A very #blogmas #SaturdaysAreBookish | “Merry Hanukkah” by Debby Caruso

Posted Saturday, 22 December, 2018 by jorielov , , 2 Comments

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In keeping with the change of name for my Romance & Women’s Fiction Twitter chat [@SatBookChat previously known as @ChocLitSaturday] – I am announcing a change of features here on Jorie Loves A Story. Since January, 2014 I carved out a niche of focus which I named #ChocLitSaturdays as I have felt the best time to read romantic and dramatic stories are the weekends. This spun into a Twitter chat featuring the authors of ChocLit whilst I supplied weekly topics which would appeal to readers, writers and book bloggers alike. We grew into our own Saturday tribe of chatters – then, somewhere round the time of my father’s stroke in late [2016] and the forthcoming year of [2017] I started to feel less inspired to host the chat.

I had new plans to re-invent the chat in its new incantation as @SatBookChat but I also wanted to re-invent the complimentary showcases on my blog which would reflect the diversity of stories, authors and publishers I would be featuring on the chat itself. As at the root and heart of #ChocLitSaturday the chat were the stories I was reading which complimented the conversations.

After a difficult year for [personal health & wellness] this 2018, I began anew this Autumn – selecting the stories to resume where I left off featuring the Romance & Women’s Fiction authors I am discovering to read whilst highlighting a story by the author I am chatting with during #SatBookChat. Every (forthcoming) Saturday will feature a different author who writes either Romance or Women’s Fiction – wherein I concluded the year of hosting @SatBook during October & November featuring special guest authors whose stories I have either read, were reading or had hoped to read in the future if their newer releases. Going forward, the reviews on Saturdays might inspire the topics in the forthcoming chats or they might be directly connected to the current guest author.

Our holiday break for the month of December will find us resuming #SatBookChat the week after New Year’s, 2019 where new guests and new stories will lay down the foundation of inspiring the topics, the conversations and the bookish recommendations towards promoting Romance & Women’s Fiction.

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Acquired Book By: I was approached about reading this holiday-themed Women’s Fiction story shortly before the holidays began. The author found me on Twitter and I thought it would be lovely to combine reading this story with my holiday themed Cosy Mysteries – except that is before I fell ill this December and all my holiday readings were pushed forward closer to Christmas. I received a complimentary copy of “Merry Hanukkah” direct from the author Debby Caruso in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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On why this story works & why it befits reading at the holidays:

I truly was looking forward to my holiday readings this year – especially as I had the chance to read #newtomeauthors and feature a Women’s Fiction writ for the holidays – it felt like a cosy comforting reading binge this month, except that instead of spending most of the month tucked into holiday stories, I’ve been trying to battle my way through a bad Winter virus! I finally reached the point where I had to step away from books, my blog and everything inter-related to them as I was miserably down and out with one of the worst Winter illnesses I’ve had in recent years!

Late on Saturday night, I finally was able to reach a point where my lungs were giving me a rest to where I could breathe a bit easier than I have in days, allowing me the joy of picking up a story to read and finally, at long last start to make a bit of progress towards my readings into festive and bright story-lines! I wanted to read a mixture of stories this year – which is why I am delighted I can start with a light-hearted Women’s Fiction about blending holiday traditions and celebrations before I move into a lovely batch of Cosy Mysteries all uniquely themed for Christmas.

I personally love the holiday season – it is a festive way of becoming introduced to new traditions and new ways to celebrate, as well as to observe the reason why we’re all united together during the same time of the year. Having a story that seeks to merge the joy of two of the most infamous holidays in December felt like a good way to kick things off this year, as a lot of families struggle to find balance when their sorting out what do for both Christmas and Hanukkah without losing the meaning and purpose behind both traditional holidays.

I think this is a story that works well for this time of year – as it is a conversation about family, religion and heritage. Of finding what works for you as an individual as well as trying to merge new traditions into a new family where both sides need to feel comfortable in merging their back-histories together as a new bridge towards celebrating what they share in common and observing holidays in a way that unites the new path they are taking together.

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A very #blogmas #SaturdaysAreBookish | “Merry Hanukkah” by Debby CarusoMerry Hanukkah
by Debby Caruso
Source: Direct from Author

Meet Rhonda, a semi-neurotic ad agent and Christmas fanatic, who decides she's going to make a fabulous Hanukkah celeration for her new husband James and his family.

