Book Review: I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee – A Celebration of K-Pop, Body Positivity, and Untangling Complex Asian Parent-Child Relationships

I'll Be The One, Lyla Lee. A badge at the bottom-left that says, 'Reviewed by Joce, The Quiet Pond'. In the centre is a image of Cuddle wearing a pajama hat.

Blurb:

Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her.

She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else.

When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho.

But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition—without losing herself.

Joce’s review:

I’ll Be the One follows Skye Shin’s journey through auditioning for the K-Pop reality TV competition called You’re My Shining Star as a fat, bisexual, Korean teenage girl, while dealing with a potential romance with a co-star, and her complex relationship with her parents, especially her mother. Lyla Lee celebrates fatness, bisexuality, and some fierce work and talent through her construction of Skye’s character.

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Five Reasons to Read: Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger – A New-Adult Urban Fantasy that Blends Cocktails & Monster Hunting

Last Call at the nightshade lounge by Paul Krueger. Reviewed by CW, the quiet pond.

Summary:

College grad Bailey Chen has a few demons: no job, no parental support, and a rocky relationship with Zane, the only friend who’s around when she moves back home. But when Zane introduces Bailey to his cadre of monster-fighting bartenders, her demons get a lot more literal. Like, soul-sucking hell-beast literal. Soon, it’s up to Bailey and the ragtag band of magical mixologists to take on whatever—or whoever—is behind the mysterious rash of gruesome deaths in Chicago, and complete the lost recipes of an ancient tome of cocktail lore.

CW’s Review:

I read Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge because someone – I now, regretfully, forget who – recommended this to me. I had no idea what this book was about going in, but despite this, I had the best fun reading Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge. If you like the sound of an urban fantasy with monsters that roam the night, monster hunters that gain power from drinking magical cocktails, and have relatable ‘new adult’ themes, then read on further — because today, I’m going to give you five reasons of why you should pick up incredibly fun book.

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Five Reasons To Read: More to the Story by Hena Khan – Inspired by Little Women; A Lovely and Empathetic Story about Four Muslim Sisters, Ambition & Illness

More to the Story by Hena Khan. Reviewed by CW, The Quiet Pond.

Summary:

When Jameela Mirza is picked to be feature editor of her middle school newspaper, she’s one step closer to being an award-winning journalist like her late grandfather. The problem is her editor-in-chief keeps shooting down her article ideas. Jameela’s assigned to write about the new boy in school, who has a cool British accent but doesn’t share much, and wonders how she’ll make his story gripping enough to enter into a national media contest.

Jameela, along with her three sisters, is devastated when their father needs to take a job overseas, away from their cozy Georgia home for six months. Missing him makes Jameela determined to write an epic article—one to make her dad extra proud. But when her younger sister gets seriously ill, Jameela’s world turns upside down. And as her hunger for fame looks like it might cost her a blossoming friendship, Jameela questions what matters most, and whether she’s cut out to be a journalist at all…

CW’s Review:

After reading Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan back in 2017, I vowed to myself that if Hena Khan wrote more middle-grade novels, I would read it in an instant. Fortunately, I came across Hena’s latest middle-grade book, More to the Story, by chance – and I am so so happy that I read it!

More to the Story is a middle-grade retelling of Little Women and centers on four Muslim Pakistani-American sisters who live in Georgia. The story follows Jameela “Jam” Mirza, an aspiring journalist and writer at her middle school newspaper, and her four sisters. When the girls discover that their father has to move away for work for awhile, she decides to write an article that will make her father proud. But when her younger sister becomes gravely ill, Jam’s world is turned upside down.

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Book Review: We Are Totally Normal by Rahul Kanakia – A Messy, Complex & Powerful Exploration of What It Means To Question Yourself

review_totallynormal

Summary:

Nandan’s got a plan to make his junior year perfect. He’s going to make sure all the parties are chill, he’s going to smooth things over with his ex, and he’s going to help his friend Dave get into the popular crowd—whether Dave wants to or not. The high school social scene might be complicated, but Nandan is sure he’s cracked the code.

Then, one night after a party, Dave and Nandan hook up, which was not part of the plan—especially because Nandan has never been into guys. Still, Dave’s cool, and Nandan’s willing to give it a shot, even if that means everyone starts to see him differently.

But while Dave takes to their new relationship with ease, Nandan’s completely out of his depth. And the more his anxiety grows about what his sexuality means for himself, his friends, and his social life, the more he wonders whether he can just take it all back. But is breaking up with the only person who’s ever really gotten him worth feeling “normal” again?

CW’s review:

I received an ARC from the author. This does not influence my opinions of the book review in any way. 

In the Author’s Note of We Are Totally Normal, Rahul Kanakia, who is a trans queer woman, talks about how the book is one that’s deeply personal, one so “deeply rooted in [her] own shame and confusion and embarrassment over [her] own sexuality”.

If you plan to read We Are Totally Normal, or recently decided not to read it, you should understand this: We Are Totally Normal is not a cute YA romance. We Are Totally Normal is a story about the messiness of fluid identity, navigating high school social dynamics and hierarchies, and how labels can be overwhelming and shape our experiences – and not always in an affirming way.

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Book Review: If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann – A Little Disorganized, but a Lot of Heart

If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann.

Blurb:

High school finally behind her, Winnie is all set to attend college in the fall. But first she’s spending her summer days working at her granny’s diner and begins spending her midnights with Dallas—the boy she loves to hate and hates that she likes. Winnie lives in Misty Haven, a small town where secrets are impossible to keep—like when Winnie allegedly snaps on Dr. Skinner, which results in everyone feeling compelled to give her weight loss advice for her own good. Because they care that’s she’s “too fat.”

Winnie dreams of someday inheriting the diner—but it’ll go away if they can’t make money, and fast. Winnie has a solution—win a televised cooking competition and make bank. But Granny doesn’t want her to enter—so Winnie has to find a way around her formidable grandmother. Can she come out on top?

Joce’s review:

Claire Kann’s sophomore young adult contemporary novel features our protagonist Winnie, a queer, Black, self-proclaimed fat teenage girl who is enjoying her summer before she begins college. She is balancing working at her Grandma’s diner, Goldeen’s (yes, named after the Pokemon!), talking to a boy named Dallas she’s in a love-hate relationship with, navigating her queerplatonic relationship (QPR) with her “ungirlfriend” Kara, and thinking about entering a televised cooking competition to make extra money.

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