A Unicorn Named Rin follows a Chinese unicorn on a mission to find the missing royal Phoenix before the Friendship Concert. What inspired you to write this beautiful children’s book?
We’re a family that loves unicorns but I couldn’t find a unicorn book that featured a protagonist which looked like my daughters. After conducting some research, I discovered unicorns were a part of Chinese history, and even Confucius himself wrote about them. Thus I set out to write an early readers book about a unicorn from ancient China, along with a Tang dynasty princess.
The art in this book is well drawn and vibrant. What was the art collaboration process like with illustrator Li (Lily) Liu?
Lily lives in France and I’m in the US, so we had numerous video chatting sessions to discuss the illustrations. We both have children so at times our virtual meetings were very chaotic from hilarious kid-related disruptions! I’m just in awe of Lily’s talent. She really brought every page to life! She is originally from China, and I had lived in Shanghai for years, so this book was a very meaningful project for the both of us.
What were some aspects of Chinese culture that were important for you to include in this book?
I’m a big fan of ancient Chinese poetry, so there some Tang dynasty poems included in the book. And although this is a fantastical story with mythical creatures, the geographical locations are real.
Will you write more children’s book of this type in the future?
Yes, my second children’s book will be released next year.
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Humphrey Hawksley’s journalistic career, when paired with his fiction-writing expertise, make for excellent non-fiction writing. Asian Waters is a really comprehensive and digestible read, despite its extremely weighty content. Hawksley’s tone and choice of language remains simple yet informative throughout, despite becoming increasingly complex in terms of content matter. Hawksley also manages to maintain a sense of pace and excitement with his writing, as if it were a novel rather than a non-fiction guide, especially when delving into and combing through actual history, geography and social science.
Though there is a hefty scope to cover when it comes to the Asia-Pacific conflict, the South China Sea, Chinese expansion and the territory dispute associated, Asian Waters covers everything you would want to know about the topic without it feeling as if you are being overloaded with information.
You may be tempted to read it as an almanac for the specialist topic it covers, or perhaps as an academic accompaniment, but it also doubles up as a travel book and is arguably best consumed in this way. Asian Waters was fascinating in itself, just for my own interest’s sake, so I imagine that it would be particularly enlightening to consume whilst travelling the very area it covers.
The focus on political tension between the countries of the Asia-Pacific is unpacked with great skill and tastefulness, but without wavering on the hardy facts. This is where Hawksley’s experience as a BBC foreign correspondent is most prominent – his understanding of the dynamics at play remains at the forefront of his writing.
Asian Waters is not simply a retelling of the history and politics which have been at play for years, or solely the facts and information which led to the current situation. There is also vital contextualisation that allows the reader to understand where these issues sit at the time of reading, understanding how a Trumpian government impacts the conflicts, or how the relationship between Moscow and Beijing influence the rest of the world.
Asian Waters connects all the branches of knowledge and intellect to give a clear retelling of the reality, including social influence, historical action which has taken place, and the geographical layout that facilitates as much. As well as clarifying the past and contextualising the present, it focuses on the future. The book predicts how the implications of what has happened and is happening will affect what is to come for Asia.
Pages: 304 | ASIN: B07MXDFQK1
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The Dragon of Hidden Treasures follows Kathryn and Ty through the perils of 1900’s China as they seek their dream. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing novel?
I’ve been a student of Chinese history for more than thirty years, though my interest was mainly ancient China. One night in 1996 I had a fantastic dream about a foreign woman captured by a warlord. It was just a thread and probably inspired by something I’d read in passing, but it stuck. I wasn’t really a writer then and certainly not interested in Republican Era China (1911-1949) but I just couldn’t forget the dream. I started focusing my studies on the period and got totally sucked in. There was so much intrigue and chaos during that time, I had no trouble taking that thread of a dream and turning it into a thrilling series full of twists and turns, some based on actual historical events.
Kathryn is a unique character that I enjoyed watching develop through the story. What were some ideas you wanted to capture in her character?
