Tag Archives: Fantasy

Author Interview: Judy I. Lin

Welcome to my seventh interview for my [belated] Taiwanese American Heritage Week series! (Note: Judy is not American but rather Canadian, but I want to highlight the Taiwanese diaspora outside of the U.S. as well during TAHW.)

About the Book

  • Title: A Magic Steeped in Poison
  • Author: Judy I. Lin
  • Cover Artist: Sija Hong
  • Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (an Imprint of Macmillan)
  • Release Date: March 29th, 2022
  • Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Synopsis

I used to look at my hands with pride. Now all I can think is, “These are the hands that buried my mother.”

For Ning, the only thing worse than losing her mother is knowing that it’s her own fault. She was the one who unknowingly brewed the poison tea that killed her—the poison tea that now threatens to also take her sister, Shu.

When Ning hears of a competition to find the kingdom’s greatest shénnóng-shī—masters of the ancient and magical art of tea-making—she travels to the imperial city to compete. The winner will receive a favor from the princess, which may be Ning’s only chance to save her sister’s life.

But between the backstabbing competitors, bloody court politics, and a mysterious (and handsome) boy with a shocking secret, Ning might actually be the one in more danger.

Covert illustration by Sija Hong.

A Venom Dark and Sweet, the sequel to A Magic Steeped in Poison, will be published August 23rd, 2022 from Feiwel & Friends!


Interview with Judy I. Lin

Q: It’s been 5 years since I first interviewed you on my blog, and at the time you didn’t have a book deal yet whereas now you have debuted and even become a New York Times bestseller, with a second book releasing this year. What lessons have you learned that you’d like to share with folks who are currently on the path to publication?

A: Wow, that was so long ago! I remember being newly agented and hopeful that my book will sell and of course the crushing disappointment when it did not. When I’ve learned since then is that it is impossible to predict what will sell and what will not. The books that are being published now sold a year or two ago. Even though my YA horror did not find a home, writing it gave me the confidence to eventually work on the project that I was always scared of – the project that became A Magic Steeped in Poison.

Q: If you were to describe the major characters of your book as different kinds of dumplings, what would they be?

A: This is such a creative question and I’m definitely hungry after answering it.

Ning is best represented by the dumpling that appears in the story: the humble zongzi (glutinous rice dumpling). A dumpling with history, associated with remembrance and sacrifice.

Zhen is the soup dumpling (xiaolongbao), known for its delicate folds, with a surprising filing inside. Just like how she keeps her true self hidden.

Kang would be shumai. A combination of pork and shrimp, from a province by the sea, but has traveled all around the world. There are many varieties of shumai, like how he has to put on different personalities in order to survive.

Lian is the potsticker (guotie). A small package of flavor, very similar to her personality, and usually accompanied by a spicy dipping sauce.

Q: Authors of color are often criticized for writing fantasy stories that draw on their culture that are “inauthentic,” but half the fun of fantasy is being able to make stuff up. What parts of the worldbuilding for Dàxī did you have the most fun with?

A: I really loved incorporating elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine into my story, especially the herbal remedies. In my research, I learned about the formulas from some of the compendiums (including Shénnóng Běncǎo Jīng – the herbal medicine classic!) and what sort of ailments those ingredients and tonics would address. This led me to imagine what these ingredients would be used for if they took on magical properties. Most of my worldbuilding, even the fantastical or magical components, was usually built on a kernel of something that existed in the real world.

Q: I appreciate the amount of thought that went into names of places in the story. How did you come up with the place names in Dàxī?

A: It was important to me that names in the story had a corresponding Chinese name that evoked a certain feeling I wanted to convey (whether it is a person’s name or the name of a place), so I had to make sure the names sounded fine in both the pinyin representation (and corresponding sounds in English) and that it wasn’t something offensive in Chinese. It was a lot of back and forth where I might have settled on an English name, but then had to tweak it when I found that another character matched the feel better.

You’ll also notice that a few places I drew on place names from Taiwan. Yěliŭ for one, because I liked the literal translation – Wild Willow, since the academy is in the forest, surrounded by trees. Língyǎ is from the Kaohsiung neighborhood I grew up in, but I changed the first character to “tomb”, which matches its role as the resting place of former emperors. It’s a fun part of the process!

Q: How do you approach drafting? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you overwrite and have to pare down or do you underwrite and then have to fill in details? Do you write everything in order or do you jump around?

A: I am a plotter for sure. I like to have an outline before I start drafting so I know where I am going, but I still leave space for myself to explore and then revise the story as needed. My first drafts are very short, and I have to keep building with each revision – adding details and emotional arcs as needed.

I usually write everything in order. After I’m done, I update my outline, and then I go back and write it all over again! Maybe not the most efficient writing process, but one that works for me.

Q: What strategies and tools do you find most effective for immersing yourself in the mind of a character or a world?

A: During my first draft, I like to free write. Free writing and using stream of consciousness allows me to fully step into the character’s mind, see what they see and feel what they feel. Most of what comes out of it is not useable, but it helps me get into their headspace and I can see the direction the story should take as I embody the character and navigate them through the story.

I also listen to music a lot while I’m writing. I build a playlist that captures the feeling of the book and then every time I turn on the playlist, I’m instantly in that headspace where I am ready to create.

Q: Publishing involves a lot of factors that are out of our control as writers. What personal goals do you have for your writing that aren’t about numbers, ranking on bestseller lists, etc.

A: To be honest, how A Magic Steeped in Poison has been received has surpassed even my wildest dreams. There were so many things I was able to cross off my “author list”.

My personal goal though is just to be able to write more books. I would love to someday sell a book set in Taiwan, because that’s a dream that has yet to be fulfilled. I have a few ideas that I’ve been working on that I hope I will get to write some day! But right now I have two projects already in the works that I am very excited about and I can’t wait to share when I am able to.

Q: On a similar note, how do you keep yourself grounded when faced with rejection, disappointment, setbacks, etc. in the publishing process?

A: I’ve experienced all of those things and more during the first few years when I was trying to sell a book. There were times when I wanted to give up, but I kept going because my goal was always to show my daughter that it was important to keep working to pursue your dreams. My husband was also very supportive and ensured that I had the time to write without distractions.

On the writing side, I was lucky in that along the way I connected with friends who were at different steps of the publishing journey, so we could help each other get through all the highs and the lows. I was able to cheer them on and received their support and that kept me writing as well. Professionally, my agent continued to champion my stories even when it felt like nobody wanted them! Without all of those supports I don’t think I would still be writing today.


