Hello, lovely friends! I hope the year has been kind to you so far, that it has brought you new beginnings and warmth and excitement. Welcome to our little blanket fort of books to come!
Today, Sprout and I are delighted to talk to you about our five most anticipated reads for the year! It was really, really hard whittling this list down to just five books (how blessed we are this year to bear witness to so many incredible diverse releases, honestly!), but we tried our best! Most of this list is diverse fantasy, because we wouldn’t be us anymore if we weren’t forever-smitten with magic, but we also tried to pick different types of fantasy to diversify the selection pool a little. Here you’ll find golden blood and poisonous curses, haunted manors and bright-eyed witches.
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Your time at the Pond today begins with gentle rain.
A soft evening patter accompanies you as you sit next to Sprout’s stump, your reads for the day sprawled out in front of you. The blushing sky illuminates the forest in a warm rush of golden light. As you bask in the scenery, Sprout emerges from their stump holding two cups of tea, and the air around you immediately smells of summer berries.
“This is berry hibiscus tea, friend!” Sprout informs you. “I grew the ingredients myself. Gen was a big help, but the Pond magic has made starting my own little garden here so easy.”
You accept the tea, letting the warm sweetness suffuse your insides. It’s a curious picture—the aroma of the tea, this scenery, the glow of Sprout’s little sapling. A comfortable silence settles between the both of you as you take to your books once more.
As you both finish your tea, Sprout looks up from their book and says, “You know, friend, I never imagined I’d find a home here when I first arrived, when Xiaolong first reached out to me for help.” Their eyes are wistful. “At first, I wasn’t even sure if I belonged here, since I read so very little compared to the other Pond residents. Sometimes I just get so caught up with everything else that reading doesn’t come as naturally to me as it used to.”
You reach out a hand to comfort the sparrow, to reassure them that they do indeed have a place at the Pond. Sprout takes your hand gratefully. “But it’s because of everyone’s kindness here that I’ve learned to forgive myself for taking things slow as well! Reading is like a garden too. Even one seed planted is a seed that can grow into flowers and fruit, even if it takes time! And they make great ingredients for tea, too.”
Bringing their book over, Sprout hops closer to you. “I also have you to thank for this lesson, friend, for helping me feel at home here! Now, let me tell you about some of my favorite stories that I did manage to read this year…”
Hello, friends! Welcome to the last of our Top Reads of 2019 posts, wherein I finally get my thoughts coherent enough to gush about my own favorite reads of the year. As you might’ve gleaned from Sprout’s story, I didn’t manage to read as much as I would’ve liked this year—I had an ambitious reading goal of 50, but so far only managed 29—and I’m learning to be okay with that! It’s a big reason of why I tweeted this last month too:
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The mist wafting through the air surrounding the Pond was light and breezy on this cool winter’s evening. Cuddle clutched Party under one arm, and carried a few Blubberware containers full of homemade food in the other towards the Pond.
“I really hope everyone likes the food I’ve brought for the Pondluck dinner party tonight!” Cuddle worried, “maybe I didn’t put enough sauce in the mushrooms, or enough water in the rice.” Party seemed to squirm a little as Cuddle tightened her squeeze anxiously.
Setting the silverware out neatly and a long picnic blanket down by the edge of the water, Cuddle thought about the books she was going to talk about at the book club/Pondluck dinner party get together tonight. It was their year end gathering, and everyone is going to talk about their favorite books and eat good food that each of them made and brought. She smiled as she remembered some of the titles she’d read including a Pride and Prejudice retelling and a great book about a girl working at her grandma’s diner.
The Pond’s inhabitants waddled, flew, and traipsed in, greeting and embracing one another after asking permission. As she looked at her Pond family: Gen with a festive “ringing in the new year” hat instead of his usual, Varian being their best naked frog, and Sprout looking cute and dapper as always, and more filing in, Cuddle thought about the warmth in her heart and gave Party a tight snuggle, feeling a small snuggle back.
How nice it was to have a welcoming and safe home, with accepting, loving, and caring Pond family members. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt this content, as she blinked back tears of joy at finding a place where she truly belonged.
To be totally honest, 2019 was not a great reading year for me in terms of quantity. Adjusting to having a baby in late 2019, along with managing her medical care for her diagnoses and my own postpartum mental health has been an arduous task, and reading unfortunately fell by the wayside. I didn’t log a lot of the books I did finish, and I don’t have any clue how many books I read but if I had to guess, it would probably be around 30-40. This is a far cry from the 120-150 I have been reading in the past few years.
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Friends! Can you believe it’s almost the end of the year?
2019 has been such a wonderful year of reading and diverse books. I’ve had the privilege and joy to read a myriad of brilliant diverse books this year, and I think it is only fitting if I followed what I did last year and celebrated my favourite reads of 2019!
This year, I read a total of 86 books – I’m still determined to hit my goal of reading 90 books! – but it was a fantastic year nonetheless.
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I hope your stomachs are hungry for some delicious food and some food adventure stories today, friends! As part of my contribution for the blog tour for Hungry Hearts, edited by Elsie Chapman and Caroline T. Richmond, I present to you my very own food crawl where I found and ate the food mentioned in Hungry Hearts!
If you haven’t heard, Hungry Hearts is a new young-adult anthology that contains 13 books about food, love, and identity. There’s a strong emphasis on culture and relationships in this anthology, so if that sounds like up your (food!) alley, then I wholeheartedly recommend it. Personally, I absolutely loved this anthology and had so much fun reading all the diverse and brilliant stories. For the curious, you can find my review of Hungry Hearts here.
All of you know that I love reading. But, if there’s one thing that I love more than reading, it is food. Not only does food make me happy and gives my life meaning and colour, food is really important to me as well. As an adventurous foodie, doing this food crawl for Hungry Hearts was a great way for me to merge my love for reading, my love for Hungry Hearts, and my love for food! (How often do you get the chance to have your very own food crawl to celebrate an incredible book’s release?) And thus, I embarked on several food adventures and journeyed around my city to find the food featured in Hungry Hearts.
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