Jeanne Blasberg is a novelist, travel writer, and adventurer. She is a voracious reader and regularly reviews books on her blog, Goodreads, BookBub, LibraryThing, and Amazon.

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Think Again by Adam M. Grant

think-again-adam-grant-book-review-jeanne-blasbergThink Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam M. Grant

I really loved the end of this book where it encouraged young people to not feel confined by early career choices or expectations! Such important advice for a happy life.

About Think Again

Think Again is a book about the benefit of doubt, and about how we can get better at embracing the unknown and the joy of being wrong. Evidence has shown that creative geniuses are not attached to one identity, but constantly willing to rethink their stances and that leaders who admit they don’t know something and seek critical feedback lead more productive and innovative teams.

New evidence shows us that as a mindset and a skilllset, rethinking can be taught and Grant explains how to develop the necessary qualities to do it. Section 1 explores why we struggle to think again and how we can learn to do it as individuals, arguing that ‘grit’ alone can actually be counterproductive. Section 2 discusses how we can help others think again through learning about ‘argument literacy’. And the final section 3 looks at how schools, businesses and governments fall short in building cultures that encourage rethinking.

In the end, learning to rethink may be the secret skill to give you the edge in a world changing faster than ever.

 

Read more of Jeannie’s Reviews on her blog, on Goodreads, or on the New York Journal of Books.

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Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad

between-two-kingdoms-book-review-jeanne-blasbergBetween Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad

I picked up this memoir on the recommendation of several people and sent it to my daughter who was on her own cross-country odyssey in a van with her dog. I just finished it myself as I travelled the Pacific Northwest with her. Couldn’t have picked a better road trip read!! Jaouad’s book is primarily about the relentless assault of leukemia on her body, but the takeaways strike a chord with any soul who feels their life has been interrupted. The bridge connecting her life with cancer and her life after cancer is a 100 day road trip across the United States where she visits many people who reached out to her during her illness due to her writing a blog and column for the NYT about being a young person fighting cancer. The author decides to drive across the country, but the funny thing is that she does not know how to drive. She plans to camp at night, but she has not yet figured out how to set up her tent. Her journey to be well, toward a new identity, is just so beautiful. It is an inspiring story for sure. But I wasn’t glued to the book just for the story, it was for the quality of the writing and the voice for sure. It was because the author dared to explore all the conflicting feelings, actions, and words spoken when tragedy strikes. It was because she acknowledged the leukemia did not just have ramifications for her, but for everyone in her orbit.

About Between Two Kingdoms

A searing, deeply moving memoir of illness and recovery that traces one young woman’s journey from diagnosis to remission and, ultimately, a road trip of healing and self-discovery.

In the summer after graduating from college, Suleika Jaouad was preparing, as they say in commencement speeches, to enter “the real world”. She had fallen in love and moved to Paris to pursue her dream of becoming a war correspondent. The real world she found, however, would take her into a very different kind of conflict zone.

It started with an itch—first on her feet, then up her legs, like a thousand invisible mosquito bites. Next came the exhaustion, and the six-hour naps that only deepened her fatigue. Then a trip to the doctor and, a few weeks shy of her twenty-third birthday, a diagnosis: leukemia, with a 35 percent chance of survival. Just like that, the life she had imagined for herself had gone up in flames. By the time Jaouad flew home to New York, she had lost her job, her apartment, and her independence. She would spend much of the next four years in a hospital bed, fighting for her life and chronicling the saga in a column for The New York Times.

When Jaouad finally walked out of the cancer ward—after three and a half years of chemo, a clinical trial, and a bone marrow transplant—she was, according to the doctors, cured. But as she would soon learn, a cure is not where the work of healing ends; it’s where it begins. She had spent the past 1,500 days in desperate pursuit of one goal—to survive. And now that she’d done so, she realized that she had no idea how to live.

