Book Review: Did I Ever Thank You, Sister?

Title: Did I Ever Thank You Sister?
Author: Sal Di Leo
Genre: Nonfiction
Rating: 4,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Sal Di Leo returns after 30 years to the Catholic orphanage outside Chicago that he and his siblings called home in 1963. This is the beginning of a journey of discovery and remembrance as Sal is forced to reconstruct his life as it really happened, including some of his most difficult years at Boys Town in Nebraska. As an adult, Sal tried to rise above his turbulent past in an aggressive quest for power and money. Successes soon led to failures. Eventually, a wise friend convinces Sal to go back to his roots and look for the good experiences and valuable lessons he learned as a nine-year-old orphan.

Did I Ever Thank You, Sister? is a heartwarming story of human triumph, of surviving against all odds. It’s a journey of self-discovery and remembrance. Sal Di Leo grew up in an orphanage outside Chicago, and had a troubled childhood that led him to make some wrong choices as an adult. His childhood scars put him on an aggressive quest for power and money as an adult, and this all soon led to failures, until a friend convinced him to go back to his roots, and the life lessons he learned despite his struggles as a child.

The book often brought me to tears because of how many challenges Sal and his siblings had to face in their youth. Reading about Sal’s dreams, tribulations, and how he grew and changed as a person was very inspiring.


Book Review: The Hooligans of Kandahar by Joseph Kassabian

Title: The Hooligans of Kandahar
Author: Joseph Kassabian
Genre: Nonfiction, War Memoir
Age Group: Adult
Rating: 4,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

During the peak years of the Afghanistan War, a group of soldiers is dropped by helicopter into the remote mountains outside of Kandahar City. Mismanaged and overlooked by command, how they survive is largely up to them. In the birthplace of the Taliban, some men lose their sanity, others their humanity. They are The Hooligans.

Written in the months and years following his deployment, Joseph Kassabian recounts his time in the isolated and dangerous country of Afghanistan. Pulling no punches, The Hooligans of Kandahar is a sobering, saddening, and often sarcastic first-hand account of America’s War on Terror.

In The Hooligans of Kandahar, author Joseph Kassabian talks about his time as a soldier during the war in Afghanistan. A group of soldiers is dropped by a helicopter into the remote mountains outside of Kandahar City. Overlooked by command, and mismanaged, their survival is entirely up to them. Some lose their sanity, some their humanity, but no one leaves unscathed.

The story isn’t sensationalized, nothing like Rambo or half a dozen other action movies. It feels real and raw, and as such, holds a lot more merit. It talks about struggles, not just to survive, but to hang on to the things that make us human. It talks about finding hope when hope is lost, about being strong in the face of perils, about not giving up.

Despite the often grim subject matter, the book still manages to be humorous and witty at times, and it’s an interesting experience to read through this book. Wrong and right, good and evil, books like this one put all of that in perspective. An intriguing rollercoaster of a book that visits almost the entire emotional spectrum.

Boook Review: Courage and Grace by Yoseph Komen

Title: Courage and Grace
Author: Yoseph Komen
Genre: Historical, Memoir, Nonfiction
Age Group: Adult
Rating: 4,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

A family’s unbelievable survival in the face of the Holocaust

Yoseph and Itzhak Komem are two young Jewish brothers hiding under fake Catholic identities in the Aryan side of a Polish town during the Holocaust. Their fascinating testimonies are brought together with those of their deaf father, their mother, and others, to convey their life stories and their unbelievable escape from the Nazis.

You’ll read this amazing literary, historical, and biographical document with bated breath

The novel weaves an unbelievable mix of everyday and nightmarish reality, between the ghetto and outside of it, colorfully portraying the struggle to survive on the rear lines of a war between the Wehrmacht and the Red Army. The memories conclude with the period of life after liberation: in the Polish People’s Republic, in an orphanage in France, in a boarding school in England, and in the Land of Israel.

