First Line Friday #13

It’s getting late, but I had some odds and ends that really needed getting done today. But I’m here now, participating in yet another First Line Friday.

First Line Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers (formerly) hosted by Wandering Words, but I saw it over at One Book More.

What if instead of judging a book by the cover, author or most everything else, we judged it by its content? Its first lines?

If you want to join in, all you gotta do is:

📚 Take a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open it to the first page
📝 Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
📙 Finally… reveal the book!

Here are the first lines:

“Nico di Angelo, why don’t you tell me a story?”

Nico bristled at that. A story? Any old story? That seemed too easy after everything they’d been through.

Do you know what book it is? Stare at these lovely books while you give it some thought…

Annnd the book is 🥁🥁… The Sun and the Star by Rick Riordan & Mark Oshiro!!

(Did you guess it??)

The Sun and the Star by Rick Riordan & Mark Oshiro

The Sun and the Star by Rick Riordan & Mark Oshiro

LENGTH: 480 pages

GENRES: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, YA/MG, Fiction

PUBLISHER: Disney-Hyperion

RELEASE DATE: 2 May 2023

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

As the son of Hades, Nico di Angelo has been through so much, from the premature deaths of his mother and sister, to being outed against his will, to losing his friend Jason during the trials of Apollo. But there is a ray of sunshine in his life–literally: his boyfriend, Will Solace, the son of Apollo. Together the two demigods can overcome any obstacle or foe. At least, that’s been the case so far . . .

Now Nico is being plagued by a voice calling out to him from Tartarus, the lowest part of the Underworld. He thinks he knows who it is: a reformed Titan named Bob whom Percy and Annabeth had to leave behind when they escaped Hades’s realm. Nico’s dreams and Rachel Dare’s latest prophecy leave little doubt in Nico’s mind that Bob is in some kind of trouble. Nico has to go on this quest, whether Mr. D and Chiron like it or not. And of course Will insists on coming with. But can a being made of light survive in the darkest part of the world? and what does the prophecy mean that Nico will have to “leave something of equal value behind?”

Thank you so much for reading, and have a wonderful day/night!

See ya ~Mar

First Line Friday #12

First Line Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers (formerly) hosted by Wandering Words, but I saw it over at One Book More.

What if instead of judging a book by the cover, author or most everything else, we judged it by its content? Its first lines?

If you want to join in, all you gotta do is:

📚 Take a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open it to the first page
📝 Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
📙 Finally… reveal the book!

Here are the first lines:

Viv buried her greatsword in the scalvert’s skull with a meaty crunch. Blackblood thrummed in her hands, and her muscular arms strained as she tore it back and out in a spray of gore. The Scalvert Queen gave a long, vibrating moan … and then thundered to the stone in a heap.

Any guesses? Here’s some books to stare at while you ruminate on it…

Annnd the book is 🥁🥁… Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree!!

(Did you get it right??)

Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

SERIES: Legends & Lattes (Book #1)

LENGTH: 305 pages

GENRES: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, Fiction

PUBLISHER: Cryptid Press

RELEASE DATE: 18 February 2022

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

High Fantasy with a double-shot of self-reinvention

Worn out after decades of packing steel and raising hell, Viv the orc barbarian cashes out of the warrior’s life with one final score. A forgotten legend, a fabled artifact, and an unreasonable amount of hope lead her to the streets of Thune, where she plans to open the first coffee shop the city has ever seen.

However, her dreams of a fresh start pulling shots instead of swinging swords are hardly a sure bet. Old frenemies and Thune’s shady underbelly may just upset her plans. To finally build something that will last, Viv will need some new partners and a different kind of resolve.

A hot cup of fantasy slice-of-life with a dollop of romantic froth. 

Thank you so much for reading, and have an amazing day/night!

See ya ~Mar

“In the Lives of Puppets” by TJ Klune | Book Review

The boy – Victor Lawson, son of Giovanni Lawson – said. “You.” He pointed toward the bigger stick figure. “Me.” The smaller stick figure.

“Yes,” Giovanni said quietly. “You and me. Always.”

In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune

In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune

LENGTH: 420 pages

GENRES: Fantasy, Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+, Fiction

PUBLISHER: Tor Books

RELEASE DATE: 25 April 2023

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In a strange little home built into the branches of a grove of trees, live three robots—fatherly inventor android Giovanni Lawson, a pleasantly sadistic nurse machine, and a small vacuum desperate for love and attention. Victor Lawson, a human, lives there too. They’re a family, hidden and safe.

