[Blog Tour] Book Review: The Fallen Hero by Katie Zhao – A Return to the Heaven Breaker Legend That Delves into Chinese Mythology and What It Truly Means To be a Hero

Foreword:

Just over a little more than a year ago, I had the delight of reading The Dragon Warrior. I have a very fond memory of sitting in bed in my hotel room during a work trip, feeling alone and only having the company of my ARC copy of The Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao. And when I read Katie’s middle-grade debut, about a young Asian girl who was The Chosen One and wielded the power of dragons and went on this incredible adventure – I didn’t feel alone anymore; I felt excited, empowered, and like I had gone on an incredible journey.

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Our Friend is Here! An Interview with Reimena Yee, Author of Séance Tea Party; On Making Comics, Ghosts, & Growing Up

Our Friend is Here! An Interview with Reimena Yee, Author of Séance Tea Party; On Making Comics, Ghosts, & Growing Up. Illustration of Sprout the sparrow, wings out wide and showing off Reimena Yee as a own wearing a flower and skull crown.
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Sprout is stargazing tonight when you visit the Pond.

You find them lying on the grass, a tiny bird in a field of green, looking up at the sky. Their eyes brighten as they see you approach.

“Oh, hello friend! You made it today!” Sprout sits up and smiles at you. “I’m so glad you’re here. We’re expecting a very exciting guest today, and I’d love for you to meet them!”

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At the mention of a guest, a soft breeze picks up — gentle at first, and then stronger. As the leaves rustle, from beyond the canopy of trees overhead, you hear the flapping of wings. A sooty owl emerges, starry as the night. A wreath of orange roses adorns their head, with a few skulls peeking through the flower crown. The owl flies down to join you and Sprout on the grass.

“Right on time!” Sprout exclaims happily. “Friend, this is Reimena! She’s here to talk to us about her newest book that’s coming out next week.”

Sprout hops closer, and confides in a quieter voice, “Xiaolong told me that she cried for a whole morning reading it!”

You chuckle, and sit down on the grass next to Sprout. Curiously, you also ask them about their stargazing while waiting for you.

“Oh! Yes, I was stargazing.” Sprout says sheepishly. “The book that we’re talking about today is about what it means to grow up, and I was thinking about when I was a fledgeling before I came to the Pond. But that’s a story for another time. Let’s welcome our guest!”

I love comics. I think they’re a brilliant storytelling format, and I’m always so eager to devour graphic novels in a way I rarely am with more prose-heavy stories. They’re such an accessible medium to return to over and over again — I’d honestly argue that a lot of my own formative reading experience was shaped by warm, sticky afternoons spent cramming down local comic serials by the bundle. I’m sure comics have led many more people to reading too, just like it did for tiny 7-year-old me.

And friends, Reimena’s comics are incredible. I’ve known about Reimena’s books since she first published The Carpet Merchant of Konstantiniyya through a partially crowdfunded platform, and I’m constantly awed by all the incredible stories she tells through her art. Her comics are smart, heartfelt, and filled to bursting with lush and evocative imagery. It’s such a delight and honor to have her at the Pond today, and I’m so excited to share this conversation I had with her about her upcoming middle-grade release Séance Tea Party next week!

Are you ready for a little ghost story?

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Book Review: Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko – An Illuminating and Riveting West African-Inspired Fantasy That Will Sweep You Off Your Feet, Blow Your Mind, and Leave You in Awe

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Blurb:

Nothing is more important than loyalty.
But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?

CW’s Review:

I feel incredibly out of depth writing this book review. I mean, I spent a solid twenty minutes trying to come up with a book review title that would adequately and succinctly describe the beautiful mess of feelings that I have for Raybearer. There are many, many, many reasons why I think Raybearer is fantastic – and I’ll do my best to articulate them well, because, wow, I feel so much for this book. In the fewest words possible, I genuinely think that Raybearer may be my ‘the fantasy of the year’.

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Our Friend is Here! An Interview with Hanna Alkaf, Author of The Girl and the Ghost; On Writing Friendship, Malaysian Childhoods, & Being True to Your Stories

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The stars are bright in the sky tonight as you lie down on the grass, the Pond around you restful and serene. It’s been a long day, and you nearly fall asleep in the lull of the surrounding cricketsong, but just as you begin to drift off, the ground beneath you moves with a faint tremor.

And then—a smell. It is light and sweet, a whisper of fragrance blooming against the fresh grass.

An illustration of Hanna Alkaf as a teal elephant, wearing glasses and wearing a hijab.From the nearby bushes emerges Sprout, their little sapling glowing faintly verdant, and a familiar friend that you’ve seen before: it’s Hanna the elephant!

Hanna raises her trunk in a cheerful greeting, and you wave hello back. You remember Hanna from when she visited the Pond for her YA historical novel The Weight of Our Sky, and she’s back! Her hijab looks a little different from last time too, and you can’t help but admire the lovely streaks of green that now adorn the headscarf.

Sprout hops with excitement, “Hanna is here to talk about her new book, friend! Both Xiaolong and I have read it already, and we both really love it! Would you like to join us?”

You begin to nod yes, but then remember the sweet smell from before. You ask Sprout if they smell it too, and their eyes light up. “Oh yes! I picked some frangipani along the way here!” They hold up a handful of small, white flowers. “Did you know, friend, that frangipanis are associated with spirits and ghosts in Malaysia? Hanna’s new book is all about Malaysian spirits too!

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You smile as you sit down with Sprout and Hanna: ghosts are certainly fitting for a nighttime story!

It’s no secret that we here at the Pond absolutely adore Hanna’s stories, and her most recent middle-grade fantasy The Girl and the Ghost definitely lived up to all my expectations and more! I absolutely devoured the book, and friend, I cannot express how positively heartwarming to see my own Malaysian childhood and upbringing reflected in the pages of Suraya’s story. It felt like coming home.

So if you’re in the mood for a creepy, lushly-written tale about friendship and growing up set in a tiny kampung where a girl encounters an inherited ghost that changes her life, this is absolutely the book for you. We’re so honored today to have Hanna here at the Pond to talk about her story and her craft, and what it means to be true to who you’re writing for.

But before that, let me formally tell you what the book is all about too!

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[Blog Tour] Five Reasons to Read: Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles – A Tale of Redemption, Fighting Gender Discrimination, and a Magicians’ Competition

book review where dreams descend janella angeles
Blurb:

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.

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Joce’s Review:

Where Dreams Descend is pitched as Phantom of the Opera meets Moulin Rouge, and as an avid figure skating fan, I am extremely familiar with and have developed an ardent love for both (and their soundtracks!). I fully agree with and endorse these comparisons, as we have a lively and complex cast of characters, a plot and world surrounding performance arts, magicians, and moody boys.

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