Category Archives: Book Reviews

A Look Back: Three Star Books

2020 is coming to an end, and for my own curiosity, I thought I would share the books that were good books, but not quite my favorite in the last 12 months. I count December 2019 in this collection since I’m obviously not done with December 2020 yet. This is my final list of the year. These books were ones I didn’t truly connect to, but had enough merit that I felt someone else might enjoy them.

#IMomSoHard – I read this book by Kristin Hensley and Jen Smedley on a whim from my library at the end of 2019. While it had some funny parts to it, it was a bit tone deaf when it came to infertility and pregnancy loss.

Followers – Debut novel by Megan Angelo. Divided into a present-day and a future point after a cataclysmic event called The Spill, we follow Orla and her roommate, Floss, as they chase fame and fortune through social media. The writing was pretty fluid, but I felt like the characters lacked depth.

Born in Fire – Nora Roberts romance novel. I’m not big into romance, but I inherited this three book trilogy from my grandmother. Apparently, I have read this author before and didn’t remember, but the big problem I had with this story were the problematic relationships that edged on the side of abuse and codependency. Set in Ireland (whichc is my favorite part about the book), Margaret Mary is a glass artist who is also quite the loner, but her world is turned upside down when an art dealer takes an interest in her work.

Mask of Shadows – Debut novel by Linsey Miller. I met the author at a Farmer’s market and decided to give her book a try. The story follows a gender-fluid character named Sal who enters an assassin contest. There were a lot of characters in this contest which made it difficult to follow, but the last part of the book was the most interesting part, once a lot of the minor characters are killed off.

Never Let Me Go – A Kazuo Ishiguro novel set in a boarding school for special students, this book was overall just unfortunate for me. But if you like science fiction, a little romance, and a lot of flashback foreshadowing until everything is revealed in the end, I would recommend it.

Any books you read this year that weren’t quite bad but weren’t quite for you?

A Look Back: Four Star Books

2020 is coming to an end, and for my own curiosity, I thought I would share the books that were good books, but not quite my favorite in the last 12 months. I count December 2019 in this collection since I’m obviously not done with December 2020 yet. This is a long one, but I divided by continuing books in a series (like book 2 or 3), the first book in a series or a standalone, collections (of devotionals, poems, or essays), and nonfiction.

Continuing Books in a Series

Vengeful – the second book in the duology by Victoria Schwab. The two scientists continue to wield their powers. Other characters with their own powers are introduced. It wasn’t as good as the first book, but the story is beautifully written as a whole.

The Toll – The final book in the Neal Schusterman series. In a world where death is no longer a threat, society has created a job that culls the growing population. The series is quite the ride, and while I wasn’t crazy about the ending, it still wrapped up things well.

The Hand on the Wall – The perfect end to the murder mystery by Maureen Johnson. This is the last book of the Truly Devious series. Set in an elite private school in Vermont, Stevie has been invited to attend because of her detective skills and unique interest in a murder mystery that happened at the school during the 1930s. But after she arrives, strange things happen and there is more than one murder mystery to solve.

Children of Virtue and Vengeance – Second book in the Legacy of Orisha series by Tomi Adeyemi. Based in African mythology, magic has disappeared and those who used to wield it have been cast aside as second class citizens or worse. But when the chance to restore magic is presented to Zelie and possibly a chance to level the playing field, the threat of war hums in the air. This book especially, but the whole series, shows how prejudices can blind even the best of intentions. This particular book wasn’t as strong as the first, but it definitely seemed more like a bridge to a final book.

The Night Country – This is the second book in the Hazelwood series by Melissa Albert. This series has been either loved or hated by readers. I enjoy the story which is based on a series of dark fairy tales. It follows a girl named Alice who, in this book, is really trying to figure out who she is and what sacrifices she is willing to make to save the ones she loves. Not as great as the first one, but still a pretty stellar read.

The Queen of Nothing – The final book in the trilogy by Holly Black. Jude and her sister watch their parents’ murder and are whisked away to the land of fairies where they have to learn to survive. She learns about true power and true love. There is a bit of problematic aspects in her relationship with Cardan, but overall, her character transformation is well done.

A Gathering of Shadows – Second book in the Shades of Magic series by Victoria Schwab. After the events of the first book, the characters are once again connected but this time, it’s a tournament of magic. Alucard Emery is introduced as well as new revelations with the other main characters.