The day Vic salvages and repairs an unfamiliar android labelled “HAP,” he learns of a shared dark past between Hap and Gio–a past spent hunting humans.

When Hap unwittingly alerts robots from Gio’s former life to their whereabouts, the family is no longer hidden and safe. Gio is captured and taken back to his old laboratory in the City of Electric Dreams. So together, the rest of Vic’s assembled family must journey across an unforgiving and otherworldly country to rescue Gio from decommission, or worse, reprogramming.

Along the way to save Gio, amid conflicted feelings of betrayal and affection for Hap, Vic must decide for himself: Can he accept love with strings attached?

My Review

In an old and lonely forest, far away from almost everything, sat a curious dwelling.

This book. This book. This right here was the reason that I finally decided to read The House in the Cerulean Sea. It’s because the premise of In the Lives of Puppets seemed so amazing and intriguing, and right up my alley.

I read some very well written and thoughtful reviews a couple of weeks ago, in my anticipation to read this novel. And they were a bit lower, which made me nervous, but I resolved to be undeterred. Especially after I read The House in the Cerulean Sea.

And I’m glad I did. Because this book was wonderful.

“How does one arrive at the decision to kill God?” It’s easier than you might expect.”

Sure, this book had its flaws, as all of them do. But it took absolutely nothing away from my enjoyment while reading. In the Lives of Puppets is a tale both sad and beautiful, and it almost made me cry. And books that are able to do that to me – to make me feel things that much – are almost always guaranteed to get at least four stars. And this novel was better yet.

The characters are the glue that holds this book together. 21 year-old Victor “Vic” Lawson was probably the most cookie cutter of all of them – and gave me some serious Disney princess vibes at times – but he was still very realistic and relatable, and he felt so, so human.

Giovanni Lawson was a wonderfully complex man that brought our lovely cast of characters together. At times, he felt even more human to read about than Vic, which is quite a feat for an android. I loved he and Vic’s father-son bond, and how it was always the driving force of the novel. So many books are quick to forget the loved ones of the protagonist, and I’m so happy to have found another one that is not that kind of story.

“Fine,” she said with a rude beep. “I would consider feeling slightly despondent at your forced absence, and then do everything in my power to ensure you returned with most – if not all – of your limbs intact.”

“Why?” Vic asked.

“You know why,” Nurse Ratched said.

“Because I’m yours,” he said. “Like you’re mine.”

Nurse Ratched was, hands down, the absolute best character from the book. Rude, sassy, and borderline sociopathic, she was perhaps the most human of the entire cast. Both a great source of the comic relief, as well as a fierce Mother Hen. And you’d do your best not to harm her chicks.

Rambo the Roomba was a hilarious and wholesome addition to the group. While not as apparently useful as the rest of the characters, he brought levity and hope to the scenes that needed it most.

Hap was probably the character I enjoyed the least, despite him being the inciting incident. But I still liked him, and his banter with the other main characters was something that I really grew to love as the novel continued. He made a fine addition to the group.

I liked a lot of the other characters too. I also really liked all the Pinocchio references and quotes that I caught though, as well as the Wall-E vibes throughout. There were also other references and things that flew over my head, as Klune was clearly inspired by a lot. That, and I’ve never read Pinocchio and it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen any adaptations.

The plot itself was also extremely wholesome and engaging. I found it difficult to put down, honestly. There was never really a dull moment here, and I also really enjoyed the world building.

Now, let me be clear, before I finish off this review: there were a couple of things I didn’t like. But they were very, very small things – almost negligible – and mostly had to do with Klune’s style. Stuff like saying Victor’s or Giovanni’s full names several different times throughout the text.

“There is nothing more powerful than a heart. I wish I knew what it’s like. It appears to be more transformative than I ever thought possible. Hold on to it, the pair of you. Never forget what beats in your chest. It will be your guide, and with a little luck, you’ll find what you’re looking for.”

So yeah. In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune is an amazing story. Any fan of Klune’s other stuff should definitely read it, as I think it’s his best yet (out of the two books of his I’ve read). I also think that fans of sci-fi and fantasy that like good prose and humor will really like it too.

Thank you so much for reading, and have a wonderful day/night!

See ya ~Mar


My review of The House in the Cerulean Sea

Shelf Control #13

It’s been, gosh, another three weeks since I’ve participated in this feature. Again. (Ugh.)