A drama of tragedy and rescue, dare, courage, and grace

Courage and Grace offers a unique memoir of the Second World War, written in the form of a polyphony— a chorus of voices that reverberate with each other, highlighting their differences in experience and points of view. The author recreates a gripping and suspenseful mosaic of daring escapes, concealments, and acts of valor, portraying the struggle for survival in the face of a living nightmare.

Courage and Grace tells the story of Yoseph and Itzhak Komen, two young Jewish brothers hiding under fake Catholic identities in the Aryan side of a Polish town during the Holocaust. This book tells their fascinating testimonies, but also the true accounts of their parents and others who had to hide from the Nazis. And also life after the Liberation: in an orphanage, in a boarding school, and eventually settling down in Israel.

This is an unique memoir, deeply touching, moving, thought-provoking, told by various different voices who together wave an intriguing tale of courage and grace, of survival in the face of perilous odds, of never giving up. Each time I read a book about the Holocaust, my heart breaks, seeing so much innocence shattered, so much hatred and despair. Yet, these books also give me hope and courage, because humanity is strong, and humans don’t break easily, and despite going through horrors, people manage to find their humanity again.

This book is strong and powerful, and reading about the young boys’ struggle to survive was heartbreaking. Despite that, it deserves to be read and reflected upon, so we remember the atrocities of war and continue fighting for a better world, a peaceful world, where fights are settled with diplomacy and compromises rather than taking up arms.

Book Review: The Big Jump by Shmuel Cohavy

Title: The Big Jump

Author: Smuel Cohavy

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir

Age Group: Adult

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

A life in short stories

In The Big Jump, Shmuel Cohavi narrates charming and memorable moments from his life. The stories touch upon growing up in the young Israeli state, daily life in the Kibbutz, family relations, school and adolescence, love affairs and much more, covering the entire lifetime of the author.

Real-life stories that will touch you

Why did the Kibbutz youth laugh at their elders? What happens when two Kibbutz boys visit their family in the big city? Find out in these memorable anecdotes from the Kibbutz life, Israeli Defense Force service, university life, family gatherings and daily routine at work. All delivered with great charm and unmatched authenticity.

A humorous and charming picture of Israeli life

The short and precise stories in this book come together to create a colorful kaleidoscope. Prepare to meet unforgettable characters from Israeli life and delve into a lifetime of love, laughter and memories.

In The Big Jump, the author shares different short stories about important and memorable events during his life. The stories are about growing up in Israel, daily life in the Kibbutz (which I actually didn’t know what it was, until I read the book), family relations, love affair and more.

People who are from Israel or a similar culture as the protagonist will definitely enjoy this book, and immediately feel at home in this culture. For me, being from an entirely different culture, it took a while until I understood all the different traditions and relations, but I still enjoyed it. The short stories are perfect for if you don’t have much time but still want to read a story or two, and then pick up the book again later.

Book Review: Raking Light From Ashes by Relli Robinson

Title: Raking Light From Ashes
Author: Relli Robinson
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir
Age Group: Adult
Rating: 4,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Find light in the darkest hour

Lala, a young Jewish girl, loses her entire family during the dark days of the Holocaust in the Warsaw Ghetto. Thanks to the kindness of a Polish family, Lala manages to survive the war, taking on an assumed identity. By a twist of good fortune and unbelievable coincidence, she is found after the war and eventually immigrates to Israel in 1950 to live with her Israeli relatives.

A child’s struggle to comprehend a world gone mad

Relli Robinson’s true story of survival offers a fascinating panoramic human drama that extends from the dark days of the Second World War to the independent State of Israel. A gripping and inspiringly optimistic narrative based on real life experiences, you’ll enjoy every page of this fascinating journey of hope.

Raking Light From Ashes is an amazing book, a true story of survival that shows a fascinating view into human life, into the sacrifices people can be forced to make, into the horrors of the Holocaust and what true courage means.

