Katharine and Elizabeth Corr are sisters living in the leafy English county of Surrey. They both read history at university and worked as professionals in London. Then they both stopped working to raise families, not realising that children are far more demanding than clients or bosses. When they both decided to write novels – on account of fictional people being much easier to deal with than real ones – it was obvious they should do it together. When Katharine’s not writing, she likes playing the harp, learning dead languages and embracing her inner nerd. When Elizabeth’s not writing, she likes sketching, dancing round the kitchen and plotting for more time free of children and cats. They can sometimes be found in one of their local coffee shops, arguing over which character to kill off next.
Can true love’s kiss save the day…?
Electrifying dark magic debut by authors and sisters, Katharine and Elizabeth Corr.
Sixteeen-year-old Meredith is fed-up with her feuding family and feeling invisible at school – not to mention the witch magic that shoots out of her fingernails when she’s stressed. Then sweet, sensitive Jack comes into her life and she falls for him hard. The only problem is that he is periodically possessed by a destructive centuries-old curse.
Meredith has lost her heart, but will she also lose her life? Or in true fairytale tradition, can true love’s kiss save the day?
Wunderkids: Part 1 - Wildwood Academy
by Jacqueline Silvester
Published in March of 2017, apparently by the author. Good for her.
4.8 Stars with 9 Reviews
The Cover copy reads:
15-year-old Nikka is invited to attend Wildwood Academy, a prestigious but secret boarding school for talented youth located deep in the Californian mountains. Once there, Nikka quickly falls in love with her bizarre classes, the jaw-dropping scenery and... two very different boys.
However, Wildwood Academy has a dark and twisted secret, one that could cost Nikka the one thing she had never imagined she could lose, the one thing that money can’t buy. It is this very thing that Wildwood Academy was created to steal.
Nikka can stay and lose everything, or she can risk death and run.
***About the Author***
Jacqueline has had a colourful and dual life thus far; she's lived in a refugee camp in Sweden, a castle in France, a village in Germany, and spent her formative years in between Los Angeles, London and New York. As a result, she speaks four languages. Jacqueline has a Bachelors in English Literature from the University Of Massachusetts, and a Masters in Screenwriting from Royal Holloway, University Of London. After graduating she wrote her first novel and began writing cartoon screenplays. The two years she spent in an arts boarding school in the woods have inspired the particular world described in her debut novel Wunderkids. She lives in London with her husband, her excessive YA collection and a hyper husky named Laika.
Wunderkids has been translated into a number of languages and featured in Vogue magazine!
The Amazon preview has the first two chapters. I am going to read you the first.
Here we go:
My thoughts about Wunderkids.
I've always said, or at least I've said for a few years now, that any author who uses the word "Unceremoniously" should be ceremonially flogged. Jacqueline Sylvester uses it on virtually the first page. I'm trying to forgive her for that.
I think the first chapter gives an entirely different feel to the story than the cover blurb does. In this first chapter we discover the ruin of Nikka's life as her mother blunders into what sounds like just another failure. The mother is upbeat about the future, looking for jobs in interesting places like Seattle.
We meat Sonya who takes Nikka on a dangerous but scenic drive through the mountains, which appears to be a stalling tactic of her mother's, and a set up to get her to go to the academy. Sonya's presence seems to be comic relief--unless I'm reading her wrong.
At one point during conversation between Nikka and her mother, we get the impression that Daria knows something about this academy, but clams up. Then at the end of the chapter it's as if Stamos and Daria share an inside joke, as they toast with champagne. I mean. There was supposedly no phone number for Nikka to call, how did Daria have one?
None of this foreshadows the terrible things implied in the cover copy. And if Nikka will be putting her life on the line before the end of the book, then her own mother appears to have knowingly set her up for this death.
One reviewer describes the story as a combination of Harry Potter and Hunger Games, which two books have entirely different feelings, if you look at the first books. In hunger games, we have a sense of dread and doom from the beginning chapters. In Harry Potter, life appears to be drab for Harry, but always hopeful and ultimately safe.
I like the voice of this book, coming from Nikka, and I'm willing to read on the next couple chapters to find out if the theme resolves into the light hearted adventure (Harry Potter) or life threatening danger of the hunger games.
