TV Time: The joy of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, as expressed through music videos

You may have already seen me mention that my newest TV kick is watching Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, a new show on NBC that debuted in January this year. Remember January? Back when we could actually leave our houses?

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is a total ray of sunshine in these gloomy days, and I’m loving it to pieces. Here’s the trailer, to give you a taste of what it’s all about:

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Zoey is a super-talented engineer at a tech company in San Francisco. She’s close to her family, and torn up over her father’s degenerative disease. A weird encounter with an MRI machine during an earthquake gives her the power to hear people’s secret emotions as songs.

Does it make sense? Well, no. But that’s okay. Just go with it. Because it is just too cute to bother poking holes in the plot.

Not only does she hear songs, she sometimes experiences these musical messages as full-on song and dance numbers — which only she can hear or see. And, as she learns, some of these songs demand action — either she reaches out to try to help the person singing to her, or she’ll hear the song everywhere she goes.

Like I said, logically, realistically, scientifically, it doesn’t make any sense. But who cares? The show is charming and upbeat, often moving (I’m not crying! You’re crying!), enthusiastic, entertaining, and just plain fun. And don’t we all need some fun right about now?

Here are an assortment of terrific musical moments from the nine episodes that have aired so far:

A teeny clip of a great group number. Whoo!
Lauren Graham! Just amazing as Zoey’s high-powered but secretly lonely boss.
Oh my geeky musical theater loving heart. A perfect moment to mark the arrival of a tech guru. (You can quit after the song ends — the rest is talking.)
I love the action in this one.

This father-daughter number totally brought on the tears.
Love the choreography.
Super silly.
Another great dance number.
A terrific number by an incredibly talented cast member… and one of the only songs that’s happening IRL in the show, not just in Zoey’s head
One more tearjerker.

Okay, this is just scratching the surface, and there are so many more that I can’t find decent videos for (including an amazing version of Fight Song performed completely in ASL).

Look, what else do you have to do during these long days of sheltering in place? Give Zoey a chance! And if you’ve watched the show, tell me — what have been your favorite musical numbers so far?

Shelf Control #211: Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories, #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

cropped-flourish-31609_1280-e1421474289435.pngTitle: Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories, #1)
Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Published: 2010
Length: 306 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

The fantasy novel you’ve always wished Jane Austen had written

Shades of Milk and Honey is exactly what we could expect from Jane Austen if she had been a fantasy writer: Pride and Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is an intimate portrait of a woman, Jane, and her quest for love in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality.

Jane and her sister Melody vie for the attentions of eligible men, and while Jane’s skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face. When Jane realizes that one of Melody’s suitors is set on taking advantage of her sister for the sake of her dowry, she pushes her skills to the limit of what her body can withstand in order to set things right—and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.
 

How and when I got it:

I bought all five books in the series last year at my favorite local bookstore. They look so perfect together!

Why I want to read it:

True confession: I’ve actually read this book! But I read it back in 2010 when it first came out, having borrowed it from the library, and somehow didn’t become aware of the rest of the series until a few years had passed by. And while I remember liking the book a lot, I don’t remember any of the details (except for the basics — Jane Austen with magic!). In any case, reading the whole Glamourist Histories series has been on my to-do list for a couple of years now, and I really do want to make it happen in 2020. But to do that, I’ll need to start at the beginning, so that’s why a re-read is making a rare appearance as a Shelf Control book!

What do you think? Would you read this book? 

Please share your thoughts!

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

The Monday Check-In ~ 4/6/2020

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Well, that was a week. Insane. I won’t bore you with the details, but despite getting to work in my sweats all day, every day, it’s still been the most intense workweek of my life.

Fortunately, I got to more or less take the weekend off, except for answering emails and trying to catch up on a few odds and ends.

In terms of reading and blogging, I barely did either one! I don’t think I touched a book at all from Sunday until Thursday, which gives you a sense of just how crazy things have been. And I apologize for how absent I’ve been from the blogging community! I usually love to visit everyone’s blogs and keep up to date, and this week, I just couldn’t. But I promise — I’ll be back! Can’t wait to catch up on what everyone else has been reading and blogging about.

The good news is, I think I’m past the worst of it, work-wise… We shall see. And meanwhile, I hope to at least be able to read every day once again!

What did I read during the last week?

Honestly, almost nothing.

