FEATUREJune/July 2022

Summer Reading


By Deborah Vietor

Schlepping & Schmoozing Along The Interstate 5, Volume 1 – Donald H. Harrison

Don Harrison tells us there is a Jewish story everywhere. He takes us on a historical, yet engaging, fun ride from Baja California, Mexico to Old Town San Diego, the first leg of a three-volume tour that will wind up at the Orange County line.

Harrison is a true storyteller, weaving intricate and inviting stories of residents describing their experiences covering a wide variety of topics, relating impressive Jewish stories of influence.

Photographer Ben Dishman photographs memorable scenes along the way, illustrating the narrative.

Did you know H&R Block Tax Preparation was founded in 1955 by Jewish brothers Henry and Richard Bloch?

Have you heard of the Simon Property group, established by Jewish brothers Melvin and Herbert Simon in 1960 who developed the Las Americas Premium Outlet Mall?

Who has not visited the historical Victorian era beachfront property, the Hotel del Coronado? Guests have included dignitaries, movie and recording stars. It’s a national historic landmark. Elsewhere there is Loews Coronado Bay Resort opened in 1991 by the Tisch family, philanthropists, who have grown properties nationwide.

Joan Gantz Cooney, a television writer and producer, was inspired by Lewis Freedman, her Jewish boss at WNET to develop television’s Sesame Street which is the basis of San Diego County’s newest amusement park, Sesame Place San Diego.

How could we be prouder of Arizona Jewish Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, victim of an attempted assassination in 2011? She “inspired the nation with remarkable resiliency,” and the USS Gabrielle Giffords, a littoral combat ship based at Naval Base San Diego, is named in her honor.

Who has not heard of the famous IHOP restaurant chain, created by two Jewish brothers Al and Jerry Lapin? Started in the 1960s, the Lapin brothers were inspired by McDonalds.

In 1979, San Diego’s gay community led by Nicole Murray-Ramirez created the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Award. He later founded the Harvey Milk Democratic Club of San Diego.

We learn much more about Jewish inventiveness, creativity, and philanthropy. The book includes interviews with Rabbis Michael Leo Samuel and Scott Meltzer respectively of Temple Beth Shalom and Ohr Shalom Synagogue. Other subjects are Jewish sports figures, politicians, musicians, a social worker, and a sheriff. There is also an essay on Jewish aspects of the museums at Balboa Park.

Don H. Harrison, editor emeritus of San Diego Jewish Word is a past member of the San Diego Historical Resources Board, former editor of Western States Jewish History and a current member of the editorial advisory board of the Journal of San Diego History. Having written six previous books, Harrison is a well-known participant and contributor to the San Diego Jewish community. Married since 1968 to the former Nancy Zeiden, the couple has two children: Sandi and David, and four grandchildren.

Harrison’s career has included his work in journalism as well as a public relations specialist with an emphasis on tourism. A frequent public speaker, Harrison may be contacted via sdheritage@cox.net. His books can be found on Amazon.

Breaking The Spell – Rocky Smolin

Roger Coles, the protagonist in Rocky Smolin’s new novel Breaking the Spell, takes us on a complex journey, interwoven with danger, uncertainty, and hope. As a young man, Roger allows a woman professing to be a witch, to cast a spell to rid him of a persistent problem. This is somewhat of a dichotomy for Roger, a person of science and technology. Magic and spells had not previously entered into his imagination.

Subsequent to the casting of this spell, a shocking event occurs evoking the question: Was this event coincidental, or a horrible consequence of the spell manifesting itself? Although not exactly what Roger asks for, this tragic event relieves him of his burden.

Decades later he becomes strongly drawn into the world of the occult, and along the way unexpectedly finds the love of his life.

Then we follow Roger on a search for this true love who has disappeared under dark circumstances, halfway around the world. Was this all due to a witch’s spell, or had Roger manifested something dark, sinister and irreparable?

Erudite, aesthetically inclined, yet grounded, this search brings Roger to his knees. He learns actions can bring unintended consequences, often those which may not be reconciled.

Lonely and living a life which he describes as “an empty cup”, Roger encounters witches from New Orleans to Burma to Normandy, and eventually back in his home in Chicago. Is he able to detach from the spell and find true happiness, or is the spell debt he incurred decades earlier too great to break?

Are we all victims of our own entrapments, casting spells on our hearts and souls, and then seeking ways to be free and unbound from our self-imposed constraints?

Rocky Smolin casts a spell of sorts on us, skillfully taking us from the physical to the ethereal world, artfully describing viscerally what is true and likely to be spellbound.

A captivating read about following dreams, consciousness, morality and seeking the truth, Breaking the Spell raises many questions and offers us some answers.

Rocky Smolin is a Software Developer and Musician, living in Carlsbad, Calif. Breaking the Spell is available on Amazon

Dior Or Die – Laura E. Akers

Meet Davia Glenn, the first woman on a covert paramilitary team, until a mission unexpectedly takes a deadly turn for the worse.

When her aunts leaves her a fortune, the terms of the will dictate she move to a wealthy community. Wondering what is more unsettling, being followed by terrorists, or fitting into an upper echelon group of the “ladies who lunch?”

Currently off assignment due to a recent injury, Davia believes she has time to cultivate her new life, or does she?

According to the terms of the will, Davia is required to date a wealthy and influential man, gain entrée into the local social registry, providing philanthropy through a non-profit board.

Davia remains concerned about the lives of her family, struggling farmers in South Dakota. Her aunt’s inheritance could certainly help a lot of people.

We are taken on a wild ride through upscale suburbia, dodging assailants, dining with the rich and famous, volunteering and attending upscale philanthropic events.

A personal designer, private clubs, auction committees, the Ladies League, priceless art, and foreign cars were not part of Davia’s world. Thankfully she could receive a tutorial from one of the local elites, an older woman she trusted to navigate this other worldly experience.

The dichotomy? Car chases, explosions, being drugged, chased, shot at all while protecting others figure prominently into this rather banal disguise. Coiffed in heels and a ballgown, Davia’s identity must remain anonymous.

One suitor, a bon vivant man of the world offers intrigue, and another her handsome, rugged, operative partner are both options for her future life. Only time would tell.

Adventure, romance, humor, glamour, and intrigue makes “Dior or Die” a real page turner as we wonder, when is the next Davia Glenn read available?

Following law school Laura Akers became a prosecuting attorney, handling the worst violent crimes. Threatened by a convicted criminal, she trained with a former CIA operative in self-defense. This led to the creation of her protagonist Davia Glenn. Laura and Davia live by the same philosophy, “refuse to quit, no matter the odds.”

Visit LauraAkers.com and Amazon or Barnes and Noble for Dior Or Die.


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