Monday, March 9, 2015

If You Love Classic Movies, Read Touch of Stardust

A Touch of Stardust
By Kate Alcott
Review copy

A Touch of Stardust was wonderful timing after reading Burial Rites. I needed something upbeat and light. I am glad I did.  Reading, Touch of stardust was literary, a touch of stardust. This is the second novel I read by Kate Alcott. The first was Dressmaker. Which was a wonderful to read as well.

I love novels that take place during the turn of the century to the 1930's. Loved the movie, Gone with the Wind. What a great combination for me. Do you know anyone that didn't think Clark Gable was H-O-T! Before hot was a word? LOL! You see before Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jollie, there was Clark and Carole.

 I have always loved the classic movies from MGM, Warner brothers, etc.  I have never read a book that fictionalized Hollywood, or the screen stars. But, I have read plenty of biographies of the stars, Judy Garland, Lucille Ball, Shirley Temple, etc. This was a treat.

A Touch of Stardust is about Julie Crawford from Indiana. With the protest of her parents she goes off in the sunset toward California. She arrives in Hollywood to make her mark. She's fired within a few days of arriving with the famous director( Selznick).  Which incidentially is during  the making of the contraversal movie, Gone with the Wind.

At the same time she is fated to meet Andy Weinstein who has plenty of connections. He gets her into another job working with, actress Carole Lombard as her assistant. With these connections she is at the movie studio during the making the movie. Which was not easy with Selznick( director). He was a very difficult person to get along with. At every turn of the making of GWTW, there seemed to be trouble.

Eventually Julie gets another break. She would rather be a screenwriter. She finalizes her play, and her friend Carole calls the famous Francis Marion. Ms. Marion, eventually is able to get her a job. She is working on a trial basis.
Francis Marion by the way is a famous screenwriter. She wrote many silent movies with Mary Pickford( silent film star). She is the first woman screenwriter that won an oscar.

In the meantime, there many things going on. Her boyfriend Andy, was Jewish.  What it was like to be Jewish during this time.( for me it was interesting). The relationship of Carole Lombard, and Clark Gable as they were not married yet, Learning about Hollywood, and how an actor or actress can get caught up in the razzle dazzle of it all.

The behind the scenes relationship of Rhett and Scarlett. How Clark Gable didn't like the fact that the black actors were not welcome in Atlanta when the premiere opened. Clark Gable was going to start a protest. The movie makers did not at the time want to start trouble in Europe. Movies that were made slid by without talking about war.

The best part was how the relationship of Carole and Julie played out. Carole was a wize cracker. I didn't realize she was a comedianne, and pretty much sprouted out everything not realizing the consequences. My favorite part was when Julie brought her parents over for a barbeque with Clark making the bar-b-que. I could picture this.

There are something that other reviewers were bothered by. They felt somethings were not realistic. But, this is fiction. The writer can play out the book how she wants. If it bothers you so much, then read a biography or memoir. I enjoyed reading A Touch of Stardust immensely.  I would love to read other fictionalized books about actors and the Hollywood business in the early years of MGM, Warner brothers, etc.  Thank you for the review copy from Penguin.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Burial Rites: Absolutely Loved it

Burial Rites
By Hannah Kent

Burial Rites is the debut novel of Hannah Kent, an Australian author. She was 17 years old and traveled to Iceland as an exchange student. She has said, this is her love letter to Iceland.

The novel, which is historical fiction takes place in Iceland the year 1828. A 33 year old Agnes Magnustadottir, and Fredrik Siggurdsson, and Sigga Gudundsdottir were accused of two brutal murders of Natan Ketilsson, and Peter Jonsson at Illugastadir, Iceland. Agnes was the last person to be executed in Iceland.

 After the trial, Agnes is sent to a family by order of the district commissioner Blondal. She will be staying there until her execution. The family, Jon, Margaret, Steina, and Lauga are not happy about this situation as you can imagine.

The novel has many layers. I absolutely loved this book. There are many themes to the book, and many questions to be answered. it just kept being build on and on.

