Book Review: Love and Other Natural Disasters by Misa Sugiura – Disaster Queers, Chaotic Romances, and a Hilarious yet Astute Subversion of the Fake Dating Trope

Love and Other Natural Disasters by Misa Suguira. Reviewed by CW, The Quiet Pond.
Synopsis:

When Nozomi Nagai pictured the ideal summer romance, a fake one wasn’t what she had in mind.

That was before she met the perfect girl. Willow is gorgeous, glamorous, and…heartbroken? And when she enlists Nozomi to pose as her new girlfriend to make her ex jealous, Nozomi is a willing volunteer.

Because Nozomi has a master plan of her own: one to show Willow she’s better than a stand-in, and turn their fauxmance into something real. But as the lies pile up, it’s not long before Nozomi’s schemes take a turn toward disaster…and maybe a chance at love she didn’t plan for.

I have enjoyed every single book written by Misa Sugiura, and I’m delighted to share that Love and Other Natural Disasters is no different. In fact, I think Love and Other Natural Disasters is my favourite book by Misa Sugiura yet. Not only is it so much fun (and if you listen to the audiobook narrated by Katharine Chen, then you will have even more fun, I promise!), but Love and Other Natural Disasters brings so much self-awareness to the fake-dating romance trope that I just wanted to climb to the closest highest mountain and scream, “YES!” Because finally! A romantic comedy that captures the joy and delight of summer romance, told with a completely self-aware narrative that will make you think, and laugh, and then think again.

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Five Reasons to Read: The Dreamweavers by G.Z. Schmidt – An Exciting Adventure into a Chinese-Inspired World of Dreams, Mooncakes, and Curses

Synopsis:

Since their parents’ strange disappearance several years ago, 12-year-old twins Mei and Yun have been raised by their grandfather, who makes the best mooncakes around using a secret ingredient.

On the day of the Mid-Autumn Harvest Festival, the emperor sends his son to sample Grandpa’s renowned mooncakes—but instead of tasting wonderful, they are horrible and bitter, strangely mirroring the odd, gloomy atmosphere and attitudes that have been washing over the village in the last few days. Grandpa is arrested for insulting and harming the prince, and Mei and Yun realize they are the only two people who will come to Grandpa’s aid.

The twins set out on foot for the long journey to the emperor’s palace where Grandpa’s being taken, but a surprising stop in the eerie City of Ashes, a visit with the legendary, mystical Jade Rabbit, and an encounter with a powerful poet whose enchanted words spread curses, influence just how Mei and Yun will manage to clear their grandfather’s name.

I received a digital advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

If you are looking for an action-packed, sweeping adventure that will keep you entertained and intrigued with its historical, fantasy, and even mystery elements, then look no further than The Dreamweavers, a lovely middle-grade historical fantasy releasing next month!

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Book Review: After the Dragons by Cynthia Zhang – A Quiet Fantasy About the Climate, Queer Love, and Having Hope in A World You Cannot Save

A banner featuring the cover of After the Dragons by Cynthia Zhang. A blue dragon encircles the title. In the corner is an icon that reads: "Reviewed by Skye, The Quiet Pond".
Summary:

Dragons were fire and terror to the Western world, but in the East they brought life-giving rain…

Now, no longer hailed as gods and struggling in the overheated pollution of Beijing, only the Eastern dragons survive. As drought plagues the aquatic creatures, a mysterious disease—shaolong, or “burnt lung”—afflicts the city’s human inhabitants.

Jaded college student Xiang Kaifei scours Beijing streets for abandoned dragons, distracting himself from his diagnosis. Elijah Ahmed, a biracial American medical researcher, is drawn to Beijing by the memory of his grandmother and her death by shaolong. Interest in Beijing’s dragons leads Kai and Eli into an unlikely partnership. With the resources of Kai’s dragon rescue and Eli’s immunology research, can the pair find a cure for shaolong and safety for the dragons? Eli and Kai must confront old ghosts and hard truths if there is any hope for themselves or the dragons they love.

After the Dragons is a tender story, for readers interested in the effects of climate change on environments and people, but who don’t want a grim, hopeless read. Beautiful and challenging, focused on hope and care, this novel navigates the nuances of changing culture in a changing world.

Skye's Review:

If you, like me, think the world is in sore need of more quiet slice-of-life fantasy stories about ordinary people, I have just the recommendation for you today. Set in the near-future of a hazy alternate Beijing, Cynthia Zhang’s After the Dragons is a lovely urban fantasy novella about saving stray dragons, queer romance, and what it means to have hope in a world you cannot save on your own.

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Book Review: It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz Rishi – An Exes-to-Enemies Rom-Com about Flawed Desi Teens, Messy Relationships, and Protecting Those You Love

It All Comes Back to you by
Synopsis:

After Kiran Noorani’s mom died, Kiran vowed to keep her dad and sister, Amira, close. Then out of the blue, Amira announces that she’s dating someone and might move cross-country with him. Kiran is thrown.

Deen Malik is thrilled that his older brother, Faisal, has found a great girlfriend, even if it’s getting serious quickly. Maybe now their parents’ focus will shift off Deen, who feels intense pressure to be the perfect son.

When Deen and Kiran come fact to face, they silently agree to keep their past a secret. Four years ago–before Amira and Faisal met–Kiran and Deen dated. But Deen ghosted Kiran with no explanation. Kiran will stop at nothing to find out what happened, and Deen will do anything, even if it means sabotaging his brother’s relationship, to keep her from reaching the truth. Though the chemistry between Kiran and Deen is undeniable, can either of them take down their walls?

I received a digital advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

It All Comes Back to You is nothing like what I expected – and I’m glad for it. For what I thought was a fluffy and sweet romance, It All Comes Back to You is, what I’d more accurately describe, a romantic comedy with drama and coming-of-age elements centering two very flawed desi Muslim teens. It is messy at times, and delightfully so, making It All Comes Back to You such a memorable story and a wonderful addition to young adult fiction. 

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Book Review: Off the Record by Camryn Garrett – Exposing Sexual Violence In Vein of the #MeToo Movement, and a Heartfelt Portrayal of Being a Black Fat Teen

Synopsis:

Ever since seventeen-year-old Josie Wright can remember, writing has been her identity, the thing that grounds her when everything else is a garbage fire. So when she wins a contest to write a celebrity profile for Deep Focus magazine, she’s equal parts excited and scared, but also ready. She’s got this.

Soon Josie is jetting off on a multi-city tour, rubbing elbows with sparkly celebrities, frenetic handlers, stone-faced producers, and eccentric stylists. She even finds herself catching feelings for the subject of her profile, dazzling young newcomer Marius Canet. Josie’s world is expanding so rapidly, she doesn’t know whether she’s flying or falling. But when a young actress lets her in on a terrible secret, the answer is clear: she’s in over her head.

One woman’s account leads to another and another. Josie wants to expose the man responsible, but she’s reluctant to speak up, unsure if this is her story to tell. What if she lets down the women who have entrusted her with their stories? What if this ends her writing career before it even begins? There are so many reasons not to go ahead, but if Josie doesn’t step up, who will?

If you know me, then you will know that one of my favourite books of all time is Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett, a story about a Black teen living with HIV+ and how she navigates first love. From there, I vowed that I would read any book by Camryn – and knew that I would love whatever she wrote. It came to no surprise to me, then, that her sophomore novel, Off the Record, would effortlessly find its place in my top reads of 2021. I adore this book with my whole heart, and it is a timely, relevant, and searing piece of contemporary fiction that pays a victim-centered tribute to the power of necessity of the #MeToo movement that started in 2006 with Tarana Burke and re-emerged with force in 2017.

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