Category Archives: Book Review

Running on Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, Your Parents, and Your Children Book Review

When dealing with a problem, the first step is to name it. The second step is to do the work to resolve problem. Comparatively speaking, step is one is considerably easier than step two. But if we are put the issue in the rear view mirror, there is only one option: we have to face our demons.

The 2017 book, Running on Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, Your Parents and Your Children, by Dr. Jonice Webb, is the follow up to her 2012 book, Running on Empty. Extending the methods and conversations in the first book, Dr. Webb explores how those suffering from CEN (Childhood Emotional Neglect) can work through their issues with three distinct and important people in our lives: our spouses/romantic partners, our parents, and our children.

Getting to the heart of CEN, Dr. Webb is able to walk the reader through the difficult process of being up front about what is holding them back. She is also encourages them to be open with their loved ones about their feelings and begin the process of healing.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Mental Health

Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields Book Review

The perception of women is that we are caregivers and nurturers. The want or need to kill another person is not in our nature.

Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields, by Wendy Lower, was published in 2014. In the book, Lower puts the spotlight on a group of women who were responsible for the murder of Jews and other minority groups looked upon as “subhuman”. Some of those profiled worked in clerical positions, others took profound glee in being able to say that they had a direct hand in the killings.

I have to admit that I had trouble reading the book. Not because it is poorly written, but because of the subject matter. It is chilling to think that these women had blood on their hands, but went home to their families and children as if they had ordinary jobs. The reason the Nazis were able to stay in power and do what they did because of ordinary people who supported them. It is a lesson that is as profound today as it was in the 1940’s.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, Politics

The Art of Inventing Hope: Intimate Conversations with Elie Wiesel Book Review

There is something about a shared life experience. Instead of small talking and playing the “getting to know you” game, there is an immediate understanding and shorthand between those who share said experiences.

In 2019, journalist Howard Reich published his memoir about his friendship with the late Holocaust survivor and writer Elie Wiesel. It is entitled The Art of Inventing Hope: Intimate Conversations with Elie Wiesel. Reich, whose parents both survived the Holocaust, sat down with Wiesel for what was supposed to be a standard interview. Instead of it being a one-and-done experience, Reich and Wiesel became friends and were in frequent contact with each other during the latter’s last four years of life.

This book is excellent. Though Reich and Wiesel have an innate grasp of each other, it is not so exclusive the reader cannot feel like they are part of the conversation. What I liked about the memoir is that one does not have to be a 2G or 3G (the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors) to understand that trauma can be transferred to younger generations. What is important is that the story is told and spoken of in such a manner that shows that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth Book Review

The best way to learn about a new culture is to speak to a local. They have the insight and experience that an outsider would never have.

Earlier this month, Israeli actress/ producer Noa Tishby published her first book. The Tel Aviv native seeks to understand and explain Israel as it is, without relying on the flashy headlines or the half truths. Using her firsthand experience, she speaks of Israel, both past and present, as it is, and not how some see it or wish it could be.

What I love about this book is how down to earth and accessible it is. Tishby‘s voice is that of the average person, not the academic or historian who usually writes about this topic. That, I believe, provides an opportunity for a dialogue that should have happened long ago.

If you only read two chapters, I highly recommend chapters on BDS and the virulent anti-Israeli sentiment (which is really antisemitism). Even for those who are well versed on the topic, it was an eye opener.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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The Unanswered Letter: One Holocaust Family’s Desperate Plea for Help Book Review

Sometimes, when it seems that all is lost, fate has a way of guiding us to the right path.

In the early 2000’s, writer Faris Cassell received a letter that would change her life and answer decades long questions of a family she had never met. The story of that letter is told in her 2020 book, The Unanswered Letter: One Holocaust Family’s Desperate Plea for Help. In 1939, Alfred Berger was a Jewish man living in Vienna. His once tight knit and happy family has been forced apart due to the Nazi invasion and the threat to lives of the Jews of Europe. With his daughters safely out of the country, Alfred is desperate to find a way out for himself and his wife. Taking a chance, he writes to strangers with the same last name living in California, hoping that they will provide the help that is desperately needed.

Sixty plus years later, this letter is given to Cassell’s husband. It’s contents starts on her on a journey to find Berger’s living descendants. With a dogged persistence and a journalist’s skill, she is finally able to fill in the blanks of what happened to Alfred, his wife, and the rest of the family who were caught in the German crossfire.

The book is fantastic. It was a heart pounding voyage that immediately hooked me and kept me in rapt attention until the final page. It was a powerful story of love, hope, and ultimately survival.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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The Lost Letter: A Novel Book Review

A stamp can be one of two things. It can be the postage on a letter. Or, it can be something more.

Jillian Cantor‘s 2017 book, The Lost Letter: A Novel, takes place in two different time periods. In 1989, in Los Angeles, Katie is dealing with the one-two punch of her broken marriage and putting her Alzheimer’s stricken father into a nursing home. While going through his things, she discovers a World War II era stamp. Taking it to Benjamin, an appraiser, Katie starts on a journey across time and the continents to discover decades old secrets.