The Space Between by Diana Gabaldon: My book group finished our group re-read of this Outlander-verse novella this past week. It’s an interesting story, but doesn’t feel essential to the greater world of Outlander… unless somehow these events end up connecting to the plot of book #9, whenever that comes along.

Pop culture — Outlander, season 5:

No new episodes this week, but here’s my reaction post from last Sunday’s episode:

Outlander, episode 507, “The Ballad of Roger Mac” — here.

Other TV watching:

I finished re-watching The Witcher. And yup, it’s just as good the 2nd time around! Plus, there are timeline and story hints that are much more obvious with repeat viewing. I think I’ll head back to the books pretty soon, because I need me some more Witcher in my life, and it sounds like it’ll be a while before we’re gifted with season 2.

My daughter convinced me to watch Derry Girls. It’s a hoot! And I love that (a) episodes are 30 minutes, and (b) there are only six episodes per season.

And, I watched Emma — the new movie version! Somehow, the 1996 version with Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam is the one that is firmly stuck in my brain as THE Emma adaptation, but I did enjoy this one a lot. Interesting visuals and direction, talented cast — all-around entertaining.

Fresh Catch:

No new books this week.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Book of Koli by M. R. Carey: I had a very slow start because of my super intense week… but once the smoke cleared a bit, I dove back in, and I’m loving it!

Now playing via audiobook:

Beartown by Fredrik Backman: I’ve only made the slightest dent in this audiobook, but I’m hoping to get back into a regular walking and listening pattern this week!

Ongoing reads:

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes: My book group’s current classic read. I’m a few weeks behind already, but I swear I’ll catch up. Eventually.

So many books, so little time…

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 5, Episode 7

Season 5 is here! I’ll be writing an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!

Outlander, episode 507: “The Ballad of Roger Mac”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

The Regulator Rebellion reaches a boiling point, forcing Jamie to face his fear and confront the consequence of his divided loyalties.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • The militia and the Regulators prepare to face off in battle.
  • Brianna recognizes the name of the location, Alamance Creek, and rides in to tell Claire and Jamie that the Regulators lose this battle.
  • Jamie wants to warn Murtagh and get the Regulators to leave, rather than stay, fight, and get killed in a battle they cannot win.
  • Roger volunteers to cross to the militia camp to deliver the warning, but encounters trouble trying to get back.
  • Governor Tryon “honors” Jamie by giving him an officer’s red coat.
  • The British troops and their cannon are too much for the Regulators, who are defeated.
  • Claire treats the wounded men.
  • Murtagh is shot protecting Jamie, and dies.
  • The episode ends with the discovery of Roger having been hanged by the Governor’s troops, who took him for a Regulator

Insta-reaction:

I’m going to keep this brief, because my brain is absolutely fried this week!

The 7th episode of season 5 focuses exclusively on the Batttle of Alamance Creek, fought between the Governor’s troops and the rebel Regulators. As Bree explains in her hasty history lesson, this battle is later seen as a precursor to the War of Independence. For now, Jamie and Claire are on the government’s side, but they know they’ll have to switch soon.

Poor Roger! He has no business being a soldier. He’s an Oxford history professor! He never handled a gun in his life before traveling to the past, and now he’s a militia captain? He’s doing what he must for his family, but geez, do I wish he and Brianna had had the good sense to get the hell out of there by now.

And hey, it’s Jamie’s 50th birthday! May we all be so blessed to look that good at his age! He and Claire enjoy a tender, loving morning in bed before the battle arrives. Jamie later invokes the spirit of his late uncle Dougal MacKenzie, the warrior who taught him all he knows about battle and whose side he fought beside so many times.

You’d think Claire and Jamie would understand by now that they can’t change history — but Jamie still has to try, for the sake of saving Murtagh. Roger delivers the message and Murtagh declines to leave before battle, but Roger would have made it safely back to Jamie’s camp most likely had he not had the misfortune of running into his ancestress Morag Mackenzie, whom he’d saved (in the previous season) on board Stephen Bonnet’s ship. He tries to warn her away from the battle and offers her and her family a refuge on Fraser’s Ridge. But when he embraces her, her husband shows up and beats the hell out of Roger. (And good job, show, for bringing back the amazing Graham McTavish as Buck Mackenzie! With a full head of hair! Nice touch of casting, indeed.)

