Pain Relief by Peri Berger

Pain Relief by Peri Berger is one of those books that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go – not for a long time after you’ve finished it. I was stunned by this one.

pain relief by peri bergerFirst, there’s the unusual subject matter. Yes, it’s a family drama. Yes, there are teenagers with problems involved. And as the cover and title suggest, someone is addicted to drugs.

But – here’s the first shocker – it isn’t one of the kids.

It’s Mom.

Here’s the book’s cover blurb:

Happy marriage, great kids, devoted parents, a flourishing business — Hindy Fishman seems to have it all. No job seems too big for her to tackle, no goal too far to reach. How can a simple fall change all that? Could this really be happening to her? How could someone like her wind up in rehab?

Well.  There are no trite answers here. Just like in real life, Hindy’s going to have to face what got her into this mess, and how her addiction has affected her family.

The author isn’t out to make us feel good, so there are no pat endings here.  Sometimes, when we make mistakes, we cannot unmake them.  We cannot take away the hurt we’ve inflicted on others, no matter how much we wish we could have a do-over.  Sometimes, the best we can do is learn to live with the consequences of what we’ve done.

If that sounds depressing, it’s not – it’s just to say that this isn’t a sappy book that bends reality just to make its readers feel good.  It’s a mature read that grows its characters and treats its readers with respect.

There is much here for adults, spouses, teenagers and parents to take away from this sobering and yet truly hopeful, loving novel.

It was my first introduction to Peri Berger, which is inexcusable, since this book is far from her first, and it was serialized in Hamodia, too.  It took me a while to digest it, but as soon as I could stop thinking about Pain Relief for a few minutes, what did I do but go pick up another Peri Berger novel!

Published by Jerusalem Publications.

We received a review copy of this book.

Purchase here now from Amazon.com.

Peri Berger is also the author of:

The Narrow Bridge by Peri Berger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zero Tolerance by Peri Berger

 

Teens Talk by Malka Katzman

Teens Talk by Malka Katzman is a book about the inner-most secrets of friends you wish you’d had when you were in high school.

Teens Talk by Malka KatzmanIt took a while to be able to review this book, because my teens took it and wouldn’t give it back!

That should tell us all we need to know about it.

The true stories of twenty-two teenage girls are presented in a diary-like format. Each chapter is about a different girl and situation. Teens Talk offers an intimate exploration of the complicated issues young people must grapple with.

There’s the  girl who fears she’s got a terrible illness.

One of the girls, Malka, is leaving behind everything she knows to move to a new country.  Anyone who’s ever moved as a child will relate to what she’s going through.

Another is shocked when she learns why she’s lost her best friend.  What teen doesn’t have bumpy patches with friends?

The issues are the kind that can take over a teen’s entire world.  While learning how each kid faced her challenge, readers are bound to identify with much of what they are going through.

Teens Talk is an opportunity for teenage girls to read about people like themselves.  At this delicate developmental stage, it’s vital for them to see they aren’t alone, even when they have problems and fears that they might not have admitted to their best friend.

There aren’t many books specifically for frum teens, so this is an important contribution for a group of readers that could use a lot more attention.

I’d recommend the book to parents as well. It’s an important reminder of what it is like to be a teenager.  Carefree, it’s not.  Reading this may make us all a bit kinder, a bit more patient and understanding toward those sometimes challenging young people.

From Israel Bookshop Publications.

We received a review copy of this book.

Purchase now from Amazon.com

Uncertain Tomorrows by Miriam Sachs

Uncertain Tomorrows by Miriam Sachs is one of those books that reminds us that behind the calm, quiet exterior of normal people we know may hide giants of extraordinary strength and emuna.

Uncertain Tomorrows  by Miriam SachsI’ve known the author for years. I could never have imagined what she and her family have experienced. (Miriam Sachs is a pseudonym.)

This autobiographical tale follows the author as an eleventh grader, with all the emotional upheavals and social concerns that most normal teenagers have. What she also has, as she juggles school, friendships and teen angst, is a younger brother who passed away, and two sisters who are fighting for their lives. While Miriam’s classmates are planning school events, she’s spending days at the hospital, relieving her parents at her siblings’ bedsides.

