The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim – Perhaps The Best Book About Mental Illness, Asian Identity, and Family That I’ve Read – Ever

The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim. A badge at the bottom-left that says, 'Reviewed by CW, The Quiet Pond'. In the centre is a image of Xiaolong, the pink axolotl wearing a flower hat, waving at you.

Blurb:

Anna Chiu has her hands pretty full looking after her brother and sister and helping out at her dad’s restaurant, all while her mum stays in bed. Dad’s new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren’t right at home, she’s starting to feel like she could just be a normal teen.

But when Mum finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as Mum’s condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other.

CW’s review:

I received an ARC of the book from the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book.

Take note of this review’s title: The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim is one of the best books that explore mental illness that I have ever read – ever. Take note, because I absolutely mean it and I think everyone should read this book. The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling follows Hong Kong-Chinese-Australian teen Anna, who spends a lot of her time wrangling her younger siblings and making sure they are ready for school, helping at her father’s Chinese restaurant, and trying to be a teenager herself while her mother who stays in bed for weeks at a time. Don’t be fooled by this book’s bright and soft cover – though The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling has its sweet moments about teenagehood and first love, it also has some confronting and candid explorations of mental illness within Asian communities and its impact on family.

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Speaking of Summer by Kalisha Buckhanon – A Literary Mystery Surrounding Racial Discrimination in Criminal Investigations and Mental Health

Speaking of Summer by Kalisha Buckhanon. A badge at the bottom-left that says, 'Reviewed by Joce, The Quiet Pond'. In the centre is a image of Cuddle wearing a pajama hat.

Blurb:

On a cold December evening, Autumn Spencer’s twin sister, Summer, walks to the roof of their shared Harlem brownstone and is never seen again. The door to the roof is locked, and the snow holds only one set of footprints. Faced with authorities indifferent to another missing Black woman, Autumn must pursue the search for her sister all on her own.

With her friends and neighbors, Autumn pretends to hold up through the crisis. But the loss becomes too great, the mystery too inexplicable, and Autumn starts to unravel, all the while becoming obsessed with the various murders of local women and the men who kill them, thinking their stories and society’s complacency toward them might shed light on what really happened to her sister.

In Speaking of Summer, critically acclaimed author Kalisha Buckhanon has created a fast-paced story of urban peril and victim invisibility, and the fight to discover the complicated truths at the heart of every family.

Joce’s review:

The cover of Speaking of Summer is what first caught my eye. It is just gorgeous with the flowers, the flawless deep skin, the vibrant colors. Fortunately, the content of the book is just as wonderful. We follow the journey of Autumn Spencer, whose twin sister Summer vanishes from the roof of their Harlem brownstone one night in December.Read More »

Color Outside the Lines edited by Sangu Mandanna – An Anthology About Interracial Relationships; A Heartfelt Celebration of the Diversity of Love

TEXT: Color Outside the Lines: Stories about Love, edited by Sangu Mandanna. Hands of different skin tones holding each other frame the image. Bottom right corner: Xiaolong the pink axolotl with an upside down flower hat at the center of a stamp, with the text "Review by CW, The Quiet Pond" around it.
Summary:

This modern, groundbreaking YA anthology explores the complexity and beauty of interracial and LGBTQ+ relationships where differences are front and center.

When people ask me what this anthology is about, I’m often tempted to give them the complicated answer: it’s about race, and about how being different from the person you love can matter but how it can also not matter, and it’s about Chinese pirate ghosts, black girl vigilantes, colonial India, a flower festival, a garden of poisons, and so, so much else. Honestly, though? I think the answer’s much simpler than that. Color outside the Lines is a collection of stories about young, fierce, brilliantly hopeful people in love.—Sangu Mandanna, editor of Color outside the Lines

CW’s review:

A few years ago, I talked about how I craved a good story about interracial relationships beyond a superficial portrayal. I wanted a story that examined the ups and downs of being in an interracial relationship, to illustrate the complexities and the challenges and the dynamics and the unexpected joys and challenges of being in an interracial relationship. Such a book would have held my whole heart with its words, as I craved to see my experiences of being in an interracial relationship depicted in a story. Thus, when I saw that Eric Smith, one of the contributing authors to the anthology, announced that Sangu Mandanna was editing the Color Outside the Lines anthology, I was over the moon; I was thrilled beyond words.

