Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA by TJ Klune (@tjklune) A fable/fairy tale for adults full of whimsy and quirky characters with a hopeful message #LGBT #fantasy

Hi all:

I bring you a review with an addendum because… Well, you will see why.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

A NEW YORK TIMES, USA TODAY, and WASHINGTON POST BESTSELLER!
A 2021 Alex Award winner!
The 2021 RUSA Reading List: Fantasy Winner!
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”

Lambda Literary Award-winning author TJ Klune’s bestselling, breakout contemporary fantasy that’s “1984 meets The Umbrella Academy with a pinch of Douglas Adams thrown in.” (Gail Carriger)

Linus Baker is a by-the-book case worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He’s tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world.

Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn. And his secrets will come to light.

The House in the Cerulean Sea is an enchanting love story, masterfully told, about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.

“1984 meets The Umbrella Academy with a pinch of Douglas Adams thrown in.” —Gail Carriger, New York Times bestselling author of Soulless

https://www.amazon.com/House-Cerulean-Sea-TJ-Klune-ebook/dp/B07QPHT8CB/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/House-Cerulean-Sea-TikTok-made-ebook/dp/B095Z4YRLP/

https://www.amazon.es/House-Cerulean-Sea-English-ebook/dp/B07QPHT8CB/

Author TJ Klune

About the author:

TJ KLUNE is a Lambda Literary Award-winning author (Into This River I Drown) and an ex-claims examiner for an insurance company. His novels include the Green Creek series, The House on the Cerulean Sea and The Extraordinaries. Being queer himself, TJ believes it’s important—now more than ever—to have accurate, positive, queer representation in stories.

https://tjklunebooks.com

https://www.amazon.com/TJ-Klune/e/B005LDJ9Z8/

My review:

This is the first book I have read by TJ Klune, and I didn’t know much about him or his books before. This story feels like an adult fairy tale, although I think it would be suitable for teens and YA as well. I also think it can fit into the category of an adult coming-of-age story, as the protagonist, Linus Baker, finds himself and learns to be his own person throughout the story, which covers just a few weeks of his life.

Linus Baker, the main character, is a grey man who lives in a grey world and has a grey job. The reviews mention 1984 and the similarities with the protagonist of George Orwell’s story are evident (minus the political angle. This book feels much more YA than that), and it also reminded me of the protagonist of Brazil, working at his little desk, and swallowed up by a strange world whose rules he tries to live by. Linus has no close friends, he doesn’t get on with his peers or his superiors at work either, and he only seems to care about his cat (it doesn’t appear to be mutual), his music (he loves to listen to records), his sunflowers (a splash of colour in his otherwise grey life), and his job. He lives by the book of Rules and Regulations of his organization and reads it as if it were the Bible. Suddenly, he is sent on a special mission, an extremely secret one, and he discovers an orphanage on an island very close to his dreams of a tropical paradise. The sea is blue (well, cerulean), the skies are sunny, and everything would be wonderful, almost like a vacation, if it weren’t for the peculiarities of the magical children who live at that orphanage. Well, and of the master of the orphanage and…

The novel looks at prejudice, persecution, harassment, intolerance, fear of the other, and the way society tends to lock away those who make it feel uncomfortable or don’t easily fit in. We are all familiar with such issues, that thankfully, have been changing in recent times, but not everywhere, and there’s still plenty of room for improvement. The novel is also full of hope; it explores the idea of found and chosen families; of finding a place you really belong to, and of how we can all help change things, one step at a time. There is also love (a couple of sweet ‘queer romances’, as they are described by the author) although it doesn’t become the dominant element of the novel, and the main romance is one of those “will-they/won’t they” situations where everybody else sees what is going on before the protagonists do.

The six children living at the orphanage are magical in totally different ways: some can do things, some are just… well, nobody knows exactly what kind of being they are, others have powers that can turn them dangerous, and all of them have been abused and marginalised because they don’t fit in. In a society that encourages compliance, surveillance, and uniformity, they are too visibly different. And that causes fear in the population, and it is encouraged by the powers that be.