Add A Magic Steeped in Poison on Goodreads.

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About the Author

Judy I. Lin, #1 New York Times-bestselling author of the Book of Tea duology (A Magic Steeped in Poison and A Venom Dark and Sweet), was born in Taiwan and immigrated to Canada with her family at a young age. She grew up with her nose in a book and loved to escape to imaginary worlds. She now works as an occupational therapist and still spends her nights dreaming up imaginary worlds of her own. She lives on the Canadian prairies with her husband and daughters.

Author Links:


Thanks for reading this interview! If you’re enjoying my Taiwanese American Heritage Week posts, please consider donating to the victims fund for the Taiwanese American church community in Orange County that was attacked this weekend on May 15th by a gunman, or donating to Ren Kanoelani, a Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian), Taiwanese, and Japanese person who needs help with student loan debt and medical bills. Thanks!

[Blog Tour] Book Playlist for A Magic Steeped in Poison

If you haven’t read my review for A Magic Steeped in Poison, please go back to that post, where you can also find the information on the book. Otherwise, come along with me for this book playlist.

Out of the five songs I picked for this playlist, four were used as the opening or ending songs for Chinese historical dramas from the 90s and early 2000s. All of these songs have a bit of a sober or melancholic feeling because of the darkness and angst that weighs on the story and the romance in A Magic Steeped in Poison. I took the time to translate the lyrics as well as I could so you could get a feel for what they’re about. Links are to the individual YouTube videos.

1. 一步一生 – 曾慶瑜 (One Step, One Lifetime – Regina Tsang)

What is that ambling sound
What flickering shadow of feelings
What is that fleeting silhouette of youth
That spins endlessly in this moment?

One turn, a hand raised
A fantastical, mesmerizing gaze
Illuminated my dreamscape
One turn, a foot put forth
Revealing the first flirtation
Decorating another’s eyes

At this time, who comes to see me?
At some unknown far-off place
In this place, just who am I even?
Stranded from the splendid place

One step, one posture
One step, one share of status
Finely crafted into a painting
One step, one stage of life
One step, one transformation
Each step more refined than the previous
Each step more at ease than the previous

2. 下沙 – 游鴻明 (Raining Sand – Chris Yu)

Everyone has someone they cannot forget
Thoughts will pass through your soul like fine grains of sand
When I opened the door gently, there was only the sound of the wind and rain
I feel that love turns people cruel
People who were once in love become thorns in each others’ hearts
The more truly you love, the more deeply you hurt

Just like night and day, separated by an instant
I’m well aware this is goodbye, tomorrow is the last time to see each other again

The sky is raining sand and also laughing at me for being too foolish
You should just stop chasing after footprints you can’t make out
The sky is raining sand and also brooding on my behalf
I bury my love in the sand, along with news of you

Once you’ve left, you’re gone, don’t think of it
The wind has left, the sand is gone, don’t think of it

3. 多情最累 – 辛曉琪 (Sentimentality is Most Wearisome – Winnie Hsin)

Who pities the woman whose heart is like water
Going the extra mile to accompany you
Clinging so, yet all I get in return is silence
I gaze at the waning moon and raise an empty cup
When I look again, it brims with tears
Sentimentality is most wearisome
In the haziness, you’ve gradually grown more distant

Seeing through the gilded facade of passionate love
Who can judge this matter of right and wrong?
In times of storms, I persevere through the dawn and greet the night again
Unable to drink away the bitter taste, I’m left with nothing but thoughts reverberating through my mind
In the space between chatter and laughter, all I see is a sky full of gratitude and grievances

The comings and goings of the mortal world are like a guesthouse
There is no end to the world’s sorrows and joys that you witness
A dream follows a regret
After love and hate, life continues and then breaks again
Who knew that your heart only allows someone to stay for one night
Adding a bit of worry and sorrow for no reason
Could it be that true feelings are hard to obtain
That infatuation is doomed to wander
Until it vanishes like smoke in the end?

4. 白絲線 – 那英 (White Silk Thread – Na Ying)

Tonight, the ash-colored wind stings your eyes
Love rides into the distance on a transparent rainbow
Are all these feelings reciprocated?
The starry night in the cosmos illuminates your face

Memories no longer have a sweet taste
Write down half a punctuation for this paragraph
The snow drifts beneath a forlorn first-quarter moon
There are no roses in this moment, only light blue tears

Love is like white silk thread
Longing tugs at my heartstrings
Weak thoughts buoy along silver leaves, echoing in your world
Love is always limitless
Longing is written in my eyes
Your borders blur and vanish
I only wish you could aid me through my night

5. 江南 – 林俊傑 (South of the River – JJ Lin)

The wind arrives here and is clingy
Clinging to the thoughts of passerby
The rain arrives here and winds into thread
Winding around us as we linger in the mortal realm
Your presence beside me is fate
Our fate is written on the Stone of Three Lifetimes
Love has one in ten thousand parts sweetness
Better that I am buried at this point

Circling round and round
Day after day, year after year, I
Gaze deeply at your face
A face showing the tenderness of anger, the tenderness of grievance

Not understanding love and hate, passion and worry, we both assumed love was like the changeable weather
Believing that loving a day at a time would be enough to overcome eternity
Freezing time in this moment

Not knowing how to express tenderness, we assumed sacrifice in the name of love was merely an ancient tale
How painful the grief of separation can be, how concentrated the pain can be,
When our dreams were buried in the misty rain south of the river
When our hearts shattered
That’s when we finally understood

[Blog Tour] Review for A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin

Hello again. I am currently struggling through the last stretch of finals week, but I’m excited to kick off this year’s Taiwanese American Heritage Week, where I celebrate authors of Taiwanese heritage on my blog, with my review for A Magic Steeped in Poison, written by a Taiwanese Canadian author. Thanks to Colored Pages for hosting the blog tour. You can find the rest of the tour stops on their tour launch page.

Book Information

Title: A Magic Steeped in Poison
Author: Judy I. Lin
Series: The Book of Tea
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: March 29th, 2022
Genres: Young Adult, fantasy

Synopsis

I used to look at my hands with pride. Now all I can think is, “These are the hands that buried my mother.”

For Ning, the only thing worse than losing her mother is knowing that it’s her own fault. She was the one who unknowingly brewed the poison tea that killed her—the poison tea that now threatens to also take her sister, Shu.

