Oh no, summer's all but gone! I must say August was rather languid—but in a good way, I think (I hope!).

I was also kind of good at Twitter this month. (Or I was bad at life. Your pick.)

On the blog

That one time I was offline *gasp*

  • (This actually happened on the last day of July, but my July recap was already posted by then, so.) I went to help out at a speech and debate fundraiser—a car wash, actually. I basically stood waving a sign trying to get cars to come over. It was ridiculously hot and I was standing in near-direct sunlight for around an hour and half. So of course I ended up developing a headache? And my eyes started hurting? And...?
  • The Adroit Journal's 2015 Summer Writing Mentorship Program has officially come to an end. We mentees have been happily swapping final portfolios and telling each other how brilliant we are. (Seriously, though. Reading my fellow mentees' work is pretty much getting a free look into the future of the writing world. It's an honor and a joy.) I'm so grateful to Adroit, Peter LaBerge (who runs the journal and the program), my mentor Aline, and my peers for making this experience amazing. If you're going to be in high school in the coming school year—anywhere in the world!—and you write (fiction, poetry, journalism, scripts, experimental prose, etc.), I'd highly recommend applying to this program when apps open in spring 2016. 
  • My month itself was pretty uneventful! I'm gearing up for the school year, spending a lot of time (too much?) at home and/or with my family, and enjoying summer while it lasts.
  • At one point, though, there were wildfires in the mountains near where I live, and some passing winds blew the smoke from those fires into the city. When I say it was everywhere, I seriously mean everywhere. It was blanketing my neighborhood; it was cloaking the downtown area. The air quality got so poor that it was officially labeled "unhealthy." It was a pretty unsettling but interesting experience, I have to say. 
  • I went to a college information session featuring the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign, Johns Hopkins University, and Georgia Tech. 
    • I feel like I got a lot of good insights into each school, but I left feeling like the University of Illinois and Georgia Tech really weren't for me. (They both felt really STEM-focused, and while I admire and support anyone working with STEM, I myself don't plan on going into one of those fields. I feel that if I go to college somewhere that's really STEM-focused, then I won't be as much of a priority as STEM students while I'm there. Obviously I don't really want that.)
    • I'd already gone to a UChicago session once before, so I knew that their well-rounded liberal arts-based curriculum really appealed to me, plus I really liked their flexibility and their willingness to recognize a variety of intersecting interests. 
    • But I hadn't known much about Johns Hopkins before the session, so it was really cool to learn that they have a very flexible open curriculum and place an emphasis on research (even for non-STEM students!). They're also a liberal arts school, though not a lot of people know that.
  • I got my schedule for school! I'm taking it pretty easy school-wise this year so I can work on my extracurriculars and Do Productive Things. I also took my school picture and oh my goodness. WHY do my pictures always end up being so terrible?
  • I'm super nervous for sophomore year, though. Oh my goodness. I know there isn't much reason to be, considering I'm only taking two IB classes this year, but I can't help it.

I've been watching

Oodles of good stuff to tell you all about this month! Lots of history, action, gorgeous visuals, and more.

I watched The Bletchley Circle on Netflix this month, and wow. This is such a cool show. Basically, this is a British mystery miniseries set in 1950s England, almost a decade after World War II, and it follows a group of four women—former code-breakers at Bletchley Park during the war!—who solve mysteries together now that the war has ended. Millie, Lucy, Susan, and Jean are linked by their intelligence, their friendship, and their shared desire to make a difference in the lives of civilians, though they no longer do intelligence work for the government (and are bound by law to keep their work at Bletchley Park a secret). What results from this incredibly powerful character dynamic is a clever, twisty, delightfully feminist series of mysteries that is also stunning in visuals and soundtrack. NYT has called it "a clever, entertaining way to pay tribute to women who in their time were often overlooked and underestimated, and nevertheless found ways to never be ordinary," and I couldn't agree more. Definitely a must-watch if you like mysteries, girl power, suspense, great characters, or any combination thereof.

Since one of the movie theaters near where I live has been selling tickets half off for Tuesday showings, my family and I decided to go see the new Mission: Impossible film. Yes, this movie definitely wasn't perfect (kind of generic, honestly, and nothing mind-blowing), and it certainly skated on the surface of ridiculousness more than once. But it was a lot of fun! There's something about the banter, action, and style of the Mission: Impossible franchise that I've always liked.
yay for motorcycle chases

I also watched the animation film Song of the Sea, and oh. Oh my goodness. What a treasure this movie is. I'd HIGHLY recommend this movie for fans of The Secret of Roan Inish and The Tale of Princess Kaguya—this is very, very high praise coming from me, considering how much I adore those two films. But I'm 100% not kidding when I say that Song of the Sea combines the wonder and mythology of Roan Inish with the absolutely brilliant art of Princess Kaguya. The art is gorgeous, the characters are adorable, and the movie is filled with magic and whimsy. Love love love. (Also I love watching non-US animation movies because the way they're approached is just so different and exquisite.)

(On a mostly unrelated note, this was nominated for the 2014 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature along with Princess Kaguya and I'm SO bitter that they weren't given honors. Although the film that did end up winning was Big Hero 6 and I love that a lot, too. So. Tough year, I guess.)

My family borrowed this from the library, and I don't think I was anywhere near prepared for the emotional rollercoaster and intellectual insight that this film would provide. Idris Elba delivers an absolutely magnificent performance as Nelson Mandela, and Naomie Harris gives an equally brilliant one as his wife, Winnie. I think this movie did an incredible job of capturing the blatant racism and violent struggles that the apartheid system in South Africa was both born out of and reinforcing. There's also so much food for thought in terms of violence, protest, and ideals. This is not a comfortable movie because history is not comfortable. But it is, without a doubt, a very necessary film and stunningly executed. I loved it.

We went to see the Korean film Assassination (암살) at a local movie theater, which was cool because theaters in my area never show Korean movies. This was was a film about the Korean independence movement against Japanese colonial rule in the 1930s. Jun Ji-hyun (sometimes known as Gianna Jun) stars as talented sniper Ahn Ok-yun and kicks so much butt I can't even. I really appreciated the variety in the characters, as well as the action (Korean films tend to get a little more bloody than American ones, so that was an interesting change). But I think the most interesting aspect of this film was seeing the patchwork of Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and western culture that existed in Korea and China in the 1930s. It was both aesthetically very intriguing (think of all the clothing styles and architectural bits mixing! cultural blending is fascinating oh my goodness) and very cool how all the characters could slip in and out of different languages. Admittedly I had to read subtitles here and there to be able to follow along completely, but I still really enjoyed the movie.