How would she reenter the world and live again? How could she reclaim what had been lost? Jaouad embarked—with her new best friend, Oscar, a scruffy terrier mutt—on a 100-day, 15,000-mile road trip across the country. She set out to meet some of the strangers who had written to her during her years in the hospital: a teenage girl in Florida also recovering from cancer; a teacher in California grieving the death of her son; a death-row inmate in Texas who’d spent his own years confined to a room. What she learned on this trip is that the divide between sick and well is porous, that the vast majority of us will travel back and forth between these realms throughout our lives. Between Two Kingdoms is a profound chronicle of survivorship and a fierce, tender, and inspiring exploration of what it means to begin again.

 

Read more of Jeannie’s Reviews on her blog, on Goodreads, or on the New York Journal of Books.

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The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

plot-jean-hanff-korelitz-book-review-jeanne-blasbergThe Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

This was a fun read for the mere fact the author revealed so much about the world of being a writer and the ins and outs of the publishing industry. It was a world she displayed with authority and a healthy dose of sarcasm. She also wove two threads of suspense together very well: 1) around the slowly evolving “plot” idea that surpassed all others – I read speedily in order to know what, in fact, that might be and 2) around the mystery of who was sending Jacob Finch threatening emails and texts – that one became sort of obvious to me early on, but still I wanted to read to see if I was correct.

This is literary suspense – well written, with character nuance and social commentary – that is addictive and has you staying up at night to finish. The chapters alternate in a fun way that becomes a novel written within a novel… It was touted to me as the fun read of summer 2021 and I think it delivered!

About The Plot

Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he’s teaching in a third-rate MFA program and struggling to maintain what’s left of his self-respect; he hasn’t written–let alone published–anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student, announces he doesn’t need Jake’s help because the plot of his book in progress is a sure thing, Jake is prepared to dismiss the boast as typical amateur narcissism. But then… he hears the plot.

Jake returns to the downward trajectory of his own career and braces himself for the supernova publication of Evan Parker’s first novel: but it never comes. When he discovers that his former student has died, presumably without ever completing his book, Jake does what any self-respecting writer would do with a story like that–a story that absolutely needs to be told.

In a few short years, all of Evan Parker’s predictions have come true, but Jake is the author enjoying the wave. He is wealthy, famous, praised and read all over the world. But at the height of his glorious new life, an e-mail arrives, the first salvo in a terrifying, anonymous campaign: You are a thief, it says.

As Jake struggles to understand his antagonist and hide the truth from his readers and his publishers, he begins to learn more about his late student, and what he discovers both amazes and terrifies him. Who was Evan Parker, and how did he get the idea for his “sure thing” of a novel? What is the real story behind the plot, and who stole it from whom?

Hailed as breathtakingly suspenseful, Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Plot is a propulsive read about a story too good not to steal, and the writer who steals it.

 

Read more of Jeannie’s Reviews on her blog, on Goodreads, or on the New York Journal of Books.

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The Privileges by Jonathan Dee

privileges-jonathan-dee-book-review-jeanne-blasbergThe Privileges by Jonathan Dee

The writing in this novel was very good: smart, witty, revelatory. The early chapters which depict a boozy wedding weekend and a mother getting through an endless day with her young children had me excited and optimistic about the reading journey I was heading on. Even the husband’s lack of integrity when it came to making money indicated promise toward an interesting story, but the problem was that aside from the skilled writing and early chapters there wasn’t much else there – the plot was thin and the characters didn’t evolve in a meaningful way, and the track the author chose for the ending was just strange and unsatisfactory. No reason this novel couldn’t have delivered the full package, and the fact that it didn’t was a big disappointment.

About The Privileges

Smart, socially gifted, and chronically impatient, Adam and Cynthia Morey are so perfect for each other that united they become a kind of fortress against the world. In their hurry to start a new life, they marry young and have two children before Cynthia reaches the age of twenty-five. Adam is a rising star in the world of private equity and becomes his boss’s protégé. With a beautiful home in the upper-class precincts of Manhattan, gorgeous children, and plenty of money, they are, by any reasonable standard, successful.