Standalones or First Books in a Series

The Ten Thousand Doors of January – Magical story by Alix E. Harrow about writing and books and believing in yourself. January is a young girl with an absent father and doting guardian. Her father works for her guardian, and one day she finds a door on the estate. After the door appears, she can summon it in the written word. And the adventure, and her true identity, emerge.

Parable of the Sower – One of the books I read for a book club that scared me. What a book to begin reading in 2020! Octavia Butler writes a dystopian future set in 2024 after a global climate crisis and a socioeconomic collapse. It was interesting to see how much people tried to hang on to their old lives as the world collapsed. I saw parts of this played out in real life only months later. It probably add to my anxiety.

The Bear and the Nightingale – First book in a trilogy by Katherine Arden. Set in Russia and, I believe, based on Russian myths, Vasya comes from a line of magical and crazed women, and when she starts to connect to the supernatural creatures, the whole world gets turned upside down. Good bit of violence and heavily uses 14th century Russian history which lost me at times.

All Systems Red – Science Fiction read by Martha Wells. The first part of the book was a bit slow, but it really took off in the end. The book is written through the perspective of an sentient AI robot that is acting as security for a research team. But when things go amiss, the team starts to realize that someone is sabotaging them and the robot, SecUnit, is all that stands between the success of their mission or their death.

The Space Between Us – This was a book club pick by Thrity Umrigar. It was a heartbreaking, but the relationships were fascinating. There are also a lot of triggers – rape, abuse – both verbal and physical, abortion and loss. It is set in Bombay and follows the lives of two women in different classes, and the limitations and freedoms they find in their lives. Really appreciated the connection of mental health and pregnancy loss.

The Gilded Wolves – First in the series by Roshani Chokshi based, I think, on Eastern mythologies, particularly Hindu practices. It is a heist book with magical realism aspects, though the characters didn’t seem as well-rounded as I would have liked. It definitely ends in a cliffhanger so it is obviously part of a series.

Blonde Roots – Really good book by Bernardine Evaristo answering the question, what if white people were the enslaved instead of black people. It changed the geography, what was defined as beautiful, and really showcased the microprejudices and how they affect day to day living.

An American Marriage – Tayari Jones is a hard author to read because I don’t agree with her characters’ choices. But the reason I am so uncomfortable really comes from the fact I never have had to make these hard choices because other opportunities were available to me. Really exemplifies privilege in many forms. Roy is imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, and his newly-wedded wife Celestial must make hard choices that will affect both their futures.

The Last Train to Key West – Historical Fiction by Chanel Cleeton that follows three women as they face a terrible hurricane in Florida during the Great Depression era. In addition to this deadly storm, each woman is also trying to navigate their own stormy lives which come together in unexpected ways. There is mention of pregnancy loss and abusive marriage in this book.

Station Eleven – Another pandemic-related apocalypse book by Emily St. John Mandel. This was a flu-type of pandemic so it was perfect for 2020. After 99% of the world’s population dies, the ones left have to learn to survive on no electricity, internet or running water. There is a traveling symphony that shares the classics of Shakespeare and others to various towns, which is quite a dangerous job since they don’t know just what they are walking into, even if they have been there before. There is a lot of loss and sadness in the book, which the author beautifully explores from different perspectives.

We Hunt the Flame – First book in a series by Hafsah Faizal. The second book is on my list to purchase. The land has become cursed, and Zafira the secret Hunter and Nasir, the Prince of Death, must come together to try to restore magic and heal their land. Another story based in culture and mythology.

Silver Sparrow – Another book by Tayari Jones (the hard author to read because I don’t agree with her characters’ choices). This book, though, explores privilege more directly. James Witherspoon is a bigamist, but his secret family is the only one that knows. First part comes from his secret daughter’s perspective and the second part is from his other daughter.

Collections

Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter – Really good collection of writings from different authors (including C.S. Lewis which drew me to the book in the first place) about Lent, Jesus, and Easter. It didn’t line up to the 40 days of Lent, but it was still a nice devotional to read during that time.

Space Struck – A collection of poems written by Paige Lewis. Lots of really incredible lines, though some of it did go over my head. Clever observations, Biblical references and chances from perspective from poem to poem

Nonfiction

The Self-Evolved Leader: Elevate Your Focus and Develop Your People In a World The Refuses to Slow Down – This book was sent to me by the author, Dave McKeown. It is well-written and easy to follow with lots of journaling and practice throughout the book. But I was not its target demographic. Still rated it pretty highly.

