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27 August 2009

Rashi's Daughters, Book III: Rachel

The historical fiction series about Rashi - one of the most famous rabbis of all time - by Maggie Anton concludes with Rashi's Daughters Book III: Rachel.

Beginning in 1091, this third volume continues the story of Rashi - a French rabbi who taught his daughters Talmud. His youngest daughter, Rachel, is married to Elizer.

Elizer wants to move his family to Spain where he spend much of the year on business. Rachel wants to stay in France with the rest of her family. She is working on a business plan that will allow Elizer to remain in Troyes all year. After the Crusades begin and much most of the yeshivas in Europe are ruined, Rachel is more convinced to stay with her father and help him on his commentary of the Mishnah - a commentary that will help Judaism survive and become what is it today.

Anton captures the feel of his historic time and weaves the lives of all of her characters seamlessly into a compelling story, including adventure, romance, and Torah study. This series is a must-read for anyone interested in Judaism, Torah or history. I only wish Rashi had had more daughters so the series could continue!

Anton, Maggie. (2009). Rashi's Daughters, Book III: Rachel. New York: Plume Books.

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The Plain Janes

The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci, illustrated by Jim Rugg, is the story of the cool kids at school.

When Jane's parents move her to the middle of nowhere after she survive a bombing, she doesn't want to be the same oblivious teen she was before. She cuts her hair, remakes herself and ignores the popular kids for the table of outcasts.

Each of the three outcasts is also named Jane (or Jayne). Jane (the main character) has an idea to create a statement. She forms the P.L.A.I.N - People Loving Art in Neighborhoods - and convinces the other Janes to join her.

Soon the town is calling P.L.A.I.N. art exhibits "attacks" and the Janes hare in danger of being arrested.

This graphic novel is a refreshing look at self-expression in a positive way that can affect a whole community. It also started a new imprint at DC Comics - for teen girls. Look for the sequel: Janes in Love.

Castellucci, Cecil. (2007). The Plain Janes. New York: Minx Comics.

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11 August 2009

Shall We Tell the President?

Shall We Tell The President? by Jeffrey Archer is a political thriller. Written in 1977, this book does not quite hold up to the passage of time, but is still an enjoyable FBI story.

Florentyna Kane is the first female president of the U.S. She became president after the former president was killed. After her reelection her major policy goal is to pass a gun control bill.

The gun lobby - including the NRA and gun manufacturers - is not happy about her attempt. But one group plans to take it a step farther. They will assassinate the president on her way to a special session of Congress where she argues for her bill.

Special Agent Mark Andrews stumbles across the plot involving a U.S. senator. But out of the 100 senators he must narrow the possible choices down to one in a matter of 7 days. He knows the date, but doesn't know the reason behind the assassination attempt or where it will be carried out.

Archer, Jeffery. (1977). Shall We Tell The President? New York: St. Martin's Press.

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10 August 2009

The Way the Crow Flies

The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald is about decisions and the consequences of those decisions.

Madeleine McCarthy is 9 in 1963 when her family moves back to Canada from West Germany. Her father is in the Royal Canadian Air Force and has just been posted to the station at Centralia, MOD (middle of nowhere).

Madeleine enters grade four as her father agrees to do a favor for his former flight instructor - who is now rumored to be in intelligence work. His decision to help out changes the course of his life along with that of his family and neighbors.

Inspired by a murder that took over the media in Canada in 1963 and is still talked about today, MacDonald looks at the life of one young girl who grows up in the Cold War and how she is affected by major events in her child hood. The section of the book that deals with her adult life is as fragmented as her thinking at the time, until she can come to terms with her past.

Ann-Marie MacDonald is an incredible writer. Her books feel like instant classics exploring subjects that will always affect people regardless of the time period. Her subjects are raw and realistic so they are sometimes painful to read, but her talent in storytelling keeps readers going through any subject.

MacDonald, Ann-Marie. (2004). The Way the Crow Flies. New York: Harper Perennial.

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02 August 2009

Swordspoint (Swords of Riverside)

Swordspoint is the novel that began the Swords of Riverside series by Ellen Kushner. (Each book takes place approximately 20 years apart.)

In the center of the city is a neighborhood called Riverside, located on an island between the two rivers. It was once coveted real estate but now even the Watch will not go there - it is run by thieves and ruffians. The higher classes may venture over the bridge to the nearest tavern when they want a thrill, but they would not make it much farther without being harassed.

Richard St. Vier is quickly becoming a legend as a swordsman. Nobles, who run the city, are starting to hire him to defend their honor in a complicated system of duels. But with fighting for the higher class comes the politics of their rank - something St. Vier never had to deal with before. Luckily, his lover, an ex-scholar, knows of some of the rules that nobles live by.

Together Richard and Alec are a force to be reckoned with in this swashbuckling tale of the sword. Kushner has created a world with vague similarities to old London that is ripe with colorful characters and dangerous plots.

Kushner, Ellen. (1987). Swordspoint. New York: Bantam Spectra Books.

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