My copy of Under the Whispering Door, by TJ Klune, was kindly provided by NetGalley, and I shall thank them by being honest in my review.
Please read content warnings before reading this book. It deals heavily with the themes of death and various types of death and that may be unsettling to some readers.
So I’m going to be honest, I loved The House in The Cerulean Sea. It is one of my favorite books this year. But this book, this book just might have it beat.
The premise is simple. Wallace dies suddenly, and can hardly believe it except he’s at his own funeral. And there just so happens to be a reaper, Mei, there to collect him. Mei takes him to see Hugo, the ferryman, who just so happens to have the doorway to the afterlife in his tea shop.
Wallace is not particularly keen on this idea, as he would really prefer to be alive, thanks so much.
The book details Wallace’s journey through the five stages of grief as he experiences them from the other side of things. It’s interesting to see it from that perspective. You never think of the one’s we lost as having to grieve the lives and love ones they left behind.
We also meet a colorful cast of characters. From Hugo’s grandfather, Nelson, to Desdemona, a unique townsperson who, among other things, thinks she can turn Hugo’s head. For so many of them being dead, they feel so alive.
Klune created such a wonderful place in this little tea shop. It makes me want to visit. From charming locals, to a helpful reaper and enchanting ghosts, it also has scones! But in all seriousness, the world the author created is very rich for being so self contained.
Now to the nitty gritty. I laughed. I cried.
Like seriously, I was still crying as I sat down to write this review, it gave me all the feels.
To actually be serious, I lost my father a few years back, and I’d like to think he had someone like Mei or Hugo helping him to reach the other side. It was a nice thought to have and the description of those crossing through the doorway gave me an interesting sense of peace as well.
It also made me cry.
Please, bring tissues.
If I had to, I would say this book got 5 stars. Can I give a book 6 stars? No? 5 it is? Okay. Well. New favorite book! Does that help?
Originally when I sat down to review this book, I was going to review the whole series, and then other books happened and now here we are several weeks later and I have two books left in this five book series.
Oh well. I’ll get to it, eventually.
Soulless, by Gail Carriger, follows Ms. Alexia Tarabotti, a preternatural. Which means she is lacking a soul. In olden times, her kind would have hunted vampires and werewolves and exercised ghosts, but these days such creatures are welcomed in the world as full citizens of the British empire. When Alexia accidentally kills a vampire at a party she is attending, she stumbles onto a mystery that draws her into the depths of the supernatural world.
Gail creates a wonderful world full of rich and vibrant characters, each one more intriguing than the last. I love the flamboyant Lord Akledama, a rove vampire of some stature. And Lord Maccon, the werewolf alpha and head of BUR (the constabulary for supernaturals), is fantastically gruff. His relationship with Alexia is amazingly complex.
Also, I feel like I use “rich and vibrant” to describe characters a lot. Maybe I should invest in a thesaurus.
Alexia herself is a bit of an outcast, being half Italian and half English. Though almost no one, not even her mother, knows of her status as a preternatural. She is stubborn, but well mannered, as befits the times. And unmarried, which is quite the scandal, and quite often refers to herself as a spinster.
Did I mention this book is set in Victorian London?
The plot is great. Finding out why a rove vampire would attack a preternatural at a party is the start of a great adventure. And it’s a fast paced story from beginning to end.
I will warn you that while it is described as steampunk, that really doesn’t come into play until later books. So don’t expect much in that realm from this particular entry in the series.
To sum up, I loved this book. I originally gave it four stars because I was upset there wasn’t more steampunky-ness. I later amended my review to five stars. It’s a fun read!
For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten is a story about two sisters, Red and Neve. Red is a second daughter, the one who must be sacrificed to the Wolf of the Wilderwood to help keep her land safe. And Neve will do anything to get her back.
I have noticed for a while now that I have become a fan of Orbit Books, that’s the publisher behind For the Wolf. Everything they publish seems to be great. I’m drawn to their titles, so much so that I signed up for their newsletter so I could be up to date on the newest releases. For the Wolf is another example of their excellence.
The plot is what drew me in. A unique retelling of beauty and the beast, this take makes the beast a man. Right from the get go you’re intrigued by what lies ahead for Red in the Wilderwood. And what is going to happen to her sister, Neve, as she does everything in her power to retrieve Red.
The characters are rich and and beautifully written. Eammon is interesting and complex, the perfect foil for Red. Red is daring, but unsure of herself in the Wilderwood. Because the Wilderwood is it’s own character. It has a life of it’s own and it doesn’t hesitate to let you know it. Neve is ruthless in doing whatever it takes to get her sister back.
The magic system is amazing and unique and complex. I won’t go into here because it would spoil the story too much. Just, I loved the magic in this book.
I did sorta see the twist coming, but I didn’t figure it out so early on in the book that I was displeased by it at the big reveal.
