The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Of all of the books that I’ve read, I cannot recall one such as this. This book, this story, has everything I could have asked for from the author. It has fantasy… magical youths in a world filled with prejudice. Mystery… a caretaker who is more than what you think he is. Humor… dry, sarcastic, witty children and a clumsy main character. Romance… one that takes it time to blossom throughout the story. Politics… unfairness in the treatment of children that happen to be different from others. Finally, family… a sense of belonging and the kind of love only family can give you.

There were points in this book where I was openly sobbing. The way Klune wrote these characters makes you feel like you grew up right alongside them. The love and loyalty the have for each other, and the love and loyalty that presents itself in Linus Baker as the story progresses is nothing short of wonderful. Klune is also very good at describing scenery. The description of the island, the ocean, the forest, the garden. Just a wonderful story all around.

Don’t you wish you were here? I know I do.

Shadow and Bone Trilogy – Grishaverse – by Leigh Bardugo

This will be brief, because there is too much to say about this series. I could probably write an entire essay on each book, so I just wanted to do the series as a whole.

I LOVED these books. They move very quickly, which, at some times, I had a problem with, but realized that if they were slower, I probably wouldn’t like them. I just think that some back-stories could have been elaborated on. The one thing I have to praise Bardugo on is the unpredictability of the series. Sometimes I like to try and guess what is going to happen. Try to guess who certain characters are going to turn out to be. Let me tell you, I got nothing right. I did not see character developments/deaths coming. I did not see battles coming. It was extremely refreshing to not be able to pick out what’s going to happen.

This series was a breath of fresh air and I cannot wait to read Bardugo’s duologies next.

Fantasyland: True Tales from America’s Most Compulsive Fantasy League by Sam Walker

Around this time of year I am always tempted by books about baseball. The weather is warming up. The teams are about ready to open up the season. This year is bittersweet due to the sports stoppages in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yesterday was meant to be Opening Day and I miss the game terribly. Still, I did my baseball reading with Fantasyland: True Tales from America’s Most Compulsive Fantasy League. Our author, Sam Walker, is a sports columnist for the Wall Street Journal and he takes part in the only Fantasy Baseball league in which you need an invitation from its creator; and he’s in it to win.

The year is 2004 and Sam Walker is ready to take part in Tout Wars, the most exclusive Fantasy Baseball league in the country. Not only does Walker want to make an impression on this league, he wants to win. There is no money involved (except for the auction draft) only bragging rights. This league is filled with several baseball bigwigs. Jason Grey who, today, is a fantasy analyst on ESPN; Ron Shandler, the creator of Baseball Forecaster, the year’s guide to every baseball player; and Lawr Michaels who worked for Walker is so determined to win that he goes to the Winter Meetings to badger GMs and managers about players. He even hires two “helpers” to draft and manage his team: Nando is in charge of scouting. He’s the humanist of the group. It’s his job to find out everything about every player. Have they recently signed a big deal? Gotten married? Lost a family member?; Sig Mejdal is the numbers guy. He works for NASA as a day job, but his dream is to work for a major league team as a stats guy. His job is to look at players by stats only. Are they worth spending big on at the draft? If we trade David Ortiz, can we get anything equal in return? Walker spends nearly $46,000 and travels across the country to try and make his mark in this ultra-exclusive fantasy league. Despite all of their hard work, the trio comes in 8th out of 12.

By far, my favorite part of this book is the description of the draft. Tout Wars’ 2004 auction draft is AL only and takes place in a Wyndam Hotel conference room. Each league member has $260 to spend for his roster. They work each other over by driving prices up on players they don’t want each other to have. Or they nominate players they don’t want and hope someone will spend their money on him. Walker goes into the draft wanting elite pitching. He walks away with Mariano Rivera and Curt Schilling so he did his job. He also walks away, however, with a pitcher he wanted no part of: Sidney Ponson. Walker nominated the pitcher himself and put him put there for $12, about $6 higher than he should have. Absolutely no one bid on Ponson who, at the time, was far too overweight and had off-the-field issues. It was hilarious to read Walker’s description of his blunder.

I love playing Fantasy Baseball myself so it was really cool to read about someone else’s experience. Granted, I don’t let it claim control over my life quite like Walker did (he was at Yankee Stadium watching a couple of his players when his wife told him she was pregnant), it still holds a special place every season. Hopefully we get some form of baseball season this year. The game is dearly missed.