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The Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao – A Love Letter to Diasporic and Immigrant Kids; A Fun Adventure about Dragons, Warriors, and Courage

The Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao. Image: A brown-skin girl with short hair, holds up a golden staff. A badge at the bottom-left that says, 'Reviewed by CW, The Quiet Pond'. In the centre is a image of Xiaolong, the pink axolotl wearing a flower hat, waving at you.

Blurb:

As a member of the Jade Society, twelve-year-old Faryn Liu dreams of honoring her family and the gods by becoming a warrior. But the Society has shunned Faryn and her brother Alex ever since their father disappeared years ago, forcing them to train in secret.

Then, during an errand into San Francisco, Faryn stumbles into a battle with a demon–and helps defeat it. She just might be the fabled Heaven Breaker, a powerful warrior meant to work for the all-mighty deity, the Jade Emperor, by commanding an army of dragons to defeat the demons. That is, if she can prove her worth and find the island of the immortals before the Lunar New Year.

With Alex and other unlikely allies at her side, Faryn sets off on a daring quest across Chinatowns. But becoming the Heaven Breaker will require more sacrifices than she first realized . . . What will Faryn be willing to give up to claim her destiny?

CW’s review:

Listen: I am the sort of reader that likes to withhold judgement of a book within the first few chapters of a book, let alone the first few pages. However, when you read the dedication of The Dragon Warrior and find that it is dedicated to immigrants, children of immigrants, and diaspora kids everywhere? The diasporic child within me that imagined vivid sweeping stories about dragons and wielding magic powers as some foretold magic warrior will undoubtedly rise up, excited, rearing to go on an adventure.

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The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory – Reinventing the “Strong Woman” Trope in Romance

“Hey, friends!” Cuddle excitedly waved Xiaolong and Amina over to her reading rock, and they ambled over.

“I wonder what Cuddle has in store for us today,” wondered Xiaolong.

“Maybe it’s that delicious soup again! Remember when she made that? Mmm…” replied Amina.

When they arrived, Cuddle said, “I am reading the greatest book. It’s reminding me of one of my favorite movies a little, you know, Pride and Prejudice! ‘

Cuddle the otter, holding up a Pride and Prejudice DVD.With that, Cuddle promptly turned around, with her little brown tail sticking straight up into the air as she rummaged around in her collection, throwing knick knacks this way and that behind her, as if emptying Mary Poppins’ bag. She suddenly emerged head upright, with her paw aloft, waving a beige DVD back and forth triumphantly.

Xiaolong rolled her eyes, though she had a smile on her face that lended affection.

“Cuddle, if I have to see Matthew McFayden in the rain in that dang wet white shirt ONE MORE TIME…”

The Wedding Party. Jasmine Guillory. A badge at the bottom-left that says, 'Reviewed by Joce, The Quiet Pond'. In the centre is a image of Cuddle, the otter wearing a pajama hat.

Blurb:

Maddie and Theo have two things in common:

  1. Alexa is their best friend
  2. They hate each other

After an “oops, we made a mistake” night together, neither one can stop thinking about the other. With Alexa’s wedding rapidly approaching, Maddie and Theo both share bridal party responsibilities that require more interaction with each other than they’re comfortable with. Underneath the sharp barbs they toss at each other is a simmering attraction that won’t fade. It builds until they find themselves sneaking off together to release some tension when Alexa isn’t looking, agreeing they would end it once the wedding is over. When it’s suddenly pushed up and they only have a few months left of secret rendezvouses, they find themselves regretting that the end is near. Two people this different can’t possibly have a connection other than the purely physical, right?

But as with any engagement with a nemesis, there are unspoken rules that must be abided by. First and foremost, don’t fall in love.

Joce’s review:

Jasmine Guillory. Give me all her books. Give them to me now! After reading and loving THE PROPOSAL, I was highly anticipating the next companion novel in the series, called THE WEDDING PARTY – big thank you to Chelsea at Chelsea Dolling Reads for sending me this beautiful book.

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