Reviews

A book for the times- A House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune

Overall Enjoyment: 5/5

Characterization: 4/5

World building: 3/5

Diversity: 3/5

Goodreads Summary:

“A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.

An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours. “

I started reading this mainly because it was written by T.J. Klune. I’ve really fallen in love with his Green Creek series and so I wanted to see what this newest book would hold. I must admit, I didn’t like this book at the beginning. It’s written in a bit of a different style than what I was use to from Klune, but I held on and by the end I was in love. Klune just has this way of writing relationships at just the right pace for me that brings me ultimate satisfaction and melts my heart. That being said, while there’s a romantic element it is small and not the major point of the story.

Characters. What a cast of characters! They’re weird, but quirky and they grow on you so quickly. You have Linus, who is truly the star of our story. He’s middle aged and while well-intentioned person is just kinda stuck in the rut of life. There’s lots of growth in this guy that just makes my heart happy. Then we have Arthur. The story doesn’t spend a super amount of time on him specifically, but what we do get is enough to really understand why he does what he does and what his motivations are. Then, the children. I don’t want to give anything away about them, but they really bring the energy to this story.

World building. This novel is set in what just seems like an alternate earth. There’s the magical creatures of course and a few new governmental agencies that are mentioned, but its a pretty basic earth.

I would definitely say this is a character driven story. There is a plot, but it doesn’t even exist without our characters. The main point of this story is the growth of the characters and the family they become. This book does put into perspective some of the prejudices that we unknowingly can have and how once we realize them that we can do better. I particularly enjoyed this quote.

Diversity. Our main characters are both gay and we do have some lesbians that are mentioned at the end. One of the children is a child of color as well. Compared to some books I’m use to it’s fairly minor, but still nice.

If you love found family stories then this book is definitely for you! If you love slower romances this is also for you! If, like me, you enjoy lots of character driven moments and growth then I think you will also enjoy this story. The style in the beginning isn’t my favorite, but if you can push through it to get to the part with the island then I think you too will fall in love with this story. ❤

Reviews

An Interesting Historical Fantasy- Spellbound by Allie Therin

Overall Enjoyment: 3.5/5

Characterization: 3/5

World building: 3/5

Diversity: 3/5

Goodreads Summary:

To save Manhattan, they’ll have to save each other first…

1925

New York

Arthur Kenzie’s life’s work is protecting the world from the supernatural relics that could destroy it. When an amulet with the power to control the tides is shipped to New York, he must intercept it before it can be used to devastating effects. This time, in order to succeed, he needs a powerful psychometric…and the only one available has sworn off his abilities altogether.

Rory Brodigan’s gift comes with great risk. To protect himself, he’s become a recluse, redirecting his magic to find counterfeit antiques. But with the city’s fate hanging in the balance, he can’t force himself to say no.

Being with Arthur is dangerous, but Rory’s ever-growing attraction to him begins to make him brave. And as Arthur coaxes him out of seclusion, a magical and emotional bond begins to form. One that proves impossible to break—even when Arthur sacrifices himself to keep Rory safe and Rory must risk everything to save him.”

I loved the idea of this novel. The 1920s is such an interesting time in history and then Rory’s power is so interesting! I was sold on the idea. It was okay. I really enjoyed the plot and I enjoyed the characters, but the relationships needed more in my opinion.

The characters. Rory was enjoyable to read. He had a very distinct voice that really came together the more we learned about his history and his background. I really enjoyed the work that was put into getting to know this character. Arthur was interesting, but also a little lackluster to me. I liked the idea of him, but he was just a bit two dimensional. He’s a good guy that has a thing for Rory and…that’s it. We also have Jade, who also has powers and runs a speakeasy. She and Rory click pretty well together.

World building. There wasn’t a ton in this book. We do get some idea of what life might have been like in the 1920s, but its fairly limited. What I most like is the information on the relics and the brief explanations of how different characters’ powers work.

I would say this is more of a plot driven story. We do get some time with the characters, but the relationships just kinda happened without a lot of build up in my opinion and if you have read any of my other reviews you know that that’s one of my largest pet peeves in a novel. So, if you want an interesting gay romance set in the 1920s with some magic thrown in there I think you’ll enjoy this story. If you want a deep historical romance that takes its time then you might be a bit disappointed.