The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Jude and her sisters were taken to Faerie after their new father figure murdered their real parents. Now they live among the Folk as daughters of the most militarily powerful man in the land. They learn with the gentry children, go to royal balls, and mingle with the royal family of Faerie. The problem is that Jude’s main enemy happens to be the youngest Prince Cardan whose cruelty toward her outdoes even the man that killed her mother in front of her. When plans are set into motion to replace the royal family of Faerie, Jude must learn to work with the person she despises over everyone. Can she and Prince Cardan deal with each other long enough to save Faerie?

I both love and hate teen fantasy at the same time. The stories are usually so entertaining. They are full of magic, fantastical beasts, and lots of fighting action. But it never fails that I always wind up wishing that this book was written for adults instead of teens because the writing is so juvenile. It’s not a bad thing really, I just always want characters to react how I would I suppose. I want them to curse. I want good sex scenes. I don’t know, maybe Game of Thrones has completely ruined fantasy novels for me.

What I did like was they was this story had so much strategy in it. The twists and turns had me trying to guess what was going to happen next, and honestly it did not end the way I expected it to. Black has an excellent mind for battle descriptions and how a military mind might think. The whole book was like watching a chess match of royal siblings that Jude and her family happened to be a part of. It was a very promising start to what should be a great series.


A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

The conclusion to Schwab’s series about the three Londons is nothing short of breathtaking. Five hundred pages and it took me only 72 hours to finish because I was so enthralled.

Kell, Lila, Alucard Emery, Prince Rhy Maresh, and Holland embark on a journey to save Red London from a dark force from Black London called Osaron. The ghost-like demon tried to take over the Maresh empire by infecting all of its inhabitants, but the royals of the empire are hard to control and hard to kill. The group must find a way to beat a force that can control different hosts and promises mercy.

The writing of Schwab is beautiful. The story is woven through several different points of view including that of our villain. We get to know what each character is feeling at the same moment because her chapters are broken down into each character’s mind. I was  a big fan of the choice of villain in this finale. Osaron thinks himself a god, but the hero crew knows that he needs more than he is willing to admit to himself. They take advantage of the fact that to fight, he needs a physical body. I also enjoyed that Schwab makes Holland a more complicated character. All he wanted was to save his White London from a terrible fate, but he brought death and destruction to Red London and nearly to Grey London. He knows his mistake and therefore is the one to sacrifice everything to right his wrong. There is also a lot of betrayal within the castle during the fight with Osaron that made the story all the more entertaining.

Schwab did a beautiful job with the series and I’m glad to have gone on the journey. IMG_1525

Fire and Blood by George R. R. Martin

First and foremost, I think I speak for all of the Song of Fire and Ice readers in saying, George, what the hell? Why write this instead of finishing The Winds of Winter. We’ve been waiting literal years for you to finish that book only to learn that you’ve been spending your time writing this Targaryen history?!? That being said, thank you George for writing this Targaryen history!!! We’ve all been wanting to know how the ancient Valyrian family took hold of Westeros and held it for hundreds of years. And let me say this book did not disappoint.

Beginning with Aegon the Conqueror and his two sisters coming from Dragonstone to conquer all of Westeros and make it one, united kingdom, spanning until King Aegon III came into manhood and took the realm under his control. We readers are taken on a journey through time to see just how the Targaryens became the dynastic reigning family of Westeros. It is a tale of war, peace, loyalty, deceit, split family lines and marriages that bond it back together. The fact that this book reminded me so much of medieval Britain had me enthralled from the start. The coming of Aegon the Conqueror mirrors William the Conqueror coming to England to claim it for his own. The Dance of Dragons, the war of two different lines of the Targaryen family tree mirror The War of the Roses in which two factions of the same family warred for many decades on English soil. Y’all this was one of my favorite reads this year. I love history, but it seems I love fictional history even more. I think because it is so much more impressive to invent such an elaborate history of events rather than just record actual happenings.

The only wish I have after reading this book is that it went further on to recount ALL of the reigns of Targaryen kings. But the fact that we stopped halfway through the dynasty tells me that there will be another Fire and Blood to continue where this one left off. Again I think I speak for all of Martin’s fanbase when I say, please George, finish The Winds of Winter before you release the second half of the Targaryen history. We would much appreciate it.


A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

How could you do that to me Schwab? Leaving me (and other readers of the series) on a cliff-hanger like that. It’s just cruel.

