Review: The House in the Cerulean Sea

In a time when magical children exist, they are put into “orphanages” to “protect” them from the populace. Those orphanages are overseen by a governmental entity (natch), and Linus is a caseworker within that system who gets sent to those orphanages to make sure they are following all the rules. After 17 years, he is sent to one that has six “problematic” magical children, a top secret journey that he is ENTIRELY unprepared for.

I read a fair amount – not as much as some, but typically in the close-to-200-books-a-year range. I can generally find *something* about most books to speak positively about (and I do my best not to be overly negative or cruel anyway). But every once in a while, I get my hands on a book that just blows me away. It’s one that I tell all my friends about, that I would have chosen as a Staff Pick as a bookseller, and one that I find myself thinking about long after I’ve actually finished it. Those are rare, but they do happen. THIS is one of those books.

Now, if you’re one of those readers looking for a pandemic “they survived and so will I” sort of title – read no further. This *definitely* isn’t it. What this IS, however, is a book that is sweet, sweet comfort. It’s about finding family where you least expect it, and maybe even redefining WHAT family is. It’s about “us vs. them”, and what happens when people fail to question. It’s about realizing that sometimes – too often, in fact – the “dangerous” ones are those in charge. And, ultimately – it’s about love. Love for self, for others, for friends, and for partners…whoever they may be.

I started this book in the late afternoon, figuring I’d read a little bit and see what I thought. Thankfully, my daughter was making dinner, because I just…never stopped reading. I simply did not want to put the book down, and so I finished a little after 1am. I laughed, and I cried, and I just did not want it to end. When it did, I felt like I’d been wrapped in a cozy quilt made by my favorite person. I also felt very tired, because it was WAY past my bedtime – but I can say with all honesty, I would have done it even if I had a job to wake up for this morning. It would have been *absolutely* worth it. But, don’t just listen to me…here are a few notable mentions:

An Indie Next Pick!
One of Publishers Weekly‘s “Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2020”
One of Book Riot’s “20 Must-Read Feel-Good Fantasies”

I’m going to say that this book will end up being a Top 10 – and possibly even a Top 5 – title for me this year. I really *is* just that good. So, if this is intriguing to you, even just the smallest bit, The House in the Cerulean Sea is available now for ordering! Again, if you can – please support indie bookstores, because they’ve been hit pretty hard during this pandemic. As a bookseller who was laid off from one, I can vouch for that. If you don’t have a local indie, here’s the link to Indiebound, since many of them will ship!

Review: All the Stars and Teeth

I have a co-worker who is CRAZY about any book that has mermaids. The more vicious the mermaid, the better, really. I’m…not as into mermaids, and honestly was a little hesitant about reading this book because – MERMAID. However, I am pleased to inform you that THE MERMAID IS AWESOME. The entire *story* is awesome. I mean, even the cover is awesome – can we take a second to appreciate how just downright *cool* that cover is? It manages to intertwine so many pieces of the book and look kick-ass, all at the same time.

So we have a princess, who is supposed to become the Queen of her people. A pirate, who is shady but means well all the same. A mermaid who is most definitely not what I expected but absolutely ROCKS. And a fancy dude who is engaged to the princess through no fault of either of them. When Princess Amora lets her magic overtake her during the ceremony at which she is supposed to prove her control, the potential punishment is death. Bastian, the pirate, helps her flee so that she can fix things – as long as she agrees to help him as well. Along the way, however, secrets are exposed that risk *all* of their lives – as well as the lives of all the people Amora was once expected to rule.

It’s rare to read a book where all the characters – male, female, *and* mermaid – are on equal terms. Where they all have their strengths and weaknesses, but no matter how flawed they may be, they all fit together like the pieces of a puzzle. Often, one tends to be there to fill in the gaps of another, or the token male to compliment the weaknesses of the female – and if you remove one of those characters, if often won’t make a huge difference in the outcome of the story. That is not the case here.

Adalyn Grace has managed to create a crew that feels *right*, where you know that if something happens to one of them (no spoilers!), drastic and terrible things will take place. Amora is the undisputed leader of this group, who has strong morals and ethics, is intelligent but can be headstrong, and will die to protect her people. It was absolutely refreshing to have a female character not given to histrionics, repeating the same stupid mistakes over and over again, or leaning so hard on the male characters that she feels like a slug. Honestly, Amora might be one of my favorite characters in quite some time. THIS is the kind of content that I like to show to YA readers! Girls can see someone to strive to be like, and boys can learn that girls kick ass too. They will see this in Vataea, the mermaid, as well. She’s been horribly treated by humans, and has some anger management issues – but she doesn’t nurse that grudge to the exclusion of all else, as some would have her do.

Bastien and Ferrick are the two gents here, and they play off the women very well. To be honest, they tend to be the more emotionally vulnerable of the four, and if there had to be a “you complete me” sort of statement, it would be one of them that might be muttering it. Together, they are truly what makes this story shine.

Don’t get me wrong – I *loved* the story. Different magics, unraveling secrets, betrayals of all sorts…what’s not to love? However, the glue that holds it all together are the four people that are living it, and that bring the reader along for the ride. Experiencing the highs and the lows, and sometimes even the crazy, these four individuals are so woven into all the elements of the story that it really was unexpected when I realized I only had a few more pages left to read.

When I finished the book, I had to check to see if there is another one planned. There was no cliffhanger, so don’t dread that. Things come to a conclusion – and one that could have wrapped up the story. However, I felt (hoped?) that some of the unanswered questions *I* had might be answered in a #2. Goodreads currently has one listed as “All the Stars and Teeth Book 2”, so…I’m hopeful. I will happily spend more time enveloped in this unique and excellent world that Grace has created, for however many books she would like to bring me.