Why was Agnes sent away to a family? Her family life as a child was not a happy one. Do you think it was destiny and fate? Do you think it was hopeless? Forever Agnes kept plugging along hoping things would change. Do you think her social status sealed her fate? How the priest Toti, was inept at first when he first encountered Agnes, but as the story unfolded it seemed he felt comfortable with Agnes as he learned about her. Natan was an evil man, but Agnes kept wanted to believe he loved her. The Iclandic landscape was bleak, and isolated, but there was also beauty that added to the the story.  When Fredrik tried to commit the murder why couldn't he finish the job? What had to be difficult was dealing with one small room. No one had privacy. It must have been very difficult to keep secrets. Interesting that Natan was the only man with the two women present.

it was interesting that Jon, the father was kind to Agnes, Margaret the wife was not a very accepting person, and either was one of the daughters. But, as Agnes was telling her side of the story, Margaret starting to care about Agnes. Why do you think this was?

I read this for our book club. There were some of us that loved the style of the writing. Some of the members said they didn't like the book because it was so dark. Well, that is true. But, the writing style was wonderful.  Burial Rites when I picked it up reminded me of Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace, which I read and loved for the richness, and historical fiction. The same holds true of Burial Rites, I am very glad I read it. I recommend it for a book club, and there are many questions that will be asked from your book club. There are plenty of resources found about the book if you do a google search.

I have not felt like this in a long time, telling everyone that will listen, loved, loved Burial Rites. The last time was about a year ago, when I read Golem and the Jinni, another great book.


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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Betrayed: Book Review


By Lisa Scottoline

 I was introduced to Lisa Scottoline's novel at Books and Books in Coral Gables years ago. Then for some reason I stopped reading them. I recently started reading her novels again.

I just finished reading Betrayed. I absolutely loved reading it. It was a easy read. Something to pick up and get away from it all. One of my publicist's friend's sent me a copy to review. I am so glad I picked up the copy. Betrayed is a wonderful novel for you if you are going on a tropical vacation or a cruise in the next few weeks,

 One of my publicist's friend's sent me a copy to review.  But, unfortunately with all the chaos, I forgot to post my thoughts on my book blog. So it is a bit fuzzy. I will tell you it was a great and fun read.  It also had something to discuss, illegal immigration from Mexico to U. S. borders.  

Betrayal is about three main characters, Judy, an attorney in Philadelphia. She is still unmarried. But, her friend is engaged. She asked Judy to be in the wedding. Talk about rubbing it in. She is happy for her friend, but wants to distance herself. Her relationship with her boyfriend doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

 Then out of the blue her Mom is calling Judy. She asks her  to come out to see her Aunt Barb with her. When she arrives she learns Aunt Barb has breast cancer. Aunt Barb is scheduled for surgery in the next couple days. In the mean time Judy meets Iris. Iris is an illegal from Mexico. Aunt Barb  adores her. She is counting on her to help her through the surgery. But, Judy's mom seems to be jealous of their relationship, but why??

After Iris leaves the house Judy finds a stash of money, about 50,000. During the night. Something is wrong, Iris doesn't show up to her job.  She's found dead in her car. It appears it was natural causes. But was it ?? 

Judy starts snooping around with her sick aunt. Thing don't seem to appear as you think. Iris's best friend apparenly left town, The priest is dead,What is going on? No one wants to answer questions. Things appear to get worse, and more suspicious. The only comment I will make about the story, it appears the author was trying to cram too much in. But, it didn't deter from the story. 

You will just have to find out the rest because I don't want to ruin it for you. This story keeps you guessing and turning the pages. Like, I said before it was terrific. I recommend this for anyone that is looking for something to read to escape from it all.  The only thing I will say it there have been numerous amount of people complaining about the writing style, it is too simplistic. It is, but for me it didn't deter away from the story. 

Thank you John Karle from St. Martin for allowing me to review.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

North of Boston: Didn't Work for Me

North of Boston
Elisabeth Elo

North of Boston, the title alone drew me in. But like they say, don't judge a book by it's cover.

The character's were well developed. The plot was good up to a point. The beginning drew me in.  Pirio Kasparov, is on a boat with her friend, Ned. She was thrown off the boat in extreme cold for hours.  Ned leaves behind his girlfriend, and he's son, Noah. She feels responsible for.Ned is never found again. After that is where the story just doesn't connect, and lost me.

