Book Review: Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca – A Gorgeous Novel about Mother-Daughter Relationships and Immigration Stories that Will Break Your Heart

Synopsis:

Reha feels torn between two worlds: school, where she’s the only Indian American student, and home, with her family’s traditions and holidays. But Reha’s parents don’t understand why she’s conflicted—they only notice when Reha doesn’t meet their strict expectations. Reha feels disconnected from her mother, or Amma, although their names are linked—Reha means “star” and Punam means “moon”—but they are a universe apart.

Then Reha finds out that her Amma is sick. Really sick.

Reha, who dreams of becoming a doctor even though she can’t stomach the sight of blood, is determined to make her Amma well again. She’ll be the perfect daughter, if it means saving her Amma’s life.

Cuddle's review:

I don’t know what it is about this time of year that makes me more drawn to reading novels in verse. Perhaps it’s the contemplative and expressive autumn feels, or the release of Red (Taylor’s version), but whatever it is, I am so glad that it led me to pick up Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca. It is a middle grade novel in verse, and features our protagonist, Reha, who is an Indian-American girl who is a second generation immigrant living in the Midwest of the USA. When the book opens, her main emotional conflict is that she is torn between the community she has at school, where she sometimes feels “too Indian”, being one of the only Indian-American students, and home, where she sometimes feels “too American”. The author commented that this book draws directly on her personal experience as a teen growing up in the 1980s. 

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Book Review: When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk – A Heartbreaking Novel about the True Pain of Losing a Friend

Synopsis:

It’s been twenty-seven days since Cleo and Layla’s friendship imploded.

Nearly a month since Cleo realized they’ll never be besties again.

Now Cleo wants to erase every memory, good or bad, that tethers her to her ex-best friend. But pretending Layla doesn’t exist isn’t as easy as Cleo hoped, especially after she’s assigned to be Layla’s tutor. Despite budding friendships with other classmates–and a raging crush on a gorgeous boy named Dom–Cleo’s turbulent past with Layla comes back to haunt them both.

Alternating between time lines of Then and Now, When You Were Everything blends past and present into an emotional story about the beauty of self-forgiveness, the promise of new beginnings, and the courage it takes to remain open to love.

Cuddle's review:

I’ve read probably over a hundred books about romantic breakups, but only a small handful about friendship breakups. And it’s a damn shame, if you ask me. Some of the most messy, prolonged exits from my life have been from friends. There is something about the unspoken way that some endings are drawn out, and you can feel it happening, but can’t quite pinpoint how or why, and start questioning if you are just imagining it. 

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Book Review: A Lot Like Adiós by Alexis Daria – A Second Chance Romance Full of Angst and Glorious Fanfiction about Latine Characters in Space

A Lot Like Adios by Alexis Daria. Reviewed by Joce, The Quiet Pond.
Synopsis:

Hi Mich. It’s Gabe.

After burning out in her corporate marketing career, Michelle Amato has built a thriving freelance business as a graphic designer. So what if her love life is nonexistent? She’s perfectly fine being the black sheep of her marriage-obsessed Puerto Rican-Italian family. Besides, the only guy who ever made her want happily-ever-after disappeared thirteen years ago.

It’s been a long time.

Gabriel Aguilar left the Bronx at eighteen to escape his parents’ demanding expectations, but it also meant saying goodbye to Michelle, his best friend and longtime crush. Now, he’s the successful co-owner of LA’s hottest celebrity gym, with an investor who insists on opening a New York City location. It’s the last place Gabe wants to go, but when Michelle is unexpectedly brought on board to spearhead the new marketing campaign, everything Gabe’s been running from catches up with him.

I’ve missed you.

Michelle is torn between holding Gabe at arm’s length or picking up right where they left off—in her bed. As they work on the campaign, old feelings resurface, and their reunion takes a sexy turn. Facing mounting pressure from their families—who think they’re dating—and growing uncertainty about their futures, can they resolve their past mistakes, or is it only a matter of time before Gabe says adiós again?

Cuddle's review:

Second chance romance is my kryptonite. Second chance romance in which the partners connect via writing together is even more my kryptonite. Thankfully for my angst-ridden Pisces heart, A Lot Like Adiós’s Michelle and Gabe are childhood best friends-turned-almost lovers, who reunite one day many years later. When they were in high school, they also worked on fanfiction together called Celestial Destiny, based on a sci-fi show featuring Latine characters. I figured I would love this book going into it, but I did not realize just how much until I had finished reading it.

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Our Friend is Here! An Interview with Crystal Maldonado, Author of Fat Chance, Charlie Vega – On Fat Heroines, Mental Health, and Complex Relationships

Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.

Our Friend is Here: Latine Heritage Month Edition is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond between September 15 – October 15, where we invite Latine authors to celebrate being Latine and Latine books! Find the introduction post for Latine Heritage Month here.

When I saw the cover of Fat Chance, Charlie Vega, I knew I had to pick it up. On it, there is a gorgeous, fat Latine teenage girl in a beautiful lace-adorned green dress, a piece of clothing that becomes pivotal in her journey within the pages. It was one of my favorite books this spring and included relationships I won’t soon forget, from Charlie’s best friendship with Amelia, her budding relationship with Bryan, and her complicated mother-daughter dynamics. I knew immediately that I wanted to have a conversation with Crystal to talk more about all of these dynamics and I am beyond grateful that she has joined us for Latine Heritage Month.

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Five Reasons to Read: Partly Cloudy by Tanita S. Davis – A Slice of Life MG Novel about Loneliness, Starting Over, and Extended Family

Synopsis:

Lightning couldn’t strike twice, could it? After a terrible year, Madalyn needs clear skies desperately. Moving in with her great-uncle, Papa Lobo, and switching to a new school is just the first step.

It’s not all rainbows and sunshine, though. Madalyn discovers she’s the only Black girl in her class, and while most of her classmates are friendly, assumptions lead to some serious storms.

Papa Lobo’s long-running feud with neighbor Mrs. Baylor brings wild weather of its own, and Madalyn wonders just how far things will go. But when fire threatens the community, Madalyn discovers that truly being neighborly means more than just staying on your side of the street— it means weathering tough conversations—and finding that together a family can pull through anything.

Cuddle's review:

The end of summer is a time filled with transitions, especially for kids and teens who are returning back to school. For Madalyn, a Black seventh grade girl, there are even more transitions, as she moves in with her great-uncle, Papa Lobo, as her parents who are geographically separated are doing their best to provide for their family. She starts at a new school where she is the only Black student in her class, has to become reacquainted with Papa Lobo and his neighbors, and fears the wildfires that threaten the landscape of the Pacific Northwest yearly.

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