Marquette’s Review of Moana: My First Guest Blog Post!

Marq has been my inspiration for 14 years now and whether it’s a main character in my IA book series or my excuse to spend half a grand on a Fender guitar, she’s the Sparks that keeps me stoked. So believe me when I say there’s no one I’m more excited about being my first guest blogger then my old soul of a daughter, Marquette. Plus I need another movie to show my kids when my gym is being used for some program other than gym. Oh. I’m a physical education teacher by day.

Without further delay,

I give you Marquette Winston, unedited (well maybe a little).  🙂

 

Moana is continuing to give a good name to animated films. From the intriguing plot to the astounding soundtrack, Moana brought tears to my eyes at least three different times throughout the movie.

 

Moana takes place around 3,000 years ago on the island of Polynesia. The main character is 16-year-old Moana who is the daughter of the chief of their tribe. She has to face the typical obstacles, like finding out who she is, choosing between right and wrong, and listening to her brain or her heart.

 

The soundtrack helped put this movie over the top. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is the writer and star of the Broadway musical Hamilton, is responsible for Moana’s soundtrack. The music was island themed and kept the viewers tuned in. I, being a huge fan of Hamilton, loved the way the music was similar to the musical. This is my opinion, but Moana is one of the best singers a Disney “princess” movie is yet to see.

 

This movie is fun and hilarious, but also pulls at the heartstrings. Moana teaches morals and shows a different side of Disney.

I give Moana 9 out of 10 fist bumps.

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Movie Review of Arrival … Pay Attention!

This is one of those movies that you have to pay close attention to ‘cause there are no pretty colors, chase scenes, or exploding buildings, just story. And make no mistake … it is deep! We jump right into it with the aliens already in position to do whatever it is they’re planning to do. And that’s the gist of it, the question, the premise of the movie, why are they here, and figuring it out through language.
This one is cerebral and just about everything on the screen matters so don’t go to the bathroom. Get your refreshments ahead of time. Try not to fall asleep. Don’t even blink because you could miss something important. You may be tempted to get a few winks in because the movie is slow, but don’t. You will miss something. You’ll find that the Aliens are a small part of the story, something to distract you from what’s really going on, the filmmaker’s slam dunk. Think sixth sense, only bigger … and smaller. You should figure some of it out, but not all of it until it gets there.

The performances are all solid. Amy Adams (Batman v Superman) is haunted as the pic-for-arrival-reviewtalented linguistics professor. Jeremy Renner (Avengers) is plenty arrogant as the scientist who plays opposite Adams and Forest Whitaker (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story [YAY!]) rounds out the cast and the diversity quota as a no nonsense, all-about-business Colonel. He’s fast becoming one of my all-time favorite actors.

 
This is one of those films that if you can sit through it twice, you’ll want to watch again to see what you missed or if you got things right. Arrival was refreshing in a sea of action/adventure films but could’ve been a little faster. Great on the concept, meh on the story. Think Sixth Sense, but you still won’t get it. It may seem like nothings happening, but there’s a lot going on in the background so pay attention.

I give this movie 8/10 fist bumps!

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

I’ll try and give nothing away in this review because I think that’s the beauty of seeing Rogue One: not knowing what to expect. Let’s start with how the film looked. Just when you think special effects can’t get any better, they do. The sets were breathtaking and awe-inspiring and maybe too many to keep track of, but it didn’t detract from the film. The story, which of course is king, was well thought out and not too complicated. The film paid homage in subtle ways to the legendary films that came before it. It was definitely Star Wars, but different … a little darker in all the right places. Even the music was, for the first time, different, but when it was called for, those themes we’ve come to know and love showed themselves, again in subtle ways.

Complete with all the action, adventure, and nick-of-time scenes, Rogue definitely measures up in that respect. Being a Star Wars fan, I had high hopes for something unique, courageous, and spectacular. I think I got it for the most part. With all that Rogue is attempting, it’s difficult to develop a new cast of characters into the Skywalkers and Solos we’ve grown familiar with in just over two hours. But the performances were substantial just the same.

Felicity Jones was resilient and non-wavering as Jyn Erso, and Diego Luna as mv5bote0mji2ndczml5bml5banbnxkftztcwmtgwmdgymg-_v1_uy317_cr20214317_al_Cassian Andor was both conflicted and committed. The two create a questionable chemistry on the screen that I found acceptable considering the tasks before them.

mv5bmtqzmdi3ntg2ov5bml5banbnxkftztcwntgwmzg5mg-_v1_uy317_cr130214317_al_Forest Whitaker continues to amaze as the unpredictable and formidable Saw Gerrera, and comic relief in this dark exhibition goes to Donnie Yen as Chirrut Imwe. And … I must say it was a multicultural extravaganza.