Linus is reluctant and suspicious at first, but it seems that his superiors misjudged him. He is not just a bureaucrat without a heart who follows blindly the rules and remains detached and professional at whatever cost. He is genuinely devoted to the spirit of the job and cares about the children’s welfare, and that means he learns to see them for who they really are.

I loved the characters, especially the children, and Arthur and Zoe, the adults on the island, as well (later we meet some of the inhabitants of the town who are also formidable, Helen, the mayor, most of all); the way the story is told, like a fairytale; Linus’s transformation (which never becomes overdramatic or unbelievable); and the wit, humour, and quirkiness of it all. Some of the descriptions are as magical as the story, and by the end of the novel, I wanted to visit the island and meet the children and the rest of the characters as well. There are some reveals too, as things are not as they seem in more ways than one, but I wasn’t surprised by what we discover, and I think many readers will have guessed, or at least suspected, what we find out. But that didn’t spoil the enjoyment for me, and I hope that will be the case for most readers.

If I had to mention something I liked a little less, it would probably be the fact that “the message” of the novel is made quite evident and repeated in different ways, and readers who prefer subtlety and are fond of a less-is-more approach might feel it is heavy-handed. This fable makes its point clearly and somewhat forcefully, but it does have its heart in the right place, and the style of the story does fit into the genre, as does the fact that the story is not set in a specific time or real location (there are some vague references, mostly to do with music, but that is all). Some readers also felt that there are too many negative comments about the weight of the protagonist, but as we see the story from his point of view (although it is narrated in the third person), this seems to be another element of his lack of insight into who he really is, and further evidence of how much he has internalised society’s standards and opinions.

I have mentioned that the children have suffered abuse in the past, and they aren’t the only ones in the novel to be victims of prejudice. This is not described in too much detail, and it is mostly left to readers’ imaginations, but I would advise caution to those who feel they might be upset by such topics. You might also want to read my addendum to the review, as that might affect your feelings towards reading it.

The ending is as happy as it should be, and there is a final surprise thrown in (well, a couple) that will delight readers.

 Readers who are fond of fantasy, fairy tales, fables, and particularly enjoy adult coming-of-age stories and those who like quirky characters and Young Adult books should check this novel. It does have a positive message, and it wraps it up into a whimsical story full of heart. Highly recommended.

Just a few quotes as a taster:

These children aren’t animals. You aren’t on a safari with binoculars, watching them from a distance. How are you supposed to evaluate the children if you don’t even take the time to know them?’

‘We all have our issues. I have a spare tire around my middle. His father is Satan. Nothing that can’t be worked out if we try hard enough.’

‘Hate is loud, but I think you’ll learn it’s because it’s only a few people shouting, desperate to be heard. You might not ever be able to change their minds, but so long as you remember you’re not alone, you will overcome. ‘

‘Why can’t life work whatever way we want it to? What’s the point of living if you only do it how others want you to?’

 Addendum:

When I was checking the reviews of this novel, having almost finished it, I found out that there was a fair bit of controversy going on about it. Many reviewers that had given it good (or at least fair) reviews at first, went back to change their reviews and give it only 1 start (You can check the novel’s entry in Goodreads if you want to read about it in more detail).

It seems it all stems from this interview:

https://www.jeffandwill.com/biggayfictionpodcast/2020/03/16/episode-232-tj-klune-on-the-house-in-the-cerulean-sea-extraordinaries-and-greek-creek/

In the interview the author refers to this article:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sixties_Scoop

Here another article about it, this time from the Indigenous Foundations:

Sixties Scoop

There’s plenty of information about the Sixties Scoop available, but it seems that a lot of the people who read the novel had never heard of it. I hadn’t either, although, unfortunately, such things have happened before (and we can but hope they won’t happen again, but perhaps they are already happening) in other places, and other things that share similarities with it have happened, even though the circumstances were different. (In my country, many children from Republican and/or communist families were removed from them and “given” in unofficial adoptions to people loyal to Franco’s regime in the years after the Civil War and up to the 1970s. The case of the Australian aborigines is well-known, and I have reviewed books talking about similar subjects before).