Three of Miriam’s siblings were affected by Fanconi Anemia (FA). One died when she was very young, two of them passed away when she was in high school. FA is a genetic disease that causes victims to develop cancer and bone marrow failure. Many of them also have congenital abnormalities of the limbs such as missing or extra fingers, endocrine problems, and sometimes learning disabilities.

The narrative is brutally honest, sometimes chronicling Miriam’s adolescence at its most self-absorbed, sometimes depicting her heroic stretching past her limitations to become “the nice person” she wants to be.

The author mentions that she wrote this memoir for her parents. And truly, they exhibit incredible reservoirs of strength and emuna, as they struggle through the suffering and eventual deaths of three children. Even more eye opening is how, in the midst of all this darkness, they also remarkably parent their “normal” teen as well.

You’ll need tissues for this one and one pack just won’t do. This is not an easy read, but it will linger in your thoughts long after you close the last page.

Published by Menucha.

We received a review copy of this book.

Purchase now from Menucha.  SPECIAL $5.49 SALE PRICE!

A Stranger to My Brothers by Henye Meyer

A well-researched historical coming-of-age novel, A Stranger to My Brothers is a standout book for teens that will appeal just as much to adults.

Stranger to My BrothersAt first glance, author Henye Meyer’s journey through early early Medieval times is a gripping tale of swashbuckling adventure.

The plot has enough drama to keep readers on the edge of their seats, flipping pages late into the night.

But there is far more to this novel.

The details of every day life 11th-century England, a time when paganism still smoldered and Christianity was just taking over, offer a window into a world we rarely get to see.

Martin is an orphaned teen and we get to travel with him through Europe, join the crusades, live through pogroms, walk through Hungary and explore Constantinople in all its Byzantine glory.

Martin’s dream to join the Byzantine emperor’s Varangians guard will introduce readers to groups and events that many history books have left out.

Through myriad little touches – the feel of different grades of woven fabrics, the balance of a well-made sword – Mrs. Meyer brings to life the world our ancestors inhabited.

There is more graphic violence in this book than most frum readers may be used to. Pogroms are violent and Mrs. Meyer doesn’t pretend they are not.

Frightening challenges abound, but the pleasures and human relationships that are not so different from ours today are all there, too.

The latter is where this novel really shines. Its realistic portrayal of an angry teenager is honest and fresh. Martin is an honestly portrayed abused, angry young boy.

He doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder, he’s got a giant boulder. He’s selfish and callous one moment – and then heroically self-sacrificing the next. He’s rude, obnoxious and at times engages in deeply inappropriate behavior.

In other words, he’s a believable peasant teenager who grew up barely knowing he was Jewish. Despite that, Mrs. Meyer manages to make us love him and keep rooting for him, which is in itself really something!

What happens when he meets another Jew is not at all what one expects. The characters around him don’t fit stereotypes – the helping hands most often come from the least likely people. This is no smooth slide into a frum life with an easy happy ever after. Martin’s a tough kid and there are wrenching decisions, disastrous falls and many heartbreaks before he grows into a man and chooses his path.

There are also lots of unexpected flashes of humor and some complex other characters along the way.

Original, exciting, honest and real. Highly recommended for teens over 13 and adults.

A Stranger to My Brothers was previously published as Fall of the Sun God.

Self-published. (See our FAQ on self-published books.)

We received a review copy of this book.

Mrs. Henye Meyer is also the author of:

This Is America

This is America!

(Israel Bookshop Publications)

 

 

crocodile island

The Exiles of Crocodile Island

(ArtScroll Youth)

 

 


adrenaline rush

the humorous thriller, Adrenalin Rush (Menucha Publishers).

 

 

 

Starlight by Henye MeyerStarlight (Menucha Publishers)

 

Starlight by Henye Meyer

Starlight is the new novel from Henye Meyer.

