A #SatBookChat Book Review | “Happy Everything” (Merry Hanukkah series, Book Two) by Debby Caruso

Posted Friday, 12 June, 2020 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: In 2018, I was approached by the author to read the first story in her Merry Hanukkah series – whilst in 2019, I had the delightful joy of having her as a featured guest during my @SatBookChat! I naturally was curious about the sequel and when she offered to send me “Happy Everything” I felt it was a fitting way to begin my New Year reading the sequel and kicking off my #SaturdaysAreBookish featured reviews.

Except to say, it took me until #IndieApril to find the focus I needed to re-absorb myself back into this lovely series – as the first bits of the New Year did not quite pan out the way I had intended them too! By sharing this review during April, I was hoping to re-highlight how much I enjoy hosting my #SatBookChat authors whilst also noting that I am a champion for #IndieAuthors both on my blog Jorie Loves A Story and through my @SatBookChat showcases.

I had the best of plans to run this during #IndieApril – however, a migraine and seasonal pollen allergies interfered and I had to bump this showcase forward to a weekend where I was free of both! I find May the hardest month to transition through for my pollen allergies and thus, this review kept getting bumped forward until now, finally in JUNE I can share it at long last! It also kicks off a new sequence of #SatBookChat Reviews wherein I am reading and reviewing my @SatBookChat backlogue!

I received a complimentary copy of “Happy Everything” 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 what I enjoyed about “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.

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.

-quoted from my book review for Merry Hanukkah

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A #SatBookChat Book Review | “Happy Everything” (Merry Hanukkah series, Book Two) by Debby CarusoHappy Everything
by Debby Caruso
Source: Direct from Author

Happy Everything is the ongoing story of Rhonda and James, following them from Merry Hanukkah directly into the much anticipated second installment in the Merry Hanukkah series.

Everyone’s favorite newlyweds have settled into married life, but now it’s Dez and Jack’s turn to make it official. In typical Rhonda fashion, she’s determined to give her best friend Dez the best bridal shower ever, all while juggling yet another work crisis and still trying desperately to fit in to her new family situation. Unfortunately, Aunt Bunny is diagnosed with cancer, and the entire family starts coming apart at the seams. Rhonda and James step in to help support Uncle Ben any way they can, but it’s never enough for Rhonda’s incorrigible mother-in-law, Vivian. Will Vivian’s constant meddling finally cause Rhonda and James irreparable damage? Is there any way that Rhonda can pull the family together by hosting both Passover and Easter on the same weekend?

Why is Rhonda’s Dad suddenly dating someone much younger than him? And how can Rhonda come up with a new and exciting way to sell protein bars?

Follow Rhonda into this new chapter of her life, where success hinges on the latest and greatest ad campaign, and her personal triumphs are determined by how much she can do for others. Journey with her as she begins to slowly realize that she can’t be all things to all people; even the ones you love the most.

Genres: Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Contemporary Romance, Romantic Comedy (Rom Com), Women's Fiction

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-1732519022

Also by this author: Merry Hanukkah, Ghastly and Good

Also in this series: Merry Hanukkah, Ghastly and Good

Published by Self Published

on 13th September, 2019

Format: POD | Print On Demand Paperback

Pages: 182

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The Merry Hanukkah series:

Merry Hanukkah by Debby CarusoHappy Everything by Debby Caruso

Merry Hanukkah (book one) | see also Review

Happy Everything (book two)

Converse via: #SaturdaysAreBookish + #WomensFiction or #RomCom

Available Formats: Paperback and Ebook

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my review of happy everything:

Happy Everything begins on a strong note – where you get to re-align into Rhonda’s life at a point in time where her best friend Dez is in need of support as she’s going through a bit of a trying time sorting out her wedding plans whilst dealing with the drama surrounding her mother. Rhonda has her own share of in-law issues stemming from James having a Mum whose a bit more overbearing than you’d think you’d welcome giving her credit! James for his bit doesn’t always give out information Rhonda needs but loves to be with her and put her first whenever their together. You can see this as they were meeting up for drinks and dinner; how he wants to simply focus on their alone time and be fully present in that moment.