Diversity. There is limited diversity in this book. Arthur is gay and I believe Rory is more bisexual. There is also Jade who is a black woman and there is a Chinese American character as well, but he’s in briefly enough that I can’t quite remember his name. It’s better than some books, but worse than others I’ve read. I’d have loved some more intersectionality.

Overall, I did enjoy this book. The characters were interesting even if I did want more and I liked the plot. This book is part of a series so there may be more character building in the works!

Uncategorized

A book of choice: A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

Overall Enjoyment: 3/5

World building: 4/5

Characterization: 4/5

Diversity: 5/5

Goodreads Summary:

“Long after the Towers left the world but before the dragons came to Daluça, the emperor brought his delegation of gods and diplomats to Olorum. As the royalty negotiates over trade routes and public services, the divinity seeks arcane assistance among the local gods.

Aqib bgm Sadiqi, fourth-cousin to the royal family and son of the Master of Beasts, has more mortal and pressing concerns. His heart has been captured for the first time by a handsome Daluçan soldier named Lucrio. In defiance of Saintly Canon, gossiping servants, and the furious disapproval of his father and brother, Aqib finds himself swept up in a whirlwind romance. But neither Aqib nor Lucrio know whether their love can survive all the hardships the world has to throw at them.”

I got this book when I was look through goodreads. The summary really intrigued me. The cover was beautiful and so I decided to give it a shot. Overall, I enjoyed this book. Most of the book was at a 4 rating for me, but the end just kinda cheapened everything for me. I love the thought of what the author was trying to do and I think he was very successful at accomplishing it, but in actuality I didn’t like it. If this vague comment bothers you I have explained at the end of this post after a spoiler warning. I know lots of readers hate spoilers so trying to be mindful!

Characters. Aqib is the character that we follow along for the whole of the story. It actually spans most of his life…sorta. He’s not perfect and is weak in some ways, but he’s aware of it and doesn’t seem to cover it up. We don’t know a ton about Lucrio, Aqib’s lover, but we are shown their love for each other. This book is short so the relationship moves fast, but for the length of the book I wasn’t surprised by that.

World building. I’m always surprised how some shorter books can include so much world building. There’s a definite religion to the country and we’re exposed to quite a bit of it from a distance. There is so larger mathematical magic talk that I’m not sure was necessary, but interesting and made an interesting plot point as well.

I would 100% this book is character driven. I wouldn’t really even say there’s a plot outside of exploring Aqib’s character and his life. It’s all about how the choices we make can have large affects on the outcome of our lives. As I said, an interesting premise even though it didn’t leave me completely satisfied.

Diversity. There’s some intersectionality in this book that made me happy. Aqib is a black, bisexual man and Lucrio is gay. We also have strong black women woven into this book that I really enjoyed.

Spoiler warning!!!!

So, what the author was trying to do. This book has multiple time jumps and time frames throughout the book. These are clearly marked and I found it easy to follow. One part of this story is focused on Abiq and Lucrio while another part of the story is focused on Abiq and if he is forced to marry a woman. All of Lucrio’s story seems to be set in the past while the marriage to the woman and the rest of his life takes up much of the book. It was sad, but I know that sometimes things like that happen.But, at the very end we learn that his whole marriage and life were just a possibility and that he never really got married at all, but actually chose to be with Lucrio. Now, I love the idea of writing about how the choices we make can vastly impact our lives and if this book had made it clear upfront that that’s what was being explored then I think at the end i wouldn’t have felt so frustrated. This book spent a lot of time on Aqib’s life being married and then to be told it didn’t happen was frustrating to me. I wish if the goal was to truly explore two life options that we got a bit more detail of Lucrio and Aqib’s life together than just the first meeting but I guess that would have given it away or maybe made reading the story more confusing. That is my take. I would still recommend reading this story. I think it’s very interesting and well written, but hopefully this helps you avoid some ending frustration.

Reviews

It was Meh – Only Mostly Devastated Review

Overall Enjoyment: 3/5

World building: 1/5

Characterization: 3/5

Diversity: 4/5

Goodreads Summary:

“Summer love…gone so fast.

Ollie and Will were meant to be a summer fling—casual, fun, and done. But when Ollie’s aunt’s health takes a turn for the worse and his family decides to stay in North Carolina to take care of her, Ollie lets himself hope this fling can grow to something more. Dreams that are crushed when he sees Will at a school party and finds that the sweet and affectionate (and comfortably queer) guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High.

