Category Archives: Book Review

My Survival: A Girl on Schindler’s List: A Girl on Schindler’s List Book Review

We all know that The Holocaust happened. Six million Jews and millions of others were persecuted, tortured, and murdered simply because of who they were. Yet, there are still some who claim that it is a myth or that the numbers of victims are not what they claim to be. The only way to counter these lies is via the fact and the first-hand accounts of survivors, whose numbers are dwindling as time goes on.

My Survival: A Girl on Schindler’s List: A Girl on Schindler’s List, by Rena Finder and Joshua M. Greene, was published in 2019. Mrs. Finder had a normal childhood until the age of 11, when she, along with her family and all other Jewish families in the area, were confined to the Krakow ghetto. After they were forced out of the ghetto, they were put on trains to Auschwitz. It looked like all was lost, until an unlikely savior came along. Oskar Schindler was a businessman who was known for crossing moral lines that others would never even consider getting close to. But he was also responsible for saving the lives of Rena, her mother, and many others. In total, over 1000 people were alive at the end of World War II due to his efforts.

I really enjoyed this book. It is age-appropriate for young readers while telling Mrs. Finder’s story in heartbreaking detail. In speaking directly to the audience from one child to another, the narrative hits home how important it is that we respect another’s differences, even we disagree with them. Only then, will the souls of the millions who were murdered be at peace and we will have finally learned from the past.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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The Nazi’s Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfather was a War Criminal Book Review

We all grow up with tales of the family members who have come before us. The question is, what is fact and what is fiction?

Journalist Silvia Foti grew up with the story that her maternal grandfather, Jonas Noreika, gave his life for his native Lithuania, fighting against the Communists. As her mother breathed her last, Silvia promised that she would write the long-awaited book about Jonas. Her initial research matched her expectations: a martyred war hero whose name and reputation earned him a place of honor. What Silvia did not expect was that he was a member of the Nazi party and ordered the deaths of thousands of his Jewish neighbors.

Her journey is chronicled in The Nazi’s Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfather was a War Criminal, which was published last March.

This is a memoir to savor. Foti brings in both her journalist experience and the want of a granddaughter to find out the truth about the man who partially contributed to her DNA. With the ever-present shadow of antisemitism and the sadly still too present Holocaust denial, this book is the light in the darkness. I wish there were more people like Silvia Foti. By both bringing Jonas’s actions into the spotlight, she is opening the door to making sure that the victims are remembered and there will never be any chance of claiming that the Holocaust never happened.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Best Books of 2021

  1. The Four Winds: Kristen Hannah has done it again. Her Cinderella-esque tale of a woman who resecues herself from a live of drugery, poverty, and low self esteem is one to be read again and again.
  2. Jewish Pride: Rebuilding a People: Ben M. Freeman‘s treatise on Jews, and Jewish history is a must read for anyone who for once and for all wants to defeat antisemitism and all forms of hate.
  3. Girly Drinks: A World History of Women and Alcohol: Mallory O’Meara‘s non fiction book explores how inspite of a certain image, women have been creating and drinking all forms of alcohol for centuries.
  4. I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J Trumps Catastrophic Final Year: The subject of you know who will be on the lips of writers and political historians for years to come. Authors Carol Leonning and Philip Rucker examine how the former President believed that he did not need help in running the country.
  5. Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood: Writer and podcaster Mark Oppenheimer tells the story of how a single neighborhood was affected by the murders of eleven Jewish residents in 2018.
  6. Peril: Bob Woodward and Robert Costa take a deep dive into how close the American democracy got close to destruction.
  7. The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh: This JAFF by Molly Greeley gives the spotlight to Anne de Bourgh, a minor Pride and Prejudice character who has yet to be fully seen or appreciated.
  8. Three Ordinary Girls: The Remarkable of Three Dutch Teenagers Who Become Spies, Saboteurs, Nazi Assasins-and WWII Heroes: This fascinating and powerful tale of three young ladies who led an underground war against the Nazis during World War II.
  9. Why She Wrote: A Graphic History of the Lives, Inspiration, and Influence Behind the Pens of Classic Women Writers: Written by the Bonnet at Dawn podcast hosts, this book examines the life and works of the women writers we have loved and respected for generations.
  10. The Matzah Ball: A Novel: Jean Meltzer’s Chanukah themed rom-com about two people who are secretly in love, but cannot speak the words due to the current and past trauma.