How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2-7 – Book by Joanna Faber and Julie King that was empowering, validating, and helpful, though not the only parenting book you should have on your shelf. It deals with rage and frustration (which all parents can identify with) and some tools to help.

How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids: A Practical Guide to Becoming a Calmer, Happier Parent – This feels like a trend that I read this year, but it was different than the above parenting book in that Carla Naumburg focused directly on anger management. I felt that though this was directed towards parents, it is helpful for any relationship.

Chasing Vines: Finding Your Way to an Immensely Fruitful Life – Beth Moore’s new book that compares our life in Christ with viticulture (or growing grapes on vines). It was informative and inspiring, though not my favorite study of hers.

On Immunity: An Inoculation – Another timely read book by Eula Biss. This is a collection of thoughts about immunizations, vaccines, and being a member of a community. Fascinating history of how vaccines started, how they have evolved, and why people may be hesitant to take them. Also why it is ultimately important to take them if you are able.

What are some of your 4 star books this year?

A Look Back: Five Star Books

2020 is coming to an end, and for my own curiosity, I thought I would share the books that moved me in the last 12 months. I count December 2019 in this collection since I’m obviously not done with December 2020 yet.

Vicious – The first book in a duology by VE Schwab. All of her books usually garner a four or five star for me. In this book, there are two scientists trying to figure out how to give themselves special powers. And when they finally figure out what it takes, things go horribly wrong.

The Starless Sea – Erin Morgenstern’s most recent book. I love her lyrical writing and fantastical settings. A man finds a scene of his life written in an incredibly old book. Upon further investigation, he finds an entire world of magic that is on the brink of trouble.

The Stationery Shop – I love this book by Marjan Kamali because it addresses pregnancy loss and mental health, though it is not really a part of the main plot. Two lovers get separated during a revolution. Decades later, they are reunited and discover exactly what happened and why it happened on that fateful day in history.

When God Made the World – Any book of Matthew Paul Turner usually gets a five star from me (as you will see on down this list). The illustrations are beautiful. Lovely children’s book that explores God’s creation and how we play a wonderful part in it.

The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands – One of my absolute favorite nonfiction/self-help books this year. Lysa Terkheurst shares the beauty of boundaries and changes the perspective of saying no to waiting to say the best yes.

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle – The other favorite nonfiction/self-help book. Written by sisters Amelia and Emily Nagoski, it explores stress as a study and how to work through it to live a healthier, slightly more sane life.

Don’t Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life – Sweet memoir kind of book from Anne Bogel, who has a blog (Modern Mrs. Darcy) and a podcast (What Should I Read Next). Very appropriate book for this year.

Lovely War – Julie Berry Novel set mostly during World War One. The twist of this book is that the author incorporates Greek Gods who narrate the story. Aphrodite is trying the tell Hephaestus what love is when he finds her in the arms of Ares.

This Tender Land – William Kent Kruger novel that gives both Odyssey and Tom Sawyer vibes. Set during the Great Depression. Odysseus and Albert escape the abusive boarding school in the North and travel along the Mississippi river in hopes to reunite with their aunt.

The Color of Compromise: The Truth abut the American Church’s Complicity in Racism – Jemar Tisby’s excellent look at the history of the American church and slavery. I learned so much about how everything has evolved throughout time and how it has complicated everything today.

A Darker Shade of Magic – One of my hands-down favorite authors, V. E. Schwab. This was probably the series that put her in the spotlight, though I read some of her other novels first. It really does live up to the hype. The story takes place in London but there are four Londons, four worlds, once connected by magic. But when one world fell, it was shut out in hopes of containing the destruction. However, Kell and Lila have stumbled upon something that could change and destroy everything.

The Jane Austen Society – Natalie Jenner’s novel. Another historical fiction set in the town of Chawton, England after World War II. The town is known as one of the last places Jane Austen resided, writing some of her last novels there. A group of people connect over her books and seek to preserve her memory when the famous estate her brother owned might get sold off by its owner. TW: There is pregnancy loss in the book, but it is well-handled

All the Colors of Christmas – The second Matthew Paul Turner book on this list. No surprise here. Very beautiful book for Christmas that talks about the different colors that we find during this season, including ourselves as part of the beautiful picture.

How to Be an Antiracist – Ibram X. Kendi’s memoir-esque book about his journey to becoming more antiracist. It includes history and the people who inspired him along the way.