When Ning hears of a competition to find the kingdom’s greatest shénnóng-shī—masters of the ancient and magical art of tea-making—she travels to the imperial city to compete. The winner will receive a favor from the princess, which may be Ning’s only chance to save her sister’s life.

But between the backstabbing competitors, bloody court politics, and a mysterious (and handsome) boy with a shocking secret, Ning might actually be the one in more danger.

Review

A Magic Steeped in Poison was one of my most anticipated releases of 2022, and it definitely delivered everything I wanted and more.

This book was really a treat for me as someone who grew up with Chinese dramas. It was atmospheric and trope-y in all the best ways while also delivering a fresh story with an innovative magic system, written in lush prose that stimulates all the senses.

Ning, the protagonist of A Magic Steeped in Poison, is the kind of person you can’t help but root for. Her family is the center of her world, she’s competent but humble and kind, and she’s always just Trying Her Best. Even as the story is an epic fantasy with a broad political landscape, it’s also a deeply personal coming-of-age story for Ning. Having grown up in a far-flung rural village in the empire of Dàxī, leaving her family behind and traveling to the capital city for the shénnóng-shī competition dumps her into a world much bigger than what she’s used to. There’s the culture shock of moving to a big city but also the stark class disparities between herself and most of her fellow competitors. Her interpersonal interactions in the capital are intertwined with higher political stakes, and she has to decide who to trust, what she values, and where her loyalties lie.

Chief among the people who test her ability to judge others’ character is Kang, a mysterious, handsome, and brooding boy full of secrets. They meet seemingly by chance and then establish a magical bond through a shared brew of tea that brings them into a surprisingly intimate closeness while also giving them reason to question whether the other person is everything they seem to be. There is sweetness and angst, disclosure and mistrust, and the tension between them extends throughout the story.

Another key player in the story who is full of mystery is the regent, Princess Zhen, who is the host of the shénnóng-shī competition. Ning doesn’t know what to make of her but is pulled into her orbit when she gets entangled in the royal court’s lethal power plays. I may have a soft spot for Zhen because of her romance with her bodyguard, Ruyi, but having a sapphic romance among the major supporting characters was a nice surprise. I can’t say too much about the princess without spoiling the story, but I definitely grew more attached to her as the story progressed.

A Magic Steeped in Poison is the first in a duology, and the setup for the second book is definitely there. When I finished the last page I was beside myself clamoring for the sequel and even though the wait is much shorter than usual because book 2 comes out in August of this year, I am cursing the publishing gods for not dropping it into my lap now.

In the second half of my tour stop, I have a book playlist, so stay tuned for that. 🙂

Book Links  

About the Author

Judy Lin was born in Taiwan and moved to Canada when she was eight years old. She grew up with her nose in a book and loved to escape to imaginary worlds. She now divides her time between working as an occupational therapist and creating imaginary worlds of her own. She lives on the Canadian prairies with her husband and daughter. 

Author Links: 

[Blog Tour] Favorite Quotes from Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore

Hello again! This is part 2 of my tour stop for the Lakelore book tour hosted by Colored Pages. You can find all the info about the book and my review in the first part.

Today, I’m presenting some of my favorite quotes from Lakelore that I found resonated with my experiences and/or were just beautiful to behold. These are spoiler-free, so don’t worry!

Quote #1

I planned to help them hide out behind the rocks. Then I saw the first flicker of iridescent blue lift off the water. It fluttered through the air, a slice of lake-silver wafting like a leaf. Then another followed it. Then a few more, then a dozen. Then a hundred, each of them like a butterfly with its wings made of water. Then a whole flock of blue-green and silver-blue wings, their backs shining like the surface of the lake. They spooled away like they always did, showing me the dark underneath the water.

Bastián

Quote #2

I look up, and track that rush of blue. First I take in what it is as it crosses the sky, a spotted fish with a feathered tail that looks blade sharp . Then I take in that the sky is no longer daylight-gray, but purple, dark as the rind of an eggplant. The fish swims through that sky like it’s water. Ocean plants twist up toward that sky. A starfish with blue swallowtail wings rustles the stalks. The sky ripples with threads of light like sun bowing on the bottom of a pool. The memory of what this boy once showed me brushes against my neck.

Lore

Quote #3

Lore’s glance catches on my wrist. They give my watch a weird look. No one our age wears watches, and I know that. But I’ve also noticed that wearing a man’s watch signals something to people looking at me that they don’t even register. It makes it more likely that they’ll call me him instead of her, and while him might not be quite right, it’s a whole sky closer to right than her. That’s worth my friends telling me that an analog watch makes me look about a thousand years old.

Bastián

Quote #4

What I don’t say , what I want to say: All my friends liked me. And most of them even stuck with me when I came out (and those who didn’t, I chose to forget their names). I was the one they asked what shirts to wear on first dates, what were the best grocery stores to buy flowers to bring their mothers after they stayed out too late. But I don’t hear from most of them. I’m the kind of friend that’s fun when I’m there and forgettable when I’m not.

Lore

Quote #5

ADHD medication helps give me more of a buffer against changes in my brain weather . I used to get startled by a noise and be thrown off for hours. Someone would give me a look that could have meant nothing, and the ground of my thoughts would dry out and crack. That still happens, but it happens less often , and it happens slower.

This morning I missed the time I usually take my meds. I woke up groggy, tired from dreams of the lake flooding onto the shore, the water pulling into the shape of flames and licking across the hills. So I’m back to setting alarms. If I’m not on top of my meds, the weather in my brain dries out faster, like lightning might catch in the sky.

BAstián

Quote #6

“It was a lot like that ,” Lore says. “Sometimes I kind of wish I could give the people around me a daily report on my gender. Just so they’d know what to expect. So no one would give me that confused look whether I was wearing a binder or makeup or whatever.”

When I don’t say anything, Lore looks up. “I’m not making any sense, am I?”

“No,” I say. “You’re making a lot of sense. The world could use daily gender forecasts.”

The minute I hear myself say it, I know how stupid it sounds. Yes, I sometimes imagine that state of my brain in terms of weather. That doesn’t mean I tell anyone about it. It must sound even weirder about gender.

But Lore’s face lights up. “Yes,” they say. “Sunny, forty-two percent expected femininity.”

“Tonight,” I say, “cloudy with likely masculinity.”

“Exactly,” Lore says.

