Bite-Sized Reviews of XOXO, The House in the Cerulean Sea, Greta’s Story, and The Beast Player

August 12, 2021 Reviews 7

Today, I have a YA contemp, a MG (YA? Adult?) contemporary fantasy, a MG biography, and a YA fantasy! I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!


Bite-Sized Reviews of XOXO, The House in the Cerulean Sea, Greta’s Story, and The Beast PlayerXOXO by Axie Oh
Published by HarperTeen on 7/13/21
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Source: NetGalley
Cover Artist: Zipcy
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing)
My rating:
4.5 Stars

Cello prodigy Jenny has one goal: to get into a prestigious music conservatory. When she meets mysterious, handsome Jaewoo in her uncle’s Los Angeles karaoke bar, it’s clear he’s the kind of boy who would uproot her careful plans. But in a moment of spontaneity, she allows him to pull her out of her comfort zone for one unforgettable night of adventure…before he disappears without a word.

Three months later, when Jenny and her mother arrive in South Korea to take care of her ailing grandmother, she’s shocked to discover that Jaewoo is a student at the same elite arts academy where she’s enrolled for the semester. And he’s not just any student. He’s a member of one of the biggest K-pop bands in the world—and he’s strictly forbidden from dating.

When a relationship means throwing Jenny’s life off the path she’s spent years mapping out, she’ll have to decide once and for all just how much she’s willing to risk for love.

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This is the type of book that makes you so happy you don’t want to put the book down. I happily read it in two sittings. The story follows Jenny, who has always been focused on her music and getting into an elite school so she can succeed in a career playing cello. When her uncle suggests that she just might need to live a little if she wants more passion in her music, she ends up going out on a limb with a mysterious Korean boy named Jaewoo and has one fantastic night she can’t forget. Fast-forward a few months and Jenny finds herself in Seoul at the very same performing arts high school that the boy goes to—and she discovers he’s an idol, a member of the K-Pop band XOXO. Jenny and Jaewoo both learn a few lessons in taking chances and living life to the fullest. I love how Jenny has to balance allowing time for herself (and Jaewoo) without letting it overcome her dreams and aspirations as a musician. This is something that many teens face as they work hard toward a goal (and there’s LOTS of pressure to succeed in high school). Both Jenny and Jaewoo are also dealing with life without their dads (Jenny because of death, and Jaewoo due to divorce), so that theme of loss is prevalent throughout the book, but it definitely doesn’t weigh the story down. Friendship is another wonderful theme, and I honestly loved each and every one of Jenny’s friends in this book. Overall, this is a light, fun romance with just the right touch of drama. Highly recommend!

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***


Bite-Sized Reviews of XOXO, The House in the Cerulean Sea, Greta’s Story, and The Beast PlayerThe House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
Published by Macmillan Audio on 3/16/20
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Young Adult
Pages: 398
Narrator: Daniel Henning
Length: 12 hours and 12 minutes
Source: Library
Cover Artist: Chris Sickels
My content rating: All Ages? (Hint of romance with nothing more than kissing, Very mild violence)
My rating:
5 Stars

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.

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I’d heard amazing things about this book, so I was eager to listen to the audiobook when I saw it was available on Hoopla. Boy, was I glad I listened to my blogger friends. This book is incredible! First of all, let me say that I’m not exactly sure what age group to categorize this book as. The MC is a 40-year-old man, but the humorous voice, child cast, and heartfelt storyline (and adorable cover) all say middle grade to me. I’ve seen some people call the book YA, as well, perhaps because of the touch of (LGBT) romance and a couple of instances of very mild swearing, but I think it’s just a sort of nebulous book that could (and should) be enjoyed by all ages. My teenage son listened to the book as well, and he loved it!

The humorous voice and frumpy MC give the book an almost-British feel, but the book takes place in a fantasy world where magical people of all types (gnomes, sprites, werewolves, and other various “monsters”) are deemed as somewhat dangerous. They spend their lives being monitored, starting with the Department of Magical Youth. The book puts a spotlight on differences of all kinds and the ways that society judges people they don’t understand. The story is full of both micro- and macroaggressions towards the magical children. But because of the light tone, the book never feels preachy or overwrought. I loved every character in this book, and Daniel Henning’s narration was delightful. Writing this review, I honestly want to listen to the whole book all over again! I can’t think of any higher praise than that.


Bite-Sized Reviews of XOXO, The House in the Cerulean Sea, Greta’s Story, and The Beast PlayerGreta's Story: The Schoolgirl Who Went on Strike to Save the Planet by Valentina Camerini
Illustrator: Veronica Carratello
Published by Aladdin on 11/26/19
Genres: Middle Grade, Non-Fiction
Pages: 144
Source: The Publisher
Translator: Moreno Giovannoni
My content rating: MG
My rating:
3.5 Stars

The inspiring true story of a Greta Thunberg, a young eco-activist whose persistence sparked a global movement.

You are never too young to make a difference.