In the end I gave this book 5 stars, and I am really looking forward to the sequel.
Well. How do I put this. I really wanted to like this book, and yet, alas, I did not.
Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas is a contemporary Peter Pan retelling. In the authors own words, it’s more like a fanfic. This one just happens to be a not so great fanfic.
Here’s the thing, the premise sounds great. Wendy and her brothers, John and Michael, disappear in the woods one day and only young Wendy returns. Fast-forward several years later and Wendy is freshly eighteen and two more children have gone missing in the woods. Wendy wants no part of any of it, until a she almost hits a boy, claiming to be Peter Pan, with her truck.
Just to reiterate, I wanted to like this book. I really did. I loved the author’s first novel, Cemetery Boys, and was hoping this book would live up to that promise and it just didn’t.
What was wrong with the book, you may ask? I just found it, well, boring. The first real action scene in the book and I wasn’t enthralled by it. This book just seemed to leave me wanting more, so much more, at every turn.
And that’s why, at 150 pages, I gave up. I was tired of wanting more from the characters, the world, the mythology, the world the author was building.
Am I still going to pick up their next book? Absolutely. But I had to give this one 1 star.
Well, this was quite the read, wasn’t it! Let me say this, if you haven’t picked up The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, you probably should.
It’s the story of a young woman named Nora, who, when everything seems it’s worst, takes her own life. She wakes up in the Midnight Library, a place between life and death, where the clock is stuck at midnight. With the help of the librarian, Nora is able to look at all the possibilities of life and see all her could-have-beens.
Now yes, I know that this sounds like it should be a terrible book, cause suicide. But it’s really not. Each life Nora lives forces her to question what happiness, what a life worth living, really means to her.
I loved this book from the moment I picked if up. It has a beautiful writing style that helps you just fall into the pages. The plot is solid and the cast of characters sucks you right in. You can’t help but feel for Nora as she goes about her journey through the libraries many tomes.
Each life Nora finds herself in is uniquely crafted. A different version of herself that she never thought she could be. And it’s interesting, and introspective, to put yourself in Nora’s shoes and wonder what your life might have been like if you had just taken that left to that job interview one day.
I truly loved this book. Another 5 star read for me this month. You should absolutely pick this up.
If you or someone you love has suicidal thoughts, please seek help. In America you can reach out to 800-273-8255.
Well would you lookie here. A book review. On a book I actually finished. Well ain’t that a treat!
Jenny Lawson suffers from treatment resistant depression, has a long suffering husband in Victor, and a loving daughter in Hailey. Not to mention their dog and two cats. This particular books deals with the authors struggles with her insurance company, her debilitating depression and anxiety, and a whole host of other illnesses. Because why have one thing wrong with you when five works better. Or worse. Probably worse.
First, a disclaimer. I love Jenny Lawson. I think she is a wonderful writer and I pre-ordered this the day she announced it. I also have all three of her other books, including the coloring book. So yes, I am a fan. It’s well earned, I assure you.
Jenny Lawson is absurdly funny. I laughed out loud on multiple occasions while reading this book. I shared one of the funny bits with the hubs and he laughed too. So at least I’m not the only one.
She’s also incredibly deep. I suffer from mental illness as well, and Mrs. Lawson makes me feel seen. She communicates the scariest parts of her mental illness in a way that seem like you, too, can survive it. Because, as she famously says, depression lies.
I love the way she talks about her marriage. She makes sure to point out that as great as it is, it’s not perfect. But it works for them. As all good marriages should.
I cannot stress this enough, if you want to laugh, possibly cry, cringe, laugh some more, and relate to someone, give this book a read. Or a listen. Jenny Lawson narrates her own audio books. In fact, that’s how I read the first two books. I gave it 5 stars.
Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written one of these hasn’t it! Two months, at least!
I thought I’d dip my toe back in the reviewing pool by reading The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec.
It’s the story of Angrboda, a witch who was burned by Odin because she wouldn’t give him what he wanted, and who falls in love with Loki.
Here’s the thing, I didn’t like this book. I didn’t even finish it, but I think it may be that it’s a case of right book, wrong time.
See, I understand that Angrboda had been put through the ringer by Odin, but I just couldn’t connect with her. Don’t get me wrong, I love a heroine who has suffered just as much as the next person, but this character just didn’t resonate with me for some reason. And characters like this usually always resonate with me.
The writing style was fine, I have no problems with it. It wasn’t overly lyrical or particular forced, it was just there. Solid recommendation, I know.
I just, I don’t know. I struggled for two weeks to read the first one hundred pages before I finally just said “self, don’t do this, put it down and walk away.” And by “it” I mean my phone because I picked this book up through the Libby app. Thank you library.
I’m sad, because I really wanted to like this book. And I just didn’t.
What do you think, should I give this book a second chance?
