A barrier is stopping you from entering The Pond – what’s going on?! [We’re on mini-hiatus!]

Tonight seems like a good night to be at the Pond.

After all, you’re thinking that you quite miss your little pond friends, and that you really haven’t had a chance to meet the others. (You’ve only really had a chance to meet and talk to Xialong, the Axolotl and Keeper of Magic at the Pond, but you’re keen on meeting Gen and Varian, or possibly Amina, if she’s around!)

You follow the path through the forest, finding the little purple flowers Xiaolong had planted for you to mark the Pond’s entrance, when suddenly —

You walk into … a barrier? It isn’t solid like a glass window and it definitely didn’t hurt when you walked into it. How strange! You put your hand out towards it, and you feel something — soft, silky, and kind of squishy, like you’re pushing against a big invisible pillow.

Before you give walking through the barrier another go, you hear a voice, though it sounds muted and far away.

“Friend!”

You look around, confused. It sounded a little bit like Xiaolong! But it’s only you in the forest, it seems, and the little pink axolotl is no where in sight.

“Down here!”

You look down, seeing nothing but forest and greenery, but after concentrating very intently (what was that thing that Xiaolong always said? ‘Search with your heart and not your eyes?’), you see a faint outline of Xiaolong. Only except, she looks a little different. Is she on the other side of the barrier? What’s going on?

“I’m sorry friend, you can’t visit us right now.” You can barely make out her voice, so you crouch down to listen a bit better, as if she is right next to you. “The source of the Pond’s magic has been severed, and everyone here is trying to fix it.” She sounds rather sad, and you can imagine that her bright gills are droopy. “I’m going to miss you friend, but, please come back another time. We’re going to fix the magic as soon as possible!”

Good morning, afternoon, and evening my friends.

We’re on a short hiatus!

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The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin – A paragon of SFF worldbuilding and storytelling

The moment you step through the boundary and enter The Pond, you feel a tremor in the earth. Alert, you run towards the pond, worried that your little pond friends may be hurt or afraid of the earthquake. But as you approach, you can feel the crackle of magic in the air and things don’t seem frantic, just its usual calm. Less worried and now curious, you call out for your pond friends.

“Over here, friend!” you hear a voice call out.

You follow the voice and see a little mess by the Pond; its usual terrain is uneven and you see tiny oval-shaped prints on the dirt. By the water, you see Xiaolong standing with her arms held up for balance. She raises her little foot, and the moment her foot meets the ground – ruuuuuumbleeeeee! The ground beneath you shakes and you have to steady yourself. Xiaolong giggles in delight.
Xiaolong the axolotl, her arms raised by her sides, feet apart; her left foot has created the earth to tremor and rise (casting earth-magic).
“Hi friend!” she says, scurrying over to you (and thankfully not causing mini-earthquakes with every step). “I just read the most amazing book and when I told Varian about it, they taught me this earth-magic spell. Look what I can do!” She readies her stance again, arms wide, determined face, lifts her foot, and stomps! The earth shakes, and the earth rises around her tiny foot. Again, she giggles, happy to feel the magic within the earth.

You tell her that it’s a great spell (and also a little terrifying), but what you are really curious about is this book that inspired her.

“Oh, of course!” she says. She picks up her staff, and with a wave of her staff and a grumble from the earth, the pond’s terrain rights and evens itself out. “I think this may be one of the most unique and inspiring books I’ve read, friend! It’s called, The Fifth Season…

Text: THE FIFTH SEASON by N.K. Jemisin. Round 'button' on bottom-right showing

Summary:

This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

My review:

The Fifth Season is the sort of book where its reputation precedes itself. This was indeed the case for me; I had heard nothing but unanimous and high praises for this book (indeed, each book of the trilogy has won the Hugo Award for Best Novel three years in a ROW), for its worldbuilding, writing, storytelling, and its compelling story. After joining the ranks of fans of this trilogy and experiencing withdrawal after finishing this book so intense that I laid in bed and ruminated about the story – what can I say? Everyone was right. The Fifth Season is brilliant.