But the Moreys’ standards are not the same as other people’s. The future in which they have always believed for themselves and their children—a life of almost boundless privilege, in which any desire can be acted upon and any ambition made real—is still out there, but it is not arriving fast enough to suit them. As Cynthia, at home with the kids day after identical day, begins to drift, Adam is confronted with a choice that will test how much he is willing to risk to ensure his family’s happiness and to recapture the sense that the only acceptable life is one of infinite possibility.

The Privileges is an odyssey of a couple touched by fortune, changed by time, and guided above all else by their epic love for each other. Lyrical, provocative, and brilliantly imagined, this is a timely meditation on wealth, family, and what it means to leave the world richer than you found it.

 

Read more of Jeannie’s Reviews on her blog, on Goodreads, or on the New York Journal of Books.

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Animal by Lisa Taddeo

animal-lisa-taddeo-book-review-jeanne-blasbergAnimal by Lisa Taddeo

I listened to Animal on audio which was really well narrated by Emma Roberts. That aside, once I got to the end, I had to immediately begin listening all over from the beginning. It’s that kind of book, so set aside plenty of time. This debut work of fiction is so original yet arises so obviously from Taddeo’s out-of-the-park-hit THREE WOMEN which was an exhaustively researched work of non-fiction. The book is written from the point of view of Joan, like a letter to an unknown somebody, the identity of who we discover at the end of the book. This is a story of a women’s shedding multiple layers of trauma, it is also a beautiful weaving of female relationships that result in unlikely love. Joan’s life is unalterably changed when her father has a child with another woman and the events that follow, and that child is the very person Joan seeks out in order to help her make sense of her life. She departs New York and heads to the heat of Los Angeles where her landlord drives her to commit her own violence. In having affairs with married men, Joan suffers the role of other woman, eventually befriending the daughter of the man she had an affair with, a young women she related to intimately. This book does not hold back on descriptions of sex or violence. Taddeo’s language is sparse and sometimes shocking and always revelatory.

About Animal

Honestly, sometimes I think it’s the only recourse. Killing men in times like these.

Joan has spent a lifetime enduring the cruel acts of men. But when one of them commits a shocking act of violence in front of her, she flees New York City in search of Alice, the only person alive who can help her make sense of her past. In the sweltering hills above Los Angeles, Joan unravels the horrific event she witnessed as a child—that has haunted her every waking moment—while forging the power to finally strike back.

Here is the electrifying debut novel from Lisa Taddeo, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller and international phenomenon Three Women, which was named to more than thirty best-of-the-year lists and hailed as “a dazzling achievement” (Los Angeles Times) and “a heartbreaking, gripping, astonishing masterpiece” (Esquire). Animal is a depiction of female rage at its rawest, and a visceral exploration of the fallout from a male-dominated society. With writing that scorches and mesmerizes, Taddeo illustrates one woman’s exhilarating transformation from prey into predator.

 

Read more of Jeannie’s Reviews on her blog, on Goodreads, or on the New York Journal of Books.

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The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein

jeanne-blasberg-book-review-trauma-cleanerThe Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein

This book was prescribed in a bibliotherapy session and coincidentally read while cleaning out my own home of twenty years. Trigger alert if you are, or ever had to deal with a hoarder. The core word to describe this narrator’s view of Sandra, The Trauma Cleaner is compassion. To understand and forgive anything and everything about your fellow human requires a glimpse back into what made them who they are in the present. Sandra is anything and everything BUT what she appears to be and therefore is the perfect trauma cleaner, treating each client’s situation with understanding and is never judgmental. Her antidote for trauma is a little bit of love and a lot of order. I am so intrigued by the mental deterioration that causes people to hold onto things, in fact to have their external surroundings mirror their internal chaos. This book hit me at a very tender spot and filled me with compassion for all the people I’ve loved whose homes have mirrored their internal chaos, it also shone a light on why I insist on order to a fault, why I attempt to control my environment and refuse to hold onto everything. A perverse companion read to Marie Kondo haha.