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books languishing on our bookshelves created and hosted by Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies. It’s a whole lotta fun, so if you’re interested in participating yourself, click the backlink above.

This week I’m gonna highlight a book I’ve had for a couple of months, but (obviously) haven’t read yet. It’s Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, the first in The Locked Tomb series.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

SERIES: The Locked Tomb (Book #1)

LENGTH: 448 pages

GENRES: Fantasy, Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+, Fiction

PUBLISHER: Tor/Forge

RELEASE DATE: 10 September 2019

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead nonsense.

Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as arcane revenants. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will be become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.

Why It Languishes on My Bookshelf

WHEN I GOT IT: February 2023

WHY I WANTED TO READ IT: It was a book – and a series – that I’d heard nothing but praise for. Then, when I decided to look into it more, I realized that I liked a lot about the story and world building.

WHY I HAVEN’T READ IT YET: I’ve been distracted by all kinds of books lately (which is par for the course for me, honestly), and then I decided to wait until closer to Nona the Ninth’s paperback release later this year. (I’m a simple person. I already have the first two in paperback, and I want my books to match, okay?) (I’ll make the digital sacrifice for Alecto, though, and buy its paperback next year.)

WILL I EVER READ IT?: I think that I already answered this question, but I’ll reiterate: Yes, absolutely I still intend to read this.

Thank you for reading and have a fantastic day/night!

See ya ~Mar

“Spell Bound” by F.T. Lukens: Book Review

I bit my lip. “You could see me?”

Sun nodded. They reached out for me, took my hand in theirs, laced our fingers. “Since the beginning.”

Spell Bound by F.T. Lukens

Spell Bound by F.T. Lukens

LENGTH: 336 pages

GENRES: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, Romance, YA, Fiction

PUBLISHER: Margaret K. McElderry Books

RELEASE DATE: 4 April 2023

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Two rival apprentice sorcerers must team up to save their teachers and protect their own magic in this lively young adult romantic adventure from the New York Times bestselling author of In Deeper Waters and So This Is Ever After.

Edison Rooker isn’t sure what to expect when he enters the office of Antonia Hex, the powerful sorceress who runs a call center for magical emergencies. He doesn’t have much experience with hexes or curses. Heck, he doesn’t even have magic. But he does have a plan—to regain the access to the magical world he lost when his grandmother passed.

Antonia is… intimidating, but she gives him a job and a new name — Rook — both of which he’s happy to accept. Now all Rook has to do is keep his Spell Binder, an illegal magical detection device, hidden from the Magical Consortium. And contend with Sun, the grumpy and annoyingly cute apprentice to Antonia’s rival colleague, Fable. But dealing with competition isn’t so bad; as Sun seems to pop up more and more, Rook minds less and less.

But when the Consortium gets wind of Rook’s Spell Binder, they come for Antonia. All alone, Rook runs to the only other magical person he knows: Sun. Except Fable has also been attacked, and now Rook and Sun have no choice but to work together to get their mentors back… or face losing their magic forever.

My Verdict

This book was pretty good. It wasn’t as good as I’d hoped – or even had been hyped up – but it was a mostly enjoyable read. Though I must admit that I preferred Lukens other novel that I read, In Deeper Waters.

The characters were the highlight of the book, and it would’ve been a problem if they weren’t, as this is a very character-focused story. Rook is a wonderful MC – smart, sassy, and horribly kind. Best friend material right here, folks! And did I mention that he’s also a genius who finished high school early? Lucky!

Sun is the more relatable of the two protagonists, fore at least. Quiet, socially awkward, prickly, and averse to physical contact. Honey, believe me when I say I get you. They’ve also got a super sweet and gooey interior that they’re afraid to show, and they’re just as kind and as passionate about magic as Rook is.

“I don’t know how your mentors stood it,” Mavis said, leaving in the doorway.

“Stood what?” I asked.

“The crackling tension between you two. I’ve known you two days and I don’t know how you two exist in the same space without kissing. It’s like watching a rom-com.”

Rook and Sun’s relationship was also a very sweet, slow-burn. I don’t much care for the puzzle piece analogy to romance, but these two really did fit together perfectly.

Antonia and Fable also had an… interesting friendship. I do kinda wish the book touched on their relationship more, but I understand that this was primarily Rook and Sun’s story.

