The Bride Test by Helen Hoang – I cried. I laughed. I will definitely re-read.

Text: The Bride Test, a novel, Helen Hoang. Image: An illustration of a woman holding a pencil, completing pencils.

One evening around dinner time at the Pond, Xiaolong smelled a rich, delectable aroma of something slightly tangy and warm.

“Mmm,” she mused, “I wonder what’s cooking. It sure smells great!”

Cuddle the otter, wearing a pajama cap, is holding a ladle with a pot of orange-coloured soup in front of her.She wandered in the direction of the scent to find Cuddle huddled over the fire with a ladle in her paw, stirring what looked to be an orange colored soup filled with noodles, sprouts, and various meats. The steam wafted up from the pot towards Cuddle’s face as Party sat peacefully on a log behind her, awaiting dinner.

“Oh, hi, Xiaolong, come over here! I looked up the recipe for an authentic Bún bò Huế. After I read THE BRIDE TEST, I couldn’t stop thinking about this soup. I had all this fish sauce saved up and reading that scene where Esme used it in her recipe made me want to try to make it myself. Taste it. I hope it’s good!” Cuddle shifted nervously from side to side.

“We just had fish snacks the other day, remember? I loved them!” said Xiaolong.

“No, Silly, fish sauce! Not fish snacks!” giggled Cuddle.

Party the stuffed otter, sitting up right with a bowl of soup in front of her.She scooped Bún bò Huế into three bowls: two big and one small, added lime slices, and carried them carefully over to a tree stump by the log where Party was perched.

“Speaking of THE BRIDE TEST, I loved it so much. Let me tell you more…”

Blurb:

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.

Joce’s Review:

THE BRIDE TEST opens in Ho Chi Minh City, where Khai Diep’s mother, Cô Nga, takes Trấn Ngọc Mỹ, or Esme, by surprise, and propositions her with the opportunity to move to the Bay Area of California to date her son, in hopes of them one day marrying. Esme is not well off and lives in poverty, so with the hopes of securing a better life for herself and her daughter, she agrees and moves in with Khai, attempting to seduce him. Their story is romantic, exploratory, and well-rounded.

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Check Please! Book 1: #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu – Skating, Strong Soft Boys, and Social Media

“Come quick, the Pond has frozen over!” cried Cuddle, waving her friends over enthusiastically. The Pond’s inhabitants quickly scampered, slithered, and strode over to the area where Cuddle had set up two hockey nets on opposite ends and gathered sticks and a puck. They divided into two teams: Cuddle and Amina versus Xiaolong and Varian, with Gen as referee and scorekeeper. Tweet! The game began.

Cuddle the Otter, wearing her pajama cap, holding a hockey stick and wearing magical ice skates.“This kinda reminds me of that scene in Frozen when Anna and Elsa are little kids. They’re skating around and Elsa makes Olaf. He likes warm hugs!” exclaimed Xiaolong, after the game had ended. They sat together in a circle at the side of the pond, sharing a plate of cookies and hot chocolate with marshmallows.

“You know,” said Cuddle, “there’s a book I read recently that’s got all the things we’ve done today. It’s about a boy named Eric Bittle who goes off to college and gets recruited to play on their hockey team. He even makes cookies and pies. It’s soft and lovely and reminds me of a warm hug!” Varian, Xiaolong, Gen, and Amina gather around her as she continues to tell them more…

Text: Check Please, Book 1: #Hockey. Ngozi Ukazu. Image is a illustration of a boy with short blonde hair, smiling, wearing red ice hockey gear and holding a pie. Behind him are other boys in red hockey gear.

Blurb:

Eric Bittle may be a former junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and very talented amateur pâtissier, but being a freshman on the Samwell University hockey team is a whole new challenge. It is nothing like co-ed club hockey back in Georgia! First of all? There’s checking (anything that hinders the player with possession of the puck, ranging from a stick check all the way to a physical sweep). And then, there is Jackhis very attractive but moody captain.

Joce’s Review:

Check Please! Book 1: #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu has been on my graphic novel TBR for awhile. I first heard about it when I was reading Fence by C.S. Pacat, which is another sports-centered graphic novel series featuring an M/M relationship, with a mostly male cast of characters.

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Is It Just Me Or Do Your Pond Friends… Look A Little Different? [April Fools!]

It’s the first of April, the beginning of a new and exciting month of books, but the Pond looks a little strange. Everything seems a little more crisp. And sharper. It’s like you suddenly have a magical pair of goggles and you are seeing the Pond with a new lens. The magic is still in the air, you can feel it, but you have a sneaking suspicion that something is very… off about the Pond.

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Meet Cuddle, Your Newest (and Most Cuddly!) Pond Friend [Introducing Our Co-Blogger]

Text: Meet your newest friend: say hello to the pond's new co-blogger. Image: A silhouette of a bipedal animal, with question marks floating around the silhouette.

Xiaolong the pink axolotl, with her hands raised by her mouth like she is shouting.You’re sitting in Gen’s garden, sipping your favourite tea with Varian and Gen, enjoying the peace and quiet and the sight of Gen’s growing vegetables and flowers.

“Friend, friend!”

Xiaolong’s voice punctuates the quiet, and the three of you turn to see her running towards you.

“Friends, our new friend has arrived! They’re here!”

It is with immense pleasure and excitement that finally get to introduce you to my new co-bloggers! This has been a long time coming and has been in the works for a long time and I am overjoyed that I can finally introduce you all to your newest Pond friend.

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