There wasn’t just upheaval in China during the 1920’s. The whole world was changing. In Kathryn, I saw a chance to show the evolution of women: from having no rights, no voice or even choices, to challenging the established system on every level with the hope of changing things for the better. There were women like Kathryn then, courageous pioneers who dared to dream big and rise above their lot in life. They laid the foundation for the rights and freedom today’s women enjoy.
I felt like this was a story about empowerment and pursuing your dreams. What were some themes you wanted to explore in this book?
I had two main themes in mind for this story: put aside prejudice and dare to strive for your dreams. Dreams are important. They give us hope, and without hope, we will literally shrivel up and die. For a variety of reasons, we can put ourselves in a box and be held prisoner by ‘can’t’ or ‘impossible’. It’s difficult and often painful, but I believe if you’re willing to work hard and make the necessary sacrifices, you can break out of the box and achieve your dreams.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m currently working on Sunrise In Kweilin, Book 2 of the ‘Hidden Treasures’ saga. It’s set to be released in February 2019.
China, 1923: In an ancient land battling for its very existence, violence and chaos reign supreme. Amidst the devastating aftermath of a revolution that toppled the divine Imperial system and left the once glorious Empire torn and bleeding, ruthless warlords have claimed dominion. Political intrigue and betrayal are the only rulers now.
In the wrong place at the wrong time, Kathryn Kidwell is captured during an invasion of Canton by the warlord, Cheng Jiong. Recognizing the folly of allowing the only daughter of a powerful American trade lord to be cold-bloodedly murdered, Ty Wang must make an impossible choice: to save Kathryn will cost him his life, but to let her die could mean the death of his beloved homeland.
The Dragon of Hidden Treasures, Book 1 is the first chapter in the electrifying saga of Ty and Kathryn’s desperate struggle to stay alive and stop a war that would blow China to pieces. Bound together by a love as strong as it is forbidden, their efforts could ultimately change the fate of a nation…and destroy them both.
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18 Cranes follows a young boy as he prepares for an important civil servant exam while being tormented by nightmares. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing story?
The story was inspired by my own journey of learning about China, first through teaching Chinese students in Canada, and then through my eye-opening experience teaching and traveling in China.
Bing is an interesting character that continued to gain depth as the story progressed. What were some driving ideals behind his character?
Bing is a composite character, reflecting some the attitudes and behaviors I’ve observed in my Chinese students, but also embodying elements of historical and fictional persons I’ve read about.
This story takes place during the summer of 1630 in China. Why did you choose this time and place for your story?
The story takes place in the final years of the Ming dynasty, culminating in a monumental and highly consequential event that takes place in the city of Kaifeng in 1642. By starting in 1630, I’m building the necessary background for readers to understand the significance of the event when it takes place.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
18 Cranes is the first in a series of nine novellas, collectively known as, Kaifeng Chronicles. The second book, Mandarin Ducks, has been available for the past few months. The third book, Grand Canal, is scheduled for release in late January 2019.
In the late summer of 1630, 23-year old Li Bing writes the provincial level imperial examinations, the first step towards entering the Chinese civil service. He is tormented by a dream of 18 cranes, and as he awaits his exam results he seeks out insights from those around him to help him understand his dream. In the end, he learns more than he imagined.
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Kathryn is faced with giving up her dream of being an independent professional woman and putting to use her education in her father’s company, and Ty is a man trapped in a job for the Chinese warlord, Cheng Jiong, wanting nothing more than to be with Kathryn. The ties that bind him, however, may be stronger than he thinks. When Kathryn is kidnapped and Ty finds himself part of the plot to use Kathryn’s position as leverage, Ty and Kathryn strike up an unusual alliance which leaves both of them in danger and both with more to lose than they could ever realize.
I do not know exactly what I expected as I began to read of Kathryn’s education and her father’s plan to marry her off to a man she did not know, but I know this much: Juliann Troi’s writing in The Dragon of Hidden Treasures Book 1 is simply beautiful. When an author writes so fluently in the language of imagery that it makes you forget where you are and who is around you, you know you have met the best of the best.