She became a experiment for the government because she was able to tolerate extreme cold temperture for hours. She is the heiress of a perfume company. She and her father have relationship issues, ok, I get that. But, then the story becomes a whaling, envoirmental discussion, Her mother had died years ago. She discovers her mother had an affair, while she is trying to find clues about her friend's death.

 Now, she realizes who her mother had an affair with.  Her mother's lover holds a vial of perfume that was forgotten and miraculously shows up.  It just didn't connect with me.

But the characters in the story were well developed, and it was a fast pace novel, that made me want to turn the pages at first. But, like I said the plot didn't do anything for me.

I appreciate the author writing about the fishing industry, Boston( where my family is from), and the killing of whales that was a subject of debate years ago. I wish the story went another way. Because I think she had a good subject about the fishing industry. The writing was wonderful, and poetic, especially the last paragraph.

It looks like everyone else loved the book. I am sorry to say it didn't work for me. I would like to thank the publicist for allowing me to review.
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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Jewish Grand Strand Reads- February

The Jewish Grand Strand Reads is very excited to announce that Maggie Anton, author of Rashi's Daughter, and many other historical novels will be coming to Myrtle Beach in February. 

Jewish Grand Strand Reads started as an idea, and it has blosoomed each year to a larger event. The previous years, which this is going on our fourth year we have had a wonderful speaker, our local Rabbi, Rav Deb.

This year, we are organizing our event a bit different, still with Rav Deb. She is introducing the program, talking about magic, witches and potions during talmudic times, but why is it not known that it was practiced after the destruction of the temple. This should be a interesting, and controversial subject.

This is the first year, we have been able to host an author. This event is like a gift from
 Hashem. Maggie does her own self promotion, with little in return.

 Our organization is not affiliated with another Jewish organization. We are supported by Temple Emanu-El, and Temple Beth Elohim. The monies we raise is to bring authors, and speakers to our area each year. Which many authors have a high price tag. This year we were very lucky. If you plan to be in Myrtle Beach in the beginning of February you are welcome to attend. 

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Orphan Train: Book Review

Orphan Train
By Christina Baker Kline
Complimentary copy from Harper Collins

I remember as a young girl watching the movie, Orphan Train.  Many people didn't realize the history of the Orphan Train. There were many orphans roaming the streets of NYC in the mid 1800's. Many orphaned, abandoned, starved, homeless, because they couldn't afford the extra mouth to feed.

The author, Christina Baker Kline, wrote this novel to teach us a bit of unforgotten history. Most of the orphan riders are up in age, and may not be alive to tell their stories very soon.  The novel is a interconnected story with history, and flashbacks, (fast forward- flashback in time) with the interconnected story of Vivian, and Molly.

From 1854- 1929 the Orphan Train crossed the United States from, New York to the Mid West on the train from the help of the Children's Aid Society.  From the midwest plains(farm land), and desolate, Conditions were hard. Thinks of, Laura Ingalls Wilder books, and movies.
A group of children are put on the train. The society put an ad in each town's newspaper hoping the children would be adopted.These people who wanted to adopt them were not carefully selected as they are today by Dept. of Children Services.   The orphan train went from town to town hoping the children would be adopted.

  Some of them were expecting free labor, or a plaything, or something worse. It was a stroke of chance of some of them were adopted into the family for love, and not looking for free labor. Some of the riders were lucky, and some not as lucky.
At first, we don't realize where the story will take us because Vivian's name has been changed several times. She  had a hard life with her parents, and siblings.

She learns not to trust anyone, and learns she must take care of herself. Nimh, immigrates with her Irish family to America. Where things are rough growing up there. There is a fire in the tenement house, and that is when things get worse for Nimh.  She is put on a train West hopefully to find a family, and a place called, "home". The Byrne family wasn't it. They were looking for someone to be a seamstress. But, when the great depression hit, things got worse for her. The Byrne family decided they couldn't keep her any longer.

At the beginning of the Great Depression things get worse, she  is taken to a new family. Where you would think things can't get any worse, Wrong!!! They just want her to work, and they starve her, and she must take care of herself. But, then eventually the Children's Aide Society takes her to another family that is even worse than the first.

