The Kings Beast Vol. 1 Review

Summary

The Kings Beast by Rei Toma is set in the same world as Toma’s Dawn of the Arcana series in which humans and Ajin live amongst each other. Some Ajin are gifted special abilities and those who are get assigned to serve the princes of the imperial palace as beast-servants.

The Kings Beast follows Rangetsu, as she disguises herself as a man to get close to the prince who her brother once served. She suspects the prince of murdering her twin brother only to find that prince Tenyou is not who she expected him to be.

Review

I was absolutely thrilled to find out that The Kings Beast would be taking place in the same world as Dawn of the Arcana. I can remember getting the first volume of Dawn of the Arcana with my grandparents at this little Coles bookstore at the mall where they live. I was drawn to the cover immediately and ended up finishing the book the same day. I loved the lore created around the world, the artwork and the way that the character’s were introduced.

In The Kings Beast I felt certain moments were rushed, and I feel that this is because there is the assumption that readers of this series have already completed Dawn of the Arcana. I think this quick introduction to “the gifts” that the Ajin possess is fine for those who know this series lies within the same world and who were previously introduced to that, however it could be a bit confusing for those who have never read or heard of Dawn of the Arcana.

Rangestu is perceived as weak in stature, many believing that she is a young boy. Some of the comments made by prince Tenyou remind me of when I played Viola in Twelfth Night back in university (and I played Viola a lot). He comments on her small frame, her boyish voice, her long lashes–those unfamiliar with Twelfth Night could compare this to Mulan when Li Shang is entranced by her while believing she is Ping.

Rangestu has spent years trying to become the best fighter, in order to be considered a good match for the prince whom she believes has killed her twin brother Sogetsu. There is a coldness in her frames, some of which where she is shown putting on a pained smile. She has one goal and that is to avenge her brother’s death.

Personally, I would have liked to see Rangetsu and Tenyou dance around each other a bit before it is revealed that he was not the one who had her brother killed. I like that Tenyou comes to the realization that she’s related to Sogetsu, but it would have been interesting to have that revealed near the end of this first book rather than earlier on. I also enjoyed watching others close to Tenyou, test Rangetsu but I found at times Rangestu was too outspoken for an Ajin.

It is mentioned early on in the book that Ajin are viewed as lower class, and that if they attack or speak out against a human they can be killed, so having Rangestu in the palace being so outspoken seemed a bit off to me. I wish that she had taken the time to try and hide her true intentions, mainly because she has worked so hard to get to this point.

Overall, despite a few small criticisms I enjoyed this first volume and would definitely recommend it to those who enjoy fantasy, shojo and historical manga’s. I would also highly recommend this to those who are familiar with Rei Toma’s work, especially Dawn of the Arcana as it was fun being reintroduced to this world and seeing how things are for different Ajin and human’s living in another region.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

4 Stars

Teen Titans Raven & Beastboy: Comic Review

Fun fact, I am a big Teen Titan’s fan…or should I just say DC? Most of the character arc’s I follow are either in the Batman universe (the Robin’s, Nightwing, Joker, Harley, etc) and outside of that I love the Titan’s, Justice League, Young Justice…etc. I like teamwork.

Anyway, I’ve been following Picolo for a while on Instagram. Actually, I think I found his work on pinterest first because I have a board dedicated to DC comics and fanart, and I’m pretty sure his work featuring the Teen Titan’s is what lead me to his other work (Icarus and the Sun).

When I learned that Gabriel Picolo had been hired by DC to share his versions of the Teen Titan’s I was ecstatic! I knew it was something he was passionate about and I couldn’t wait to see him bring the character’s to life.

On the other hand, I was unfamiliar with author Kami Garcia but I could tell upon reading Raven that she had a love for these character’s. When I went on to read Beastboy it was clear that these two were a destined duo! The artwork and writing style complimented each other perfectly.

When I first saw Picolo’s designs of Raven, I was pleased with the fact that he captured her overall aesthetic so well. Much like how Raven’s style and personality were captured in Titan’s on Netflix. There was care put into how she dresses herself, how she walks, the actions she takes to guard herself (and her heart). It was so clear to me that the designers (in the case of Picolo, the artist), not only understood who Raven was but cared about her character and how she blossoms as a person during her time with the Titan’s.