Well, things are not good. Jamie is forced into wearing the red coat of a British officer, which is just not a feel-good moment for him, considering that these coats represent the enemy in so many of his life’s worst times. As the battle progresses and the slaughter begins, Jamie finally encounters Murtagh in the woods, but Murtagh is shot protecting Jamie. In his last heroic act, Murtagh stayed true to his vow to Ellen Mackenzie Fraser to always protect her son. Murtagh is dead before Jamie can get him to Claire. It’s so damned sad.

Roger still hasn’t come back. Jamie has heated words with the Governor, disgusted by all the needless death, and throws down the coat and renounces his military role. The Frasers go looking for Roger, and eventually come upon a tree where some Regulators have been hanged for treason. Jamie recognizes one man, despite his face being covered. It’s Roger!

And…. scene!

So wow. Not an upbeat episode at all. It’s always great to see Claire in full doctor mode, and I wanted to punch whichever awful Brown that was who deliberately crushed her one and only syringe of penicillin.

My heart was busy aching preemptively for Roger and Brianna. Having read the book, I knew what was coming. I also know what happens after the cliffhanger ending, but I’m not telling!

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

I really did love seeing Graham McTavish again! So clever to cast him as a nasty Mackenzie.

And poor Roger! He should have known better than to hug Morag. I mean, HE knows that she’s his many-greats-great-grandmother, but she and her husband don’t. And while I don’t think he deserved what happened, he should have had the sense not to act so intimately toward another man’s wife, no matter how innocently intended.

I was surprised by Murtagh’s death. As we all know, his character dies at Culloden in the books, so any role for him past season 2 is new and different for the TV series. TV Murtagh was a fantastic character, but I didn’t love his role as Regulator leader. It just didn’t seem to fit him, and it led directly to his death. So what was the point of keeping him alive until now? I wish he’d had more time to live happily on the Ridge with Jamie, but I guess it wouldn’t have had enough drama that way. Jamie’s heartbreak over Murtagh’s death was incredibly well done.

And now, it’s two weeks until the next new episode… two weeks of dreading the outcome of that horrible last scene.

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The Monday Check-In ~ 3/30/2020

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Hey, hey, check out my groovy home office! I’m not really as techie as this makes me look — The laptop and one monitor are for work, and the other monitor is connected to my home computer. (Yup, that’s the one with Goodreads up on the screen!)

It’s been an insane week, and an even more insane weekend. I don’t talk about my day job too often here on my blog, but I work in HR, and this week a lot of stuff came to a boiling point. ‘Nuff said.

I’m hoping that by next weekend, I can actually have a weekend!

What did I read during the last week?

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune: 100% loved this book! My review is here.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert: Parts of this audiobook were super cute, and parts were absolutely cringe-worthy. My review is here.

The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren: Light, fluffy fun. My review is here.

Pop culture — Outlander, season 5:

My brain was ready to explode by Sunday night, so I did not even watch the new Outlander episode yet! If that doesn’t tell you what kind of week I had, nothing will.

Other TV watching:

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is just the cutest thing ever! Okay, sure, the plot doesn’t totally make sense (young professional suddenly starts hearing everyone’s innermost thoughts as songs that they sing and dance to her), but it’s really, really fun and upbeat. And the music is amazing!

Also, my son decided that he finally wanted to watch The Witcher, and I was happy to agree to keep him company while he watched. Now I have an excuse to bask in the glory of Geralt and Yennefer again… and to sing “Toss A Coin To Your Witcher” at every waking moment.

Fresh Catch:

No new books this week.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Book of Koli by M. R. Carey: Just getting started. I love the strange world-building so far, but I’m afraid that this book might take more concentration than I’m capable of right now. Deep breaths…

Now playing via audiobook:

Beartown by Fredrik Backman: Also just starting — I haven’t had time to listen for the past couple of days, so I may have to start again from the beginning. But I’m excited to finally read/listen to this book!

Ongoing reads:

The Space Between by Diana Gabaldon: The latest in Outlander Book Club’s group read-alongs. Almost done.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes: My book group’s newest classic read is now underway. We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week.

So many books, so little time…

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Book Review: The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren

Title: The Honey-Don’t List
Author: Christina Lauren
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: March 24, 2020
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Carey Duncan has worked for home remodeling and design gurus Melissa and Rusty Tripp for nearly a decade. A country girl at heart, Carey started in their first store at sixteen, and—more than anyone would suspect—has helped them build an empire. With a new show and a book about to launch, the Tripps are on the verge of superstardom. There’s only one problem: America’s favorite couple can’t stand each other.