Fifty years earlier, Kristoff is a young orphan in Austria. He is apprenticed to a master stamp engraver and in love with Elena, his teacher’s eldest daughter. The master engraver and his family are Jewish, Kristoff is Christian. When the engraver disappears during Kristallnacht, he joins the resistance and makes a promise that he and Elena will somehow survive.

I loved this book. It was engaging and powerful. It was ultimately the story of love. Not just romantic love between Kristoff and Elena, but the love that a daughter feels for her father. If there was one thing that rang true, it was the image of how emotionally destructive Alzheimer’s disease is. The slow and painful process of watching someone you love being replaced by a shell of their former selves is beyond difficult and requires strength that you may not think you have.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Behind Her Eyes Book Review

When it comes to creating characters, the easy path is to go with the well worn 2D model. The harder path is to subvert the audience’s expectations by flipping those characters on their heads.

The setup of Sarah Pinborough’s 2017 novel, Behind Her Eyes, is a love triangle. Louise is a single, working mother who meets David on a night out. The night ends with a kiss that gives her hope that there is a romantic future after divorce. The next day, she nearly runs over Adele, who is new in town. What starts out as getting together for coffee turns into a friendship. But Adele is married to David, who is Louise’s new boss.

The only word to describe what Louise is about to get into is trouble.

The only word to describe this book is wow. Pinborough is part author and part magician. She makes us think that we know how the story will end. But the card she has in her left hand is completely unexpected and jaw dropping. From a feminist angle, I appreciated the shades of grey that she injected into her narrative. Normally the center of a love triangle in a heterosexual relationship is a woman with a man at each end. The inversion is not just the gender of the leads, but the portrayal of the women. Louise is not just the bad girl homewrecker. Adele is much more than the good little wife, waiting for David to come home at the end of the day.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

P.S. I also highly recommend the Netflix adaptation. It is as good, if not better than it’s literary predecessor.

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In Five Years Book Review

One of the most common questions that come up during an interview is following: “Where would you like to be in five years?”. Some people would answer with a general idea of where they would like to be. Others have a very specific plan and follow it through to a T.

Rebecca Serle’s book, In Five Years, was published last year. Dannie Kohan’s life is just about perfect. She is newly engaged and has just accepted her dream job at one of New York’s most prestigious law firm. Her best friend, Bella is yin to Dannie’s yang. Bella lives for the moment while Dannie thrives on order.

The night after she has achieved it all, Dannie falls asleep on the couch. When she wakes up, she is in bed with another man and is living in another apartment. Though this dream only lasts an hour, she cannot shake the the feeling that the future she is planning will not pan out as she thinks it will.

I have heard nothing but good things about this book. It is easily one of best novels I have read in a long time. I was immediately hooked. It’s sort of a romantic dramady, but it goes beyond the cookie cutter narrative and characters. I loved how real the story felt, especially when Dannie realizes that when mortals plan, the creator above laughs.

Do I recommend it?

Absolutely.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, New York City

From Sand and Ash Book Review

I would love to say that we live in a world in which we are free to love who we love without prejudice or fear. But I know better.

Amy Harmon‘s 2016 novel, From Sand and Ash, takes place in Italy during World War II. Batsheva “Eva” Rosselli and Angelo Bianco have been best friends since childhood. Now in their early 20’s, they are madly in love with one another. But there are two obstacles to their potential union. The first obstacle is that Eva is Jewish and Angelo is a Catholic priest. The second obstacle is the German invasion and the fact that Eva, like all Jews in Europe, has a target on her back.

Angelo is doing everything he can to keep her alive. The only way he can keep Eva alive to send her to one of the many hiding places in Catholic Churches, Convents, and Monasteries. But she is not one to contently stay hidden until liberation. When they are discovered and forced apart, Eva and Angelo will fight to be reunited and have the life they have always wanted.

I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down. I can only describe as a historical romantic drama with all of the heart racing moments of a thriller. The question of the novel was whether or not Eva and Angelo would end up together. From the first page to the last page, I was waiting on baited breath for the answer.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas

In the western world, the myth and imagery of a pirate is a specific one. We may conjure up the image of Tyrone Power in one of the swashbuckling action films from the days of old Hollywood or Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. A woman, especially a woman of color is not usually what we picture.

Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas, by Laura Sook Duncombe was published in 2019. In the book, Duncombe breaks through the idea of who and what we think a pirate is. She takes the reader through history, introducing them to female privateers who they may or may not have heard of. Using both proved historical facts and legends that have been circulating throughout the centuries, she tells the stories of women who broke the mold, but have not been given their place in the historical spotlight.

This book is fabulous. Though these women are few in number compared to male pirates, their contribution cannot be overlooked. What Duncombe does well is differentiate fact from fiction, pointing out where history ends and folklore begins. She also makes a very point in linking the actions of these women to the modern feminist movement.

Do I recommend it?

Absolutely.

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