I kept wanting this movie to be better than The Force Awakens, and toward the end, I was sure it wasn’t. But the last 30-45 minutes of Rogue One was like Usain Bolt in the last 20 meters of a hundred meter race; about the best I’ve seen. Two words: Darth Vader.

I give Rogue One 8.5/10 fist bumps.

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My Review of the Movie Dr. Strange … Not So Strange

But … more of the same. If you’re a Marvel fan and like the recent influx of superhero movies then this is your film. For me it was at best mildly entertaining, complete with all the pretty colors, special effects, and trademark chase scenes. In all fairness, Batman Begins of the Dark Knight trilogy is my measuring stick for origin stories, and this first installment of Dr. Strange didn’t quite measure up.

Let’s start with the performances. After watching a riveting performance by Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek Into Darkness and reading the rave reviews on the various sites by fans and critics alike, I was stoked.

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch poses as he arrives for the world premiere of "Anna Karenina" at the Odeon Leicester Square in London

But instead of the talented Cumberbatch giving us something unique or memorable we get a bad imitation of Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark. That’s right, almost witty, almost funny, and almost brash. As near as I can figure his gift is his photographic memory.

I had, what I considered, both the advantage and disadvantage of knowing absolutely nothing about this character or the story, (sorry comic book world) so I had no preconceived notions, only the desire for a great story with well-developed characters (can one exist without the other?).

I never saw from this rendition of the story a clear motivation as to why this reckless, egotistical Dr. Strange becomes the leader of the sorcerer’s portion of the Avenger’s world just for the sake of being a good person. It doesn’t match up with the character we’re introduced to at the beginning. And … I get the smarts with the photographic memory, but how’d he become such a skilled fighter so fast?

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo just seemed to be there, not a good or bad performance but no depth, chiwetel-ejiofor-1_240x340_9workmanlike to fill the diversity quota, and I appreciate that, filmmakers.

I did like Tilda Swinton’s performance as The Ancient One. It was believable and captivating throughout even when we find out her motives are mv5bmtm4nzmzmtkwnv5bml5banbnxkftztcwmzu4mdg1mw-_v1_uy317_cr190214317_al_not as altruistic as we were first led to believe. Her strength at first and later vulnerability ground the film and gives it an emotional and human quality.

I really liked the red cloak or was it a cape? I gotta get me one of those.

Another meh point in the film was the villains. Dull, lifeless, and contrived, they didn’t add that hurdle element needed to make the protagonist’s journey worthwhile and satisfying. But wait! They did take manipulating buildings on the set to a new level. Instead of just destruction we have buildings actually bending, transforming, and morphing into … something else? If you like that sort of thing, you’ll love this, reminiscent of the film Inception.

At the end, I didn’t care about the good guys, so I didn’t find myself rooting for them. I didn’t fear the bad guys, so there was no worked up tension inside me when they appeared on the screen, only a “not these guys again.” And the mega-villain at the end was almost comical and childish when he discovered the hero’s resolution, which I also thought, was at best, cheesy.  I did like the music. It awakened my spirit at times but didn’t match the spectacle on the screen.

That’s all I have.

I give this movie 7/10 fist bumps.

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My Review of The Book Thief

There is no shortage of great reviews for the “The Book Thief.” Just the same, I’ll pile on and add one more to the mix. “The Book Thief” is a book for readers who like a great story wrapped in great writing. What I mean by that is, if you don’t like literary devices like metaphor, simile, personification and the like, don’t read this novel.

 

Make no mistake; the story shines through bravely, but Markus Zusak is the master of these literary devices among others, and he weaves them throughout. Sometimes there’s just story and sometimes, beautiful prose it seems for beauty’s sake, and sometimes the two are combined. Zusak tells a story, three years in the making, of foster girl, Leisel Meminger. The Book Thief is set in Nazi Germany 1939, that’s right, smack dab in middle of the holocaust. Through Zucac’s talented pen we get to see what this time must have looked and felt like through the expecting eyes of an innocent, brave, and resourceful girl.

 

If you’re a writer looking for an authentic lesson in great literature, read “The Book Thief” but not as a page-turner, read it slowly, a section at a time. Let the experience have its way with your literary sensibilities. Unless … the spirit moves you, then forge ahead and let the words rush in. I liken “The Book Thief” to the film, “Titanic.” It’s not a book about death (although death is its narrator), but a love story at its finest, a love story about a girl and her family, a girl and her father, a girl and a boy, a girl and a book.

