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Zero O’Clock by C.J. Farley

zero-oclock-cj-farley-jeanne-blasberg-book-reviewZero O’Clock by C.J. Farley

In the first line of CJ Farley’s latest novel, Zero O’Clock, Geth Montego says she “would give anything to make old people remember what it’s like to be a teenager.” To that, I say “mission accomplished.” Not only did she take me back to that vulnerable time, Geth illuminated the unique challenges of high school graduating seniors in the class of 2020. Zero O’Clock is a beautiful and timely YA novel that is both heartbreaking and whip smart, a glimpse into the world of virtual friendship, classrooms, and pop stardom. Most importantly, this novel is a rallying cry, a writer’s attempt to galvanize a global and national crisis. Through Geth’s eyes, Farley’s narrative raises issues of societal inequities and racial injustice through the voices of authentic characters who display courage and resolve. I would encourage readers of any age to take Geth’s hand as she navigates unimaginable loss and to emulate her examples of grace. “Even when we have nothing, we have something to give.”

This official blurb was provided at the request of the author.

 

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About Zero O’Clock

Sixteen-year-old Geth Montego must carve a new path for herself in a world turned upside down by the COVID pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests.

Geth Montego only has three friends. There’s her best friend Tovah, who’s been acting weird ever since they started applying to the same colleges. Then there’s Diego, who she wants to ask to prom, but if she does it could ruin everything. And there’s the K-pop band BTS, who she’s never seen up close but she’s certain she’d be BFFs with every member of the group if she ever met them for real.

Then Geth’s small town of New Rochelle, New York, becomes the center of a virus sweeping the world. Schools are closed, jobs are lost, and the only human contact she has is over Zoom. After a confrontation with cops, Geth gets caught up in the Black Lives Matter movement and finds herself having to brave the dangers she’s spent months in quarantine trying to avoid.

Geth’s friends, family, and hometown are upended by the pandemic and the protests. Geth faces a choice: Is she willing to risk everything to fight for her beliefs? And what exactly does she believe in, anyway?

Zero O’Clock comes to an independent bookstore near you on September 7, 2021. Or preorder today from Bookshop.

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Mt. Moriah’s Wake by Melissa Norton Carro

listening-path-mt-moriahs-wake-melissa-carro-jeanne-blasberg-book-reviewMt. Moriah’s Wake by Melissa Norton Carro

Melissa Carro has written a stunning debut about trauma and loss and persevering love. She has created a compelling protagonist in JoAnna Wilson, haunted by ghosts of her past, terribly flawed, yet ever so sympathetic. The story of Mt Moriah’s Wake unfolds masterfully, alternating timelines in a way that had me eagerly reading on to the final, most satisfying plot twist. I love the way Carro rendered heartache, misunderstanding, love, and the all-around messiness of human relationships. This is a beautiful novel about returning home and the power of place to both repel and attract. It offered an inspiring message of hope and healing that I won’t soon forget.

 

This official blurb was provided at the request of the author.

 

Check out the other books Jeannie has blurbed.

 

About Mt Moriah’s Wake

Orphaned at age eight, JoAnna Wilson was raised by her eccentric aunt in the bucolic southern community of Mt. Moriah. Now a twenty-six-year old would-be writer, JoAnna faces several crossroads: in her marriage, in her career, and in her faith. She left home for Chicago in 1997 immediately following the murder of her best friend, Grace. Now she comes back to Mt. Moriah for the first time in four years to attend her aunt’s funeral―and realizes that she must confront both the profound sorrow she feels over Grace’s death and the mysterious guilt she carries. She must finally grieve.

A hauntingly sweet story of love and loss that alternates between JoAnna’s childhood in Mt. Moriah, her life in Chicago and her present encounters upon returning home, Mt. Moriah’s Wake ponders deep questions: When we experience unspeakable tragedy, do we see ourselves as victim or survivor? Is it possible to regain happiness in the face of such? And how do we find our faith again, once it is lost?

As her past and present worlds collide, JoAnna grapples with these questions―and her journey moves toward an unexpected conclusion.

Mt Moriah’s Wake hits shelves July 27, 2021. Add it on Goodreads and preorder through Bookshop to support your local independent bookstore.

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Leaving Coy’s Hill by Katherine A. Sherbrooke

leaving-coy's-hill-kathy-sherbrooke-book-review-jeanne-blasberg

Leaving Coy’s Hill by Katherine A. Sherbrooke

With incredible elegance and insight, Leaving Coy’s Hill strikes a perfect balance between historical setting and a rendering of the inner woman. I delighted in Lucy’s character, her quirks, ambition, loves, as well as her friendships and connectedness to important figures of the time.  While the novel illuminates the timeless female struggle for equality, tight roping career and motherhood, and achieving financial independence, its crowning achievement is an authentic, poetic voice. Sherbrooke’s language set the clocks back a hundred and fifty years with its soothing, measured cadence. Clear your calendar for this one, it’s an impossible-to-put-down, must read. 

 

This official blurb was provided at the request of the author.

 

Read more reviews from Jeannie.

