Sea of Tranquility

Title: Sea of Tranquility

Author: Emily St. John Mandel

Series: N/A

Publication Date: April 5, 2022

Format: e-book

Genre: Fiction

Sub Genre(s):  Science-Fiction


Summary: Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal–an experience that shocks him to his core.

Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.

When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.  -From Goodreads


What I Liked: Like most of Mandel’s books, the story in “Sea of Tranquility” is told from the viewpoint of multiple characters. In the hands of a less talented author, this could lead to confusion and an inability to keep track of the characters or when the action is taking place. Not so with Mandel, who manages to tell a cohesive story over the span of hundreds of years. I was never confused about who was who or what was going on, a testament to her storytelling capabilities. She has the unique ability to write a pandemic novel that’s not really about a pandemic, a science-fiction story that doesn’t get bogged down with too much science, and a hopeful story that isn’t too sweet. I love books that can entertain me while also making me think and this book is full of big ideas. I will be thinking about this book for a while.

What I Didn’t Like: Mandel is one of the few authors that could write a door stopper of a book and I would still read it, and “Sea of Tranquility” is a book that I think could have benefited from a few more pages. It would have allowed us to learn more about some of the characters and delve more into their motivations.

Who Should Read It: This is a pandemic novel so while I would recommend this book to anyone, you do have to be in the mood to read about a pandemic….while living through one. There is a connection (that I loved) to her previous novel, “The Glass Hotel,” but it’s not necessary to have read that book before this one.

Review Wrap Up: As is typical of Mandel, there were moments that left my jaw hanging open in this book, especially when all the storylines converged, and I was left with a feeling of awe when I was finished. Those looking for a book that will keep you guessing while also making you think will find much to enjoy here.

Favorite Quote(s): “Look…the thing is, it’s possible to be grateful for extraordinary circumstances and simultaneously long to be with the people you love.”

“It’s been a while since anyone’s told me anything magnificent.”


thespinsterlibrarian

The Unsinkable Greta James

Title:  The Unsinkable Greta James

Author: Jennifer E. Smith

Series: N/A

Publication Date: March 1, 2022

Format: E-book

Genre: Fiction

Sub Genre(s): Contemporary, Family


Summary: Greta James’s meteoric rise to indie stardom was hard-won. Before she graced magazine covers and sold out venues, she spent her girlhood strumming her guitar in the family garage. Her first fan was her mother, Helen, whose face shone bright in the dusty downtown bars where she got her start. But not everyone encouraged Greta to follow her dreams. While many daydream about a crowd chanting their name, her father, Conrad, sees only a precarious life ahead for his daughter.

Greta has spent her life trying to prove him wrong. But three months after Helen’s sudden death, and weeks before the launch of her high-stakes sophomore album, Greta has an onstage meltdown that goes viral. Attempting to outrun the humiliation and heartbreak, she reluctantly agrees to accompany her father on a week-long Alaskan cruise, the very one that her parents had booked to celebrate their fortieth anniversary.

This could be the James family’s last chance to heal old wounds, and will prove to be a voyage of discovery for them, as well as for Ben Wilder, a historian also struggling with a major upheaval in his life. Ben is on board to lecture about Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, the adventure story Greta’s mother adored, and he captures Greta’s attention after her streak of dating hanger-ons. As Greta works to build up her confidence and heal, and Ben confronts his uncertain future, they must rely on one another to make sense of life’s difficult choices. In the end, Greta must make the most challenging decision of all: to listen to the song within her or make peace with those who love her.


What I Liked: This was a lovely, realistic portrayal of grief and familial relationships that had me smiling one scene and tearing up the next. I found Greta to be a sympathetic character, even when she was making decisions that I didn’t agree with or found frustrating. One of the things I liked most about this book was the acknowledgement that everyone grieves differently and that we need to allow people the time and space they need to work through their emotions at their own pace. Greta sees her “meltdown” as weak and potentially career damaging, but it takes the time spent and discussions had with Ben and her dad for her to realize how needed that moment was for her to begin to heal.  The relationship Greta has with her dad was heartbreaking and I found myself wishing they could say to each other what they really wanted to without it turning into a fight.  But isn’t that how life is? Especially when the parent and child are both adults with their own lives and ways of seeing the world. They love each other but will they ever see eye to eye? I found it touching when Greta would have little moments of worry about her dad getting older even while she was angry with him or feeling like they would never have a good relationship. The relationship between Ben and Greta was cute and it was refreshing to see two adults that treated each other with respect and were open and honest with their feelings.  Yes, there were moments of miscommunication and angst but it never falls into unbelievable. I found the ending to be satisfying and even though I would have liked more, I appreciate an author knowing when and how to end a story.

