The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

The House in the Cerulean Sea was such a heartwarming read. I think it was the combination of the writing voice and the characters that gave the book its charm (as the plot was a little predictable).

While reading, I could imagine myself in the main character’s (Linus Baker’s) shoes. I could imagine cold dreary morning and commutes in the rain… I could imagine falling in love with life outside the city—on an island with an ocean view and where the sun is always out. I felt like I was reading a fairy tale …that involved a whole lot of bureaucracy in its universe, and uptight rule following kind of life made me want to seek out color as well.

At first, I wasn’t sure I would like the book at all. I’ve read a few mid-life crisis kind of story, and none of them resonated with me. But this is the only one in which I actually liked the main character. Although an uptight rule follower, Linus Baker had a heart and simply needed a hug. Baker knew that he was part of a rigid system, but he did what he thought best to contribute positively to society. (But my favorite character was Lucy. I could imagine Lucy marching around and making all kinds of proclamations. I could hear Lucy’s voice—big and bold and adventurous.)

This is a quick feel-good read that’s perfect for people who like a little magic and enjoy some family-friendly fun.

People from My Neighbourhood by Hiromi Kawakami

People from My Neighbourhood was the perfect book to get me out of my slump. It’s a collection of micro-fiction, with each story only three pages. I read a few stories a day until I reached the end of the book. The format is in-a-reading-slump, have-no-time-to-read, and have-a-short-attention-span friendly. The physical book is so small, too, that it’s no problem taking it around.

The stories were always told in the second person. The narrator was the same throughout the book, so there was some consistency to the characters and the stories. Well, as consistent as neighborhood tales go—some of the stories were hearsay. The characters all lived in the same universe—neighborhood—so the stories, while independent, were interconnected.

I loved the neighborhood vibe of the whole collection. Since there were numerous stories, I was able to get to know the neighbors through the stories, and I could imagine myself being in the neighborhood as well. I’m hoping to find more books like this in the future!

The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers

Finally⁠—a Dave Eggers book I like better than The Circle, The Monk of Mokha is a biography of Mokhtar Alkhanshali that chronicles the experiences of a Yemeni-American and his obsession with coffee. Mokhtar’s story is inspiring⁠—in today’s practical world, it’s hard to take risks to follow one’s passion, but some people do it anyway.

The story was well-written, but the narration style was dry and objective. (This seems to be common across Eggers’s works.) The characters felt two dimensional. I couldn’t connect with them. I felt like I was reading a very well-crafted transcript of events. I wanted to feel emotions; I wanted to root for the characters, but I felt distant to them.

Of course, it all boils down to preference. Dave Eggers is a great writer, and his works raise awareness about human rights and political issues. (To come to think of it, his writing voice seems to be more objective than some journalists’ works, but I guess it’s hard to always be impartial nowadays.) For this reason, I think his books are worth reading, but I’ll probably stick to his non-fiction from now on.