Book Review: The House in the Cerulean Sea

I have been meaning to read The House in the Cerulean Sea for a long time (or since it came out really). All my friends loved it. The time finally came for me to pick it up. I put it off for so long as I was afraid I’d be disappointed but how could I be at this beautiful story?

Star rating: 5 stars (new favourite)

We begin with Linus Baker, a forty year old man who works as a caseworker investigating orphanages that house magical children in a world that is very prejudiced against magical children and adults. His life is lonely and repetitive but he doesn’t really observe this himself just going from day to day following the rules and regulations he holds dearly. Due to his diligence, the senior management where he works send him on a classified mission to a far away island in order to investigate the orphanage there and its ‘master’.

Linus doesn’t really know what to expect – he isn’t allowed to read the files of the children he will be observing until he arrives. These children are more than just magical children – they are unique and different to any he has ever met before. Not to mention the man who looks after them, Arthur, is not the man the management made him out to be.

I couldn’t help but love this story mostly because of the characters. Linus goes through such a transformation as he is slowly welcomed by these magical children who had very troubled pasts. I enjoyed seeing the children open up to Linus as he befriends them (against his head that follows the rules and regulations). The book really preaches belonging and found family, it warmed my heart from start to finish.

The House in the Cerulean Sea is the kind of book that makes you squeal at its cuteness. There are so many touching moments that build up happy tears. Each and every child has unique magical abilities and personalities and a journey of their own to go on throughout the book. I also loved the romance which just felt right in this story.

Overall, one of the best books I’ve ever read due to the emotion it made me feel. I am looking forward to reading other books by TJ Klune given the strong effect this one had on me.

Book Review: Parachutes

You can tell that Parachutes is a story very close the Kelly Yang’s heart from her heart-breaking author’s note where she writes her own experiences of sexual assault and lists some of the statistics surrounding it in high school. I did not imagine that it would be such an emotional, complex and realistic story based on the marketing comparison to Gossip Girl (that does not do it justice at all, the only link is rich teenagers). This book will make you angry. Angry at the system, angry at the adults who sweep assault under the rug because of money and reputation, and angry at men and boys that prey on teenage girls (and all women for that matter).

Star rating: 5 stars

The book has two points of view. Dani is a Filipino-American who lives alone with her Mom. The two both work at a cleaning company – Dani after spending the day at prep school where she has an academic scholarship. One day Dani’s Mom decides to rent the spare room to an international student for some extra money, and so Claire arrives. We are introduced to the concept of a Parachute – an international student parachuted in to American prep school in order to get an American education and get into a good college. Claire is furious at her parents for sending her away, and is less than impressed with her new accommodation.

Dani’s story focusses on her time on the debate team where she’s aiming to win a national competition to help with her application to Yale. She’s competing against rich kids with private coaches, but her debate coach sees talent in her and coaches her one on one. Claire’s story follows her integration into American Prep School, as she joins the other Chinese parachutes and explores her new freedom. Through both characters racism and class differences are explored. The two girls struggle to make friends despite encountering problems where they could lean on each other.

Both characters stories feature an aspect of sexual harassment / assault or rape. Dani is harassed / touched inappropriately by her teacher, and Claire has issues with her ex-boyfriend and is raped by a classmate. The author really explores the girls’ trauma, and this book with make you furious at the lengths adults will go to cover up things like this for financial or reputational reasons.

The only plot point I didn’t really enjoy was that Dani and Claire share a love interest in Zack (I listened to audio so this may be spelled incorrectly). Kelly uses Zack to show what consent looks like, but I just didn’t want the girls to fight over a guy in a book like this.

Overall, an excellent book that far exceeded all expectations I had. It is a lot, and so much is crammed into these 500 pages, but I think it was ridiculously important messages. The system is a mess, and it allows the things covered in this book to keep happening. If you want a read that will leave you horrified, this is the book for you. And definitely look up the trigger warnings.