Similarly, Beastboy was portrayed in this comic series with just as much care. Out of the two books, I actually think Beastboy was my favourite. Everything about him was true to his character, even the little add-ons. His friends were likeable, and it is clear from the beginning that Garfield aka Beastboy had been “monkeying around” long before he was bit by that weird green monkey.

Now, if you’ve read my other comic and manga reviews then you’ll know that I love comics with superheros and cute love stories. So, it’s probably no surprise that I cannot wait until Beastboy Loves Raven is released!

Aren’t they adorable? These two are my favourite ship across all the DC comics (aside from Bruce Wayne and Selena Kyle). I love how Beastboy is so colourful, warm and bighearted. This is shown a lot through his comic. He truly cares for other people, which is why at times he puts up a front as a tough guy to protect himself.

Raven on the other hand wants nothing more than to love and be loved, but her origins…and mere existence, put those around her at risk. Despite wanting to be close to other people, she isolates herself out of fear. It’s only when she’s with an incredibly strong group of friends that don’t fall victim to her cold exterior, that she opens up and is truly herself.

My rating for Raven:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Raven was almost there. I want to give it the full 5 but there were parts of the story that just didn’t do it for me. I honestly think it was because it was the first time these two had worked together on a project, along with trying to introduce these new character’s into the story. I much preferred the side character’s in Beastboy as they felt more integrated than they did in Raven. Raven/Rachel’s foster sister and love interest were alright, but honestly her foster sister stood out a lot more than the others in the story.

My rating for Beastboy:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Beastboy hit all the marks. It was clear from the beginning who Gar was, and what the people in his life meant to him. He was a strong character supported by a cast of other strong character’s, which made for a fun story. I liked reading about him discovering his powers, and the consequences that followed because of it. I also liked that Deathstroke is lurking in the shadows throughout the story. The team (Garcia and Picolo) also did a good job at integrating Beastboy into a modern day setting. They gave me the, average teen just trying to navigate life vibe while still being true to this character which meant a lot to me as a fan.

I wonder what I should read next? My list keeps growing!

“Google is free!”: My Response to Bookish Realm’s Reflection Livestream.

Tonight I tuned in to Bookish Realm’s livestream, where she broke down and discussed where we’ve come as a community–by community I mean the reading community–over these past six months.

It wasn’t an easy conversation to have. Tears were shed…and I have seen many tears from these wonderful creators, writers and reviewers. Too many tears. 2020 should be nicknamed the Year of the Tear. Anyway, her final point in the live–one that I thought as she was saying it–was that “Google is free.”

To summarize, she was talking about how when people act like they don’t have any access to books by BIPOC authors. Which to the BIPOC creators and reviewers is an absolute joke because Google is the easiest place to start. To prove it, I decided to do a quick search, one that was recommended by her: romances featuring a black couple.

Well I googled and although there are a lot with interracial couples, I am annoyed at how few books being promoted are ones with two happy black people in love.

To clarify I’m mixed race. Black Mom. White Dad. I’m making this clear because despite my–well to myself–clearly mixed features I did have someone on Twitter assume I was white. Like damn, I know I need a tan but you don’t need to rub it in!

Anyway, I know what its like to see your family being poorly represented by the media. The reason why I’m annoyed with the lack of promotion of two black characters in love is because despite trying to do better…which I do believe they are, they’re still putting focus on this idea that in order for this black female character to achieve happiness she needs to marry a white man. Which is a whole other thing that I don’t even know how to unpack. I don’t even known if it’s my place to unpack that…I’m the product of an interracial relationship and I’ve been in interracial relationships. It doesn’t mean I’m an expert. This type of relationship is the norm for me. However, I still want to see HEALTHY relationships between black couples being portrayed by the media in books and on television.

I like seeing a happy family, living life, raising their kids…but for some reason the media likes to shove black trauma pieces at us instead. Don’t they know you could have a love story like Cory and Topanga but with BIPOC characters?