Bastián

Quote #7

I want to ask. Of course I want to ask. But it’s none of my business. And even if it was, how would I ask? Hey, random question, but did you grow up thinking there was maybe something weird about your own brain? Or that your brain was doing things the wrong way? That you were doing things the wrong way?

Even in my head, it sounds like a bad infomercial. It comes with a flourish of harp sounds. There’s an Amanda the Learning Specialist for that.

Lore

Quote #8

“Your turn.” Bastián looks at me. “Gender forecast.”

“For right now?” I ask. “Yeah.”

“Right now?” I shake the glitter jar. “I think it might be this.”

“Okay.” Bastián’s smile is shy, and they don’t quite look at me, like I’ve given them some kind of compliment they want but don’t know what to do with . “What about yesterday?”

“I guess”— I think about it, how I felt, how to put it in terms other than masculine and feminine, boy or girl, neither or both or somewhere in the space between—“ really strong coffee. Or maybe that popping sound soda makes.”

“A gender fizz.” Bastián nods. “Sounds like the next big drink.”

Lore

Quote #9

I can feel Bastián’s wince so clearly it presses into my chest plate. I know that feeling of not asking because you don’t want to admit that you didn’t understand something, that after several more repetitions you still might not understand it, the worry that the other person’s patience will thin and fray before you can.

Lore

Quote #10

I want to tell them that sometimes it’s okay, and sometimes it’s exhausting. Sometimes it means trying to change the weather in my own brain and finding it as impossible as moving the clouds in a storm. The weather in my brain may or may not match up with what’s going on, but an atmosphere of something being wrong can permeate everything even if I can’t figure out what it is. Sometimes it means not saying anything when someone misgenders me because I don’t want to be flagged as a problem any more than I already am.

BastiáN

[Blog Tour] Review for Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore

Hello again! Spring is in the air here, and while school is kicking my butt (as always), I am currently on spring break, so I managed to fit in some pleasure reading for this blog tour! I’m excited to present my tour stop for Anna-Marie McLemore’s newest book, Lakelore! Thanks to Colored Pages for hosting the blog tour. You can find the full tour schedule on their website.

Book Information 

Title: Lakelore
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore 
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: March 8th, 2022 
Pages: 304
Genres: Young Adult Fantasy

Book cover for Anna-Marie McLemore's novel, Lakelore. The illustration features two dark-haired brown-skinned youths standing back-to-back, half-immersed in vivid, multi-colored water with a flight of blue-green butterflies perched on their heads. A large yellow sun, partially eclipsed by clouds, looms behind them. In the water, the word LAKELORE is printed in bold white font with a distortion that resembles light reflecting off dapples in water.
Book cover for Anna-Marie McLemore’s novel, Lakelore. The illustration features two dark-haired brown-skinned youths standing back-to-back, half-immersed in vivid, multi-colored water with a flight of blue-green butterflies perched on their heads. A large yellow sun, partially eclipsed by clouds, looms behind them. In the water, the word LAKELORE is printed in bold white font with a distortion that resembles light reflecting off dapples in water.

Synopsis

In this young adult novel by award-winning author Anna-Marie McLemore, two non-binary teens are pulled into a magical world under a lake – but can they keep their worlds above water intact?

Everyone who lives near the lake knows the stories about the world underneath it, an ethereal landscape rumored to be half-air, half-water. But Bastián Silvano and Lore Garcia are the only ones who’ve been there. Bastián grew up both above the lake and in the otherworldly space beneath it. Lore’s only seen the world under the lake once, but that one encounter changed their life and their fate.

Then the lines between air and water begin to blur. The world under the lake drifts above the surface. If Bastián and Lore don’t want it bringing their secrets to the surface with it, they have to stop it and to do that, they have to work together. There’s just one problem: Bastián and Lore haven’t spoken in seven years, and working together means trusting each other with the very things they’re trying to hide.

Review

You know how some books hurt to read because they hit close to home, but then they heal you and tell you it’s okay to exist as you are? Lakelore is one of those books for me. I mean, I love all of Anna-Marie McLemore’s books, but this one really spoke to me on a deeper level than any of their previous books (which again, are all marvelous still in their own right). The intersections of being trans, neurodivergent, and a person of color are explored in this story from dual points of view, and both Bastián and Lore’s experiences really resonated with me in various ways.

At its core, Lakelore is a story about the Terrifying Ordeal of Being KnownTM. Vulnerability is difficult enough to begin with, but being neurodivergent, trans/nonbinary, and brown in an ableist, transmisic, and racist world, both Bastian and Lore have been made to feel like there is no space in the world for them to exist, like the only way to live is to shrink themselves into digestible packages and to make sure nobody ever sees the unacceptable sides of themselves. In each other, they find kindred spirits. They can info-dump on each other about their favorite niche interests, they can joke with each other about gender, they don’t have to explain life as a brown person in a white world. However, the tension between their desperate hunger for intimacy and their all-consuming fear of rejection keeps every interaction between them balanced on a knife’s edge, where one wrong move or word feels like it could ruin everything. The acts of self-sabotage as a defense mechanism to preempt the possibility of being hurt by the other person? Maybe a little too relatable.

Of course, as usual, Anna-Marie McLemore brings their characters and setting to life with gorgeous prose that invites you to linger and bask in every turn of phrase, to let yourself get swept away by each emotionally charged ebb and flow of words. I kept highlighting passages for the favorite quotes portion of this book tour (coming up in my next post) and quickly found myself stressed by the need to narrow the list down.

Conclusion: Just read the book! It is an Experience.

Content/trigger warnings: misgendering, general trans-antagonism, ableist bullying, gendered harassment

Book Links

About the Author

Anna-Marie McLemore (they/them) writes magical realism and fairy tales that are as queer, Latine, and nonbinary as they are. Their books include THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a 2016 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist; 2017 Stonewall Honor Book WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS, which was longlisted for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature and was the winner of the James Tiptree Jr. Award; WILD BEAUTY, a Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Booklist best book of 2017; BLANCA & ROJA, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice; MISS METEOR (co-authored with Tehlor Kay Mejia); DARK AND DEEPEST RED, a Winter 2020 Indie Next List selection; and THE MIRROR SEASON, which has recently received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, Booklist and School Library Journal, and the forthcoming LAKELORE (March 8, 2022) and SELF-MADE BOYS: A GREAT GATSBY REMIX (Fall 2022).

