ARCs Book Reviews

ARC Review: Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

Thank you to Tor Books and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! Under the Whispering Door goes on sale September 21, 2021.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: LGBTQIA+ Romance, Contemporary Fantasy
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: When a reaper comes to collect Wallace from his own funeral, Wallace begins to suspect he might be dead.

And when Hugo, the owner of a peculiar tea shop, promises to help him cross over, Wallace decides he’s definitely dead.

But even in death he’s not ready to abandon the life he barely lived, so when Wallace is given one week to cross over, he sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

Hilarious, haunting, and kind, Under the Whispering Door is an uplifting story about a life spent at the office and a death spent building a home.


My Review: Death means something different to everyone. Under the Whispering Door was a lot to take in and then formulate those twirling thoughts into some coherent form of a review. But here goes nothing:

Under the Whispering Door is thought-provoking with loads of questions from several characters dead or alive. Each seeks or has sought to understand (come to terms with) the new reality they find themselves in. But some questions just don’t have an answer. For some of the characters, things are what they are until they make that next choice. As with Wallace, I found myself engaged in retrospection with each new question and perspective proposed to Wallace.

Under the Whispering Door is depressing and sad (but not in a bad way, I’m just an emotional reader). Some chapters were harder to read than others. Raw, cutting emotions color those characters who find themselves “dead.” Even Hugo, the ferryman to the newly dead who come his way, can’t help but feel a shared agony for them. He has a big heart that makes him uniquely ideal for this line of work.

Under the Whispering Door is a home filled with the most delightful people you will ever meet. Wallace Price was a ruthless attorney and pragmatic ass when he was alive. As the story progresses, I grew more and more fond of him and was captivated by the ultimate transformation he undergoes. Hugo – sweet, benevolent sweet Hugo – is one of those rare individuals you’d be lucky to know and even luckier to call a friend. I loved Mei (Wallace’s reaper) and her energetic and sometimes brash demeanor. She’s a fascinating person who’ll always have your back. Nelson (Hugo’s grandfather) is hysterical, always bringing a certain lightness and wisdom to break the tension or delivering funny reality checks.

These characters were wonderful to get to know. They’re very well-rounded: flawed and real with such incredible emotional depth. I can’t imagine any other types of characters for this particular story.

Klune impressed me with how he wove this novel together. I really enjoy his writing style, humor, how he develops the plot/characters and makes me care greatly about everything going on. I highlighted a lot of great quotes and passages. There were various moments I didn’t expect or actions certain characters chose to take. I also liked the quiet, unassuming impact tea had on the story.

I was most surprised by Wallace and Hugo’s relationship, who also seemed surprised by what they felt for each other. It was beautiful. I loved seeing them together.

The climax had me on the edge of my seat! My emotions were high and all over the place. I was crying by the end – pleasantly surprised, incredibly moved, and oh-so happy.

Klune has once again crafted an outstanding and memorable novel. 5 stars!

More by TJ Klune

Tales From Verania
The Lightning-Struck Heart (#1)
A Destiny of Dragons (#2)
The Consumption of Magic (#3)
A Wish Upon the Stars (#4)

Green Creek
Wolfsong (#1)
Ravensong (#2)
Heartsong (#3)
Brothersong (#4)

The Extraordinaries
The Extraordinaries (#1)

The House in the Cerulean Sea

ARCs Book Reviews

ARC Review: Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala

Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire and NetGalley for the e-ARC to read and review! Be Dazzled goes on sale January 5, 2021.

Image via Goodreads

Genre: LGBTQIA+, Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: Who’s ready to sparkle??

Project Runway goes to Comic Con in an epic queer love story about creativity, passion, and finding the courage to be your most authentic self.

Raffy has a passion for bedazzling. Not just bedazzling, but sewing, stitching, draping, pattern making–for creation. He’s always chosen his art over everything–and everyone–else and is determined to make his mark at this year’s biggest cosplay competition. If he can wow there, it could lead to sponsorship, then art school, and finally earning real respect for his work. There’s only one small problem… Raffy’s ex-boyfriend, Luca, is his main competition.

Raffy tried to make it work with Luca. They almost made the perfect team last year after serendipitously meeting in the rhinestone aisle at the local craft store–or at least Raffy thought they did. But Luca’s insecurities and Raffy’s insistence on crafting perfection caused their relationship to crash and burn. Now, Raffy is after the perfect comeback, one that Luca can’t ruin.

But when Raffy is forced to partner with Luca on his most ambitious build yet, he’ll have to juggle unresolved feelings for the boy who broke his heart, and his own intense self-doubt, to get everything he’s ever wanted: choosing his art, his way.


My Review: Oh my stars!: Be Dazzled has to be the most passionate book I’ve ever read!

Raffy is a talented cosplay artist who just wants his craft to be acknowledged. He always works relentlessly to create the perfect look because anything less is not enough – he is not enough.

Raffy and Luca were an absolute joy. It’s almost painful how relatable they are.

Both characters experience feelings of inadequacy and earning your parents’ respect/support by living up to expectations that differ from their dreams. Raffy’s mother is a highly respected artist and gallery director, so she has a very fixed idea of what art is. There’s so much tension between Raffy and his mother who he often refers to by her first name, Evie. Luca’s parents’ want him to stick with masculine and heterosexual norms whilst refusing to acknowledge anything to the contrary.

There’s also the all-consuming need of perfectionism, which causes Raffy to focus more on the end results (winning the cosplay competition at Controverse) than on the journey (having fun making things). By contrast, Luca tends to go with the flow but respects the process. I loved how Luca’s chaotic presence challenges Raffy’s control.

But most of all, it’s having to hide your true, authentic self, which is why Raffy and Luca had to be extremely careful as their relationship progressed into something more. For Raffy, it’s his mother’s harsh vehemence for anything she doesn’t consider as “real” art (i.e., crafting). This tends to set Raffy’s anxiety aflame and drives him to work nonstop. For Luca, it’s his parent’s toxic masculinity. Luca fears coming out, which often causes strife in his relationship with Raffy. Sometimes even lashing out at Raffy. It hurt to see them struggle with who they’re expected to be and who they want to be. They simply want to create a future on their own terms.

Be Dazzled is a celebration of art, queerness and geekiness. There’s cosplay, anime and other nerdy references that warm my heart. I wish I had an art studio like the one at Raffy’s house that his mother made for visiting artists. I’ve never been to the type of convention or seen a competition like the ones in the story, but the author brings it to life so well. Rules are clearly explained in a way that it doesn’t feel like an info-dump. I loved the shared excitement about the endless possibilities in creating something new – you always put a part of yourself in anything you make. And I loved the chaotic wonder of true love between Raffy and Luca.

Be Dazzled was a lot of fun even if I was anxious for a good portion of the book. I highly recommend it to everyone.