Wednesday, May 31, 2017

REVIEW: The Kingdom of Oceana by Mitchell Charles

Author: Mitchell Charles
Publisher: Butterhouse Publishing
Genre: Fantasy
I received a copy of this book courtesy of the author and Book Publicity Services in exchange for an honest review.

3/5 stars
PG for some violence
Recommend to anyone interested in a magic + Hawaii team up (hello, Moana!) and advanced middle grade readers looking for a fun summer read.

[I am not including the full summary due to what I consider spoilers. You can read it in full here, otherwise here's the excerpt that caught my eye.]

Five Centuries Ago, On the Island Now Called Hawaii, There was a Kingdom Filled with Adventure, Beauty, and Magic.

The Review:
As I tumbled through the sky there was one thing I knew. I didn't want to die. Not then, not that way, and surely not at my brother's hands.
The opening line was fantastic. It immediately caught my attention, and (bonus!) it doesn't backtrack days or weeks to lead us back to this intriguing moment. It takes us back only a few hours, to explain why Ailani and his brother Nahoa are there -to see if they can catch a glimpse of the rumored ghost haunting an ancient temple, no less- and we've read the resolution to this moment and moved on before the chapter was through, which was a relief for me. I get rather annoyed with the stories that start at the climax, then haul you back to the beginning.

From the fantastic hook, it leads into a great description of the ancient Hawaiian-like culture and its magic elements, introducing a little at a time and strategically dispersing it between events and dialogue, which made learning about the world interesting and enjoyable. Unfortunately, while there's some interesting stuff going on, the punch from the awesome opening doesn't last long and the story moved pretty slowly from this point on.

By far my favorite part of this book were the descriptions. From me, that's saying a lot, because I'm generally impatient with descriptions, but Charles has a beautiful way of describing the tropical islands and the sea -and I couldn't get enough of it! The worldbuilding, too, is fascinating, because it takes Hawaiian myth and mixes it with magic and it's GORGEOUS. Spirit animals, sorcerers, and zombie eels. Tell me you're not intrigued by that!

But let's talk characters. My favorite is the Kahuna -which, I learned, is a Hawaiian word that actually means 'wise man or shaman'. Charles uses a lot of Hawaiian words throughout, but in addition to the glossary in back, he tags initial uses with handy footnote translations so there's no need to flip back and forth. This Kahuna is a straight-up awesome magician who catches lightning bolts, communicates telepathically, and understands the structure of the universe. He is wise and acts as mentor for our main character, Prince Ailani, who gets seriously annoyed with his telepathy.

I liked Ailani, too; he's an unlikely hero, dealing with some relatable teen issues like where he fits into the world, sibling rivalry with his arrogant and short-tempered brother Nahoa, and parental favoritism, as well as the weighty responsibilities that come with being a Prince. One thing that bugged me about Ailani -and let me preface this by saying I'm really, really picky about characters- is that he is a very reactionary character. He rarely acts on his own, instead prompted by events to react or is instructed by the Kahuna on what to do. I don't feel like Ailani came into his own or had a successful arc, which is something for which I'm always on the lookout. Of course, Charles may very well be saving this for his next book.

Like Ailani, most of the characters have decent characterization, but they lacked great depth.

The plot itself had a lot of really interesting facets; it deals with politics, the rocky relationship of the royal brothers, and the looming presence of impending technology threatening to change the magic of their world. However, it feels a little unfocused, because it keeps switching primary villains, building one up with its story line, only to replace it with another, and then alternating between the various established antagonists. There was just a lot going on. There was a really good twist at the end that caught me off-guard and I really enjoyed, but most of the climax was fairly predictable.

I hope Charles continues to explore his fascinating magic system and characters in more depth as the series continues, because this has some amazing potential.

About the Author

Mitchell Charles’ love of the ocean and its miraculous creatures began at the age of 12 when his father taught him to SCUBA dive. From his first adventure 50 feet (15 meters) beneath the Caribbean Sea he was hooked. He has been involved in the Oceanic Society, America’s first non-profit organization dedicated to ocean conservation, established in 1969.

