The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Hello Kittens! It may have taken me over half the year, but I’ve found my personal contender for best book of the year. This book is sweet and has memorable characters and will make you laugh as well as cry. It is a story about accepting differences and really getting to know people for who they are and not just how we see them. This title released just as the pandemic was really beginning to hit hard in the U.S., but I’ve seen this book getting some buzz in the YouTube community. I really hope it doesn’t get lost in this year of weird happenings. I have been singing its praises since before I even finished it, and I even kept it a few extra days from the library since I knew it had holds and I wasn’t going to get it back for a while (the fines are going to be pretty decent).

Title: The House in the Cerulean Sea

The House in the Cerulean Sea

Author: TJ Klune

Author website:

Publisher: Tor

Publish date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 9781250217288

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop


Linus Baker does not live an extraordinary life. He gets up, gets ready, goes to work for several hours, comes home, feeds his cat, has an unpleasant conversation with his neighbor, listens to some records, then goes to bed. Each day is remarkably similar. He believes in the work he is doing for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, inspecting orphanages to make sure that the children are being cared for as they should be. He has something of a reputation for his objective reports on his different cases. He takes his guidance from a large tome known as the RULES AND REGULATIONS, which he reads from daily.

Linus is very good at his job but never seeks promotion from it. So he is very surprised when one day he is summoned by Extremely Upper Management and given a top-secret assignment. It is so secret that they won’t even tell him any of the details until he reaches the location of the next orphanage. When he arrives, he opens the files regarding the children whom he is there to look into and faints dead away. This will be his most challenging assignment ever, and Linus isn’t at all sure he is the man for the job, or that Extremely Upper Management have provided him with the tools and information to succeed.

Linus will spend the next several weeks studying this orphanage, the children who live there, and the headmaster who is in charge of it all. He will make sure that the environment is safe and that the children are being cared for. He will do all of this to the standards set forth in the rule book. From the moment he steps on the campus, Linus discovers that these children are extremely challenging, the headmaster is extremely mysterious, and the environment is extremely secluded. He’ll encounter townspeople who are less than thrilled to have the children living nearby while dealing with cryptic and semi-threatening messages from the home office.

Why I liked it:

This book is utterly charming. Linus’ character development is well-paced and engaging. The children are all absolutely delightful, even when they’re being nightmares. The story deals with challenging all sorts of preconceived notions and prejudices. At its heart, it’s a story about morals and how we should strive to treat each other. Readers will delight in Linus’ development and the strides made by the children and townspeople. I laughed, cried, and was heartbroken at times. This was a 5 star read in every sense of the word.

What I would like to change:

I would like a sequel please. I’m not ready to leave these characters behind yet.

Disclaimer: No disclaimer needed. I checked this book out from my library.

My library rating: This was a really tough rating to give out. I want to recommend this book to everyone because it is beautiful, but I know that some people will object to a male/male romance, even if it is relatively chaste. That being said, I think some people might be able to look past that on this one because of the writing, and others will be thrilled to see queer representation (a directly stated goal of the author, who self-identifies as queer). While there is a romance, it is in no way steamy. If there is such a genre as a Cozy Literary Fantasy, this would fall squarely within it.

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon4 glasses of lemonade= a book you could recommend to a book group or anybody who reads.  You might find controversial subject matter, but it is handled delicately.

My personal preference rating: I gave this title 5 stars. It is my absolute favorite read of the year so far.

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Hello Kittens! I just finished reading a really awesome book and couldn’t wait to tell you all about it. I was actually slated to read Christopher Paolini’s new release, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, as well this week, but I got so invested in this book that I decided to table the Paolini book until I was done. It really surprised me because the Paolini book is one of my most anticipated releases for the year. This book is a little bit of an underdog in that I haven’t heard a lot of people talking about it yet, but I feel certain that we’ll be hearing more about it soon. I loved the writing and the storyline and hope that some network sees fit to adapt this into a tv series or movie at some point in the future. Also, check out that amazing cover!