The House in the Cerulean Sea – This absolutely lovely book by TJ Klune is magical, fantastical, sweet, heartbreaking, and the closest thing to a perfect story. Linus Baker is a social worker who observes orphanages of magical creatures to see whether they are appropriately caring for their wards. When he is given a special assignment, his isolated, quiet life is turned upside-down in the most delightful way. Lucy was my favorite character.

Middlegame – A Seanan McGuire alchemical story about two people created as counterparts to each other and how they try to stop the end of the world. Beautiful, hopeful and heartbreaking.

What are some of your 5 star books this year?

Silver Sparrow: A Review

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
My rating: 3.5 of 5 star

This was the pick for November for the Modern Mrs Darcy Book club. I had read her other book, An American Marriage, which I reviewed here. So, I knew what I was getting into when reading her novels.

Her books make me feel uncomfortable. They are full of very flawed characters and sad situations. But what she does well is she shows how people survive in flawed, sad situations. It’s not an optimistic worldview, but there is still some hope.

James Witherspoon is a bigamist, living in Atlanta. His first wife and daughter don’t know about his second family, but Dana Lynn and her mother know about them. It affects Dana in so many ways throughout her life. And when revelations come to light, there are no winners.

The book is divided into two parts, the first from Dana’s perspective and the second part is from the perspective of the second daughter, Chaurisse. The limitations in these perspectives really reveal the truth that we don’t know everything that is going on in another person’s life. At one point in each part, the girls talk about each other and better the other life or person, not knowing all the pain that they have gone through.

It is well-written, but very sad. I’m not sure if the book is one for me because of how frustrated I get with the characters and the situations. It’s amazing how emotionally connected and invested I get, but the end, I just get depressed. So, I really struggle to rate these books because they are amazing works of literature, but they don’t lift my spirits, so they aren’t books I would willingly gravitate towards. Still, I think they are important to read to understand people around us who may not be like us.

There is a profanity in the book. There is also sexual content. I made note when reading this that said, “Everyone has sex in this book.” But sexual content played a significant part in explaining plot and character flaws. There is also a little violence, mainly in a story that is told throughout the book about this famous, or infamous, girl who pours grits on Al Green. Other than that, there is a little pushing people, but no real serious violence. There is some mention of rape, but not violent, yet a significant plot point.

Middlegame: A Review

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 star

This book was in a Page 1 Subscription box. If you haven’t tried this subscription, I highly recommend it. They send a carefully selected book based on your reading interests, wrapped in brown paper, along with a few bookish treats. Check out my instagram (@katyslifestory) for more, as I frequently share my monthly treats.

The world in this book is based in alchemy, but even if you aren’t completely knowledgeable in alchemy, the world is so well-written that it’s hard to get lost. There are a lot of twists and turns that feel like getting lost, but everything gets revealed and explained down to layman’s terms. Outside of that, the plot is a bit difficult to explain.

Roger and Dodger are two kids, around seven years old, when they are introduced. The book follows them as they grow up on opposite sides of the country. Roger is a language prodigy and Dodger is a genius with numbers. When they are very young, they are able to talk to each other through what is described as quantum entanglement. As they grow up, they realize that they are two parts to an even bigger, more nefarious plot, which they must figure out before it is too late.

The book moves back and forth in time, specifically forward in time to one specific point which is done over and over, and each time a little more is revealed. Until finally we reach that same point towards the end of the book. McGuire expertly leads the reader through the maze of knowledge and discovery without revealing anything too early.

The characters are relatable in the loner, coming of age, kind of way. It is easy to root for them, to feel for them, to understand their loss and pain. They connect with the reader really well. Erin is also a relatable character, specifically to those who have a penchant to organize life around them.

The story is a quest, both to a specific place and to learn more about oneself and grow confident in who a person is meant to be. The plot is fast-paced, especially in the last 100 pages, which seemed to fly by as each action brought on another action until the finale. The rules in this world were interesting, and there were references to scientists and authors who used a lot of metaphor in their writings, connecting that they were all alchemists. Some Easter eggs might be lost on a reader who doesn’t know much about alchemy, but it is still a fun ride regardless.

There is a substantial amount of profanity in the book. Also, there is some sexual content, as this follows two people from about the age of 7 to almost 30 so there is sometimes sex, however not explicit or steamy. There is a significant amount of violence in this books. Trigger warnings for suicidal attempts. There is murder, horror movie style, described fear. The books opens with the words “There is so much blood.” It is a bloody book.