These days, Mitchell divides his time between Southern California and Hawaii. He has two teenage children and a dog named Magic.

He is currently working on the second book in the Kingdom of Oceana series, The Legend of the Nine Sacred Pearls.

For more information, visit

Monday, May 1, 2017

Sunday Post 010 | IMWAYR

Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on your blog and showcase books and things we have received. Share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme

 Corny Joke Monday 

Why did the lion eat the tightrope walker?
He wanted a well-balanced meal.

 Last Week on the Blog 

 This Week on the Blog 

Dear Anakin... Star Wars
Requiem,  The Blacklist 4x17 Worth Watching

EDIT: Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, I have to postpone these. I'm taking a short hiatus for the next week or so. Sorry, everyone! See you when I get back. Until then, keep reading! ^_^

 What I'm Reading: 

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and
share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. 

Heartstone by Elle Katherine White
I am loving this. I just haven't been taking time to actually read it. :P

The Wonder by Emily Donoghue (audio)
This one is going so slow I might move on to something else for a while. It's interesting, I'm just not in the mood for it.

Star Wars: Clone Wars Vol 2: Victories and Sacrifices (comic)

 What I Read: 

Not going to lie. It's been a slow-going reading week for me. :P

Star Wars: Clone Wars Vol 1: In Defense of Kamino
Marvel's Civil War

 Internet Shenanigans 

So I finally finished Sherlock Season 4. I say 'finished' because I actually watched the first episode pretty soon after it aired on PBS. AND I COULDN'T GO ON. I was so broken-hearted after that episode, I just couldn't move on to the next one. It was so sad and depressing and John was angry at Sherlock and... and...

But I finally moved on and I'm SO GLAD I did, because those last two episodes were absolutely amazing, story-wise, character-wise, but especially in further developing John and Sherlock's complicated and amazing relationship. Even better, the rest of the season also fleshed out and relieved some of the pangs from that first episode heartbreak so, while I'm still not totally over it, the show has at least saved itself from my everlasting ire.

It was absolutely amazing.

If YOU'RE a Sherlock fan, than you definitely need to check out Sherlock Season 4 Thoughts (Spoilers) over on my friend September C. Fawkes' blog. It is such a fangirl-fueled post, but she's one of the best I know at intelligent fangirling, gushing about developing relationships, subtext, character, and foreshadowing. Seriously. Check it out right now, because her fangirling only ever deepens my love and appreciation for shows I like. ^_^

 In Real Life 

I finished my Camp NaNo goal of 15,000 words!

And you know what? It didn't help me get back into a regular writing routine at all. I kept procrastinating the actual writing part until the last minute and wound up battling for my last 3k a few hours before Camp ended last night. Which is not what I was going for at all.

So this next month I'm not giving myself a word count goal. Apparently that's not really helping to motivate me at all right now. Instead, I'm going to make myself for an hour every day. No matter how much or how little I write, I'm going to write -with no plotting, researching, or outlining- for at least one hour every day.

Because that last 3k I crammed in last night? It was horrible. But it was first draft stuff, so the important part is I wrote down 3k that wasn't actually a waste, that actually has good content and momentum, it just needs to be reworked. But because it wasn't perfect, because I didn't love it, I felt like a failure, and I battled with the sick dread that failure brings on for several hours last night. That's always fun. It made me realize that I have lost a step and gone back into the unhealthy place of being uncomfortable with first draft material, and that needs to stop. Right now.

So hopefully, the far side of next month, I will have written so much crappy first draft material, I will be comfortable with that phase of writing again.


  What's new with you? 

Dembe Zuma (No 10), The Blacklist 4x16 (Worth Watching)

This is all my hysterical, deliriously happy, evil laughter, because THE BLACKLIST IS BACK IN TOP BLACKLIST FORM!!!

So let's just start at the beginning, yeah?

Episode 4x16 -Dembe Zuma (No. 10)

My first thought was literally "Aram -what the crap?!" I mean, for a guy who's been lamenting his destructive taste in women and relationship woes, this second relationship with spy/traitor/betrayer Janet went from 0 to 60 really fast, especially considering he backed out of the opportunity of a date with long-time crush Navabi because she lied to him. I mean, from where I'm sitting, Janet lied and then some, least of which was, you know, trying to kill him.