Some readers felt the author was exploiting the story and the children and the communities involved.

If we take into account that nobody would have known about it if the author hadn’t freely mentioned it on one occasion (I read some other interviews, and it never came up); it doesn’t appear as if he was trying to use the historical events and people’s interest in it to sell his story, but I know these days it is difficult to know what might or might not cause outrage. I am sure many writers have read some horrific stories or news items that have sent them down a pathway that has resulted in a book that is very far from the original event, because authors are influenced by many things, and inspiration can take bizarre forms sometimes.

In any case, you don’t need to worry about the book upsetting you because of mentioning the real events or being very close to the facts. That is not the case, although that doesn’t mean the story doesn’t have an emotional impact, because it does. But you can always read the reviews, the comments, and counter-comments and make your own minds up.

Thanks to the author for this book, thanks to all of you for reading, commenting, sharing, and liking, and remember to keep smiling and keep making the best of things. ♥

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog LITERATURE® by Guillermo Stitch (@GuillermoStitch) #Bookreview #RBRT Short but perfectly formed. Highly recommended.

Hi all:

Today I bring you a book that is due for release early next month (the first of July) but is already available in preorder, and as there is a Goodreads giveaway you can access here, if you live in the USA, I thought I’d share it ahead of time, so you can be prepared. I hope to read more books by this new author, and I wonder if there will be more books about this very peculiar world he introduces us to in this novella.

But now, without further ado:

Literature by Guillermo Stitch

Literature® by Guillermo Stitch.

We don’t know exactly when Literature® takes place and we don’t know exactly where. All we know is that Philip Marlowe would fit right in.

We don’t get Marlowe though. We get Billy Stringer. And Billy is on nobody’s trail.

He’s the prey.

The day hasn’t begun very well for Billy. He just messed up his first big assignment, he’s definitely going to be late for work, his girlfriend won’t get back to him and, for reasons she has something to do with, he’s dressed like a clown.

Also, he’s pretty sure someone is going to kill him today. But then, that’s an occupational hazard, when you’re a terrorist.

He’s a bookworm too, which wouldn’t be a problem–or particularly interesting–except that in Billy’s world, fiction is banned. Reading it is what makes him an outlaw.

Why? Because people need to get to work.

It’s fight or flight time for Billy and he’s made his choice. But he has to see Jane, even if it’s for the last time–to explain it all to her before she finds out what he has become. That means staying alive for a little while.

And the odds are against him.

Links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Literature%C2%AE-Guillermo-Stitch-ebook/dp/B07D6YK614/

https://www.amazon.com/Literature%C2%AE-Guillermo-Stitch-ebook/dp/B07D6YK614/

Editorial and early reviews:

Literature®: a speculative noir that wraps the razor wit of Raymond Chandler around the extraordinary vision of Philip K. Dick…

“Wonderfully written…a beautifully rendered story, mixing the cynicism and moral ambiguity of classic noir fiction with startling flashes of humour and disarmingly tender moments.”
E.O.HIGGINS, CONVERSATIONS WITH SPIRITS, UNBOUND/PENGUIN

“A clever interweaving of speculative fiction, dystopian vision, and classic noir, what’s most striking about Literature® is the quality of the writing…lean and spare with moments of beauty fizzing through…it is also very funny.”
KATHERINE GRAHAM, THEATRE RE

“A futuristic look into a land where book-burning ceremonies are embraced and those who rebel are punished. Protagonist Billy Stringer is both vulnerably lovable and irritatingly suffocating all at once in his mission to save his future. Brave New World meets 1984 in this Big Brother masterpiece.”
KRISTI ELIZABETH, SAN FRANCISCO BOOK REVIEW

Literature® speaks to the industrialization of art and also to the link between alienation and radicalization in consumerist societies. Mainly, though, it speaks to our need for great stories. By providing one. There is heart here, and heartache. And, crucially, a chase scene.