I give this book a solid 9/10 fist bumps.   4762497fb6463d5b9c76d665f52f66f74762497fb6463d5b9c76d665f52f66f74762497fb6463d5b9c76d665f52f66f74762497fb6463d5b9c76d665f52f66f74762497fb6463d5b9c76d665f52f66f74762497fb6463d5b9c76d665f52f66f74762497fb6463d5b9c76d665f52f66f74762497fb6463d5b9c76d665f52f66f74762497fb6463d5b9c76d665f52f66f7

https://www.amazon.com/Book-Thief-Markus-Zusak-ebook/dp/B000XUBFE2/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480531322&sr=1-1&keywords=the+book+thief

A Review of the Movie Hacksaw Ridge

I haven’t blogged about anything in a while, so I thought I’d get cracking with a movie review, me being a lover of all things story. I first saw the trailer of Hacksaw Ridge a few weeks ago just before viewing The Magnificent Seven (good film) and was intrigued. This one had good story written all over it, not just a pretty-colors, effects-filled, block-buster, money-grab that we’ve been bombarded with lately but substance. So this weekend I gave Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge a go, and I was not disappointed. I only had two problems with the film that were not in the very least deal-breakers. I’ll comeback to those.

It was easily the best film I saw all year and in a long time. Here’s why; first off, It’s based on a true story. I don’t know about you, but that always rings my attention bell a little louder. Second, the film looked good. The cinematography was gorgeous and some of the settings, breathtaking. Thirdly, the film sounded good. The soundtrack wasn’t distracting, and I could actually understand what the actors were saying. Too bad at some of these film you can’t have a subtitles option. Enough with the numbers. The film was really good, just sayin’.

Something that drew me in early was the performances. Andrew Garfield v1-cjs0nzgyndtqoze3mtc5oziwndg7mjgwozi1mahad me hoping this was the way Desmond T. Doss really was. I was pulling for him the whole time even when I disagreed with him. This is too funny; I leaned over to my girlfriend and whispered. This guy could play Peter Parker in Spiderman. Duh! He did, and I hated him in that one. But I digress.

hugo_weaving_1141406Anyhow, Sam Worthington (Avatar) was officer-like and pragmatic as Captain Glover (Desmond’s commanding officer) and Hugo Weaving (The Matrix) was haunted and a walking oxymoron as Tom Doss (Desmond’s dad).

 

The film started with a bit of backstory to establish character and then we were off. The pacing was good and even at 2:19 the film didn’t drag or feel too long (the true test). The battle scene was like nothing I’ve ever seen. It made, Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, and Saving Private Ryan look like kid’s play and was clearly the reason for the R rating. The sequence was fierce, horrifying, and completely necessary and underscored Desmond’s great accomplishments serving our country as a conscientious objector, truly amazing. One scene in the battle sequence had men in Doss’ company covering him from down below Hacksaw Ridge while he helped men above to safety. I saw a lot of men crying in the theater on that one, not me of course.

Oh, yeah, those two things I mentioned earliest. Vince Vaughn (sorry Vince, just callin’ ‘em like I see ‘em) was a distraction as Sergeant Howell. He seemed to play the role he vince-vaughn-picture-3usually plays in film and as person who served in the army, to me he seemed more like a caricature of a drill sergeant then an actual drill sergeant. Luckily those scenes were far and few between, so it didn’t compromise the film. The other problem was lack of diversity. Where were the brothas … or sistas. I didn’t see one … not one person of color in the total 2:19. That’s a problem. And don’t tell me about the time period. People of color have been serving in the military since the Civil War and before. That’s my rant. It’s still a great film that I predict will win more than one Oscar.

My rating for this movie, 8.5/10 fist bumps.
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Interview with Daphne Kapsali

I first met the incomparable author, Daphne Kapsali about a year ago through her groundbreaking debut work, 100 days of solitude. Since that time, she has written two more novels, you can’t name an unfinished thing, and This Reluctant Yogi: everyday adventures in the yoga world and embarked on a fundraising campaign aimed a bringing her debut effort to a wider audience. Daphne was gracious enough to be my very first interview on my blog, and boy did we have fun.

 

How long have you actually considered yourself a writer in a professional sense and was there a defining moment or a gradual process that gave you that distinction?

 

I think it was both a process and several moments along the way. I have always identified as writer, in a vague sense, but in the past it mostly took the form of “Yes, I’m working in this crappy bar, but I’m a writer, don’t you know” – it was my “one day”, my excuse and my safety net, all at once. And this despite having studied Creative Writing for both my BA and MA. I think the real shift began a couple of years ago, when I left my job and life in London and took myself off to a small Greek island called Sifnos, to write full-time and explore whether I actually had it in me to be a professional writer.