Also, there's the timing, considering at least we the viewer know Navabi turned down her own long-time flame because she realized she's in love 'with someone else', and that Aram himself knows that Navabi is definitely becoming interested. This immediately puts Janet into the 'stock love interest' category, those doe-eyed women and near-perfect men doomed to heartache because their only purpose seems to be separating and then ultimately indirectly uniting that most prominent will they/won't they couple. *cough*TROPE*cough*

And even as I was jotting down a mini-rant about how Janet completely betrayed Aram and crushed his heart and put him into a downward spiral of doubt and... and... I realized something. I kind of like Janet for Aram. When I realized that, I actually got a little miffed because this relationship probably won't wind up going any where, as per 'stock love interest' policy. But I'm going to come back to this later, because I don't want my Aram love getting in the way of my

I seriously love this man. I have always loved Dembe and his supposed betrayal in The Apothecary broke my heart and I really, truly thought it was just a hopeless fangirl fantasy that he could really be exonerated and I AM SO HAPPY RIGHT NOW!!!

And I have to point out, when Red, Harold, and Liz are discussing the unsuccessful hunt for Dembe, can we just appreciate the pride and awe in Red's voice when he describes all of Dembe's skills and attributes? Even when he was convinced Dembe had betrayed him, he still couldn't bring himself to hate him. I absolutely love the bond these two share. ^_^

The best part -and I mean the BEST PART- about this entire Dembe story line is that the writers got me to swallow it, hook, line, and sinker. I mean, I've talked before about cliches in shows and not falling for them, but the writers of The Blacklist basically have me second-guessing everything that unfolds and most of this is because of that season 3 finale. I knew that Liz wasn't dead; I knew it! I even figured out Kaplan was the one to plan it all out. But the show spent so long grieving over her death and hiding it from us that I actually began to doubt. I had just begun to accept Liz was actually dead and to fret about how the show would fare from then on out when they finally revealed the truth. And that's one thing I adore about this show -they write the story so well that I begin to believe everything they want me to, whether I want to or not.

But back to Dembe. Because that look on his face when Aram tells him he can't figure out who stole Reddington's stuff. That utter defeat as he slides to the ground in a dejected, lovable pile of heartache! Awwwwwww! He's so disappointed because he can't help Red! How many times must I express my love for their friendship?! And when he tells Aram: "I have three people in my life: my daughter, my granddaughter, and Raymond." MY HEART ABSOLUTELY MELTED. I love you, Dembe, and I'm so glad you didn't try to murder Red and how could I ever doubt you?!?!

And now we get to switch back to my other character crush, Aram! I absolutely loved the way he handled Dembe in this episode because, before he realized Dembe wasn't really a traitor, he straight up said he'd rather die than help him hurt Mr. Reddington. I love this about Aram, that he will stick to his principles in the face of sheer terror; I love this fierce loyalty he has to Red (though I hope it won't bite him too hard in the backside some day); I love that he always calls Red 'Mr. Reddington'; I love, love, love that he recognized Dembe's utter defeat for what it was. I love that Aram has so much confidence and optimism about the good in people that he was willing to give Dembe the benefit of the doubt and believe that he had nothing to do with the assassination attempt on Red. I love that Aram trusts so much in this good side of people that he was willing to break into a secure database and then ensure Dembe's escape from Ressler and Navabi -because, face it, none of them have a great track record with believing or handling traitors. And I love that Aram has all this faith and trust in people, but he's not so naive that he doesn't stop every few minutes, scrutinizes Dembe and says, "To help Mr. Reddington. Right?"

Can we have more Aram and Dembe team-ups in the future? Pretty, pretty please? A little bit of Agent Mojtabai and Agent Zuma action every once in a while would be perfect. I mean, look how much they get accomplished together!
And you know Aram just loved playing boss.
"Sorry, sir."
They managed to find the name of the person causing Red so much misery -Katheryn Nemec- although Dembe did run out before explaining any of it to Aram to go chase down proof all by his lonesome, which is never, ever a doomed of life-threatening endeavor in a TV show, right?