Starlight by Henye MeyerMrs. Meyer is one of those few authors whose range is so wide that each book is a completely different adventure from the others.

While in previous books, she’s taken us to ancient Byzantium (see our review of Stranger to My Brothers) and turn-of-the-century America, this time, we are in Victorian England.

Although the book is written for a much younger audience than the author’s previous novels, the drama never stops. The tale of a young orphan match girl abused by her relatives who have taken her in, then rescued by a wealthy family, and cast out on the street once more, Starlight could have had all the makings of a cardboard cut-out stereotypical story. But in the skillful hands of Mrs. Meyer, it turns into a beautiful – and suspenseful – fairytale.

The author is known for the meticulously researched details of her characters’ time and place that really bring the story to life. It was fascinating to meet Baron Rothschild as a character and learn more about his travels to Eretz Yisrael from a contemporary point of view.

You can almost feel the author’s tongue-in-cheek approach as the Victorian melodrama plays out to its dénouement. Discerning adult readers will probably be smiling, but the story is heartwarming and preteen girls will love it. To be honest – so did I. It was a great read!

Published by Menucha.

We received a review copy of this book.

Purchase now from Menucha.

Mrs. Meyer is also the author of:

crocodile islandThe Exiles of Crocodile Island (ArtScroll Youth)

 

 

 

 

 

This Is AmericaThis is America! (Israel Bookshop Publications)

 

 

 

 

 

adrenaline rushAdrenalin Rush (Menucha Publishers).

 

 

 

 

Stranger to My Brothers

A Stranger to My Brothers (Self Published) and reviewed by us here.

The Miracle Next Door by Yona Yakobovitz and Malka Adler

I spotted The Miracle Next Door on sale for the incredible price of $5.49 (instead of $21!) at the Menucha website today.

Miracle Next Door coverThe is a powerfully inspirational book that has given so much chizuk to so many people around the world.

The true story of a disabled mother of two disabled children, this book is told from two different viewpoints – that of the neighbor who volunteered to help (Malka Adler, also the author of a Second Helping of Sunshine), and the moving, poetical diary entries of Yona Yakobovitz, the first-time mom who after years of davening for a child, suddenly found herself spending years in hospitals at her son’s bedside.

Yona Yakobovitz was disabled by rheumatoid arthritis since the age of 19. After many childless years, she was blessed with a son, Yisrael Meir, who was born with severe Stickler’s syndrome and many physical problems. His problems were so challenging that some doctors even refused to treat the child!

She fought tooth and nail to save her son (who is today a delightful 20 year old young man.) When Yisrael Meir was 8 years old, his brother Eliyahu was born with Down syndrome and a variety of other physical problems.

It’s a tale of incredible hardship – but never a downer.  As the book reminds us, “pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” In every new and difficult twist and turn, this family looked for the positive lessons to be learned.

One striking quote I’ve never forgotten – an excerpt from this mother’s diary, rejoicing upon finding out that her son was finally well enough … to have surgery:

There is one beautiful thing that keeps me hanging on, which is that I feel…I feel like a mom.  We waited so long for him and we worked so hard with him to heal and to be in this world – so busy keeping him alive that the time to just be a mommy was so scarce, so precious.

Amidst all the daily chores and hard work of being a mom, how often do we stop to appreciate that getting to do all that hard work is an amazing privilege?

Interwoven among the chapters is also the story of Tofaah, the first all-woman, Jewish rock band, which is this mom’s other “baby,” and the incredible kiruv work the band does.  There’s even a CD included with the book. (At least there was when the book was published by Targum.)

I’m so glad to see Menucha picked up this book and is making it available once more!

Purchase now from Menucha or used from Amazon.com.

If you’re a fan of the book, or if you buy it now and it touches your heart, please contribute to the fund set up to help this inspirational family.


Lashon Hakodesh: History, Holiness & Hebrew by Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein

Lashon Hakodesh: History, Holiness & Hebrew by Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein is one of the most exciting and intellectually stimulating books I and the other reviewers at Frumjewishbooks.com have read in a long time. Everyone here insisted on having a chance to read it.