Why is it, when we love something, we just don’t want to be critical of it? Take, for example, Baked Ruffles. I love them very much. They are just the right thickness for dips, so they rarely break, they taste good, they aren’t as salty as regular ruffles, and I like the texture.
But, and this is hard for me to admit, I hate the way they are sometimes so dang wide. I have to break them in half to make them work for me.
That’s the way I feel right now. Because I’m about to review the All Souls Trilogy, or the A Discovery of Witches book series.
I’ll try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but given that the first book is 10 years old (Really, only 10? Zeesh) some spoilers may leak out. And given that I am reviewing three books, yes, there may be spoilers.
Have I mentioned the spoilers?
The story of A Discovery of Witches begins with Dr. Diana Bishop, our female protagonist, finding a book, Ashmole 782, a magical alchemical manuscript. Diana, wanting nothing to do with magic, sends the book back to whence it came. But her calling the book forth has caught the notice of other creatures (witches, daemons, vampires), most notably Dr. Matthew Clairmont, a vampire.
In Shadow of Night, the second book of the series, we find our intrepid (really, Lauren? That’s the word you’re going with?) heroes thrust back in time into 1590s England by way of Diana’s witchy ability called Time Walking. Here they meet such historical notables as Sir Walter Raleigh, Christopher Marlow, and Queen Elizabeth! Rotting teeth included! In this book, Diana is seeking out teachers for her burgeoning magical abilities and both she and Matthew are searching for Ashmole 782. You know, before it became called Ashmole 782.
In The Book of Life, we find Diana and Matthew returned to the present, with Diana having learned control over her magic, and they have renewed purpose in finding the book. Also, they are married now! Huzzah!! They face many hurdles, though, in seeking the book. Most of the members of the Congregation don’t want them together and members of their own vampiric family might be against them.
So what did I think of these books? Well, let us start at the beginning.
A Discovery of Witches is an exquisite book. It’s almost lyrical in it’s writing style. Not words I say often. In fact, I don’t think I’ve said them at all before. It’s pacing is spot on, though, as with most romance style books, I think Matthew and Diana fell in love a little too quickly. But hey, when you know, you know. Ya know?
But that’s not really a pacing issue, is it? That’s a plot choice.
Speaking of plot, I like how DNA is important to the story. The world of science being such a large portion of a vampire’s life is both funny and thought-provoking at the same time. But that’s a small part of the first book, it’s a bigger part of the third book, though. The plot moves along quite nicely. No part of it feels like your rushing to get to the end of the book, which I appreciate.
The characters are rich, fully realized versions of themselves. They never feel anything less than at their best, even when it’s just side characters, like Emily, Sarah, Hamish, or Miriam. Our villains, on the other hand, feel a little less fleshed out. We don’t spend enough time with Satu, Peter Knox, or Gerbert for them to be fully actualized, but more time with them would have been nice.
There aren’t really any big plot twists to this book. There might be one if you squint hard enough, but the author hasn’t written these books that way. Everything flows seamlessly from one moment to the next. Okay, fine, there is one. And it does have ramifications for each of the following books. But it’s not like a plot twist where you are left going “OMG, why did that happen”, it’s more like “well, that’s interesting information”.
I really liked how this book ended. It left me wanting the second book to read almost immediately. And given that I got this book on Kindle when it was first released, I had to wait a minute. Stupid waiting.
Ah well. Patience is a virtue.
On to my favorite book, Shadow of Night! Deborah Harkness (the author) is a historian, and it really shows here. In my personal opinion, this book is where the writing and research really shine. And I love her writing style. It just seems to flow effortlessly, and I’m sure that took quite a bit of effort.
This book is set in 1590s Elizabethan England, France, and Bohemia. I love how the time period really comes alive through the storytelling. All the characters are compelling, though I hate Kit. He really bothered me. Which, I suppose, was the author’s point. I also love Mary Sidney You gotta love positive female friendships!
Again, the plot and pacing are on point. Honestly I found no faults with this book. Of course I didn’t, it’s my favorite. And how many times can I say something is my favorite before I am tempted to use that gif from Elf?
The Book of Life is the third, but not final, book in this universe. This, in my opinion, is the weakest of the three books. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great book in own right. It’s just not as strong as the other two books. The pacing was a little messy. Not terribly messy, mind you, just a little bit messy. The plot was great. I really enjoyed how that important detail of DNA came back into play big time in this book.
The ending of this book felt a little, well, not rushed, but it didn’t flow as well I would have liked. It seemed like the author had so many ideas she wasn’t quite sure how to get them all out. Was it still well done? Mostly yes. Will I read it again constantly? Absolutely.
I really loved the addition of Chris, he’s a fantastic new character. And oh boy Benjamin. Does he make an excellent villain. Disturbing, but excellent. And we can’t forget the loss of that character. If you’ve read the books, you know the one. That one hurt a little bit.