James McCann, MIT graduate and engineering genius, was originally hired as a structural engineer, but the job isn’t all he thought it’d be. The last straw? Both he and Carey must go on book tour with the Tripps and keep the wheels from falling off the proverbial bus.

Unfortunately, neither of them is in any position to quit. Carey needs health insurance, and James has been promised the role of a lifetime if he can just keep the couple on track for a few more weeks. While road-tripping with the Tripps up the West Coast, Carey and James vow to work together to keep their bosses’ secrets hidden, and their own jobs secure. But if they stop playing along—and start playing for keeps—they may have the chance to build something beautiful together…

From the “hilariously zany and heartfelt” (Booklist) Christina Lauren comes a romantic comedy that proves if it’s broke, you might as well fix it. 

I’ve been a fan of author duo Christina Lauren since I first encountered one of their books a couple of years ago. They specialize in bright, contemporary romances, typically between characters who are forthright, professional, and looking for that special someone (even if they don’t always think they are).

The Honey-Do List fits the pattern, and is a charming but light-weight addition to their work. Carey and James are clearly destined for one another, despite their mutual animosity and resentment at the start of the story. They find one another pushy and annoying, and Carey is so over James’s insistence that he’s an engineer while he’s clearly filling the role of gopher/all-around assistant.

Their bosses, Melly and Rusty, are self-obsessed celebrities who built a brand on their adorable chemistry and star-power marriage, but behind the scenes, they’re bitter and angry and barely in control of their hostility. The success of their upcoming book tour and new Netflix series rests on them presenting a united, cheerful, loving front, but Carey and James face an uphill battle trying to get them to comply.

Meanwhile, Carey and James are just naturally drawn together, slowly building trust and sharing secrets while also giving in to their crazy attraction for one another.

You’ll want to slap Melly, and to give Carey a good shake and tell her to wake up and assert herself and own her talents and contributions to the Tripps’ success. There’s of course a misunderstanding that seems like it’ll sink Carey and James’s new relationship, but honestly, if you’ve ever read a romance before, then you’ll have no doubt how it will all work out.

It’s a fun read, very quick and easy, but doesn’t exactly break new ground. I liked the book, and parts were quite funny, but I don’t think this one will stick with me for long. Then again, I’m not much of a romance reader, so I may have exceeded my limits for this type of thing so far this year.

The Honey-Do List is entertaining but inconsequential, which is fine if you’re in the mood for some fluffy reading.

And hey, who doesn’t need that right about now?

Audiobook Review: Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Title: Get A Life, Chloe Brown
Author: Talia Hibbert
Narrator: Adjoa Andoh
Publisher: Avon
Publication date: November 5, 2019
Print length: 373 pages
Audio length: 10 hours, 17 minutes
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Library
Rating:

⭐⭐⭐

Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

• Enjoy a drunken night out.

• Ride a motorcycle.

• Go camping.

• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.

• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.

• And… do something bad.

But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior… 

I have such mixed feelings about this book. I really liked the main characters, Chloe and Red, and appreciated so much about their story. And yet, there are parts of this book that I simply, literally, could not take and had to fast-forward through.

So, 3-stars is a really apt rating for my experience — squarely in the middle.

Let me back up and explain.

Chloe is an awesome main character. She’s a smart and talented black woman from a wealthy family, and is aware of the privilege she’s grown up with. She’s also chronically ill, suffering with fibromyalgia and continuous pain that leaves her completely debilitated at frequent intervals. Chloe protects herself fiercely; having been burned by a previous relationship and left with awful feelings of abandonment, she’s determined not to be vulnerable that way ever again.

And constantly living with physical pain, Chloe is not a risk-taker. She knows her limits, and sticks with them, until the day she has a near-miss with a drunk driver, and realizes it’s time to do more with her life. Hence her “get a life” list — because Chloe loves her life spelled out in neat and orderly lists, so a list is absolutely necessary if she’s going to make a change.

Meanwhile, Red is the red-headed, white, tattooed, super-hot superintendent of the building Chloe moves into, and while he’s lovely to everyone else, he and Chloe immediately rub each other the wrong way. He’s sure she’s a stuck-up snob, and she’s sure he’s rude and too into his bad-boy image.