Moving on from the (admittedly very well written) romantic relationships, I really liked Rook and Antonia’s familial bonding. Rook is lost and hurting from the death of his grandmother, and Antonia is still mourning her last apprentice, though it has been many years since. These two were exactly what each other needed, and I love how Antonia is basically like Rook’s eccentric and sassy older sister.

“You,” I said.

Sun looked at me and grinned. “Me,” they replied.

Sooo… Even though I really liked this book as a whole, there was some stuff about Spell Bound that I didn’t care for. Look no further than this above quote for an example. This specific interaction happens between the two main characters around six times throughout the novel. I realize the author thought that it was cute and clever, but I mostly found it annoying. I honestly don’t know why.

It also irked me that the plot didn’t really feel like it started until about 50% of the way through. Like, stuff happened before that, but it also felt for the sake of establishing characters and character interaction. And half the book to get to the main conflict is way too long.

But once that got going, the book was fine, for the most part. I didn’t find the ending to be a very realistic resolution – it reminded me of The House in the Cerulean Sea’s ending and that of When Life Gives You Vampires, neither of which I cared for all that much. But it was optimistic, which is something that I can always appreciate.

And the plot had some really great points, too! Like animal transformations, specifically that of the cat variety. Now, any book with a cat in it immediately gets at least an extra quarter star, but this one has one of our precious MCs turn into one. And it’s the best third of the book, honestly. The (platonic) bonding was amazing.

I knew where I belonged.

So yeah, Spell Bound was a pretty fun adventure about found family, love, and magic, in unexpected places. (Wait. I’ve seen that before somewhere!)

It’s a fun YA romp, and I highly recommend it to those who love fantasy, and in particular, LGBTQIA fantasy. F.T. Lukens really does write these genres well.

Thanks so much for reading, and have an awesome day/night!

See ya ~Mar

“The House in the Cerulean Sea” by TJ Klune: Book Review

“We should always make time for the things we like. If we don’t, we might forget how to be happy.”

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

LENGTH: 398 pages

GENRES: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, Fiction

PUBLISHER: Tor Books

RELEASE DATE: 17 March 2020

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret. Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.

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

THIS BOOK GETS

Stuff I Liked

Almost everything. The prose was beautiful and the characters were wonderful. Found family is one of my absolute favorite tropes, and is also something in stories that I find never gets old.

“I’m afraid I don’t have magic.”

“You do, Mr. Baker. Arthur told me that there can be magic in the ordinary.”

Though he wasn’t one of my favorite protagonists ever, Linus Baker was a serviceable main character. His forming relationships with the children as a father figure, and his slow-burn romance with Arthur Parnassus were the things that pushed the story forward.

I also enjoyed how he was a so-called normal person – it gave me a sort of fish out of water sort of feeling, and made him slightly more engaging to follow.

The children were the definitive highlight of the book, though. Lucy is the cutest antichrist that I’ve ever seen in fiction; Chauncey is the greatest little bellhop ever; Talia is the coolest little gardener; Theodore was adorable; Sal was so sweet and gentle; and Phee was a very interesting character with interesting powers.

“A home isn’t always the house we live in. It’s also the people we choose to surround ourselves with.”

Arthur was also a perfectly fine character, though I sort of got the twist with him chapters before I actually reached the scene that revealed it. I actually preferred Zoe over him – I liked her character more.

Stuff I Didn’t Like

I thought some of the dialogue was a little too on the nose. This is nothing but a personal preference for me, though: I prefer it when authors are more subtle with their commentary and the “message” that they’re attempting to incorporate.

I also didn’t really think that any of the kids actually sounded like kids. They talked like adults. And yes, I understand that a couple of them were much older than human children are (they are long-lived mythical creatures after all), but they should have still behaved equivalently to their maturity level. (Except Sal, the book implied that he was more of a teenager, so it made more sense with him.) This is probably more of a nitpick, but it did take me out of the story a bit.

Closing Thoughts

“It’s the little things, I expect. Little treasures we find without knowing their origin. And they come when we least expect them. It’s beautiful, when you think about it.”

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune was a beautiful story about found family and magic in unexpected places. It was something that I greatly enjoyed. I’ll definitely be reading more of Klune’s stuff in the future!

I definitely recommend this to those who are fantasy fans, as well as those who enjoy the found family trope and LGBTQIA+. The rep here is good, guys. And the romance is decently written.

“When something is broken, you can put it back together. It may not fit quite the same, or work like it did once before, but that doesn’t mean it’s no longer useful.”