A Gathering Of Shadows: A Review

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 4.5 of 5 star

This review is going to be short because it is the second book of the series, and I don’t want to spoil anything if you decide to pick it up.

The book focuses on a lot of character growth, particularly with Delilah Bard. There is a pirate storyline in this book, which was really fun. Plus, the tournament in this book is used to pull all the characters together, explaining how they are all growing as characters and relating to each other. There is also a lot of processing through the outcome of the last book, and it’s used beautifully in this book as a bridge to the final book.

There are also a few more characters introduced in this storyline, Alucard takes a fairly large role in the book, though only the original three main characters – Lila, Kell, and Rhy – have the story told from their point of view. Still, the author does a beautiful job of seamlessly introducing these characters without too much of an information dump.

It is a fun second book, but was slow in some parts, mainly because I wanted to get back to plot lines I preferred, but all of the book makes an impact by the end. All the seemingly small pieces of information become big plot points by the end. I loved the ride and look forward to the last book in this series.

There is not a strong amount of profanity, but it is present. There are a few kissing scenes in the book, but nothing too graphic or steamy. There is a lot of violence. The tournament involves attacking each other with magic, but there is also murder and death and physical harm throughout the story. Nothing too descriptive, though.

Never Let Me Go: A Review

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
My rating: 3.5 of 5 star

I wish I liked this book more. I don’t know if it was because it was mostly in the first person or it was science fiction, but I just couldn’t get into the story. I do like some science fiction, and I’m sure I have liked books written in the first person (although, lately, the latter does seem to be a problem). I was just not really invested in these characters.

Kathy is a carer. In particular, she cares for donors until they complete. All of that process is what this book is about. As she goes about her job, she reminisces about her life growing up at a boarding school/group home called Hailshem. She has two friends, Ruth and Tommy. The three friends are pretty naive and passive, even when big pieces of information are dropped on them. Most of the book is in flashback.

The story seemed to drag in parts, but each chapter seems to set up the next which helps with pacing. The story definitely builds on itself with excellent foreshadowing. The twists were not particularly big or surprising. But because of the pacing, I would put the book down for a bit, and when I picked it back up, I wouldn’t remember some details so it would affect my reading.

The back of the book says that it is heartbreaking. While it is a sad book and just frustrating a lot of the time, I didn’t cry at the end of the book. I just felt that it was all unfortunate. But I did find it an interesting look at how people accept their lot in life sometimes with passivity and apathy. Sometimes the idea of revolting and fighting back just doesn’t occur to them.

While this book wasn’t really for me, if you like science fiction, a little romance, and a lot of flashback until everything is revealed at the end (with so many clues in between), you might like this book.

There is profanity in the book. There are both conversations about sex and actual sex scenes, but they seem to represent their innocence and naivete. Not much violence. There is talk about death and dying as a major part of the book. Some bullying and tantrums as well.

On Immunity: A Review

On Immunity by Eula Biss
My rating: 4.5 of 5 star

This is a series of short essay reflections inspired by a mother trying to do what is best for her baby boy during the H1N1 health crisis. The book opens on a conversation she has with other mothers of whether or not to vaccinate their children against this particular virus. She decides to do more research which effectively becomes this book.

There is so much involved in the vaccination decision. Prejudices, fears of toxins, and fears of how this decision will affect the child’s future were a few mentioned. The author goes into the history of vaccines as well as the medical profession as a whole, explaining why there is a trust gap between doctors and mothers at times.

She speaks at length about how capitalism, paternalism, and class differences have played a part into the mistrust of doctors, and how maternalism is an essential part of the discussion (as it has been dismissed in the past under the label of hysterical mothers who are getting in the way).

Ultimately, she makes a case for why vaccines are important for the community at large, that the benefits outweigh the risks, especially considering just how many toxins and radiations we are exposed to in the womb as well as throughout our lives that the vaccine’s contribution is negligible comparatively.

The book is interesting and informative. And while her own opinion is pretty clear by the end of the book, she definitely gives the reader the opportunity to make up their own mind. This book is exceptionally timely considering the present pandemic and the impending vaccine. Definitely recommend this one.

There is some profanity in the book. There is discussion of prostitutes and being held at gunpoint to force vaccination on a community (that really happened), but not explicit sexual or violent content.

Faces in the Crowd: A Review

Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli
My rating: 2.5 of 5 star

I read this book as part of the Life’s Library book club which is probably the one way I really broaden my reading life. I don’t think there has been a book in this subscription club that I would have known about or picked up. And I have liked some of the books that they shared. But this was not one of them.