I had to smirk and laugh – the ad campaign about protein bars just ribbed my funnybone as I had to agree with Rhonda & Dez – what can be said about a chewy nothingness in your mouth that doesn’t cajole you into wanting to eat it for pleasure but insists on being a ‘healthy alternative to a regrettable second choice which you impulse purchase?’ However this didn’t seem nearly as compounding in angst as sorting out why James received a call from his Mum asking for them to join her for a meeting which never had to be ‘scheduled’ previously? There they were having a bit of a snuggle as a couple and her phone call even had to shrill its sound into their romance striking not only the mood to be dead on arrival but it also chucked their evening plans with Dez. On the flip of it though, I had to admit with Rhonda, Dez would understand the switch-up and would definitely be game to hear the details lateron! Laughs. This is one reason I think Rhonda can maintain her sanity – with James and Dez in her corner, she can combat her Mum-in-law quite well!

Generally, as a rule – I shy away from terminal illness storylines – however, being this is a #MerryHanukkah series installment and the fact, I hadn’t picked up on the fact Aunt Bunny was going to have a medical crisis prior to accepting this for review consideration – I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised by how well Caruso handled the segue of focus about Aunt Bunny but also, how the illness itself was not the sole focus of the story. Partially of course, because Rhonda herself has a bit of a key issue in not understanding that she really doesn’t have a knack as playing ‘hostess’ to her family’s wildly infamous holiday get togethers – wherein she attempts the impossible and showcases reasons why you shouldn’t enter into holiday hosting ‘lightly’.

I had a feeling as soon as I read what was motivating Rhonda to tackle hosting an epic Passover celebration – I was going to be soon in for a romp of a delight in finding out how much this new endeavour was going to stress her out and how much enduring heart it would take for her family to forgive her for attempting it! She truly had a right kind of heart for these things but its how she executes her plans and how those plans ended up being seen from others is what runs her into some pickles along the way. Those are the moments you live for in this series – as that is what endears you the most to Rhonda!

I love how her whole office is beside themselves over the protein bars – how they feel more vexed to have the account than tackling the curious nightmare in how to promote them! The company kept sending them samples too – which you’d think would be helpful but I had a feeling this was one of those kinds of companies who was trying to overcompensate for not having a product everyone would rally behind by giving out enough freebies to where people might overlook the fact they don’t necessarily enjoy eating their product? Either that – or someone needs to life hack what to do with disagreeable protein bars and turn them into something similar to Rhonda’s family’s candied brownies!

Caruso also spends a wonderful amount of time tucking you closer into Rhonda’s marriage – how she feels as distant as her husband does to the celebratory coupling moments they loved sharing – wherein once life starts to pick up its pacing after you’ve dated and married, those more intimate and special moments can feel as if they’ve gone by the wayside. You can feel how much he misses their romance – the little nuanced moments they used to share vs how rushed they feel now going to family meetings and doing what they might consider out of duty for friends and family alike. In essence, reality has truly hit and hit hard as these two try to navigate their ‘new world’ as a married couple who barely have enough time to spend on each other. It drives home the realism once the afterglow of the honeymoon stage waxes off and the truer moments of marriage are observed with a humbled honesty only Caruso can tell.

One new character I liked as much as Rhonda was Diana – she seemed like the kind of person who could consistently surprise people for how much she understands about this dynamic family and how to show a different side to a person even Rhonda felt she knew everything about. It just shows you that sometimes you can have the complete wrong impression about someone until a new person shows up and starts to show you a new side of their personality which had remain hidden until now! Diana is a charming character who has a tough-as-nails job to do but one that is truly important in a world where not everyone cares about their companions in fur, feather or scales.

If I could have transported myself into Mimosa alongside Rhonda, her and I would have spilt a second salted caramel brownie!! Sometimes you just have to go with what soothes your soul and in that moment, where Rhonda knew the best response was to show kindness and grace, the better part of her mind knew that if she didn’t comfort herself with some much needed chocolate, she might have spoken out of turn which would have done nothing to savage the lunch. It was the kind of scene you’d find yourself living inside but without the right set of reactions – I agreed with Rhonda about how her father blindsided her with news and the kind of news that he seemed to have taken in stride – expecting her to do the same and let nothing be said about it either. I felt that was a bit over the top as how could Rhonda not have a reaction? She played her cards well!