Eventually, of course, they experience a breakthrough (thanks to Chloe pursuing a lost cat up a tree, and Red having to enact a seriously adorable rescue of both woman and kitty.) As they start to warm up and trust one another, a physical and emotional connection blossoms, each finding that one special person to help them move forward after painful pasts.

Here’s what I really liked about this story:

  • The playful flirtation and banter between Chloe and Red.
  • How Chloe and Red are each talented in their own fields, and wholeheartedly appreciate one another’s talents.
  • How they support each other’s weak points as well as their strengths, and show caring and concern in all sorts of little and big ways.
  • How freaking cute they are together at all times.
  • The sensitive way the author portrays Chloe’s disability.
  • The sensitive way the author portrays the emotional abuse that’s left Red traumatized.
  • How Chloe and Red learn together how to make room for their differences and their emotional wounds.

So what didn’t I like? Well, I suppose it gets down to my preferences when it comes to romances. I like steam… and I’m no prude… but I don’t need anatomical details when it comes to love scenes. And there’s a LOT of anatomy in this book.

The sex scenes are very graphically described — and again, good for Chloe and Red for having such a great time together! But I prefer my fiction to leave more to the imagination… and when that many body parts and secretions are described that often and in that much detail, that’s just not going to appeal to me. So, somewhere in the 2nd half of the book, I realized I could save myself some agony by using the fast-forward button in 10 second increments until I got to the afterglow, when the plot would safely pick back up.

Like I said, I know that’s just a personal preference, so no judgment for readers who like this sort of thing. It’s just not for me, and that’s too bad, because in the case of Get A Life, Chloe Brown, I really liked the characters and their story. But I found myself wishing that I had a magic editing button on my Audible app to allow me to edit out the explicit scenes and just stick to the plot (although that would have cut this audiobook down to about 60% of its length, I’d guess).

A note on the audiobook — the narrator is quite good! I liked her portrayal of Chloe. She made her so adorable! And Red’s voice was really good too, growly and rough, but also loving and appreciative of the wonder of Chloe Brown.

All in all, a good love story wrapped up in a package that just doesn’t 100% work for me. Which is too bad. There’s a new book coming out about Chloe’s sister, and part of me is intrigued — but after my experiences with this book, I’m not sure I could stand another round of anatomy lessons. Ah well. Can’t win ’em all.

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

Title: The House in the Cerulean Sea
Author: TJ Klune
Publisher: Tor
Publication date: March 17, 2020
Length: 400 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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.

In these crazy, unsettled times, who doesn’t need a perfect pick-me-up of a book?

If you’re looking for something special and heart-warming, have I got a book for you!

The House in the Cerulean Sea is utterly lovely and altogether charming. It makes me smile just thinking about it.

The main character is a buttoned-up pencil-pusher named Linus Baker, who is a caseworker for DICOMY — the Department In Charge of Magical Youth. DICOMY is a marvel of bureaucracy, supposedly invested in the well-being of magical children, but really focused more on containment and concealment.

And don’t be fooled into thinking we’re talking a Hogwarts-type setting here. In this world, there are magical children, but they’re problems to be solved, not gifted youth to be nurtured. And for at least the children we meet in The House in the Cerulean Sea, they don’t (mostly) have human appearances. These children are very clearly other, and they live in a world in which they’re adamantly and obviously unwanted.

Linus’s job is to visit orphanages housing these children and to file reports. His life and his job haven’t changed in years and years — until he’s summoned to a meeting with Extremely Upper Management, who send him on a classified, top-secret mission to Marsyas Island and the orphanage there. Linus’s new assignment is to spend four weeks at Marsyas, filing weekly reports on the headmaster and the children in his charge, and ultimately to recommend whether the orphanage should remain open or be shut down.

Linus is not at all prepared for what he finds there. First of all, it’s on the sea — and he’s never seen an ocean or a beach before. It’s beautiful, and he’s immediately enchanted. And then there are the children. All are strange and different, and at first, Linus is more or less terrified, yet before long, he sees how truly special the children are… once he gets past the somewhat scary and strange exteriors of a few of them.

The story is just lovely. I loved seeing how Linus reluctantly opens up and connects with the children and headmaster of Marsyas, and how his warmth brings out new interests and confidence in each of them. This is a perfect example of a found family story, and it’s marvelous.