Here’s to the books we loved in 2021 and the books we will love in 2022.

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Jewish Pride: Rebuilding a People Book Review

Throughout human history, Jews have been at best tolerated, and a worst forced to convert or submit to the sword. But even with all of that pressure, we have not only survived, but thrived.

Jewish Pride: Rebuilding a People, by Ben M. Freeman, was published at the beginning of the year. Influenced by coming out and living as a gay man, Freeman examines both Jewish history and contemporary Jewish culture. He talks about antisemitism, the image of Judaism that is imposed on us, and the choice we have to either remain true to ourselves or change to be accepted by the non-Jewish world.

I truly enjoyed this book. It is both a middle finger to those who hate us and a challenge. To the Jewish reader, Freeman is asking us if the cost of assimilation is worth it. To the non-Jewish reader, he is not asking for friendship and acceptance, he is asking them to examine their own prejudices and ideas about our faith and those who practice it.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Maybe in Another Life: A Novel Book Review

We make choices every day. It could be as simple as the coffee we drink in the morning or as complicated as the person we want to spend our lives with.

Maybe in Another Life: A Novel, by Taylor Jenkins Reid, was published in 2015. Hannah Martin has just returned to her native Los Angeles. Needing a fresh start after her life in New York City has crashed and burned in spectacular fashion, she is temporarily living with her best friend Gabby and Gabby’s husband Mark.

During an informal reunion at a local bar, Hannah runs into Ethan, her high school boyfriend. When the clock strikes midnight, Gabby is ready to call it a day. But Ethan is not ready to go home and offers to give Hannah a ride home if she is willing to stay a while longer. Hannah could leave with Gabby or hang out with Ethan. This one decision may have the power to change the course of her life.

From there, the narrative takes off into two parallel storylines with different consequences and endings. The question that Hannah has to ask herself is not only where does she want to her life to go, but who will be by her side?

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I enjoyed this book. The author does a good job of creating a dual storyline, which is not as easy as it appears to be. I was hooked immediately, eager to dig into Hannah’s story. The only problem is that in some sections, my editor’s brain turned on. I wanted to read this book for pleasure, not use the imaginary red pen to point out what needed fixing.

Do I recommend it? I would say yes.

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Peril Book Review

Up until the beginning of this year, the transition from one Presidential administration to another was a process that few outside of Washington D.C. ever thought about. That changed with the 2020 Presidential election.

Peril, by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, was published in September. Told in a spellbinding and sometimes downright scary manner, the authors detail how close this nation came to nearly abandoning our democratic ideals. Basing their narrative on interviews, transcripts, and other documents, they take us on a roller coaster ride that is solely based on you know who’s want to stay in power, regardless of the response from the voting public. It also details how unnecessarily difficult a task President Biden has ahead of him. If nothing else, this book is a warning that unless we do something ASAP, the United States of America as we know it to be maybe one day be consigned to the history books.

This book should be read by every American, regardless of where they are on the political scale. The belief that our political system is secure has been shaken to its core. We have two choices at this point in time. We can either sit back and do nothing. The other option (which in my mind is the only option) is to stand up, vote, and fight for everything we hold near and dear.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Three Ordinary Girls: The Remarkable Story of Three Dutch Teenagers Who Became Spies, Saboteurs, Nazi Assassins–and WWII Heroes Book Review

When fighting an invading army, there are two ways to go about it. The first is to join the government-created and regulated military. The second is to become a member of the underground resistance and fight using whatever methods you have at your disposal.

Three Ordinary Girls: The Remarkable Story of Three Dutch Teenagers Who Became Spies, Saboteurs, Nazi Assassins–and WWII Heroes, by Tim Brady, was published in February. When Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands in May of 1940, Hannie Schaft and sisters Truus and Freddie Oversteegen were not yet twenty. Angered by the invasion and the treatment of the Dutch people, they joined the resistance. Their task was two-fold: to save as many of their Jewish friends and neighbors while doing everything they could to stop the German army in its tracks.