 

Defining moments have included seeing my book on Amazon for the first time, receiving reader reviews, and being contacted, randomly, by people who’ve read my book and want to tell me that they liked it. Those are the moments when you go “wow, this is actually real!”. I now sometimes even manage, when asked what I do, to mutter “I’m a writer”. But tentatively.

 

 

You have so far published 3 novels, “you can’t name an unfinished thing,” “This Reluctant Yogi: everyday adventures in the yoga world (next on my hit list),” and the piece de resistance, “100 days of solitude.” These 3 books were published in a span of six months. How did you accomplish such a feat?

 

Haha, you make me sound like Stephen King! The truth is, I’m not one of those prolific writers who produce several titles a year, and my publishing history to date is a bit of a fluke. The most accurate answer is: ideal writing conditions. 100 days of solitude was written over 100 days, between September and December 2014, while I was doing my “reclusive author” thing in Sifnos. I was living alone, on a small island off-season, and my time was entirely dedicated to writing: I produced one piece a day, for 100 consecutive days. Unfinished came straight after that, and was written in just over three months while I was still living in Sifnos. This Reluctant Yogi actually predates both of them: it was adapted from a blog with the same name that I’d been writing in the months preceding my move to Sifnos. And, after having published 100 days and Unfinished and gotten the gist of self-publishing, I thought “hey, I’ve got some more material, and I haven’t published anything for a month or so – let’s get this thing out”.

 

What is it that drew you to the genres of contemporary, memoir, and creative nonfiction? Do you see yourself writing in another genre in the future?

 

It’s funny: I always had this idea that I was a novelist, a fiction writer, but ever since writing 100 days, I’ve had to seriously reconsider. I don’t really do plot, and I don’t think I have the sort of imagination that I associate with fiction writers. My talent, if I can call it that, seems to lie in “essays on living and being alive” (as I recently tried to describe it on one of my blogs): pieces inspired by actual events, current or past, things I’ve seen and things I’ve thought about, that develop into essays exploring themes that make up our experience of the way we live now. With fictionalised bits thrown in. For example, in 100 days, you’ll often see me conversing with characters such as Antagonist, City Girl, Sifnos Chick and The Writer, who represent different parts of my personality. I can assure you these incidents didn’t actually take place – but they’re not strictly fiction, either. This style of writing seems to work best for me, as it allows me to convey ideas and messages with a clarity and immediacy that I think would be lost if I tried to disguise them as fiction.

 

The process of writing 100 days was when, as they say, I found “my voice”. Having said that, Unfinished is a straight-up novel, though entirely character-driven, and with very little in the way of plot! It was a book I needed to write, and I wrote it, but I can’t honestly say if I’ll be venturing back into novel-writing in the future, or letting go of that idea and sticking to what I’m good at.

 

What motivates you to write and what has been a stumbling block that you have overcome or are overcoming?

 

At the risk of sounding very cheesy, it’s innate, even primal. It’s a need, as well as a desire. I never feel quite right when I’m not writing; when I do finish a piece, I feel grounded, at peace, like I know where I am in the world. It’s almost like writing justifies my presence here, like it proves that I exist. In addition to that, as I grow, I come across small insights and understandings that help me be a happier and more positive presence in this life – mine and other people’s – and writing allows me to share them. Not in any kind of teachy way, but more like “hey, look what I found, isn’t it cool?”.

 

What I stumble on is insecurity, which is also innate. It’s the voice that says “who do you think you are?”, the fear that you’ll run out of things to say, that you’ll never write anything worth reading again. I think we’re all plagued by this, to an extent, and it’s our challenge, as writers, to just write through it. And hope for the best!

 

What are you views on the different avenues of publishing i.e. self-publishing, indie-publishing, hybrid publishing, traditional publishing etc.?

 

I’m a big advocate of doing what you want, in any way you can, and it’s a great time for this. With the advent and recent growth of self- and indie publishing, it’s no longer a question of if you get published, but how. Securing a traditional publisher is as hard (or perhaps even harder) as it’s ever been, but we now have other options, and it’s entirely possible to be successful following these alternative routes. The obvious drawback to traditional vs indie or self-published is the difference in resources, financial and otherwise, to reach your potential readers, although it is also true, in most cases, that no matter what route you take, marketing is largely driven by the authors themselves, anyway. Traditional lends credibility; indie and self-publishing allows you, perhaps, more creative freedom. There are pros and cons to any choice you make, and I think it’s down to individual authors to make their choice work for them.