One thing that bugged me in the first chapter was reference to the San Jacinto Mountains where the Wildwood Academy is supposed to be and of the pamphlet that shows dense redwood forests. I wonder if the pamphlet is misleading her, because if there are any trees in the San Jacinto Mountains, they're not dense redwoods. They're more likely to be scrubby and sparse lodge pole pines. If we go to the next chapter and find these dense redwoods it would throw me right out of the story. Perhaps the author's goal was to create a fictitious place in southern California where you will find dense redwoods. If that is the case, she should have given the place a fictitious location, instead of a place anyone can easily google and look up.
In closing, I think that girls will like this book because of the strong female character of Nikka. I think boys will like this book because the central image on the book cover is a girl with an extremely short skirt.
I think Jackqueline Sylvester is a good story teller and I give this first chapter a four star recommendation to read further.
This book was reccomended on a podcast I often listen to, The Writing Excuses Podcast. They had JR Johansson on as a guest. Half way through the podcast they always reccomend a book and gave her the opportunity to choose the book of the week. I respect all of the authors on the podcast, and I've often talked about Brandon Sanderson as being one of my favorites. If you're not familiar with the podcast and are an aspiring writer at any point of the journey, you are missing out on some great instruction on how to make your writing the best it can be.
Anyway, Johansson pitched The Row and told a little about it. It sounded good to me and I vowed to review the first chapter. Well, the first two in this case, I like to do about 15 pages. The book was on the more expensive side, as ebooks go. It was $9.99 which is about double what most ebooks cost.
The Row has a 4.5 star average with 25 reviews.
It was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (October 11, 2016)
Here is the cover copy:
Seventeen-year-old Riley Beckett is no stranger to prison. Her father is a convicted serial killer on death row who has always maintained that he was falsely accused. Riley has never missed a single visit with her father. She wholeheartedly believes that he is innocent.
Then, a month before the execution date, Riley’s world is rocked when, in an attempt to help her move on, her father secretly confesses to her that he actually did carry out the murders. He takes it back almost immediately, but she can’t forget what he’s told her. Determined to uncover the truth for her own sake, she discovers something that will forever change everything she’s believed about the family she loves.
The Amazon preview has the first three chapters. Chapters 1 and 2 are the first sixteen pages, so I'm going to read you that....
(Read first two chapters)
What's there to like about Riley?
She's smart. She's learned the routine to see her father without causing waves. She's made friends with the prison staff and warden so that they're on her side.
She thinks her mother is resilient, but I get the idea that she's not really. I may be wrong, but I think we are going to see that her diligence at the office and her staying away from visits is her way of creating distance so that her work life goes smoothly and her security isn't affected as it was in the past. I'm predicting that she is creating a new life for herself without her husband.
I think Riley is the resilient one.
I like her dedication to her father how she faithfully visits him every week, year after year and how she saves every letter he has written to her. Being the father of daughters, myself, I understand how Riley's father could come to depend on her visits to feel grounded to the outside world. My first daughter was sixteen before we added more children to our family through adoption. She was truly one of my best friends. She brought, and still brings, a lot of joy to my life.
So, I want to read on to find out what happens at the hearing, and now, knowing the rest of the preview, how Riley will react when her father tells her his committed the crimes.
by JM Davis
Self published by the author in June of 2016
It has a five star average with three reviews.
Awaking in a strange place, Eleanor is afraid, and panicked. Unfamiliar people claiming to be her family nurse her back to health, but their vague answers seem to only stir up more questions. Where is she? How did she get the scar in the center of her chest? And what happened to her memories?
Over time, Eleanor learns she has been fitted with a mechanical heart, and the body she inhabits once belonged to someone else. With the truth finally revealed, depression nearly drives her to her deathbed. After being rushed to the hospital, Eleanor must learn to accept her second-chance at life.
Believing she is less than human with her steel heart, Eleanor needs a reminder that she is more than just clockwork, and gears. Percy Oliver, does just that. But, is her heart capable of love? Or is it just a machine crafted of cold metal?
The Amazon preview has three chapters. Here's the first one.
Before I talk about this chapter I want to say that I had originally planned on reviewing a different book. I saw it advertized on facebook and twitter several times. Based on the book cover and the title, the story sounded like it would be mysterious and engrossing. The story started with a prolog. Fifteen pages in, I was looking ahead to see how much longer this prolog was. I was bored. The story was introducing the characters, their personalities and some of the plot, but there was nothing which was intriguing or mysterious. I realized there was nothing I could reccomend from what I had read, and rather than read it and give a bad review, I would move on to the next book on my list.