Kathryn is a force with which to be reckoned. She is beyond her time and is as cunning a character as I have seen in a while. Right out of the gate, Troi had me rooting for Kathryn to overpower her father with her obvious common sense and business savvy. She is a true testament to the fact that women have, for decades, been a force in business whether they were allowed to have their names attached to their work or not. She exemplifies every strong woman striving to be heard and seen in a man’s world.
The budding relationship between Kathryn and Ty is enviable. His love for her is clear from the first words he speaks of her. Though the “stalker-esque” behavior at the outset is a little unsettling, it plays well into the plot and is less of an issue when the reader sees their destiny play out. Again, Troi is an artful writer–plain and simple–making the most basic of actions flow beautifully across the page.
Revelations are an important part of Troi’s writing. As Kathryn and Ty’s story progresses, Kathryn is stunned by Ty’s admissions about his family. Without giving anything away, I can say that I was just as surprised as the key character. Ty has been down quite a harrowing road, and that experience lends itself well to Troi’s plot and is a vital part of the character development. Troi does not lay all her cards on the table and is a master at throwing the reader for the proverbial loop.
Juliann Troi’s historical fiction is an all too accurate portrayal of the struggle women have faced to be heard and to take part in the biggest decisions in business dealings throughout history. Interspersed throughout the romantic tones of the book are tidbits of China’s history peppered with glances into the horrors of war. I look forward to Book 2!
Pages: 584 | ASIN: B079XX8BZM
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American River: Tributaries follows three immigrant families struggling to pursue their dreams during the turbulent 1960’s. What served as your inspiration while writing this book?
My love of Northern California, the place where I grew up, and the wonderful history of the area. I was also inspired by my love of art and music and my passion for social justice issues. Immigration and ethnic diversity are the cornerstones of the story.
This book has so many fascinating characters that are well developed. What were some themes you wanted to capture in your characters?
Basically, the story focuses on the creative search for meaning, knowledge, compassion and understanding in a tumultuous world filled with prejudice, obstacles, jealousy, and betrayal. As my characters encounter these obstacles, they discover their own strengths and weaknesses and grow beyond their self-centered ambitions.
I thoroughly enjoyed the historical backdrop to the story and how well researched it was. What historical milestones were important for you to highlight in this book?
The Gold Rush had a tremendous impact on the population and culture of California. Before the Gold Rush, the population consisted mainly of Native Californians and Californios (settlers and landowners of mixed Spanish, Native Californian, and African descent). But gold fever brought people to California from all over the country and the world. The Anglo Americans (of English, Irish, or Scots descent), other Europeans (including Italians, Russians, Greeks and East Europeans), Chinese, Japanese, African Americans, and many more who came and stayed. This changed the makeup of the state’s population making it one of the most ethnically diverse in the country. So, this cultural diversity sets the scene for later entanglements.
Most of the story takes place in the 1960s, that decade that Time Magazine recently termed “The decade that changed a generation.” So, I take the reader down memory lane as my characters encounter the major issues of the time: immigration, racial prejudice, migrant workers, gay rights, women’s rights and the Vietnam War.
This is book one in the American River Trilogy. What can readers expect in book two, American River: Currents?
In Book Two, American River: Currents, a cavalcade of disasters—both personal and public—threatens to overwhelm the scattered members of the McPhalan, Ashida, and Morales clans. Alliances fray, relationships dissolve, divisive secrets are revealed, and promises are broken as the members of three California families struggle to salvage their shattered dreams. The story follows the character’s journeys to places as distant as Cleveland, Ohio, Venice, Italy, and Kyoto, Japan. From the concert halls of Europe to the artist’s lofts of Manhattan, American River: Currents is filled with passionate and resolute characters who refuse to let go of their unique visions of success—even as life’s tumultuous currents threaten to sweep them all away.
