Sunday, March 28, 2021

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune


Buy Here: https://amzn.to/3m1SPH3
I knew I'd love this book when it first was out in hardcover last year (2020) and it was getting so many great reviews. It took me a year but I finally bought it in paperback and vowed I would read it this month. This is a sweet, special story. 

Linus Baker is living a life as dull and grey as the weather in London. He is in his early forties and every day he works at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He travels to orphanages and checks to make sure the magical children at each location are being properly cared for--and he takes his job very seriously. He's been doing the same job for seventeen years. His routine is the same every day: get up, go to work, come home and feed his cat, eat a sad salad, and listen to records. No friends, nothing. He's fully aware his life is not the best, but he's just too tired to do anything about it. 

He gets a special assignment from the Extremely Upper Management--a case that is very special and secret. Linus takes the case and finds himself traveling away from the dreary, grey rain and into a special place full of sun, brilliant colors, warmth, and the sea. A house on an island full of interesting children, each uniquely special, as is Arthur, the man who is in charge of this particular orphanage. Linus is ill at ease as he reads the files on each of the children--he's way out of his comfort zone and doesn't know how he's going to make it for a whole month, observing and sending reports back to the Extremely Upper Management. 

Yet as the days tick by, Linus starts changing, a little bit more every day. He's losing his ability to stay impartial. He finds himself being charmed by all the quirky characters, and drawn to Arthur's gentle presence. He's torn between his growing feelings and knowing he will have to leave and return to his job at The Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He can't possibly dream about a different alternative, can he?

I am not going to tell you about the children--it's part of the story that you have to read and discover for yourself. But let me tell you they are all unique, and you'll quickly fall for all of them, as Linus does. This is a sweet, gentle, calming read. It is like traveling to another place; a place that calms, soothes, and heals. I sound corny, but that's how this novel made me feel. 

So take a jump into the Cerulean Sea and find out how just lovely the water feels!

Rating: 5/6 for a delightfully sweet story about a man who is lost, and how he finds his way home.

Available in hardcover, trade paperback, ebook, and audio

Sunday, March 21, 2021

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner


This novel has my vote for the most gorgeous cover of 2021. I can't stop staring at it! 

The Lost Apothecary  was one of the books I've most eagerly awaited this year, and it didn't disappoint. It moves back and forth between 1791 and present day London, and I found both settings equally interesting. 

Caroline Parcewell has arrived in London alone-on what was supposed to be a tenth wedding anniversary trip with her husband James. Instead, she fled Ohio after finding out James was having an affair. Heartbroken and disillusioned, Caroline decides to come to London herself, to have time to think. Her first day there, she takes a last minute mud-larking trip to the Thames River, and finds a small glass bottle with an intriguing bear mark on it. 

Mud larking, by the way, is when people actually walk along the banks of the River Thames and search the mud for artifacts the river has left ashore. People have been doing this for centuries (some made their living from it). People used the Thames for centuries as a dumping ground for everything, so yes, items hundreds of years old continually wash up on shore. This tiny bottle gives Caroline just the distraction she needs from her marriage, and she dives into discovering more about it. 

1791 London finds Nella living and working in a small apothecary shop disguised behind a false wall in another shop set back in a small alley, making it hard to find. Nella helps women with ailments, but she also helps them dispose of men who have done them wrong-she concocts poisons for her clients. Men who have cheated, men who have abused, men who have ruined women's lives. These women secretly leave notes in a grain barrel outside the shop, and Nella makes the poison, keeping a book of records for each time she's done it over the past twenty years. All this stems from Nella's own grief and anger over a man who ruined her life. 

But it is all taking a toll on Nella's health; she's convinced for every poison, a little bit of it eats away at her from the inside, making her health fail and her death creep closer. But just when she's ready to give up, Eliza shows up, and in just a few brief days, life changes drastically and dramatically for Nella and Eliza. 

Caroline, meanwhile, is hot on the trail, tracking down who this bottle belonged to and what it meant. Befriending a researcher at the British Library, she starts digging into every little clue she uncovers, revealing the fascinating story of Nella's apothecary shop. 

This was a great read! It's more than just a story about a female apothecary who helped women in their time of need. It's about women being victims of other people's choices, and how they fought back. Caroline's story is about a marriage that, while it could be happy, wasn't at all where she needed to be to grow. And clearly her husband needed more, too. Freedom is a big theme in this novel.  

You'll find yourself unable to put this down. I myself was a bit jealous of Caroline's trip to London, and her discovery of what would make her the happiest. In another life, by golly, I could imagine pursuing just what Caroline does in London. 

Rating: 5/6 for a historical tale that pulls you in and keeps you turning the pages-a favorite read of mine this year! 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio

Friday, March 12, 2021

Rosie's Travelling Tea Shop by Rebecca Raisin


Warmer temps this past week have me perking up a bit. All the snow has disappeared from my yard and that makes me happy, too. Spring is definitely around the corner, and this novel hit all the right notes    and I couldn't have read it at a better time of the year. 