I want to give people ideas of books that they want to read, and not which ones to look out for.
A first chapter, or prolog, if the book has to have one, should be gripping and make me want to read more, make me want to move on to the next chapter. Not make me look ahead to see how much longer I have to read.
Gear Girl was this way. Even if it is written in first person present tense.
The author gives us enough information to sympathize with the main character, the feelings of confusion and disorientation, and ultimately of threat and violation from the man who enters the room.
Obviously, if we've read the cover copy, we know our protagonist has a clockwork heart and we can assume that the two people she interacts with in the first chapter are well meaning. But it's clear that Eleanor doesn't know this, and why she doesn't know this is one of the reasons I want to go on to the next chapter to find out why.
The story is clearly steampunk. It looks like Davis has created the environment and setting for an exciting speculative fiction.
The Bloody Shoe Affair: A daring and thrilling adventure with the Jailer's daughter.
by Joy York.
Published in Feb of 2015
4.4 Stars from 25 Reviews
Here is the cover copy:
In this mystery set in 1968, Christi, a shy and awkward teenager, never expected to get sucked into helping her cousin, Lily, the “double-dare-you” daughter of the county jailer, try to solve the grizzliest murder the town of Roselyn, Mississippi, had ever seen. Then again, Christi had been entangled in her misadventures before. So a whirlwind week of spying, lying, crawling through tunnels and sneaking into the jail should have come as no surprise to Christi.
Lily, a vivacious prankster, loves adventure. It’s not hard to find when you live in a house connected to the jail. Christi, a city girl, is self-conscious and afraid of everything. Still, she’s drawn to the excitement and adventure that Lily always seems to provide. Christi arrives for a visit in time to help her cousin discover what happened the night Lily observed a county deputy drop a pair of women’s bloody shoes from a bag. After a chance meeting with the accused, they learn new information that sheds doubt on his guilt. Seeking justice, Lily sets a plan in motion that takes them on an adventure of risk and surprising twists. They not only discover unexpected truths about the case, but about themselves as well.
The Amazon preview has two full chapters and a bit of the third. The second is much longer than the first, so if you like what you hear, you can go read some more if you are still debating whether or not to get this book.
Here is the first chapter:
About the Author
Joy York grew up in Alabama, but has spent much of her adult life in the Midwest. She is a graduate of Auburn University. She has had a rewarding career in retail management. She was an active volunteer in her community, holding positions on nonprofit boards supporting education, including an elected four- year term on the Hudson City School Board of Education in Hudson, Ohio. She was inspired to write when she began creating stories and adventures to entertain her son when he was growing up. She has returned to her home state of Alabama where she now follows her passion of writing fulltime.
Why I like this story.
The author takes full advantage of telling a story in the first person. The character's voice and the narrator are the same. We get Christi's thoughts and interpretation of events as they happen. Though we only have two short glimpses of Christi and her family in the first chapter we learn a lot about her personality, her feelings of awkwardness, her desire to fit in, and that she may actually enjoy the excitement that accompanies Lillie's reckless curiosity. We also learn about the plot. That there has been a murder, and Lillie's father being the jailer is going to put them right in the middle of the excitement.
I give this story five stars for characterization, plot, and pacing. The only draw back that I can see is that there isn't an audio version, so I'm going to have to actually read it. And I will. This looks to be a fast paced, fun read.
Savages: Chronicles of Warshard by Katherine Bogle.
It currently has 18 reviews with an average of 4.1 star rating.
It was published on April 4th of 2017. I saw this the week before, advertised on Twitter. The blurb and book cover caught my attention, so I preordered it for 99 cents.
Two weeks after it's release it is sitting at 12K odd in the Kindle store and at #5 for Teen & Young Adult > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Historical
Katherine Bogle's debut young adult novel, Haven, came second in the World's Best Story contest 2015. She currently resides in Saint John, New Brunswick with her partner in crime, and plethora of cats. She can be found at www.katherinebogle.com.
Haven is a Chonicle of Warshard book as well as another one called Fyre which is a collection of short stories in the same environment.