World War II was horrible. We all know that, but to read about it, a true account of what happened, makes it all the more gruesome. A little girl, torn apart from her family, who manages to survive the war thanks to the kindness of a Polish family. Raised with new parents, raised with a new name, but still in the middle of the war that destroyed her family.

It was a touching read that brought me to tears. To think there are still people going through these horrors nowadays just make me sick. I wish we lived in a world with peace for everyone. It’s sad that this still hasn’t been accomplished.

This book tugs at your heartstrings, but it’s also very inspiring.


Book Review: Are You There, Krishna?

Title: Are You There Krishna, It’s Me Reshma. Or Rachel. Or Whatever.; Essays on Talking to Ghosts, Accosting Celebrities, One-night Stands Gone Wrong, Sexism, Race, and First-Generation Woes
Author: Rachel Khona
Genre: Memoir / Humor
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Rachel knew even as a young child that she wasn’t like the rest of her Indian family. While her parents were plotting how she could make it into med school with her mediocre grades in chemistry and biology, she had other things on my mind.

Including such gems as:

  • Why can’t she go to the temple on her period?
  • Why don’t her Indian cousins like her?
  • Why was it OK to be sexualized at a beauty pageant but not for herself?
  • How can she straddle two cultures while retaining her sense of self?
  • Why are women considered sluts and men considered studs?
  • Why do people keep asking her if she was born in India?
  • Should she wax down there?
  • Why does she have crazy eyes?

After leaving home, Rachel got high in Amsterdam, met her pop singer idol in a bathroom, argued with a ghost and got lost in the Pyrenees. But that didn’t stop her from questioning while men still tell her to smile. Are You There Krishna, It’s Me Reshma. Or Rachel. Or Whatever.; Essays on Talking to Ghosts, Accosting Celebrities, One-night Stands Gone Wrong, Sexism, Race, and First-Generation Woes weaves stories of Rachel’s life with observations on race, class, sex, feminism and culture with humor and candor.

In Are You There, Krishna? Are You There Krishna, It’s Me Reshma. Or Rachel. Or Whatever. author Rachel Khona describes her life in a humoristic, down-to-earth style that makes it easy for the reader to connect with her, and the story she has to tell.

The book is part memoir, part criticism on today’s society, and for the most part, an account of the author’s searc for herself, who she is, her culture, her identity, and how who she is compares to what society wants her to be. The author includes a lot of clever, insightful obvervations about topics like race, sex, culture, and more.

One of my favorite parts was the chapter about the ghost, which included a picture of a ghost that looks pretty scary.

Rachel’s writing style is simple and down-to-earth but it works really well to tell this story. I loved the author’s sense of humor, which shone through clearly throughout the book. I even laughed out loud a few times.

An insightful, hilarious memoir about life and its perils.

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Book Review: A Simple Life by Giora Amir

5116ds0qchlTitle: A Simple Life
Author: Giora Amir
Genre: Nonfiction
Rating: 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Autobiographic memories from the Holocaust in Slovakia

Giora Amir was born in Czehoslovakia in 1928.
When the country was divided in 1939 into German protectorate in Bohemia and Moravia, Slovakia became a country under quasi German rule, a country governed by racial discrimination and under Nazi protection. When the deportation from Slovakia to ghettos in Poland started, he escaped to Hungary – only to return to Slovakia a few years later, after the German army invaded Hungary and commenced the deportation of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz.

20th century history merges with personal memories into a gripping and inspiring life story

A simple life is an intimate and absorbing report of childhood in Slovakia under racial discrimination; the dangerous escape to Hungary and the return to Slovakia amidst the war; surviving in the woods of Tatra mountains; and, eventually, making a new beginning and a new life from the wreckage.


A Simple Life is a story about anything but a simple life. Giora Amir was born in Czehoslovakia in 1928. When the deportation from Slovakia to ghettos in Poland started in World War II, he escaped to Hungary. Once the German army invaded Hungary, commencing deportation of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz, he returned back to Slovakia.