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Jacobo’s Rainbow by David Hirshberg

jacobo's-rainbow-david-hirshberg-book-review-jeanne-blasbergJacobo’s Rainbow by David Hirshberg

May 2021

Although set in the nineteen sixties, David Hirshberg’s Jacobo’s Rainbow is infused with prescient relevance today. This hero’s journey shines a light on activism and protest on a college campus as well as the idea of patriotism and serving in the army. Most profoundly, it depicts a search for identity as young Jacobo Toledano struggles with the blurry distinction between who people are and how they present themselves in public. I loved this novel for its timeless message: that building a home of one’s own means leaving the safety of childhood and being resilient to the knocks the world hands you, true for an individual as well as a tribe. A great new read from the author of My Mother’s Son.

This official blurb was provided at the request of the author.

 

Expanded Review:

Jacobo’s Rainbow depicts the coming of age of a young man who is the ultimate outsider, from a town in New Mexico so small it wasn’t even on a map. From that sheltered beginning, Jacobo Toledano arrives on a college campus where he becomes an activist, advocating for the Free Speech movement as well as ending the Viet Nam war. Especially relevant today, the portrayal of both movements highlight a culture war rife with bigotry and anti-Semitism. Jacobo struggles with patriotism, friendship, and family relationships in a way that engenders a reader’s empathy, triggering her to root, if not for Jacobo’s happiness, at least ease in the world.

In another nod to the sixties, our protagonist and narrator Jacobo sometimes describes hallucinatory observations.  This is a story in which the characters he meets are not always as they first seem and because of this, it is a novel that explores the theme of identity, belonging, and trust. 

The high-altitude, red landscape of New Mexico is beautifully wrought. Arroyo Grande is a town Jacobo is intent on escaping, but its storied past turns out to be as much in his DNA as his high moral standards. Catholic by day, Jewish by night, woven together with a thick strand of Navajo, the rich history of this place and the small tribe of families who settled there together in isolation back in the 1600’s is especially compelling. As can be surmised by its title, Jacobo’s Rainbow is rife with biblical allusion and metaphor, not the least of which is the way Jacobo’s journey parallels the plight of an entire people.  

Check out more of Jeannie’s reviews.

 

About Jacobo’s Rainbow:

“Until 1960, all of us in Arroyo Grande were ignorant of electricity and automobiles, were unaware of plastic, steel, or homogenization, hadn’t been exposed to vaccines, x-rays or Freud…”

On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of a transformative event in Jacobo’s life—the day he was sent to jail—he writes about what happened behind the scenes of the Free Speech Movement, which provides the backdrop for a riveting story centered on his emergence into a world he never could have imagined. His recording of those earlier events is the proximate cause of his being arrested. Jacobo is allowed to leave jail under the condition of being drafted, engages in gruesome fighting in Vietnam, and returns to continue his work of chronicling America in the throes of significant societal changes.

Nothing is what it seems to be at first glance, as we watch Jacobo navigate through the agonies of divisive changes that are altering the character of the country. Coming to grips with his own imperfections as well as revelations about the people around him, he begins to understand more about himself and how he can have an impact on the world around him … and how it, in turn, will have an effect on him.

Jacobo’s Rainbow is a historical literary novel set primarily in the nineteen sixties during the convulsive period of the student protest movements and the Vietnam War. It focuses on the issue of being an outsider, the ‘other’, an altogether common circumstance that resonates with readers in today’s America. Written from a Jewish perspective, it speaks to universal truths that affect us all.

 

Jacobo’s Rainbow comes to an independent bookstore near you on May 4, 2021. Or preorder today from Bookshop.

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Watermark by Elise Schiller

watermark-elise-schiller-book-reviewWatermark by Elise Schiller

May 2020

Elise Schiller’s Watermark is a poignant novel that gripped me from beginning to end. Masterfully structured and told from the alternating points of view of the protagonist’s  loyal friend and astute yet anxiety-ridden younger sister, this novel offers the reader a multi-faceted view of Angel Ferente, a girl positioned to succeed against the greatest odds.  A heartbreaking and compelling drama of our times, Watermark is perfect for fans of Angie Thomas.  I will be recommending it widely. More Info

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Finding Mrs Ford by Deborah Royce

finding-mrs-ford-barbara-goodrich-royce-book-reviewFinding Mrs Ford by Deborah Royce

June 2019

In her literary debut, Deborah Goodrich Royce has given us the sort of thriller that wants to be devoured in one sitting. Written from start to finish with crisp and poignant prose, compelling characters and setting, Finding Mrs. Ford entertains as much with imagery as with its masterful plot twists. I couldn’t put it down.

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Hard Cider by Barbara Stark Nemon

hard-cider-barbara-stark-nemon-book-reviewHard Cider by Barbara Stark Nemon

September 2018

Hard Cider is a fabulous novel about starting a business, taking on challenges, and building a family. The real treat was spending time with protagonist Abbie Rose. Forced to reckon with potentially shattering news, she is human to the core. I so enjoyed being on this ride with her, watching her gain acceptance and eventually find grace. Not just a great story, this is a beautiful example of how to live.

 

Read more reviews from Jeanne Blasberg.

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My Mother’s Son by David Hirshberg

david-hirshberg-my-mother's-son-book-reviewMy Mother’s Son by David Hirshberg

May 2018

Reading My Mother’s Son is like opening up a time capsule and sifting among the treasures. 1952 Boston comes alive as David Hirschberg weaves the artifacts of that year into the fabric of his poignant narrative. This provocative novel is the colorful description of life as seen through the eyes of thirteen-year-old Joel, and at the same time, a telling and re-telling that allows adult Joel to process and decipher the truths and richness of all that transpires. I enjoyed it from beginning to end.