Our Friend is Here! An Interview with Katie Zhao, Author of Last Gamer Standing; On Writing Her Gaming Book, Empowering Girl Gamers, and Writing MG vs. YA!

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.

If you are a gamer looking for a good book about gaming or if you have a young person in your life who loves playing or watching e-sport, then you won’t go wrong with Last Gamer Standing by Katie Zhao, a book about a Chinese-American girl who is an up-and-coming amateur e-sport player of a battle royale VR game called Dayhold. I had the pleasure of reading Last Gamer Standing last week – I even reviewed it! – and as a fellow gamer, I can attest to how good this book is.

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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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Book Review: In the Watchful City by S. Qiouyi Lu – A Transcendent Bio-Cyberpunk Novella of Queer Asian-Influenced Stories that Explore and Reclaim Diaspora, Identity, and Gender

Synopsis:

The city of Ora uses a complex living network called the Gleaming to surveil its inhabitants and maintain harmony. Anima is one of the cloistered extrasensory humans tasked with watching over Ora’s citizens. Although ær world is restricted to what æ can see and experience through the Gleaming, Anima takes pride and comfort in keeping Ora safe from all harm.

All that changes when a mysterious visitor enters the city carrying a cabinet of curiosities from around the world, with a story attached to each item. As Anima’s world expands beyond the borders of Ora to places—and possibilities—æ never before imagined to exist, æ finds ærself asking a question that throws into doubt ær entire purpose: What good is a city if it can’t protect its people?

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

If I had to describe In the Watchful City in a word, it would be ‘transcendent’. In the Watchful City is unlike anything I have read before; this novella pushes the boundaries of science-fiction/fantasy, highlighting that there are no limits or restraints in meaningful storytelling that interweaves themes of diaspora, power, gender, and transformation. The power of In the Watchful City is that it feels – and perhaps is – a story that feels so deeply and unapologetically personal.

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Our Friend is Here! An Interview with Zoe Hana Mikuta, Author of Gearbreakers – On the World through the Eyes of a Young Writer, Mecha Sci-Fi and ‘Quiet’ Romances

Our Friend is Here! An Interview with Zoe Hana Mikuta, Author of Gearbreakers – On the World through the Eyes of a Young Writer, Mecha Sci-Fi and ‘Quiet’ Romances

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.

Having grown up and enamoured by mecha stories – whether it be Gundam or Suisei no Gargantia or Pacific Rim – say the word ‘mecha’ and I’ll likely come running. So when I first heard about Gearbreakers, and later had the opportunity to read it early, I was delighted and excited. I had expected Gearbreakers to be a story full of mecha battles and action, a story led by two strong-willed girls. Although the book does have parts of this, at the center of Gearbreakers is a tender and bittersweet heart – which is what drew me in and resonated with me.

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Our Friend is Here! An Interview with Nicole Glover; On Blending Genres, Incorporating Systemic Issues in Fantastical Mysteries, and Sailor Moon

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.

I am beyond thrilled that I had the honor of interviewing Nicole Glover, the author of The Conductors, released earlier this year, and the upcoming The Undertakers, the second installment in the Murder and Magic series. Thank goodness we aren’t going to have to wait very long between the release dates of the first and second books, because they are truly unlike any other novels I have ever read. They blend fantasy and magic-wielding characters with mystery and history, and The Conductors centers around murders that the police force has either covered up, mismanaged, or won’t touch – of course, because of many systemic factors.

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