Here's the story description on the amazon page.
Daughter of Chief Ruin, Breen is one of the most fearsome warriors in the Southern Delica Tribe, but nothing can stop the Emperor from reaping the Savage Lands for soldiers.
When her village is attacked, Breen is taken from her home and her family to the Seaburn Academy, where southern savages are broken and chained into a life of service to the Empire. Through the beatings and torture, Drakkone, one of the few Seaburn-born soldiers, brings solace to her days and gives her hope for the future.
Once freed of the Academy dungeons, Breen is sentenced to daily training between her plots for escape. But one night of unexpected passion turns into a problem bigger than either of them could have imagined.
Breen and Drakkone must risk capture and flee the city or death might be a blessing compared to eternal imprisonment.
The blurb has left me a little confused. It sounds to me like Drakkone is a Seaburn solder who beats and tortures Breen and by doing so, brings her solace and gives her hope. Then free of the Academy, though she is sentenced to daily training, she has an affair with someone, who we assume is Krakkone. This leaves me wondering, was he also a prisoner and in a position to become romantic with Breen, or was he still in a position of authority over her.
The Amazon preview has the first two full chapters and part of the third. I am going to read the first chapter which equaled 5% of the book. Here is Chapter 1:
(After the Chapter)
I thought the first chapter was well written. It's fast paced, gives us a feel for Breen's talents and the people of the Southern Delica Tribe, and sets us up with a conflict to carry us into the second chapter. The description copy tells us there is a lot of action to look forward to and at this point I am will to read on to see how she will become imprisoned and what she will do to try to escape.
The blurb mentions torture. I'm not big on torture, especially if it gets graphic or just too long winded. In the 1990's there was a series of books by Terry Goodkind that started with "Wizards first rule". I read that and several that came after it and it seemed that in each of these massive epic fantasies, the protagonist couldn't help but get caught and tortured for a couple hundred pages. It went on and on in intricate detail. If this book gets hung up on that kind of plot, I would have to give it up.
That aside, the only thing I found that took me out of the story was some ambiguity about who was talking. At times pronouns were used and it wouldn't be until the following paragraph that I would know who it was who had spoken.
So, overall, this is a good book and you probably should give it, or one of the author's other books a try.
Thanks for listening and I'll see you next week.
Kaki Olsen is always on the brink of another adventure. If she couldn’t be a writer, she’d be a full-time musician or travel guide and she would take her lunch breaks at Fenway Park. Until that happens, she speaks both Spanish and English at her every-day office job, but she has vacationed enthusiastically in such places as Istanbul and Ireland. She has lived in five states, but will always refer to Boston as home.
She regularly contributes academic papers on zombies or wizards to Life, the Universe and Everything, a sci-fi/fantasy symposium originated at her alma mater, Brigham Young University. Her published works have appeared in such magazines as Voices and AuthorsPublish. Her debut novel, Swan and Shadow, was published by Sweetwater Books in 2016.
She is a doting aunt and librarian of two bulging bookshelves. This site allows her to share her literary obsessions.
Aislin’s curse is the standard fare: swan by day, college student by night, true love as the only cure. But does true love even exist outside of fairy tales? After having to cover for Aislin during her swan hours, Aislin’s twin, Maeve, is willing to resort to anything from matchmaking to magic to see her sister live happily (and human) ever after. Will either of them get their wish?
The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still. Discover the riveting first book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Infernal Devices Trilogy, prequel to the internationally bestselling Mortal Instruments series.
In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments series.
The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them....
Magic is dangerous--but love is more dangerous still.
When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.
Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.
Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by--and torn between--two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length...everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world...and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.
I tried to access the sample of this book on the Amazon site, but it wouldn't load on my computer. I don't know if others would find it there if they tried, so I gave up and bought the book on Audible, intending to write an entire review. I got the audio book because the ebook was $10.99 and I could get it on audible, with our monthly account for one $13 token. Since I have much more time to listen than I do to sit down and read a book, I knew I was more likely to finish it this way. I might point out that the paperback book is listed for less than $8 which doesn't make sense to me, unless you are trying to encourage people to buy physical books.
So here is the first chapter, which is actually a prolog. I know. Don't get me started. I'll talk about that later.