I wish I could remember exactly what she said on the stream about this because it was so perfect. It reminded me of a tweet I saw about how this girl wanted to see a romance film featuring an interracial couple where one of the love interests wasn’t white, for example Indigenous and Caribbean. There are relationships like this in the real world and yet I haven’t seen them portrayed anywhere. Actually I lied, that one show on Netflix with Devery Jacobs has her character dating a black actress in the second season. Sadly I can’t remember…THE ORDER. That’s it. Campy horror, wevewolf show that screams Canadian horror so bad…that I can’t help but love it. I love me some campy made in Canada horror shows haha. But there, like…it wasn’t difficult for them to portray this type of relationship! So to that girl who tweeted that, stuff is out there. Just have to find it and then promote it like crazy so more of it gets made!

And that leads me to my next point, as readers we need to do better in what we choose to read and promote. As Bookish Realm said, we should track what we read and compare numbers. How many BIPOC authors have you read in 2020? How many do you plan on reading in 2021? If you’re like me and read a lot of manga are you going to try and find manga and comics made by BIPOC artists?

I’m aware that conversations about race can be uncomfortable, but I’m a person that honestly learns better through having discussions with others. Respectful, open discussions where each person feels like they are being heard…because discussions can make us vulnerable.

The discussion tonight, had a lot of people in tears because there is such a strong need for change and yet when it came down to it, six months later things remained ultimately the same. I don’t want another six months to go by without seeing some sort of change. Especially when so many people in this community have been working their butts off to create a place where all of us feel welcome, safe and loved!

I truly believe…and maybe it’s because I’m kind of an optimistic daydreamer type of person…but I want to believe that each little change we make can create an overall greater change for the community.

Now, here’s what I found in my quick Google search:

A lot of what I read romance-wise is shojo so I’m not too familiar with these authors…however, O magazine posted a list of the 30 Best Black Romance Novels.

I also found another list called 20 Romance Novels by Black Authors to Read this Summer.

On the Goodread’s list I see more books that I recognize. I’ve seen them on display in bookstores or a friend or family member was reading them. I’ve seen Make a Scene haha. Pun intended.

I honestly think, and this is because I don’t really read Adult Romance genres…or I should say read romance but it’s usually the sub-genre (unless its shojo then it’s all romance, first love blah blah blah)…I’m going to challenge myself to find more comics, manga and webtoons created by BIPOC that are like the ones I enjoy reading already. Superheroes and romance are my main loves with comics (especially magical girls!). I’m going to try and research this a little tonight and see what I come up with!

Write a brief scene between your character and someone they admire.

He used to tell stories, but something changed. She wasn’t sure if his laughter faded when the bullets struck or when his unsteady fingers stopped tracing the black and white keys of his piano. She listened to his deep sighs, slurred words, the way his feet shuffled; his head flopping against the pillow in the early hours of the morning when he finally returned home from places he never spoke about.

He never seemed like a grown up but now he seemed small and distant. His tired eyes, wincing with every breath as he forced himself up out of bed and helped her and her brother get ready for school. She noted how his face tensed up every time the baby cried. How he rested his head in his hands while his mother lectured him about his late nights, his messy hair, the harshness in his voice.

She thought back to when his voice was gentle like her father’s. Like tea and honey. When he’d call her “Flower” and sing silly songs to her while they baked pies together or when they would play follow the leader.

Everything changed that night. No matter how many wishes she made at the creek where they used to play, her uncle remained lost like her mother and father.

Reviewing Book Previews on Amazon: Sloane, The Flawed Attraction Series and The Dawn Thief

I decided to review book previews from books on Amazon to help promote authors who released books during the early half of this chaotic year. My goal with this is to share these works with potential readers, who may enjoy these stories and also help these authors get more reviews on Goodreads and on Amazon.

If you, or anyone else you know has released a book this year, feel free to leave a link to it in the comments with a brief description (perhaps a single sentence pitch) for myself and others to check out. Please be sure to include the genre and other links that you feel would be beneficial (social media, where to purchase the book etc).

Alright, the first book is…

Sloane by Nick Kurch

Sloane is a scandalous force of nature! From the first page, this blonde is weaving tales of mobsters, monks and love affairs in a hotel lobby. This somehow landing her a room, free of charge.