According to the back of the book, there were supposed to be three different narrators. But I could only see two. And the book isn’t divided in chapters, but instead just little snippets of storyline all mixed up. Plus, I believe this has been translated from Spanish, and I think some of it got lost in translation. There were a lot of times in the book that I had no idea what was going on, and I think the narrators were unreliable as well. The husband of the main protagonist kept dying or leaving the family but then, not really.

There was this one fascinating thread throughout the book about future ghosts. The poet translator kept thinking that she was seeing Gilbert Owen on the subway. And in a storyline narrated by Owen, he thinks he sees a woman fitting the description of the translator in a passing subway. This idea that all of the stories kind of fold on to one another was really cool.

I’ve heard that the audiobook is better as it clearly differentiates between the different narrators. So, that might have also added to the confusion. Overall, I didn’t feel anything for the characters because I couldn’t really tell what was happening. I know that there were a lot of literary allusions to things I love, Emily Dickenson and William Carlos Williams. But I could clearly see the allusions without understanding how they worked in the story which just made it feel strange.

This book wasn’t for me. But perhaps I will at some point try the audiobook version and see if that makes a difference. But for now, just not my kind of book.

There is profanity in the book. There are a lot of masturbation scenes and a few nondetailed sex scenes. There is talk of death throughout the book, this idea of dying at various points of your life but also dying in general. There is also an earthquake that happens and death is discussed then, too.

THe House on the Cerulean Sea: A Review

The House on the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I first heard about this book, it was presented to me like a book recommendation for those that like Harry Potter. This is not. I don’t even think they are in the same genre. But this book is good on its own merits. To be fair, I don’t think I would have actually picked up the book if not for this faulty recommendation and its gorgeous cover.

But on to the story.

The story is about a social worker who is part of the Department of Magical Youth. In this world, all sorts of magical creatures really exist, and in a recent past, new laws have begun an attempt to assimilate magical creatures into the society of humans. When a magical creature is a child, and has no family, they are sent to orphanages. It is the social worker’s job to determine if these orphanages are doing their job. If they aren’t, the orphanage is closed and the children are moved elsewhere.

Linus Baker is a 40 year old man who has been working as a social worker all of his adult life. He doesn’t make waves, does the best he can at his job, and is very much alone and lonely. His only companion is a cat who isn’t particularly friendly. His only fun is listening to old records at night.

The Extremely Upper Management decides one day to send Linus to a classified orphanage with the most problematic children. He is to live there a month, and at the end of that month, he is to make his assessment of whether it should stay open. He has, up to this point, managed to stay detached when making his observations, but this time is going to be different. This time, he will find love. He will understand acceptance. He will transform.

This book is beautiful. It’s all about acceptance, of yourself and others. It’s about using the privileges we are given in life to help those who are not privileged. It’s about the innocence of youth and seeing past the outer shell into the heart of a person.

My favorite relationships are that of Linus and each of the children. He reads their files at the beginning of his observations, seeing them as potentially quite dangerous to himself and others, but you see throughout the book that they are labeled concretely when there should be more nuance. The conversations between the Linus and the children are absolutely precious, showing both their problems and their innocence at the same time.

I didn’t know at the time that I received the book that the main character was queer and that there was a queer relationship in the book. I don’t know if I would have honestly picked up the book had I known. But most of what I had known about queer relationships before this book was quite different. The romance in this book is a slow burn, meaning that the romantic aspects of the relationship grow slowly and are not revealed until the end. You see glimpses of attraction, but they are more subtle.

Plus, it just further supported the character transformation that Linus goes through. He doesn’t come out of the other side as a socially acceptable version of himself. Instead, he learns how to accept himself despite what society says. Something the characters around him have had to learn to do.

In the end, I cried. The sweet relationships that develop and how much character growth Linus goes through in this story were just so emotionally overwhelming for me. In this climate, a sweet book like this is very needed. I understand if it may not be a book you would normally pick up, but if you give it a chance, the magic is well worth it. Even if it is nothing like Harry Potter.

There are a few words of profanity in the book. The children call him on it once which is exactly what children do. There are a couple of kisses mentioned, innuendo to more, but absolutely nothing graphic. For violent content, there is a mention of one child enduring physical abuse prior to his stay on the island, most of the children had endured some type of abuse, but nothing detailed. Also, Lucy (the child anti-Christ) says some pretty violent threats, but it is quickly understood that he uses them as a defense mechanism.