And last but not least, I watched the Cartoon Network series Over the Garden Wall on the recommendation of a friend. I really didn't know what to expect going in, but I came out super happy. This is kind of like a dark fairytale, but with some amazingly odd humor and really pretty backgrounds thrown in. It's fabulous. Wirt (pointy hat) and Greg (holding frog), the two main characters, are utterly adorable to watch, and I love the bluebird Beatrice's sass game so much. (And Wirt is BASICALLY ME.) Here, I'll show you:

Their character dynamic is so precious. Also, yay for magic everywhere. Plus, each episode is only a little over ten minutes long, and there are only ten or so episodes, so you can easily binge-watch the series in one sitting (which I did). 

Help, someone teach me how to Instagram

Remember, I'm @clocksandcages on Instagram if you want to follow along!
look at this gorgeous cake my mother baked. (meanwhile, i was being annoying.)
#bravenewotms is somewhat underway.
udon is my first and greatest love, tbh.

How was your August? Is the school year starting for you? Let's chat in the comments!

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Hey all! Alyssa (from The Devil Orders Takeout, naturally) created the awesomeness that is the Milk Tea Book Tag and tagged me for it, because milk tea is a Prominent Thing in Hong Kong (where Alyssa lives). And, as Alyssa points out, why should only western delicacies be subjects for book tags? 

I think this is very, very cool, although I've never tried milk tea. I should get on that. But first! Here's my response to the tag.

Tea: the foundation of your reading life

dashti my precious fierce kind queen i love you
This book is basically MY EVERYTHING. I read it sometime in elementary school, and it's been near and dear to my heart ever since. It has almost all of the elements that have set the bones of my reading skeleton: a fairy tale retelling plot, a diverse setting (I believe it's based on the Mongolian steppes? I mean HOW COOL), a kind and courageous protagonist, and a romance that makes my heart melt.

To be frank, Shannon Hale's books have influenced me so much—not only this one, but her Books of Bayern series and Princess Academy as well. So much girl power and magical goodness. So much brilliance. If you haven't read anything from her, you should get on that ASAP because I can assure you, your childhood has a Shannon-Hale-shaped hole in it.

Milk: a rich, smooth book

dragon books at their ABSOLUTE FINEST tbh
This duology is so, so precious to me. There are incredibly original, well-executed dragons, absolutely masterful worldbuilding (basically these are fantasy worldbuilding textbooks, please read and learn), epic diversity (one of the important characters in the second book is a trans woman of color? YES), nifty magic, plot twists and politics like whoa, and delightfully fleshed-out characters. Seraphina is a heroine who uses her head and heart equally, and she's also a nerd, which is great for us fellow nerds. In sum: I have no idea why these books are so underrated. The Internet should be ALL over them.

Sugar: a book you love but is controversial

okay but like the covers for this series are PRETTY HIDEOUS
okay these covers are pretty hideous as well but like WILL HERONDALE so i don't care
I've lumped nine books under one heading. My blog, my rules. 

Cassandra Clare's work as a whole seems pretty controversial in the literary world. She gets a lot of love and a lot of hate for pretty much anything she's done in her entire online/authorial career. But I absolutely adore the Shadowhunter world—I have zero shame about this, so don't try to get any embarrassment out of me—and I just love the characters and action scenes and relationships and magic system and everything. AND this series is just aesthetically really gorgeous, which works great for—you guessed it—aesthetic trash like myself.

Of the two series, though, The Infernal Devices has stuck with me more. Tessa and Jem and Will are on my imaginary list of Top Triumvirates, honestly. (Right up there with The 100's Bellamy/Clarke/Raven, as well as LotR's Legolas/Aragorn/Gimli.) Plus the Victorian era! And period-drama-style wit! Ugh, I have so much love for this series I can't. Also, the last three Mortal Instruments books weren't quite as great as the first three, at least for me, but oh my goodness. I just love Simon and Isabelle and Magnus too much to let them go? 

Ice: a book just for fun

This is a ridiculously fun, action-packed read that I picked up at the start of this year. It's definitely a must for steampunk lovers—the worldbuilding is really clever, and the banter is honestly so, so precious. Plus, there's an adorable ship and a firecracker of a heroine and some creepy villainous goings-on. It's not too heavy and a perfect mood-lifter, so it fits really nicely under this category.

Silk stocking: a book that's much better than it sounds

SHIIIIP — also i'm so so glad this got redesigned
I honestly thought I would loathe this book. It's super super out of my comfort zone—a fluffy Hollywood romance? Yeah, typically so not for me. I thought I was in for something shallow and corny. But Dahlia Adler pretty much hit it out of the park, with meaningful character dynamics, refreshingly realistic dialogue, incredibly readable narration, and SHIPPING POWER. She's probably one of my favorite contemporary authors period, although to my chagrin, I've yet to get my hands on Under the Lights (the sequel to Behind the Scenes). *adds to to-do list*

Yinyang: a book with foreign influence

the title text treatment though. also YAY for non-whitewashed covers

NOTE: By foreign, I'm going to assume you mean non-US or non-western. (I live in the US anyway, so.) 

Shadows on the Moon is a Cinderella retelling set in a Japan-inspired kingdom. Just hearing that description makes your eyes widen a little, right? RIGHT. It's also got revenge, illusions, intrigue, and gorgeous writing. It's fabulously diverse and really well-done. Plus, although Cinderella retellings have obviously been done to death, this story is a stunner and handles the retelling aspect nicely. This book isn't appreciated nearly as much as it should be and you really should read it so we can talk. 

I'm Tagging

...you! I would tag specific people, but Alyssa tagged a whole crowd, some of whom are mutual blogger friends of ours. So, dear reader, if you've stuck with me this long and you'd like to steal this tag for your own blog, go right ahead!

Isn't this a fabulous tag? Do you agree with my book choices? Let me know in the comments!

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Another mini-review—this one goes over Virginia Boecker's YA debut The Witch Hunter, which I think could have been a lot better.

