I’ve enjoyed some of the best books of the year this month and made progress on my ‘Want to Read’ list over on Goodreads. I’m starting to compile my 2021 top ten list and there are definitely some titles from this month that will be appearing on it.

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Book Reviews


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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Batsheva Hagiz is the daughter of Jewish merchant in the 12th century. A spirited young woman, well educated and skilled in swordplay. Betrothed to a young man, named Akiva, living in the Holy Land, she is kidnapped from the caravan traveling to her wedding. Her captors make a gift of her to a sheik. Batsheva finds her way through the initial shock, fear, and grief, resolving to live her life on her own terms. And so begins an incredible story of determination and courage.

I was hooked within the first ten pages and could hardly put this book down. The story is well-paced and action-packed. Batsheva is a fascinating character, faced with repeated trauma, she maintains an inspiring resilience. I also admired her determination to maintain her Jewish observances and traditions, maintaining this core of herself.

Schwaidelson is a captivating storyteller, with a wonderfully careful attention to historical detail. This book is impeccably researched. I highly recommend this book. It is historical fiction at its best.


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Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fascinating, detailed account of the grassroots movement seeking to assist Russian Jews to escape the former Soviet Union (USSR) over the course of three decades. The movement also sought to ensure freedoms for Jews remaining in the former USSR to maintain their Jewish identity. Pamela Braun Cohen worked tirelessly to coordinate resources in the United States as well as the USSR.

Cohen provides very factual accounts of story after story of the challenges she and her organization faced when doing such incredibly important work, embodying the principle of Tikkun Olam. While the engrossing stories of her work make for captivating reading, it was the impact her work had on her own life, and her faith, I found most interesting in this book. An impactful must-read!

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Devil’s Ivy focuses on a middle-aged Israeli, Amy, who is seeking a new direction in her life after suffering a break-up. She decides to seek guidance in a therapy group led by Yigal. Amy encounters five other participants trying to find their way back to the world after significant relationships in their lives have come to an end.

Rodnitsky crafts a colorful composition with her cast of diverse and quirky characters, in a well-paced, easily relatable story. The mix of religious and secular participants in the group brings in the unique culture of Israel.

Yigal, the leader of the therapy group, is an interesting character. At times charismatic, at times ego-eccentric, and certainly unconventional in his approach as a therapist. He kept me guessing throughout the story.

This was a fun escape and very entertaining. I look forward to more from Rodnitsky!


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Other Books on this Month’s Reading List

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The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

In 1068, the scholar Salomon ben Isaac returns home to Troyes, France, to take over the family winemaking business and embark on a path that will indelibly influence the Jewish world, writing the first Talmud commentary, and secretly teaching Talmud to his daughters.

Joheved, the eldest of his three girls, finds her mind and spirit awakened by religious study, but, knowing the risk, she must keep her passion for learning and prayer hidden. When she becomes betrothed to Meir ben Samuel, she is forced to choose between marital happiness and being true to her love of the Talmud.

Rich in period detail and drama, Joheved is a must read for fans of Tracy Chevalier’s Girl With a Pearl Earring.


In the rugged Pacific Northwest lies the Olympic National Forest – nearly a million acres of impenetrable darkness and impossible beauty. From deep within this old growth forest, a six-year-old girl appears. Speechless and alone, she offers no clue as to her identity, no hint of her past.

Having retreated to her western Washington hometown after a scandal left her career in ruins, child psychiatrist Dr. Julia Cates is determined to free the extraordinary little girl she calls Alice from a prison of unimaginable fear and isolation. To reach her, Julia must discover the truth about Alice’s past – although doing so requires help from Julia’s estranged sister, a local police officer. The shocking facts of Alice’s life test the limits of Julia’s faith and strength, even as she struggles to make a home for Alice – and for herself.

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Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah

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Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family business; the other followed a dream and traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. But when their beloved father falls ill, these two estranged sisters will find themselves together again, standing alongside their disapproving mother, Anya, who even now offers no comfort to her daughters. On his deathbed, their father extracts a promise: Anya will tell her daughters a story; it is one she began years ago and never finished. This time she will tell it all the way to the end.