(Read the prolog)
The prolog doesn't prepare us for the story or answer any questions for us. In fact it leaves us with a number of questions that we will later cause us to exclaim, or sigh, and say, Oh, that who that is, That's what Will meant, or So, this was an important point.
In the prolog we don't meet Tessa. The first chapter introduces us to her and introduces her to the Dark Sisters. I won't give anything away that the books own blurb didn't when I say that living with the dark sisters was a negative experience. Tessa displays her intelligence and her drive when she escapes from these two evil women and falls in with the Shadowhunters.
As I was working on this review my editor-alter-ego tried to take over and looked for as many things wrong as I could find. I don't care who you are, things can be found that are wrong with any book--so much of right and wrong in literature is based on personal likes and dislikes. So, before any of my potentially negative comments can be taken wrong, I want to go over the things that I really liked about this book.
Cassandra Claire is an excellent story teller. She well deserves the many New York Times best sellers she has earned. I was immediately in the story with Tessa on the docks in England feeling out of place and anxious. I listened to an audio version, which has its benefits and its drawbacks. On the plus side, the narrator was talented and helped to bring the story to life. For the most part, she held my attention. There were occasions where I was so into the story that I wonder if I missed some salient points, which I will come to later. When I'm listening, I can't always rewind and see if I heard correctly or if I missed something, not like you can flip back to a paragraph and reread, when you have a book in your hands.
I liked the characters, though in the beginning I was a bit confused about who was who as the many characters of the Shadowhunters seemed to all come at once. I'm still not sure who all of them were. The main characters were pretty clearly rounded out, even if they didn't act they way I would have wanted them to. I never really got to like Will. I'm not sure if we were supposed to feel sorry for him or admire his independent aloofness. By the end of the book I had him rating more as a jerk than as a hero.
The plot was solid with numerous satisfying twists which I didn't see coming. I did see one of them which allowed Tessa to make a mistake. Of course, the mistake propelled the conflict forward and with it, a major action scene. Sometimes it seems like our otherwise intelligent and competent characters have to make dumb choices for the sake of the plot.
We are warned in the synopsis that this is the first book of a trilogy. As such, many questions are left unanswered. Tessa has a full character arc in coming to grips with who she is and what her magical abilities might be, but much of the balance of the story is still up in the air.
One aspect of both of the blurbs that I read states, "Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still." It makes it appear that this is the theme of the book. If it is, I am left unconvinced. I think the story makes the point that trust in, or dedication to, someone you love can be dangerous, but love is not what causes the danger.
I thought Tessa was a little passive. She starts out showing some real gumption as she defies the Dark Sisters and fights for her freedom. Leaving that prison she's reluctant to join in with the Shadow Hunters for fear that they are going to use her like the sisters tried to, and then she is suddenly doing exactly what the Hunters ask her to do without any of her former resistance. She pretty much goes with the flow until the end of the story when she finally pulls up her socks and takes charge. I could accept more of her passivity if she had some internal dialog or conflict explaining why she was going along with the hunters.
If you find vampires alluring, you may be disappointed as those who appeared in the Clockwork Angel seemed weak and unusually fragile.
My other major concern with the plot was what the clockwork angel had to do with anything. It was on a necklace that Tessa wore. I think she got it from her parents and had some emotional attachment. At times the small device came to life and fluttered its wings. How it did that, or what brought on the action was never clear to me. I would think that the name sake of the entire book would have received some resolution.
I don't know if I'll go on to listen to the rest of the books in the series and trilogy, but I recommend this book to any lover of YA Steampunk as this book brings that mythological period of time to life with all its clockwork attackers, foggy London streets, and sword slashing, magic casting, battles.
Nicole Schubert is a first-time novelist and award-winning screenwriter with a soft spot for comedy and romance. She also dabbles in other behind-the-scenes activities, like producing the monthly Improv Diary Show at Santa Monica’s Westside Comedy Theater. She’s produced a music awards TV show and European-wide photo exhibition out of Brussels and enjoyed another side of storytelling working in the editing rooms of numerous Hollywood feature films. Nicole lives with her family—including The Kid and pirate kitty Biddy—in Los Angeles, by way of Brussels and New Orleans, where she was born during a hurricane.
The second Francie met Chet, her poetic memory danced.