About Trauma Cleaner

Husband, father, drag queen, sex worker, wife. Sarah Krasnostein’s The Trauma Cleaner is a love letter to an extraordinary ordinary life. In Sandra Pankhurst she discovered a woman capable of taking a lifetime of hostility and transphobic abuse and using it to care for some of society’s most in-need people.

Sandra Pankhurst founded her trauma cleaning business to help people whose emotional scars are written on their houses. From the forgotten flat of a drug addict to the infested home of a hoarder, Sandra enters properties and lives at the same time. But few of the people she looks after know anything of the complexity of Sandra’s own life. Raised in an uncaring home, Sandra’s miraculous gift for warmth and humour in the face of unspeakable personal tragedy mark her out as a one-off. 

 

Read more of Jeannie’s Reviews on her blog, on Goodreads, or on the New York Journal of Books.

The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal

jeanne-blasberg-book-review-the-heart-maylis-de-kerangalThe Heart by Maylis de Kerangal

The human organ at the center of it all, around which so much is attributed. The love, the imagery, the life – the heart is more than a pulsing muscle. This novel is successful in its ambition to capture everything, from the poetry of the heart to the science around the heart, the anatomy of the heart, the ability of a heart to be farmed and transplanted and then give life again. THE HEART follows the journey of one Simone’s heart and then the tragedy of his death and all the emotion around the donation of his heart to another. It is a stirring and sorrowful book that is very thought provoking. A totally original novel.

About The Heart

Just before dawn on a Sunday morning, three teenage boys go surfing. While driving home exhausted, the boys are involved in a fatal car accident on a deserted road. Two of the boys are wearing seat belts; one goes through the windshield. The doctors declare him brain-dead shortly after arriving at the hospital, but his heart is still beating.

Maylis de Kerangal’s The Heart takes place over the twenty-four hours surrounding the resulting heart transplant, as life is taken from a young man and given to a woman close to death. In gorgeous, ruminative prose, it examines the deepest feelings of everyone involved as they navigate decisions of life and death.

As stylistically audacious as it is emotionally explosive, The Heart mesmerized readers in France, where it has been hailed as the breakthrough work of a new literary star. With the precision of a surgeon and the language of a poet, de Kerangal has made a major contribution to both medicine and literature with an epic tale of grief, hope, and survival.

Read more of Jeannie’s Reviews on her blog, on Goodreads, or on the New York Journal of Books.

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas

jeanne-blasberg-book-review-resurrection-of-john-ashby-cherise-wolasThe Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas

This is a big meaty book that allows you to inhabit a character’s mind as you would your own. Or at least that of a close friend with whom you are very intimate and familiar. This the story of a woman permitting the men in her life a series of small betrayals until there is one that is almost too large to forgive. Heartbreaking. Joan Ashby is a unique talent, described as brilliant, yet there is something identifiable in her that felt universal to all wives and mothers – a combination of the unanswered sacrifice and one’s dreams and desires not being taken seriously. I loved reading about Joan as a single woman, young wife and mother, and then mother of much older children. I also enjoyed the structure of the novel in that segments of Joan’s short stories and novels were included as chapters themselves. It is such an interesting way to add to the character of writer and how her circumstances influence her writing.

 

About The Resurrection of Joan Ashby

I viewed the consumptive nature of love as a threat to serious women. But the wonderful man I just married believes as I do―work is paramount, absolutely no children―and now love seems to me quite marvelous.

These words are spoken to a rapturous audience by Joan Ashby, a brilliant and intense literary sensation acclaimed for her explosively dark and singular stories.

When Joan finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, she is stunned by Martin’s delight, his instant betrayal of their pact. She makes a fateful, selfless decision then, to embrace her unintentional family.

Challenged by raising two precocious sons, it is decades before she finally completes her masterpiece novel. Poised to reclaim the spotlight, to resume the intended life she gave up for love, a betrayal of Shakespearean proportion forces her to question every choice she has made.

