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zero-oclock-cj-farley-jeanne-blasberg-book-review

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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Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

plain_bad_heroines_emily_danforth_book_review_jeanne_blasbergPlain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

Okay, so a haunted girls boarding school set in Little Compton, Rhode Island… Plain Bad Heroines had me at hello. Emily Danforth has such a punchy and quick-witted use of language that there were always several layers of entertainment going on for me, and I was taken by her unabashedly addressing the reader throughout.

This novel has been described as Gothic, but it harkened to early Nineteenth century novelists such as Mary Shelley, Emily Brontë, and George Eliot in its third person omniscient voice. The story braids two time frames, 1902 at the Brookhants boarding school with contemporary Hollywood, and features a mostly all-female cast of characters. Both time periods include triads of young women who fall in love and suffer jealousies within their respective triangles. The initial love at Brookhants between Flo and Clara and curious Eleanor (on the outside) was inspired by the work of Mary MacLane, a shocking memoirist who in the late 1800’s scandalized readers with her bisexuality. I mention this only because it was the first of many literary and cultural references that made my experience of this book expansive, ie. a second layer of entertainment value.

As for the story itself, it was not so much a haunted tale as it was a parody of haunted tales past and present, and I am not lying reader, when I say a portion of my home was infested with yellow jackets while I was listening to the audio (you must read the book to get this.) I hear the printed version is 600+ pages, but still I would suggest picking it up if you like smart writing and courageous technique.

 

Note that I listened to the audio version courtesy of Libro.fm and the narrator was outstanding!

 

Read more reviews from Jeannie.

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Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

brown-girl-dreaming-jacqueline-woodson-book-review-jeanne-blasbergBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

To write a memoir in prose, to distill each experience into just the right words, to leave enough white space on the page for a reader to jump in and participate with the language, that is the work of a master. Reader, you already know you are in masterful hands with Jacqueline Woodson. I listened to an interview with Woodson on the Write-Minded podcast with Brooke Warner and Grant Faulkner where she admitted that it was possible to consume Brown Girl Dreaming in one sitting, but that it pained her to hear when readers did that. She really wished we wouldn’t. Indeed, I enjoyed this memoir slowly in bites I could savor. Keeping it on hand for quiet moments when I could sit and think and enjoy the cadence of the verse. It is a book you will want to keep close at hand, a reminder that poignant imagery transports and conveys meaning better than pages and pages and pages. This is a beauty of a book!

More reviews from Jeannie.

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Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

anxious-people-frederick-backman-book-review-jeanne-blasbergAnxious People by Fredrik Backman

With an equal measure of humor and philosophy, Backman’s latest work examines the intricacies of family and home and the anxiety we feel over getting it right. The novel’s structure engaged me from the very beginning with its omniscient voice moving two steps forward and then one step backward, telling what the novel was about in a way that was delightfully unreliable. And as the dots connected and puzzle pieces began to fit together, the experience of this novel was as much an intellectual exercise as a dive into the neuroses of its many delightful characters. I was struck by Backman’s ability to develop all eight characters in a hostage situation so masterfully. The book goes beyond story telling and is a plea for compassion in this crazy world. It will have you laughing at our foibles and universal oddities, its observations are really spot on. I listened to the audio version of Anxious People and the narrator did an incredible job of giving each speaking character a voice of their own. I highly recommend this book!

 

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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!

 

Read more of Jeannie’s reviews.

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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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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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