This beloved debut novel from Nicole Schubert brings you an honest and painfully relatable coming of age story about first love, loss, music, sports, alcoholism, family and friendship that will have you cheering, crying and singing with the quirky, pensive Francie Mills. Compassionate, heartbreaking and hopeful, this novel for teen readers is a favorite of adults of all ages as well! If you like Sherman Alexie, John Green, JD Salinger or books like The Perks of Being a Wallflower or movies like Loves of a Blonde or anything John Hughes, this might just be your cup of tea.
Meet Francie Mills. She’s 16. Lives in the boring burbs of L.A. Is super determined and hopeful. And wants one thing: to be an amazing tennis player. Because if something exponentially, brilliantly wonderful like that happened, like winning the U.S. Open or even getting to nationals, everything would be okay. Her life. Her family. Her. She would matter. Be part of something important. And wouldn’t have to feel so unbearably sad and alone every time her dad gets drunk, again.
But the likelihood of amazingness starts to seem impossible when Francie injures her knee…that is, until she meets Chet Jones, lead singer of the band Blues Harp Jones, in Austin, on location for her dad’s movie job. Francie instantly falls for Chet, in his weird blazer and “God Save the Queen” t-shirt, sexy, genuine, funny. And she’s sure something wonderful is finally happening, especially when Chet miraculously falls for her too. But the closer Francie gets to Chet back in L.A. and the more her dad’s drinking tears her apart, the more she realizes the best kind of something wonderful isn’t at all what she expected.
Screen plays. How is writing them different than writing a novel?
producing the monthly Improv Diary Show
When did you decide to write a book?
Tell me about your book
The second Francie met Chet, her poetic memory danced.
Were any of the social issues address in your book what motivated you to write it?
Why Blues Harp Green?
Feb 4, 2017
4.6 stars 6 reviews
How's it doing?
How is your balancing act? Are you planning on writing another? Also in this genre?
What is the best way for people to get a hold of you?
Today's first chapter review is of the Young Adult Fantasy, "The Kingdom of Oceana". I received a request from a publicist, or maybe it was an offer, to review a copy of this book. I replied that I normally read the first chapter and then comment on it on my podcast, when I'm doing a review. What I also told her was that I would prefer to interview the author and allow him to pitch the story and talk about his inspiration, etc. I don't know if she pitched the idea to the author, but she said she would be happy to send me a copy of the book to do the review.
So, Mitchell Charles, if you happen to listen to this podcast, I'd still love to have you on to talk about your book in greater depth than I'm probably going to give it here.
Here is the pitch from the publicist. This is all I knew of the story before I read the first chapter:
The Kingdom of Oceana is a young-adult fantasy novel, by Mitchell Charles, that takes readers on a fun and exciting adventure filled with non-stop action, from big wave surfing, to fire walking and shark taming. Readers have compared it to Disney’s new movie Moana.
I think comparing a book to another is always risky. Here, the publicist compares this novel to the new Disney movie, "Moana". I recently spent a week with my grand kids and we watched Moana about six times. So I know what that movie is all about. Sitting down to read this first chapter, Moana is what I had in mind.
(Read the first chapter)
Here are my thoughts based on this first chapter and the publicist pitch.
I don't see any Moana here. No upbeat, cheerful characters. I see an older brother who is condescening toward his younger brother, referring to him as a parasitic sucker fish. We learn the older's name is Nahoa and he refers to the younger as Omo and Younger Brother. This first chapter seems to be focused more on Nahoa, than who we will find out later is the main character of the book. Nahoa's a bit of a cheat and bully when he jumps off the younger brother's back and then turns on him and tries to kill him. Again, no Moana here.
Standing on this first chapter alone, comparing to the publicist's pitch. I don't know if I would continue on.
Let's read the blurb. I found this further down in the initial email I received from the publicist, and it is also the blurb for the book on the Amazon page.
SURFER. SHARK TAMER. FIRE WALKER. EXPLORER. TEENAGER. HERO.
Set 500 years 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? Two brothers, but only one can rule.
This paints a whole new picture on the story.
We learn that the younger brother's name is Ailani.
We have ancestral spirit animals to look forward to. I'm thinking like the dragon from the Disney story Mulan. Or maybe Pumba and Timon. Again, the image of a Disney classic was put into my mind and I may be rewarded or disappointed. And a shape shifting sidekick, that sounds like fun. And what could be better than a beautiful princess. I would expect someone snarky as well as beautiful.
