Unconditional Love and Family | The House in the Cerulean Sea, by T.J. Klune

The House in the Cerulean Sea,
by T.J. Klune,
Published by Tor (2020)
Rating: *****


I’m a sucker for books that contain the fantastic and magical, especially when they’re heartwarming reads. The blurb to this book, on Goodreads, was pretty reflective of something similar so I dived right in. I was rewarded with a journey filled with positivity and love, everything I needed at the time put into words.


The book takes us through Linus Baker’s life. A quiet man, he is a Case Worker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth (DICOMY). His job is to oversee the well-being of magical children who spend their time growing up at Government-sanctioned orphanages. It’s a job he’s worked for a long time, no promotion, no demotion, and he follows rules to the tee. Out of the blue, he is summoned by Extremely Upper Management at DICOMY and given a super-classified assignment: to travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage.

He is not told much else prior to his departure, but once he arrives on the island, he learns that six dangerous children reside there: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist – all under the care of Arthur Parnassus, who is charming and will go to any length to keep these children safe. Over time however, it becomes clear that not everything about the orphanage, or the island are as they seem, and Linus is faced with decisions to make that go against everything he believes in.

Riding on Characters

Good books, for me, center either around well-constructed worlds, or well-constructed character arcs. Naturally books that combine the two elements are therefore appreciated by me even more. This had a reasonably well-created world, you’re introduced to it early, and through Linus Baker’s view, it becomes quickly apparent what the distinctions from the world we live in today are. That allows focus to shift immediately on to the characters. Having nine protagonists on which the story rides requires meaningful relationships to be forged between each character, something Klune develops naturally. Additionally, each character arc is extremely well thought-out and the book concludes without any unanswered questions, which is a delight. The dialogue is a delight to read, leaving little thinking or effort on the part of the reader to understand each characters’ motives. This by no means undermines the complexity of the characters, but it’s just a pleasure to read something that feels effortlessly written and enjoyed.

Asking the difficult questions

All of that – the characters and the dialogue does not take away from the tough questions the book tries to ask of us. There’s a lot of internal conflict presented within the book about prejudices and differences, and the way we actually respond to these as against the manner in which we ought to be responding to these. It asks of us why we categorize people and experiences into extreme ends on a spectrum, or into pigeonholes, rather than looking at them as they are – complex, and not necessarily classifiable. A lot of the decisions Linus Baker makes through the book are a result of his own reflections on these topics, and they’re an excellent reminder of the need to reflect about these things on our own.


There’s so much joy in this book. I went into it knowing it was a standalone, but I long to understand and read more about the kind of joy Linus Baker is able to spread to the kids he learns to love. I hope there’s some fanfiction to keep me occupied while I wait for a sequel (should it ever arrive).

Brothers & Sisters | The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett

The Dutch House,
by Ann Patchett,
Published by Harper (2019)


The title of this review stems from this Coldplay song. I discovered this book through the Goodreads algorithm, and later saw this lovely special edition that had been printed which looks stunning (here – look at those pages!), and was tempted to read it. I consumed this in-part through an audiobook, and in-part through the ebook. My overall rating stems from how I felt at the end of the book rather than being representative of individual components of the book itself.


The book navigates the life of the Conroy family, centering around siblings: Danny and Maeve, who struggle to confront the past and live in the present – returning to their childhood home as observers to figure out everything in their lives. The book begins at Danny’s childhood, with Maeve taking on a motherly role when their biological mother abandons them. It takes us through a tumultuous teenage time, where Danny and Maeve are booted out of the house by their stepmother once their father passes, and how they survive the world.

 The Home As A Character

Patchett does a tremendous job of making The Dutch House, the titular object a character within the book. She exposes the interiors, first allowing Danny to discover the house while growing up, and then allowing the younger stepsiblings to introduce us to more layers to the house when they are left in the care of Danny & Maeve. Maeve recounts everything about the past by using the house as a frame of reference. Not only does that set up context to the time in which events take place, but it takes you through the house’s own ageing process at the same time. The voice and tone of the book always make you remember the house’s presence – and in some sections in particular, it feels like it’s the walls of the house talking.

A Rushed Ending

This was honestly beautiful till I was about 70% in. I loved everything about it. I enjoyed the way the siblings grew up and grew older together, and the kind of challenges Danny was going through in processing his emotions. There was a complexity to both Danny and Maeve that made them feel like real people, and that these were real events happening in everyone’s lives. However, the last 30% really threw me off. The plot was rushed through and felt unbelievable. The changes to their lives felt like they were impossible in real-life, which took away from all of the set-up that Patchett had accomplished in the first half. That was disappointing. It felt, in a sense, that this book would have been more enjoyable had the ending not been as rosy as it ended up being. Especially because the book tries to hint at how we deal with the past as people. I would have genuinely preferred if Danny and Maeve struggled – in one final scene, with the idea that they would not get closure, and learned to live with that.


Read for characters who seem to have hearts of gold, and sibling relationships that seem to mirror what real siblings are actually like.


It’s now been exactly a month since we were asked to leave campus. In several ways, this has been a month where I’ve been able to do all of the things I’ve envisaged doing with my time, but never been able to do because I’ve consistently been under the impression that I didn’t have the time to do these things. Rather, I didn’t make time for them. Things like learning the guitar – and reaching out to my friends for help with that. Or learning coding, and reaching out to my friends for that too. Writing book reviews and reading books every day too.

A result of the book reviews I’m writing every day now is that I spend a lot of time on Goodreads. Since 2016, Goodreads has been my go-to for several things: book recommendations, making friends,keeping track of my own reading. While I’ve waxed eloquent about how much I love the algorithm because it has introduced me to some great books, today, while uploading my latest review, I saw that the algorithm recommended a book whose plot made me instantly decide not to read it. I decided to look at some of my other current recommendations – and what I noticed was a disturbing trend of some poor recommendations, especially those that stem out of my to-read shelf.

I blamed the algorithm for a few seconds before recognizing that if this was a trend, there’s likely an issue with my to-read shelf that’s leading to these suggestions in the first place. I had about 500 books on there, accumulated largely in the past 6-7 months. Since I’m someone who enjoys a large range of books, in terms of the genres I read and like exploring, I generally add a book to my to-read shelf the minute the blurb looks interesting – without really looking at much else. Glancing through my to-read shelf I realized my mistake instantly. These are too many books whose subjects no longer interest me at all, and books I wonder when I was interested in even, resting on the to-read shelf.

I cleared it all out in 10 clicks.

My to-read shelf now contains 0 books. I’m going to build it from scratch, and actually follow-through on reading the books I add to that to-read shelf. While it’s likely to grow faster than I read books I add to the list, I feel like this will make me genuinely interested in tracking my interests and reading habits over time. I’m going to move books around shelves as well. I’ve created a “Not Now” shelf for books I add to the “To Read” shelf but decide to discard for the time being. That way atleast the algorithm can differentiate recommendations for me.

Only one of those ten clicks made me feel things. That last one. Oh, it was brutal.

It was only when I clicked that final time that it hit me that I had effectively just discarded all the books that I was curious about in the past 5 years – without reviewing them or taking a back up. I felt sad for a few minutes and ate a chocolate bar to overcome that.

I wouldn’t have read those books anyway though, honestly. Not one of my to-read books has “purposefully” made its way to my “read” shelf. It’s happened by accident.

Let’s see what I discover next.