Release Date: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Category: YA
Genre(s): Fantasy, alternate history
Pages: 368 (hardcover)
Format/Source: Paperback ARC, Received from publisher (Many thanks to Little, Brown!)
Your greatest enemy isn't what you fight, but what you fear.

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.

Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that's been laid upon him.

But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth's witch hunting past—if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she's thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.


a fun light read that, in retrospect, didn't click with me super well.

I first heard about The Witch Hunter because the author, Virginia Boecker, is part of the Freshman Fifteens (which you may remember as the group of 2015 debut YA authors that includes my lovely COMMON ROOM mentor Kim Liggett). At the time, it sounded like a really cool, action-packed, twisty YA fantasy—and you all know I'm always up for that. So I was ridiculously pleased to receive an ARC in the mail from Little, Brown.
and look the title page is gorgeous
The book was a really fast read—the pacing felt a little jerky at times, going back and forth from action to calm a little too quickly sometimes, but overall it was very snappy and speedy. There was lots of action and fight scenes, which is always nice, because I love reading fast fight scenes. This book is a definite page-turner. Actually, I was originally planning on rating this book a solid four stars, because while I was reading, I definitely enjoyed myself. It wasn't anything mind-blowing, to be sure, but it was fun.

However, I eventually decided to lower my rating because The Witch Hunter didn't hold up so well in retrospect.

While the characters were pretty endearing on the surface (resident 'mean girl' Fifer especially), none of them stood out to me as individuals I was deeply invested in. The heroine, Elizabeth, seemed serviceable but nothing special, and while I appreciate her willingness to question her own morals and address her flaws, she seemed very readily convinced to switch sides when it was convenient. Most of the side cast kind of fell flat, including the sweet but incredibly bland love interest (whose relationship with Elizabeth frankly screams instalove). Although the dialogue is cute here and there and I didn't outright hate anyone, there's not a ton of attention given to developing characters in a realistic and dynamic way, and that hurts this book overall.

I haven't read a lot of alternate history books, so when I figured out that this was one of them, I got really excited. Especially because this is an alternate spin on the Reformation in England, aka 1500s aka one of my favorite time periods ever to learn/read about. I thought that witch hunting, alternate Reformation, and magic would meld to produce an incredibly complex, layered storyworld. Unfortunately, it didn't really feel like that was the case. The magic wasn't anything all that different from what's already out there, as there wasn't a hugely original magic system. The rest of the worldbuilding wasn't that extensive, either; to me, it felt like a light fantasy world with a thin layer of semi-history on the surface. It wasn't bad worldbuilding necessarily; it just wasn't all that good, either.

The prose was fairly decent in that it did its job and let scenes play out without grating on my nerves, but it didn't stand out to me as especially well-crafted. However, I do tend to focus on style a lot as a reader, so it could be just me who wasn't satisfied by the writing. Also, at times I was really annoyed because the writing style itself felt like something of an anachronism, flip-flopping between a 'historical' tone and a modern one—I don't know about you, but I don't think the word 'okay' has a place in ANY version of sixteenth-century England. (According to Google, it didn't really come into use until the mid-1800s.) Little things like that kept bothering me as I was reading, and I think these distracting inaccuracies detracted significantly from my reading experience. Then again, I nitpick a lot, so they probably won't have quite as pronounced of an effect on many other readers.

Additionally, you can kind of see the twists coming from a mile off. I say this as someone who's usually ridiculously bad at guessing plot twists. It's really, really easy to surprise me with a plot because sometimes twists can be staring me right in the face several pages in advance and I. Won't. See. Them. But in this book nothing felt all that shocking, which was a letdown because the blurb seemed like it was promising a thoroughly convoluted plot.

There's also another thing that really, really bothers me about this book that feels very problematic. It's kind of a spoiler, so I'll enclose it with a button, but it forms a large part of my reasoning behind my rating. So I feel it's my duty to inform you all.


In the book, Elizabeth has a 'relationship' with the the king of Anglia, the alternate England where the book is set. It's essentially rape. But the book never delves into the trauma that this must have caused for Elizabeth, effectively using rape as nothing more than a plot device and spending little to no time exploring Elizabeth's resulting emotions or her recovery from this abuse. The rape doesn't really factor into Elizabeth's character at all, and it's not used to discuss sexual violence in depth. To me, that's incredibly disappointing and I feel it trivializes the experiences of survivors.

I'd say give this a shot if you're looking for something quick and fun, but go in knowing that it's not perfect. If you're looking for a truly groundbreaking YA fantasy, I personally think that you'd be much better served elsewhere.

Favorite Quotes

I'm quiet for a moment, enchanted by the idea of something stealing over you, settling into you, and telling you, with absolute certainty, who you are and what you're meant to do.

So what do you think? Is this something you'd like to try out or is it not for you? Or, do you have a favorite debut of 2015 so far?

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Another mini-review for you all today, this time focusing on Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. Known for being Plath's first and only novel, this book is semi-autobiographical and an absolute gem of a story.

Release Date: first published 1963
Publisher: Everyman’s Library
Category: Adult
Genre(s): Classic, contemporary, semi-autobiography
Pages: 229 (hardcover)
Format/Source: Hardcover, Borrowed from library
The Bell Jar is a classic of American literature, with over two million copies sold in this country. This extraordinary work chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, successful – but slowly going under, and maybe for the last time. Step by careful step, Sylvia Plath takes us with Esther through a painful month in New York as a contest-winning junior editor on a magazine, her increasingly strained relationships with her mother and the boy she dated in college, and eventually, devastatingly, into the madness itself. The reader is drawn into her breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is rare in any novel. It points to the fact that “The Bell Jar” is a largely autobiographical work about Plath’s own summer of 1953, when she was a guest editor at Mademoiselle and went through a breakdown. It reveals so much about the sources of Sylvia Plath’s own tragedy that its publication was considered a landmark in literature.


A deftly written, astonishingly raw portrait of one young woman's experience with mental illness. Truly deserving of the 'classic' label.

Before reading this, I'd wanted to get into Plath's work for a while but had never known just where to start. She was a writer whose name I'd heard and had my interest piqued by, but I'd never actively searched for anything of hers to read. My literature teacher had recommended her to me, but I didn't necessarily have any immediate reason to seek out her work.

