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.

jacobo's-rainbow-david-hirshberg-book-review-jeanne-blasberg

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.

 

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Cassandra Speaks by Elizabeth Lesser

cassandra-speaks-book-review-jeanne-blasbergCassandra Speaks is Lesser’s musing on how it might be different if women told our civilization’s earliest stories, how it might be different if our society valued attributes found predominantly in women as opposed to those found predominantly in men. Layers and layers of patriarchy are hard to strip off, however, as both women and men have perpetuated throughout the ages. It is our worldview.

As a writer of women’s fiction, I took Lesser’s admonitions to heart – that it is possible for us, for me, to help usher in a change. It is important to create characters that succeed because they are collaborators, for example, intuitive, loving. The book described how a younger generation is living the change, how the expectations of fatherhood has changed.

Much of this book affirms what we already know, but serves as a good kick in the pants!

 

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The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer

ten-year-nap-meg-wolitzer-book-review-jeanne-blasbergThe Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer

So I’m late to the party on this one but The Ten-Year Nap belongs on the shelf of important feminist novels, addressing issues around motherhood and women spend their time. I am a big fan of Meg Wolitzer and picked this one up after really enjoying her more recent novels. THE TEN YEAR nap felt like listening in on “lessons learned” from generations of suffragists while being entertained by the travails of some marvelous characters. I was drawn in by the omniscient first sentence right away, “All around the country, the women were waking up.” Brava.

 

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Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

transcendent-kingdom-yaa-gyasi-jeanne-blasberg-book-reviewTranscendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

** spoiler alert **

I picked up this book because I loved Gyasi’s debut, Homegoing. I kept reading because TRANSCENDENT KINGDOM is a treasure. The protagonist, Gifty, reconciles an evangelical christian upbringing with a career as a scientist. She processes the addiction and loss of a brother, the debilitating depression of a mother, and the loss of a father. What is remarkable is the woven nature of the narrative and the number of threads woven. From present to past and past to present, the novel invests in various story-lines and relationships so elegantly, I found myself wondering “how’d she do that?” At the time, Gyasi broke the age-old adage of “show, don’t tell” with her masterful interplay of philosophizing exposition and scene. Lessons learned and unlearned and relearned stand out as the glue. Loved the book and the audio which was masterfully narrated.

 

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Daddy by Emma Cline

daddy-emma-cline-jeanne-blasberg-book-reviewDaddy by Emma Cline

Daddy is a wonderful collection of stories that struck a chord with me for its insights into dark situations. The sense of knowing and revelatory observation kept me reading these sometimes everyday, sometimes twisted stories. Was excited to read because I was a big fan of The Girls. Cline writes about a breadth of life experience that is quite astounding, and her details are fabulous – she gets to the heart of emotion, to the heart of a power struggle and a desire to be understood. I highly recommend.

 

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The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom

yellow-house-sarah-broom-jeanne-blasberg-book-reviewThe Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom

What I loved most about this memoir was Sarah’s voice, and her honest, unsure assemblage of memory, research, and interview that combines to paint a history of a house, a family, and a city. I loved being privy to Sarah’s confusion and frustration along the way, her hesitancy telling the story from the “baby’s point of view.” She is the youngest of 12 children and so much of the family history happened before she was born and that urgent sense of needing to play catch up and understand comes through in the work. A fantastic read if you love memoir, also if you want an insider’s tour of New Orleans, both pre and post Katrina.

 

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A Very Punchable Face by Colin Jost

colin-jost-very-punchable-face-book-review-jeanne-blasbergA Very Punchable Face by Colin Jost

I became a fan of Colin Jost after he delivered the commencement speech at my daughter’s high school graduation – more of a stand up comedy routine than a speech, but he did end up delivering a great message in the end. So I pre-ordered his book as soon as I learned of its pending release and it was like one of those gifts that hits at the perfect moment. Written with humility to the point of self-deprecation, A Very Punchable Face will have you laughing out loud, smiling, and as was the case with the chapter about why he loves his mom, maybe shedding a tear. I suggested my daughter listen to the audio on a recent long drive and it was the perfect travel companion – entertaining yet inspirational. Colin’s honesty and commitment to hard work shines through every page. He is a great guy and Scarlet Johansen is one lucky gal. I highly recommend for any age, to inspire, to make you laugh, to get through a dark time. Really great.

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The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

days-of-abandonment-elena-ferrante-jeanne-blasberg-book-reviewThe Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

Wow, The Days of Abandonment was well written with important things to say, but still pretty tough for me to read. As Olga navigates the dark days and weeks after her husband’s departure, the reader cringes and worries for the helpless beings in her care. It really triggered something painful in me as a wife and a mother (and maybe also from my helpless inner child??) I stressed our vulnerability to our spouses, but also how hard it is for mothers to break down when so much depends on us.

 

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The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

vanishing-half-brit-bennett-jeanne-blasberg-book-reviewThe Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

I was aware of the general premise of The Vanishing Half before I began it, however the structure was unexpected and delightful. I really loved the multi generational component of this novel, the idea that decisions travel forward and backwards, and that lying is a form of loving. Bennett writes with beautiful language and imagery, especially in the scenes set in Louisiana.

 

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Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel

musical-chairs-amy-poeppel-jeanne-blasberg-book-reviewMusical Chairs by Amy Poeppel

Amy Poeppel is my go to author for funny fresh read. Musical Chairs didn’t disappoint in its laugh-out-loud smartness, its keen observation of family relationships – especially parenting adult children. Love all the musical references and boy did this book hit home in light of my three adult children flocking home during COVID!

 

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