Rosie is a sous chef at a very upscale restaurant in London. She's been married for some time, and beginning to think it's time to start a family. However, her husband decides to start a family with another woman, and leaves Rosie on her birthday. He tells her she's "boring". 

Crushed, Rosie realizes she's at a dead end career-wise and besides, she just can't continue to work where everyone knows her husband left her (for another sous chef). She impulsively (late at night, drinking wine) buys a bright pink van, affectionately named Poppy, and decides to leave London to travel the country selling baked goods and tea at festivals.

It's a pretty big switch from her organized London life, and has plenty of bumps and moments of needing to be brave. But Rosie quickly makes friends with Aria, a young woman who has a traveling romance bookshop, and the two together travel to various festivals around England. There's even a chance at romance with not one, but two men: Max and Oliver. Which will she choose?

This was a fun, relaxing read with plenty of delicious food and talk of books. I must confess I don't know if I could last in a camper van, but it certainly did sound appealing to try for one summer. It teaches Rosie a whole lot of life lessons, and helps her realize her life in London stifled her and didn't give her a chance to be all she could be. 

A quick, happy read, this is a perfect Spring read--and if you're a fan of Jason Momoa, you'll fall for Max pretty quickly! 

Rating: 3/6 for a perfectly perfect sweet and sunny read about breaking out of your comfort zone and healing a broken heart with plenty of good friends, baked goods, and a road adventure. Don't underestimate the power of a pink camper van named Poppy. 

Available in paperback and ebook

Saturday, March 6, 2021

A Simple Murder: A Kate Burkholder Short Story Collection by Linda Castillo


I read the first novel in the Kate Burkholder series Sworn to Silence years ago, and it was unlike anything I'd read before. A former Amish woman who has left the community and Amish life, returns to her hometown as the Chief of Police. It was dark, twisty, and impossible to put down. Since then, this series has grown to over ten novels, but I had only kept to reading the first one, until this week. 

I found this short story collection featuring Kate Burkholder, and decided it was just what I needed to dip back into this series. I also wanted to read some shorter stories, so it was perfect timing. 

I'm of two minds with this collection: you either read it, having read one or more of the books in the series, or read it without having read anything. Having some of the backstory will certainly help fill in some of the spaces in each story; however, I can see a reader becoming intrigued enough not knowing Kate's backstory to read these, then immediately dive into the first book in the series to learn more. It's really a reader's preference. 

Each story is about 100-125 pages long. They range from a vicious hit and run on an Amish teenager to a newborn baby left on the steps of the Amish Bishop's front porch, to the case of a long missing young woman who supposedly haunts a bed and breakfast. Each features Kate and the town of Painters Mill, Ohio-a mix of modern and Amish families and communities. Kate walks the line between both, and uses her knowledge of the Amish community and language to help solve cases. 

The stories were interesting, easy to get into, and while not terribly hard to figure out, a few did have some surprises. An enjoyable short story collection when you just need a little mystery. Perfect for traveling or reading on your lunch break at work. All of the Kate Burkholder mysteries are in print and also available in ebook and audio. 

Rating: 4/6 for a satisfying short story mystery collection that shows the complexities in the Amish-English community, and a woman who must keep one foot in each in order to keep everyone safe. 

Available in mass market paperback, ebook, and audio. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

March Madness, Indeed! So Many Books to Read!

 I'll confess: I have lost my mind in the month of March. Looking at the books I've got at home, and checked out of the library, I just can't decide which I am going to read in March because I want to read ALL the books in March. So instead of trying to decide, I'm just going to present what's top of my reading wish-list and cross my fingers I'll be able to read them all in March. 

February was a bit of a brutal month, and in the past few days I've been craving Spring: lots and lots of happy colors, flowers, and that spring breeze that hints of something bright and sunny coming soon. I told my partner that I need happy and no more sad. Reading wise, that means cozy mysteries and books with a bit of magic. And historical fiction, too--lucky for me, there's plenty to choose from in this genre. 

Here's my overly ambitious March reading list:

I'll confess The Lost Apothecary is the book I'm most excited to read--I have been waiting MONTHS for this to finally be available. Rosie's Traveling Tea Shop is my go to feel good British fun read. Love Rebecca Raisin. 

I selected The Four Winds for my BOMC choice because I knew it would be wildly popular and impossible to read unless I bought a copy for myself. I started The Address Book in February. It's been a book I've had on my radar for quite some time, and when Barnes & Noble highlighted it as a monthly pick, it pushed me to finally buy it and dig in. Fascinating stuff. 

Well, I best get moving on my reading list. I hope March finds you all enjoying warmer weather and sunny days, a chance to get outside and take a walk or two. 

Happy Spring! 

The Bookalicious Babe