Well, no longer. You can now count me among the most ardent of Sylvia Plath's fans. 

But how to go about writing this review? How to do this book justice?

The Bell Jar's heroine and greatest achievement, Esther Greenwood, is a mess of contradictions. And that's putting it lightly. But if I look at her from the right angle—as if she's some kind of fractured mirror—I can see an unmistakable reflection of myself. Esther wants bold new experiences and skills for herself, with a thousand different gorgeous career aspirations, and she dreams wildly and fiercely. Yet she finds herself crippled by indecision and self-doubt when the opportunities to realize those dreams appear before her. She refuses to recognize that self-doubt and ignores everything about herself that she hates most, which gradually causes her mind to turn against itself. She's intelligent and cynical and uncertain, trying to find her way in a world that wants to pack her into a neatly defined box. She's an incredibly complicated, emotional, observant, and unreliable narrator/protagonist. She's a very unstable core for a very unstable book. But she is, without a shadow of a doubt, a stunning character, and I think much of her fear and desperate ambition aligns with my own. Her yearning threatens to consume her (it very nearly does), and that's a feeling I can identify with.

Since I myself could relate to Esther's struggles on this level, I think the book's impact was doubly powerful. But I think many, many others will be able to take away just as much as I did. Not to sound like an overly pedantic literature teacher, but the book thoughtfully handles themes surrounding femininity, sexuality, transformation, and death, among others. (I especially loved how Esther's dynamic with her college boyfriend opens up the fields of gender roles and careers. Her boyfriend's revolting condescension toward her goals says it all, really.) Its exploration of broader topics is meaningful, defiant, and thought-provoking, and done in a way that feels like the book itself is learning with you rather than dictating to you.

Sylvia Plath's prose in The Bell Jar is startlingly lucid and so honest that it's nothing short of a shock to read. It has a frightening, effortless cadence and frankness to it that shows simultaneous disgust and love toward humanity. It's indubitably well-crafted in a literary sense, but it also allows Esther's sometimes-brutal voice to project directly into the reader's head, which is arresting and might take some getting used to. The figurative language throughout is vivid and gorgeous. To make a gross understatement, it leaves a lasting impression. It dances on the line between life and death. It's electric. 

Although Plath's breathtaking writing style and heroine stood out to most—as can be expected, because I'm very driven by prose and character as a reader—there are countless other aspects of this book that I could try and wax poetic about. The supporting characters, who are layered and strangely beautiful and quietly despicable. The plotline, which forges ever onward, exhibiting a quietly disturbing haze in some places and an almost violent kind of clarity in others. 

I really have to thank the literature honors project that led me to this book (if you're curious, I was doing a comparative analysis of The Bell Jar and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451). I'm definitely planning on rereading The Bell Jar when I'm older; I think this is one of those books that will leave me with something new to consider every time I return to it. This is by no means intended to be a comfort book, as some of my reading material is, but it's found its way into my heart nevertheless. I loved it on first read—it's a strange and eye-opening creature, no question—and I feel that it, along with all of Plath's other work, is a special gift indeed to the literary canon.

Favorite Quotes

There are many, many more (I think I have a favorite line on just about every page), but I returned my copy to the library, so I had to pull some from Goodreads!
There is something demoralizing about watching two people get more and more crazy about each other, especially when you are the only extra person in the room. It's like watching Paris from an express caboose heading in the opposite direction—every second the city gets smaller and smaller, only you feel it's really you getting smaller and smaller and lonelier and lonelier, rushing away from all those lights and excitement at about a million miles an hour.
When they asked me what I wanted to be I said I didn’t know.

"Oh, sure you know," the photographer said.

"She wants," said Jay Cee wittily, "to be everything."
I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
But when it came right down to it, the skin of my wrist looked so white and defenseless that I couldn't do it. It was as if what I wanted to kill wasn't in that skin or the thin blue pulse that jumped under my thumb, but somewhere else, deeper, more secret, and a whole lot harder to get.
I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.

Are you a Sylvia Plath fan? If so, what's your favorite work of hers? Alternatively: have you ever read a semi-autobiographical book? What was it like?

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Let me begin this post by saying that this decision terrifies me.

[credit | leslie ann o'dell]
The title says it all: I've to decided to start my WIP On the Midnight Streets over. For the second time. According to Google Docs, I'm essentially throwing out over 22,000 words. (Obviously I'm backing them up and not throwing them out entirely, but still.) Here are the things I'm planning on doing, to put it bluntly.
  • Throw out my current plotline and replace it with one that flows and actually makes sense
  • Make changes to my characters and develop them better
  • Flesh out my worldbuilding so that my settings are logical and dynamic
  • Make OtMS unavailable for public viewing while it's in drafting stages (i.e., take it off of Wattpad and Figment)
I'm rebuilding this book from the ground up, more or less. I'm keeping essential things that have been working for me, and I'm still (hopefully) keeping the spirit of the story that made me love it in the first place. But anything that isn't necessary or coherent? It will be changed.

Why on earth am I making myself go through this agony, might you ask?

The fact of the situation is that I've been working on this novel for almost three years. In that time, I haven't even finished a first draft. I haven't even hit the 50,000 word mark. I always peter out at around 20,000–25,000 words. I tend to make light of that by joking about my "poor long-suffering WIP" and getting guilt-tripped by my friends (we know which one I'm talking about, and yes, you should still love her because her guilt-trips are awesome and absolutely warranted). But if I'm being completely honest with myself, I'm incredibly frustrated and bitter about the fact that I haven't been able to finish this book. It's eating away at me. I feel like it's going nowhere, and consequently, I'm going nowhere.

The logical thing to think about, then, is what my main roadblocks might be. And I believe that I've boiled them down to three main points.

  • I'm not making time to write consistently.

I'm a high school student. My sophomore year is starting soon. Being academically successful is very important to me; therefore, I spend a while on my homework. I also practice piano for around three hours every day and have other extracurriculars to do besides. So I won't be able to sit down and write every day for hours at a time. I realize that. Most first-time novelists don't have that kind of gap in their schedule to fill with writing anyway. If I'm going to finish this book, I need to manage my time and dedicate myself to making sure I can write on a regular basis. The truth is I haven't been doing this. I haven't really been making the effort to stay productive. But my hope is that this year, I can change that. I'm hoping to focus more on my work every day so that I can also get at least a little bit of writing in on a regular basis. I'll need to work hard at this. I'll need to keep myself accountable, and only time can truly tell if I have it in me to do this. But I need to believe that I'm capable of this.