In this book, Goria describes childhood in Slovakia under racial discrimination, the dangerous escape to Hungary, surviving against all odds, and the dangerous circumstances of war.

History comes to life in this powerful story about loss, survival, and finding the strength to go on. I truly respect everyone who lived during the war, and I’m in awe at the circumstances these people had to battle just to survive. If you want to learn more about the Holocaust and the real effect it had on people, not just people in camps but people on the run, people looking to reunite with their families, people fighting for peace, then I wholeheartedly recommend you read this book.

Book Review: Vittoria by Dafna Vitale Ben Bassat

51fxbwhnwwlTitle: Vittoria

Author: Dafna Vitale Ben Bassat

Genre: Memoir, Historical

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Love and remorse in the midst of war

Vittoria Vitale was born to a noble Jewish family in the north of Italy at the very same year that Mussolini met his Jewish lover. With the onset of World War II, her life is carried by a swirl or atrocities, decisions, farewells and remorse that will scar her forever.

A stirring historical drama about the life of a Jewish family during WW II.

This is the story of one unforgettable woman, supporting her husband and children under impossible conditions. It is also the story of a Jewish family who feels safe from war because of its status and wealth, and wakes up to a disasters reality. More than anything, it is the story of the entire Italian Jewish community in face of the Holocaust – a story of disaster, overcoming and eventual immigration to Israel as a part of the Zionist movement.

Behind every successful man stands an insightful woman.

Daly life soaked in historical consequences, family ties and general atmosphere, aromas, sounds and tastes, based on thorough research, interviews and original historical manuscripts. A drama of loss and despair, survival and human triumph with unforgettable characters that stay with you long after the last page.

Vittoria is a remarkable historical novel about Vittoria Vitale, and the struggles one young woman’s family suffers through World War II. Born into a rich Jewish family, they at first feel safe even with the war on their doorstep – but that soon changes as they learn how truly devastating war can be.

The story focuses mostly on the Italian Jewish community ,and how they struggled throughout the war and the Holocaust. It’s also about women, their importance and strength, in particular Vittoria’s strength as she makes unconventional choices, as she goes through great lengths to survive.

The book has a lot of heart, as it’s mostly about family, and love, and how all of that can survive, even in the worst circumstances. Brought me to tears a few times.


Mini-Reviews: Blackhouse, Ghost Boy, A Tale of Two Mommies


Time for some mini-reviews! What are mini-reviews, you ask? As the title suggests, these are short reviews, consisting of one paragraph tops, about a book. It’s a way to catch up on the books I’ve read a while ago, but never got around to reviewing.

The Blackhouse

Tite: The Blackhouse

Author: Peter May

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

When a brutal murder on the Isle of Lewis bears the hallmarks of a similar slaying in Edinburgh, police detective Fin Macleod is dispatched north to investigate. But since he himself was raised on Lewis, the investigation also represents a journey home and into his past.

Review: Claustrophic, small town setting, a brooding detective haunted by the past, a brutal ritualistic murder, and excellent writing. All that mixes into a chilling, tense novel with a haunting climax. One of my favorites I read this year.

A Tale of Two Mommies

Title: A Tale of Two Mommies

Author: Vanita Oelschlager

Genre: Children’s Book, Picture Book

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

A Tale of Two Mommies is a beach conversation among three children. One boy asks another boy about having two mommies. A young girl listening in asks some questions too.
True to a child’s curiosity, practical questions follow. “Which mom is there when you want to go fishing? / Which mom helps out when Kitty goes missing?” To which he answers: “Mommy helps when I want to go fishing. / Both Mommies help when Kitty goes missing.”
A Tale of Two Mommies is intended for 4-8 year olds.
This book lets us look inside one non-traditional family, a same sex couple and their son. As the children talk, it’s clear this boy lives in a nurturing environment where the biggest issues are the everyday challenges of growing up.

Review: A cute book about a kid with two mommies. We don’t always think about the consequences for kids, and how tough it can be for them to explain to other kids that they have two mommies, or even two daddies, and this book explains in a fun, cute way. The illustrations look lovely too.