The way in which she prays on the sweet clerk, Mary, and pulls her into her story is astounding. Even when she slips up, she finds a way to draw Mary back into her lie. As the promotional tagline for the book reads, she’ll make you want to believe!

About the Author:

Nick Kurch is a Hawaiian author and self-proclaimed, boring man with not much going on. He lives vicariously through his ridiculous characters and their misadventures.

Nick dabbles in writing books in both fiction and non-fiction and has written for publications such as ClutchPoints, The Manifold Magazine and Love Knot Books.

You can follow Nick on Twitter @authornickkurch and find his debut novel Sloane on Amazon.


Next is…

Final Year and Vice Ride by MJ Moores

For this one I will be covering two novels, both apart of the author’s Flawed Attraction series.

The first few pages of Final Year are intense. This thriller romance follows Beth and Jeremy, two complete opposites who find themselves on campus during a lock down, hunting Jeremy’s not-so theoretical chem project.

In this first chapter we follow Beth as she gives into her gut and runs back to help Jeremy as the other students on campus make their way to the stadium. Alarms are blaring and she continues to tell herself to go with the group, but instead heads back to help him. Her gut knowing that something is very wrong. When she finds Jeremy he’s on the floor, barely able to stand. His insulin is low and it is clear that he needs to see a medic stat.

Jeremy on the other hand is more concerned about his work.

MJ Moores novel Final Year received a 5 star review on Favourite Readers.

The next book in the Flawed Attraction series is Vice Ride.

Vice Ride is MJ Moores newest addition to this romance series, which follows Amber and her ex-boyfriend Josh across the Kawartha Lakes region in Ontario (yay Canada!).

In the introductory chapter, titled Venus Fly Trap, we meet Amber, who is moving back home after being away for eighteen months at school in London.

It isn’t going as she planned.

For starters, she gets stuck moving her luggage on her own and to make matters worse someone is watching her from across the street: her ex-boyfriend Josh, who she tries her best not to give the finger.

It’s very clear in this chapter as Amber’s frustration grows that she wanted nothing more than to move back in without Josh catching a glimpse of her. To her the entire relationship was a mistake and being near him and back in the Kawartha makes her uneasy.

About the Author:

MJ Moores has had a passion for storytelling since she was nine years old. Starting her career as an English teacher in Ontario, she writes and has an adoration for multiple genres. MJ has written for Authors Publish Magazine and Indyfest Magazine. Her work can also be found in many anthologies, such as Unbound II, Brave New Girls and more. She has also written and published several works including a steampunk serial, available on Amazon.

Her Flawed Attraction series follows characters in their early 20s, going beyond the initial stages of a crush and getting to the deeper roots of what draws people together. In this case, two people who are polar opposites and how each moment in the novel brings them closer together as they learn to see past each others initial impressions, their personal prejudices and also the realization of their feelings for one another.

You can follow MJ on Twitter @AuthorMJMoores or visit her website: https://mjmoores.com/


Onto the next book…

The Dawn Thief by Amelia Thorn

In the opening chapter of The Dawn Thief the reader is met with a scene of a young man chained up in a cell, known to the town of Cresvy as Evil Incarnate, a cell that he’s been in for seventeen years of his life. This mysterious man, has silver sewn into his clothing and has memorized each and every sound both within and outside his cell. His only friend, a cat named Whiskey, who he is drawn to for their similarities…that being, his other form, a wolf.

The young man (and wolf) Silas believes his entire existence could put those he loves in jeopardy. Spending his life, he has always been an outcast feared by the people of Crevsy. Doomed to a lonely existence.

About the Author:

Amelia Thorn is an author from West Yorkshire.

After suffering from a back injury in their youth, Amelia was forced to bed rest, where among her limiting activities–homework, watching television and reading–she discovered her love of writing.

She claims the book she wrote during this period was gobshite, but the passion for writing remained with her ever since.

The Dawn Thief is her debut novel.