Kell and Lila are four months past their defeat of the Dane twins in White London. Kell struggles with his new life as the prince Rhy’s personal vessel. Lila sails the Arnesian Sea with Captain Alucard Emery aboard the Night Spire. They will all come together in the Arnesian capital for the Essen Tesch. The Element Games. Meanwhile, something foreboding is brewing in White London, preparing to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting Red and Grey Londons.

Schwab’s writing is riveting. I can feel my own pulse quickening with all of the action that goes down in this book. I can feel anger when characters get mad. I feel anxiety when characters get nervous. Luckily Schwab ‘s books aren’t ultra-vivid, otherwise I would be in an immense amount of pain throughout reading them. The story in this second of the series is great. The idea of games for those that can wield elements with magic is intriguing (and very like the Tri-Wizard Tournament, so I approve).

That cliff-hanger ending though. In a moment when people are dying, but not saying they’re actually dead yet. A moment where someone is about to discover what they really are, but not telling readers the result. It’s maddening. Now I have to wait until I purchase the third book. I feel like a caged lion. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?!?!?!


Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

She’s done it again. Aveyard has drug me further down the rabbit hole that is this series. She did it with action, politics, and emotion and I can’t get enough.

Mare Barrow is back with the Scarlet Guard. She’s got the brother she thought she lost, the exiled prince, and a heap of guilt on her conscience. She and her team sweep the country finding more people like her and her brother: red-blooded with silver-like abilities. They need to find them before the newly-crowned, deranged King Maven can get to them and kill them, or worse, hand them over to his mother to use as puppets.

In all honesty, you can easily tell that this series is meant for teens. The writing is good, but super angsty. There is also a lot of emphasis on blood. I get it, the classes are separated by blood color, but just tone it down a little. Despite that, I love this series. The story is great and the twists are better.

Bring on the third book!


A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Another series, another fandom.

There are four Londons. Grey London as we know it. Red London, a world of magic and element control. White London, where death and power reign supreme. And Black London, which has been sealed off to the rest for fear of a dangerous magic within,

Out main character Kell is from Red London. He is Antari, a race of magicians that is nearly extinct. He can travel through the different Londons ans uses the ability to smuggle items between the three. But when he ends up with a mysterious stone (a product of Black London) and a curious girl Lilah (a product of Grey London) he is thrown into a journey to Black London in which, along the way, he must battle the powers of White London.

I’m a sucker for authors that create their own countries, languages, religions, cultures, etc. This book offers it all. I was submersed into a world of magic and danger and I loved every minute of it. Schwab did a wonderful job of creating characters and histories of the worlds she thought up. I love the parallels of the different Londons. How they all sort of have the same layout, but are so so different. I also like how some of the magic in this book only works with blood. It’s definitely not what I’m used to.

I cannot wait to continue the series.


The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

Nicholas Flamel. When I read the description on the back of the book, it was this name that caught my attention. My Potterhead senses tingled. Unfortunately the book has nothing to do with J.K. Rowling’s masterpiece. Nonetheless I was intrigued.

Nick Flamel and his wife Perry have been alive many millennia thanks to The Book of Abraham the Mage or The Codex. They can make The Elixir of Life, they can turn any metal into gold, and they also have extraordinary powers. They’re also being hunted by Doctor John Dee who wants The Codex for evil reasons. Josh and Sophie Newman wind up helping Flamel and learning that there is a prophecy in the Codex that refers to twins such as themselves. Thus, a book series is born.

The writing is juvenile, but I can’t really be mad at that since I found the book in Teen Fantasy. It managed to keep me reading and that’s what counts. The only real issue I had (along with other critics of the book) was the inconsistencies of Josh and Sophie. One moment they are terrified of the events that they’ve been through and can think of nothing but going home. Next, they tell Flamel that they are ready to fight and are willing to do anything to help him. But again, I can’t really be too critical of the see-saw feelings because Josh and Sophie are supposed to be fifteen years old and, let’s face it, teenagers are inconsistent and unstable beings.

The aspect of the book that I really enjoyed was the prospect of mythical characters and creatures popping up and being real. At one point in the book, Dr. John Dee wields a Sword of Ice, once called Excalibur, and Flamel muses that he thought Artorius (King Arthur) destroyed the sword. Historical objects and people are my thing and we might get to meet more.

So, will I continue the series? Most likely. Will I buy up and read the books with a cult-like fervor? Probably not.  Am I secretly hoping that during the series we meet a friend of Flamel’s named Albus? You best believe.