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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Frankly in Love by David Yoon – More Than Just Fake-Dating; A Story About The Intersections of Family, Identity, and Love

David Yoon. Frankly in Love. 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:

High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo–his term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents’ traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance–“Date Korean”–which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful–and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it’s the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy’s fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love–or himself–at all.

CW’s review:

Thank you to Penguin NZ for providing me an ARC in exchange for a review; this does not affect my opinions of the book.

Frankly in Love is not at all what I expected – and in retrospect, I am perfectly okay with that. In fact, I’m glad. Frankly in Love by David Yoon follows Korean-American teen Frank, whose strict and traditional Korean parents prohibit him from dating a non-Korean girl. So when he falls hard and fast for Britt Means, who is pointedly not Korean, Frank devises a scheme with his childhood (and Korean) friend, Joy, to pretend to date to allude their parents’ judgement – only to fall for each other in the process.

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Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno – A Wonderful Contemporary About Family, Diasporic Latinx Identity, and Life

Don't Date Rosa Santos, Nina Moreno

Blurb:

Rosa Santos is cursed by the sea-at least, that’s what they say. Dating her is bad news, especially if you’re a boy with a boat.

But Rosa feels more caught than cursed. Caught between cultures and choices. Between her abuela, a beloved healer and pillar of their community, and her mother, an artist who crashes in and out of her life like a hurricane. Between Port Coral, the quirky South Florida town they call home, and Cuba, the island her abuela refuses to talk about.

As her college decision looms, Rosa collides – literally – with Alex Aquino, the mysterious boy with tattoos of the ocean whose family owns the marina. With her heart, her family, and her future on the line, can Rosa break a curse and find her place beyond the horizon?

CW’s review:

A few months ago when Don’t Date Rosa Santos was released, a few wonderful Latinx book bloggers organised for people in the book community to post a photo of themselves wearing yellow to celebrate the release of Don’t Date Rosa Santos. (Yellow is one of my favourite colours to wear, so naturally I was more than excited to participate!) And I think that sort of thing perfectly encapsulates the story in Don’t Date Rosa Santos: communities coming together to do something great and celebrating all things yellow – sun, summer, and sunny people. Read More »

Five Reasons To Read: An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon – A Brilliant and Unforgiving SFF Portrayal of Systemic Oppression Aboard a Generation Ship

An Unkindness of Ghosts, River Solomon.

I’m going to be frank with you. An Unkindness of Ghosts is stellar, hard-hitting, but absolutely brutal, honest in its depictions of systemic oppression and its machinations. Second, despite the importance of what this book explores and its insightful storytelling and worldbuilding, this book is not for everyone – or, requires some emotional and mental preparation before delving into this rich and dark story.

The story follows Aster, a lower-class healer that lives abroad the HSS Matilda, a colossal generation ship that is carrying the remnants of humanity to the ‘Promised Land’ after Earth’s decimations centuries ago. Following the mysterious death of their leader, Aster finds herself the key to this mystery – and may be the tinder that will ignite revolution within the spacecraft.

Before I tell you all why you should read this book, I also think it’s important for me to start with the caveats. Read More »

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia – An Insightful Depiction of Online Community, Privacy, and Mental Health

Text: Eliza and her monsters, Francesca Zappia. Image: A sketch of a girl and a boy, facing each other, reading a book.

Blurb:

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.

But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

Joce’s review:

Eliza Mirk is a high school student who lives in Indiana and anonymously writes and illustrates the famous webcomic Monstrous Sea, read by millions, as her online persona LadyConstellation. She feels out of place at her school and experiences anxiety, including social anxiety. She develops a close relationship to Wallace, who experiences selective mutism, and he seems to understand what it’s like feeling truly at home online and less so face to face. However, their friendship is somewhat one-sided because Eliza knows that he is the most famous Monstrous Sea fanfiction writer, but he does not know that Eliza is actually LadyConstellation. They communicate mostly online, and a budding relationship, whether it be friendship or romantic, that transpires mostly through written word, is my favorite.

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