End of Year Review: 2020

Hello there! It’s my first end of year review. It’s been a wild ride since I started Toastie Books back in August and I’ve really enjoyed joining such a great book blogging community. So, be prepared for some Goodreads and WordPress stats for 2020.

Goodreads

Shortest Book: The Pale Dreamer by Samantha Shannon (90 pages)

Longest Book: House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas (803 pages)

Average Book Length: 391 pages

Total Pages Read: 104, 923

Total Books Read:

268

I read more books than I ever have in a year in 2020, and probably ever will again given the unusual circumstances. The most popular book I read was Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (haha), and the least was Making Relationships Work at Work by Richard Fox.

Average Rating: 4.2 Stars

Average rating is up from 4.1 Stars last year (the first year I tracked every book I read on Goodreads). I think this is pretty good! It means I read a lot of great books this year.

WordPress

Number of Blog Posts: 90

Total Words Written: 39, 532

Average Words Per Post: 439

Average Likes Per Post: 37

Average Comments Per Post: 7.4

Total Likes: 3,333

Total Comments: 546

Followers:

391

Views:

6, 410

Visitors:

2, 732

Honestly I can’t even begin to describe how insane this is for me. When I started this blog in August I had no idea I’d have 391 followers at the end of the year. That’s like 3 times as many as I have on Twitter – wild.

My Top Posts

Most Views:

  1. ARC Review: The Burning God (162 views)
  2. Book Review: The Starless Sea (139 views)
  3. Monthly Wrap-Up: August 2020 (110 views)

Most Likes:

  1. Book Review: The Starless Sea (68 likes)
  2. Book Review: A Deadly Education (60 likes)
  3. Monthly Wrap-Up: August 2020 (56 likes)

So, there we have it, some statistics for 2020!

Thank you to everyone who supported my blog this year, I really do appreciate all of your views, likes and comments. I hope I recommended some good books for you this year, I sure did get some good recommendations from you guys!

Book Review: Ninth House

A year ago, after reading Ninth House for the first time, I met Leigh Bardugo and asked her about the British weather. Today, I finish my re-read after a week of slow reading. Reading this book slowly, taking it all in, I enjoyed it even more than the first time. The magic is unique, elements are horrifying, and the characters draw you into this wild story completely. I recommend you read it slowly, absorb the detail, the atmosphere. This is a masterpiece. It should be noted that it is adult horror, and you should absolutely check out the long list of trigger warnings.

Star rating: 5 stars

Ninth House is and adult fantasy – horror that follows Galaxy ‘Alex’ Stern and Daniel ‘Darlington’ Arlington in a story that mixes present day and flashbacks. Alex is the central protagonist – she had a rough life growing up, partly due to the fact she can see Grays – also known as ghosts. When Lethe House of Yale University gets wind of this, she’s recruited to be Darlington’s successor. They have one year to train Alex, but things at Yale are not what they seem.

What makes this book is that the reader discovers the world-building just as Alex does. There are no info dumps, the reader is thrown in to pick up the details along the way. Alex is a protagonist you can really get on side with – she’s gritty, street smart and the way she still has hope, that she makes the reader hope for her, after all that she been through is just heart-breaking.

Darlington is the opposite of Alex – he grew up in a mansion, had access to the best education, and was always destined for success. But his back story reveals more, and he becomes another character I empathised with greatly. The flashback chapters with Alex and Darlington together are excellent.

At the centre of the plot is Alex unravelling a series of mysteries – a murder, several Yale societies involved, nobody she can trust. She does this with the help of Detective Turner who is one of my favourite side characters. Alex’s roommates Mercy and Lauren are also great – I really liked that despite Alex’s crazy life there are flashes of normality as she develops friendships with ordinary girls (I love how Alex defends them).

Overall this is one of my favourite books, Leigh Bardugo has grown so much as a writer since Shadow and Bone. I’m eagerly anticipating the sequel.