It’s the last day of spooky season, friends! And that means… it’s finally Pond-O-Ween! Last year, the Pond friends celebrated Pond-O-Ween and dressed up in costumes handmade by our favourite toad, Varian. This year, the Pond friends are back with new costumes, and we are so excited for you to see them.
Seeing that it’s the last day of the month, we thought we would combine Pond-O-Ween with our Monthly Wrap-Up. We haven’t had a Story-Time post in awhile, and Joce wrote this year’s Pond-O-Ween post – and I know all of you are going to love it as much as I do.
Story-Time: It’s Pond-O-Ween!
It’s Halloween night! You eagerly bound towards the Pond, following the sound of a small commotion and a soft yet melodious voice crooning over an eerie refrain. The crisp autumn air nips at your ears as you pull your collar tighter over your neck, your fingers grazing the chilly, goosebumped skin.
“Friend!” Xiaolong welcomes you to the second annual Halloween Celebration. Xiaolong, looking radiant, is dressed as a cup of boba. “We are painting pumpkins today! A few of our friends feel anxious around knives, so we are choosing an activity where we can be mindful of everyone’s safety and where everyone can have fun.” She gestures toward a long picnic table where the Pond’s friends each have a paintbrush in hand (or fin, wing, paw, or claw) and a pumpkin in front of them.
On the east end of the Pond, you blink and can barely find Gen, the Pond’s resident herb gardener and keeper, dressed in a Venusaur costume. It looks like he’s carefully cooking some skewers atop a magical tree-stump grill. You wave as you are suddenly enveloped in the aroma of wood fired rosemary shortbread cookies in the shapes of leaves, and your mouth waters at the buttery goodness.
Varian’s paw-sewn, self-made apron is positively covered in paint all of all the colors of the rainbow, and thank goodness, because their Sailor Mars costume, also paw-sewn, is protected from their vigorous barrage of artistry on their pumpkin.
Sprout, dressed as Zagreus from Hades, is working with a fine tipped rosemary brush, about halfway through a design of a quiet night sky on their squat white pumpkin, and they wave at you as you enter.
Amina, the hedgehog bard, has donned a stark white sheet, and carries a suitcase and passport – a traveling ghost of sorts. She announces, “And that’s the last song for now, enjoy your intermission! I’ll be back in 15.” She exits the makeshift stage, carefully placing one foot on each slippery lilypad step while precariously hanging onto her lute.
“Amina! It is just so good to see you. I hope you stay awhile this time!” chirps Sprout. “I hope so too!” replies Amina. “The world is a little scary right now, and I was starting to lose my footing, but I remembered how much of a family I had at the Pond and decided that this was where I was going to stay put for the time being.” Cuddle and Sprout ask Amina if she would like a hug, and after she nods, wrap her in a tight embrace.
You see an otter, clutching a smaller otter, and recognize Cuddle and her stuffed animal Party. Both are wearing beaks and are adorned in feathers that tickle your nose as you approach them. Cuddle is holding a lavender brush in her paw, having painted the basic yet comical outline of what could perhaps be a chicken on her pumpkin with the short caption underneath “We stan Eggna”. “Very peculiar,” you think, as Cuddle and Party giggle together about something.
You breathe a sigh of relief as you settle into your seat at the table, Cuddle’s soft fur to your left, and the soft fibers of Amina’s ghost sheet to your right. Amina sips a hot apple cider, its cinnamony aroma wafting towards you. You are so excited to paint your pumpkin with the movie poster of your favorite Halloween movie, Hocus Pond-cus.
“Happy Pond-o-ween,” smiles Xiaolong, “I’m so glad you’re here, friend.”
CW’s October Wrap-Up
Books I Read in October
I almost said: I hardly read any books this month! But… the truth is, I read eight?! What?! Once again, thank goodness that audiobooks exist and that I can listen to them while doing mundane stuff – otherwise I would not be a book blogger today.