In the midst of trying to create the perfect day, Rhonda meets with various roadblocks: a hostile mother-in-law who takes the joy out of any day, recipes she can't seem to master, a looming work deadline that's sure to do her in, as well as an intrinsic belief that somehow the holidays are about something more... and that the "perfect" day isn't always what it seems.

Merry Hanukkah is for all those celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas, and for the Holiday Junkie in all of us. It's a hilarious journey revealling the truth of what we value the most: faith, family, friendship and love.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-1732519008

Genres: Christmas Story &/or Christmas Romance, Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Women's Fiction


Published by Self Published Author

on 22nd August, 2018

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 132

Self-Published Author

Converse via: #SaturdaysAreBookish + #WomensFiction or #HolidayStory

Available Formats: Paperback and Ebook

About Debby Caruso

Debby Caruso is a Native New Yorker who is also a proud Italian-American. She is the creator of novels, screenplays, short stories, poems, and no less than a million grocery lists. She can be found drinking vanilla tea or white wine on a fairly regular basis.

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my review of merry hanukkah:

We enter Rhonda’s life at her wedding – where despite the festive nature of the day, there is a foreboding undercurrent of doubt in regards to whether or not her in-laws truly accept her as they’re daughter-in-law; as an ill-fated scene played out at the height of the celebrations. You could gather there was something brewing in the background – perhaps, the in-laws weren’t certain of their son’s choice due to the combining of their religious backgrounds? As the ceremony was delightfully equally divided between both their traditions, uniting them both through love and the faith they shared between them. Yet, I could imagine this might not settle well for traditionalists who might prefer the ceremony had been singular rather than plural and spilt.

It is here where you see how Rhonda is trying to balance her life through the holidays – as we fast forward a bit to where she’s bursting with anxiety about how to combine Christmas and Hanukkah – or rather, to come up with a crazy plan of action with her best friend Dez (whose never out of zingers and zany remarks!) as this is the year she wants to prove to her mother-in-law she and James can have a happily ever after as a family who celebrates both religious heritages. The irony though is that she is approaching it as if she needs to make it the picture perfect reality she envisions rather than trying to keep it a bit more real and humble, knowing not everything has to go smoothly in order to be the best holiday you’ve celebrated.

Before Rhonda can make her plans though, life starts to grab her at the quick! Her agency wants her to be part of the team who can deliver an ad campaign worthy of a New Year and her husband’s family goes through the process of loss before the holidays even start to blink into sight. It proves that no matter how hard you try to organise your life, there are days and moments you can’t plan for ahead of time. Life finds a way to unsettle your status quo and take you for a bit of a ride whenever things seem to be a bit on the quiet side.

It doesn’t take long to size up where her mother-in-law stands on the issue of religion but you have to feel for James, as it didn’t seem to be as important to him that Rhonda came from a different background in faith than he had himself. Dez is Rhonda’s buffer – the best buddy to have as she knows how to charm her friend into a smile or a laugh, especially at moments where Rhonda is feeling super stressed and unable to focus. Whereas the large family Rhonda has married into has a few kind souls in it as well – such as Uncle Ben, who has the tendency of being the mediator of the family. He wants everyone to play fair and be kind to each other – not that they usually listen to him until a moment where everyone is at their wit’s end but at least, he’s there in the background trying to keep the peace.

You gather the feeling Rhonda doesn’t feel as comfortable being James’ family as she is never quite certain where they stand on the issue of a wife being outside their religion. It is almost like a wedge that has grown between the two families but no one wants to vocalise, address or do anything about except to talk about it in low whispers or in conversations just out of reach of ears who could take offence to the chatter about which religion is best to keep or dismiss. It has to be difficult though – especially if one side of the family is not lenient on these kinds of issues or if they aren’t open to multi-religious families.

I was laughing by the time Rhonda was in full-on Hanukkah planning mode! Not only is she trying to outdo herself by preparing the foods from scratch but what really had me smiling was when she knew more about Hanukkah traditions than James! It was comforting actually because it seems like this has the tendency of being true – of my own friends who celebrated Hanukkah, whenever we would discuss our different traditions between Christmas and Hanukkah, I had more memories of both celebrations than they had of theirs. I never truly understood that in a lot of ways, as I have met with people who love Hanukkah and have a lot of rituals and traditions attached to it as much as we do with how we celebrate Christmas; so for me, it seemed strange finding some families do not focus on Hanukkah as much as others. For those reasons, this whole sequence of Rhonda and James discussing how to have Hanukkah was really a hilarious reminder that not everyone views all holidays the same!

