Author

Jennifer Blankfein

Jennifer Blankfein has 64 articles published.

Jennifer Gans Blankfein is a freelance marketing consultant and book reviewer. She graduated from Lehigh University with a Psychology degree and has a background in advertising. Her experience includes event coordination and fundraising along with editing a weekly, local, small business newsletter. Jennifer loves to talk about books, is an avid reader, and currently writes a book blog, Book Nation by Jen. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, two sons and black lab.

“Washington Black” Paints a Fresh Slave Narrative

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With history, science and creativity, Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black (Knopf) tells the story of an 11-year-old slave in Barbados and his adventurous escape to freedom.  Washington Black, or Wash, brought up in the sugar cane fields, experienced more than his share of oppression, suffering and abuse. When the slave master’s brother, Titch, visits the plantation and asks for the boy to be loaned to him, an unusual friendship and reliance develops between the two. Growing up among brutal violence, Wash finds Titch to be a father figure. Titch is an abolitionist at heart and although he is focused on his scientific discovery of a flying machine, he provides an opportunity for Wash as he teaches him to read and nurture his…

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“Still Life With Monkey” Ponders Carrying On

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How does one define what makes a life worth living? In Katharine Weber’s Still Life With Monkey (Paul Dry Books), Duncan Wheeler, a talented architect and owner of his own firm in New Haven, CT. On the way back from visiting his Thimble Islands site, he gets into a horrific car accident.  His assistant is killed and he survives, but suffers an injury that results in becoming a quadriplegic. Want more BookTrib? Sign up NOW for news and giveaways! His wife Laura, is an art conservator at the Yale Art Gallery, fixing broken things for a living. She watches Duncan fall into depression, and while she struggles with her own thoughts of letting her dream go to become a mother, she reduces her…

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“Where the Crawdads Sing” Examines Isolation

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Just as a troop of baboons, a herd of elephants, or a pride of lions, human females tend to travel in groups, play, eat and sleep together. There are many benefits of having time in isolation, but how much is too much? Isolation can change a person, as readers can clearly see in Kya, the protagonist in Delia Owens’ first fiction work, Where the Crawdads Sing (G.P Putnam’s Sons). The character is based on many women the author knows, and we can see how being alone can have major impact on an individual through her story. Want more BookTrib? Sign up NOW for news and giveaways! In a recent conversation prior to a speech at the Fairfield (CT) Library, Owens discussed this theme…

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Orphan Plight in “The Home for Unwanted Girls”

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Joanna Goodman’s The Home for Unwanted Girls (Harper) is the compelling story of Maggie (based on the author’s mother) and her family set in 1950s Canada.  At that time orphanages were being converted to hospitals for financial benefit.  The Quebec government saved money changing the educational facilities to mental institutions, and the Roman Catholic Church received subsidies. Want more BookTrib? Sign up NOW for news and giveaways! Thousands of orphans were falsely deemed mentally ill and many of the teaching nuns changed from black uniforms to white and called themselves nurses… they were complicit under the new law set in place by Canadian politician, Maurice Le Noblet Duplessis. This cruel reality from the past is the backdrop for this emotional, fast-paced historical fiction…

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“On Color” Prompts Us To Think About What We See

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David Scott Kastan, a  George M. Bodman Professor of English at Yale University and Stephen Farthing, an artist and elected member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London and Emeritus Fellow of St. Edmund Hall, the University of Oxford, have collaborated on this beautiful, and educational book about the history of color and how it plays out in the world through art, politics, perceptions and more. On Color (Yale University Press) encourages us to think about what we see, what each color symbolizes  and how it makes us feel.     According to the authors, scientists believe there are more than 17 million different colors.  Red is known to be the color of roses, yet is the rose red or does…

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“From the Corner of the Oval:” A Job Landed by Craigslist

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Beck Dorey-Stein is not unlike any young adult fresh out of school and focused on herself, her friends and her love life. Her boyfriend shenanigans and drinking escapades are typical and par for the course. But her job was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and captured in her memoir, From the Corner of the Oval.(Spiegel & Grau). Living in Washington and trying to make ends meet, she casually answers an ad for a job as a stenographer at a law firm on Craigslist. They follow up asking for a cover letter;  she refuses. They still bring her in for a test, and then a subsequent interview. She makes a halfhearted effort, but then regretting her course writes to apologize. She gets this…

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“The Sun Does Shine:” Hinton Stares Down Death Row

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The Sun Does Shine (St. Martin’s Press) is a powerful and important memoir, showing a discouraging side of our legal system and an incredible testament of stamina and hope from one special individual Anthony Ray Hinton. In 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton was convicted of murder in Alabama and sentenced to the electric chair.  He was a 29-year-old, poor, black man who had a job, a happy disposition and was a devoted son to his loving mother.  The judicial system did not protect Hinton as it should have, and he chose not speak for the first three years of his incarceration. Rebelling in silence as he wavered between anger and despair, he anticipated being put to death in the electric chair, knowing…

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“His Favorites” Exposes Guilt and Vulnerability

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With sparse, lyrical language, author of His Favorites (Scribner), Kate Walbert, shines a light on women’s rights as she tells us about Jo’s tragic and unsettling experiences.  After being in a deadly accident at 15 years old with her best friends, Jo, a wild and now emotionally broken high school student is sent off to boarding school. Her life at home crumbled and her friendships broken, the new beginning for her life away at school held the strong potential of not going in the right direction.  Memories and stories weave together our understanding of who Jo is…and how an irresponsible female teenager, faced with tragedy and then coerced by a sweet talking man, may not possess the support needed to fight back…