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Interested in joining The Quiet Pond? We want you and your magic!

“Friend.”

You look down and see Xiaolong tugging gently at your pants. Her bright pink gills are a little droopy today, so you ask her what is wrong.

“I love looking after the pond here, but sometimes it gets tiring looking after everyone. And there’s just so much magic here and so much to share, that I don’t think I can do it alone.” She plops down onto the ground, putting her staff down, and rubs at her pink gills. You sit next to her. “Do you know if any magical beings who might want to call the pond at home? I’d even share my xiaolongbao with them.”

You think quietly to yourself for a moment. “I don’t,” you say, “but let’s look for them together.”

Warm hellos, hugs, or hi-fives to you, friends!

For a long time now, I’ve considered the idea of co-blogging. Blogging can be a very lonely experience; I blogged for five years by myself, and although blogging was indeed rewarding, there were times where I felt alone in my blogging journey. I had a good talk with Jeann from Happy Indulgence months ago, and she shared with me her experiences of having a co-blogger — someone to help you out, alleviate the pressure of blogging, can support you and you them, and someone who could share all the joys of blogging with you. As much as I like to work independently, I want to give co-blogging a go; I want someone to join the Pond with me.

If you’re interested, read on!

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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – Well, I cried my eyes out reading this

“Where’s Xiaolong?” you ask, looking for your little axolotl friend.

Varian the Toadshifter looks up at you from their sewing. “Ah, Xiaolong is very sad today.” You ask why, wondering what in the world could make Xiaolong, usually so chipper and happy, so sad! “She read a book,” is all Varian says, and they point in the direction of the pond.

You follow Varian’s webbed finger and, indeed, you see the bright pink of Xiaolong’s gills poking out from behind the brush. As you approach, you hear her sniffling and hiccuping.

Xiaolong the axolotl, wearing an upside down flower hat, holding a book to her chest and crying loudly.Xiaolong looks up at you when you approach, her eyes glistening with tears and her eyes puffy. “Hello friend,” she says, her gills a little droopy. “I just read such an amazing book.” You ask her why she is crying. “The best books are the ones that move your heart and this one moved mine so much.” She starts sobbing again.

“Maybe I should come back another time?” you ask, not wanting to invade her space.

“No!” she exclaims even louder, jumping to her feet. “I must tell you about this book! Because I think you will love it!” she says, tears streaming down her face. You ask her about the book and hand her some tissues – just in case. She takes the tissues from you, dabs her eyes, and with a big inhale says, “So, this book is called The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo…

Summary:

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

My review:

Whilst Reid’s previous books explored the lives of ordinary everyday women and the mundane but significant turning points in their lives, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo dives into the extraordinary, grand, and tumultuous life of infamous bombshell classic actress, Evelyn Hugo. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was significantly different to her other books, but what I did not expect was that I would come to love The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo so, so much. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is Reid’s best book yet.

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Jade City by Fonda Lee – Asian-influenced urban fantasy + martial art + magical jade = the most amazing book I’ve read

Xiaolong the axolotl holding her arms up, with green, glowing, and sparkly jade bangles on her wrists.

Xiaolong waddles to you, holding a thick green book and her staff in her little hands.

“Friend!” she calls, her eyes twinkling and her pink gills perky. “I just read the most amazing book. But before I tell you about it, look at the spell I came up with!”

She puts down the book, and waves her staff once clockwise, then counter-clockwise, and POOF!

Xiaolong the axolotl, wearing jade bangles and punching the air with her right arm.

With a puff of smoke and golden sparkle-dust, two perfectly fitting jade bangles appear around Xiaolong’s wrists! She throws a punch once (though her little hands don’t have much reach; she is a spellcaster, not a martial artist, after all!), then twice, and next she’s doing a quick succession of jabs, the jade bangles crackling with power.

Scared that she might hurt herself (or you), you ask her, “So… what is this book about?”