Author Links: 

[Blog Tour] 5 Asian Fantasy Book Recommendations for Fans of The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh

Hello and welcome to part 2 of my blog tour stop for The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea. You can find the full details about the book in part 1. Here I’m presenting some book recommendations based on The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea. Some are older than others but they’re all Asian fantasy stories. If you’ve been following me/my blog since 2016 you might have seen me talk about one or more of these before. The book publishing world moves so quickly that backlist titles get neglected and forgotten pretty easily when they’re not part of an ongoing series, so I decided I’d give these a spotlight again.

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

This book was basically the first high fantasy YA by an Asian author published by one of the Big 5. Set in a Chinese-inspired fantasy world, it follows the story of Ai Ling, a young woman who sets off on a journey in order to find her missing father. Her journey takes her far beyond the world she knows to the realms of the gods themselves.

Prophecy by Ellen Oh

The first in a Korean inspired sword and sorcery fantasy trilogy, Prophecy features a kickass heroine on her quest to save her kingdom from foreign invaders and step into her destiny as the Dragon Warrior.

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

The Forbidden Wish is an ode love both platonic and romantic, told from the point of view of a female jinni who is woken from her lamp by a charming thief centuries after watching her closest friend’s kingdom fall. It’s a fresh twist on the story of Aladdin by an author of Syrian descent that remains one of my favorite YA fantasy romances to this day.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Like The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea, The Star-Touched Queen, which draws on Hindu lore, features a young woman named Maya who becomes the bride of a god as the result of a cursed horoscope. She struggles to forge her own destiny while navigating the realm of Death and the shadows of her past life. The whole series set in this universe is a gorgeously written feast for the imagination, and I recommend reading the companion, A Crown of Wishes, and the novellas collected in Star-Touched Stories.

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

While Julie Kagawa is best known for her Iron Fey books, Shadow of the Fox is a must-read in its own right. Japanese folklore serves as the inspiration for this trilogy, which follows a humble kitsune (fox spirit) as she takes on the heavy burden of protecting a piece of the scroll of the Kami Dragon, whose power to grant any single wish every millennium would be devastating in the hands of the wrong sort—and there are many who covet it and will do anything to get their hands on it.

[Blog Tour] Review for The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh

I’m about 1/3 of the way through the spring semester and am mentally hanging by a thread to the point that I mixed up the date for this blog tour post, but! I got a nice reprieve from school while reading The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea, which was one of my most anticipated reads of early 2022 since I’m a long-time Axie Oh fan and also the cover for this book (by artist Kuri Huang) is gorgeous! Thank you to Colored Pages for hosting this tour. You can find the schedule with all the other tour stops on the tour launch page.

Book Information

Title: The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea
Author: Axie Oh 
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: February 22nd, 2022 
Genres: Young Adult, fantasy

Synopsis

Deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland for generations. Floods sweep away entire villages, while bloody wars are waged over the few remaining resources. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering.

Many believe that Shim Cheong, the most beautiful girl in the village—and the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon—may be the legendary true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, even knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead.

Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin—as well as a motley crew of demons, gods, and spirits—Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.

But she doesn’t have much time: A human cannot live long in the land of the spirits. And there are those who would do anything to keep the Sea God from waking…

Review

Not to be punny, but The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is such an immersive read. Nearly all of the story takes place in the undersea kingdom of the Sea God, which is populated by spirits and immortals of all kinds. Although it feels like a cliche to say so, I got Spirited Away vibes from the story, but not just because it’s Asian. The alienation and wonder of being in a completely different world with its own rules, the race against time to save what one holds most dear, the ever present beauty and danger of the spirit world, and the deceptive appearances of many of the characters—all of these elements lent the story the same enchanting qualities as Spirited Away.

Our protagonist, Mina, is nothing special on the surface, not the most beautiful or talented girl in her village, not even the original bride chosen to be sacrificed to the Sea God.  Yet her love, for her family, for her people, and for the gods themselves makes her shine as the protagonist and spurs her to acts of bravery. Her physical strength may be unremarkable, but her mental fortitude is admirable. She finds strength from the bonds she forges with others and holds them close to her heart.

The supporting cast of characters includes a wide array of beings, from friendly spirits in the form of children to spiteful gods with their own whims and agendas, as well as several of the other girls who were previously sacrificed to the Sea God. Although this story is a standalone, I found myself wishing I could return to the world of the Sea God to hang out with the many friends and allies Mina makes along the way.

At its core, The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is a story exploring the meaning of fate and the power of love to overcome all. Even as she is pressed on all sides by forces that try to bend her to their will, Mina persists in following her heart and holding on to hope. Her story is a guiding light in the storm and a perfect read for times of trouble. Overall, this book is a lovely start to Axie Oh’s venture into the fantasy genre and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Don’t forget to check out my book recommendations for the blog tour in my next post!

About the Author

Axie Oh is a first-generation Korean American, born in New York City and raised in New Jersey. She studied Korean history and creative writing as an undergrad at the University of California San Diego and holds an MFA in Writing for Young People from Lesley University. Her passions include K-pop, anime, stationery supplies, and milk tea, and she currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada, with her dog, Toro (named after Totoro). She is the author of multiple books for teens, including The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea.

Author Links: 

[Blog Tour] Review for Jade Fire Gold by June CL Tan

2021 is already more than 3/4 over, which sounds like fake news even though it isn’t. I’m trying my best to juggle my various responsibilities, and even though I was wary of overloading myself, I simply had to sign up for the blog tour for Jade Fire Gold. This tour is hosted by Caffeine Book Tours, and you can find more details about it on the CBT website.

Book Information

Title: Jade Fire Gold
Author: June CL Tan
US Cover
: GUWEIZ
UK Cover
:  Aaron Munday
Publisher
: HarperTeen
Publication date
: 12 October 2021
Age group:
Young Adult
Genres
: Fantasy

Synopsis

Girls of Paper and Fire meets The Tiger at Midnight in June CL Tan’s stunning debut, inspired by Chinese mythology, with rich magic and an epic slow-burn romance.

In an empire on the brink of war . . .

Ahn is no one, with no past and no family.

Altan is a lost heir, his future stolen away as a child.

When they meet, Altan sees in Ahn a path to reclaiming the throne. Ahn sees a way to finally unlock her past and understand her arcane magical abilities.

But they may have to pay a far deadlier price than either could have imagined.

Ferocious action, shadowy intrigue, and a captivating romance collide in June CL Tan’s debut, a stunning homage to the Xianxia novel with a tender, beating heart, perfect for fans of The Bone Witch and We Hunt the Flame.

