A fairly amusing, sometimes erotic story of contemporary urban Jewish young womanhood.

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Fifty Shades of Schwarz

In Harris’ novel, a young Jewish woman in a dead-end relationship meets a charismatic man who enjoys spanking her.

Although its title suggests a broad, Mel Brooks–style sendup of E.L. James’ erotic romance Fifty Shades of Grey (2011), most of this novel follows a fairly standard chick-lit format: A young woman in a trendy job juggles relationship troubles, family and work. Maya Stein, nearing 30, lives in Brooklyn and works at an Internet advertising agency. Her mother is eager to see her settle down; she knows a nice, single rabbi. Maya’s relationship with her boyfriend, Jeremy, is so lukewarm that she decides to post a profile on JDate, the online Jewish dating service. She hears from Aaron Schwarz, a commercial real estate broker. He owns his own firm, he explains, since he prefers being in charge, which intrigues Maya. Unlike Jeremy, who relies on Groupon discounts when taking Maya out, Aaron treats her to concerts, good restaurants and cab rides home from Manhattan. After Maya and Aaron become intimate, he confesses his real turn-on: tying girls up and spanking them while playing a kind of “Jewish Jeopardy,” asking “questions that would be considered common knowledge to someone who has a reasonable grounding in Judaica.” Wrong guesses earn smacks from Aaron’s belt, then tempestuous sex, which shakes up Maya emotionally as it wows her physically. With questions about dreidels punctuated by whaps, Harris does put a Jewish spin on Fifty Shades of Grey, but calling this novel a parody—an exaggerated, humorous imitation—is a misnomer. If anything, it’s more low-key than the original. Schwarz isn’t the mysterious, cold, distant mogul that Christian Grey is; he’s well-off but not a billionaire, and he’s reasonably, not ridiculously, good looking. Maya, meanwhile, is far more confident, sexually and personally, than the hapless Anastasia Steele; in the end, it’s Maya who offers financial backing to the man of her dreams. A parody it’s not—but readers may indeed prefer these alterations, which make this novel more relatable, funny and perhaps even more feminist than the original Fifty Shades.

A fairly amusing, sometimes erotic story of contemporary urban Jewish young womanhood.

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0989192019

Page Count: 282

Publisher: Fifty Tales Media

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2013

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

GHOSTED

In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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