As we continue to observe Rhonda setting into her new role as James’ wife and the caretaker of her new family’s holiday plans, we start to see how she is not just attempting to revive the celebrations of their pasts but to find a new way forward with where they are now as an extended family. She doesn’t get everything right and there are moments where you almost think everyone is overreacting to the details that aren’t as important as the others. Yet, what you have is a family filled of quirky personalities, where life is a bit messy and where the holidays attempt to bring out the better part of themselves.

In the end, you have a resolution that brings the whole story back to centre, of how this is about family first and foremost; especially in regards to understanding why people react and interact the ways in which they do and why the holidays are not always the most joyful time of the year for everyone who tries to celebrate them. At the heart of the story, Caruso also tries to show how you can remain inclusive and present with the traditions that might be a step outside your own but where if you have an open mind, you can find a way to embrace them with the joyfulness they are meant to be received.

The only criticism truly I had:

There is always a heap of food at the holidays, yet rather than getting to hear about the traditional foods being set out for Jewish celebrations or for other events that are taking place in this story, Caruso leans on a general term to explain the foods without actually saying what they are – to such a repetitive nature that I started hungering for the food! I love when writers get descriptive about food in stories – it brings out the Foodie in me and being one who loves to explore new foods and bakery delights, it is a pleasure of joy to find food in narratives as it enlarges what we understand about food and how food is interconnected to life and festive occasions. I just felt this was a shortcut that didn’t need to be taken.

on the contemporary writing styling of debby caruso:

As soon as you pick up Merry Hanukkah, you know your in for a delightful fun read – as Caruso has a natural talent for humour and wit; lacing in her style of Contemporary life with the fuell of comedy she evokes a sense of festive cheerfulness in her story. This isn’t a story to take too seriously as at the heart of the story itself is the truer blissitude and purpose behind why we all celebrate the holidays together as best we can as we merge our families together. Not all families can agree on the details but for those of us who celebrated the holidays whilst combining traditions and memories, those were the holidays you remember the most. Where everyone found a way to come together uniting through the blessing of the season and finding a reason to celebrate the joyfulness of being together.

This is what you can pick up on whilst reading the story – as Caruso wants to show how even if you have a family at odds with one another on certain points, there is renewed hope in being able to come together for the special moments in life which unite us without having to worry about all the little particulars that no one will remember anyway!

Caruso has a quick style – similar to writing for screen where she places you in-scene rather immediately and lets each individual scene speak for itself. As you shift between the chapters, you notice her style as you don’t wait long for embellishments on the previous disclosure and sequences, as you’ve found the plot has already moved forward. This works well for a short Holiday Contemporary like this one, as the pacing is matching the rush you feel at the holidays where there is never enough time to get everything accomplished you wish to get done.

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This book review is courtesy of the author:

Debby Caruso

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 I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Do you enjoy reading holiday stories like this one or others like it? Which ones stand out to you over the years that bring families & the holidays together in the central thread of plot?

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This review is cross-posted to LibraryThing.

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “Merry Hanukkah”, book synopsis and author biography were all provided by Debby Caruso and used with permission. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: #SaturdaysAreBookish bannner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2018.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Saturday, 22 December, 2018 by jorielov in #SaturdaysAreBookish, 21st Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Christianity, Christmas Romance &/or Holiday Story, Contemporary Romance, Equality In Literature, Family Drama, Family Life, Honeymoons & Weddings, Indie Author, Judiasm, Modern Day, Romance Fiction, Women's Fiction, World Religions




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2 responses to “A very #blogmas #SaturdaysAreBookish | “Merry Hanukkah” by Debby Caruso

    • Hallo, Hallo Ms Steele,

      It really was delightful – you get lost inside the story-line and the beauty of it is if you have seen other stories like this – not just in novel format but in film? Such as My Big Fat Greek Wedding you are fully prepared to take this journey, too! I loved the religious traditions were blended and how important it was for them to be observed. It shows a lot about tolerance and acceptance for our differences but also, of the things that keep us united as families. Not to mention all the little things that can drive us apart if we allow them too. I even appreciated the segues about how what some people think are the ‘important’ things, others might not view them the same way. That has to do with perspective – from one religious background to another and how sometimes even in the confusing blur of trying to blend families together, you find love and hope and togetherness.

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