  • I'm pressuring myself too much for the first-draft stage.

This point breaks down into two subpoints.

A) Online posting. I've been posting half-chapters of OtMS on Figment and Wattpad as soon as they're written. Don't get me wrong; I love these online writing communities and I think they're a wonderful, vibrant new force in the literary world. I also love getting immediate feedback—who doesn't, really? And the serialization approach works for some writers, I know that. But I think what I haven't been realizing these past few years is that serialization doesn't really work for me. It leads me to pressure myself into trying to produce work that my online readers will like rather than giving my story room to breathe. Rather than allowing my draft to be terrible so that it'll be a load of rubbish but at least it'll be done. To fix that, I'm going to be taking OtMS off of Figment and Wattpad.

But never fear! I'll be looking for beta readers if/when (let's make that an optimistic when) my manuscript is ready.

B) My own personality as a writer. I'm very driven by writing style, so I spend a lot of time worrying about my style instead of throwing words down on the page. That makes me a very, very slow writer, and it also gives me a crippling fear of just dragging myself to my draft and going BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard). To try and remedy that, I want to try Alyssa's sparse drafting technique—make a draft messy, hilariously bad, bare-bones, and likely full of snarky notes to myself in [brackets]. Hopefully this will make edits easier (and more funny!) when (I'm sticking to the word when now) the time for them comes.

  • I'm clinging to unnecessary aspects of my book.

Let's face it: I was twelve years old when I came up with the idea for this story. I'm fifteen now. In those years, I've changed more drastically than I ever have in my entire life. It turns out that's how adolescence works. *weeps forever* 

When I was twelve, I wanted to write this book because I was overexcited about the Victorian aesthetic and Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices series. I basically set out to write a clone of Clockwork Angel with some unsubstantial Les Mis mixed in—complete with love triangle (mine was ill-conceived and not entirely necessary), revolution (mine was incredibly underdeveloped), and magic system (which has since been eliminated because it was so poorly done). I plunged headfirst into this book with some half-baked scene ideas, a whole lot of enthusiasm, and no real inkling of what this story really was. 

Needless to say, OtMS has changed a lot since then, at least in my mind. It's become something more, something real, something that matters to me and that will matter to other people (I hope). This book has seeped into the very fabric of who I am; you could say it's grown along with me. I know that I need to tell this story, that I might very well explode if I give up on it, but I'm still figuring out how it needs to be told. But some of the more questionable twelve-year-old Christina aspects of the book, things that aren't necessary and don't make sense, have still stuck. And I'm not sure why. I think I need to root out those things so that this story reflects its true self and myself better.

The point is, I love this story too much to let it go. I need to write it. But I think it's time to build it the right way and push through so that I can finally give it to the world in the best form that I can get it to. Right now I feel like I've failed miserably—failed my readers, my characters, myself. But there's hope somewhere. There always is. 

I've decided to call this Brave New OtMS. I'm thinking that I'll post on this blog about my progress (in a new post series of the same name) in order to keep myself accountable. This is going to be a painful journey, I know. It's going to be full of anger and insecurity and work, and it'll most likely show me some of my own worst traits as a writer and individual. It's a gamble at best, a complete waste of time at worst. 

Thank you for sticking with me so far. I genuinely appreciate each and every one of you and I can't say it enough. But now I think it's time to turn over a new leaf. 

Here goes nothing everything.

So what do you think? Have you experienced something similar, and if so, how did you deal with it? Do you think this is the right choice, or do you think my brain has turned to mush at last? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Beautiful People has returned to the blog! If you don't recall, this is the monthly linkup where writers get to talk about their characters. It's hosted as always by the incomparable Cait and Sky. Unfortunately, I missed it last month, but this month is Friendship Edition. (I'm going to be quoting Figment/Wattpad commenters all over the place because I can.) Cool, don't you think? Which means...
This month, I'm featuring best friends Finnegan Lyle and Renton Fuller, from the ever-present novel-in-progress On the Midnight Streets. They do highly illegal things together and love to snark all over the place. A short rundown:

Finnegan Lyle (usually called Finn) aka the hat boy aka the Midnight Hatter aka James: You can probably tell that Finn is a boy of many faces. His past is inextricably linked to that of protagonist Chantilly and also that of Resident Dork Charles, making for some very awkward character dynamics. (Actually Finn, Charles, and Chantilly are all dorks. Don't tell them I told you that.) He's eighteen years old and an incorrigible hat-wearer. He's what people in Peralton (the city the book is set in) call a 'thief lord', and the most notorious + successful one in the city at that. Additionally, he's basically the leader of a brewing revolution. Why? Because there are people who break the law, and then there are overachievers who break the law. A description from my always-on-point friend Alyssa (at this point you don't even really need the link to her blog but I GAVE IT TO YOU) (this is from a Figment comment):
[...] when he [Finn] was set up in the previous chapters, he's this cool-as-cucumber character and here he's a hilarious, colloquial mess of emotions [...] pretty phenomenal.
I also have a (slightly spoilery, make sure you're caught up on Figment/Wattpad; also, warning for language) description of Finn from my friend Sophia:

Renton Fuller aka Chauncey: Renton is kind of like Finn's criminal right hand. He's pretty much second-in-command when it comes to their thieving ring, and he's also a brilliant smuggler. He was kind of a no-name Lower City boy with no shelter or way to make a living until he met Finn, so he's very grateful to Finn for that. (He and Finn are actually friends because they met when Finn first came to the Lower City and they started looking out for each other—because Renton didn't have any power and Finn didn't have any street smarts.)

Renton descriptions from Alyssa:
[...] Renton is still awesome (have I mentioned I enjoy his snark? I have, haven't I?).
Renton's dark humor is perfectly on spot and I love love love his characterisation. 

How long have they known each other, and how close are they?