But luckily, and I do say luckily, she is thrown out of the house. She runs away to the only place she feels safe, her school- where Ms. Larson is her teacher.  Eventually, Ms. Larson helps her find a new home where she is treated like family. Where she feels safe, and not scared that something is going to happen. Nimh has had name changes so many times in her young life. Finally, Vivian sticks.

The story interconnects with Vivian, now 91 years old,  and Molly, a 17 year old, troubled Penobscot Indian that is placed in foster care.  Molly is caught stealing from the library, Jane Eyre. She has  to do community service. Her community service is to help Vivian clean out the boxes out of her attic.  As Vivian, and Molly begin the task of cleaning the attic, they both realize they both have a connection and can help one another.

My Review: Historical fiction is my cup of tea. I enjoyed the story. But, the characters were not deep. The story was superficial. I still enjoyed reading, but it was not the greatest for me. Everyone in our book club enjoyed it, except for me and one other person. If you are looking for a light read for your book club, this would be it.

The ending seemed like it was rushed. It was Vivian learning how to use the computer and to doing research on the internet. She showed no interest in the computer or internet. Then all of a sudden she goes out and buys one. Where did that come from?? left field?? I can understand it if it was mentioned in the book a bit more. But, there wasn't any mention in the novel until the end. The ending was a bit contrived on this part. 

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Jewish Grand Strand Reads W/ Rabbi Avi

 Temple Emanu-El, and the Jewish Grand Strand Reads organized a wonderful program with the book, Aleppo Codex by Matti Friedman.

We first had a wonderful lunch at Mr. Fish across the street from the Temple Emanu-El.  If you have not been there yet, I highly recommend it, if you are ever in Myrtle Beach.

We had a large crowd of about 50 people from Rabbi's Adult Education class, the Jewish Grand Strand, from the 38th Ave. Diva Book Club, and visitors of the Rabbi's.

We were  happy to see Rabbi Debbie at the program.  She and I started the Jewish Grand Strand Reads a few years ago.  We were just glad to see her. She has not been able to be involved this year because of her busy schedule.  Now, to talk about the program.

I introduced the program, talking about the history of the Aleppo Codex, after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, and  the mystery of how the " Crown"( other name of the Aleppo Codex) arrived in Israel, and where the 200 pages went, and who may have the pages.

Rabbi Avi talked about the religious aspect of the crown. Why the book is significant to the Jewish people. What it means to most of us that are Jewish. Did you know the book tells us the correct way to read from the torah? That the Hebrew is spoken the same way in every part of the world.

Why is that? The "Crown" is responsible for us to keep our traditions, and how we read from the bible, etc. The sad part, is it is the only one in the world. It wasn't copied.   Rabbi Avi went into a small part about the mystery of the book. The rest you will have to buy yourself a copy which I highly recommend.

To learn about the "Crown", you can find Matti Friedman in Texas, JCC talking about it. You can also find information about it at several Jewish websites, by doing a google search.  On a side note, Matti, sent me a message to have a bagel on him. We would have loved to chat with him on SKYE, but with the time zone difference, him in Israel, and us in SC it wasn't feasible at this time.

If you are interested in reading my review you can read it on my other book blog, at Bagels, Books, and Schmooze.

Thank you Rabbi Avi for co sponsoring the program with the Jewish Grand Strand Reads.  Below, you can see the large crowd that came. We hope Rabbi Avi will join us again.  We are always looking for speakers for the Jewish Grand Strand Reads. If you are knowledgeable about Jewish themes and are experienced talking to large crowds. Don't hesitate to talk to me about speaking engagements. Let's Chat.....


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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Book Club:Frankenstein

I learned about Mary Shelly when I was taking a Western Civilization class a couple of years ago. She is the daughter of a famous feminist. Before they even knew what feminism was.  Her mother was Mary Wollstonecraft, her father a famous poet, William Godwin.              

Mary Shelley's life, was not dull. There was so much upheaval since the day she was born. Her mother died a short time after Mary Shelley's birth. Her father, gave her a guilt trip from the early age of six, he constantly allowed her to look at her mother's letters.

