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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Book Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – A Dark, Twisting Gothic Horror of Decay, Decadence & Eerie Family Secrets

mexican gothic

Summary:

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

Skye’s review:

This is the first true horror book I have ever read.

Growing up, I never truly understood why people consumed horror media. Why would anyone voluntarily choose to feel scared instead of entertained? What point is there to feeding the paranoia of being alone in the dark? (It certainly didn’t help that the brand of East-Southeast Asian horror I was raised on tended heavily towards ghosts and apparitions, and still disproportionately frightens me to this day!)

But in recent years, I’ve found myself gravitating towards weird stories with spookier elements, and ended up developing a particular fondness for gothic horror. There’s something absolutely alluring about the morbid, almost pleasurable terror of a gothic novel, wrapped underneath layers of decadence, aesthetics, and decay. After massively enjoying House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig last year, I began seeking out books and other media that could give me the same sense of dread and catharsis that Sorrows gave me a taste of. I eventually found solace in Emily Carroll’s horror comics and the podcast The Magnus Archives, which all built a foundation for my instant attraction to the premise of Mexican Gothic.

And friend, if you are also fascinated by haunted houses and the macabre, in a tension that builds and builds until the threads of the story come loose in a brilliant, repulsive reveal… Then this book was written for you too.

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