They've actually only known each other for three years—since they were both around fifteen—but they can no longer really remember a time when they weren't looking out for each other. Since they more or less live with each other, Finn and Renton are incredibly close—they have inside jokes with each other, have the same arguments over and over until the arguments themselves become inside jokes, and tell each other things they wouldn't dream of telling anyone else. Their bond is one that's been forged over the course of many run-ins with many very dangerous people and places in the city, along with grudging cooperation that eventually evolved into a steel-boned trust, and it's not one that'll easily be fractured. They're both very aware that the kind of friendship they have is a rarity in a place as cutthroat as the Lower City, and they're grateful for it and each other. 

What’s their earliest memory of being best friends?

Finn and Renton met when Finn almost got himself murdered on his third day in the Lower City and Renton happened to be by—Renton saved Finn's life, and from then on they stuck by each other. Renton taught Finn to fight, and Finn learned scarily fast, so it quickly became a mutually beneficial relationship. Although true 'best friends' status definitely came later, that's where it all started. And it hasn't shown any sign of ending since. 

Do they fight? How long do they typically fight for?

Oh yes, they fight. They clash a lot, but they've never been able to stay angry at each other for too long. Usually they've made up within two days, and in extreme cases, within a week. The reason for that is twofold: a) arguing too much when they're pretty much heading up the top criminal operation in the city creates instability that others can exploit, and b) they realize the importance of their friendship and they're not ever going to let a trivial disagreement jeopardize that friendship.

The things they usually argue over are more or less consistent. The biggest one is Finn's persuasion methods—Renton thinks Finn could afford to get his hands dirty, use force, but Finn doesn't want to. He can't be a ~nice~ person if he wants to keep the power that he has, yes, but the thought of going overboard with violence or bloodshed is honestly kind of sickening to him. Renton thinks that Finn's merciful streak may end up getting him killed. This excerpt from OtMS, from Finn's PoV, says it best (cuts and brackets added):
My methods, I know, aren’t traditional for this part of Peralton—Stiefvin [another thief/good friend of Finn's] says it’s my Middle City upbringing in its death throes—but I have to believe there are better ways [...] We should deserve to be helped before anyone helps us.

Are their personalities similar or do they complement each other?

On the surface, they're very similar; typically, Finn and Renton both exude a deadly, devil-may-care kind of confidence that comes in handy in a surprising variety of situations. They also share a near-caustic sense of humor, which they use liberally and to great effect. Even their street fighting styles complement each other, especially since they've worked together so often. Their external personalities and certain parts of their inner ones are so similar that they've become attuned to each other's movements. 

But when something really strikes Finn to the core and rattles his nigh-unshakeable composure, or when Finn's around certain people who confuse or fluster him (*screams* CHANTILLY, the protagonist), it's possible to see where his and Renton's characters diverge. By nature, Renton is much more flamboyant—his soul just has a flair for the dramatic, and he's very extroverted. He's larger than life, if you will. In contrast, Finn is actually naturally inclined to be an introvert: much more reserved and soft-spoken, with a mess of internal emotions to sort through. In those instances (though they're a rare thing, mind you), when Finn's walls have been broken down, Renton tends to take the helm a bit, steering conversations with his sly wit and infuriating flirting habit.

In short: Renton's panache is simply who he is, while Finn's is a front he's developed in order to hide what a sensitive, awkward, nice dork he is (because being a sensitive, awkward, nice dork is a very quick way to get robbed and murdered in the Lower City). The lovely Adelyn said it best in a Wattpad comment:
I like James' [Finn's] reserved nature and how it complements Chauncey's [Renton's] bravado.

Who is the leader of their friendship (if anyone)?

It's probably safest to say that Finn is the leader, since he runs their crime ring and is the Midnight Hatter. Yes, I know what you're thinking—odd as it might sound after reading my answer to the previous question, Finn (and not Renton) is actually the notoriously flashy thief lord known as the 'scourge of the city'. Besides, although Renton has a much stronger natural presence than Finn and is much more bold, he almost always defers to Finn because he knows that Finn has a better mind for strategizing and adapting and picking up new skills. Finn's also much better at reading people and dealing with them effectively, as well as cultivating his external image to make himself seem like the picture of lethal, snarky condescension. While it doesn't fit his natural personality at all, Finn's grown into an unflappable thief lord, handling both allies and enemies with ease. Renton's content to let his friend take the lead because he knows that he's in thoroughly capable hands. Most of the time, anyway, except for when Finn is being the dorky teenager that he is.

Also, don't tell either of them, but Finn would likely end up on top if he and Renton were ever to come to blows.

Do they have any secrets from each other?

To oversimplify things: yes. Unfortunately. They confide in each other a lot, but there are still things they don't talk about. I think just about every character in OtMS has a thing or two they don't talk about, to be honest.

Renton's secret from Finn: he's attracted to boys and not a soul has ever known but his late mother. This is for safety reasons mostly—the Mendlands overall is a horribly bigoted, backward kingdom that's strongly prejudiced against LGBTQIA+ individuals, and according to the deplorable laws there, same-sex relationships are capital crimes. (Which is part of why the government needs to be enthusiastically defenestrated.) Renton is also nervous about telling Finn about his sexuality because he's not sure how Finn will react; they've never really talked about anything remotely related to the subject. 

Finn's secret from Renton: there are a few. I think Finn has kept at least two big secrets from every person he's ever known. 

First, Finn's never told Renton about Chantilly. Those of you reading OtMS will be aware that Finn and Chantilly have actually known each other for around eight years, but in all that time, Finn's never told Renton about his Middle City bookshop friend. He's kept Chantilly a secret because he's felt obligated to keep her out of his life as a criminal in order to keep her out of danger (OtMS readers will be aware of exactly how badly that backfired on him, haha). It feels odd, yes, because Finn and Chantilly were almost as close as Renton and Finn are currently. But Renton still doesn't know about Finn's friendship with the strawberry-haired bookshop girl.  

Also, Finn hasn't ever told Renton the real reason that he came to the Lower City. (Finn is actually from the Middle City by birth.) It has something to do with a bit of backstory I mentioned in my last Beautiful People post about Charles Mareil and his family (brackets and emphasis added):
A few months later, though, his [Charles's] father decided it'd be advantageous to make it look like Talia [Charles's illegitimate half-sister] was a ward of the family, and she came to live with them. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), Charles's time with her was abruptly cut off by a... certain incident that forced the family to send her away again.