Legendborn (Legendborn, #1)

Title: Legendborn

Author: Tracy Deonn

Author website:

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (imprint of Simon & Schuster Children)

Publish date: September 15, 2020

ISBN: 9781534441606

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop


Brianna Matthews is a young woman who gets accepted to a special program on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill for high school kids to get a taste of the college experience. She embarks on this new experience as she is freshly grieving the death of her mother, a woman who was not happy that Bree was choosing this particular adventure. Bree’s last moments with her mother were a fight about her acceptance into the UNC program and her desire to spend her summer on the campus. Now, that fight fills Bree with remorse and she is struggling to deal with her guilt about it while also embracing the freedom from constant memories and condolences that living on campus is giving her.

From almost her first night on campus however, strange things are happening around Bree. The longer Bree is at UNC, the more she sees things that most others don’t seem to see and when she meets a group of students who also seem to be aware that strange things are happening, she is drawn into centuries old traditions and secret societies.

This is Deonn’s first published novel (she has contributed to other works) and it takes a contemporary look at the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. It takes the story the reader knows and adds a healthy dose of Black girl magic, both literally and figuratively. Bree is a feisty character who is struggling to come to terms with her grief and her abilities in a world where it’s not always clear who she can trust. With the help of a friend from back home and some tough-as-nails ancestors, Bree will confront her destiny and help change the world. This book is the first in a continuing series, so don’t expect to have everything wrapped up perfectly in the end, but this book is an incredibly satisfying contemporary YA fantasy that is filled with multiple magic systems and a lot of wit.

Why I liked it:

The writing in this book is phenomenal. I highlighted so many quotes and passages on my Kindle. The author’s explanations of how Bree is dealing with her grief are incredibly poignant, and I appreciated that she allows the character to express the frustration and exhaustion that deals with managing other people’s feelings when you are dealing with grief.

I loved that there was more than one magic system at play here and I really appreciated the Author’s Note at the end that explained the origin of one of those systems. I also know from experience that the descriptions of UNC’s campus are spot-on. Deonn really conveys a great sense of setting without getting bogged down in those descriptions.

What I would like to change:

I felt like things get a little muddled towards the very end of the book. I was missing a little bit in the way of explanations after the big battle. I also felt that there was a portion of the book at the end that dealt with a possession where the spirit of the person was weaved in and out of the narrative at will. That felt a little at odds with how the procedure was initially described by the person who was possessed. It just seemed like a convenience for the narrative that needed a little more development.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My library rating: While there are instances of racism and hints of violence both on and off the page, I think the book is so well-written that anyone over the age of 13 should be able to read it without significant issues. The book addresses issues with race both past and present but gives us a character who responds to both with grace and realistic anger.

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon5 glasses of lemonade= you could recommend this book to anyone.  There is nothing in here that is going to upset anyone and you could start handing it out on street corners. 

My personal preference rating: I gave this title 5 stars. It was one of my favorite YA fantasy books of the year so far.

Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin

Hello Kittens! The book I’m talking about today is the recently published sequel to Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin, which I read during quarantine and really enjoyed. Serpent & Dove is the story of a witch named Lou, and the witch hunter who is forced to become her husband, named Reid. It is a YA fantasy romance with a unique magic system. I highly recommend Serpent & Dove. I am going to try to talk about the sequel without revealing any spoilers, but I can’t promise I won’t inadvertently reveal something, so go pick up Serpent & Dove now and then come back and read this. This will be the first time that I have ever attempted to write a spoiler-free review of a sequel, so this ought to be interesting.

Title: Blood & Honey

Blood & Honey (Serpent & Dove, #2)

Author: Shelby Mahurin

Author website:

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publish date: September 1, 2020

ISBN: 9780062878052

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble


This novel picks up almost exactly where the last novel ended. Our main characters are in imminent danger and are on the run from both the Chasseurs (religious army) and witches. They are also struggling with mourning someone who held radically different positions in both of their lives. They are working on a plan for what they and their band of compatriots will do next, but both are reluctant to leave the relative safety of their current location.

Ultimately, the decision is made to journey throughout the land to recruit allies for their cause. This doesn’t go well on either front and forces them to split up, which allows for certain vulnerabilities to be exploited. Nonetheless, they do convince a few new people/beings to join their cause and they head towards the city, where they believe their enemy will soon attack again.