Is any of this in the first chapter, though? Not much.
Having this added information, I would probably read another two or three chapters to see if story starts to match any of my expectations.
"The Kingdom of Oceana" was first published in December of 2015, so it was out before "Moana".
It has forty reviews with a 4.6 average.
There are three chapters available for preview on the Amazon page. Try them out and see if it compares to Moana.
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Find Under the Never Sky at Amazon.com
First book in the Under the Never Sky trilogy by Veronica Rossi, which is complete and available.
This first book was published in January of 2012 by Harper Collins.
As of this recording it is ranking 21, 22, and 74 on three of the Amazon Young Adult indices. It has a 4.5 Star average with 1013 reviews.
The Amazon preview includes the first two chapters and I will share the first chapter on this episode.
Here is the blurb from the Amazon page.
Fighting to survive in a ravaged world, a Dweller and a Savage form an unlikely alliance in New York Times bestselling author Veronica Rossi's "unforgettable dystopian masterpiece" (Examiner.com).
Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland—known as The Death Shop—are slim. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He's wild—a savage—and her only hope of staying alive. A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile—everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria's help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption.
In alternating chapters told in Aria's and Perry's voices, Under the Never Sky subtly and powerfully captures the evolving relationship between these characters and sweeps readers away to a harsh but often beautiful world. Continuing with Through the Ever Night and concluding with Into the Still Blue, the Under the Never Sky trilogy has already been embraced by readers in twenty-six countries and been optioned for film by Warner Bros.
Goodreads, which has the book at 4.1 stars, but on nearly 92K ratings has the following blurb:
WORLDS KEPT THEM APART.
DESTINY BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER.
Aria has lived her whole life in the protected dome of Reverie. Her entire world confined to its spaces, she's never thought to dream of what lies beyond its doors. So when her mother goes missing, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland long enough to find her are slim.
Then Aria meets an outsider named Perry. He's searching for someone too. He's also wild - a savage - but might be her best hope at staying alive.
If they can survive, they are each other's best hope for finding answers.
Here is the first chapter. It's from Aria's point of veiw:
Here are my thoughts on this first chapter. I want to read on for a couple of reasons.
Number one. The writing and characterization are absorbing and engaging. We gain sympathy for Aria right away. Her conflict and motivation are understandable and sympathetic. She wants to find out if her mother is still alive and well. She feels the only way to get that answer is from Soren.
The author has some writing idiosyncrasies that I can overlook in the first chapter, such as, Aria does a lot of staring. She stares on three occasions. If she stares as much in the second chapter, I might get more annoyed than intrigued.
Soren is self centered and manipulative and he has plans for the adventure, and for Aria, that he hasn't shared. He's a good bad guy, but I think his days are numbered. I want to find out.
At the end of this chapter we see the potential for catastrophy. They have just built a bon fire in the middle of a tinder box.
The second reason I want to read on is that we are told in the preview that Aria is exiled. I hope that Aria is a stronger character than this first chapter has shown. Soren threatened her that if she left, he would tell his father that this adventure was her idea. There are some problems with this threat.
- There are only 6000 residents in Reverie. You can't have that few people and not know who the resident trouble makers are, or aren't. It is obvious that Aria couldn't have come up with the codes to shut off their eyes or get them through the air lock. The three boys are well known for this ability.
Even if it was was Aria's idea, Soren stole the codes to break in. He didn't have to do what she suggested. He was culpable on his own. He and his friends go wild, taking off their clothes and covering themselves with mud, and then Soren brings out the battery and wire, proving that he had premeditated the idea of creating fire.
If Aria suffers this much injustice from the small group, I may unable to suspend disbelief long enough to finish the rest of the book. It's a plot weakness to large for me to forgive.
One other weakness with the plot is the description of Ag 6. Really. There is so much dust on the floor that Soren creates a trail through it, yet the food there appears to be only on the edge of being rotten. To me, that much dust would leave the fruit dried, the grapefruits shrivled husks. The food may have been able to be grown without leaves, soil, and much water, but the dark warehouse that the ag dome appears to be is too much of a stretch for my imagination.
I give this first chapter four stars and anyone who is interested enough to start the book should be more than rewarded to read on.