Book Review: Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta – As Vicious as a Serrated Blade; a Queer Mecha-Dystopia about Identity, Love, and Teens in a Futile War

Gearbreakers
Blurb:

We went past praying to deities and started to build them instead...

The shadow of Godolia’s tyrannical rule is spreading, aided by their giant mechanized weapons known as Windups. War and oppression are everyday constants for the people of the Badlands, who live under the thumb of their cruel Godolia overlords.

Eris Shindanai is a Gearbreaker, a brash young rebel who specializes in taking down Windups from the inside. When one of her missions goes awry and she finds herself in a Godolia prison, Eris meets Sona Steelcrest, a cybernetically enhanced Windup pilot. At first Eris sees Sona as her mortal enemy, but Sona has a secret: She has intentionally infiltrated the Windup program to destroy Godolia from within.

As the clock ticks down to their deadliest mission yet, a direct attack to end Godolia’s reign once and for all, Eris and Sona grow closer–as comrades, friends, and perhaps something more…

I was provided an eARC from the publicist in exchange for an honest review.

Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta was one of my most anticipated books of 2021. Give me a story about mecha god-like machines that shake the earth, angry queer girls, and enemies-to-lovers, and I will probably be first in line to read it. Though Gearbreakers was not quite what I expected, I ultimately enjoyed this action-packed story, primarily for its unexpectedly compelling and evocative themes.

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Five Reasons To Read: Prepped by Bethany Mangle – A Dramatic Deep-Dive into Doomsday Communities and One Girl Wanting to Escape

Prepped by B
Blurb:

Always be ready for the worst day of your life.

This is the mantra that Becca Aldaine has grown up with. Her family is part of a community of doomsday preppers, a neighborhood that prioritizes survivalist training over class trips or senior prom. They’re even arranging Becca’s marriage with Roy Kang, the only eligible boy in their community. Roy is a nice guy, but he’s so enthusiastic about prepping that Becca doesn’t have the heart to tell him she’s planning to leave as soon as she can earn a full ride to a college far, far away.

Then a devastating accident rocks Becca’s family and pushes the entire community, including Becca’s usually cynical little sister, deeper into the doomsday ideology. With her getaway plans thrown into jeopardy, the only person Becca can turn to is Roy, who reveals that he’s not nearly as clueless as he’s been pretending to be.

When Roy proposes they run away together, Becca will have to risk everything—including her heart—for a chance to hope for the best instead of planning for the worst.

I received an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

If you’re the kind of person who loves reading about or watching documentaries about survivalists or preppers, then pay attention: because Prepped by Bethany Mangle may the kind of book that you’re looking for. This YA thriller-comedy debut follows Becca, a white-American teen whose family leads a doomsday community. Though her parents are passionate about the cause, Becca longs for escape – taking her younger sister with her – but when tragedy strikes, her doomsday community falls deeper into their doomsday ideology and escape becomes more difficult.

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Book Review: A Map to the Sun by Sloane Leong – A Vibrant Graphic Novel about the Struggles of Being a Teen, the Friendships That Hold Us Up and Basketball

A map to the sun by Sloane Leong.
Blurb:

One summer day, Ren meets Luna at a beachside basketball court and a friendship is born. But when Luna moves to back to Oahu, Ren’s messages to her friend go unanswered.

Years go by. Then Luna returns, hoping to rekindle their friendship. Ren is hesitant. She’s dealing with a lot, including family troubles, dropping grades, and the newly formed women’s basketball team at their highschool. With Ren’s new friends and Luna all on the basketball team, the lines between their lives on and off the court begin to blur. During their first season, this diverse and endearing group of teens are challenged in ways that make them reevaluate just who and how they trust.

Sloane Leong’s evocative storytelling about the lives of these young women is an ode to the dynamic nature of friendship.

I was provided an ARC in exchange for an honest review by the author; this does not impact or influence my opinion.

I genuinely cannot remember the last time I read something in one sitting. I struggle a lot with focusing on one task for extended periods of time; even with novellas or short works of fiction that I can easily finish in an hour, it’ll probably take me more than a few sittings to finish it. With A Map to the Sun though, I read it all in one sitting, engrossed by its vibrant and beautiful pages and hopelessly compelled by the graphic novel’s cast of flawed and imperfect teenage girls. That, for me, is a testament to how wonderful I thought this graphic novel was.

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Book Review: Almost American Girl by Robin Ha – A Graphic Memoir about Immigration, Strict Gender Norms, and Forging Friendships Through Comics and Art

almost american girl robin ha book review the quiet pond

Blurb:

For as long as she can remember, it’s been Robin and her mom against the world. Growing up as the only child of a single mother in Seoul, Korea, wasn’t always easy, but it has bonded them fiercely together.

So when a vacation to visit friends in Huntsville, Alabama, unexpectedly becomes a permanent relocation—following her mother’s announcement that she’s getting married—Robin is devastated.

Overnight, her life changes. She is dropped into a new school where she doesn’t understand the language and struggles to keep up. She is completely cut off from her friends in Seoul and has no access to her beloved comics. At home, she doesn’t fit in with her new stepfamily, and worst of all, she is furious with the one person she is closest to—her mother.

Then one day Robin’s mother enrolls her in a local comic drawing class, which opens the window to a future Robin could never have imagined.

Joce’s review:

Almost American Girl provides an intimate look at the author’s journey through immigrating from South Korea to Huntsville, Alabama, in the USA, very suddenly after her mother tells her she has met a man and is going to marry him. Robin Ha invites the readers into her adolescence through this graphic memoir which allows them to see such a full range of emotions: anger towards her mother, anxiety at attending school, sorrow and intense frustration at trying to fit in when she doesn’t understand her peers and is bullied, and a flood of relief when she finds a first glimmer of connection during her comics drawing class.

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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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