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: Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki – An Affirming Love Letter to Violins, Donuts and Found Family, and the Transformative Power of Hope

light from uncommon stars by ryka aoki, book review by cw, the quiet pond
Synopsis:

Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six.

When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka’s ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She’s found her final candidate.

But in a donut shop off a bustling highway in the San Gabriel Valley, Shizuka meets Lan Tran, retired starship captain, interstellar refugee, and mother of four. Shizuka doesn’t have time for crushes or coffee dates, what with her very soul on the line, but Lan’s kind smile and eyes like stars might just redefine a soul’s worth. And maybe something as small as a warm donut is powerful enough to break a curse as vast as the California coastline.

As the lives of these three women become entangled by chance and fate, a story of magic, identity, curses, and hope begins, and a family worth crossing the universe for is found.

I was provided an eARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

How do you begin to review a book that reawakens your long-dormant memories, bittersweet regret and love for the violin? How do you even review a book that lays bare trauma and never once lies about the pain whilst also being one of the most affirming and heartening stories you have read in recent memory? How do you review a book that doesn’t just tell you that life is worth living, but shows you with gentle scenes about two broken queer women who feed ducks at a park and a trans girl who, despite all the trauma she’s endured, learns how to love herself? How do I even begin to review Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki?

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Our Friend is Here! An Interview with Maggie Tokuda-Hall, Author of The Mermaid, The Witch and the Sea – On Queer Coming of Age Stories, Tackling Rape Culture with Werewolves, & (Many) Book Recs

Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.

Pride Month is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where during the month of June, queer authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being queer, queer books, and their experiences of being a queer reader. Find the introduction post for Pride Month at The Quiet Pond here.

So many queer stories are about self-discovery, about coming home to yourself; in young adult books, especially, queer realisation and fulfillment are also often tied to coming-of-age narratives. Being a teenager is a wonderful, volatile, and beautiful thing, and as someone who had her “gay awakening” (so to speak) at the tail end of my teens, I’m always so grateful for stories that shine a light into that awkward and revealing experience of finally beginning to figure out who you are—and, if you’re lucky, who you love. I am therefore delighted to be welcoming Maggie Tokuda-Hall to the Pond today to talk about her wonderful fantasy books about queer teens figuring themselves out!

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Book Review: You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao – An Evocative and Vulnerable Story about Grief, Connection, and Moving On

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out—move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city, spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes.

Heartbroken, Julie skips his funeral, throws out his things, and tries everything to forget him and the tragic way he died. But a message Sam left behind in her yearbook forces back memories. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cellphone just to listen to his voicemail.

And Sam picks up the phone.

In a miraculous turn of events, Julie’s been given a second chance at goodbye. The connection is temporary. But hearing Sam’s voice makes her fall for him all over again, and with each call it becomes harder to let him go. However, keeping her otherworldly calls with Sam a secret isn’t easy, especially when Julie witnesses the suffering Sam’s family is going through. Unable to stand by the sidelines and watch their shared loved ones in pain, Julie is torn between spilling the truth about her calls with Sam and risking their connection and losing him forever.

I was provided an uncorrected bound manuscript from the author. My honest opinions in this book review reflect this version and may be different to the final version of the book.

It’s been two months since I finished You’ve Reached Sam, and it’s a book that has stayed with me since. I think about this book almost every other day. You’ve Reached Sam is a story that confronts grief in its most intense and most painful. And yet, though I was a sobbing, snotty mess by the end of the book, its tender and genuine portrayal of love in its most pure form was also unexpectedly healing.

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Book Review: Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean – A Warm and Hilarious Love Letter to All the Asian Kids Who Dreamed of Being Royalty

Tokyo Ever Afte
Synopsis:

Izumi Tanaka has never really felt like she fit in—it isn’t easy being Japanese American in her small, mostly white, northern California town. Raised by a single mother, it’s always been Izumi—or Izzy, because “It’s easier this way”—and her mom against the world. But then Izzy discovers a clue to her previously unknown father’s identity…and he’s none other than the Crown Prince of Japan. Which means outspoken, irreverent Izzy is literally a princess.

In a whirlwind, Izzy travels to Japan to meet the father she never knew and discover the country she always dreamed of. But being a princess isn’t all ball gowns and tiaras. There are conniving cousins, a hungry press, a scowling but handsome bodyguard who just might be her soulmate, and thousands of years of tradition and customs to learn practically overnight.

Izzy soon finds herself caught between worlds, and between versions of herself—back home, she was never “American” enough, and in Japan, she must prove she’s “Japanese” enough. Will Izumi crumble under the weight of the crown, or will she live out her fairytale, happily ever after?

I was provided an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review by the book’s publicist.

When I was a young child watching The Princess Diaries and witnessed Mia Thermopolis, an otherwise ordinary American teenager, become the princess of Genovia, this sparked a childish dream and fantasy: what if I was a secret princess too? Of course, as I grew up, I knew that I wasn’t, but it was fun to dream. I suppose this dream slept dormant within me, because by the time I finished reading the second chapter of Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean, I felt like I was experiencing my wish fulfilment fantasy.

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