I will be honest. I was a little disappointed that it turned out to be Mr. Kaplan all along. I felt a little cheated, just because I discounted that option a long time ago because, among other reasons, I thought it was too obvious. However, the next episode Requiem changed everything, so stay tuned for that recap.

Back on the hunt for Dembe, Liz is meeting Glenn for the first time. Now, I gotta admit, Glenn is one of my least favorite of Red's associates. I find him less funny than he is crude and annoying as all get out, but even I have to say he proves an interesting foil to Red's generally cool, threatening demeanor. Of all people, Glenn seems to have absolutely no fear of Red (I wonder if that's ever going to prove his downfall) and he loves -I mean, loves- to push Red's buttons and pull his chain. So I loved watching Liz meet this guy for the first time and seeing how he treats Red and how Red takes it. Every time Glenn said something irksome, her eyebrows went straight up and she glanced over at Red, like "Are you seriously going to let him talk to you like that?" Plus, Glenn's completely shameless habit of taking advantage of his work perks amuses me. Seriously, using a student driver as a chauffeur for an emergency info hand-off with the wanted and at large head of a massive criminal enterprise? But it's okay, because said student driver doesn't speak English. XD

One of my favorite lines from this episode came from Red, right after Liz tells him that Aram swears Dembe is innocent.
"You can afford to hope for the best, but to survive in my world, I have to assume the worst."
It speaks volumes as to what he lives with every day and the burdens he must carry. I'm glad he still has Dembe to count on through his trials.

I was so proud of Red when he finally tracked down Dembe's daughter that he didn't show the slightest bit of anger or aggression, but I'm also glad Liz was with him, because when Isabella realized that her dad ran away from Red, she looked downright terrified. At least we know Liz wouldn't let Red do anything. (Right?)

But I think there's more to his calm than just getting what he needs, because when Red does get hold of Dembe on the phone, there is clear hope in that conversation: "What are you doing, Dembe? Because everything you seem to be doing is making you look guilty."

Despite what Red told Liz about having to assume the worst, I don't think he could entirely crush out that flower of hope that one of his dearest and oldest companions could so completely betray him and, lucky for Red, that hope is going to pay off, because Dembe says just enough -before getting attacked and cut off- that Red gets a nagging suspicion of what's really going on. And after a quick phone call with Aram, the truth comes out. It's Mr. Kaplan and she's out for blood and revenge.

Interestingly, hearing Kaplan is alive and Red's own confession as to the actual act of 'killing' of her, Liz shows some of her first genuine emotion all episode, but I really can't tell whether it's for Kaplan -the  woman who up to now Liz thought had given her life to save Agnes- or for Red. I'm having a really hard time reading her, because her interactions with others -especially with Red- are not what they used to be. There's not a lot of emotion or depth or content in most of her conversations right now, which I've talked about before, and it's starting to frustrate me. Liz is present and hanging out in these more recent episodes; she's here, but she's not really contributing.

If there was one thing I did not expect in this episode it was the return of the CREEPY HUNTER DUDE! And bam! He makes a surprise appearance following an arrow in Dembe's leg and he starts taunting Dembe and praising Kate. I mean, I got that he was impressed with her, but it seems a little like he's obsessed with her. Of course, Dembe takes the inevitable villain monologue as an opportunity to lure the Creepy Hunter Dude closer -so he can yank out the arrow from his own leg and stab him with it! Man, I love this guy!

Red and Liz arrive just in time to scoop up Dembe, hobbling back to his car. The reunion between Red and Dembe is brief -considering the one is bleeding out and the other is rattled that Kate's alive and apparently has an assassin lurking nearby- but I'm hoping for a good moment between those two in episode 18. *crosses fingers*

While Red sends Liz off to get Dembe to the hospital, Baz -who, adorably, has been playing Dembe's stand in as chauffuer and bodyguard- and Red head off into the woods to do battle with Creepy Hunter Dude. They manage to draw him out with a little bit of trickery, at the cost of an arrow wound for Baz, but at least now we know Baz looks just as good in Red's hat as Red does in a knit beanie cap. (Seriously.)
Now we come to the part of the show where Aram realizes that his long-term crush just found out he's been dating his traitor ex-girlfriend again. Yay. I kind of skipped over the part where Janet suggests to Navabi they discuss the fact that they both like Aram because my only note from that was 'Suck it up, Navabi.' I'm really having serious issues with her. So we're going to skip over this right to the part where Aram apologizes to Navabi.