Pretty much everything goes wrong. At least one of their band will die and others will go missing. The story ends on a massive cliffhanger after several unexpected twists and the reader alone will know how much danger they are all still in.

Why I liked it:

I appreciated that we got to reunite with all of the characters from the original book and that the new characters that came into the story in this novel did not overshadow them. I still love the magic system in this book and it was expanded upon here in ways that I found really interesting. We get new magical beings and more magically-inclined people who no one believed existed and they play pivotal roles in moving the story forward.

Lastly, I really loved the world building that we got in this story. We explore two new areas in this world and get to see the range of living experiences of the “average” people. It’s really nice to see how life outside of the main city functions and to realize that actually there’s a lot of range among the people in their levels of tolerance for the Chasseurs and witches.

What I would like to change:

Lou and Reid’s relationship currently is troubling me. They are struggling with legitimate differences and it’s not unrealistic to think that they might not be perfectly suited for each other since they were forced to marry and then were in desperate circumstances that allowed feelings to blossom. We started to explore the idea that these two people might love each other but might not be good for each other, and I felt like that was a legitimate line of thinking to pursue, but then it seems like things get tied up in a nice cozy bow at the end that just felt a little disingenuous to the issues that were building throughout the rest of the book.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic galley of this title from the publisher on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My library rating: This book had fewer steamy scenes in it than the first book did, so I think it would be fine for most people. It’s just an intense young adult romance with a lot of magic thrown in, which may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon3 glasses of lemonade= a book that you could recommend to coworkers and friends you don’t know very well.

My personal preference rating: I rated this title 3 stars. Ultimately, I think that I liked the first book a little better, but I will definitely be reading the third book when it comes out.

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Hello Kittens! Today I have for you one of those books that everyone agrees sounds great, but few people actually pick up and read. That’s because this is on big honkin’ book. It’s just over 800 pages long. I actually read it in about a week, though that’s just a guess because I paused and read a few other things that had piled up after I got to the end of part 1. In any case, this is a standalone high fantasy book for adult readers that has dragons, magic, court intrigue, and a strong f/f romance set in a partially matriarchal society. While it is a large book, the experience of reading it didn’t feel that way. I felt like I was flying through this book and the only thing that reminded me that it was big was the fact that my arms kept getting heavy while I read it. It looks daunting, but it is absolutely worth the read.

Title: The Priory of the Orange TreeThe Priory of the Orange Tree

Author: Samantha Shannon

Author website:

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Publish date: February 26, 2019

ISBN: 9781635570304

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble


In The Priory of the Orange Tree we meet an expansive cast of characters. We meet Tané, a young woman who has trained for most of her life to be eligible to become a dragonrider in the East. She is getting ready to take the test that will determine if she is worthy to be chosen by a dragon when a stranger appears in the night who could alter her fate and delay or destroy her dream. She asks a friend for help in dealing with the situation and both of their lives, plus several others, are changed from that day forward.

We meet Ead, a young woman serving in the court of Queen Sabran IX, the 36th Queen of Inys and head of the House of Berethnet. Ead has been placed in the queen’s court to secretly protect her. While the court thinks she is an average servant, she is actually a mage working on behalf of the Priory of the Orange Tree. In Inys, she is forced to worship a religion that goes against everything the Priory has taught her, but she will risk everything to keep Queen Sabran safe. The longer she stays at court and the closer she gets to Queen Sabran, the more her feelings for this foreign Queen grow. While Ead may have a duty to the Priory, she is finding that more often than not, situations are not as clear as she once thought them to be.

Queen Sabran is a force to be reckoned with who has lived her life with the shadow of prophecy on her shoulders. The Queens of the House of Berethnet all have exactly one child, a daughter, and as long as they do, they keep their world safe from a red wyrm known as the Nameless One. The Nameless One has been sealed in a watery tomb for 1,000 years, but there are rumors all over the land that he is about to break free. The last time the Nameless One was free, he destroyed cities and brought a deadly plague to people that causes them to burn with an unquenchable fever. Sabran and her people believe that as long as she can keep the bloodline going, they will be sage from the Nameless One. As such, there is tremendous pressure in her court for Sabran to marry and become pregnant, thus ensuring the safety of her people.

