Category Archives: Book Review

The Plus One Book Review

In theory, dating, either via traditional means or via internet dating should be simple. But love and relationships are never simple.

In Sarah Archer’s new novel, The Plus One, Kelly is a genius when it comes to robotics. But when it comes to dating and romance, she isn’t exactly the most sought after bachelorette in Silicon Valley. With her 30th birthday and her younger sister’s wedding coming up, Kelly feels the pressure to have at least a prospective boyfriend handy.

So she decides to create one. Ethan is everything she has ever wanted in a boyfriend. But she knows that at some point, she must reveal the truth and say goodbye to him.

I find the plot of this book to be infinitely clever, especially for those of us for whom dating and romantic relationships are not so easy to find. A sort of modern gender swap reboot of Pygmalion, I loved the question of what if we could create our perfect partner instead of wading into the singles scene and hope that we meet the right person.

I recommend it.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Book Review, Books

Ayesha at Last Book Review

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s most well known novel, is more than story of hate turning to love. It is the story of seeing someone beyond the initial impression that one has of a new acquaintance.

Uzma Jalaluddin’s new Pride and Prejudice adaptation, Ayesha at Last, is set in Toronto’s Muslim community. Ayesha has a dream of being a poet. But the reality of paying her wealthy uncle back forces her to earn her bread as a teacher. At the age of 27, Ayesha is confronted by the fact that she is single, especially when she is compared to her younger cousin Hafsa. Hafsa is on track to reject nearly 100 prospective spouses and is proud of it.

Then Ayesha meets Khalid. Khalid is the traditional type who believes in arranged marriages, in addition to being socially awkward. Though Ayesha finds him physically attractive, she is repelled by his cold personality and his adherence to the strict interpretation of their mutual religion.

When it is announced that Khalid and Hafsa are engaged, Ayesha is forced to confront her own feelings and how she sees both Khalid and her own family. As she goes on this emotional journey, Ayesha begins to see Khalid, her family and herself in a different light entirely.

I’ve read many Pride and Prejudice adaptations. This book is one of the best adaptations I have ever read. The author holds true to the original work while fitting it to the world she knows. It was funny, it was charming and it made me think. Ms. Jalaluddin opens the door to a world and a community that many of us would see only within a stereotypical light. She also writes head on about racism in a way that hits the reader over the head without requiring an academic style lecture or a dry news story.

If I had to pick my favorite aspect of this novel, it would be that the reader is in Khalid’s head. In the cannon Pride and Prejudice, the reader is in Elizabeth Bennet’s head. We only see Mr. Darcy through her eyes. In seeing the world through Khalid’s eyes, the reader not only understand his perspective, we understand his motives and his desires. This choice by the author adds another layer to the novel and is one of the reasons why I think it stands out as one of the best Pride and Prejudice adaptations to hit the market.

I absolutely recommend it.

1 Comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

The Lost Girls of Paris Book Review

War and espionage has often been considered a man’s game. At best, women were seen as secretaries working in the home offices, assistants or nurses. There was little room for women to be in the field as soldiers or spies.

Pam Jenoff’s new novel, The Lost Girls of Paris is set during and directly after World War II. While traveling through New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, Grace Healy finds a suitcase containing the images of a dozen different women. On a whim, she takes the suitcase with her.

The owner of the suitcase is Eleanor Trigg, the leader of a ring of female spies during the war. Among the women she dispatched to Europe, twelve were sent as couriers and radio operators whose job was to aid the resistance. These women never returned home, whether or not they survived is a mystery.

Curiosity gets the best of Grace and she goes on a mission to find out who these women were and if they survived. Within the twelve women, Marie, a single mother captivates Grace. She is determined to find out if Marie lived or died for her country.

Based on the true stories of British women who served King and country, this book is a must read. It is riveting, heart stopping, heartbreaking and inspiring all in the same breath.

I absolutely recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, New York City

Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics Book Review

Sometimes, it takes an insider to tell the truth and reveal the facts that the public may or may not be aware of.

At the end of 2016, it appeared that former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) might join the new Presidential administration. He was wrong.