“To put it in its simplest terms, “Literature®” is one of the most entertaining books I’ve had the pleasure to read, anywhere, at any time.”
WILLAM L. SPENCER, GOODREADS

“I was enraptured from the start. A beautifully balanced piece of writing. I love his style.”
SIUN O’CONNOR, A RICH INHERITANCE, RTE

“This is satire in the grand tradition: Fahrenheit 451 but with better jokes.”
JOHN PATRICK HIGGINS, EVERY DAY I WAKE UP HOPEFUL

“Here we have a classic treatise in the making.”
MADELON WILSON, GOODREADS

Author Guillermo Stitch?

About the author:

Although the author provided me with a copy of his book, I haven’t found any personal information about him and after reading the book, I wondered if there was a good reason for that, or if it is only an oversight. Just in case, I decided not to dig. It seems, from this article (check here) that he lives in Spain, in Tarifa of all places. I live you some links, as you might want to investigate further.

Links:

www.guillermostitch.com

Goodreads

Twitter

 

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you’re looking for reviews) and thank Rosie and the author for providing me an ARC copy of this novella, which I freely chose to review.

It is difficult to describe the reading experience of Literature. I have read reviews comparing it to noir novels (absolutely, especially the voice of the characters and some of the situations), to Fahrenheit 451 (inevitable due to the plot, where fiction has been banned and nobody can possess or read books) and 1984 (although we don’t get a lot of detail of the way the world is being run, the sense of claustrophobia and continuous surveillance, and the way terrorism is defined are definitely there), and even Blade Runner (perhaps, although Literature is far less detailed and much more humorous). I did think about all of those while I read it, is true, although it is a pretty different experience to all of them.

Billy Stringer is a mixture of the reluctant hero and the looser/anti-hero type. The novella shares only one day of his life, but, what a day! Let’s say it starts badly (things hadn’t been going right for Billy for a while at the point when we meet him) and it goes downhill from there. The story is told in the third-person but solely from Billy’s point of view, and we are thrown right in. There is no world-building or background information. We just share in Billy’s experiences from the start, and although he evidently knows the era better than we do, he is far from an expert when it comes to the actual topic he is supposed to cover for his newspaper that day. He is a sports journalist covering an important item of news about a technological/transportation innovation.  We share in his confusion and easily identify with him. Apart from the action, he is involved in, which increases exponentially as the day moves on, there are also flashbacks of his past. There is his failed love story, his friendship with his girlfriend’s brother, and his love for books.

The story is set in a future that sounds technologically quite different to our present, but not so ideologically different (and that is what makes it poignant and scary, as well as funny). People smoke, but you can get different versions of something equivalent to cigarettes, but they are all registered (it seems everything is registered). And you can drink alcohol as well (and Billy does, as it pertains to a hero in a noir novel). Transportation has become fundamental and it has developed its own fascinating-sounding technology (the descriptions of both, the vehicles and the process are riveting). It has to be fed by stories, by fiction, although literature itself has been banned. We get to know how this works and, let me tell you that it’s quite beautiful.

The book is short and I don’t want to spoil the story for readers, but I can tell you the writing is excellent and it is exquisitely edited. Despite its brevity, I could not help but share a couple of snippets.

“You like her?” he said. He was looking at the knife like a person might look at an especially favored kitten. “Been with me a long time,” he said. “She’s an old lady now. But she’s still sharp.” He looked up at Billy. “I keep her that way.”

In a day very generously populated with problems, Jane’s kid brother was Billy’s newest.

I loved the ending of the book. It is perhaps not standard noir, but nothing is standard in this book.

I recommend it to anybody interested in discovering a new and talented writer, with a love for language and for stories that are challenging, playful, and fascinating. A treat.

Thanks to Rosie and to all the members of her team, to the author, for the book, and to all of you for reading. Remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and keep smiling!

 

 

GET MY FREE BOOKS
%d bloggers like this:
x Logo: Shield Security
This Site Is Protected By
Shield Security