Year of the Asian Reading Challenge – Book Recommendations for February’s Prompt: Tropes!

Varian the green toad wearing a panda onesie, holding a red cup of tea. Text underneaht: BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS: Year of the Asian reading challenge; February Prompt: Tropes!

It’s the first day of the month, and Varian has sent you a special invitation to join them at the Pond today. You remember the last time you had tea with them, and they had made their first costume (a rainbow!) and how they shared their favourite diverse anthologies with you. Could they possibly have a new costume?

Varian the toad wearing a panda costume, holding onto a red cup with tea.When you finally find Varian by their favourite rock, they aren’t a toad anymore. In fact, they’re now a big and white panda, and they’re sipping at, what smells like, a strong brew of jasmine tea.

“Friend!” they exclaim when they see you, and they do a small twirl. “What do you think? I finished it last night!”

You tell them that they look marvellous, and that they have definitely improved since the last costume; the fabric looks more aligned and the stitching much cleaner. Your kind comment gets a little blush out of Varian and they muster a thank you.

This is for the Year of the Asian Reading Challenge that Xiaolong is helping out with,” they explain. “I thought it would be fun to participate, and I am aiming to be a panda. Xiaolong has been thinking of what books to read, and so I thought I would share my knowledge and recommend a few to you.”

Oh, this is wonderful! If you’re not mistaken, the month of February is all about prompts, so Varian’s recommendations are timely. You settle yourself down comfortably, and ask what recommendations they have today.

Greetings friends, and welcome to February and our second month of the Year of the Asian reading challenge!

Today’s post is something I’m really excited to share with you all. If you haven’t heard already, myself and three other spectacular book bloggers (Lily, Shealea, and Vicky) are hosting the Year of the Asian Challenge (or YARC, for short!) a year-long reading challenge dedicated entirely to reading Asian literature by Asian authors. As part of YARC, I have the privilege of sharing with you all my book recommendations for this month’s prompts: tropes!

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It’s a Corgi Christmas at Gen’s Art Garden!

GEN'S ART GARDEN: CHRISTMAS CORGI WALLPAPERS. Gen the green tortoise with a purple shell, holding a bunch of red and yellow flowers and smiling at you.

“Excuse me, friend.” You look up from the book that you were reading and see Xiaolong looking up at you, trying to hide a big smile that she can’t seem to contain. (She never had a poker face.) “I’m sorry to bother you, but Gen needs your help with something.”

Oh dear! You wonder what Gen needs help with? Well it can’t possibly be bad, because Xiaolong looks absolutely thrilled and has a little jump in her step as she beckons for you to follow.

You follow Xiaolong to Gen’s corner of the Pond. Up ahead, you hear some yelping and yipping – sounds you don’t ordinarily hear at the Pond. When you approach, you see that Gen is surrounded by – oh my! a litter of puppies!

christmas corgi gen“Hello friend,” says Gen, who is working together with Varian to keep the puppies together. “We found these babies who were lost in the forest. And with the festive season so close, we want to find homes for them. Can you help us?”

You pick up one of the puppies, who had escaped Varian’s grasp, and hold it in front of you. It is wearing some tinsel and a Christmas hat.

“I thought they would be much more adoptable if they were festive themselves, so I made them some Christmas outfits,” Varian says, looking rather pleased with themself.

xiaolong and corgi copy.png“But Varian, can’t we keep them all?” asks Xiaolong, who is cuddling a puppy, cheek-to-cheek, as tiny as she is. “They are just so cute…”

Varian exhales loudly, readjusting their hold of the puppies in their hands. “Xiao, we all voted on this. We cannot adopt all of these puppies!”

Xiaolong looks up at you, her eyes big and twinkling and pleading. “Friend, can I adopt one pleaseeeeeeee?”

Well, you don’t know about that. But you think you can help find these babies a new home.

Welcome back to The Quiet Pond, friends!

With the Christmas season fast approaching, I wanted to share with you the product of an idea that I’ve had for a long time: Christmas corgi wallpapers! As you know from my previous Corgi Wallpapers post, all of you know how much I absolutely adore corgis. (One of my life aspirations is to pet and cuddle one, which has yet to happen! I know, it’s a crime.)

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Book Recommendations with Varian the Toadshifter – Diverse Anthologies!

Gen the green toad, wearing a big rainbow costume, cloud sleeves, and a rainbow skirt. Text says: BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS, Diverse Anthologies

Since finding the Pond, you realise that you haven’t really had the opportunity to talk to Varian the Toadshifter yet. Last you saw them, they were busy sewing away and didn’t look like they had much time to talk. “Varian wants to get better at making costumes,” Xiaolong says when you ask her about them. “Sewing is their favourite kind of magic, especially when they see other people love what they create.”

