June Book Review Wrap Up

So many books, so little time! I am an avid reader and love to share recommendations with fellow readers. My choice in books tend to vary by my mood but some of my favorites are mystery, suspense, thriller, and humor. Get my reviews direct to your inbox every Wednesday and check back here for monthly features.


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The Book of Jeremiah

By: Julie Zuckerman

The Book of Jeremiah, a Novel in Stories, follows eight decades of the life of Jeremiah Gerstler.

I really enjoyed the concept of this book. Zuckerman lays out each milestone of Jeremiah’s life as though it were a short story, jumping from past to present and back again. The book feels like each chapter is a short story. I found the format engaging. It really held my interest.

Jeremiah Gerstler’s life really speaks to Jewish life experience in the 20th century. He is the child of immigrants. We see him as a precocious youth, coming of age, finding love, having a family, and experiencing success in his career. Similar to the biblical narrative by the same name, Gerstler’s story carries its share of hardships and challenges. But unlike it, there are also beautiful moments of happiness and joy. It’s very true to real life experience. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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Caledonia

By: Sherry V. Ostroff

Anna Isaac is a fifteen year old Jewess living in 17th century Scotland. Her father is determined to see her settled before his poor health becomes worse so he tasks her angry and vindictive brother with choosing her groom. Faced with an impossible choice, Anna seeks the help of a visiting Highlander. A choice that will change her her fate and send her on an incredible journey. Enter Hanna, a modern day young woman, living in Pennsylvania. Her family followed traditions she never quite understood until an inheritance sends her on her own journey of self-discovery.

This is my first work by Sherry Ostroff and I can’t wait to read more. I was completely engrossed within the first twenty pages and couldn’t put it down. The story transitions seamlessly between past and present. There are clear and interesting parallels between Anna and Hanna. Each of these women is wonderfully complex. The connection of their stories is expertly crafted. And without any spoilers, there was a scene near the end that was so beautifully written, it moved me to tears. I highly recommend this book!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Jerusalem Stone

By: Susan Sofayov

Julie Wasserman’s world has been turned upside down. She’s lost a job she enjoyed, with the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Then her twin brother is taken from her, in a car crash. She’s faced with returning to her hometown, of Pittsburgh, and her grief-stricken father, to start over in her new normal. But with a gap of time before her new job begins, Julie finds herself impulsively flying to Thailand, a place her brother dreamed of visiting one day with a woman he fell in love with on a birthright trip, to Israel. It’s a trip that will change Julie’s life in more ways than one, after she meets her own Israeli prince charming.

Susan Sofayov has crafted an intriguing story in this book. Julie Wasserman is a complex and emotionally raw character who becomes incredibly conflicted with the introduction of her love interest, Avi. He seems to bring her back to life. But having a chance at happiness only exacerbates her survivor’s guilt and creates a deep inner conflict for her. Which is compounded even further when Avi convinces Julie to travel to Israel with him. A place her brother loved and she never wanted to visit.

Safoyov’s vivid description of Israel transported me right back to the streets of Jerusalem. I especially related to the description of Julie’s experience visiting the Kotel for the first time. The portion of the book set in Israel was my favorite. I wasn’t able to put this book down from the second Julie and Avi’s plane touched down. The unexpected twist at the end (no spoilers) was well-timed and very moving. This one belongs on your book club’s reading list!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Art of Tea Organics
The Lucky One

By: Sherry V. Ostroff

In order to do this story justice, I’m going to use the summary from the back cover to avoid any errors in the details:

Ita was born in the wrong place at the wrong time. The place was the former Pale of Settlement which was a large swath of land in western Russia where Jews were forced to live for centuries. The year was 1918 and Russia was in the midst of two revolutions. The first occurred with the abdication of the last tsar of Russia culminating in his execution. The second was the bloody civil war that ensued for control of the country. Ita was caught in the middle during this time of great political and social upheaval. Wave after wave of murderous anti-Jewish riots, orpogroms, descended upon Jewish shtetls, and the only chance for her survival was to escape. Escape was not easy. In fact, it could be deadly. In Ita’s own words, along with her daughter’s (Sherry V. Ostroff) historical and cultural background information, she describes her privileged life in Russia, the bloody pogroms, and her harrowing escape. Ita faces each roadblock with resolve, including a new country that doesn’t want her, and proves why she is, indeed, the lucky one.

This is the second work I’ve read by Sherry V. Ostroff and want an incredible story of overcoming incredibly difficult odds. Sherry’s mother, Ita, tells her story of growing up in very dangerous circumstances in Russia where the political climate was incredibly unfriendly to the Jewish population, to say the least. She and her family were very fortunate to be able to escape to Romania for a time and ultimately to the United States. Interspersed between her mother’s memories, Ostroff provides a very detailed history of the time her mother was living in. It’s an interesting contrast to read Ita’s story of her understanding of the world around her, through the eyes of an innocent young child versus the reality of the time. Stories like Ita’s are so important and need to be told. I applaud Ostroff for preserver her mother’s legacy in this work.

Never again.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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