Category Archives: Book Review

Kushner, Inc.: Greed. Ambition. Corruption. The Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump Book Review

We all want to achieve the American dream in one form or another. The question is, how far does one go to achieve the American dream without crossing moral and/or legal boundaries?

Journalist Vicky Ward’s new book, Kushner, Inc.: Greed. Ambition. Corruption. The Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, tells the dangerous story of how Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are on their way to unchecked power and wealth.

She starts with her subject’s early years. We all know about Ivanka’s childhood, but the story of Jared’s early years and his family history may be unknown to some readers. His paternal grandparents, Joseph and Rae Kushner survived the Holocaust with a zeal that few survivors had then or have now. Their youngest son (Jared’s father), Charles Kushner, was found guilty in the early 2000’s of financial crimes and witness tampering.

Both Jared and Ivanka grew up in very comfortable surroundings. When you know who was unfortunately elected President in 2016, they followed him to Washington D.C. Instead of being the “adults in the room”, they are using their access to the corridors of power and to the powerful for their own needs.

This book is well done and a must read. What scares me is that if these allegations are true, there is no one to stop Jared and Ivanka throwing away everything this country stands for so they will head of the pack. The other thing that scares me is that someone with antisemitic beliefs would easily be able paint any member of the Jewish faith with a broad brush because of Jared’s image, history and access to the wealthy and powerful.

I recommend it.

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Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World Book Review

When one is the first at anything, especially when one is a minority or disenfranchised, they are often labelled as a hero to those who they have paved the way for. But behind that bold heroism is years, if not decades of drive, hard work and fighting against prejudice.

Linda Hirshman’s 2016 book, Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World, tells the story of the lives and careers of Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who were the first and second women to join the Supreme Court respectively.

On the surface, the women couldn’t have been further apart. Sandra Day O’Connor was born into a Christian family who owned a large ranch in Arizona. Ruth Bader Ginsburg grew up in an immigrant Jewish family in New York City. Coming of age in era when a woman was expected to marry and raise a family while her husband brought home the literal bacon, both women defied the rules of their era by earning law degrees and dared to openly question why women were second class citizens.

Along the way, they inspired and continue to inspire generations of women in every industry to fight for their rights and the equality that is their right.

What struck me about this book is that though both Justice Ginsburg and Justice O’Connor had very different early lives, they are remarkably similar in the paths they took, the challenges they faced and the paths they blazed for future generations of women.

Though this book has moments of being a dry academic style textbook, it is also a reminder of how far women have come and how far we need to go.

I recommend it.

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My Real Name Is Hanna Book Review

The story of the Holocaust and the millions who perished needlessly sometimes feels too big to swallow or believe. Sometimes it takes the story of one person to remind us that it was not so long ago and far way that it happened.

Tara Lynn Masih’s new novel, My Real Name Is Hanna, is set in a rural Ukrainian village during World War II. Hanna Slivka is an ordinary fourteen year old girl living with her family. She is also a Jew in a time and place when being Jewish meant having a target on your back. As the noose tightens around them, Hanna’s family makes the choice to go into hiding in the forest.

While in hiding, they deal with hunger, disease and the fear that they will be discovered by the Ukrainian peasants who are more than willing to go along with the Nazis. Then Hanna’s father disappears and Hanna does what she must to keep her mother and younger siblings alive.

Based on a true story, this book is powerful and hit’s home like a bolt of lightning. I loved the first person POV, the universality of being in your early teens and the hard truth that this story is as relevant now as it ever was.

I absolutely recommend it.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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