On-page Representation

  • POC (Chinese-coded characters)
  • LGBTQ+ (Sapphic, gay)

Trigger and Content Warnings

  • self-harm (gouging, eye horror; non-graphic)
  • child abuse (physical, verbal, emotional manipulation/gaslighting)
  • parent death (implied, off-page)
  • character deaths
  • mentions and descriptions of fantasy/magical violence (blood, war, political violence)
  • mentions and descriptions of physical symptoms that might be triggering to those with emetophobia
  • alcohol consumption

Review

Note: I received a review copy of Jade Fire Gold as part of my participation in this tour in exchange for an honest review.

Jade Fire Gold was one of my most anticipated releases of 2021 and I’m happy to say that I had a great time with this xianxia inspired fantasy. I haven’t read a fantasy novel that’s this many pages in a long time, but I never got bored. There were many things to love about it.

First, I love that this story plays with familiar tropes from Western fantasy and Chinese xianxia. The Chinese-inspired setting was easy for me to immerse myself in as someone who grew up on a steady diet of period cdramas. It was fun to see how June tweaked and repurposed cultural elements that resonated with my experiences. For those who aren’t acquainted with them, she provides ample scaffolding to bring this world to life with poetically drawn descriptions.

Epic fantasy vibes aside, what really kept me invested in the story was the characters. The two main leads, Ahn and Altan, each have their own traumas and desires, and a cruel twist of fate brings them together for a life-or-death mission. I found myself questioning what choices and sacrifices they would make to reach their goals, and whether they’d succumb to their inner darkness.

At first, the romance between Ahn and Altan felt a little too insta-attraction-y for my tastes, but it gradually developed enough that I started genuinely rooting for them and dreading the star-crossed lovers trajectory of their relationship. Slow-burn enemies-to-lovers fans: this one’s for you.

I also really loved many of the supporting characters, particularly the four of who are explicitly queer (including a f/f pairing). The story really built up their personalities and backgrounds as their lives converged with Ahn’s and Altan’s, with some interesting twists thrown in. I was distraught any time it seemed like one of them was going to get hurt, or actually did get hurt. I would totally be down to read companion stories about any of them.

Although the conflict in this book gets resolved enough that it could stand alone, the epilogue of the story creates a clear jumping off point for a sequel. I’m guessing the publisher hasn’t committed to one yet until Jade Fire Gold succeeds, but I hope it happens since I am 👀👀👀 at the revelation in the epilogue. Fingers crossed and please check this book out to help make that book 2 a reality.

Also, as usual, stay tuned for my blog tour bonus content in a separate post. 🙂


Book links (note: you are free to use your own affiliate links or to other booksellers):

About the Author

June CL Tan grew up in Singapore where she was raised on a diet of classic books and wuxia movies, caffeine and congee. She holds various degrees in communication studies, education, and film. After teaching for a few years, she took a detour into the finance industry. To no one’s surprise, she soon realized her mistake and made her escape. Now, she resides in New York City, talking to imaginary people and creating fantastical worlds under the watchful eye of her crafty cat. She enjoys telling stories that draw on both the traditional and modern to create something fresh to the eye, but familiar to the heart. Jade Fire Gold is her debut novel. 

Author links:

Author Interview: JC Kang

Welcome to my Taiwanese American Heritage Week feature series! Taiwanese American Heritage Week is celebrated every year in May starting on Mother’s Day and ending the following Sunday. Each year during TAHW I spotlight Taiwanese authors and books in some form or fashion on my blog. You can find all of the past features in my Post Index.

The final author interview in my 2021 TAHW series is with self-published fantasy author JC Kang on his recently republished series starter Songs of Insurrection.

Synopsis:

Only the lost magic of Dragon Songs can save the world. Only an awkward girl with the perfect voice can rediscover it.

The Dragon Singers of old summoned typhoons and routed armies, liberating mankind from the orcs before fading into legend. Now, with the world again facing a new cataclysm, the power of music stirs in Kaiya, a naïve misfit with the perfect voice.

Without a master to guide her, she must rely on Hardeep, a disgraced foreign paladin, to help awaken her latent magic. His motives might not be entirely noble. When he leads her to the fabled Dragon Scale Lute, which only a Dragon Singer can wield, it is up to Black Lotus Clan to intervene. Because the instrument’s fell power can save the world…Or destroy it.

Interview:

Q: Obligatory food question! You told me you worked in Taiwan for some years when you were younger. What are some of your favorite Taiwanese foods, and what are your favorite memories of living in Taiwan?

A: One of the best part of living in Taiwan was the food! Because so many chefs from all over China fled to Taiwan, there were so many wonderful regional cuisines. Since I hung out mostly around 師大, I had several favorite haunts in the day/night market: a northern potsticker/dumpling/tricolor noodle dive; a man who flew in from Hong Kong on the weekends had a stand where he made amazing beef chow fun; and a restaurant that had delectable 滷肉飯.

Also, a peppered fried-chicken stand a block away from my apartment. It might be sacrilege, but my favorite beef needle soup was not on 永康街, but from the chain restaurant, 三商巧福.  Is it embarrassing to say, I actually loved McDonalds in Taiwan, too? I miss their fried pork sandwiches and teriyaki burgers!

Besides just the fun of being in my 20s and hanging out with friends, probably my favorite memory was the 1996 Presidential election. We were playing Mahjong at a friend’s apartment on Ren Ai Rd, and as the ballot returns were coming in, a huge commotion erupted on the streets. Honking horns, people marching and chanting, firecrackers… As someone used to seeing less than 50% turnout for American elections, it was so exciting to see the people being involved in the democratic process.

That said, I also met my wife in Taiwan, so I should probably include that as a favorite memory?

Q: I read Songs of Insurrection several years ago, so I was surprised to see that you recently republished it with not only a gorgeous new cover but also some content revisions. What motivated the update, and what was it like giving your book a makeover?

A: Even though it was the first book in the Dragon Songs Saga, Songs of Insurrection was actually the last one of the series that I wrote. I was misguided and arrogant in thinking that I had the skill to write a book that would appeal to everyone, and my goal was to create an insta-love situation which would eventually turned on its head and subvert that trope.

Many of the critical reviews mentioned a dislike for the insta-love, and Kaiya’s lack of agency because of it. Therefore, I revised the story to make her love interest, Hardeep, suspicious. It’s probably still too subtle for some readers.