Not to be blunt, but you should, too.

lashon hakodesh cover by reuven chaim kleinWe daven in Lashon Hakodesh every single day – but how much do we know about it?

Rabbi Klein takes what seems like a mundane topic – the Hebrew language – and in this ground-breaking work, blasts it open with questions that leave the reader reeling Why didn’t I ever ask that?

Here’s a sampler:

  • What language did Adam speak in Gan Eden? Out of Gan Eden?
  • What language were people speaking before the Tower of Babel?       At Har Sinai?
  • Why was Avraham Avinu called an Ivri? What was the original Hebrew script?
  • Does Lashon Hakodesh borrow from other languages or is it the other way around?
  • Are Arabic and Aramaic separate languages, or just corruptions of Lashon Hakodesh? Does Aramaic have kedusha?

For many of the questions, there are no definite answers. In fact, it’s shocking just how many different opinions and theories there are.

The sefer explores them in depth, occasionally reconciling them, sometimes not. It begins at Creation and moves on through history, contemplating what happened when Eliezer Ben Yehuda met Lashon Hakodesh, exploring how Modern Hebrew fits in, and considers “derivative” languages such as Judeo-Arabic and Yiddish.

Rabbi Klein takes a systematic, academic approach in the presentation of his material, with careful documentation of sources, while remaining firmly grounded in Torah sources. The writing style is clear and accessible. As an added bonus, the book is clearly laid out, with a beautiful cover, which makes the experience of studying it a really joyful experience.

When discussing foreign languages, Rabbi Klein even looks at why the Mishna chose the word afikomen rather than other possibilities.

There’s no doubt this remarkable sefer makes a fantastic afikoman gift for grownups.

 

Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein is currently a fellow at the Kollel of Yeshivas Mir in Jerusalem.

Published by Mosaica Press.

We received a review copy of this book.

Purchase now from Amazon.

 

Vegan Passover Cookbook by Rena Reich

This new vegan passover cookbook is here to answer a basic question: “What are we going to eat on Pesach?”

Who hasvegan passover cookbookn’t heard that question before? Imagine being vegan at Pesach. An Ashkenazi vegan, not a Sephardi vegan. Now what do you eat?

In the Vegan Start Passover Cookbook, Rena Reich answers the question for vegan families with such simplicity and grace that she makes it look easy. Her cookbook provides a Seder menu and enough recipes to see you through Pesach without using any dairy, eggs, fish, meat or kitniyot.

In addition to soups and vegetable salads that are suitable all year around, there are the vegan versions of standard Jewish fare: How do you make a potato kugel without eggs? Rena shows us how. Matzo brei, mock chopped liver and matzo ball recipes ensure vegans can still enjoy a traditional Yom Tov meal.

The main courses include “meatballs” made with mushrooms and walnuts, mushroom burgers and mushroom steaks, ratatouille and gnocchi.

No festive meal is complete without desert. With a collection that includes mouthwatering turtle bars, chocolate truffles, cookies, apple cake, and chocolate torte, there is plenty here for the most discriminating sweet tooth.

The recipes I was most happy to see in this book, however, were for the “extras,” like egg-free mayonnaise, almond butter, almond milk and almond crackers with rosemary.

Some of the recipes include matza meal, as in the kishke and matza meal pancakes.

The Vegan Start Passover Cookbook is laid out clearly, with beautiful photographs and clear, step-by-step recipes. None of the recipes are particularly complicated (although gnocchi, by definition, are a patchke!) and the dishes are simply spiced. If you like your matbucha hot, feel free to add more spices to your heart’s content.

This book proves that even with the restrictions against chametz, kitniyot and animal products such as meat, dairy or eggs, it is still possible to create healthy, appetizing food for Yom Tov.

Rena Reich blogs at Veganstart.com, where she has a treasure trove of recipes for “food not quite like your mama used to make.”

We received a review copy of this e-book.

Self-published.

Purchase now from Amazon.com

vegan passover cookbook

 

 

Patterns in Genesis and Beyond by Rabbi David Sykes

Patterns in Genesis and Beyond by Rabbi David Sykes is a stunning book that turns a familiar intellectual journey into a revelatory one.