You can find Amelia on Twitter @AmeliaGThorn

YA Fiction – Writing Character’s Authentic to Your Audience

This is a short video I wrote and recorded back in September, based on an essay I wrote when I was 17 about some of the issues I had with YA Fiction.

I’m honestly grateful to my 17 year old self, because when I stumbled across the essay (which was poorly formatted I might add), it made me reflect on my current work.

I actually worried if I was letting my younger self down. However, instead of going into a full on panic, I reflected on my own experiences at that age (which is when I started to write my debut). I realized that rather than my child and teen character’s being unauthentic…my adult character’s in their twenties were unrealistically too mature and that was something my editor also pointed out.

That is something I never would have realized, had I not been the same age as my adult MC’s now, versus when I started this series in high school. Experience can honestly, help with authenticity.

Yes, not all experiences are the same, and every generation faces different situations that sort of…shape their culture/period…however, my advice….and please note that I’m not some amazing expert or anything, I’m just a person who reads and writes stuff (yes, stuff).

Anyway, my advice is to try and avoid writing a stereotype or cliché version of what you think people act like at certain ages. Your character isn’t just a child/teen/adult, they’re a person with feelings and opinions and possible a strange obsession with very extravagant looking sock patterns.

I hope you like my little HSM clip there. Yes…you can be the basketball guy and the musical guy. You can do both. You are amazing, fantastic and talented! You go Glen Coco!

What…what were we talking about again?

By the way, I have sour cherry blasters and I’m really happy about it, even though they’re not the healthiest editing snack.

Book Talk Episode 10: Writing Love

Writing love isn’t easy for me…and it is possibly one of the hardest things to describe.

What does it mean to love someone?

Why and how does love change over time? Why are some of those changes painful?

It’s really something that I pounder…because I write about it often and yet, I feel as though I barely understand it.

I understand intense crushes and having ridiculous fantasies about being in love with somebody else, but that isn’t the same as being in love. A person can only imagine so much and personally I wouldn’t call any of my past experiences, “love” I’d call that infatuation.

What emotions does love stir in us that makes us crave it so much?

When I first began writing seriously at thirteen, I thought that I had a good idea of relationships and how they worked — obviously I was wrong because a few years later, I couldn’t stop cringing at the scenarios my characters were put through…a lot of which were clearly recreations of teen romance in the media, which let’s face it, is mostly inaccurate. After this, I stopped trying to write romantic relationships, and instead went on to write what I actually knew: crushes.

As someone who has had crushes since kindergarten, and had been documenting them since the first grade in her diary, I definitely found that writing about them was a lot easier than trying to create this fictionalized fantasy relationship between two people, when I’d never even been in one myself.

In my debut novel, the would be high school sweethearts are separated from the very beginning. This wasn’t something I had planned on doing, but did subconsciously because I didn’t want to try and write them in this relationship when I had no idea of what that was like. Instead I chose to write about what the two of them initially felt for one another and compare it to how they felt now, and the result of that was much better received by my early readers versus what I had done in the past.

Writing about a first “love” or crush came more naturally. I’ve had crushes that lasted years, on boys I never talked to. I’ve also had crushes on friends, that I never followed through with, even to this day because I didn’t want things to become awkward and still ended up with a broken heart.

My other main characters, are early teenagers and are going through their first real crushes. There is a gentle awkwardness there, especially with my female protagonist, who when kissed on the cheek describes it as ants crawling on her face and grows uncomfortable when the boy who likes her holds her hand. These experiences of hers are ones I felt at the same age, and it was often with people who I wasn’t sure of.

It can be confusing trying to figure out your own feelings, while someone else is putting in so much effort to try and get you to like them back. I often felt like my own feelings weren’t being taken into consideration during that time in my life, and on top of that I didn’t know how to express them. How do you politely tell a friend, that you’re not interested in them that way, without hurting their feelings? Nowadays people ghost each other when they lose interest which is a childish approach, that doesn’t allow anyone closure, but at the same time its easier than ripping off the band-aid.

I enjoy writing the contrast between past and present feelings in this series, because it shows how even my characters who put on a brave face and are viewed as strong by others, are capable of feeling vulnerable. There is still this lingering feeling of love between the older pairing, hidden within the snarky remarks, arguments and awkward silences. They tell everyone around them that there’s nothing there, and that they hate one another, when in reality the still care…and more importantly want some sort of closure.