The tale their mother tells them is unlike anything they’ve heard before—a captivating, mysterious love story that spans more than sixty years and moves from frozen, war-torn Leningrad to modern-day Alaska. Nina’s obsession to uncover the truth will send them all on an unexpected journey into their mother’s past, where they will discover a secret so shocking, it shakes the foundation of their family and changes who they believe they are.

Mesmerizing from beginning to end, Winter Garden is that rarest of novels — at once an epic love story and an intimate portrait of women poised at the crossroads of their lives. Evocative, lyrically written, and ultimately uplifting, it will haunt the listener long after the last word is spoken.

The number one New York Times best-selling author returns to the characters in Firefly Lane in her next blockbuster novel, Fly Away. Once, a long time ago, I walked down a night-darkened road called Firefly Lane, all alone, on the worst night of my life, and I found a kindred spirit. That was our beginning. More than 30 years ago. TullyandKate. You and me against the world. Best friends forever. 

But stories end, don’t they? You lose the people you love and you have to find a way to go on…Tully Hart has always been larger than life, a woman fueled by big dreams and driven by memories of a painful past. She thinks she can overcome anything until her best friend, Kate Ryan, dies. Tully tries to fulfill her deathbed promise to Kate – to be there for Kate’s children – but Tully knows nothing about family or motherhood or taking care of people. Sixteen-year-old Marah Ryan is devastated by her mother’s death. Her father, Johnny, strives to hold the family together, but even with his best efforts, Marah becomes unreachable in her grief. Nothing and no one seems to matter to her…until she falls in love with a young man who makes her smile again and leads her into his dangerous, shadowy world. 

Dorothy Hart – the woman who once called herself Cloud – is at the center of Tully’s tragic past. She repeatedly abandoned her daughter, Tully, as a child, but now she comes back, drawn to her daughter’s side at a time when Tully is most alone. At long last, Dorothy must face her darkest fear: Only by revealing the ugly secrets of her past can she hope to become the mother her daughter needs. 

A single, tragic choice and a middle-of-the-night phone call will bring these women together and set them on a poignant, powerful journey of redemption. Each has lost her way, and they will need each one another – and maybe a miracle – to transform their lives. 

An emotionally complex, heart-wrenching novel about love, motherhood, loss, and new beginnings, Fly Away reminds us that where there is life, there is hope, and where there is love, there is forgiveness. 

Told with her trademark powerful storytelling and illuminating prose, Kristin Hannah reveals why she is one of the most beloved writers of our day. Includes a Reading Group Guide Read by Kristin Hannah 

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Fly Away by Kristin Hannah
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The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

2016 Scout Press trade paperback, Ruth Ware (Death of Mrs. Westaway). In this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare. – Amazon

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The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

Meet the picture-perfect Bird family: pragmatic Meg, dreamy Beth, and towheaded twins Rory and Rhys, one an adventurous troublemaker, the other his slighter, more sensitive counterpart. Their father is a sweet, gangly man, but it’s their beautiful, free-spirited mother Lorelei who spins at the center. In those early years, Lorelei tries to freeze time by filling their simple brick house with precious mementos. Easter egg foils are her favorite. Craft supplies, too. She hangs all of the children’s art, to her husband’s chagrin.

Then one Easter weekend, a tragedy so devastating occurs that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear the family apart. Years pass and the children have become adults, while Lorelei has become the county’s worst hoarder. She has alienated her husband and children and has been living as a recluse. But then something happens that beckons the Bird family back to the house they grew up in—to finally understand the events of that long-ago Easter weekend and to unearth the many secrets hidden within the nooks and crannies of home.

The Orphan’s Daughter is a novel about a girl who grows up in the shadow of her charismatic but troubled father, a man shaped by his boyhood in a Depression-era Jewish orphanage. The two life stories are woven together to form the fabric of this funny and suspenseful work of literary fiction.

Clyde Aronson survives the cruelties of the seemingly bucolic orphanage but is left scarred. Brilliant and self-destructive, a popular high-school teacher and a callous womanizer, he yearns for a son to replace the relationship lost when his father abandoned him. Instead, he fathers two daughters. He resents most the one who most resembles him: the younger, Joanna.