What upsets me is that self-publishing (and some of the indies) often produces bad work, and that taints the rest of us. If we are ever to “legitimise” indie and self-published titles to the point where they can compete with traditional ones, we need to establish and maintain certain standards of quality and that means, at the very least, work that is – almost – technically perfect. There is absolutely no excuse for bad grammar, bad syntax, spelling errors and typos. Talent may not be available to all of us, but proofreading and editing services are.

 

What are some of your favorite novels and authors and why?

 

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, Small Island by Andrea Levy, and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I can’t say why, exactly, but these are the books that have stayed with me the most. And the entire Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. I can read and re-read those until the end of days.

 

 

I know for a fact that – like most of us independent authors – you are also acting as your own PR and marketing team. How are you finding that process? Were you prepared for it when you began your journey as an author? What would you tell other independent authors who find this side of things intimidating and/or undignified?

 

I had no idea what I was getting myself into! I did have an inkling that getting a book published would then involve getting it front of readers, but I wasn’t at all prepared how it would take over my life. It was a shock, because I went from reclusive author to social media slave in the space of a day and I’ve been there, chained to my computer, every day since. I found it hard, and I still do, because I’m quite reserved by nature, and attention makes me uncomfortable – let alone finding new, creative ways to talk myself up in public, which is basically what doing your own marketing entails.

 

The way I get through it, and the way I’d advise any new author to go about it, is by doing it my own way, being genuine and never straying too far from who I am. I’ve obviously researched marketing techniques, and I apply some to the extent that they serve my books and personality, but I never use “formulas” and approaches that make me sound like someone else and feel icky. I think that’s how you maintain your dignity and your integrity, and how you create real connections with readers. And yes, it is intimidating in the beginning, competing with millions of titles for attention and not even knowing where to start in this crazy world of social media marketing. But just start, and make your way through it slowly. Look around; connect with other writers and ask what they’re doing. It will soon begin to make sense.

Having said that, I’ve recently come to accept that doing it all on your own (thinking that you can!) is not only impossible but also potentially damaging to your books. I’ve handled my own marketing for over a year, but I’m now looking into paying for professional services that can bring my work to readers that I cannot reach myself. I think it deserves that, and it’s an investment worth making.

 

You are currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to help bring your novel, 100 days of solitude, to a wider audience. Can you tell us more about the campaign, and why we should support it?

 

The campaign is called “100 days for everyone”, which stands for everyone’s right to do what they love and live a life that makes sense to them. It’s inspired by 100 days of solitude, and the insights I stumbled upon during the process of writing it, insights that apply to pretty much everyone and have already motivated hundreds of readers to make positive changes in their own lives. Hundreds, but it could be thousands, or millions, if only I could reach them: this is a book that deserves to be read as widely as possible, not because I wrote it and I’m in any way special, but because I’m not, and writing it actually changed my life for the better. It is a raw account of that journey that everyone can relate to, and it’s the accidental factor, the lack of any sort of agenda, that makes it different, and valuable to its readers.

 

But it needs more readers, more than my own limited resources and networks can stretch to, and this links back to what I said before: not trying to do it all on your own. Giving this book its best chance means making some serious investments in professional advertising and marketing and that, in the most part, is what my campaign is raising funds for.

 

Why should you support it? I can’t really tell you that. People’s motivations are as individual and as diverse as the people themselves. But if there is anything in the idea that we all deserve the chance to be our best, happiest selves, to live rather than survive, and to bring our unique skills and talents into the world that appeals you, that’s a good starting point. It should at least get you as far as visiting the project page of Kickstarter.

 

What can we expect from you next?

 

I’m working on a new writing project, similar in style to 100 days of solitude – but it’s not, as people have suggested, “another 100 days” as such. It’s just days and thoughts and words, put together in the hope of creating something bigger, something meaningful. My working title at the moment is “In praise of being selfish”. You can follow it’s development as I’m writing it on my new blog, 100daysofsolitude.com.

 

Tell us something different and unique about Daphne Kapsali that you haven’t said in any other interview?

 

I am addicted to crisps (or chips, in US-speak). I’m serious. It’s a problem. I like them quite thick-cut, and dry, and never flavoured: I’m a purist and will only eat the salted ones. Just in case anyone wants to send me some.

 

Please do check out Daphne’s 100 days of solitude and the Kickstarter campaign that will bring it to a wider audience. It doesn’t matter if you’re a reader or writer, what genre or even career you’re into, Daphne’s work is for all. As she says, everyone has the right to do what they love and live a life that makes sense to them. Let’s make this one happen.