Will is more than a little shocked to see Ollie the evening of that first day of school. While his summer was spent being very much himself, back at school he’s simply known as one of the varsity basketball guys. Now Will is faced with the biggest challenge of his life: follow his heart and risk his friendships, or stay firmly in the closet and lose what he loves most. “

What really first pulled me into this story was the idea of this being a gay, modern spin on grease. My curiosity was peaked. This is a fairly lighthearted story that deals with a couple of heavier topics in there too. If you’re looking for a slice of life story about a boy finding love while dealing what other events high school throws at him I think you will enjoy this story. I think what threw me off from completely loving this story was just how much this story had in it. There was the relationship that needed to be worked out not only with Ollie, but also his friends, there was serious family stuff going on, and each character had their own stuff going on too. All this extra stuff in the book was meant to round all of the characters out, at least the girls and Ollie. I felt like the boys were a bit flat and had some behaviors that weren’t fully addressed, but overall a pretty enjoyable story.

Let’s start with world building. This was a contemporary real world setting so there wasn’t much world building needed, but I felt like there could have been more. North Caroline didn’t really get any description other than not as progressive as California. The school is much the same with the school being pretty cookie cutter.

The characters. Ollie is what kept me going in this book. He has little comparisons that I found interesting and was generally just a sweet guy. There was drama, but in generally this character was really mature. Lara, she grew on me. I would say honestly one of the more complex characters. Wasn’t a huge fan of her at first, but she grew on me. Will, what a confused dude. He frustrated me some times, but while he can be not the greatest he grows. The thing that bothered me a bit were the basketball guys. They definitely make some not great comments/ jokes about Ollie only to be like “it’s was just a joke” and that was the end of it. Not really a huge fan of that easy solution, but I guess it’s easier to deal with than them actually being 100% homophobic.

Diversity: There are a few lgbtq+ characters in this book and many people of color. The focus is definitely the gay relationship in the story. While there are people of color it doesn’t really seem to affect anything and is mentioned so briefly you could have missed it. Maybe you enjoy that, maybe you don’t.

Overall, if you’re looking for an overall, light feel good read I think you’ll enjoy this. As mentioned, there are a couple heavier issues, but overall I would say the book has a light feel to it that makes it easy to enjoy if not a little underwhelming.

Reviews

The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark

Overall enjoyment: 5/5

Characterization: 4/5

World building: 4/5

Diversity: 5/5

Amazon Summary:

“In an alternate New Orleans caught in the tangle of the American Civil War, the wall-scaling girl named Creeper yearns to escape the streets for the air–in particular, by earning a spot on-board the airship Midnight Robber. Creeper plans to earn Captain Ann-Marie’s trust with information she discovers about a Haitian scientist and a mysterious weapon he calls The Black God’s Drums.

But Creeper also has a secret herself: Oya, the African orisha of the wind and storms, speaks inside her head, and may have her own ulterior motivations.

Soon, Creeper, Oya, and the crew of the Midnight Robber are pulled into a perilous mission aimed to stop the Black God’s Drums from being unleashed and wiping out the entirety of New Orleans.”

This book popped up in the suggestions for another book I was looking at. The summary had me interested, but I’m not a huge fan of science fiction or novellas. However, as you can tell by ratings above this story really blew me out of the water! I tend not to like novella because I feel like a lot is left out and the story is annoyingly bare bones because its so short. The Black God’s Drum puts all those fears to rest and more

There are two main characters is this story. The first character you meet goes by Creeper. You don’t even learn her name until later in the book, but she paints us an immersive picture of what life is like for her in New Orleans. She’s a strong, street savy girl that knows the community around her. She is paired with the Orisha goddess, Oya, who has been with her since she was born. Then, you have a character that goes mainly by Captain. She’s a captain of an airship and pairs up with Creeper when they are after similar goals. Both characters get chunks of personal history throughout the book that creates well rounded, interesting characters. Very lovely characters for a novella.

The world building threw me off at first, but I acclimated to it within the first 20 pages. The world is set in what I would consider an alternate New Orleans during the civil war period with steampunk elements, mainly, air ships. The main world building that happens in this novel is setting up what would happen if civil war ended differently or at least was a tentative truce. The amount of history put in this novella without info dumping is truly skillful. There’s even some writing done about the African gods and how the drums work that I really enjoyed.