Owen McPhalans Mockingbird Valley Ranch is still a thriving family business in 1959. But when his wife, Marian, leaves Mockingbird to follow her dream of becoming a successful artist, she ignites a firestorm that impacts the descendants of all three families. As artists, musicians, writers, and politicians inherit their immigrant parents hopes, they are torn apart by ambition, prejudice, and deception while struggling through the turbulent 1960s. From the concert halls of Europe to Kyotos ancient avenues, and Manhattans artists lofts to San Franciscos North Beach, they each learn the price they must pay in order to realize their dreams. But just as the river is drawn to the sea, they eventually find themselves pulled back to the place that forged the original link between their destiniesa place called Mockingbird.
American River: Tributaries follows three California families as the descendants of Irish, Japanese, and Mexican immigrants embark on unique journeys to pursue their dreams amid an unsettled 1960s world.
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Ivan Figueroa-Otero’s Spirituality 103: The Forgiveness Code is the third installment in a succession of self-help books that focus on spirituality, mindfulness, and self-understanding. This installment more specifically deals with the power of forgiveness. The reader is encouraged to connect with his or her inner ‘Warrior of Light’, meaning that in order to confront the negativity around us we must look into ourselves and examine the negativity that we harbor internally. Figueroa-Otero employs the use of Buddhism and Chinese-Tao concepts to help the reader get on a path towards connecting with him or herself and to understand that forgiveness is necessary for progress and growth.
One thing that I found helpful about the novel was the glossary that was included in the beginning. It gave the author’s expanded definition for various specific terms that was used throughout the book, such as ‘Warrior of Light’, ‘Warrior of Shadows’, and so on. Figueroa-Otero also provides homework questions at the end of chapters to help the reader review and fully understand the concepts discussed in each chapter. I found this helpful as it allowed me to exercise my understanding what I just read.
Another helpful aspect to the novel is that the reader does not necessarily need to read the first two installments in order to comprehend and fully practice the message and lesson that the author communicates. Figueroa-Otero does an excellent job in the introduction at summarizing what the readers have learned from the first two books and how that might be applied to this book.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel. I’m all about a good self-help book, and it’s refreshing to see one written on the power of forgiveness. However, the prose was so dense with poetic and figurative language that I would have to reread some sections to understand what was said. Along with amble use of metaphors I felt that I sometimes had to apply my own meaning rather than being told what things meant.
This would be a great book to read for anyone who finds themselves bitter or harboring hateful feelings towards others. I love the lesson presented within the book and you can really feel the authors passion for the subject matter. And in the end, with a self help, what you’re really looking for is an author that cares. And I think I found that in this book.
Pages: 154 | ASIN: B0764DYJHS
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Hsing-I is one of the true treasures of the internal martial arts. Based on ancient Taoist philosophy, it has both the capacity to be used as a devastating martial art alongside its ability to improve the health of a practitioner by promoting the circulation of chi throughout the body. Historically, its lineage is said to trace back over 900 years.
The internal martial arts is a subject discussed by everyone who practices kung-fu but is known and employed by only a few. In this book, Master James McNeil and his student, Andrew Jackson, present a comprehensive analysis of this unique internal art. Consisting of insightful information, accompanied by hundreds of photographs and illustrations it discusses both the theories and practice in a clear and understandable manner, making it a worthwhile read for all levels of practitioner.
Sharing with the reader and explaining the meanings of the deep Taoist philosophical theories pertaining to this art, Master James McNeil draws on over forty years of study and practice alongside his own unique insight into Hsing-I Chuan passed on to him by his teachers, Master Hsu Hong Chi and Grandmaster Chiao Chang Hung of Taiwan.
Whether you are just starting to learn Hsing-I or you are an experienced practitioner, this book will help enrich your practice and understanding in greater depth, the attributes pertaining to this ancient and beautiful Chinese internal art.
Never has this depth of information been printed in the English language on this subject and readers will discover the art of Hsing-I Chuan, enabling them to enhance their practice, improve their health and cultivate their spirit.
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