She stops, blinks up at you. “Oh yes friend! Thank you for reminding me.” Xiaolong plops onto the ground next to the book, still wearing her jade bangles, and holds the book’s cover out for you to see. “So, this book is called Jade City…”

Text: JADE CITY, Fonda Lee. Round 'button' on bottom-right showing
Summary:

FAMILY IS DUTY. MAGIC IS POWER. HONOR IS EVERYTHING.

Magical jade—mined, traded, stolen, and killed for—is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. For centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion.

Now the war is over and a new generation of Kauls vies for control of Kekon’s bustling capital city. They care about nothing but protecting their own, cornering the jade market, and defending the districts under their protection. Ancient tradition has little place in this rapidly changing nation.

When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone—even foreigners—wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones—from their grandest patriarch to the lowliest motorcycle runner on the streets—and of Kekon itself.

Jade City begins an epic tale of family, honor, and those who live and die by the ancient laws of jade and blood.

My review:

Jade City is an Asian-influenced urban fantasy that pays homage to gangster dramas, and has elements of wuxia. But it’s more than just that – Jade City is a masterpiece that has everything from gripping fights between powerful warriors called Green Bones, to the politics of war, territory battles and family, to the tender moments of love, dedication, honour, and loss.

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Meet the Inhabitants of The Quiet Pond!

“What do you mean, old friend?” you ask the axolotl. You have many questions after what you’ve just seen – a gardening tortoise? a frog sewing? a talking axolotl? – but you feel a familiarity here, and hearing ‘old friend’ tugs at your heart.

The axolotl tilts her head, the flower hat sliding off-center. “The pond is magic,” she says, “and only people with goodness and curiosity in their hearts can visit us. A lot of friends and strangers visit, but sometimes they forget about the magic in their hearts. So, the pond’s magic pulls people here to remind them of that magic in them.”

You aren’t quite sure what to say to that but the axolotl just smiles and nods knowingly. “You are here, and that’s all that matters. But, I want to introduce you to everyone, just in case.” She turns back towards the pond, a bounce in her step. “Gen! Varian! Come and meet our friend!”

Who are the inhabitants at The Quiet Pond, and what kind of magic do they do here at The Pond? Thankfully Xiaolong loves making introductions! Don’t be shy and say hello.

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Welcome to The Quiet Pond, old friend

It is a quiet night. Unusual, you think, because you had expected that a forest this dense would be teeming with nightly music. And yet, you are here, trying to find its heart rather than escape it. You wonder, why you are here of all places. Shouldn’t you be at home, in bed, reading the pile of unread books waiting for you on your shelf? But before the question can falter you, the moonlit path on the forest’s floor seems to glow a little brighter, encouraging you to continue on.

Ahead, you see a clearing and you catch the twinkle of the moon’s wobbly reflection. As you approach, a feeling – a memory? – plucks a cord in your heart. You stop in your tracks, trying to grasp at the wisp of memory, but it’s gone. Left behind is an afterglow of familiarity; the feeling of coming home after a long journey away.

But wait! You realise you have found a pond, of some sorts. It illuminates a purple glow in the night, and you know, somehow, that it is powerful but also… kind. A scuffle of green and purple foliage draws your attention to a tortoise tending to some herbs over there, and then there’s a frog sewing a costume by the water over there. Strangest of all is a little axolotl wearing a little flower on its head – reading a book? Perhaps sensing you, the axolotl turns around and, seeing you, gives you a big goofy smile. The axolotl picks up a stick a little bigger than it is, and waddles over to your feet, smiling all the while.

“Good, you made it! I’ve been waiting for you,” the axolotl says, her voice small but certain. “I thought I sensed a good and kind heart cross the boundary. Welcome to The Quiet Pond, old friend.”


Hello friends, and warmest welcomes to my new blog, The Quiet Pond!

What is The Quiet Pond?

The Quiet Pond is book blog with a narrative. Here, you’ll find book reviews, book recommendations, and the occasional discussion post and art. It is a blend of fantasy, the magic of curiosity, compassion and pond animals — and you will get to know the pond’s inhabitants soon enough! ✨

So friend, what can you expect from The Quiet Pond? Read More »