dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction, literary fiction, scifi

Book Review: Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

“My point is, there’s always something. I think, as a species, we have a desire to believe that we’re living at the climax of the story. It’s a kind of narcissism. We want to believe that we’re uniquely important, that we’re living at the end of history, that now, after all these millennia of false alarms, now is finally the worst that it’s ever been, that finally we have reached the end of the world.”

It’s 1912, Edwin St. Andrew is exiled from polite society by his parents after ranting about colonialism at the dinner table and finds himself in Canada. He enters the forest one night to admire the Canadian wilderness and is shocked to see a sudden vision of a man playing a violin in an airship terminal. 200 years later, Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour on earth from the outer space colonies when she is asked about a strange passage in her best selling book. A passage that describes a man playing a violin in an airship terminal when suddenly the Canadian wilderness rises behind him for a couple of seconds. When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts is hired to investigate this anomaly and determine if we are living in a simulation, he travels through time to meet each participant to interview them and finds so many different lives upended.

“You know the phrase I keep thinking about?” a poet asked, on a different panel, at a festival in Copenhagen. ‘The chickens are coming home to roost.’ Because it’s never good chickens. It’s never ‘You’ve been a good person and now your chickens are coming home to roost.’ It’s never good chickens. It’s always bad chickens.”

I genuinely do not know how to describe this book to you because I went in blind. I saw that Mandel had a new book out and I just downloaded it and read it without even checking to see what it was about. I recommend you go in that way because there is really no description for this book. It’s so many things at once. It is a pandemic novel, a time travelling novel, an apocalyptic novel, a human nature novel etc. I did not enjoy Mandel’s last novel, The Glass Hotel, as much as I did Station Eleven but this one is Mandel at her absolute finest. If you read Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel, you get to pick up the different little easter eggs she drops on the way. Characters from her previous books pop up in this one and it was so thrilling to recognise characters I thought I would never see again.

“Pandemics don’t approach like wars, with the distant thud of artillery growing louder every day and flashes of bombs on the horizon. They arrive in retrospect, essentially. It’s disorienting. The pandemic is far away and then it’s all around you, with seemingly no intermediate step.”

As is the style with Mandel, this is a quiet slow build story. The exploration of what living in a simulation might mean for humanity is so riveting and her writing of human nature is absolutely beautiful. We begin with different chapters of characters in different centuries and settings with stories that seem totally unrelated and you wonder where exactly this is leading to. The way she ties the stories together beautifully at the end is so good. Mandel’s writing has such a nostalgic feel to it, how do you feel nostalgic about what is essentially a time traveling investigatory story? I don’t know but you do.

“Sometimes you don’t know you’re going to throw a grenade until you’ve already pulled the pin.”

If you enjoy slow burn books, then you should give this book a chance. If you’ve never enjoyed any Emily St. John Mandel’s books then this is not any different. The reasons you hated the others probably exist in this one. It’s very difficult to write a review for this book but I definitely recommend it if it sounds like something you’d like and with every Mandel book, you already know to expect very stellar writing. I think I’ve decided to be a completist where Mandel is concerned. I’m going to go and read her previous books before Station Eleven blew up and see. Anyway, I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads.

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Fiction, literary fiction, romance, scifi

Our Best and Worst Books of 2021

We made it through another year. We can’t believe that we are about to enter our third year of COVID. Not much changed in our reading from last year. For Tayne, her reading was still unfocused and she didn’t get to read many books she considered great, which in turn led to not meeting her reading goal number. Leggy leaned into romance novels and read a ton of those to get by. None the less, we stick to tradition and let you know what our best and worst books of the year were.

Taynement’s Best:

Sometime in summer, I put out a PSA on twitter asking people for the best books they’d read this year and this was one of the books mentioned. It fit the bill as I read a lot of black women authors this year and bonus for being a Nigerian author. So glad I did because it was the only book that got a 5 star from me this year. It was so good and had my attention from start to finish. You can find my review on it here.

