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anxious-people-frederick-backman-book-review-jeanne-blasberg

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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The Book of V by Anna Solomon

anna-solomon-book-of-v-review-jeanne-blasberg

The Book of V by Anna Solomon

I loved this book’s ambition. Any modern retelling of a biblical character has me hooked as well. The braiding of the three point-of-view characters’ stories was masterful and the reveal about two-thirds of the way through around how their lives were even more tightly wound was terrific.

Having just finished reading Cassandra Speaks by Elizabeth Lesser, I am struck by how Esther and Vashti’s stories might have been interpreted entirely differently if a woman had first written them. Here was my chance to find out! Just as the Lionel and Ian in the novel malign and misconstrue Vee’s intentions, so has been the masculine lens on a woman’s life.

This book grapples with such important issues around motherhood, femininity, misogyny, but with a structure that is incredibly innovative and entertaining.

 

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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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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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My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

jeanne-blasberg-book-review-my-dark-vanessa-kate-elizabeth-russellMy Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

I am a sucker for anything to do with boarding school life, first of all. Second, this book kept showing up places which I took that as a sign it was meant to be my next read. From page one I was addicted and couldn’t stop reading My Dark Vanessa. I am fascinated with Vannessa’s incessant denial of victimhood and instead deeming herself special and just more damned interesting than everybody else. I was so drawn to the psychology behind protecting one’s abuser, not only to keep him out of prison but in order to hold their relationship on a pedestal. What’s more the damaging effects of emotional abuse toward a child are so brilliantly captured in this novel. When Jacob Strane tells Vannessa “I will ruin you,” he wasn’t kidding.

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Untamed by Glennon Doyle

untamed-glennon-doyle-jeanne-blasberg-book-reviewUntamed by Glennon Doyle

This book is a series of short, first-person essays documenting Doyle’s transformation from being “caged” to untamed. Her articulation of society’s cages was clear and simple and in sometimes obvious, but nonetheless, revelatory. Possibly a case of this memoir finding me at the right time, but it struck a very poignant chord. I listened to the audiobook narrated by the author which I found extra special. I think the book makes a great partner to Brene Brown who writes about vulnerability and shame from a social scientist’s point of view. In Untamed, Doyle portrays her personal struggle out of shame toward self-acceptance and self-love and a place where she eschews labels and categorization.