Review of A Great Miracle Happened by Kim Fielding

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Rating: 4.75 stars

A Great Miracle HappenedJude Bloch is sitting at his usual table at the  coffee shop in Chicago, far away from his family in LA.  He has done his shopping for Hannukah, mailed his presents and is now free to work on his dissertation but is having little progress.  Until the door opens up and the wind blows in handsome chef Mac Appel to share his table in the crowded shop.  A casual conversation slides into a one-night stand that turns into a series of meetings each man starts to anticipate and treasure.  At the end of eight days, a miraculous change has occurred in Jude’s holiday outlook and love has found it’s way into his heart.

I am still thinking about this story days later, amazed at how the story affected me by the end of Jude and Mac’s tale.  When Kim Fielding’s story opens upon a grouchy Jude sitting by his lonesome at a table, I was not prepared for what a charming gem of a story this turned out to be.  I loved Jude Bloch, and it’s from his POV that the story is told, so we get a very clear vision or so we think of Jude and his feelings of the holidays and relationships.  Mac Appel is so full of life and joy that he pulls the reader in at the same time he is having the same effect on Jude.  He quickly endeared himself to me as well.

But Fielding is such a gifted writer that she crafts a story that slowly peals back the layers Jude has built around himself by allowing  Mac to do the skillful filleting of Jude’s barriers, the perfect occupation for a chef.    And little by little, we start to see Jude as Mac does, a person who needs people but has been so disappointed by them, especially his family.  As Mac surreptitiously starts courting Jude, we see the lonely doctoral student start to reconnect with all around him.  By the time the story has come to its conclusion, it is humming with joy and the promise of a wonderful future for them both.

I can’t recommend this story enough.  Heartwarming, gentle, a true gem of this season and every  year after.

Review of Eight Days by Cardeno C

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Rating: 5 stars

Eight Days (Evergreen)Maccabe Fried and Josh Segal have virtually grownup together, curtesy of their parents who are the closest of friends.  They have spent their vacations together, celebrated the Jewish holidays together and even attended the same schools.  And through the ages, one thing never changed, they were always the best of friends even though they had nothing in common.  Maccabe was obsessed over baseball, sure in his knowledge of himself that one day he would play in the major leagues and become one of the best players ever.  Josh, on the other hand, had absolutely no interest in sports.  Josh loved his legos, and books, and the snow globes that Maccabe bought him every year for Hanukkah.  But somewhere as both boys aged into their teenage years, things changed.  Maccabe started noticing Josh in a way he usually noticed girls to his total amazement.  And Josh? Well, it turned out that Josh had always had a crush on Maccabe.

A revelation turns into a stolen kiss which morphs into a hidden love affair that lasts several years.  Hidden because Maccabe is still obsessed over having a career in baseball, and everything else comes second, including Josh.  As Maccabe climbs from college baseball and into the minor league, things remain the same, not even their parents know they are a couple. And Josh decides he is tired of hiding their relationship. One night Josh explodes, yelling at Maccabe that either Maccabe tells everyone that he is gay and they are a couple or it is over.  Maccabe hesitates, Josh is devastated and runs away before Maccabe can stop him.

But Fate is not through with either of them, and it is the season of Miracles.  And it all starts one night at Hannukkah.

Eight Days is that most wondrous of holiday stories that combines laughter and angst in equal measure and the final product is a story I will return to year after year.  While not Jewish, I have always enjoyed the few Jewish stories of Hannukkuh that appeared at this time of year, usually the Bellski series from Astrid Amara.  But Cardeno C has given us a classic tale of two families and their sons, Josh and Maccabe, and the traditions that bind us together.  I will let you know right off the bat, that my daughter knew a Maccabe all through elementary and middle school.  Baseball obsessed, he devoted all his time to the sport and went on to play minor league ball and I can see him in Maccabe so clearly.  Cardeno  C understands adolescence and teenagers.  The author grasps that what can come across as self absorbed is sometimes just a focus so strong that it can obliterate everything else on the outskirts, even people who love you.  When you are that young and that centered on one thing, you can come across as a bit dense, and self centered just as Maccabe does, but that is the beauty of his character.  He is absolutely realistic in every way.  I felt I knew him intimately because he was a realistic kid.   The same with Josh.  Young, more orientated inward towards puzzles,school and chess. Just take a quick mental trip back to a class of yours and you will find that a “Josh” pops into your head almost immediately.  C Cardeno gets every facet of their lives perfectly, right down to their very distinct voices she creates for each of them. Perfect characterizations in perfectly realized situations, how I adore this story.

And how I loved the adult Maccabe, so self assured that he almost comes across as arrogant, Maccabe has matured into the man he was meant to be and the one Josh needs so badly.  Sigh.  And finally we get the ending they both deserve and the one we have been waiting for.  I love Eight Days and am putting on my Advent list of stories I reread every holiday season.

Available at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon and All Romance.