The writing is descriptive and lively and funny, but also has great emotional depth. The author does an excellent job of showing us the individuals living inside each of the odd exteriors that the public sees.

My favorite has to be Lucy — short for Lucifer — a six-year-old boy who’s adorable and also happens to be the Antichrist. He’s prone to making such statements as:

“Mr. Baker… Can I get you something to drink? Juice, perhaps? Tea?” He leaned forward and dropped his voice. “The blood of a baby born in a cemetery under a full moon?”

… and

“There,” he said brightly. “You’re welcome! And I’m not even thinking about banishing your soul to eternal damnation or anything!”

Really and truly, this book was a special read, and was a perfect distraction for me from the chaos and confusion of our current world. But I’m sure that even in relatively normal times, I’d love this book! Don’t miss it.

Shelf Control #210: Amanda’s Wedding by Jenny Colgan

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

cropped-flourish-31609_1280-e1421474289435.pngTitle: Amanda’s Wedding
Author: Jenny Colgan
Published: 1999
Length: 288 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

From New York Times bestselling author Jenny Colgan comes the debut novel that made her the sensation she is today—a hilarious, unforgettable story of one woman’s mad dash to put a stop to the wedding of her old school friend who’s the complete opposite of the sweet Scottish lord she’s marrying.

Amanda’s old school friends, Mel and Fran, are shocked when the social-climbing queen of mean announces her engagement to a laird (Scottish lord). It doesn’t matter that Fraser McConnald has worn the same pair of Converse sneakers for the last three years and that his castle is a pile of rubble with one gas heater—she’ll be the wife of an actual laird! But Mel and Fran can’t just sit back and let the sweet and gentle Fraser marry Amanda, especially since Mel had a huge crush on him back in University. Something must be done!

Joining forces with Fraser’s adorable younger brother Angus, they set out to sabotage this mismatch of the century. So between fighting off the attentions of a love-crazed accountant, keeping Fran’s deadly maneuvers’ with the opposite sex under control and trying to win her own war of love with her aspiring rock-star beau, Mel finds herself preparing for a wedding that’s everything you’d wish on your worst enemy.

How and when I got it:

I picked up a used copy a couple of years ago, after falling deeply under the spell of the author!

Why I want to read it:

Jenny Colgan has become my go-to sweet escapes author — her books are light and fun, very human, very bubbly, and even when presenting difficult scenarios, there’s always more sunshine just around the corner. Amanda’s Wedding is her debut novel from 1999, and I’m eager to see how she got started. I still have a few of her more recent books to read as well, but I do like the sound of this one (I mean, come on! There’s a Scottish laird!), so one of these days when I need a pick-me-up (which could be any day now), I’m finally going to give this a try.

What do you think? Would you read this book? 

Please share your thoughts!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top ten Stephen King books I need to read

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is: Genre Freebie (pick a genre and build a list around it! i.e., best/worst romances, non-fiction for travelers, memoirs for foodies, classics that feel timeless, romance novel kisses, science fiction that feels too real for comfort, women’s fiction for newbies, etc.)

I was thinking about horror — fitting for these days, right? — and mind naturally went to Stephen King, and how even though I think of myself as having read a lot of his books, there are still plenty more to get to. So, without too much fuss or bother, I thought I’d share the ten Stephen King books that are highest on my Stephen King TBR list!

Note: While putting together this list, I realized that I’ve already read ALL of SK’s releases since 2009. Go, me! And I’m only include one Dark Tower book on my list, even though I actually have four from the series still to read. Because if I never get around to reading the next one (#4), why bother listing the ones that come later? I also realized that the reference list I was using for Stephen King books didn’t include his Richard Bachman books, so actually, there are even more SK works for me to get to! In any case, here are my ten priorities… for now.

1. The Dead Zone (1979)
2. Firestarter (1980)
3. Needful Things (1991)
4. Dolores Claiborne (1993)
5. The Dark Tower: Wizard and Glass (1997)
6. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999)
7. The Green Mile (2000)
8. Dreamcatcher (2001)
9. Lisey’s Story (2006)
10. Duma Key (2008)

If you’ve read any of the above –which one should I read first?

What’s your TTT topic this week? Share your links, and I’ll come check out your top 10!