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My recent reads on a five-star scale. Don't be deceived ... I do not give out stars lightly. I just happened to have liked all these books a great deal. I'm sure I'll trash a title or two in the near future.

Chosen by God by Joshua Hammer -- A stunning, beautiful, heart-rending autobiographical account of a man's struggle with his beloved brother's choice to embrace ultra-orthodoxy. Hypnotic. *****

Boychiks in the Hood - Robert Eisenberg -- I cannot express how much I enjoyed reading this book. Eisenberg, a Yiddish-speaking, non-religious Jew travels through the world's Hasidic communities, encountering ex-hippies seeking Halakhic endorsement of pot, wealthy closet-Hasids who fund Hasidic shtetls, a family of ritual slaughterers, and suspicious non-Hasidic Jews who recite unflattering limericks about their ultra-Orthodox neighbours, among many other quirky, fascinating characters. Eisenberg is a Yiddishe Dorothy in an Orthodox Oz. Don't miss it! *****

The Ritual Bath - Faye Kellerman -- Faye Kellerman has done what no other mystery writer has yet to accomplish ... she has held my attention. At first I thought I liked her books because they centre around Orthodox Rina Lazarus and her paramour Detective Peter Decker (this first title delves into a crime committed at the mikveh, for heaven's sake!), but as I find myself consuming subsequent titles which are not centered so heavily on Judaism, I realize that she is just a darned good writer. For those of you who, like me, read a heck of a lot of non-fiction and need an occasional break, Faye Kellerman is your woman. I'm giving her five stars for taking me out of my drudgery! *****

The Romance Reader - Pearl Abraham -- A young Hasidic girl fights to abide by the strict behavioural codes of her faith. The strange and, I believe, unintentional effect of this novel on me was that it caused me to despise the petulant, nasty, intolerant heroine. I think I was supposed to like her and empathize with her struggle, but she was just a whiney bitch. I thoroughly enjoyed the book though! ****

Stranger in the Midst - Nan Fink -- A lovely and thoroughly honest account of one woman's journey through conversion to Judaism. You'll share her struggles and cheer her on as her faith, her career, her relationships, and her sexuality evolve. Begs a sequel! ****

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