Thank you so much for reading, and have an excellent day/night! (Sorry I haven’t posted in a of couple days – I was sick.)

See ya ~Mar

“Timekeeper” by Tara Sim: A World Where Clocks Control the Flow of Time [Book Review]

It’s been about a week or so, but I decided that it was time for another retrospective book review.

Retrospective Book Reviews (previously Reading Retrospectives), for those who don’t know, are basically book reviews, but they’re on books that I read before I started this blog. So, in order for them to get their day in the sun, I go back through them and see if my opinion when I originally read them holds up.

This week, I’m re-reviewing a book I read a couple of years ago. It’s Timekeeper by Tara Sim.

The Greeks love the idea of fate — in a completely morbid way, of course. Most of the stories of how people are trying to change or avoid their fate. But everything they do just brings them that much closer to it.

Timekeeper by Tara Sim

Timekeeper by Tara Sim

THEN: ★★★★★ • 5 / 5 stars

NOW: ★★★★☆ • 4 / 5 stars

Series: Timekeeper Trilogy (Book #1)

Length: 414 pages

Genres: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, YA, Fiction

Publishing: November 8, 2016 (Sky Pony Press)

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

I was in an accident. I got out. I’m safe now.

An alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, where a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

A prodigy mechanic who can repair not only clockwork but time itself, determined to rescue his father from a Stopped town.

A series of mysterious bombings that could jeopardize all of England.

A boy who would give anything to relive his past, and one who would give anything to live at all.

A romance that will shake the very foundations of time.

As my first deliberate foray into reading a queer novel, this was an excellent. Even though I don’t like it as much as when I first read it, I definitely still stand by this. And there are so many wonderful things inside this book that I also loved, that I can’t wait to talk about.

There’s a lot that I want to gush about (and a few things I want to complain about), so let’s get into it.

Stuff I Liked

“You’re the mechanic. I’m just the clock.”

I absolutely and completely adored the setting and world building here. A world where clocks – actual freaking clocks! – are the only thing standing between Earth and an apocalypse where time stops moving forever, are the clock towers scattered around the world.

And it’s strange to say, but Sim’s writing is amazing in the way that she makes the people in the novel seem so naturally desensitized to this part of their existence. Because this society is so used to the world being like this at this point that this is completely normal for them. And I love it.

I also enjoyed the characters a lot. Danny was a pretty good protagonist. I liked that even though he was a clock mechanic prodigy, there were plenty of other qualities about him that balanced this out, like his insecurities and shyness.

Colton was also a very intriguing and likeable dueteragonist, though he didn’t appear until later in the book. He was the most fascinating character to me in Timekeeper, and if I ever decide to continue with this series, finding out more about him and his past would be one of the main reasons.

“Where would you most like to go?”

“I don’t know. I know nothing about the world. Enfield is my world.”

It was the saddest thing Dany had ever heard.

“How about this: when I come next time, I’ll bring the world to you.”

Though he didn’t understand, Colton looked interested. “Is that possible?”

“Anything is possible.”

Danny and Colton’s romance was also beautiful. A lot of it felt very insta-lovey (especially at first), and a lot of it seemed purely based on physical attraction (especially at first). But closer to the end they started to have more development as a couple, and I started to understand how they fit together.

The other characters were pretty good too, though I didn’t find them nearly as memorable.

Concerning other things that I enjoyed about Timekeeper, I really loved the plot. Besides the setting, this was probably my favorite thing about the book. It melded with the world building and setting extraordinarily well, and kept me reading. It was extremely engaging, especially after the first 100 or so pages.

Stuff I Didn’t Like

He was the architect of their suffering.

There honestly wasn’t that much that I didn’t actually like about this book. I actually pretty much like everything here, to some degree.

The reason why I only rated this novel four stars, was because I only liked everything to a certain degree. I just didn’t like this book nearly as much as I liked other five star books I’ve read, and it’s something that I realized about it after combing through it a second time.

Final Thoughts

Timekeeper is a fun, unique, alternate history fantasy, that I thoroughly enjoyed. Tara Sim has a wonderful and very palatable writing style. I don’t know if I’ll ever decide to continue this trilogy, but I definitely liked this one.

I definitely recommend it to people who enjoy fantasy and historical fantasy, as well as fans of LGBTQIA fiction. It has an interesting setting and world building, it had a great story and characters.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day/night!

See ya ~Mar