Other favorites:

  • Not All Diamonds and Rose by David Quinn (See review here)
  • Bamboozled By Jesus: How God Tricked Me into the Life of My Dreams by Yvonne Orji (See review here)
  • Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (See review here)
  • The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi (see review here)

Leggy’s Best:

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“Marriages can float apart. Sometimes we don’t notice how far we’ve gone until all of a sudden, the water meets the horizon and it feels like we’ll never make it back.”

When I read this book in March, I told T;ayne that I think this would be my best book for the year. This year has been a very tough reading year for me especially with literary fiction. I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy and romance because it lets me escape from this Covid world so, it was just great to find this book and be completely immersed. You can find a full review for this book here.

Other favorites:

  • Hail Mary by Andy Weir (this book is so good! It doesn’t matter if you’ve never read any science fiction! Please read it!)
  • Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Manson (I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads!)
  • A Wicked Kind of Husband by Mia Vincy (Best romance novel I read this year, it was so much fun! If you’re looking for something light, give this a shot! We have a mini review of this one here on the blog.)
  • Malice (The Faithful and the Fallen Series) by John Gwynne (This was a fun fantasy to read!)

Taynement’s Worst:

It didn’t help that I had high expectations but there really wasn’t much that I liked about this book. Not the story, not the writing style, not the characters. It took a while to get going and when it did get going, I did not care. Don’t get me started on the ending. A true wtf moment. See review here.

Leggy’s Worst:

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You either adore a Sally Rooney book or you detest a Sally Rooney book. There is no in between. I really enjoyed Normal People by Sally Rooney, I even reviewed it here for the blog but I really didn’t like this one. Beautiful World, Where Are You comes off so pretentious that I’m almost convinced everyone who loves it is pretending (just kidding! Art is subjective). I read worse books this year but I chose this one because I expected so much from this author plus this is one of those books that I hated enough to talk about it, so it earns its spot. You can find a full review of this book here.

We hope you have enjoyed talking books with us this year. We’d love to know what your best and worsts were so let us know in the comments. Have an amazing Christmas and we’ll see you in the New Year. Happy reading everybody!

Leggy & Taynement

Book Related Topics, Fantasy, Fiction, literary fiction, scifi, Uncategorized

Book Review: Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

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“I penetrated the outer cell membrane with a nanosyringe.”
“You poked it with a stick?”
“No!” I said. “Well. Yes. But it was a scientific poke with a very scientific stick.”

The Martian was one of my favorite books the year it was released. It was the only science fiction book that had ever made me cry until this one. Ryland Grace wakes up from a coma and realizes that he’s in a spaceship but he doesn’t know why or how he got on one. He’s in what looks like a hospital room with two other people who are dead. He doesn’t even remember his own name and doesn’t know what he does for a living. As his memories fuzzily return, he pieces together what he’s doing on a spaceship.

The sun is dying because an organism (astrophage) is feasting on its energy. On one hand, the scientific community is excited at the discovery of an actual live organism in space but on the other hand, if astrophage keeps up its activities, earth is going to go back into another ice age which will result in the immediate death of 50% of the population plus multiple wars for the earth’s remaining resources. Alone on this ship that has been built with the resources of every country on earth, by the best minds the earth has to offer and staffed with volunteers that know that they’re going on a suicide journey to save earth, Grace has to figure out why this organism is affecting the earth’s star but not affecting Venus’.

Project Hail Mary is ridiculously imaginative and funny with amazing emotional payoff that you wouldn’t expect to get from a science fiction book. I think the best thing about Weir’s writing is because he’s an actual scientist and was for years before he ever wrote The Martian, his science writing always sounds plausible. I’m not an astronaut and yes, a lot of things in this book obviously hasn’t been invented but I think he creates enough of a situation where this would be the ideal ecosystem for the ramping up of science inventions and discoveries. If humans were to actually make this journey, it’d have to be pretty close. Also, you don’t have to pay attention to the actual science. As long as you get the gist of the stakes, you can relax and enjoy your reading experience. All you need to know is the world would be doomed if Grace doesn’t figure out how to get rid of the organism and spare the world another ice age.