What I Didn’t Like: I would have liked more interactions and conversations between Greta and her dad because the resolution to their storyline seemed a bit rushed. Their issues had been going on since Greta was a teenager so I would have liked to see them communicate more.

Who Should Read It: I think this would be a good book club pick that will lead to great discussions, especially about parent-child relationships. I would be hesitant to recommend this to anyone who has lost a parent without giving them a warning about the content.

Review Wrap Up: Smith has managed to write a beautiful story about the loss of a loved one without making the story overly sad or depressing. It was heartfelt and joyful and left me with hope. I believe this book will end up on a lot of people’s best of lists this year.

Favorite Quote: “Maybe the point isn’t always to make things last…maybe it’s just to make them count.”


thespinsterlibrarian

*Thank you to Netgalley and Ballatine Books for providing an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review*

A Woman is No Man

This was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time but it was a tough, emotional read so I would be hesitant to recommend it without that warning.  This isn’t a happy book even though there were moments of joy throughout. But the feelings of sadness and despair outweighed those for me and I was left thinking about this book for days afterwards.

Continue reading “A Woman is No Man”

Malibu Rising

Taylor Jenkins Reid is an author that makes you stay up past your bedtime.  Once you start reading her books, you can’t put them down, even as you tell yourself to slow down, savor it.  You know you’re going to be mad when the book is over and you have to wait until her next book is released yet you can’t stop yourself.  I haven’t been disappointed by one of her books yet and “Malibu Rising” continued this trend.  Get your hands on a copy of this book as quick as you can and enjoy!

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The Midnight Library

Sometimes, books get a lot of buzz, show up on numerous “best of lists,” get recommended by everyone you know and don’t live up to the hype.  At the end of last year it seemed I couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about Matt Haig’s newest book, and as much as I wanted to read it, I was worried the buildup would be too much and I would be left disappointed.  I am happy to say that this book was everything I had hoped it would be. 

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The Mountains Sing

I host a book club at my library which was started last year during the first few months of the pandemic. At the time, the books we read were mostly mysteries or whatever books we were able to get our hands on easily while in quarantine. With the start of the new year, I took the opportunity to really think about a theme for the year.  With everything going on in the world and in an effort to introduce different books and authors to my community, I chose the theme of ownvoices.  The first book I chose was Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai first English novel, “The Mountains Sing.”  While historical fiction is a genre I don’t normally gravitate towards, I’m so glad I decided to read this book. Not only is it a phenomenal book and taught me things I never knew about the Vietnam War, it also led to a fantastic discussion and I would highly recommend it to all readers.

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The Wangs vs. the World

I clearly missed something with this book because I found nothing funny about this “hilarious” and “outrageously funny” novel.  In fact, if I didn’t have to read this for a book club I was hosting, I would have stopped at around 15%.  But I soldiered on.  And in the end, while I didn’t hate this book as much as I thought I would, I didn’t particularly like it and found myself confused by all the great ratings.

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The Great Believers

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a crier. I cry at movies. I cry at TV shows. I will even cry at commercials!  But for some reason, it takes a lot to make me cry at books.  In fact, I can’t remember the last time I cried while reading one….until now.  And my crying was intense and prolonged. It was a sustained cry for the last 100 pages.   It was not cute.  This book, while not perfect, is one of the best books I have ever read.  I finished it in 3 sittings because I was so invested in the story and characters.  I am still thinking about it and will continue to think about it for several more days.  I am hesitant to recommend it due to the heaviness of the plot but if you’re looking for a book that will rip your heart out and take your breath away, I can’t recommend this book enough.

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Such a Fun Age

If there was ever a fiction book that needed to be read during a specific time in history, this is the book.  “Such a Fun Age” is topical in ways I don’t think Kiley Reid could have ever predicted.  At a time when white people feel it’s not only their duty but their right to call the police on black folks just trying to live their life, this book takes a look at the ripple effect these acts have on the people involved.  What I appreciate most about this book is Reid’s desire to highlight a real world problem while also telling a compelling and funny story.

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The Cactus League

When I picked this book up, I expected to read about baseball.  While the central theme is about America’s pastime, this book is more about the relationships between several characters that happen to all have a connection.  Maybe I was hoping for more baseball but this book, which I enjoyed, could have been a home run.  

Continue reading “The Cactus League”

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