So what do I think of the trilogy overall? I think it’s fantastic! Everyone should read it! 5 Stars all around! Too enthusiastic for you? Try this instead: I find these pages to be full of the most wondrous adventures to be told of witch and vampire. You think I’m kidding? Turns out, I read these books this time two years ago too. How do I know this? Check out this photo of my cat sitting on one of the books. Silly KoKo.
No, but seriously. I love all three of these books. I read through them in about 9 days. And there is still the 4th one, Time’s Convert, to read. And (huzzah!) according to Deborah Harkness’ own Instagram account, she is working on a 5th book. So I’m good.
And there is that review done. That’s it. That’s all you need to know.
No, but really, I’ll give an actual review. If I have to. And since I am a book blog and I read this book both for enjoyment and to review it, I guess I’ll have to review it. Whoo hoo!
So what can I say about this book.
Overall it’s heartwarming and endearing, which is something you don’t often say about fantasy books. I’ve heard people describe this book as though it left them feeling like it gave them a warm hug. I’m not gonna lie, I felt the same way, if you could tell by my opening statement.
Plus, LBGTQ+ rep!
Linus, as the main character, is complex for all that he is a simple man who likes simple things. He is very straight laced. His world is made up of a set of rules set by the government agency he works for, which is the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. Linus is a case worker, someone who goes around and inspects orphanages that house magical children and makes sure that they are up to par. He likes the daily grind of his life and doesn’t wonder if there is anything more to the world than what he already knows. Plus, he has a cat, Calliope.
We love a good cat around here.
One day Linus gets assigned the most classified of jobs, to looks into the lives of the children on the island off the coast of the small village of Marsyas. That’s when things get interesting.
Arthur is the is master of the house and Zoe is it’s caretaker. And I love them both so much! The six children shall remain anonymous because to even give the name of one of them would spoil the surprise. And oh, you will enjoy this surprise. Except for Chauncey, who dreams of growing up to be a bellhop. A Bellhop! How cute is that!
Linus gets drawn into the daily lives of these children even as he is reporting on them back to the head office of DICOMY. Will Linus discover there is more to life?
I love Linus’ character progression. Nothing felt faked or forced for the sake of the plot. And Arthur was a lovely counterbalance. How each saw the world was in opposition to the other. The children were simply delightful. Each had their own unique story and way of looking at life.
So I think it’s safe to assume that I approve of the characters and their development.
The pacing in this book was spot on. It never felt like you were rushing to reach the end, or that you were slowing down to reach a hard earned point. It was consistent throughout the book. Much appreciated, TJ Klune (the author).
World building was pretty good. This book is clearly meant to be some form of magical realism, but we are never really told what country this all takes place in. I keep picturing a New England or United Kingdom setting. So the vagueness didn’t really sit well with me. It didn’t keep me from appreciating the book, but it did bother me a little.
I really connected with this story, as I think anyone who has felt like the odd one out will. It’s message of hope and being yourself was warm and, above all, kind. Which, again, not something you can often say about fantasy novels.
I really loved this book. I can see myself re-reading this whenever I am having a bad time of it mentally and am in need of a pick me up.
Self care is important!
So all in all I gave this book 5 stars, and I think you will to. So go give The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune a chance!
Have I mentioned I’m in two book clubs? I haven’t. Well, let me correct that now.
I’m in two book clubs, because one just wasn’t enough. This newer one I’m in is geared more towards sci-fi/fantasy books, so naturally, I’m in love.
In November Old Man’s War by John Scalzi was selected as our read. And holy cow, what a ride.
The book follows John Perry, who decides to join the Colonial Defense Forces after turning 75 and the death of his wife.
It’s a riveting tale of life at the edge of space when everything out in space wants to kill you. And, quite frankly, you are a soldier whose job is to defend those that live out on said edge.
John Perry is just an average guy who signs up for service, and like everyone else, has no idea what exactly it is he is signing up for. He moves along through the world like your average guy. Nothing overly special about him. Which of course, makes him special.
He does make some good friends along the way. I liked Maggie, Alan, Thomas, Harry, and Jesse, aka the Old Farts. They all added something to the story and didn’t feel like filler characters the way some friends can do.
The tone changed a couple of times. The first half of the book was more light hearted and fun with more comedic moments that genuinely had me laughing out loud. The second half was darker, with higher stakes on Perry’s actions and relationships. Pacing was also divided, with the first half of the book taking its time to get you where you need to go, and the second half just moving you along quite quickly.
None of that detracted from the book at all. It feels like you have viewed two distinct parts of Perry’s time with the CDF and seemed like a natural progression of the story.
I really liked this book. I definitely liked it enough to want to read the rest of the books in the series. The next one may or may not be in my Amazon cart right now. 4 out of 5 stars.