And so you approach Varian, who doesn’t look as busy as before. In fact, they seem to be having tea!

Varian the Toadshifter drinking tea, holding a teacup to his mouth.“Hello friend, it’s good to finally meet you,” Varian says when you near. “Xiaolong talks about you non-stop, so I was looking forward to meeting you. Would you like some tea?” Before you can answer, Varian mutters a few magical words, and the teapot levitates and pours you a cup full of tea. “As you may know, my name is Varian, I use they/them pronouns, and I am a Toadshifter.”

You ask Varian what a Toadshifter is, and what they do. Varian takes a long sip, mulling over your question. “You see, Toadshifting is a delicate art, one that requires centuries-” centuries?! “-of study and mastery of various magical or physical arts so we can fluidly move from, say, a paladin of light to a necromancer. My hundreds of siblings and family have thus endeavoured to become masters of all crafts, but I was never satisfied with that.”

Varian the Toadshifter, with a hand over his heart, with a staff, shield, sword, and bow around him. A sewing needle and thread is above his head, lit up for emphasis.Varian puts down their tea, and looks at you with a bemused smile. “I was a good toad though, and I studied. But I later learned that my calling was creation; not emulating the arts of old, but creating something tangible and new. You can imagine the sort of drama this sort caused when I told them so. It was all, ‘Varian, we are Toadshifters! Toadshifters uphold the magical arts by learning and imitating! Not by creating something new!’ And so I left, not on unpleasant terms mind you, I just wanted to pursue my calling in peace. Xiaolong and the Pond gave me a new home, a place where I can create but also pass on my knowledge accrued from my education as a Toadshifter.”

“It was Gen, actually, who suggested that I pursue sewing-magic. The idea that I can pay homage to the magic that already exists by creating something new, something of my own creation, and has the potential to inspire others to be the best and most true versions of themselves? That sounded like a fine calling to me. Thus, that is my purpose as a Toadshifter.”

Xiaolong the pink axolotl, squishing her cheeks in excitement!You nod slowly. You notice that Xiaolong had plopped herself next to you sometime during Varian’s story, and she smiles up at you. “Isn’t Varian the coolest?!” she asks. Yes! you say. Varian is very cool.

“Now,” Varian says, rising from their spot. “I’ve just finished putting together my first costume and I quite like how it turned out. Would you like to see it?” Of course, you say, you’d love to see it! (Xiaolong, meanwhile, is bursting with energy and excitement!)

Varian hops behind a big rock, and you notice their legs are a little wobbly – it looks like Varian is a little nervous to show you. But, when Varian emerges, they don’t look like a toad at all – they look like a rainbow!

“It’s a little simple, and I’m still trying to improve,” they say, adjusting their rainbow costume. The stitching is a little uneven and the fabric doesn’t seem entirely aligned, but you can tell that Varian put a lot of love into their costume. “But I just need to be patient with myself and I’ll get better with time.” Right! you tell them with, what you hope to be, an encouraging smile.

“Also, I thought what I’d do is share the inspiration of my costume. I think sharing things that inspire us is a powerful sort of magic, don’t you think?”

Welcome back to the Pond, friends, and welcome to the Pond’s first book recommendation post. I hope you all are having a lovely day so far and are reading some wonderful books!

One of the things that I loved doing in my old blog was to write book recommendation posts. So I decided to add a twist at The Quiet Pond: Varian, the Pond’s Toadshifter, will be at the forefront of the book recommendation posts! As you might remember from the Meet the Inhabitants post, Varian has a lot of knowledge of all things books and magic and is currently learning how to sew. Now, you know a little bit more about Varian’s story and why they do what they’re doing! (Varian is still very new to making costumes, so be sure to watch how they improve over time!)

Today, Varian is going to share with you four anthologies filled with diverse stories. Read More »

Meet the Inhabitants of The Quiet Pond!

“What do you mean, old friend?” you ask the axolotl. You have many questions after what you’ve just seen – a gardening tortoise? a frog sewing? a talking axolotl? – but you feel a familiarity here, and hearing ‘old friend’ tugs at your heart.

The axolotl tilts her head, the flower hat sliding off-center. “The pond is magic,” she says, “and only people with goodness and curiosity in their hearts can visit us. A lot of friends and strangers visit, but sometimes they forget about the magic in their hearts. So, the pond’s magic pulls people here to remind them of that magic in them.”

You aren’t quite sure what to say to that but the axolotl just smiles and nods knowingly. “You are here, and that’s all that matters. But, I want to introduce you to everyone, just in case.” She turns back towards the pond, a bounce in her step. “Gen! Varian! Come and meet our friend!”

Who are the inhabitants at The Quiet Pond, and what kind of magic do they do here at The Pond? Thankfully Xiaolong loves making introductions! Don’t be shy and say hello.

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