The series ended up selling very well—60k copies and 35 million Kindle Unlimited page reads—so I wrote a prequel series following the most popular character, Jie. I also learned my audience was mostly women 30+ who liked romantic arcs, so I had the covers redesigned to target that demographic more.

When it came time to do the audiobooks, I decided to tweak The Dragon Songs Saga. I included some references to the prequel series, and added a few chapters with one of its popular characters. I simplified stuff like units of measurement and translated some Mandarin terminology into English so that it would be easier to follow on audio.

How do I feel about it? I probably spent way too much time in money for very little return, so there is a level of regret. However, it’s helped me find some new readers, and sell hundreds of hardbacks to existing fans. So, not a total loss.

Q: Indie authors, for lack of access to the same resources as traditional authors, tend to become a jack of all trades in order to advance their career. What kinds of useful skills have you developed since you started writing and self-publishing?

A: I would argue that the Big 5 put most of their marketing budgets into a handful of authors, and therefore, indie authors actually have an advantage over the average trad debut author (at least, in eBooks). However, they’re services we have to pay for out of pocket, and, as you point out, it requires developing a wide array of skills.

For me, that’s meant basic Photoshop. Data analysis to learn about audiences. Networking and alliance building. Learning how advertising platforms work. Using emerging big data technologies like pixels.

Q: Unlike in traditional publishing, where you have an agent who matches you up with an editor at a publishing house, self-published authors have to find their own freelance editors (to my knowledge, anyway). How do you decide who to go to for editing?

A: For me, it was word of mouth. I’ve used the same editor (Alexis at The Quick Fox, formerly known as Word Vagabond) for line edits and proofreading for years. For the Dragon Songs re-releases, I hired a second proofreader (Sarah Chorn of Bookworm Blues), who is very well-known in indie fantasy circles.

Q: I saw from looking at your past interviews that you watch a lot of East Asian media, which you cite as being among the influences for your work. Do you have any particular East Asian movies, dramas, etc. that have inspired your work and/or that you want to recommend to your fellow fantasy fans?

A: I am probably going to show my age with this one, but I’m a huge fan of 1990s Hong Kong movies and early 2000s Japanese Samurai dramas. Some of my favorites:

  • Once Upon a Time in China 1 & 2
  • Fist of Legend
  • Fong Sai-Yuk 1 & 2
  • The Taiji Master Zhang Sanfeng
  • Swordsman 2
  • A Chinese Ghost Story
  • Dragon Inn
  • Fearless
  • Hero
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • House of Flying Daggers
  • The Myth
  • Drunken Master 1 & 2
  • Toshiie to Matsu
  • Shinsengumi
  • When the Last Sword is Drawn
  • Twilight Samurai

Q: I noticed the illustrations of your character Zheng Tian look suspiciously like the actor Hu Ge. Is he the inspiration for the character’s appearance by any chance? On a related note, who would you cast to play Kaiya, Jie, and Tian in a live-action adaptation of your work?

A: LOL, I’m probably showing my age, but Takeshi Kaneshiro was my visual muse for Tian. I pictured Vickie Zhao for Kaiya, and Maggie Q for Jie. I am not up to date on current Asian media, except tangentially through the K-Pop and K-Dramas that my kids follow, so I’d have to go with those three actors from 15 years ago!

Q: Please shout out some Asian indie authors whose work you’ve enjoyed with a short pitch for their books!

A:

  • M.L. Wang, Sword of Kaigen. Winner of Mark Lawrence’s Self-Publishing Fantasy Blog-Off. It’s a mix of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Poppy War. Emotional Roller Coaster with deep, deep themes.
  • Jeannie Lin (hybrid), Gunpowder Alchemy. Opium Wars re-imagined as Steampunk.
  • Tao Wong, A Thousand Li. Wonderful character interactions and lush worldbuilding. Probably the second-most popular Xianxia series after Will Wight’s Cradle.
  • Sarah Lin, The Brightest Shadow. Epic Fantasy x Xianxia, with compelling characters and fabulous worldbuilding.

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | IndieBound

About the Author:

Born and raised in the capital of the Confederacy’s urban blight, JC Kang grew up a total Twinkie. Though he savored the irony that his GI Joe: Greatest American Hero toys were made in Taiwan, he didn’t know where that was, or that his parents had once lived there. Interestingly enough, his father had been staunchly anti-KMT, and fled to Taiwan in 1947 to escape authorities in Xiamen, never expecting the Nationalist government to flee there; and his mother’s family had deep ties to the  KMT, her uncle eventually serving as the personal attaché to Madame Chiang Kai-Shek in New York. Apparently, love—or at least, young lust—conquered political differences.

JC’s life changed the summer between his first and second years at UVA, when he was accepted to the University of Paris for a summer program. Instead, his father sent him to the Mandarin Training Center in Taipei. It was such a life-altering experience that JC returned after graduation (and a year in Japan) to Taipei, where he worked as a translator and technical writer, apprenticed under an acupuncturist, and trained in Wing Chun Kung Fu under Grandmaster Ip Man’s nephew, Sifu Lo Man Kam.  Many of these influences found their way into his writing.

Author Links:

Website – jckang.dragonstonepress.us
Twitter – @JCKang804
Instagram – @jc.kang
Facebook – Legends of Tivara

[Blog Tour] Playlist and Fanart for These Violent Delights

Hello and welcome to part 2 of my stop for the These Violent Delights blog tour hosted by Shealea at Caffeine Book Tours. In case you missed it, my review can be found here.