// can't say more because important backstory spoilers

// hint: may have to do with a certain hat-wearing rapscallion
I won't say more than that because yes, it's still a SPOILER (but you probably won't find out the truth until at least the planned sequel to OtMS).

How well do they know each other’s quirks and habits?

Again, they do more or less live together, so they know each other's quirks/habits a little too well, if anything. Renton knows that Finn likes to have things organized, so his room is always neat and rather utilitarian. Renton also knows that Finn's first love is books—Finn's always reading, especially novels and history books. Actually, Finn knows just about all there is to know about the Laceblade Uprising, the revolution that established the Mendlands. One of the Mendlands' first queens, Rosalind, is basically his hero. Renton's very aware of all this, as well as Finn's other habits. Finn knows that Renton really enjoys working with his hands: mending old machines, making knickknacks to give to people, even knitting. Renton doesn't show this a lot to people he doesn't know well, and he doesn't exactly put his other quirks on display, either. So Finn and Renton are in a very interesting position in regards to each other—each knows a lot of fascinating, startling, and sometimes embarrassing things about the other.

What kind of things do they like to do together?

Obviously, they like committing crimes together. (I mean, they've kind of made a career out of it.) They try not to get into fights when it's not necessary, but when they are forced into combat, they love fighting as a team. They're secure in the knowledge that they're looking out for each other to whatever end, and they move together almost seamlessly. They also like eating cake together—their personalities, as well as the hardships they've gone through, have left them with a deep appreciation of food. And another not-yet-introduced member of their crime ring, Esmeralda, bakes mind-blowing cakes when she can get her hands on the ingredients. So of course that makes eating cake together a Very Fun Thing Indeed.

(Also, being able to bake cake as well as Esmeralda is on Finn's list of #lifegoals. He's vowed that he will someday learn to bake like a pro. He hasn't made much progress, being a wanted criminal and all, but make no mistake, he's bent on doing it.)

But hmm, what about normal-person hobby things they do together?

Yeah, no, sorry. They don't really have normal-person hobbies. (Actually Finn loves to read, but he doesn't have as much time to find books anymore.)

Describe each character’s fashion style (use pictures if you’d like!) How are their styles different/similar?

Truth be told, Renton has impeccable fashion sense, whereas Finn isn't naturally inclined to give much thought to his appearance in general. Finn does realize the importance of style in making an impression on people, though. He prefers to just let Renton guide him when it comes to picking things to wear—when they can afford to pick, that is. Living in the Lower City, as well as not having a lot of money to spend, doesn't exactly give them a breathtaking range of clothing options.

So they do end up having similar styles. While in the Lower City, they ensure that they're dressed simply enough not to draw attention and that's good enough for them, but here's what they'd wear if they could choose whatever they liked. (And by that I mean if Renton could choose because honestly, Finn doesn't know a thing about fashion. Except hats. Finn has a weird thing for hats.)
ignore the face (neither of them would ever grow a mustache), but you get the general idea / [via]

How would their lives be different without each other?

They'd have such drastically different lives without each other that it doesn't even bear imagining. In fact, now that I think about it, they'd both most likely be dead. They're invaluable in keeping each other safe from the threats that run amok in the Lower City. They've saved each other's lives too many times to count. But even if they managed to survive separately without their friendship, Finn would probably still lack a source of comfort and grounding in his times of need, especially when his composure is shaken in front of others. Renton, meanwhile, would probably be rudderless without someone to talk to him or guide him. They'd be much lonelier and much more prone to fatal mistakes.

They're incredibly fortunate to have met each other, really.

So that's all! What do you think of these two? Did I overuse my parentheticals (yes, I did—look, I'm doing it again)? Did you link up with Beautiful People? Let's talk in the comments!

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NOTE: We've reached the 200-post mark! *squee*

I love sharing publication news with you all—simply because a) I like having happy things to tell you and b) you all get to read some more of my writing, which is my way of thanking you for your lovely support.

I'm over the moon to be able to say that I have a poem up in Words Dance today. Some backstory: Words Dance Publishing is one of my favorite places to read contemporary poetry, as it features breathtaking writers and is committed to discussing social issues and empowering marginalized voices. It's been contributed to and/or staffed by poets like Meggie Royer, Ashe Vernon, Azra Tabassum, Caitlyn Siehl, and Donna-Marie Riley. These are among the poets who convinced me to get back into writing poetry. I'd never had much of a liking for it before, but now I'm very passionate about it (you can tell).

So it means the world to me to be able to say that I've placed a poem there.

I don't often write poems about myself, but "Given Name" is one of them. It's an exploration of my Korean name and the meaning of that name. A lot of names in Korea, even today, are based off of Chinese characters and are given based on date of birth, and mine is no exception. My Korean name, according to the official Korean romanization system, is spelled Ji-hyeon in English. Each syllable of that name is based on a Chinese character—roughly, "ji" means "luck" or "good fortune", and "hyeon" means "to be deep (water)".

For those of you who are curious (hey Korean and Chinese readers + those of you who've learned the languages! *high-fives you* *high-fives everyone else too because why not*), this is what my name looks like in Korean and Chinese (my last name is in parentheses):


Head over to Words Dance to find my poem. Enjoy!

So that's all, pretty much! What do you think of my poetry? Or of Words Dance?

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It's time.

—time to announce the winners of my birthday Pinterest contest, that is.

I'm going to be up front with you all and say that picking the prize winners was a straight-up agonizing process. Every single board entered was a gorgeous open door into the wondrous stories that you all are pulling out of your heads. I knew that this blog was lucky enough to be surrounded by a strong base of incredibly inventive storytellers and pinners, but this contest really hammered that home. From pirates to petrichor, monsters to moonlight, your entries amazed me with their originality, strong tones, and beautifully arranged pictures. I'm honored that you all were kind enough to give me a peek into your inspirations and ingenious worlds. 

You all are writers, and you have creative brains on your shoulders that have left me awestruck, and you have tales to tell that will make the world lighter on its feet. Never forget that.

So please, even if you didn't win, know that I would gladly make prizes for each and every board if I had the time. Know that your entry was appreciated and carefully considered. Know that the lineup below comes from completely subjective deliberation and my aesthetic trash sensibilities.

Without further ado, here are the winners of the first-ever Fairy Skeletons Pinterest Contest.

