The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

“The things we fear the most are often the things we should fear the least. It’s irrational, but it’s what makes us human. And if we’re able to conquer those fears, then there is nothing we’re not capable of.”

If you are looking for a whimsical and darling story to whisk you away from reality for a bit, you need not look any further than The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune. One of the most popular fantasy titles of the past year, this book invites readers to indulge in moments of introspection about living life to the fullest while remaining light, fun, and magical. Intrigued? Without further ado, let me tell you more about this exquisite book that is definitely one of my favorite reads of the year thus far!

This story begins with Linus Baker, a middle-aged man who lives a very solitary life in a world with magical beings. A caseworker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth (DICOMY), he works to ensure that orphanages under the jurisdiction of the government are up to code and treating their young wards well. A strict follower of the rules, Linus never allows himself to form attachments with the magical children he visits; nor does he question the state of their well-being after he leaves. Although with good intentions and a kind heart, Linus naïvely and passively wades through life doing and believing everything he is told. This also carries over into what he tells himself, as he believes his life – complete with his verbally abusive coworkers and boss, his daily walks home in the rain without an umbrella, and listening to the same music at home each night alone with his cat – is as good as life is meant to be for him.

That is, until Linus receives a special assignment from Extremely Upper Management. Due to his impeccable attention to detail and impressive impartiality to magical orphans, Linus is selected for a month-long, confidential assignment in which he must observe six exceptional children, as well as their master, at an orphanage on an island no one knows about. What Linus also doesn’t know, however, is just how exceptional these children are. Despite his lack of comfort with the assignment, he is given no choice and leaves for this island the very next day. What unfurls at the orphanage after he arrives is the beautiful, comedic, and heartwarming story of how six magical children – a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, a were-Pomeranian, an unidentifiable green blob, and the Antichrist, to be exact – as well as their master, completely change Linus’s life forever.

Overall, this story pulls at your heartstrings and is truly innocent at its core. I wish I could meet all of the children – they are the sweetest, funniest, and most resilient set of characters, despite all of the challenges each has faced due to the prejudices hurled at them for having a magical background. One of the strongest tropes in this story (and also a favorite of the author himself) is that of the “found family,” or characters bound as a family not by blood, but by pure unconditional love for one another. Not only is this trope strong with the bonds shared between the children, all of whom come from different backgrounds, places, and lives, but also for Linus, as he develops relationships and finds love he never knew he needed or deserved. This story also features a beautiful, “slow-burn” romance between Linus and Arthur, the master of the orphanage, as Klune aspires to include positive LGBTQ+ representation in his stories. This book truly epitomizes how sometimes you can find love when you aren’t even looking for it.

It is also clear that some of the struggles faced by the magical beings in this story are also faced by people who are marginalized in our society today. With thoughtful and profound quotes from Linus, Arthur, and the children regarding the ways in which to make the world a kinder place, this story exudes empathy, love, and kindness toward those who are different. It urges characters and readers alike to choose love over hate, empathy and an open mind over prejudice, and understanding over fear. This message of unconditional kindness and love for others was absolutely my favorite part of this book, as it allows for the hopeful and optimistic vision of a future in which love does conquer hate.

All in all, I would highly, highly recommend this to anyone who is up for a book that will leave you laughing, thoughtful, teary-eyed, and in love with a family that finds itself together in the cerulean sea.

This title is also available in the following formats:

OverDrive eBook

Excellent Eco-Thrillers (Part 1)

I first discovered the eco-thriller genre – action-packed books focusing on environmental threats – through The Swarm by Frank Schatzing. It’s a somewhat intimidating book because of its length, but extremely well done in action, characterization, and scientific explanation. Ocean creatures begin unexpectedly attacking humans, and it’s up to a diverse set of scientists and environmentalists to figure out what’s causing it and how to stop it. The answer to the puzzle is both bone-chillingly deadly and incredibly beautiful. If you’ve ever felt worried about just how deep the oceans are and how little we know about them, this book will fascinate (and maybe terrify) you.

Inspired by how much I enjoyed The Swarm, I started a quest to read more eco thrillers and see how they compare. Here are my first two contenders and how they measure up.