Caruso allows Rhonda to show the portions of herself and her emotional internal life that might not always be disclosed in other stories. The ways in which she lets the reader see Rhonda’s heightened emotional states and reactions to different life moments in the heat of Rhonda being unable to sort through them properly and chooses to explode instead. Seeing how she becomes vocal and then remorseful – how she uses exercise to find a centre of calm and how like for most of us in those instances, nothing truly changes immediately after an experience like that but we each know of a route to find our balance and re-centre ourselves to continue moving forward. I liked how Caruso showed this area of Rhonda’s life and how emotionally Rhonda was at her tipping point.

All the years I watched Bewitched – I was quite amazed at how Darrin and Larry Tate could constantly come up with different ad campaigns and not feel that they were stagnant in their creativity. The same was true when I watched a sleeper of a romantic comedy Picture Perfect which was more about how live your best life than how to grow your reach at an ad agency; though the two paths did eventually merge into one of my favourite Jennifer Aniston monologues! The point is though as I was reading about the woes of producing content and keeping a creative edge on how you promote companies through advertising their products (via a la Rhonda and Dez) – it gives you a fresh prospective on how hard it is to nail that line each and every time. Especially considering the crowded market, the short attention span of consumers and the tricky bit of mass appeal on whatever you design and send to said market. I liked the internal purview of this lifestyle as Caruso has portrayed it – even if I am apparently in the minority of loving Almond JOY? Seriously – bring on the coconuts! From water, to shakes to acai bowls to candy bars!

The cluttered mind Rhonda is feeling is one I can personally relate too. You have so many balls to juggle day in and day out, sometimes you wonder how you keep them all in the air! And, of course, this is another film reference as it originally is a metaphor I have been using since I felt inspired by a sequence of dialogue in one of my favourite George Clooney movies One Fine Day! Rhonda is expertly seen struggling to keep pace with herself, with her thoughts, processing her feelings and that overwhelming feeling your just not cutting it. Not in life, not in romance and definitely not professionally either. She feels like she’s behind the eight ball and she hasn’t even tried to stand still long enough not to feel like she’s spinning. She’s in a crisis and as you’re reading how she’s reacting to that realisation you know something is going to hit the fan. It has too – you cannot maintain that laser focus perpetually without getting burnt out or emotionally dissolving into a watery pool of release.

Laughs with mirth. #SoMuchTruth! When Rhonda and Dez were commiserating over coffee and talking about how warm and comforting a latte (or choose your own drink; this is mine) can be when your super stressed past your max, all I could think of is why didn’t they call me? I’d join them in an instant! Ha. Seriously though – even during the new age of social distancing it is quite lovely to pull into a drive-thru grab a latte (or in more instances lately for myself a quad-creamed decaf) or a chai latte and simply let the aroma, the taste and the moment ease away your tensions. Seriously like I said #SoMuchTruth! Rock on, Caruso!

I hear you Rhonda – for the past two months since lockdown orders were given I’ve fallen back in love with baking and cooking seasonally by what our local farmer’s market can bring in to us in the community. Banana bread with chocolate and walnuts or chocolate and dates has been a big hit as much as the zucchini bread with chocolate or dates! I’ve also fallen in love with making rice (as who knew an InstaPot Rice and Grain cooker simplifies your life so much?), oatmeal (because its not just for breakfast anymore – its for cookies!) and quinoa. The new grill pan I have from Curtis Stone brought back pancakes, toasted cheese and zucchini cakes – seriously, I’m finding Zen in cookery delights. This is why I understood why Rhonda liked feeling that she could still take care of her family but in a way that was not self-destructive to her own well-being. We all need that reminder. Even if you’re a caregiver in your family and need the nudge to know that its okay to quit the laundry for a day and focus on something else instead. Or browse your fridge and cupboards and start baking again! Laughs.

Through everything Rhonda and Dez rise to the occasion. Their lives are chaotic and sometimes they have family members who drive their very last nerve out of their bones but overall, they share a sisterhood friendship with has such a strong bond that nothing can shatter it. Not even all the little fires which creep up in our lives which seek to cut us down to the quick. I love how Caruso shows through faith, family and friendship you can tackle anything which crosses your path in life but without the addition of humour, coffee and some wicked sweet Italian foods – you might not get through it quite as well as those who do!

