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 Holly Jolly Diwali

The concept of this book is cute and the idea of a romance centered around a winter holiday that’s not Christmas is much needed, but this felt more like women’s fiction than a love story so it fell flat for me.  There are positive things about this book but I wouldn’t suggest this to hardcore romance fans or if you are looking for a holiday themed read.

The good things first. The main theme of the novel focuses on the growth of a young woman and the discovery of what she wants in life and who she wants to be and I am here for it. It’s executed well, even though there were times I wanted Niki to be a little stronger and surer of herself but part of the conflict comes from her learning to be her own person.  One of the strongest aspects of this book was the strength of the female relationships, whether it was Niki and Diya, Niki and her sister Jasmine, or when Niki opens herself up to new adventures and befriends Masooma. These relationships do a great job showing the reader who Niki is and what she finds important in life.  The representation in this book is needed and welcome and I liked that it was about a holiday I knew nothing about and the differences between the various families. Niki’s feelings about not belonging in her Indian family while also not belonging in her American family felt authentic and I loved the conversation she had with her parents about the motivations behind their choices when they moved to the States and why they treat their daughters the way they do. Their relationship was sweet and their concern for Niki provided some comic relief and heart to the story. And even though I didn’t love the romantic relationship, I liked that Sam and Niki were foils of each other; she is flailing in life after spending most of it doing what she thinks she should and not having fun while he is flailing after spending his life pursuing lofty dreams and finding himself at a crossroads. This was a fun take on opposites attract that worked well with the story.

Now the things that didn’t work for me. Diwali is in the title of this book so I expected the holiday to be a more prominent part of the story but other than a few times in the very beginning and a mention at the very end, Diwali isn’t a big part. One of the plot points is that Niki doesn’t know why Diwali is celebrated so she asks various people why they celebrate and…we never really get an answer. Most of the people tell her what they personally think but nothing about the holiday is explained.  The end of the book would have had more of an impact on me if the holiday had played a larger role in the story. My main issue with the book was the romance. To me, this isn’t a romance book, it’s women’s fiction. Yes, there is a romance plot running throughout but this is an insta-love story so we don’t get a lot of time to find out why Niki and Sam fall for each other so when the conflict is introduced, I didn’t feel anything.  There wasn’t enough on the page to convince me that Niki would make life changing decisions for this relationship and because this is told from her point of view exclusively, we don’t know how Sam is feeling and his actions didn’t convince me he loved her. We get a few kissing scenes and that’s it for the heat level as well so the lack of physical heat combined with the insta-love didn’t work for me. I was more interested in Niki’s journey to personal acceptance than the love story, which would have been perfectly fine had I not expected something completely different.

This was a well written book that had likeable characters and a good story, but it wasn’t what I expected, and the romance fell flat.  It also didn’t feel very holiday to me and that was one of the reasons I picked it up. Despite these issues, I would read another book by Lalli and I would recommend this book to someone but with the caveat that it isn’t a romance.  Give this one a read if you are looking for a story about a woman changing her life for the better and discovering her true self but not if you’re looking to get into the holiday spirit.

Author: Sonya Lalli

Publication Date: October 5, 2021

Rating: 3 Stars

*Thank you to Netgalley and Berkley Books for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review*

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