Friday, July 15, 2011

Excellent Reads: Ilene Schneider's "Chanukah Guilt"

After blogging for a little over four months, I can happily say that "Caponomics" has made it for fifty submissions. I have considered throwing some kind of celebration, but then decided to wait until I got to one hundred (which I will probably do by the end of the year). I do want to thank all of my current followers and readers and am looking forward to attracting more followers and readers. As I do each month, I will be picking another "Excellent Read," a book I think that you should go find and read right now. This month, my pick is "Chanukah Guilt," which is the first part of a series. While many mystery novels center around an investigator or a detective, this mystery novel centers around a rabbi. This is something completely different from most literature, but it is executed perfectly. Plus there is nobody better to write this kind of novel than Schneider herself, who was one of the first six women to be named a rabbi in the United States.

Rabbi Aviva Cohen, who lives in the fictional town of Walford, New Jersey (a name inspired by Britain's "EastEnders"), is very much modeled around the author. They look very much alike and have many common interests (mainly birding and gardening). However, Rabbi Cohen has been divorced twice, and one of her former husbands has returned to town in the novel (Schneider is happily married and has two sons). While Rabbi Cohen's life seems to be ordinary and uneventful, things start to change after a funeral from a land developer who was murdered results in what's declared a suicide, but could very well be another murder. Rabbi Cohen begins to become incredibly involved in this incident, and ultimately pulls herself in to a mystery in which there will be no way she can turn back.

This novel is a very light and easy read, and it's excellent. There's a very comfortable feel to this novel that could surely make anybody interested, especially those who are looking for a change in pace. Not only is Rabbi Cohen a strong protagonist and the mystery behind the possible suspects in this whodunit strong, but the supporting cast is also a very strong one. One of these prime examples is Rabbi Cohen's sister, who's wife and her have a son named Josh, who has Asperger's Syndrome, a high-functioning form of Autism in which affects his social interaction, but at the same time releases a field of extreme intelligence. Everything about this novel was excellent.

Ilene Schneider also has a book called "Talk Dirty Yiddish," which is a nonfictional guide about the Yiddish that you usually won't learn in schools. As you can see, her titles are puns on Jewish terms. "Chanukah Guilt" being a play on words for "Chanukah Gelt." I will surely be looking forward to Schneider's next novel, "Unleavened Dead" (a play on words for "Unleavened Bread"), as well as her other works that are in the process of being written, such as "Yom Killer" (play on "Yom Kippur"). 

If you haven't read "Chanukah Guilt" yet, it isn't too late to start. Pick it up, read, enjoy, and join me in the waiting area of new reads as we look forward for the next novel in the series. These steps shouldn't be hard at all.

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