Governor Christie’s new memoir is entitled Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics. In the book, Governor Christie tells his story as only he can. He takes the reader through his life. Starting with his early years, to his career in the legal field which led to his career in government, his marriage and his children and finally to his interactions over the years with you know who.

I really liked this book. Governor Christie pulls no punches, telling the truth from his perspective and revealing what it was like to work with you know who. He also talks about how hard it is to be in a position of political power, and the endless work it takes to ensure that the government is running smoothly.

I recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, Politics

Kiss of the Spindle Book Review

The nice thing about fairy tales is that the stories are simple. Writers have been adapting fairy tales for generations because of the simplicity of the narrative and the basic elements of the characters.

Last year, Kiss of the Spindle, by Nancy Campbell Allen, was published. A sort of steampunk Sleeping Beauty, the book takes place in alternative universe of 19th century England. Dr. Isla Cooper is cursed. When the clock strikes midnight, she falls into a death like sleep that lasts until six am the next morning. She has a year to find the witch that cursed her and remove it before the year is up. It is nearly a year to the day that she was cursed.

Bribing her way onto Daniel Pickett’s ship whose destination is the Caribbean, she finds that she is not only passenger with questionable motives. Three shape shifters and a disliked government official are also on board. Isla and Daniel agree to work together to keep the shape shifters safe while fighting their own demons and realizing that there is a mutual attraction blossoming between them.

I rarely read romance novels. Depending on the novel and the writer, I find them to be formulaic and the characters predictable. But this novel is different. I loved that the female lead was strong, smart and capable. She was not looking for a man, as many female leads in this genre are. I also loved the concept of taking a story that we all know and turning it on it’s head.

I recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Feminism, Books, Fairy Tales

Leaving the Witness: Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life Book Review

Religion can be a tricky thing. For many of us, it provides a community, a family and answers to questions which seems impossible to answer. But for others, religion may feel confining, controlling and downright impossible to live with.

For most of her life, Amber Scorah was a Jehovah’s Witness. A devoted member, she believed firmly in the doctrines of her faith. Then she and her husband traveled to China to preach and things were never same. Her journey is chronicled in the new book Leaving the Witness: Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life.

Aware that openly proselytizing was illegal, she had to find another way preach and keep out of the sight lines of the authorities. She was essentially living two lives. On the surface she was happily married and working with others who were not of her faith or her world. But underneath, she was preaching the word of G-d as she knew it.

But then things began to shift as her world view began to change and she saw the complexities of other people who did not believe and see the world as she had been taught to see and believe.

What struck me about this book is how honest and brave she is. It takes a lot to share a story such as this with the world, not knowing how the book will be received. It was for me, as story of a woman looking for her path and trying to figure out who she is instead of letting the doctrines and the leaders of her faith make that decision for her.

I recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, Life

The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America Book Review

When a President or any political leader refers to someone or something as “enemy of the people”, one probably thinks that this person is not democratically elected. They probably think that this person is a dictator or autocrat, ruling a country in which human rights and the rights of the average citizen barely exist or don’t exist at all.

This phrase was uttered by you know who, who somehow was elected as President of the United States in 2016.

Journalist Jim Acosta‘s new memoir, The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America, is his memoir of his years as a White House correspondent. In the book, he details how you know who is a threat to our democracy and our First Amendment rights due to his lies, half truths and not so secret war on the press.

The thing that struck about Mr. Acosta’s story is that it is eerily reminiscent of the early years of a dictatorship. My hope is that this book inspires the reader to think for themselves and make a decision about their political future. Do they want to live in a thriving and growing democracy? Or do they want to continue to let you know who take us to h*ll in a handbasket?

I absolutely recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, Politics

Reckoning: The Epic Battle Against Sexual Abuse and Harassment Book Review

Since the beginning of human history, men have used sex to gain power over women. But thanks the hard work of generations of women, the power imbalance is starting to even out.

In the new book, Reckoning: The Epic Battle Against Sexual Abuse and Harassment, by Linda Hirshman, explores how women have fought back against sexual harassment and have slowly began to win the war.