There was so much abandonment from different times in her life. Which is symbolized, in Mary Shelley's, "Frankenstein". besides, her life sounded like a soap opera, before soap operas were known. I was never assigned in English class, Frankenstein, so instead we were assigned, Frankenstein" for our book club this past month.

Our book club had a special guest this month, from Coastal Carolina University, Professor Campbell. I also did my own homework, on youtube was a couple lectures of Mary Shelley, and Frankenstein. If you are interested, you should check it out. I also watched the original movie. A few of us, went to a local theater to see the play, Young Frankenstein as well( what fun).

 What you see in the movies is very different from the book.  The movie was set during the 1930's or 1940's it gives a very different tone than the book. The movie was made as a horror film. Which is very different than the book.

Frankenstein was written during the Enlightenment period.  Frankenstein starts out in the Artic, and ends in the Artic. Which was most likely my favorite part of the book, Frankenstein.

Frankenstein, is the creator, not the creature. What most people think of. He is never referred as the monster.  Beside abandonment, there is the science, knowledge- too much, and medical ethics, nurture vs. nature.

Do you have a right to create something that is beyond accepted human limits.  There was parallels of Frankenstein vs. Walton, both pursuing higher scientific knowledge. One the creation of life, the other pursuing the exploration of the North Pole.

If something goes wrong should you, destroy it? or suffer the consequences?  Do you still love something that you made no matter how ugly, or hideous it is? Do you  live with it, and make the best of it. I actually was thinking of children with Down's Syndrome, or children that are emotionally challenged, and slow. Back in the 1960's these children were placed in institutions, because the parent's didn't want to deal with them.

 Because the creature didn't have nurturing, and was abandon constantly by Dr. Victor Frankenstein. He didn't  know better, the only thing he knew was to get back at Victor Frankenstein. The book is full of symbolism, and back story.  Victor was his parent, no matter if he was a good, or bad parent, he was still the mother.

What I found interesting, the women in Frankenstein, I expected to be stronger women. Because of Shelley's mother. I wanted to hit them in the head, how passive they were.

Also what our book group discussed was the format of the book. It was not a straight narrative. The novel, Frankenstein mixed with letters to his sister. During the time of her writing the novel, it was the end of writing novels with letters.

The novel was kind of slow at first, but once you finished the first 80 pages, it sped up. I enjoy books with hidden meaning, and symbolism, which the novel had a lot to delve into. I would recommend reading sometime in your bucket list to read.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Nursing Profession-Blame Game

For the first time in a very long time, I am standing up for my profession. I would like to praise Nurse,Theresa Brown RN for her article on CNN.  I left nursing years ago, burned out, and became a Stay at Home Mom. I have been out of the profession for years, I left in 1990.

But, it sounds like from the article about that it is still the same. The blame game, doctors, and the medical establishments want to blame someone, so it is the R. N.
It is a shame that nurses are not recognized for the care of the patient, it is still the M. D,  The registered nurse, is the one that stays at the hospital, and monitors the patient care, and it is their licence that is on the line when something goes wrong.

When I was a registered nurse in early 90's I remember nurse's were getting sued left and right, and blamed for poor care, when it actually was the doctor, who should of been blamed. The nurse is actually the one, that protects the doctor from mistakes being made. By double checking the doctor's order, and co-signing the order. But, of course the doctor, sees it as you are questioning his care. If you claimed neglect, it was known in nursing circle's that other nurses wouldn't go to court and back up your character, and neither would doctor's.

I am happy to see that nurses can now speak out. Years ago, you never head a nurse speak out about the nurses, and the profession. Thank you Theresa Brown RN.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Book Review: Aleppo Codex

The Aleppo Codex
Matti Friedman
Complimentary copy from
Algonquin Publishing

The Jewish Grand Strand Reads and Rabbi Avi adult education class are meeting together to discuss,
The Aleppo Codex, by Matti Friedman on November 5th at Temple Emanu-El at 2 PM, everyone is welcome and there is no charge. 

I will give you a update of the Jewish Grand Strand Reads after the event. 

It is very interesting that we are reading Aleppo Codex. The Aleppo Codex was written to keep the Jewish community together after the destruction of the Jewish temple. Interesting that we, the entire Jewish community of Myrtle Beach are also reading the same book, but not the actual Aleppo Codex. 