Epic, propulsive, incredibly ambitious, and dazzlingly written, The Resurrection of Joan Ashby is a story about sacrifice and motherhood, the burdens of expectation and genius. Cherise Wolas’s gorgeous debut introduces an indelible heroine candid about her struggles and unapologetic in her ambition.

Read more of Jeannie’s Reviews on her blog, on Goodreads, or on the New York Journal of Books.

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Vera by Carol Edgarian

vera-by-carol-edgarian-book-review-jeanne-blasbergVera by Carol Edgarian

This novel is an exciting, personal (fictional) account of the San Francisco earthquake and fire in 1906 from the point of view of a fabulous character—Vera Johnson is the illegitimate daughter of the city’s most prominent madame during an era of miners, con artists, loan sharks and hookers. The quest for survival after the quake turns Vera into a scrapper and her success at keeping her family of choice alive, fed, and under a roof becomes her greatest accomplishment and happiest time. For lovers of historical fiction.

 

 

About Vera

Meet Vera Johnson, fifteen-year-old illegitimate daughter of Rose, notorious proprietor of San Francisco’s most legendary bordello. Vera has grown up straddling two worlds—the madam’s alluring sphere, replete with tickets to the opera, surly henchmen, and scant morality, and the quiet domestic life of the family paid to raise her.

On the morning of the great quake, Vera’s worlds collide. As the city burns and looters vie with the injured, orphaned, and starving, Vera and her guileless sister, Pie, are cast adrift. Disregarding societal norms and prejudices, Vera begins to imagine a new kind of life. She collaborates with Tan, her former rival, and forges an unlikely family of survivors, navigating through the disaster together.

In Vera, Carol Edgarian creates a cinematic, deeply entertaining world, in which honor and fates are tested; notions of sex, class, and justice are turned upside down; and love is hard-won. A ravishing, heartbreaking, and profound affirmation of youth and tenacity, Vera’s story brings to life legendary characters—tenor Enrico Caruso, indicted mayor Eugene Schmitz and boss Abe Ruef, tabloid celebrity Alma Spreckels.

This richly imagined, timely tale of improbable outcomes and alliances takes hold from the first page, with remarkable scenes of devastation, renewal, and joy. Vera celebrates the audacious fortitude of its young heroine, who discovers an unexpected strength in unprecedented times.

Read more of Jeannie’s Reviews on her blog, on Goodreads, or on the New York Journal of Books.

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The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel

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The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel

Loved the sparse concise writing style and the weaving in of spiritual Santero influences. This is the type of fiction I love, following terribly flawed humans through devastating experiences and watching them carry on nonetheless. Plus I learned something about Cuba and Santeria in the process. Scenes where Reina tries to process her family’s tragedy and own her grievous guilt are braided with those depicting her move to the Florida keys, the healing quality of relationships and a communion with the natural world.

 

About The Veins of the Ocean

Reina Castillo’s beloved brother is serving a death sentence for a crime that shocked the community – a crime for which Reina secretly blames herself. When she is at last released from her seven-year prison vigil, Reina moves to a sleepy town in the Florida Keys seeking anonymity.

There, she meets Nesto, a recently exiled Cuban awaiting with hope the arrival of the children he left behind in Havana. Through Nesto’s love of the sea and capacity for faith, Reina comes to understand her own connections to the life-giving and destructive forces of the ocean that surrounds her as well as its role in her family’s troubled history.

Set in the vibrant coastal and Caribbean communities of Miami; the Florida Keys; Havana, Cuba; and Cartagena, Colombia, The Veins of the Ocean is a wrenching exploration of what happens when life tests the limits of compassion, and a stunning and unforgettable portrait of fractured lives finding solace in the beauty and power of the natural world, and in one another.

 

Read more of Jeannie’s Reviews on her blog, on Goodreads, or on the New York Journal of Books.