Welcome, friends, to the Pond’s very first Monthly Wrap-Up!
The Quiet Pond‘s biggest endeavour has always been to deliver the best content – whether it be book reviews, book recommendations, or interesting guest features. Something that occurred to me, though, was that because we are always so busy writing up content, showcasing cool books or cool people, we never really have the opportunity to write posts that would enable you to connect with us and get to know us. So let’s change that, starting with this post!
Joce, Skye, and I were having one of our little chats around the Pond, and we feel that a way to make The Quiet Pond feel more like us is to share monthly wrap-up posts! I’ve never done wrap-up posts on my book blog, but I think it’s a fun way to share with you all what we are reading and our thoughts. After all, we love talking about cool books that we’re reading, and a monthly wrap-up post will allow us to do just that!
We’re still a little new to wrap-up posts, so it would be lovely to see how our wrap-up posts change and grow over time as we figure out what works best for us. I hope you all enjoy this wrap-up post – and if you read a book that we have read or if you want to recommend us a book that you read in August and loved, let us know in the comments!
CW’s August Wrap-Up
Books I Read In August
Looking at the books that I read in August, one thing is apparently clear: if it wasn’t for audiobooks, I would not be a reader today. So thank goodness for audiobooks! (I should probably draw Xiaolong listening to an audiobook, hahaha.)
I actually had a fantastic reading month in August where most of the books I read were books that I enjoyed – and that doesn’t happen often! So I’m reveling in it while I can.
Running by Natalia Sylvester
I started August with a bang and a new favourite book to add to my ‘2020 favourites’ list! Running is spectacular, and the kind of political YA book that everyone should read. I loved this book’s exploration of family, privacy, and the courage and implications of being brave and standing up for what you believe in. A phenomenal book.
The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf
I love Hanna Alkaf’s work, and being a diaspora Malaysian, her writing always feels so homely and nostalgic to me. The Girl and the Ghost is no different; I loved this book with my whole heart. I loved how spooky it was, how hard-hitting it was in how it explored family, friendship, and revenge. I highly recommend this middle-grade book. (Thank you to Hanna for getting an eARC to us South-East Asian readers!)
Mindy Kim and the Birthday Puppy by Lyla Lee
The Mindy Kim series is my comfort read; they’re chapter books all about young Korean-American girl Mindy. The Birthday Puppy is the third book in the series and it was incredibly adorable and wholesome, and such a good book for younger readers who may want to get a pet. It shows the responsibility that comes with having a pet, but also the joys of having one. Loved this.
The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert
A book review of The Voting Booth is in the pipeline and you’ll soon discover how much I loved this book. I love ‘all in one day’ romances, and The Voting Booth is such a fantastic one. Like Running, this book is also a political YA, but explores the importance of voting, how voting is not always accessible, being Black in America, and young love. I really liked this and it’s so criminally underrated – please read this!
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds
Growing up in New Zealand, I’m not familiar with American history. In Stamped (which is ‘not a history book’ as the author would say), Jason Reynolds tells us an abridged history of the rise of racism in America. I found this incredibly enlightening, accessible, and I enjoyed Jason’s critical lens and voice. I highly recommend listening to the audiobook; it’ll feel like Jason is your older sibling and he’s telling you a not-a-history lesson. (Thank you to Libro.fm for the ALC!)
The Ocean Calls by Tina Cho
Every so often, I love reading picture books because there’s something so soothing and safe about them. Tina reached out to me about her delightful picture book (illustrated by Jess X Snow!) and I’m so glad I read it. It’s about haenyeo, Korean women who are free divers, and a young girl’s relationship with her grandmother and the sea. I didn’t know about haenyeo prior to reading this, so I loved how this picture book illuminates the spirit and bravery of these girls and women. A perfect book for little ones that bridges youth and history.
Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko
Holy heck, what a debut! Raybearer is an absolutely stunning book from start to finish, with its sweeping story, immense and rich worldbuilding, fantastic characters, and tight storytelling that tells so much story in such few pages. I’m in awe of this book. I’m currently writing my review for this, which is a bit of a struggle (because it is so darn good and I can’t do it justice) and I can’t wait to share it with you. (Thank you to Libro.fm for providing me with an ALC!)
The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala
I had been looking forward to this book for a long time, but unfortunately I wasn’t a fan! Though I think this book has a lot of good and interesting themes – moral ambiguity of war, conflict, honour – and is set in a rich world, I felt like the book’s slow pace undermined the impact and momentum of the storytelling. Nonetheless, I don’t think this book is bad; it just wasn’t for me. But if you love enemies-to-lovers, banter, and the good kind of angst, then maybe it’ll be for you. (I received an ARC from the publicist in exchange for a review and/or author interview.)