Ms. Hirshman starts her book in the 1970’s, when women began to talk to each other and organize against men who took advantage of their female subordinates. She then moves forward in time highlighting a number of accusations of rape and/or sexual harassment against prominent men and the women who were brave enough to go public with the accusations. The list includes the 1991 Clarence Thomas Hearings and the accusations by Anita Hill, the Monica Lewinsky/Bill Clinton Scandal, and the multiple women claimed that Harvey Weinstein took advantage of them sexually.

Reckoning is a perfect title for this book. While telling the story of these brave and bold women, Ms. Hirshman inspires the reader to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. She also pulls no punches, calling out politicians on both sides of the aisle, women who stay silent and men who continue to perpetuate this heinous act.

I absolutely recommend it.

Leave a comment

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

The Volunteer: One Man an Underground Army and the Secret Mission to Destroy Auschwitz Book Review

When facing injustice, it’s easy to step back and let someone else be the one on the soapbox. It’s harder (and possibly dangerous) to be the one on the soapbox.

In 1939, as the clouds of war could be seen in Europe, many were content to sit back or tried to escape before the borders closed. But Witold Pilecki chose another path.

His story is chronicled in the new book The Volunteer: One Man, an Underground Army, and the Secret Mission to Destroy Auschwitz. Written by Jack Fairweather, the book tells the story of how Pilecki, a gentleman farmer and cavalry officer, put himself in harms way so he could be sent to Auschwitz. His plan was to document the Nazi atrocities, share those atrocities with the world and to bring together prisoners who would destroy the camp from the inside out.

During his two and a half year imprisonment, Pilecki and his team sabotaged the Nazis whenever they could. He also started documenting the Nazi plan to exterminate European Jewry and tried to warn the Allies of the murders of millions of innocent people.

The book contains previously unknown and hidden diary entries, documented first hand accounts by survivors and declassified files that for decades were hidden from public view. Told in an almost cinematic format, the book tells the true story of one man’s personal mission to reveal the truth before it was too late.

I am not one to dictate what should be on anyone’s TBR (to be read) list, but I would highly recommend that this book is on your list. It is honestly one of the best books I have read in a long time. There moments in the book in which I held my breath, unsure if he would survive and/or escape. If nothing else, this book is a reminder that even in darkness, there is still a small sliver of light, even if it is not immediately visible.

This book also made me angry because the Allies had information about Auschwitz because of Pilecki and only gave lip service to the news. I kept asking myself how many millions might have been saved if they had acted on the information?

I absolutely recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, History

The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty Book Review

When I was growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, the late former First Lady Barbara Bush looked like a grandmother straight out of Hollywood central casting. Her white hair was cut short, she was known for her pearls and matronly clothing and she was the matriarch of a large family. But there is so much more to her than the image.

Susan Page’s new biography, The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty, tells the story of Mrs. Bush from her perspective. Born in 1925 to a wealthy family whose roots went back to the founding of America, she was the third of four children. Equally belittled and ignored by her mother about her weight, the future First Lady never got over the comments she received as a child.

In her late teens, she married the future President George H.W. Bush. Married for seven decades, she brought six children into the world. Her oldest son, George W. Bush, followed in his father’s footsteps. Her oldest daughter, Robin, died of Leukemia at age three, leaving her mother with an emotional scar that never healed. Later as an adult, she battled depression and aided both her husband and son during their time in the White House.

Containing interviews with Mrs. Bush, President Bush, her family, political aides, press clippings, diary entries and other details, this books is the complete story of one of America’s most respected First Ladies.

One of the things that I was surprised about was how emotionally strong and outspoken Mrs. Bush was. Like many women of her generation, her adult life focused on her home and her family. But unlike the Donna Reed-like ideal of the 1950’s and 1960’s, Mrs. Bush was not the yes-woman to her husband nor was she the picture of motherly perfection. She was bold, she was outspoken and not above providing unsolicited advice. She may not have been a traditional feminist, but she is the definition of a strong, intelligent and capable woman.

This book is a must read, especially if one is a political junkie. It sheds light not just on the public side of Mrs. Bush, but also the private that only a few were privileged to see.

I recommend it.

Leave a comment

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