Book Review: The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Cordova – A Splendid and Enchanting Character-Driven Latine Fantasy about Family and the Consequences

Synopsis:

The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low or empty, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers—even for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed, leaving them with more questions than answers.

Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Tatinelly’s daughter, Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, the four descendants travel to Ecuador—to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked back.

I was provided an Audiobook Listening Copy by Libro.fm in exchange for an honest review.

A few years ago, I read a brilliant witch-themed anthology called Toil & Trouble edited by Jessica Spotswood and Tess Sharpe. Though the anthology is filled with gems of witchy stories from a feminist lens, a story that stuck out to me was a story called Divine are the Stars, about a girl who returns home to visit her dying grandmother. By chance, years later, I decided to pick up The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Cordova – because an adult fantasy about family and mystery and magic? I was immediately intrigued.

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Book Review: Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee – A Satisfying and Phenomenal Conclusion to a God-Tiered Series; a Story about Life, Love, Death, and the Legacy We Leave Behind

Synopsis:

Jade, the mysterious and magical substance once exclusive to the Green Bone warriors of Kekon, is now known and coveted throughout the world. Everyone wants access to the supernatural abilities it provides, from traditional forces such as governments, mercenaries, and criminal kingpins, to modern players, including doctors, athletes, and movie studios. As the struggle over the control of jade grows ever larger and more deadly, the Kaul family, and the ancient ways of the Kekonese Green Bones, will never be the same.

The Kauls have been battered by war and tragedy. They are plagued by resentments and old wounds as their adversaries are on the ascent and their country is riven by dangerous factions and foreign interference that could destroy the Green Bone way of life altogether. As a new generation arises, the clan’s growing empire is in danger of coming apart.

The clan must discern allies from enemies, set aside aside bloody rivalries, and make terrible sacrifices… but even the unbreakable bonds of blood and loyalty may not be enough to ensure the survival of the Green Bone clans and the nation they are sworn to protect.

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

This book review contains minor non-explicit spoilers to Jade City.

It’s been four years since Jade City by Fonda Lee released. Four years since I fell unequivocally in love with the gangster urban fantasy series with wuxia elements, set in an Asian-inspired island called Kekon where fearsome Green Bones warriors and their creed ruled. Jade City explored family and honour and how the blood feud between the No Peak Clan and their rival, the Mountain Clan, began. It became my favourite book of all time.

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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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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: 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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