I do believe in cases like this, that it is important to write what you know. You can only take so much from observation and make it authentic, so it is important to use what knowledge and experience you do have and use that as your strength. Listen to real people talk about their relationships, pay attention to how the describe past and present events. Explore your own feelings and emotions. What aspects of relationship make you feel like you’re floating, or like ants are crawling on your skin? What does it feel like to be in love or infatuated with someone, and why do some relationships work out while others don’t?

Book Talk Episode 5: World Building

For my series, I have spent a vast majority of the planning process building the world my characters live in.

I actually drew up several maps, created charts and took a shot at designing a layout of the estate which is the main setting for the first book.

Something that I found helpful when creating these different settings, was to go on Pinterest for inspiration. I found different styled buildings, landscapes, fashion and even collages that fit into the world I envisioned in my head.

If you don’t want to use Pinterest, you can even make your own collage by hand or a mood board. I think, especially now with quarantine, it could be a fun project to not only keep you occupied for a few hours, but also keep you inspired and motivated to work on your book!

My pin board for this series currently has 408 pins. These have been gathered over the years of course, but still…I’m shocked. My other projects don’t have that many pins…but this series is and has been my main focus for a long time now.

I think that when creating the world of your novel (or series), that it’s important to look into many different categories, such as the types of culture that are present in the story.

Ida Catherine
Ida Catherine

There are many different places in my story, and two very distinctly different groups that inhabit this world. When I created my map, initially I only did the one city, which is split into two parts, the East and the West, however I realized I needed a second map, which showed the world outside this city.

Depending on where character’s are from, they have different jobs, tastes in music, food, appearances and fashion.

For example in the city where the majority of book one takes place, the women dress like the image of Ida Catherine above. One of my main character’s is very into fashion and always wears bows in her hair. She oddly looks like a painting at my grandparent’s house, which wasn’t planned…but years after I drew a sketch of her, I saw the painting again and went, “Huh…well I’ll be.”

Siuil a Run

One of the two groups in my series speaks a different language…which I decided to do while I was taking a History and Linguistics course through my University. Creating a separate language for them really allowed for me to expand upon them even more. I wrote folk music for both groups, some parodies of actual songs that I grew up listening to.

Others are original music. I also gave them current music, holidays, rituals and other things that could help differentiate between them, but also make the world feel more alive.

Along with that I spent a lot of time reading and researching to try and pinpoint the time period better.

I’m honestly not sure why I decided to do this sort of…parallel…alter-verse… historical paranormal…world type thing with this series, but it sort of just happened. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what to label it, but it takes place in the past (late 1940s – early 1950s) and because of that I had to not only create and imagine all of these different things for this world, but also spend time researching the time period. This is something that I am still doing! I am always building and enhancing the knowledge of this world because I really want it to come to life.

Luckily for me, my grandparents gave me all of their own Books of Knowledge, which had editions from 1941 and onward. This was a huge help. There were interviews, current events, technology, jobs and all sorts of information that I found extremely useful.

Something else that I used aside from the books, were videos like this:

Which I found very fun to watch.

World building can be a lot of work, but I definitely think it’s worth it.

Yes, I had to create an entire dictionary for myself but I love how having this language in my series, adds to the characters who use it, as everyone reacts to it different. I also love having my characters interact with one another, and their thoughts on different settings in this world.

1950s couple

The city near by the main setting, is looked down upon and known for its high crime rates, however one of my main characters often argues for it, having lived there for a few years. It’s fun to see how different her opinion is compared to her friends who have never traveled before.

There is honestly so much that you can do with world building, and so many ways to go about it. I don’t think that there is one exact perfect formula…however, I do think that actually jotting down notes and compiling a list of information about your world is helpful, because you can refer back to it while you’re writing.

Whichever way you go about it, have fun. Don’t be afraid to start sketching things out or creating collages. Creating your setting is just as important as developing your plot and characters. They all have a direct effect on one another, no matter what your genre.