The Best Moments In Reading Are When You Come Across Something- A Thought, A Feeling, A Way At Looking At Things- Which You Had Thought Special And Particular To You. And Now, Here It Is, Set Down By Someone Else, A Person You Have Never Met, Someone Who Is Even Long Dead. And It Is As If A Hand Has Come Out, And Taken Yours.

Alan Bennett

The History Boys

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Kingdom Of Oceana by Mitchell Charles

The Kingdom of OceanaTitle: The Kingdom Of Oceana
Author: Mitchell Charles
Publisher: Butterhorse Media
Publication Date: November 27th, 2015
Genre: YA/Adventure/
Length: 222 pages
Source: Publisher

Five Centuries Ago, On the Island Now Called Hawaii, There was a Kingdom Filled with Adventure, Beauty, and Magic. When 16-year-old Prince Ailani and his brother Nahoa trespass on a forbidden burial ground and uncover an ancient tiki mask, they unleash a thousand-year-old curse that threatens to destroy their tropical paradise. As warring factions collide for control of Oceana, it sparks an age-old conflict between rival sorcerers that threatens to erupt-just like Mauna Kea, the towering volcano. With the help of his ancestral spirit animals, his shape shifting sidekick, and a beautiful princess, Prince Ailani must overcome his own insecurities, a lifetime of sibling rivalry, and a plague of cursed sea creatures brought forth by the tiki's spell. Can peace be restored to the kingdom? Can Prince Ailani claim his rightful place as the future king of Oceana? ONLY ONE CAN RULE. 

One of the hardest things about writing, is creating a setting with enough detail to seem vivid and vibrant, but not too much as not to bore the reader. This book was a perfect balance and every single time something was described or a feature of something was explored you felt like there was a reason behind it. I have never been to Hawaii, yet the setting intrigued me and made me feel like I was in a place I have never actually been to. An author that manages to successfully convey something like this, is therefore a master in creating a good setting. What I thought was very clever, was how he used words from the language that the characters in the book used since it helped us understand the culture they were from.

I thought the idea of having a “guardian animal” was super cute, and made the overall aesthetic feel a lot more “customizable” if that makes sense. As for the main characters, I feel like a had a problem with how static they were. Yes, they were well written, however most of them remained the same throughout the book. Take Ailani’s older brother that is destined to be king as an example. While making the future king slightly evil is an interesting writer’s choice, I feel like Nahoa didn’t really evolve at all. He remained the spoiled brat and it was clear he was not meant to be king. I don’t feel like that’s even a spoiler alert since it’s so obvious due to the fact that The Kingdom of Oceana is kind of like a Disney movie. Actually as a fact, it’s quite similar to Disney’s new movie Moana. Except of course, the main character is male. The island is also quite literally the definition of “exotic”, which makes the story a lot more fun.

3.5 Stars, the book didn’t get the full set of points because of not enough character development, as well as not static enough characters. Points for the setting and immersion into the story.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Vigilante Annie Scarlotte by Robert Kimbrell

Vigilante Annie Scarlotte: Book One
Title: Vigilante Annie Scarlotte: Anthology: The Complete First Series
Author: Robert Kimbrell
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication Date: April 20, 2016
Genre: Adventure, Romance, Mystery
Length: 442 pages
Source: The Review Chain

Because Annie has no recollection of her birth parents, her life is full of unknowns. Still, she seems relatively content with her simple existence in Washington, DC. Marcus, her new Italian boyfriend, adds much desired spice to her life despite secrecy about his position at SecureVest. But when Annie becomes mysteriously ill, it is the catalyst for a life far from simple. Seemingly by luck, Annie discovers that she is maturing into a dhampir (a vampire/human hybrid), and to survive she must feed on fresh human blood. With Marcus fully aware of Annie's predicament, they concoct a scheme: find the evil living among us and act where justice does not. Vigilante Annie is born. In trying to adjust to her new life, Annie feels like a stranger in an unfamiliar land. Because Annie yearns to belong, she confides in father-figure Larry. When Annie finds out her friend Elisa works at SecureVest, where Marcus is employed, things unravel beyond control, and forgotten years from Annie's childhood make themselves known piece by piece. Will Annie be able to satisfy her body's cravings and stay alive? Who wants to use her for their own agenda? Can Annie trust Elisa's friends? Will she ever have the chance to meet her mother? In the end, will Annie be a slave to those who would use her, or will she have an opportunity for a freedom she has never known? 