Patterns in Genesis - Rabbi David SykesRabbi Sykes likes patterns, especially patterns in Torah. The sefer is devoted to patterns that weave the Torah narrative together through Chumash. It could have been an esoteric endeavor, but part of the magic of this sefer lies in how the information is presented.

The cover copy – and massive 600-page length – suggest an obscure, heavy tome, but the book is anything but that. Outstandingly well-written, the text is so clear and simple that it often lulls the reader into feeling he’s simply reading a retelling of a familiar story. And yet, almost certainly, he will come to the end of each section with a new, breathtaking insight that suddenly seems so obvious.

The patterns Rabbi Sykes uncovers literally left me going oh wow! on many occasions. I would reach the end of a chapter only go back and read it again, nodding as I read, feeling that I was seeing things in a completely new way.

The rewards are not only intellectual. Many of Rabbi Sykes’s insights are spiritual and emotional. For example, the parallels he finds between the shidduch of Yitzchak and Rivka, and that of Moshe Rabbeinu and Tzipporah lead to the teaching that an element of a successful shidduch is performing above-and-beyond acts of chessed for one’s spouse. Through the study of Chumash, the sefer can have an immediate impact right in our daily lives. Time and again, Rabbi Sykes shows how the negatives can, through teshuva and following the correct path, be turned into brachos, thus leaving the reader with a positive, uplifting experience.

As we head into Pesach, I find it profoundly meaningful to review the story of Yosef Hatzaddik. Much of the sefer is devoted to Breishis, but as the words “and Beyond” in the title promise, there are extras, such as a chapters about David Hamelech and Batsheva, Moshe Rabbenu, Yocheved and Miriam, the concubine of Gibea, and a fascinating discussion of water and the Exodus.

From the cover:

In his Book of Psalms (19:8), King David declares: “God’s Torah is whole.” These words have been the guiding light for this book’s approach to the interpretation of the Torah. In this work, verbal and thematic links between Biblical accounts, especially in the Book of Genesis, are noted and expounded upon, and are shown to be present in a consistent and systematic way. These connections also combine to form a network of patterns, an integrated whole. Throughout the millennia, many commentators have pointed out such connections; in this work, their observations are adduced and built upon. The uncovering of patterns in the Torah has no end, as the holy Torah is of infinite depth.

When I reached the end of the sefer, my first thought was: Is there another volume to look forward to?

According to the forward by Rabbi Menachem Davis, Rabbi Sykes has been perfecting Patterns in Genesis for thirty-six years. Interesting that it took that long for the hidden lights illuminated by his work to be revealed. It would be worth waiting another thirty-six years for another volume. But in the meantime, there is plenty, plenty to discover and delve into here.

Much of this sefer formed the basis of Rabbi Dr. Sykes’s PhD thesis at Yeshiva University. Since then, Rabbi Sykes has moved to Monroe, New York, where he is a certified life coach and Torah teacher.

You can listen to Rabbi Sykes being interviewed about his sefer here.

Self-published.

We received a review copy of this book.

Purchase now from Amazon.

Children’s Haggadah: Let’s Go Free with Miri & Tzvi

Let’s Go Free With Miri & Tzvi by Devorah Benedict is a new children’s Haggadah. It includes illustrations based on Torah, Midrash and commentaries to help children experience the journey from slavery to redemption.

Children haggadah Let's Go Free

From the cover:

Join Miri and Tzvi for an up-close look at the trials and miracles experienced by our ancestors in

Egypt. Forty-eight full-color illustrations, drawn according to the Torah, Midrash, and their commentaries, come together with the beautifully arranged, fully translated Haggadah text to bring alive the Passover story of the exodus. Complete with annotated sources and a fun “hiding” chameleon, this Haggadah will keep children involved throughout the whole Seder night from — and will help them feel as if they themselves are going out of Egypt!

Published by Feldheim.

Purchase now from Feldheim or from Amazon.