First place

hail the pumpkin king | Samantha Chaffin

Judge's Comments: This board pulled me into the unsettling, dark-toned world of Hail the Pumpkin King faster than I could say "spooky". I loved how even the littlest details in different images were pulled together to form the masterful aesthetic gathering that is this board. There are contrasts everywhere—between pale faces and dark clearings, between the magical and the mundane, between what is real and what may or may not be. As I scrolled down this board, I couldn't help but feel like the magical, frightening woods in this story were calling my name.

Second place

The Foxmont School for Boys and Girls | AnQi Yu

Judge's Comments: This board is so ethereal and lovely, and yet in terms of aesthetic it's very direct and enthralling. It definitely knows what it's doing, and I loved how it could instantly transport me to this near-otherworldly school. But it's clear that while the setting is quaint and bursting with natural beauty, not all is as it seems—there are just enough hints of ominous twists that I'm curious to see what's behind all these faded trees and flowers. This board is, without a doubt, a study in light and shadow, and the story that it tells through pictures is fascinating.

Third place

Fragments of Aurora | Topaz Winters

Judge's Comments: This board did something incredibly refreshing with the frequently-used concept of Aurora/Sleeping Beauty. Its take on this fairytale was especially lovely to me because I'm a total sucker for girl/wolf and girl/monster archetypes (I love writing poetry in that vein, and I'm even planning a WIP with girl/monsters). The main character is painted through pictures as a girl at once deadly and vulnerable, with lots of magic involved to boot, which makes this Pinterest board lovely, dark, and intriguing. Also, particularly suited to my tastes, haha.

Honorable mention

Witches Black and Silver | Alyssa Carlier

Judge's Comments: This board's careful attention to its black/white/gray color scheme (with perfectly placed accent colors here and there), as well as the danger, sweeping lines, and subtlety that characterized its overall vibe, made it stand out. That, combined with the killer character pictures all around (I do not know why IU and Yuna Kim are on this board but they're Korean and I adore them so BONUS POINTS) and frequent reminders of dance and yin/yang, gave this a rhythm and grace that set it apart and made me fall in love with it. 

Honorable mention

Thorn Among Fleas | AnQi Yu

Judge's Comments: I loved how this board created an entire world through pictures—a diverse, colorful, rich, magic-laden, suffering world—and yet maintained a cohesive, gorgeous aesthetic throughout. The bravery and sadness of the characters is almost palpable, and though it's unclear what exactly the story centers around—it always is with Pinterest boards—it's obvious that this is a story with gravity and beauty. I love sweeping, well-built fantasies, so this board was a pleasure to scroll through and observe new things in. 

And that's a wrap! Congratulations to the winners (expect an email from me soon about your prizes)! Here's to writers and their Pinterest inspiration/procrastination instincts.

To everyone who entered: thank you, thank you, thank you for doing so. I can't say that enough. It meant the world to see so many people helping celebrate my birthday and the Fairy Skeletons community. If you ever want to talk writing or Pinterest or anything at all, don't hesitate to reach out. Much love to you all.
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It's been quite a while since Music Monday has appeared on the blog! But never fear; I haven't forgotten the feature. This week, to mark the tenth (!) Music Monday post, I'm sharing two songs that I've recently discovered and loved.

So, story time: I'm a Korean (you know this) and I'm very, very proud of my heritage (you know this, too). But for some reason, I've never been into Korean music—at least not to the same extent that I'm into English-language music. There are some older Korean songs that I love love love, and I've been hearing them sung by my parents for so long that they're a part of my soul. (No, really. My earliest memory involves my father singing one of those songs.) But more recent Korean music? Not really my thing, mainly because—as most of you probably know—K-pop is a huge deal, both in Korea and internationally. Unfortunately, I don't really enjoy most of the K-pop I listen to.

(Please can no one murder me for that?)

However, something I do love that is recent and Korean is Korean variety TV shows. I'm not big on K-dramas or American variety shows, but I'll take Running Man or Infinite Challenge any day. The most recent episodes of the latter have focused on show members' collaborations with various Korean musicians, and I've found that some of those musicians' work has slipped its way into my ears—and my heart.

Most likely most of my blog readers won't understand the lyrics of these songs, but I wanted to share them with you anyway!
actual dorks. am i right or am i right / [via]
First up is "Wi Ing Wi Ing" (위잉위잉) from the band Hyukoh (혁오). Their lead singer and main songwriter, Oh Hyuk (second from the left), has a really wonderful, distinctive voice and writes surprisingly thoughtful lyrics. Those qualities, combined with the overall sound of their songs, make Hyukoh's work a surefire way to lift my mood. And I'm not the only one who thinks so—since the band's introduction in 2014, their popularity has soared in Korea and beyond.

"Wi Ing Wi Ing", from Hyukoh's debut EP 20, is one of their better-known songs, having climbed up to #2 on Korea's Gaon Music Chart as of July 30. (Their song "Comes and Goes", which I also really like, was #3 on that same day.) Here! Have a listen:

Also, it's most likely just me, but I get major Raven Boys vibes when I see the above picture. (For some reason, they seem like Noah, Ronan, Gansey, and Adam from left to right but in a painfully dorky Korean way. But then again I see the Raven Cycle just about everywhere I look, so probably you should disregard.)
also a dork (do not let his hat + glasses fool you) / [via]
My second pick is "Yanghwa BRDG" (양화대교) by solo hip-hop musician Zion.T. Yes, I know what you're thinking: "Christina—notorious for subsisting on an obnoxiously artsy music diet of film soundtracks, classical music, and indie folk—enjoyed something from a hip-hop musician?"

First: yes. Second: if there's anything I've learned from listening to a lot (and I mean a lot) of music in my life, it's that comfort zones are basically there to be broken. Third: now that I think about it, "Yanghwa BRDG" is probably the most artsy of Zion.T's songs. So.

Anyway, this is a very lonely/lovely song that evokes night driving in the city. The lyrics are poignant but deceptively simple. And I really love it. Released as a single in 2014, "Yanghwa Bridge" was actually #1 on the Gaon Music Chart as of July 30. You can listen to the song right here:

Any lovers of Korean music out there? Or alternatively, if you speak a second/third/etc. language, do you enjoy listening to music in that language?

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