Blog Tour and Giveaway for: Jerusalem as a Second Language by Rochelle Distelheim

I am thrilled to be part of the blog tour for this beautifully written and compelling new novel by Rochelle Distelheim: Jerusalem as a Second Language.

Here’s the synopsis:

SYNOPSIS: It’s 1998.  The old Soviet Union is dead, the new Russia is awash in corruption and despair.  Manya and Yuri Zalinikov, secular Jews – he, a gifted mathematician recently dismissed from the Academy,  she, a concert pianist — sell black market electronics in a market stall, until threatened with a gun by a Mafioso in search of protection money.  Yuri sinks into a Chekhovian melancholy, emerging  to announce that he wants to “live as a Jew” in Israel. Manya and their daughter, Galina, are desolate, asking “how does one do that,” and “why?”

Thus begins their odyssey, part  tragedy, part comedy but always surprising. Struggling against loneliness, language, and danger, Yuri finds a Talmudic teacher equally addicted to religion and luxury; Manya finds a job playing the piano at The White Nights supper club, owned by a wealthy, flamboyant Russian  with a murky history,  who offers lust disguised as love. Galina, enrolled at Hebrew University,  finds dance clubs and pizza emporiums and a string of young men, one of whom Manya hopes will save her from the Israeli army by marrying her. 

Against a potpourri of marriage wigs, matchmaking television shows, disastrous investment schemes, and a suicide bombing, JERUSALEM AS A SECOND LANGUAGE confronts the thin line between religious faith and skepticism.

BUY LINKSAmazonAubade Publishing (not affiliated with BBNB)

This was such an interesting story and so very believable. I had to think that this was largely based in personal experience (??). Now is a time when immigration is so prevalent in the news; it’s so moving to read a book of “strangers in a strange land”. At times I found this novel laugh out loud funny. At times it nearly broke my heart.

Highly recommended!

Here’s a bit on the author, who recently passed away (at 92):

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rochelle Distelheim, a Chicago native, earned numerous short story literary awards, including The Katherine Anne Porter Prize; Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards and Fellowships; The Ragdale Foundation Fellowships; The Faulkner Society Gold Medal in Novel-in-Progress; The Faulkner Society Gold Medal in Novel; The Gival Press 2017 Short Story Competition; Finalist, Glimmer Train’s Emerging Writers; and The Salamander Second Prize in Short Story. In addition, Rochelle’s short stories earned nominations for The Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize.  Her stories appeared in national magazines such as Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, Woman’s Day, Woman’s World, Working Woman, Working Mother, and more.  Her first novel, Sadie in Love, was published in 2018 when she was 90 years old.  She lived in Highland Park, IL. Here is the obituary that ran in the Chicago Tribunehttps://www.legacy.com/obituaries/chicagotribune/obituary.aspx?n=rochelle-distelheim&pid=196338405&fhid=2000.

But wait, there’s more!

Over the River Publications will send ONE LUCKY U.S. READER a copy of Jerusalem as a Second Language and Ms. Distelheim’s first book: Sadie in Love. Please leave a comment in the comments. I will use random.org to pick a comment number and that person will be the winner! I will then contact that person so that I can get them in touch with OTR publications.

The Winter Guest by Pam Jenoff

As you can imagine, I have a LOT of books on my kindle. I actually burnt out my first Kindle by reading more than 400 pages a day (Amazon gave me a discount to replace it).

Right now I have over 125 pages of books in my “library”. With 6 on each page, that’s about 750+ books. Needless to say, I often have to go through them and see what I’ve missed in my TBR pile!

I was searching one day and came across this novel. I really enjoy Pam Jenoff’s historical fiction, and I had actually purchased this book for myself in 2019 as a birthday present. I guess I then forgot about it!

This is a touching and heartfelt story of WWII (you know I’m a big fan!), centering on a family of children that have been torn apart by the war. The two eldest sisters (twins) are trying to keep them all together. One of them, Helena, finds an injured pilot hiding nearby and takes care of him, and (of course) they fall in love.

Here’s the overview from Amazon:

Life is a constant struggle for the eighteen-year-old Nowak twins as they raise their three younger siblings in rural Poland under the shadow of the Nazi occupation. The constant threat of arrest has made everyone in their village a spy, and turned neighbor against neighbor. Though rugged, independent Helena and pretty, gentle Ruth couldn’t be more different, they are staunch allies in protecting their family from the threats the war brings closer to their doorstep with each passing day. 