Annie is a half-vampire that needs human blood to survive. No-one except her Italian boyfriend Marcus knows this, and to keep Annie Scarlotte safe Marcus builds a luxurious hideout in a no-longer-used storage shelter. Whilst not capable of restraining herself from fresh blood, she decides to only feed on evil humans that have caused pain and suffering for others, such as terrorists, murderers, and other criminals. Annie therefore finds these types of people and then uses their blood to feed, living in situation where she can’t trust anyone including closest friends.

I have never read a vampire book. Ever. I’m not sure whether I was just not up to the challenge of reading about a character that seems to outright split YA fans apart. Vampires have over time become very prevalent in many popular YA pieces, however each author seems to choose to portray these characters very differently. Some are evil, some are old, some are teens, some are mysterious, some are celebrities. Since vampires aren’t new characters necessarily as they have been used for centuries in more classical literature, the authors instead of making them up and their world as they go, instead choose to simply build up on it. This causes vampires as characters, be quite complex, with many rules of what they can and can’t do, and also gives the author a chance to decide whether he wants “his” vampire/s to be more traditional in a sense (allergic to garlic and sunshine for example) or if he wants to introduce new rules and say for example that the old ones aren’t real. This specific book’s author Robert Kimbrell decides to do the lather however his way of doing it is to make the vampire in his story as relatable as possible, the easiest way to do this is to introduce a half-vampire. Or dhampirs as they’re called in this book. The main character is one, and this allows us to understand her more as a character, we feel how scared and anxious she is about turning into one, but at the same time feels exhilarated since she’s a mythical creature with powers.

The plot as well as Annie’s universe had a lot of plot holes, relating to the way dhampirs and vampires lived. One of them for example was for example why the people bitten by Annie Scarlotte don’t turn into vampires themselves, defeating the entire purpose of Annie reason to kill them in the first place. The author maybe has decided that people killed by vampires don’t turn into vampires, yet he never clarified. He also never tells us the differences between vampires and dhampirs nor what things about them are myths. He briefly mentions dhampirs not being able to be killed by wooden stakes and the sun however we never are told whether this also applies to vampires?

I also didn’t like how the book decided to go political and out of nowhere started talking about how everything was interconnected making it sound like a conspiracy theory, and how the government was against us and the people in charge were all evil or not approved by the “Stonefish” or the organization Annie Scarlotte is part of. I came here for a short YA novel about vampires and dhampirs, not a 400 page-piece including how the government was against us all and a very vivid account of a terrorist beheading his daughter because she did something against Allah. I don’t know, that part just really bothered me, it did not at all seem suitable for a YA novel which was what is was marketed as? 

The actual story and ending, while infused with clich├Ęs, didn’t feel forced, the story just kind of went on, changing from character to character if a single one was talking for too long and kept changing the scenery and the point of view which was refreshing and insured I didn’t get bored. While being very complex, it usually was descriptive enough to not confuse the reader about what was happening which was great. Although I felt that there were too many new characters being introduced all the time which after time built up confusion.

One thing this book was really good at was creating atmosphere and scenery. The vivid descriptions of the clothing and the way a character looked were great and well thought out. I also liked how Annie Scarlotte decided to only take out the people that had done bad things instead of preying on the innocent, it just made a lot more sense than killing whoever was nearest including family members which is what happens in many vampire/dhampir novels. 

An okay-fast-paced read, if you want something quick that you can return to after longer periods of time.

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