A Review of Good Omens and The House in the Cerulean Sea
Story Reviews #1
Little Note: Hi there! Sorry for the lack of posts in January; I fell into a bit of a writing slump, among other life events happening that have also required my attention. I’m just including a quick note here that I’m starting to post my book/story reviews here, as I’m sure you can see from the title of this post! I started writing reviews last year and haven’t gotten up enough courage to share them anywhere until now, sooo… here I go!
Moving forward, I plan to be posting a mixture of my book/story reviews, word lists, random research dives, links and loves, etc. (The general nerdery, just with some added book reviews because I read almost constantly and have opinions about all that reading!😅)
Anyway, hope you’re having a splendid day and that you enjoy the book nerdery below!
Stories Reviewed Today:
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
TLDR: I love them. If you enjoy heartwarming, kind of kooky stories with lots of charming characters and overall hopeful messages, I’d give these books a try. These are the first two books I could ever point to as my favorite books (and I have read a LOT of books I’ve liked), if that tells you anything.
Background and Introduction
I’m starting the first of my book reviews off with what were my first ever two favorite books.
For some background info, I literally could never point to my absolute favorite book until Good Omens. I could gesture vaguely at my favorite series for a while. I could flail my arms wildly at maybe my favorite books in those series. But never could I hold up a book and declare it to be my favorite one single book.
Please note that I'm shying away from the term “best” here.
People will have different ideas of what is “good” or “best” in a book. Everyone's book tastes are as unique as their fingerprints; you might enjoy a lot of the same books as someone else, but you won't have the *exact* same taste as anyone else.
That being said, I'll address things as my “favorite.” You can enjoy a book and it be your “favorite” without thinking it’s the best book ever or it being the “best” book objectively.
Honestly, you can also enjoy something without it necessarily being “good” as well. (This tends to be where the term “guilty pleasure” kicks in.) But just because you like it doesn't mean it has to be objectively “good.” You can just like it, simple as that.
Anyway, flash forward my entire reading life to sometime in December of 2020.
Freezeframe: I’m pouring over Good Omens. There it is. This is the moment, somewhere well before page 100, that I stop and literally say out loud to no one in particular in an empty room, “I have a favorite book now.”
And as I finish this delightful 474-page* book, I savor the fact that I finally can excitedly point towards my favorite book.
*My copy, that is. (Page number does not include the twenty extra pages of interview material at the back.)
This is the one! As you can see, I have the Aziraphale version instead of the Crowley version, even though the Crowley one is also lovely!
Photo credit: Me :)
And then I start hearing about The House in the Cerulean Sea. I see it cropping up all over Pinterest and web page ads. The cover is right up my alley. The title? Intriguing. The font? Yes, please.
Then it's at the bookstore. Obviously I pick it up. The book blurb looks splendid. I want it. My husband asks if I need it. Surely I do.
I start it that night. I finish it the next morning. Somewhere around the time the birds start singing a bit before the sun comes up. Is it 4 AM? 5?
And the entire time I'm reading it, I'm delighted, like I was with Good Omens. Am I, dare I say, more delighted? I find myself wondering if this is now my favorite book.
How is it that I go my entire reading life not having a solid favorite book to suddenly having two books wrestling for that title? What is this?
When I finish The House in the Cerulean Sea, I pause and sigh. And think something along the lines of: "Wow. That was the coziest thing I have ever read. I think I still love Good Omens more, but am I sure? I dunno."
I flip-flopped on that particular question for a while, having also rewatched the Good Omens Netflix adaptation three full times (five partial times with friends or family members) and reread The House a few months back.
Regardless, these are both books I will read over and over. I go back to reread my favorite scenes from both when I need a pick-me-up!
The coziest scenes. The funniest ones. The softest.
Just, the way these three writers craft phrases and sentences is so stunning. Quirky and wry and slightly coy and lovely.
Well… I suppose I should actually talk about the stories themselves now.
Let's start with the one that started it all: Good Omens.
The book summary on the back cover is one of those that is incredibly vague but also true, as book summaries so often are. If I hadn't made up my mind that I wanted to read the book before I read the summary, this book blurb probably wouldn't have made me want to read it with how vague it was.