Then Helena discovers an American paratrooper stranded outside their small mountain village, wounded, but alive. Risking the safety of herself and her family, she hides Sam—a Jew—but Helena’s concern for the American grows into something much deeper. Defying the perils that render a future together all but impossible, Sam and Helena make plans for the family to flee. But Helena is forced to contend with the jealousy her choices have sparked in Ruth, culminating in a singular act of betrayal that endangers them all—and setting in motion a chain of events that will reverberate across continents and decades. 

This was a very memorable story, and I see that it is the first in a series. If I had one honest complaint, it was that I felt the pacing was rather slow for the first 85% of the book – and that was the perfect fit for the dull winter season that the children were trying to get through. Then suddenly things sped up and happened and the rest of the story was told in a flashback. I guess the novel could have been 600 pages if it was all written out, but I would have loved to read through the happenings.

Maybe that’s in the series? I really don’t know. But I do know that if you like WWII genre and stories of resiliency, this is a good one!

For My Ears: Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Description (via Amazon) –

How much can a family forgive?

A profoundly moving novel about two neighboring families in a suburban town, the friendship between their children, a tragedy that reverberates over four decades, the daily intimacies of marriage, and the power of forgiveness.

Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, rookie cops in the NYPD, live next door to each other outside the city. What happens behind closed doors in both houses—the loneliness of Francis’s wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne, sets the stage for the explosive events to come.

Ask Again, Yes by award-winning author Mary Beth Keane, is a beautifully moving exploration of the friendship and love that blossoms between Francis’ youngest daughter, Kate, and Brian’s son, Peter, who are born six months apart. In the spring of Kate and Peter’s eighth grade year, a violent event divides the neighbors, the Stanhopes are forced to move away, and the children are forbidden to have any further contact. 

But Kate and Peter find a way back to each other, and their relationship is tested by the echoes from their past. Ask Again, Yes reveals how the events of childhood look different when reexamined from the distance of adulthood – villains lose their menace, and those who appeared innocent seem less so. Kate and Peter’s love story is marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace. 

Narrated by Molly Pope, this was an intriguing and at times heart-breaking story of two families and the events and love that bind them together. Unforgettable and as tragic as it is redemptive, this is one that you won’t soon forget.

I got mine through Audible.

Kids’ Choice: Marshfield Dreams and Marshfield Memories by Ralph Fletcher

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With my 6th graders, each fall we read MARSHFIELD DREAMS by Ralph Fletcher. This is a funny yet touching memoir of Mr. Fletcher’s childhood, growing up in Marshfield, MA, in the 1960’s. He has a large family (8 kids) and a host of fun experiences. Part of the joy in this book is in the simple details of typical family life, such as getting a new baby sibling or a first pet. Events are portrayed in language that kids and adults will both enjoy. Each fall the kids tell me that this is “one of the best books I’ve ever read!”.

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You can imagine my great excitement when I discovered that a sequel to Marshfield Dreams — MARSHFIELD MEMORIES — was published this past fall! I contacted Mr. Fletcher’s publicist and she kindly sent me a copy to enjoy and to share with my students. The Fletcher fun continues with more stories about boy scouts, the woods, sibling hi-jinks, and Ralph’s burgeoning interest in both writing and girls. I was thrilled to be transported back to Marshfield!

Highly recommended for readers in grade 4/5 and up. This was a great choice for reluctant readers in older grades. And adults will enjoy it as well! Thank you for my review copy of Marshfield Memories. My school purchased my copy of Marshfield Dreams through Amazon.

Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

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Those of you who love Kate DiCamillo and her “Raymie Nightingale” will remember Louisiana Elefante. In this middle grade novel, the next chapter of Louisiana’s story is told. This was a quick read with a very distinct narrator’s voice (I don’t think Louisiana ever speaks with contractions), and while it was sad (the child is basically abandoned – twice), it has a sweet ending with a theme of accepting yourself for who you are.

I’ll be sure to recommend this one to our school library. Thank you for my review copy via Net Galley!

Description

Us Against You by Frederik Backman

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I absolutely love the writing of Frederik Backman. His novel A MAN CALLED OVE made me both laugh and cry. His story of a hockey town in crisis, BEARTOWN, also made me cry. This summer he has a new novel out, a sequel to BEARTOWN, called US AGAINST YOU. It takes up the story of the families of Beartown and brings them through the next year as they continue to struggle and cope with the actions and activities of the past. Peter and Kira struggle with their marriage. Maya struggles with trying to live her life in the shadow of her assault. Leo struggles with adolescence. And throughout, the lives of these very ordinary people are set against the struggles of a hockey team (with a new coach) and the rivalry Beartown has with neighboring Hed. “Rivalry” might be too tame of a word for it, though.