I love this series – I am hoping for a third if not fourth installment – as I can’t leave this family where we last find them. Plus, I was so overjoyed I could handle the journey through Cancer with Aunt Bunny as that is one of my issues with most Contemporaries which feature the illness; either the details or the descriptions weigh heavy on my heart. Caruso thankfully focused on other bits of her journey and mostly focused on the recovery and bolstering of having loved ones have your back when a medical crisis arises. Best of all though is the comfortable pace and the realistic marriage you get to tuck inside between Rhonda and James. Theirs is a marriage which is equally strong to Kay Hunter and Adam (from the Kay Hunter series by Rachael Amphlett). You truly will find yourself snorting into laughter, getting emotional about the tides which keep turning and eager to get to the conclusion to find out if Rhonda can breathe a bit easier again!

on the contemporary writing styling of debby caruso:

Ms Caruso goes straight into the dialogue and social settings you’d expect to find Rhonda as soon as you pick up one of the Merry Hanukkah stories to read. You don’t have to wait long to be back in the full throes of Rhonda’s life – how her work life carries into her personal life and how her personal life is anything but ordinary.

Caruso has definitely writ this installment of the series to be a comedic #WomensFiction Contemporary about office life in an advert world & balancing family during Passover! She just happened to throw in a family medical crisis which threw her characters for a bit of a loop about common courtesies and what the best route of action would be to take without giving Aunt Bunny the wrong impression about their sincerity to aide her life rather than to impede it.

I originally intended to read this at the start of the New Year – making it my first New Year’s Romance to read. Then, after that plan fell through, I thought, ooh, I can tie-in talking about this lovely story with Easter! However, as you might have noted – all my ideas didn’t quite pan out this year, however, what did stay with me is how this story can be read at any point during the year. We all have family traditions and there is always a celebration to be had – whether its a religious holiday, a personal milestone, an anniversary or birthday or an adoption – there are loads of things to celebrate and to keep as special moments throughout our lives. This year, I was blessed with a lovely Easter weekend and it was nice returning into a story set during the Eastertide which straddles both Christian and Jewish traditions within the scope of the plot!

This is one aspect of the realism I have enjoyed throughout the series – Caruso makes you feel right at home in her stories because of the approachable manner in which she tells them. Their refreshingly modern, lightly fused with drama and they put a bounce back in your step because even though they are brilliantly composed stories, they give you a burst of unexpected joy and a proper lift of spirits to read!

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On a personal note: I was blessed with matching bookmarks for this series – I definitely had a kick out of using my “Happy Everything” bookmark to mark where I was in the novel and to happily see the motif from the cover smiling at me as I read. I love when writers enclose bookmarks as for whichever reason, I am definitely one of those readers who never seems to have quite enough? lol They’re constantly stuck on different pages in multiple books and sometimes I place them elsewhere once a book is read and I lose sight of it for longer than I ought to admit! lol Very lovely of her to enclose this one and I happily used it!

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This book review is courtesy of the author:

Debby Caruso

#SatBookChat logo badge created by Jorie in Canva.

This series was part of a #SatBookChat discussion in November, 2019.

Be sure to read my thoughts on the first novel “Merry Hanukkah”

As well as the #SatBookChat Spotlight for “Happy Everything”

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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 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?
Be sure to visit with Debby Caruso on Twitter on FRIDAYS!
as she is hosting bookaways throughout the Corvid-19 crisis!

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#SatBookChat Reviews 2020 banner created by Jorie in Canva.

For quite a long while now I’ve fallen behind on releasing my reviews for the #SatBookChat featured guest authors of whom I happily chatted with them about their stories. I simply fell behind one week and it snowballed. I’m spending Summer 2020 getting current with my #SatBookChat guests & eagerly will begin featuring their stories. This marks the first group of authors I am focusing on and will be sharing my ruminative thoughts about their novels whilst I am archiving and updating the transcripts for #SatBookChat from 2018 to 2020.

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{SOURCES: Book covers for “Merry Hanukkah” & “Happy Everything”, 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: The #SatBookChat Logo Badge, #SatBookChat Reviews banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2020.

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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 Friday, 12 June, 2020 by jorielov in #SaturdaysAreBookish, 21st Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Christianity, Contemporary Romance, Equality In Literature, Family Drama, Family Life, Indie Author, Judiasm, Modern Day, Romance Fiction, Women's Fiction, World Religions

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