We also meet Areloth, known as Loth to most. He is Sabran Berethnet’s best friend and when we first meet him he is being banished to Yscalin, a nearby land that has been invaded by enemies of Inys. He is being sent away because some in the Queen’s court felt that he was getting too close to the Queen and would not make an appropriate husband for her. As he faces an uncertain future, Loth has to work to figure out how to survive, how to get back to Inys, and how to make sure Sabran is safe. When he discovers that matters in Yscalin are more complex than he first thought, he will set out on an adventure in an attempt to keep all those that he holds dear safe. He is hardly an adventurer, but he pulls courage from somewhere deep inside to do what he must for those he loves.

All of these stories and more come together to tell a tale of many lands preparing to do battle with an old and dangerous foe. Across an immense world that Shannon weaves brilliantly, these characters will bring pieces of information from one land to the next that will help them figure out how the Nameless One was defeated last time, and how they might do so again. Watching all of the pieces come together is masterful, and even though this is a fantasy book, there are plenty of twists that will have readers flying through the pages.

Why I liked it:

The world-building is amazing here. In 800 pages, there was only one small part of the book that I didn’t feel had a lot of importance to the entire book. That’s amazing for a tome of this size. Every little thing flowed into the next thing and so on so that very few words are wasted. It was a huge book that didn’t feel cumbersome to read.

I also loved that we had matriarchal societies that were functioning beautifully. While there was trouble brewing on the horizon, all of the female characters are presented a formidable in their own right. We get some representation here, in that as far as I can tell, most of the characters are described as having dark or brown skin. We also get a variety of romantic relationships, with m/m, f/m, and f/f relationships represented. We don’t get any graphic descriptions of sexual scenes, but we do get beautiful relationship development. This is the kind of book that is going to hit you with some feelings.

I know we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, but the cover on this book is truly stunning. I got the paperback edition (a trade paperback, not a mass market) and it has the most beautiful blue foiling on a dragon on the front. It features a slightly raised tower (which the dragon is curled around), and the rest of the cover is a vibrant orange-yellow tinge. It is absolutely stunning in person.

What I would like to change:

Like I said, there’s only one scene in the entire book that I didn’t completely understand. It is a scene where Ead is crossing a desert while attempting to return to the Priory. She meets a character and has a conversation with him, but as far as I can remember, we never see that character again and Ead leaves soon after without explanation to the rest of the party. It was just a little bit like a throwaway scene for me. It could have just been written in a few sentences and appended to the beginning of her next chapter. There were other places in the book where the passage of time was indicated and characters were in a new place without us getting detailed information about their journey, and it worked fine.

Disclaimer: No disclaimer needed. I purchased this book to participate in a read-a-thon and it looks gorgeous on my shelves.

My library rating: While the representation of homosexual relationships will turn some readers away, the lack of violence or descriptive sex scenes makes this one easy to recommend. The biggest hurdle other than that will just be getting people to pick up a book that big.

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon4 glasses of lemonade= a book you could recommend to a book group or anybody who reads.  You might find controversial subject matter, but it is handled delicately.

My personal preference rating: I gave this book 5 stars and I’ll be picking up more of Shannon’s work in the future. While this is a standalone, she also has a 7-book series that already has 3 works published, with a 4th due out next year.

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Hello Kittens! How do you guys feel about fairy tale re-tellings? I am a fan of them, personally, which is why I jumped at the chance to read an upcoming release that is a re-telling of Cinderella. This is a YA fantasy book that features a black female lesbian protagonist. It is a debut for this author, who has signed a 2-book deal with the publisher. It’s always hard to know how a book like this will land in my area of the country, but I really enjoyed this read. It wasn’t perfect, but I honestly enjoyed this take on the classic Cinderella story and I was rooting for the protagonist throughout. Give it a try if you’re willing.