First of all, Aram apologizes to Navabi because he didn't forewarn her that he was dating Janet again. This tells a lot about Aram's character, that he's maybe too nice for his own good, he's a decent guy, and he genuinely still cares for Navabi. I think he takes a very big step in treating Navabi as a real person rather than an idolized crush when he is blatantly honest and tells her that one of the things he admires about her is her intensity but it's also something that terrifies him, especially in a potential relationship aspect.

And Navabi says: "How's this for terrifying? I couldn't care less what you admire."

And the note I jotted down there was: Now I really hate you, Navabi ['really' is underlined about 8 times] and I hope you never get Aram YOU DON'T DESERVE HIM. Seriously, you've had your chances, and so many times Aram tries to be honest and mature about his feelings for you, you not only shut him down, you hurt him out of spite and I abhor that about you. You're becoming a very unlikable character and your good traits are drying up by the episode.

Okay. Trying to be unbiased for a moment, I get that she's upset and frustrated and angry right now. She didn't want to hear what Aram wanted to say and I get that hearing Aram tell her what he admires about her probably just made her angrier. But when Navabi gets angry, she tends to get cruel. I don't like that about her. I don't like that this is not the first time she has taken an olive branch offered out by Aram and broken it over her knee. I don't like the way she treats him, especially when he's being sincere; I don't like the way she takes his words and crams them back down his throat.

So here's the thing with show relationships. I'm not huge into 'shipping', except in extreme scenarios; I'm generally willing to go along with whatever the show seems to be pushing. So it was with Aram and Navabi. The first time he sees her, he is smitten. Everybody knows it; they even joke about it on occasion. Navabi, too, seems to find great amusement with Aram's infatuation and teases him a little. At first, I thought this was cute. If any relationship in the show worked out, I wanted it to be this one, because it was so darn cute. But as time goes on and nothing comes of it -and especially when Navabi slept with Ressler back in season 3, I mean, seriously, what was up with that?!- her behavior towards Aram goes from being cute with him to toying with him and sometimes being just downright cruel.

I'll admit, I'm a little biased against Navabi currently; the more I learn about her character, her personality, her opinions, and, as Aram put it, her intensity, the less and less I like her, but the less suited I think she is for Aram too. Which is why I hope, if Aram winds up in any lasting relationship in the show, that it isn't with Navabi. At this point, I don't really care who he winds up with as long as it isn't Navabi.

So. There's my strong opinion about that.

Moving on.

The final acts of this episode are appropriately dramatic. Red and Baz interrogate Creepy Hunter Dude for Kate's whereabouts and Creepy Hunter Dude is surprisingly and vehemently loyal to the woman he held captive for a few days in his shack in the middle of nowhere.

So loyal, in fact, he tricks Red into dialing the number that sets off the bomb he's rigged in the basement.

Red and Baz run for their lives as the cabin explodes, taking Creepy Hunter Dude with it, although leaving his foreboding last words behind:
Creepy Hunter Dude: She said you'd do this.
RED: She said I'd do what exactly?
CHD: Underestimate her. 
And the episode ends with a shot of Kate, listening to the more foreboding phone message her backwoods admirer left: "...If this is the last time you hear my voice, know that I didn’t give you up. And I didn’t go down without a fight. You told me, if he ever figured out you’re still alive, he’d come at you full bore. Well, lock and load, Katie. Your war has come."

Guess it turns out the cleaner really is quite the strategist, ain't she, Red?

I've been a little worried about how this come-back would fare, but I think The Blacklist is back in top form.
Do you think so?
What was your favorite part?