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker, Illustrated by Wendy Xu
I had been meaning to read Mooncakes for a long time and am so glad I did! I loved this Asian-inspired witchy tale about a witch and a werewolf and has elements of mystery, adventure, fantasy, and slice-of-life and a childhood friends-to-lovers romance. I liked the story, though I found the art coarse. Nonetheless, I don’t take for granted how much hard work graphic novels are, so I enjoyed the book and recommend it. Add to Goodreads.
Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez
Listen to me when I say this: Sal and Gabi Break the Universe is probably my favourite book of 2020 and everyone needs to read it. This book just takes you on one heck of a wild ride! There’s not a dull moment – moreover, if you love fun, silly, but clever humour where the children are much smarter than the adults, then you’ll be laughing as much as I did. I loved this book to pieces and you can bet that this book will be in my Top Reads of 2020 post at the end of the year! Add to Goodreads.
We Unleash the Merciless Storm by Tehlor Kay Mejia
What a sequel! I really enjoyed We Set the Dark on Fire, but I know this might be an unpopular opinion – but I really think I enjoyed this book more. This story raises the stakes, will test the characters’ loyalties and their mettle, and is heart-aching for the romantic angst. The tension in this story is great and so engaging. I listened to this on the audiobook and I highly recommend listening to it, if you can! Add to Goodreads.
The Last 8 by Laura Pohl
Yes! Yes! Yes! After reading so many mediocre post-apocalyptic stories, I’ve finally found another post-apocalyptic/teen survival/alien invasion story that is just as good as Exo by Fonda Lee (my other favourite)! I loved this book – it was so engaging and interesting from start to finish, had a wonderfully queer and interesting cast, and had a phenomenal end. When I finished this, I immediately went to find the second book. I cannot recommend this enough. Add to Goodreads.
This Train is Being Held by Ismée Amiel Williams
I rarely pick up books because of a cover but – when I saw this book’s cover, I was intrigued and decided to give it a go! I had no idea what this story was, going into it, but I came out delighted: This Train is Being Held is really good. Taking place over three years, this story is about Isa and Alex meet on the train and how their relationship grows over time. Moreover, this book does insta-love perfectly – that there’s an instant connection, but the romance is slowburn. It’s not a fluffy book; it explores privilege, pressure of school and performance, and mental illness, but all of this was well done. Add on Goodreads.
Clues to the Universe by Christina Li
Earlier this year, I had Christina visit us at the Pond and, ever since, I’ve been anxiously awaiting her new book. I had the privilege of being given an eARC of this book and, friends, I loved it. This was a tender and heartbreaking portrayal of grief, about two kids who have felt loss but kindle a friendship and help each other find closure and belonging. If you love kids who love space, love comics, have big dreams despite hurting a little, then you’ll love this book. Add on Goodreads.
Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry
I was given an audiobook listening copy of this through the Libro.fm influencer program. This is a book perfect for spooky season; it reminds me of a twisted Little Women retelling but Latine, hauntings, and flawed sisterhood. I liked what this book was trying to do – I think some of the imagery and the exploration of toxic relationships was important and incisive, but I just didn’t jel with the story. Nonetheless, I recommend this book anyway; I think it just wasn’t for me. Add on Goodreads.
Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson
I’m still collecting my thoughts after reading this, because I think Piecing Me Together is a fantastic and incredible book. Wow! This isn’t the type of book that blows you away, but its magnificence is so subtle and understated and nonetheless powerful. About Jade, a Black, fat, and poor girl who gets a scholarship to a rich private school and wants nothing more than to travel abroad through her school’s travel program, but is instead put into a mentorship programme where Black women help ‘at-risk’ Black girls. Except, Jade doesn’t want to be helped – she wants to be given opportunities like her peers. I’m planning to write a review on this, because I think there’s so much in this book but – read it read it read it. Add on Goodreads.
CW’s Posts During October
We continued with our Latinx Heritage Month at the Pond posts! I had so much fun putting this guest series together, and it was such a huge honour to have so many wonderful people visit us. If you haven’t already, check out our amazing guests and their stellar posts! (I also recommended Latinx books to read on Latinx Heritage Month and every other month of the year.)