Joanna Aronson is thirty, alienated and living in Southern California when she learns of her father’s puzzling illness. She returns home to Baltimore to help care for him. In the process, the two reconcile; Joanna struggles to come to terms with her own difficult history. Clyde promises to leave Joanna his collected papers, including a secret manuscript written long ago about life in the orphanage.

After Clyde’s death, Joanna’s stepmother inherits the house and all of his possessions. She refuses Joanna any access. Determined, Joanna breaks into the house and steals the manuscript. The stepmother presses charges.

Though fictional, The Orphan’s Daughter is based upon the time, from 1924 to 1934, the author’s father spent in the Hebrew National Orphan Home in Yonkers, New York.

This evocative novel incorporates contemporary feminist themes, Jewish cultural history, and a nostalgic sense of place. By turns wrenching and delightfully humorous, The Orphan’s Daughter is a deft melding of history and psychological drama, a literary page-turner you won’t want to put down.

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The Orphan’s Daughter by Jan Cherubin
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Night Road by Kristin Hannah

For eighteen years, Jude Farraday has put her children’s needs above her own, and it shows—her twins, Mia and Zach, are bright and happy teenagers. When Lexi Baill moves into their small, close-knit community, no one is more welcoming than Jude. Lexi, a former foster child with a dark past, quickly becomes Mia’s best friend. Then Zach falls in love with Lexi and the three become inseparable.

Jude does everything to keep her kids out of harm’s way. But senior year of high school tests them all. It’s a dangerous, explosive season of drinking, driving, parties, and kids who want to let loose. And then on a hot summer’s night, one bad decision is made. In the blink of an eye, the Farraday family will be torn apart and Lexi will lose everything. In the years that follow, each must face the consequences of that single night and find a way to forget…or the courage to forgive.

Vivid, universal, and emotionally complex, Night Road raises profound questions about motherhood, identity, love, and forgiveness. It is a luminous, heartbreaking novel that captures both the exquisite pain of loss and the stunning power of hope. This is Kristin Hannah at her very best, telling an unforgettable story about the longing for family, the resilience of the human heart, and the courage it takes to forgive the people we love.

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The Historians by Cecilia Ekback

It is 1943 and Sweden’s neutrality in the war is under pressure. Laura Dahlgren, the bright, young right-hand of the chief negotiator to Germany, is privy to these tensions, even as she tries to keep her head down in the mounting fray. However, when Laura’s best friend from university, Britta, is discovered murdered in cold blood, Laura is determined to find the killer.

Prior to her death, Britta sent a report on the racial profiling in Scandinavia to the secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jens Regnell. In the middle of negotiating a delicate alliance with Hitler and the Nazis, Jens doesn’t understand why he’s received the report. When the pursuit of Britta’s murderer leads Laura to his door, the two join forces to get at the truth.

But as Jens and Laura attempt to untangle the mysterious circumstance surrounding Britta’s death, they only become more mired in a web of lies and deceit. This trail will lead to a conspiracy that could topple their nation’s identity—a conspiracy some in Sweden will try to keep hidden at any cost.

Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who’s dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life—he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family’s ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden—and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.

A spellbinding standalone from one of the best suspense writers working today, The Witch Elm asks what we become, and what we’re capable of, when we no longer know who we are.

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The Witch Elm by Tana French
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Rashi’s Daughters – Book I: Joheved by Maggie Anton

In 1068, the scholar Salomon ben Isaac returns home to Troyes, France, to take over the family winemaking business and embark on a path that will indelibly influence the Jewish world, writing the first Talmud commentary, and secretly teaching Talmud to his daughters.

Joheved, the eldest of his three girls, finds her mind and spirit awakened by religious study, but, knowing the risk, she must keep her passion for learning and prayer hidden. When she becomes betrothed to Meir ben Samuel, she is forced to choose between marital happiness and being true to her love of the Talmud.

Rich in period detail and drama, Joheved is a must read for fans of Tracy Chevalier’s Girl With a Pearl Earring.

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