Also, the blurb tells me the book is about the Apocalypse, and I tend to hate apocalyptic stories, especially the post-kind.
So it might be a miracle I even wanted to read this. (I can't tell you how much I debated tacking on “demonic” in front there in honor of our boi Crowley’s “demonic miracle of his own.”😭😂)
In all seriousness (lol), yes, the main plot of this book boils down to a very bookish, rule-following angel and a rather sweet, devil-may-care demon trying to avert the Apocalypse. (I have a fun fact about that phrase for another day!)
But beyond that, there is SO. MUCH. PLOT.
We have the underlying politics/not-yet-war going on between Heaven and Hell. Then there’s the 6,000 years of Aziraphale and Crowley sooo-not-fraternizing-with-the-enemy. We have the Them’s neighborhood adventures. We’ve got technology-destroying Newt and Professional Descendant Anathema both coming in with Agnes Nutter's nice and accurate prophecies coming to fruition. The list goes on.
The book is chock full of everything.
Ever since reading Rick Riordan's books, I’ve had a thing for books with swapping narrators. So the fact that Good Omens is told from multiple characters' points of view was one of my favorite aspects of the storytelling in this book.
This book always has one narrator (a third-person omniscient perspective), but the narrator switches focus, jumping around to each character in a way that feels very similar to the way Riordan's chapters leap frog from character to character. The narrator is so stinking cool and just shows why Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s works are so highly regarded.
We follow a massive cast of characters through this charmer. This is immediately apparent from the first few pages of the book, which present a cast of characters list (dramatis personae) the way plays do. This was also the first (of many!) charming things that pulled me into the book.
I started giggling as soon as I got to Crowley’s descriptor of “An Angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards” (Pratchett and Gaiman 7). I went back to the book to make sure I had that wording right and oh gosh, now I’m rereading the book yet again 😂
I won't give more away. If any of that sounded appealing, read it! It’s lovely! 💖
… Or watch the show and it might make you want to read the book. I didn’t end up getting into the book or show until I started seeing ✨beautiful✨ fanart on Pinterest, so thank you to all those wonderful artists for showing me the light!
I wanted to watch the show (because it looked delightful), but I read the book first, and ended up watching the show a year after it came out. I also just rewatched not long ago recently because it's an absolute comfort show for me. I swear, the ending always makes me smile so much.
The House in the Cerulean Sea
Now let’s turn to The House in the Cerulean Sea.
This was a strong comfort read for me. Compared to Good Omens, it’s cozier and has more sweet, romantic scenes.
There is romance in Good Omens, do not get me wrong. To paraphrase Michael Sheen, who plays an absolutely brilliant Aziraphale, Good Omens is a love story. We have several love stories (of varying types of love) in the book, but at its heart, Good Omens tells the story of how much an angel and a demon adore the human world and each other.
However, when I say that The House has more romantic scenes, I mean that there are more traditionally rom-com types of scenes. The hand inching closer type. Tips of the shoes touching type. Eyes meeting then flitting away type.
My kind of story involves a timid main character who follows the rules but gets gradually braver as the story goes on, simply because they care so much and want to do what's right. Throw in a cup of unique and apt phrasing. Then a dash of lush setting descriptions and another heaping cup of adorable love story. Add a tablespoon of magic and mystery, with a teaspoon of adventure. Then a pinch each of some justice and a happy ending. And… bake until you get this book!
This is what The House in Cerulean Sea gave me. It is absolutely the coziest read I've ever come across so far in my somehow-long-but-also-short life as a reader. The book made me ridiculously happy from the first page to the last, which is why I stayed up until nearly dawn to finish it on the first read.
The plot follows protagonist Linus Baker being summoned to check on an island orphanage's magical charges and the head of the orphanage, Arthur Parnassus. Linus's task: Find out if these kids are a danger to the world, specifically if one in particular is going to destroy the world.
So somehow my two favorite books involve the Apocalypse, despite me thinking I hate world-ending books. Hmm.
As the book chugs along, we get to watch Linus grow closer to the inhabitants of the house on the sea. And we see Linus bloom and grow into who he was meant to be. Literally everybody blooms and grows because of each other in this book and it's so sweet, I can't.