The Aleppo Codex, known as the, "Crown",  is a very important book for the Jewish community.   More important than the Dead Sea Scrolls.  

We go to synagogue on Saturday morning. The weekly ritual is on Saturday, the Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark. It must be read perfectly without any mistakes.  This is very different from any other religion. They can't be any mistakes, if there are there are two men that witness and correct your spelling, and chanting of the vowels, etc. The codex makes sure you make no mistakes. 

 The codex is the book instead of the Torah scrolls. This is what keeps the Jewish community together. 

In 70 A.D, The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. There wasn't anything to keep the Jewish people together. They were exiled, and then the Jews traveled to different locations to settle permanently, called the diaspora.

 There wasn't anything that kept the Jewish people together. There wasn't any institutions, the  Catholic religion had their pope and the Catholic Church, in Rome. The Jewish people didn't have anything to glue them together, until the writing of the codex in 930 A. D.,  in Tiberius.  Then in 1099, during the Crusades, the Jewish Community, of, Jerusalem didn't have any other choice but to give it to the Jewish community of Egypt.

Here at the time is when Maimonides did his scholarly work. After he used the book, it was described as the most trusted book for Jewish scholars.  From there one of  Maimonides (very important sage)descendants traveled to Syria, and was placed with the Jewish Aleppo community where it remained for almost 600 years.  In Aleppo, the codex was kept with double locks. Each one of the sexton's had a key. This meant both men had to be present to get access of the book. Many years before, the book had religious significance. But in later years the book has become a good luck charm, talisman, kept evil away, rather than the true meaning of the book.

After the UN's resolution which established the state of Israel there was rioting across the Middle East. The Great Synagogue of  of the Aleppo Jewish community in Syria was burned. It was thought the codex burned with it.  But many years later it was discovered the Aleppo Codex wasn't burned at all. Instead it miraculous turned up in a Aleppo Grotto, for safe keeping, by a very wealthy Jewish merchant.  For almost 10 years it did not resurface. 

The Jewish community of the Middle East was dwindling after the establishment of Israel. Was there still a need to hide the codex? The codex was priceless, and the Aleppo Jewish community was afraid that the Syrian government would try to steal it. Instead they told a lie to keep it from being confiscated.  During this time the great rabbi's of Aleppo wanted to hide it in Israel for safekeeping. They made plans to give it to a man that was immigrating to Israel. It was not suppose to go to the Jewish government, but the learned Rabbi's in Israel. 

This is where the story becomes murky. I am not going to go into the rest of the story. Because the book is a compelling read, that you want to keep turning the pages. Who does the book truly belong to? Who owns Jewish history? Did some of the Aleppo Jewish community take it with them to NYC? Or does a antiquities dealer have it? Why won't he come forward? These are questions that Matti Friedman wants you to consider.  

They mystery is never answered, but it gives you insight, and leads you to do your own research. There are a few articles out there about the disappearance, and reappearance of the Aleppo Codex. There are a few good articles written after the book that gives you an update.  Also a video, from the Dallas JCC where he discusses the reason why he wrote the book. 

If you read the book, here is the followup after the book was published by the author:

Here is the author at JCC in Texas

I enjoyed reading Aleppo Codex it is very informative. not just for the enjoyment of reading. But learning about the Codex. The book This is a very important book. Because before reading it, I never heard about it. The book is full of conspiracy, mystery, thieves, politicians, crooked antiquities dealers, Hasidic learned men. Who is the true thief, and where did it go?

 It takes you from Tiberius, to Egypt, Israel, and even Brooklyn, NYC.. People you wouldn't think wouldn't be have any dealing with this.  But, when it has to do with sacred text, and valuable items for exchange of money. everyone comes out of the wood work don't they? 

The Aleppo Codex is in Israel, at the Shrine of the book. It also is housed with the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

The Codex isn't entirely exhibited. It only shows four pages, and the rest is held in another part of the museum, for safe keeping.  

I give it five teacups!!!! 
Nothing since The Golem and the Jinni has been as good.
I would like to thank the Jewish community of Aleppo for protecting the Codex.  I would also like to thank Matti Friedman for writing this important book for the Jewish community. 

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