The House in the Cerulean Sea | Book Review

Title: The House in the Cerulean Sea
Author: TJ Klune
Publisher: Tor Books
Publish Date: March 17, 2020
Genre: Adult, Fantasy, Romance, LGBT+, Fiction
Pages: 394
Format: Paperback

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.


The best way I can describe this book is a warm hug when you least expected it but definitely needed it. This book was incredibly charming and whimsical down to the final word.

First off, the writing was very whimsical, as well as witty. There were many moments where I laughed out loud because of something a character said or did, as well as moments I cried because of how incredibly heart-warming the moment was. It was a roller coaster to be able to read something that could pack so much emotion into one story.

The characters were all so incredibly charming! Well, the main cast, anyway, comprising of the six kids, Linus, Arthur, and several others along the way. I have never felt so connected to characters and their stories before, but I felt my heart strings being pulled as I read this novel. You’ll find yourself head over heels in love with the kids – I seriously wanted to just protect them all and give them all the parental love ever. The adults in the story, too, were in situations often that could be reminiscent of the real world (as this story had real world aspects), and it was a joy to read about Linus’ growing attachment to the family and how he really discovered himself among them.

The romance in the book was subtle, interwoven expertly throughout the pages. There were definitely moments where you knew that something was brewing between the two, but then something would happen to cause them to have to break away. It was so very adorable and wholesome. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book.

Let’s talk about the children because I really feel like they were the stars of the show. The kids were each very unique – not just in powers and what they were, but also their personalities. I found myself wanting to know more about them, to see how they progress into the future and what happens later on, but I guess that’s the beauty of this story is how contained it is. TJ Klune wrote the children in a way that leaves you wanting to care for them, of wanting to befriend them and spend time with them.

It definitely focused more heavily on one of the children, but the others were still woven very nicely into the story throughout and at different times were they allowed to shine. I do wish that more could have been delved into, but at the same time that wasn’t the true purpose of the story, plus sometimes it’s good to not know every detail and come up with a solution yourself.

I think the subtle magical and fantasy aspects were well done. There are orphanages who take care of magical youth, and this house by the sea happens to be one of them. The magic that the kids possess are very different, and sometimes surprising.

The story sets out to promise hope, love, familial connection, and finding your true strengths and place in the world. I think it accomplished each of those things and I highly recommend you check out this book if you just need a break from all of the hard things in the world.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

All Boys Aren’t Blue | Book Review

Title: All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto
Author: George M. Johnson
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
Publish Date: April 28, 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Memoir
Pages: 304
Format: eBook

Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren’t Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy.

In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.

Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults

I haven’t read a memoir in forever, and wow did I forget how much I enjoy them. I just wanted to preface this review by stating that I think there’s a lot to be learned from memoirs, a lot of lives and stories to be shared through these works. We all have our own experiences and journeys, and having the honor and privilege to read them is wonderful.

With that said, I highly enjoyed this memoir. Within the first two chapters I found myself reflecting on my own life, upbringing, past traumas, childhood, etc. to see what happened in my own life. Getting to read about Johnson’s was a journey, for sure.

One important aspect about this memoir is that (almost) every chapter is filled with love. He expressed that numerous times about how his family was so full of unconditional love for one another, which I think is a truly beautiful thing. I love seeing it in fiction, but love hearing about it more in real life. He expresses how even though his family knew his secret from the time he was young, they never forced him to be anything other than himself, and they accepted him regardless of anything. I loved seeing that dynamic, for sure.

Johnson talks a lot about being Black in this book, and it was another prime example for me as a white woman to understand another part of the Black experience, if I may call it that. I think that Johnson connecting so heavily to his heritage and culture was something that was inspiring to see, and once again allowed me to reflect on my own dynamics not just in my family, but of the environment around me. I will say that even though I don’t understand on a fundamental level what his experience of being Black was like, I still appreciate being able to have a glimpse into what it was like – and continues to be – for him.

He also talked about what being queer and his sexual identity was like as a young Black boy growing up in New Jersey, and he stated multiple times that he hoped other young, queer Black kids would also be able to see themselves in his words. I think seeing his journey of identity was eye opening. As an adult, I’ve been struggling with “labeling” my own sexuality, even though I hate labeling myself for that specific category. This book is giving me a lot to think about and to understand that it’s okay if you don’t get it right away.

I think it’s also important to note that he talks about some traumatic times, including sexual abuse, so please be aware of that going into this novel (it’s not until much later on in the manifesto). I definitely felt uncomfortable, but only in the sense that I knew he was opening up a dark portion of his past that I feel I was not meant to see or know. If it helped him, though, I’m glad it was in there, and if it helps others work through their own traumas, I’m glad it’s in their for them (and you), too.

From family, to friendships, to sexual identity, to Blackness, to much more, I found myself captivated by this memoir. I have been reflecting a lot on myself, and how I’m digesting the memoir to understand what it’s like for Black LGBTQIAP+ people out there.

The writing is very straightforward, and he gives a lot of stories into his background to give weight to the words he shares with you as the reader. I think that’s part of what drew me in so steadily is because I could definitely feel his voice through the pages.

Overall, I think it’s a great book for anyone to read, understand, listen, and reflect on themselves and their own identities and such.

I’m conflicted on rating a memoir, given it’s about a person’s life, but for the purposes of this review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.