Perhaps part of why choosing a favorite between The House in the Cerulean Sea and Good Omens is challenging is because The House is a story in a similar vein to Good Omens, just cozier. (And I love cozy!)
Both books give me the same things: Odd, quirky phrasing. Lovable characters who actually care. Mysterious plot lines woven together. An overall happy ending.
I realized I adored this kind of writing style when reading G. K. Chesterton's mysteries in high school, first The Man Who Was Thursday, then the Father Brown Mysteries. It wasn't until I got to Good Omens and The House in the Cerulean Sea that this love really solidified into “Oh, this is the kind of writing I want.”
I enjoy so many different kinds of books and writing styles. The humor and storytelling of Rick Riordan; the heartfelt, gorgeous dialogue of Rainbow Rowell; the poignant insight and humor from Alice Oseman; the list goes on. There are certain ways of phrasing sentences that hit me and stick with me. Those are the kinds of phrases I get from all these writers: Gaiman, Pratchett, Klune, Rowell, Riordan, Oseman.
Though I never expected two books relating to the Apocalypse* to take up such a place in my heart.
*The House is only roughly related to the Apocalypse, whereas Good Omens takes place partly during the Apocalypse.
Both stories involve a very positive, very human (and by the that, I mean doggedly hopeful, perhaps stubborn, and overall, quite good) interpretation of the Antichrist as a character. I had always heard that title and been like, “oh dear, that's bad” in a very Aziraphale-ish fretful way, but these books present the Antichrist in a free will kind of way that I find really touching and beautiful.
There's a line somewhere in The House about not judging Lucy (the oldies-loving six-year-old who happens to be the Antichrist) based on who his father is. There's a similar message in Good Omens. (Just because someone related to you is bad, doesn't mean you are by extension.)
These books both challenge stereotypes and involve a lot of thought-provoking dialogue, with Good Omens doing it in a more humorous way and The House in a more heartfelt way (sometimes to the point of being a little farfetched and cheesy though).
According to a review from **Shelf Awareness of The House in the Cerulean Sea, this book is "quite possibly the greatest feel-good story ever to involve the Antichrist.”
I find that this incredibly apt statement also applies very well to Good Omens. All I'm going to say is we have two sweet characters in each book who happen to be capable of destroying the world if they so will it.
There's me pouring my heart out about some fictional characters. It will happen again.
These books are both definitely 5 out of 5 stars for me.
You really can’t go wrong with stories from the same authors, honestly, but the best book I’d recommend that blends elements from Good Omens and The House is TJ Klune’s Under the Whispering Door. You get his same writing style and heartwarming relationships, along with some darker elements and instances of trying to change the way the world works from the bottom up like in Good Omens.
Honorable mentions include: Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and Tiffany Aching series
Thanks so much for stopping by! If you liked this review, feel free to give it a like or even subscribe if you wanna see what I’ll do next.
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Most of all, I hope you have a day as wonderful as you are!
Works Cited (MLA 9th)
Gaiman, Neil, and Terry Pratchett. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. William Morrow, 2019.
**Alright, so this quote appears on the inside cover of my copy of The House in the Cerulean Sea. When I search for this quote online to properly cite it, the best link I get to is this one on Shelf Awareness. (You have to scroll to the bottom of the page to find the review.) However, it seems the writer is Jaclyn Fulwood at Infinite Reads, but I cannot find any mention or working link to adequately attribute if the quote does go to her, or where to find her original review if Shelf Awareness is not the original site where the review was posted. So, my citation follows what the marketing (and/or editing?) team did for the inside cover of my copy of the book, attributing the quote to Shelf Awareness. I did my best with this one, but there isn’t much information to build a citation with based on the website I found.
“Review: The House in the Cerulean Sea.” Shelf Awareness, Shelf Awareness, https://shelf-awareness.com/issue.html?issue=3686#m47616.
So glad you are posting again! Your reviews definitely make me want to read such treasures. I loved Gaiman’s Neverwhere”, and I liked what I saw of an episode of “Good Omens,” so I’m feeling left out having not read it yet. LOL. 😂