Title: Cinderella is DeadCinderella Is Dead

Author: Kalynn Bayron

Author website:

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Publish date: July 7th, 2020

ISBN: 9781547603886

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble


It has been 200 years since Cinderella married Prince Charming, and all who live in her land know the story by heart…all the girls at least. Things have changed a little bit since Cinderella sat on the throne. First, there are a set of decrees that are designed to “protect” the women of this land. Things like curfews and rules about obeying their heads of households (all men, by the way). Additionally, a ball is held in honor of Cinderella’s fairy tale ending every year, but attendance is now mandatory for every young woman of marriageable age. Girls come to the ball to be chosen by their husbands. If they are not chosen by their third ball, they are considered “forfeit” and are sent to work as laborers in service to their kingdom.

This year, a young woman named Sophia is agonizing over the upcoming ball. She’s read Cinderella’s story over and over again. She knows it by heart, as do all of the girls in this land. The only problem is, she wouldn’t have chosen a prince for herself, she would much rather have married a princess. She is in love with her best friend Erin and has no desire to be “chosen” by any man at the ball. As she struggles with what her parents and her country expect of her, desperation sets in. Not content to accept her fate, Sophia begs Erin to run away with her. If they’re caught, they’ll be put to death and their families will suffer, but Sophia sees it as their only option. Erin, however, is not brave enough to turn away from their fate and endanger her family.

When the night of the ball finally arrives, everything goes wrong and Sophia ends up fleeing for her life. As she runs from the castle, she encounters a young woman named Constance who is a descendant of one of Cinderella’s stepsisters. Constance begins to unravel the tale that Sophia thought she knew and they both set off on a course to change this world for all of the girls who are still trapped in it. It won’t be easy. They’ll have to seek magic that they aren’t even sure exists and will still need to return to the castle to confront the evil king. No one thinks they will win, but Sophia and Constance know that there are no other options.

Why I liked it:

I appreciated that the original story was kept in tact, but that the author played with the interpretation of events. I think that Sophia is a well-developed character and the reader is invested in her personal growth throughout the story. There are some emotionally gutting moments in the story that the reader feels as viscerally as Sophia does. I also appreciated that Sophia’s inner monologue directly addresses what might feel like inauthentic moments in the plot. In particular, I appreciate how Sophia’s feelings about the witch are expressed in the story. Up until it was put on the page, I found her acceptance of Amina to be a little too convenient, but Bayron gives the inner monologue the authenticity that was lacking a little in the dialogue.

I really appreciate that we get a Cinderella (both in the character of Sophia and the original Cinderella) who is more of a warrior. I know Disney likes their happy, uncomplicated endings, but I like a Cinderella who has a little more depth to aspire to. The Cinderella that we get in this story suffered a terrible fate, but she was a fighter who was trying to do what was right for her people. Admirable.

What I would like to change:

We get thrown right into the story here, and that was pretty disorienting for me as the reader. We get a lot of information dumped on us at the very beginning, which feels a little awkward because the book is 400 pages long. I was left wondering what the rush was and it made the first part of the story feel clunky. Once that initial portion was over, we moved on to a little more action.

I also didn’t love Erin’s development in the story. I felt like the character was sacrificed but that her motivations didn’t line up with what the reader was told about her. She’s in a relationship with Sophia up until the ball and then she suddenly shuts it all down? Her first foray into marriage is with a highly abusive man and she doesn’t take an opportunity to run? I can understand her staying if the pattern of abuse was more established, but by all accounts she had a good home life and a reason to believe in Sophia. I just didn’t quite buy into that part as a reader.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.

My library rating: Like I said, it’s hard to peg how a title like this will be received in my area of the country. There are certainly people who will object to it for a number of reasons, but I think in terms of my ability to recommend it to patrons, it still has a lot of potential. I hope there will come a day where I don’t need to worry about someone screaming at me or writing to the local paper because a Librarian recommended material that they consider “inappropriate” to their child. I hope it comes soon.

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon3 glasses of lemonade= a book that you could recommend to coworkers and friends you don’t know very well.

My personal preference rating: I gave this title 4 stars and look forward to the author’s next book.