The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho
This book is one wild ride from start to finish, but heck I enjoyed it! I really liked the found family trope in this and I loved it even more for its Malaysian influences. I listened to the audiobook for The Order of the Pure Moon, and though I love Nancy Wu’s audiobook narration, and have absolutely no qualms with her, I wish this book was narrated by a Malaysian narrator, complete with the Malaysian accent and slang, especially since the book seems to be written to be narrated that way.
Fly on the Wall by Remy Lai
Remy sent me an ARC of Fly on the Wall early this year after I loved Pie in the Sky so much. And friends, if you loved Pie in the Sky, then you’ll love Fly on the Wall as well. Remy’s books are just so charming and so genuinely funny – I actually laughed out loud more times than I could count! But underneath that humour, Fly on the Wall is another sensitive and emotional story about a kid navigating through his life and change. I loved this and I cannot wait to read it.
CW’s Posts During August
I reviewed Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch by Julie Abe! Julie very kindly and generously sent me an ARC of this book late last year, and now that Eva finally released in early August, I shared my review. This is a delightful and magical witchy middle-grade book, about bravery, friendship, finding your place in the world, and the magic of doing your best.
I reviewed Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia! This book absolutely destroyed me – in the best way possible, of course. I say it in my review title, but I genuinely believe that this book changed me. Now I want to read all of Silvia’s books.
Julie Abe, author of Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch partnered up and went on a virtual vacation (a pond-cation!) to Japan and the places that inspired the world in Eva Evergreen! This is a new feature that I hope will take off after my revamp – I’m excited to see how this feature will grow.
I reviewed These Violent Delights! I loved this retelling of Romeo and Juliet, even though it shattered me into a million pieces and had me aching with the yearning. 🌚
I interview Kay Solo about her upcoming book, Moon and Flame! We also talk about hope, disability, identity, and how this all ties into her writing. It’s a great interview and Kay gave such thoughtful answers!
Other Stuff CW Did in August
- I went on holiday and brought Xiaolong with me! I took photos of Xiaolong at the places we visited and you can find photos of our adventures here.
- We started planning for Latinx Heritage Month! We couldn’t do daily posts like we did for Asian Heritage Month and Pride Month, but we have already got an amazing line-up of guests. Latinx Heritage Month begins on September 15th, so look forward to that!
- I drew fanart of A Song of Wraiths and Ruin! You can find it on my Instagram page here.
- The Quiet Pond revamp is under way! I’m slowly working through it and it may be some months before it goes live. I don’t want to rush it and burn myself out, but I can promise that it’ll look wonderful!
Joce’s August Wrap-Up
August has been exhausting through and through. To be frank, I’m not sure how I am upright on my couch writing this, but here we are, I suppose! Here are the books I read this month and a few quick thoughts on them:
Lobizona by Romina Garber
Amazing. 12/10 would recommend. One of my favorites of the year. Talks about immigration, unfair and brutal treatment of undocumented immigrants by ICE, feeling othered, and includes the best magical school.
Thanks to Wednesday Books for having me on the blog tour!
Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles – Definitely a readalike for Caraval, The Crown’s Game, and The Night Circus. Badass magician girl kicks some patriarchy ass.
Almost-American Girl by Robin Ha – The most wholesome yet heartbreaking graphic novel about a girl who moves to the Midwest from South Korea, and focuses on the power of connection through comics and art. A must read!
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid – I’d write something about this but the pieces of my heart are still on the floor, so maybe I’ll say something about it later. But it’s my favorite book in the world and the 11th time I’ve read One True Loves and I did it while drinking and listening to Folklore, which is a big summer 2020 mood.
Birthday Shot by Rilzy Adams – SEXXYYY. 5 stars. I didn’t like this quite as much as Go Deep, but it was so good, and worked with the “brother’s best friend” trope.. So much risky sex. So much. And so good.
Currently, I am working on Luster by Raven Leilani. It is SO GOOD and the writing is every bit as phenomenal as people say it is. What a hot fire debut.
Hopefully I’ll have more words next month… but seeing as the USA is in the state it’s in with COVID quarantine (and politics), probably not! LOL.
Skye’s August Wrap-Up
August was, in all, a pretty good reading month for me! I read a total of six books across different genres, with one honorable short story mention. I mostly focused on reading books by Black authors this month, and I’m so proud of myself for having stuck to that goal!
Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith
Starting off the month with a poetry book I’ve had on my shelf for some time! This was a collection about the author’s own lived experience of being Black, queer, and HIV-positive in america. It was fierce, illuminating, and an altogether aching portraiture of how little has changed in the fight for Black bodies, Black dreams, and Black joy—especially since this was published two years ago. Some of the verses feel uncannily fresh today. My favorite poems from this collection were little prayer and dear white america.
Add this book to Goodreads!
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
I loved this!! This is a short novella in which a talented girl finds her journey to a prestigious, intergalactic university hijacked by a (presumably) hostile jellyfish-like alien species, and the unlikely story that unfolds when she ends up bonding with a young alien from her group of attackers. The prose is very easy to follow while retaining a sense of wonder within the sci-fi universe, and I greatly enjoyed the meditations on academic colonialism and prejudice within Binti’s story. Very excited to pick the sequels up!
Add this book to Goodreads!
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
Friends. I get it now. I get why N.K. Jemisin’s books are cornerstones in modern SFF now. This book was… an experience. It’s a truly searing story about a New York that is alive—like, literally alive! Think of bridges as limbs, as connective tissue, imagine the cars on the roads as blood cells carrying oxygen in and out of the body—and the guardians that rise to protect it from a malicious oncoming invader. The prose is so engaging and liquid-smooth, and it reads very obviously as a devoted love letter to New York—to its charisma and velocity, as well as to the diverse communities that call this radiant, flawed city home.
Honestly nothing I say will ever come close to the sheer force and ingenuity of Jemisin’s writing, so I’m just going to direct you now to Jemisin’s short story The City Born Great (which you can read online for free!) that serves as a prologue to the novel/series. Please read it, and come back to yell with me.
Add this book to Goodreads!
Slay by Brittney Morris
Slay is a YA contemporary about a teen Black girl who lives a double life: by day, she’s an honors student and one of the only two Black girls at a majority-white school, by evening, she’s the sole developer of massively popular online game Slay, a dueling card game with mechanics and content heavily inspired by Black culture around the world. I had a little trouble suspending my disbelief at the fact that the protagonist managed to build and maintain an entire successful online game complete with all the bells and whistles that come with high-ranking MMORPGs—like 3D art models and music and bug-fixing—with the help of only one other European mod, but I think that might just be a me thing from being an avid fan of gaming. Regardless, this was a really interesting debut, and deals with some very important discussions about respectability politics and the importance of safe spaces for marginalised communities.
Add this book to Goodreads!
The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson
Honestly, I think this book is making it to my best of year list. I can’t believe this was a debut! Here is a non-exhaustive list of things that this book contains: curses and dark magic, plagues (think Moses and the Israelite exodus from Egypt), Biblical allegories, a haunted, singing forest, a religious and puritanical cult, and a brilliant discussion of how power systems disenfranchise women out of fear and the need to control. This book is dark fantasy horror at its finest and most macabre. If you’re at all interested in the darker, bloodier variety of witches: you absolutely have to pick this up.
Add this book to Goodreads!
Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi
With storytelling that cuts clean and quick through a narrative of oppression, racial violence, and revolution, Riot Baby casts a fierce gaze at the dystopia that the world has become for Black communities, and asks, through the telekinetic powers of its two main protagonists, how justice can be forged from the rubble. This was such a good novella! The prose was liquid-smooth but packed with impactful, descriptive language, and it’s definitely the kind of book you want to return to to find what you missed in your first reading.
Add this book to Goodreads!
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
I’m still 25% through this book, but I picked up the Scribd audiobook on a whim when I was having trouble sleeping a few nights ago and now I just… can’t stop! This is a wonderful YA contemporary about a girl who needs to win prom queen in order to get a scholarship for her dream school, and I’m pleasantly surprised by how warm and smooth the storytelling is here. I’m definitely excited to finish this one—it has anxiety, disability and queer rep too, which are all so lovingly written so far!
Add this book to Goodreads!
Honorable mention: Juice like Wounds by Seanan McGuire
I’m such a ridiculously devoted fan of McGuire’s Wayward Children series, that when I found out this short story was a “sidequest” of sorts set during the events of Book #4 In An Absent Dream at the goblin market, I knew I had to read it. This had all the whimsical storytelling and eerie fairytale morality that I’ve come to love from the author’s writing, and I was definitely deeply satisfied to have this dip back into a universe I love so much.
You can find the story here on TOR.com!