The Playlist

1. Trouble Maker – Trouble Maker (Hyunseung and Hyuna)

I feel like this song fits the vibe of Juliette and Roma’s tension-laden chemistry and uneasy alliance, where everything feels like it could go up in flames at the smallest spark. The music video also happens to have a heist-ish plot that fits the story of TVD. I’ve included some of the translated lyrics here (translation credit: infinity13):

When I look in your eyes, I’m a Trouble Maker
When I stand next to you, I’m a Trouble Maker
A bit more, more, more
As I go more, more, more
Now I can’t do anything for my heart

So that you can’t forget me, I stand next to you again
I make your heart waver, you can’t escape
I steal your lips again and go far away
I’m a Trou-ou-ou-ouble Trouble Trou-Trouble Maker

2. Last Romeo – Infinite

As the title suggests, this song alludes to the story of Romeo and Juliet and the lyrics are written from Romeo’s point-of-view. I thought it was perfect for expressing Roma’s Roma-ntic (don’t shoot me pls) longing for Juliette and single-minded determination to fight for their forbidden love. Here are the translated lyrics for the song (translation credit: popgasa):

I don’t care if it’s poison, I will gladly take it
No other temptation can be sweeter or stronger than you
The dazzling you swallows all the darkness of the world
And that light blinds me
Any kind of darkness loses its strength in front of you
I only need you

Shine on my path,
whether I want it or not,
the decision has been made
I will put everything at risk
I will protect you no matter what hardships come
I can’t see anything else but you

(Rap) I push myself into broken music,
in the bleakness of a tragedy
A creaking prelude of love,
I’m gonna lose myself
That was sweet start
I don’t know how to stop,
my different emotions rise
An illusion that I’m sure of, you and I, got the top of the emotion

Flowers wither and scatter,
the moon tilts and disappears
But my heart won’t ever change,
I love you, I love you

Your lips embrace my sinful lips,
making me drunk with your scent
No other reward is stronger than this
I only need you

Shine on my path,
whether I want it or not,
the decision has been made
I will put everything at risk
I will protect you no matter what hardships come
I can’t see anything else but you

Look world, let me win
Sun, rise and give me strength
Listen destiny, don’t block me
I will protect her

I’ll be the last man to fight against the world over one love
I can face any kind of threat for you,
I only need you

Shine on my path,
whether I want it or not,
the decision has been made
I will put everything at risk
I will protect you no matter what hardships come

I can’t see anything else but you
I can’t see anything else but you
I can’t see anything else but you

(Rap) You’re complicated like a maze
Why do you keep pushing me away
Trust me, your Romeo

I have no one but you

3. I Hate – Infinite

This song is Juliette’s side of the story. The simmering hatred, the painful longing, it’s all there. Here are some of the translated lyrics (translation credit: popgasa):

I breathe but I’m not really breathing
My heart isn’t really my heart
Though you won’t understand
Baby I don’t wanna love you but I love you

I try to stop myself, try to comfort myself
But no matter how much I comfort myself, this pain won’t heal
You’ll probably never know
These days that are like hell

Only one thing I need, it’s you
But I can’t reach you, I can’t let you go
So what do you want me to do?

Let me break down, I can’t even turn around
It’s useless, hate you yeah
I hate you but I love you
I can’t take it, it hurts, it hurts so much, I miss you
My heart breaks so I can’t do anything
I Hate I Hate

I hate you but I don’t hate you
I said I forgot you but I haven’t forgotten
My heart doesn’t feel like my heart
Baby I don’t wanna love you but I love you

This place is a desert with only doubts and no answers
I’m sure you’re comfortable leaving me behind here, go
I’ll probably never know
Why you left me

Only one thing I need, a short answer
But I can’t figure out, I can’t even ask
Why did you leave me here?

Trying to put my broken heart back together
But I’m getting cut from the pieces
Only thing left to do is endure for a long time
Please teach me how to withstand

Isn’t there a way?
So I can breathe comfortably again?

4. 反撃の刃 (Hangeki no Yaiba) – 和楽器バンド (Wagakki Band)

The aesthetic of this music video feels perfect for TVD. Decadence and a feast ruined by calamity? Yes.The title translates as “The Blade of Counterattack,” and indeed, it’s a song about vengeance for what was stolen. It represents Juliette’s hatred for the shadowy enemies that have wreaked destruction upon her city and people. Here are some of the translated lyrics (translation credit: Aka @ Robot and Lyrics):

In the fiercely burning hatred
Climbing over the corpses…

I’ll give my body over to the burning, boiling feeling
Hating the squirming crowd, my eyes open
As we search for an answer to guide us
we join hands now and run away

The flowing tears are countless
The vows I reflect upon and a sword

The time for retaliation has come
Now, voices, crying loud
Attack the towering enemies
with obstinate will and these hands
I’ll twirl in the air and now strike
Until I die
What was stolen,
beyond the line of the high wall

The memories of the wails that pierced me
wander as they continue to search for a place
Like the husk of thirsting affection
the days that pass are a mirage

In the fiercely burning hatred
I accept the cruel reality
The flowing tears are countless
The vows I reflect upon and a sword

5. 你是情人還是敵人 (Are You a Lover or an Enemy) – 孫耀威/依拜·維吉 (Eric Suen and Ipay Buyici)

Angst, angst, angst. The title seems pretty self-explanatory in how it relates to TVD. Here are the translated lyrics (translation by me, do not use or repost without my permission and credit):

Are you a lover or an enemy?
Lovable or loathsome, it’s hard to separate
Are you a lover or an enemy?
Should I embrace you or resent you?

Forget it
At every moment when our vows were overturned
With no choice but to struggle
How could I have time to dispute truth and fiction?

Are you a lover or an enemy?
The more earnest I am, the more my body is covered in scars
Are you a lover or an enemy?
Why is it that happiness seems like a stranger?

Do you love me?
Could it be that heaven and hell have no time difference?
Might as well go crazy
So you won’t have to feign ignorance for me anymore

Are you a lover or an enemy?
Until what point will we keep loving and hating?
Are you a lover or an enemy?
Our hearts must shatter before it’s considered excessive

Let it go
Just admit that you and I can’t give anything
In the end, we are deficient
Of ways to not grieve over tears

Are you a lover or an enemy?
Are you heartless or my destiny?
Are you an instant or eternity?
Are you naive or cruel?

The Fanart

The Background: My original plan was to draw Juliette and/or Roma. However, when I was shopping got groceries at Walmart one day, I saw some packets of beads with color schemes that I thought were perfect for These Violent Delights, and it inspired me to make some earrings based on the characters instead.

The Process: This was my very first time ever making jewelry, so I had to buy some basic jewelry making supplies, including pliers, wire cutters, pins and earring hooks, etc. in addition to the 2 sets of assorted beads. After consulting a few tutorials on YouTube, I got to work stringing beads on the pins and opening and closing loops to attach stuff to the pins and attach the pins to the earring hooks. The results are pictured below. You can’t tell from the photos, but the loops at the bottom, from which the tassels are hanging, are extremely badly formed/ugly, but it’s my first time, so I won’t give myself too much grief over it. Considering how cheap the supplies were, they don’t look too shabby, in my opinion.

The Result:

The pair on the left is for the Juliette and the Scarlet Gang while the pair on the right is for Roma and the White Flowers.