Ghost Boy

Title: Ghost Boy

Author: Martin Pistorius

Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography

Rating: 5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

They all thought he was gone. But he was alive and trapped inside his own body for ten years.
In January 1988 Martin Pistorius, aged twelve, fell inexplicably sick. First he lost his voice and stopped eating. Then he slept constantly and shunned human contact. Doctors were mystified. Within eighteen months he was mute and wheelchair-bound. Martin’s parents were told an unknown degenerative disease left him with the mind of a baby and less than two years to live.
Martin was moved to care centers for severely disabled children. The stress and heartache shook his parents’ marriage and their family to the core. Their boy was gone. Or so they thought.
Ghost Boy is the heart-wrenching story of one boy’s return to life through the power of love and faith. In these pages, readers see a parent’s resilience, the consequences of misdiagnosis, abuse at the hands of cruel caretakers, and the unthinkable duration of Martin’s mental alertness betrayed by his lifeless body.
We also see a life reclaimed—a business created, a new love kindled—all from a wheelchair. Martin’s emergence from his own darkness invites us to celebrate our own lives and fight for a better life for others.
Review: A young boy falls prey to a mysterious illness, and is put into a home for people with disabilities. He’s trapped inside his own body, and it takes years before a friendly nurse figures out he can communicate, and is a lot more intelligent than they gave him credit for. The book is harsh too, and not just a hopeful story. There’s rape and horrible abuse, all in one boy – and then man’s – fight against darkness. A heart-wrenching story that I’ll never forget.

Book Review: We Never Left You by Beth and Rick Olsen

Native Cover_5575821_Front CoverTitle: We Never Left You
Authors: Beth and Rick Olsen
Genre: Non-Fiction / Memoir / Inspirational
Age Group: Adult
Rating: 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

After unspeakable tragedy, one couple must forge their own path to healing in the bittersweet true story, We Never Left You.

One moment, Beth and Rick Olsen were enjoying an ordinary life filled with all the joys and frustrations of raising their two children, Jessica and Joshua. The next moment, a drunk driver plowed through a red light at eighty miles per hour, hitting their van and changing everything.

The death of both their children launched Beth and Rick down a long and winding path toward simple survival—and eventual healing. As shock gave way to the cruel reality of their loss, they began receiving messages that proved the existence of life after death—a welcome sign that aided them in moving forward.

The Olsens soon attempted traditional healing methods but quickly found that counseling did nothing to help them get a grasp on their monumental loss. They then turned to nontraditional approaches—a decision that led them to Peru. It was there they finally began to undergo the immense physical, mental, and emotional changes that allowed them to understand everything—including the accident—happens for a reason.

Losing a child is the most terrible thing imaginable. Losing two sounds even worse. It can’t be described, so I wouldn’t even dare to begin trying. But that’s exactly what Beth and Rick Olsen went through when a druk driver plowed through a red light, hit their car and thus killed both their children.

It hurts to read this book, because it’s real. It’s not fiction. It details what this family went through. It hurts just to write this review because it makes me think about the tragedy they’ve experienced, and I wish things like that didn’t happen in life. That people didn’t have to go through these kinds of losses. But they do and it’s horrible. And the book is raw too, filled with emotion, about the hardships, about the tragedy, about how tough it is to go on living after that.

There’s some hope though. The Olsens go through the usual healing methods, like counseling, which doesn’t help. Deciding to go the non-traditional route, they end up on a journey to Peru, where they finally start healing, and start understanding everything happens for a reason. They also grow convinced – and for me, this was the sweetest part of the book, the part that completely ripped my heart out yet still made me smile – their children are still with them. This gives me hope.

Anyone who lost a kid, or someone else close to you, like a parent, grandparent…read this. Just do it. You’ll probably cry (I ended up filling half a bucket) and the loss Beth and Rick Olsen went through is devastating for sure, but this book also has a hopeful message. You can heal. You can recover.