I was part of the Spell Starter by Elsie Chapman blog tour! I decided to do something a little unique – because I thought Spell Starter was such a vivid and visual story, I absolutely had to do fanart – so I drew fanart of the main character!
I was also part of the blog tour for The Fallen Hero by Katie Zhao! I wrote a review and gushed about how wonderful and empowering this story was. I loved that this book subverted its own ‘The Chosen One’ trope and asked what it means to be a hero.
It was the Pond’s 2nd blog birthday on October 26th! We did a Q&A, answering questions asked by our wonderful friends of the Pond, talked a little bit about the revamp, and we even inadvertently provide some blogging tips?! Anyway, see us be chaotic, maybe a little wise, and have fun!
OTHER STUFF CW DID IN OCTOBER
- I… started playing this really cool fantasy RPG called Genshin Impact – which is probably bad because it’s so fun that I don’t even know who reading a book is anymore.
- I started my new job! (Well, it’s not “new” per se, but… gah, it’s a long story.) And am kind of drowning a little! But I’m powering through the teething stages and am confident that I’ll come out on top on the other side.
- Otherwise… I didn’t do much. Though, thank goodness for audiobooks because I’ve found it so hard to pick up a physical book lately.
Skye’s October Wrap-Up
Books I Read in October
Alas, September’s trend of mediocre reading continues, with college and the state of the world taking up most of my brainspace this month too. I read two books this month: a graphic novel and an anthology, because I haven’t been able to find a novel this month that pulled me into its story. Better luck next month, as I hopefully finish up the ARCs I’ve been putting off!
City of Secrets by Victoria Ying
I was really looking forward to the this Asian-authored steampunk MG graphic novel. The art in this comic was phenomenal; Victoria Ying’s colors are so warm and lush. The steampunk setting is super freaking cool too—if you love clockwork cities and 1800’s mechanical aesthetics, the world of this book will be a delight. I did, however, expect this to be a standalone, so the ending caught me a little off-guard because it’s a little unresolved. All in all, I thought this was a little too short and therefore not as emotionally gripping as I’d hoped it would be, but I’m definitely looking forward to any sequels to the story if the author ever expands on the universe.
Add this book to Goodreads!
Foreshadow, edited by Emily X.R. Pan & Nova Ren Suma
This book is truly one of the standouts of 2020 for me. I was already excited for this anthology going in because its goal of featuring under-represented, emerging voices has always resonated with me, but I wasn’t expecting so many wonderful and honestly super weird and creative tales, from witchy horror and girls turning into lobsters to cute, contemporary romance. I wrote a “Five Reasons to Read” review (linked below!) for the anthology, and—if you’re a fan of YA fiction at all—this book is one you do not want to miss!
Add this book to Goodreads!
Skye’s Post During October
I reviewed Foreshadow, a YA short story anthology! This was such a surprisingly delightful read for me—I’m still so blown away by the quality of the stories that were featured in this book. I gush about it in much more detail in the review, so please check it out!
Other Stuff Skye Was Up to in October
- This month has been overall quieter for me, I think!
- We started incorporating cover art credits in our book news posts! I made a thread here about the decision and how we hope this helps with artist visibility in the publishing industry.
- As you can probably tell from Sprout’s costume—I got really into Hades last month. I’ve been having so much fun seeing all the art & community that has sprung up surrounding the game!
- I finally decided on my bachelor’s dissertation topic, which is a relief. :’)
- I’m also prepping a character for my first ever D&D campaign (a warlock with a homebrew patron!), and I’m so jazzed to finally get to play.
- I’m doing NaNoWriMo for the first time, albeit a very light version! I’m planning on finishing up two short stories that have been percolating in my brain for a long time, and I’m very excited to dig into them.
We hope you enjoyed this year’s Pond-O-Ween and our wrap-up for October! I hope you all have a wonderful November ahead – and best of luck to everyone out there doing NaNoWriMo this year!