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Baby Teeth Proves It’s Dangerous to Play Favorites

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If you are in need of a blood chilling thriller to make your heart pound, Baby Teeth (St. Martin’s Press) is for you!  It is clear that author Zoje Stage mastered everything dark and suspenseful when she created Hanna, a seven year old, and the only child of Suzette and Alex.  Suzette had a difficult childhood, poor mothering and a continual battle with Crones Disease. When she meets Alex in a professional environment, he saves her from loneliness and despair by respecting her design work and falling in love.  Alex, an architect, is a cheery Swedish man who desperately loves his wife, Suzette, and showers his very bright but mute daughter Hanna with love and attention.  Both parents want to be…

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This Month’s Pick: Jesmyn Ward’s “Sing, Unburied, Sing”

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For the month of September, all chapters of the Girly Book Club are reading Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Buried, Sing (Scribner). Here’s the review that BookTrib filed shortly after the title was published late last year: Sing, Unburied, Sing is a beautifully written, character-driven, heartfelt novel that takes place in the steamy Mississippi Gulf Coast. The story is about a young black girl, Leonie, who has two children: Jojo 13, and Kayla, a toddler. The children’s father, Michael, is white and in prison. Michael’s family is hopelessly racist and rejects Leonie and the children, so they live with Leonie’s parents. Leonie is a drug addict and she is rarely around, so Mam and Pop have stepped in to raise the kids.…

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Impact On Countries & Time: Joan Silber’s “Improvement”

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Connecting 1970s Turkey and New York today, 72-year-old author Joan Silber, winner of the 2018 Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction, weaves a tapestry of interpersonal connections and shows how relationships bind us together and decisions have widespread impact across countries and over time in her latest novel, Improvement (Amazon Digital Services). Reyna is a single mother living in Harlem and standing by her not-so-perfect boyfriend, Boyd, as she visits him during his three-month incarceration at Riker’s. Her Aunt Kiki lives in the Village after spending some time in Turkey and traveling the world in her younger days.  Kiki worries about Reyna and her young son Oliver and is unaware of the illegal activities Boyd, Reyna and their friends are involved with. When…

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Multiple Themes for Rabbi’s Scribe In “The Weight Of Ink”

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The Weight Of Ink (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Rachel Kadish tells the story of Ester Velasquez, an emigrant from Amsterdam who becomes a scribe for a blind rabbi in London in the 1600s right before the plague.  At the same time we learn about Helen Watt, a close-to-retiring British historian working on translations of some 17th century documents signed by scribe “Aleph.” Even though these women lived in different centuries, both were strong and determined to pursue their interests, fought to be heard, and chose a life to satisfy their minds with sacrifice of the heart. Ester is a product of the Portuguese Inquisition, and although displaced with little family, she feels at home with her job as a scribe for…

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“The Lost Family” Covers Marriage and Love Post-WWII

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Jenna Blum, author of the bestseller Those Who Save Us, is back with another novel, one that is equally heartbreaking and haunting. Covering topics of grief and love, Blum artfully and skillfully reminds us that the past never seems to stay there, and that the repercussions can still be felt decades and generations later. The Lost Family begins in 1965 Manhattan. World War II may be over, but the memories are always present for Peter Rashkin, who survived Auschwitz, but lost his wife and daughters. Now, trying to make a new life for himself, he becomes the owner and head chef of a restaurant called Masha, a namesake to his lost wife. People from all over come to eat and savor the…

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Debut Novel by Catherine Steadman is Bombshell Thriller

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Psychological thrillers have been all the rage recently, beloved for their ability to grab your attention from the very first pages, pull you in, and become so intertwined and twisted that you’re forced to second-guess yourself… and Downton Abbey actress Catherine Steadman has done just that in her fast-moving, debut novel Something in the Water. Erin, a filmmaker in the middle of making a documentary of people in prison – which has the potential to be her professional breakthrough moment – and Mark, a good-looking investment banker with big plans for the future, are traveling in the beautiful and exotic Bora Bora for their dream honeymoon. Passionately in love, they can imagine nothing better than the sun, sand, and each other. But one…

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The Elegance and Beauty of a Struggling Family

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In her heartfelt and elegantly written debut of a beautiful, struggling family, it’s clear that Fatima Farheen Mirza is a gifted writer. She is more than able to make you feel every character’s emotions, while offering compassion for different views, gradually revealing different aspects of each story to create a multilayered tapestry. A Place For Us begins at Hadia’s wedding in California, where the family gathers to celebrate a marriage based on love, rather than one that was arranged. Huda, the middle child, is determined to be like her sister more and more, headstrong and bold. Lastly, Amar, Hadia’s younger brother who ran away three years earlier, has returned for the celebration, taking his place as the brother of the bride.…

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Sarah Winman’s “Tin Man” is Heartbreaking and Tender

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A tender and beautiful story, Sarah Winman’s novel Tin Man is heartbreaking and wonderfully moving, focusing on the relationship between two people, first as young boys and then as adults, with an exquisitely written and introspective look into the experiences and intimacies that are shared in a relationship so close. At twelve years old, Ellis and Michael become friends, with shared similarities in their difficult family lives and less than stellar relationships with their fathers. The two spend a lot of time together, having fun and exploring their hometown, learning to swim, and more. Then, their close friendship becomes something much more. Ten years later, Ellis is married to Annie, and Michael is gone from the picture. Burdened with shame stemming from…

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