Even if you do not enjoy science fiction, I still implore you to pick up this book. It is so much more than imaginative science. It’s about hope, friendship, humanity and realising how much we’re capable of when we give ourselves a chance to be great. Grace learns so much about himself on this suicide mission to save earth even though he isn’t scheduled to live more than a couple months after he sends back information to earth on how to save 7 billion people. Weir makes an unexpected and unbelievable contact when he thinks he’s well and truly alone but i’m determined to keep this review spoiler free. We also grapple with the ethics of suicide missions, while Grace’s memories keep coming back in spurts throughout the book, we’re confronted with a looming question of how he actually came to be a member of this team – was it really his choice and is he really a brave volunteer?

Weir’s enthusiasm for science is very infectious and you’re going to get sucked into caring about what happens to these amazing characters. Please ignore the science fiction tag and give this book a chance. The author has created an amazing world in less than 500 pages which had me sobbing at the end. I gave this one 5 stars on Goodreads.

Have you read this one? Did you love it as much as I did?

Leggy

Fiction, literary fiction, scifi

Book Review: Followers by Megan Angelo

Followers by Megan Angelo

“I’m going to tell you the same thing I’ve been telling you since you were ten years old, Orla,” she said quietly, like she was trying not to embarrass her. “It’s not good to be a follower.”

This book shuttles across two time periods – 2015 and 2051.

In 2015, we are introduced to two friends, Orla and Floss in New York. Orla is a blogger who writes about celebrities but what she really wants to be is a book author. Her roommate, Floss simply wants to be a celebrity. Orla comes up with a plan that works and she orchestrates Floss being a celebrity including managing Floss’s social media accounts. All is well, except Orla and Floss’s methods are not exactly kosher and some people get hurt along the way.

In 2051, we are in a new world post “The Spill” – when everyone’s secrets online were revealed. The internet is no more and the Government controls a lot of things including government appointed celebrities. We meet Marlow in California. She is one of the popular government appointed celebrities in this new world, with 12 million followers. Being a government appointed celeb means you have a sponsorship, a camera on you 24/7, your partner is chosen, your eggs are harvested and you are told when you can have kids – everything is planned for you and you have no say in your life.

Marlow finds out a kink in her family history and goes on a quest to break free and find out the truth. Followers is the story of how the lives of the mentioned characters cross paths. Each living different lives but fueled by fulfilling their strong heart’s desire.

I loved this book. I think it was written very well and it was hard to believe that it was a debut novel. The premise was a stand out and although it was fiction (with some dystopian sci-fi sprinkled into it), it hit really close to home because I could very easily see it being a reality. Angelo explores a world where being famous at all costs, no matter who it hurts, is the goal. She explored how important social media/followers were on this quest. (Sound familiar?)

The Spill is something I have always feared will happen someday when it comes to messaging systems like Whatsapp,imessage etc. Imagine the government spilling your secrets by sending out the worst things you have ever said or done. I don’t think we ever got a full explanation on what caused “The Spill”, we were given an overload on the power grid but I wasn’t fully satisfied with it.

I felt like all the characters were very well and fully developed – we do get to know about Orla’s family and childhood – and Angelo kept them consistent. For every action made by each character, you were not surprised because it was on brand with what we knew of them. Angelo did a fantastic job of creating this futuristic world that I felt like I could imagine it and actually see it.

Overall, I think the book made you stop and think about the dark realities of social media and all that it comes with. I think towards the end it dragged a bit and you could tell she was trying to wrap things up as neatly as possible. It’s really hard to have a perfect ending to a book these days, so I didn’t begrudge her the ending. If you are looking for an escapist, easy novel, this probably isn’t it but for a well written, well thought out and slightly dark novel – this is it.

Taynement