Ever since she learned about climate change, Greta Thunberg couldn’t understand why politicians weren’t treating it as an emergency. In August 2018, temperatures in Sweden reached record highs, fires raged across the country, and fifteen-year-old Greta decided to stop waiting for political leaders to take action. Instead of going to school on Friday, she made a sign and went on strike in front of Stockholm’s parliament building.

Greta’s solo protest grew into the global Fridays for Future—or School Strike 4 Climate—movement, which millions have now joined. She has spoken at COP24 (the UN summit on climate change) and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. This timely, unofficial biography is her story, but also that of many others around the world willing to fight against the indifference of the powerful for a better future.

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This non-fiction account of Greta Thunberg’s story teaches kids that they can make a difference in the world, if only they employ some determination and persistence. Kids find Greta inspiring, and the book will drive readers to find ways to preserve the health of our environment—Greta’s passion is sure to rub off on readers once they understand why she feels so strongly that conservation is a task for each and every individual. While Greta’s actions were extreme and some adult readers might take issue with Greta’s extended strike from school, kids will hopefully be inspired to stand up for the earth in smaller ways as well, and they will see that their actions can have impact. The story has been translated from the original Italian and is told somewhat simplistically (it feels like it’s geared toward younger MG readers to me), but it’s a great introduction to an influential teen!

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***


Bite-Sized Reviews of XOXO, The House in the Cerulean Sea, Greta’s Story, and The Beast PlayerThe Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi
Illustrator: Yuta Onoda
Published by Henry Holt & Company on 3/26/19
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Source: NetGalley
Translator: Cathy Hirano
My content rating: YA (Some violence, No romance)
My rating:
4 Stars

In epic YA fantasy about a girl with a special power to communicate with magical beasts and the warring kingdom only she can save.

Elin's family has an important responsibility: caring for the fearsome water serpents that form the core of their kingdom's army. So when some of the beasts mysteriously die, Elin's mother is sentenced to death as punishment. With her last breath she manages to send her daughter to safety.

Alone, far from home, Elin soon discovers that she can talk to both the terrifying water serpents and the majestic flying beasts that guard her queen. This skill gives her great powers, but it also involves her in deadly plots that could cost her life. Can she save herself and prevent her beloved beasts from being used as tools of war? Or is there no way of escaping the terrible battles to come?

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This Japanese novel in translation will appeal to anime and manga fans but also to anyone who loves epic fantasy and fantastical beasts. Before Elin’s mother is killed by vicious sea serpents, she saves Elin’s life with a mysterious whistling song and makes Elin swear to never repeat it because the act is a mortal sin. Elin spends many years wondering what her mother could have possibly meant, especially after she realizes that she can communicate with beasts herself. Elin has to uncover the mysteries of her heritage and discover why they believe that communication with the beasts is wrong and will lead to disaster—and then she must decide whether or not to stop. I loved the questions of identity that Elin wrestled with, and I absolutely adored her bond with the Royal Beast that she comes to love. The relationship is complicated and dangerous because her beloved beast is never a pet, always wild. A major theme of the book is our relationship with wildlife and our responsibilities toward them. I loved the way the mysteries of the past were unraveled, and I even ended up liking the political aspects of the book (which is unusual for me). And even though this book gave us a satisfying ending I’m eager to read the next book in the duology (which takes us ten years into the future) to find out what happens next with Elin.

***Disclosure: I received these books from the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***


That’s it for now! Have you read any of these? What did you think? I wanna know!

7 Responses to “Bite-Sized Reviews of XOXO, The House in the Cerulean Sea, Greta’s Story, and The Beast Player”

  1. Sam@WLABB

    You really summed up what was so great about XOXO. I couldn’t fight the smile as I read it. A delight! You are now on the LONG list of people who have loved the Klune book. I really need to read it.

  2. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    WELL, guess I need to read The House in the Cerulean Sea ASAP then, eh? I actually have his next one for review, so to be fair, I will probably do that first, but then I need to procure this one! XOXO sounds really good too, I will need to add it to my list as well. I should pick up Greta for the kids, too. Great reviews!

    Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight recently posted: Reviews in a Minute: August Adventures
  3. Nicole @ BookWyrm Knits

    I’ve been curious about XOXO but hadn’t decided on it yet. Your review makes it sound like the perfect kind of book to read right now, though!

    I loved The House in the Cerulean Sea when I read the ebook last year, but now I want to buy the audiobook so I can read it all over again in a new way. Thanks for the reviews!

    Nicole @ BookWyrm Knits recently posted: Top Ten Tuesday ~ Favorite Places to Read
  4. Lisa Mandina (Lisa Loves Literature)

    XOXO is on my TBR, glad to hear it was so good! We had a teacher come into my last library and say that The House in the Cerulean Sea was one we needed in the library, so hopefully they’ll order it this year! I’m going to make sure to get it for my new library. Great reviews! Thanks for sharing! Sorry it took me so long to get around and comment, this new school library is really running me ragged so far!

    Lisa Mandina (Lisa Loves Literature) recently posted: The DNF Report #8: May – July of 2021

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