This book is amazing. It is a heart-pounding, blood-pumping, thriller of a ride. What these girls did is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Giving the middle finger to the enemy and the patriarchy, they fought for their freedom and their lives while others were content to remain silent or fall in line with the Nazi regime. They are heroes in every sense of the word and should always be remembered as such.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Between the Lines: Stories from the Underground Book Review

The choice of book speaks volumes about the reader. It’s one of those things that tells us something about that person even before they open their mouth.

Between the Lines: Stories from the Underground, Uli Beutter Cohen, was published last month. In the book, the author interviewers 170 New Yorkers from different backgrounds about the books they are reading while riding the subway. The interviewees are both boldfaced names and ordinary people just going about their business. In doing so, she is not just telling the story of the city as it is today, but of the people who call it home.

I loved this book. As both a bookworm and a native of NYC, it spoke to me. It spoke to my love of this city, books, and how, at the end of the day, this medium has a way of both teaching us and uniting us.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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The Matzah Ball: A Novel Book Review

The beauty of a romantic comedy is the nearly endless narrative possibilities. The reader/audience can only hope that the writer(s) chooses to color outside of the lines instead of sticking to the same story we have all seen far too often.

The Matzah Ball: A Novel, by Jean Meltzer, was published in September. Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt is living a double life. To her readers, she is the best-selling writer of Christmas romance novels. In real life, she is the daughter of a respected Rabbi and Doctor who has been living with a debilitating illness for years. When her publisher requests a tale based around Chanukah, Rachel is at a loss.

Enter Jacob Greenberg, her preteen camp crush/nemesis. Returning to New York after his mother’s death, he has a successful career as a party planner. His sole intent is to host the Matzah Ball, a party celebrating Jewish music on the last night of the holiday. He has every intention of returning to Paris the night after the event. What he does not know is that Rachel will come back into his life, needing a way into the festivities.

Their initial meet-cute after nearly twenty years of separation does not go well. But as they spend more time with each other, the hurt and questions from their mutual summer together may turn into something else completely.

I loved this book. It has a perfect Pride and Prejudice undertone with layers of complexity, characters who are thoroughly human, and a holiday chronicle that is utterly charming, My only problem is that I found the character of Mickey, despite his background, to be a little too cookie-cutter. The role of the GBF (gay best friend), is usually nothing more than a stereotype and a sounding board for the female lead. It would have been nice if the author had stepped out of the box a little and not relied on the 2D trope that has been done too many times.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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The Sisters of Auschwitz: The True Story of Two Jewish Sisters’ Resistance in the Heart of Nazi Territory Book Review

When one nation or people invades another, the decision to join the resistance is not one to be taken lightly. Knowing that you are constantly at death’s door, it requires a certain kind of bravery that could also be deemed as foolishness.

The Sisters of Auschwitz: The True Story of Two Jewish Sisters’ Resistance in the Heart of Nazi Territory, by Rox­ane van Iperen, was published in August. The book tells the story of two Dutch Jewish sisters, Janny Brilleslijper and Lien Brilleslijper. Less than a year after the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, the lives of the sisters, their family, and every other Jew in the country begins to change for the worst. They have two options. They can either stay where they are and wait for the other shoe to drop. The other choice is to go into hiding and hope that they will all be alive at the end of the war.

The solution is to go into hiding in the woods. Known as “The High Nest“, the property is a safe house for the family, artists, and other resistance fighters. Just as it seems that the Allies are on the verge of taking back Europe, they are betrayed and sent to Auschwitz. Forced onto the train with them is Anne Frank and her family. As the two sets of siblings try to survive, Janny and Lien connect with Anne and her older sister, Margot. Waiting for liberation will test the sisters in every way possible, forcing them to rely on each other and an inner strength that may be the only thing keeping them alive.

When we talk about resistance, the conversation frequently revolves around men. Women are not given their due or an opportunity to tell the story. Having never heard of Janny and Lien Brilleslijper, it was another reminder of how badass Jewish women are. My problem with the book is that I was not feeling the danger and the tension of the narrative. I should have felt the stress and anxiety of what the characters were going through. Ultimately, I didn’t, which is highly dissapointing.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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