One of Backman’s gifts as a writer is that he takes the very ordinary and makes it extraordinary. He can craft a simple moment and make it memorable; and he gets to the heart of emotion and humanity in doing so.

If you haven’t read Beartown, it makes most sense to read that novel first, but this can be a stand alone title as well.

Highly recommended! Thank you for my review e-copy from Net Galley!

Here’s the overview:

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove and Beartown returns with “a lyrical look at how a community heals, how families recover and how individuals grow” (The Washington Post).

A small community tucked deep in the forest, Beartown is home to tough, hardworking people who don’t expect life to be easy or fair. No matter how difficult times get, they’ve always been able to take pride in their local ice hockey team. So it’s a cruel blow when they hear that Beartown ice hockey might soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in the neighboring town of Hed, take in that fact. As the tension mounts between the two adversaries, a newcomer arrives who gives Beartown hockey a surprising new coach and a chance at a comeback.

Soon a team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; always dutiful and eager-to-please Bobo; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the town’s enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big game approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt intensifies. By the time the last goal is scored, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after everything, the game they love can ever return to something as simple and innocent as a field of ice, two nets, and two teams. Us against you.

Here is a declaration of love for all the big and small, bright and dark stories that give form and color to our communities. With immense compassion and insight, Fredrik Backman reveals how loyalty, friendship, and kindness can carry a town through its most challenging days.

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng (Read by Jennifer Lim)

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From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

(from Amazon)

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Wow! I loved Celeste Ng’s first book, EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU, and I loved this one as well. What a great story. Ng has a way with words, and her prose paints such a vivid depiction of daily life. It’s all in the details.

This was a captivating story, which I listened to on my commute. You could see where things were headed and that disaster was looming on the horizons, but I just couldn’t stop listening. Devastating yet memorable, this was one of my fave books of 2017.

I got mine from Audible, and you can, too — or get it an your local favorite indie bookshop, online, or at the library!

WAIT FOR THE RAIN by Maria Murnane

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The very lovely Maria Murnane sent me an e-copy of her novel, WAIT FOR THE RAIN, along with her novel BRIDGES (reviewed here earlier). I chose to end my summer with it.

This is a realistic but feel-good story about a young woman getting herself back on her feet after going through a divorce:

From the author of the bestselling Waverly Bryson series.

Daphne White is staring down the barrel of forty—and is distraught at what she sees. Her ex-husband is getting remarried, her teenage daughter hardly needs her anymore, and the career she once dreamed about has somehow slipped from her grasp. She’s almost lost sight of the spirited and optimistic young woman she used to be.

As she heads off to a Caribbean island to mark the new decade with her best friends from college, Daphne’s in anything but the mood to celebrate. But when she meets Clay Hanson, a much younger man, she ignores her inner voice warning her that she’s too old for a fling. In fact, this tropical getaway might be the perfect opportunity to picture her future in a new sun-drenched light.

With the help of her friends, Daphne rediscovers her enthusiasm for life, as well as her love for herself—and realizes that her best years are still ahead.

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I think just about anyone can find something in common with one of these characters, who are quite believable. I couldn’t help but root for Daphne, and believe me – I know what she was going through.

Easy to read with a realistic but fun plot and likable characters, both WAIT FOR THE RAIN and BRIDGES are winners for me.

Thank you, Maria, for sharing your novels with me!

GIRL IN SNOW by Danya Kukafka

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Description

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Yet another “I can’t stop reading!” book for me this summer! I love these suspenseful mysteries. I actually figure this one out, but it wasn’t obvious. If you like these type of mysteries, pick this one up today!
Thank you for my review copy!

One for Sorrow by Mary Downing Hahn

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I found this title online and was happy to receive it through Net Galley for my iPad.

It is billed as a children’s book, but I think the content more appropriate for YA or adults. (similar to the conversations about WOLF HOLLOW — is that really a children’s book? I say not).

In this novel, young Annie is the new girl at school and she snubs an unpopular but clingy and unkind girl, who then contracts influenza and haunts Annie. Lots to think and talk about with this one in regards to how we treat others, and/or in the historical context of WWI.

Here’s the overview:

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Again — it’s not just for children! I enjoyed it and read it straight through in a sitting.
Thank you for my review copy!