First: Zoo by James Patterson. This book was made into a TV series a few years ago, though the series only loosely follows the plot of the book. In the book, we follow almost-scientist full-time conspiracy theorist Jackson Oz as he struggles to understand and raise awareness of the rash of animal attacks spreading across the world. He’s aided by beautiful French scientist Chloe along with a host of military and government figures. The picture of humanity’s future that this book paints is chillingly real, to say the least, though honestly the characters are such standard action-movie stock as to be disappointing. In my opinion, it doesn’t measure up to the complex mosiac of The Swarm.

Second: Eden by Tim Lebbon. In this book, Dylan, his daughter Jenn, and their team are escaping the polluted, climate-change-wracked world by an adventurous race across one of ‘The Virgin Zones’: protected swaths of land where no humans are allowed to live or visit. They’re attempting to be the first to cross Eden, the oldest Virgin Zone which has swallowed up many would-be adventurers. Once inside, their adventure turns frightening as the jungle turns against them, a malicious force which might be responsible for the disappearance of Jenn’s mother… This book is very good at building suspense and a sense of horror, getting more gory toward the end as the climax is reached. I wasn’t as convinced by the Nature Personified element or the resolution, but the characters and action are well-drawn. It almost measures up to the Swarm, but not quite.

The one thing all three had in common is a sobering message of warning for humanity: if we abuse our planet and its resources past a certain point, there will be consequences that we’re most likely not prepared for. The realism of that message makes these books heavy material to consider, but moving, important, and thought-provoking. This is a fascinating genre to explore, so stay tuned for a possible part 2!

Book Club @ Night – ‘Before We Were Yours’ on May 19

Looking for a new book club to join? Book Club @ Night is back and we’re reading adult fiction! On Wednesday, May 19th at 6:30p, we will be discussing Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. Books are available at our Eastern Avenue curbside location for patrons to borrow for this book club. Registration is not required. This program is meeting virtually using GoTo Meeting. Information about how to join is listed below.

Curios what Before We Were Yours is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher:

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Book Club @ Night – ‘Before We Were Yours’ by Lisa Wingate
Wed, May 19, 2021 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM (CDT)

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/669336645

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (224) 501-3412

Access Code: 669-336-645

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/669336645

Book Club @ Night – ‘Circe’ on February 17

Looking for a book club? Join Book Club @ Night. We’re back and reading adult fiction! On Wednesday, February 17th at 6:30pm, Book Club @ Night will be meeting virtually to discuss Circe by Madeline Miller. Books are available at our Eastern Avenue location for patrons to borrow for this book club. Registration is not required. This program is meeting virtually using GoTo Meeting. Information about how to join is listed below.

Curious what Circe is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child – not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power – the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Book Club @ Night – ‘Circe’ by Madeline Miller
Wed, Feb 17, 2021 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM (CST)

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/498392021

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (571) 317-3122

Access Code: 498-392-021

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/498392021

Book Club @ Night – ‘Miracle Creek’ on January 20th

New year means new book clubs! Book Club @ Night is back and we’re reading adult fiction! On the Third Wednesday of the month through May 2021, we will be meeting at 6:30pm to discuss adult fiction. On Wednesday, January 20th, Book Club @ Night is reading Miracle Creek by Angie Kim.

Books are available at our Eastern Avenue curbside location for patrons to borrow for this book club. Registration is not required. This program is meeting virtually using GoTo Meeting. Information about how to join is listed below.

Curious what Miracle Creek is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher:

How far will you go to protect your family? Will you keep their secrets? Ignore their lies?

In a small town in Virginia, a group of people know each other because they’re part of a special treatment center, a hyperbaric chamber that may cure a range of conditions from infertility to autism. But then the chamber explodes, two people die, and it’s clear the explosion wasn’t an accident.

A showdown unfolds as the story moves across characters who are all maybe keeping secrets, hiding betrayals. Was it the careless mother of a patient? Was it the owners, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? Could it have been a protester, trying to prove the treatment isn’t safe?

This book is also available in the following formats:

Book Club @ Night – ‘Miracle Creek’ by Angie Kim
Wed, Jan 20, 2021 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM (CST)

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/699077461

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (669) 224-3412

Access Code: 699-077-461

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/699077461