Book Recommendations – Witches, Monsters, Ghosts and Vampires Galore! 9 Books for Spooky and Non-Spooky Lovers Alike

In case you’re new to the Pond’s book recommendation posts, the recommendation posts are brought to you by Varian, the Pond’s very own Toadshifter who is knowledgeable in all kinds of magic! One of Varian’s ambitions is to get better at sewing, hence why whenever Varian has come up with their latest costume, they will always recommend a few books that inspired them!

I love the festive spirit of spooky season. There’s something so delightful in living vicariously through those who bring out the pumpkins, put so much effort into spooky-fying their homes, and people who dress up in the coolest Halloween costumes. Here at the Pond, we love celebrating by doing what we love: seizing the opportunity to recommend some awesome books.

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Book Review: Flowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn – A Captivating and Terrifying Gothic Fantasy with Eldritch Horrors, Rage, and Revenge

Synopsis:

We are a people who do not forget.

Survivors from a flooded kingdom struggle alone on an ark. Resources are scant, and ravenous beasts circle. Their fangs are sharp.

Among the refugees is Iraxi: ostracized, despised, and a commoner who refused a prince, she’s pregnant with a child that might be more than human. Her fate may be darker and more powerful than she can imagine.

Zin E. Rocklyn’s extraordinary debut is a lush, gothic fantasy about the prices we pay and the vengeance we seek. 

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

Reading Flowers for the Sea feels like falling into a nightmare beyond my wildest imagination; a story that makes you feel alone, struggling with a trauma etched upon your bones and grappling with a horror growing inside you. When I finished reading this novella, I felt like I was coming out of a stupor – dazed, ill at ease, yet utterly captivated by the storytelling that feels, all at once, like poetry and a tale of visceral anger.

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Book Review: Up All Night: 13 Stories Between Sunset and Sunrise edited by Laura Silverman – A Mixed-Bag of Stories about Decisions, Discussions and Discovery

Synopsis:

When everyone else goes to bed, the ones who stay up feel like they’re the only people in the world. As the hours tick by deeper into the night, the familiar drops away and the unfamiliar beckons. Adults are asleep, and a hush falls over the hum of daily life. Anything is possible.

It’s a time for romance and adventure. For prom night and ghost hunts. It’s a time for breaking up, for falling in love—for finding yourself.

Stay up all night with these thirteen short stories from bestselling and award-winning YA authors like Karen McManus, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nina LaCour, and Brandy Colbert, as they take readers deep into these rarely seen, magical hours.

If anyone knows me, they will know that I’m a huge fan of anthologies. Flying Lessons, Hungry Hearts, Once Upon an Eid, Black Enough, Color Outside the Lines, It’s a Whole Spiel – I love reading a wide array of stories and getting a taste of an author’s vision and creativity with the anthology’s central and shared theme.

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Let’s Go on a Pond-cation, Black History Month Edition: A Tour through the Eerie Village of Bethel from The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

Let’s Go On a Pond-cation is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond that celebrates and highlights worldbuilding in stories! In our Pond-cation posts, the Pond friends and authors team up to take all of us on a virtual vacation through the real life places in books or the places that inspired fictional places and worldbuilding. Find out more information about this guest feature here.

Our Friend is Here: Black History Month Edition is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond during the month of February, where Black authors are invited to celebrate being Black and Black books! Find the introduction post for Black History Month here.

We’re going on a trip! It’s always such a joy to be able to do more creative features here on the Pond, and I’m delighted to be hosting Alexis Henderson, author of The Year of the Witching, here today to guide us through the spooky village of Bethel, where her story is set. The Year of the Witching was one of my absolute favorite books of 2020—and if you love witches, dark fantasy horror featuring religious allegories, and unsettling stories with a mounting sense of dread, you absolutely do not want to miss this book. Now, let’s go see what Sprout is up to…

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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

the girl and the ghost hanna alkaf author interview malaysian friendship childhood the quiet pond

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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