The diversity in this book was great. There were a host of diverse characters in the background, but I tend not to count them since they don’t get much attention. Creeper is a young black girl. Captain is where the real diversity is at. I’ve been disappointed by the general lack of intersectionality in most characters I’ve been reading, but Captain is a strong black, bisexual woman who also has a metal leg. Wow. I’m in love with her.

Overall, if you’re looking for a well written, but quick read with some great, intersectionality I couldn’t recommend this book to you more.

Reviews

Everything I Hoped It’d Be- Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy

Overall Enjoyment: 5/5

Characterization: 4/5

World building: 4/5

Diversity: 5/5

Goodreads Summary:

“I’ve been chased my whole life. As a fugitive refugee in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur.

Now I’m done hiding.

My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.

When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.

No pressure. “

Review

First off, I’ve been waiting for this book since I first heard about it. I’m not really a SyFy fan, but this was a retelling that I just couldn’t ignore. I haven’t read a ton of King Arthur stories recently, but I remember a bit about them from when I had to read them in school. This book has so many elements that I enjoyed.

First, let talk about the characters. There’s Ari who is an action first, think later kind of girl. She’s an orphan refugee that was taken in my two women and has grown up under the radar. She’s a fighter with the quest of returning to her planet and freeing her people. She’s skeptical and brash and I really enjoyed it. Now, there can of course be no Arthur without a Merlin. I’m going to be honest and say that Merlin is probably my favorite character. He’s just as much as a main character as Ari in this story. What really drew me in was his past though and his memory and relationship with all the past Arthur-s. It hurts to read sometimes, but I think it just added such a great, new element to the typical Arthurian legend that I was completely taken with him. Honestly, I’m taken with all of the characters. They’re so diverse and each of them has at least a little bit of backstory and history all that are new, but also tied to past King Arthur stories. Loved it.

The world of this story is set far in the future and it takes an interesting look on what could happen to not only our world, but our whole universe if we let our love of capitalism go too far. Corporations especially Mercer are out of control in this novel and it shows through how the planets are designed, built, and controlled. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it dystopian, but if you’re worried about the power of consumerism it could maybe feel that way.

The diversity in this book flourishes all over its pages and it didn’t feel like fan service! These characters got enough love and attention that they all seemed well entrenched and important to the story. Most of our characters are characters of color as well as lgbtq+. We even have a character that I really enjoy that is nonbinary. I love these characters.

Overall, I loved this book. As I mentioned, I was really pulled in by the summary and I wasn’t disappointed.


Have you read this book? What did you think? Is it on your TBR?

Reviews

A Review- A Faire Encounter By A.M Valenza

Overall Enjoyment: 2.5/5

Characterization: 5/5

World building: 2/5

Diversity: 5/5

Goodreads Summary: Elena is working the Renaissance Faire with her cousin Luís when she spots the Cutest Girl Ever, a yawning, shivering, chubby little thing dressed up in a dragon onesie. The only problem is getting her attention. She comes up with a plan: impress that adorable dragon girl at all costs. A little magic wouldn’t hurt either.

Review

I picked up this book because it was set at a ren faire. I love renaissance faires. I think they’re so fun and nerdy. I enjoyed the beginning of this book, but the more I read the more it just became a little too silly for me.

The best thing about this book was the characterization. Ines was a shy, asexual who got pulled into the whirl wind known as Elena. While I enjoyed Ines, Elena was too much for me to enjoy. She was supposed to be at least an older teenager, but she responded like someone much younger than that and I found that very disappointing. Each of these characters had very distinct voices though and I did really enjoy that.

The world building in this story was fairly minor. As I mentioned before it is set at a renaissance faire with the surprise that witches are real. There’s very little explanation about the witchcraft other than its normal to be happening at the faire.

Diversity is where this novel also really shines. There’s representation for some different sexual orientation, diabetes, mutism, etc. While I appreciated it I also felt like it was a little bit of fan service. The story was short enough and I felt like while we met a diverse cast we really just got a snapshot of them before moving on. I always find that a bit unsatisfying, but it wouldn’t be any different with any other minor character in a relatively short novel.

Overall, I wasn’t satisfied. There are such few f/f novels that I find that I want them to all be magnificent to encourage more people to read and enjoy them. This novel was light, fluffy and if you don’t mind crazy characters you could enjoy this story. If you’re looking for something deeper you’re going to be disappointed.