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

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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.
4762497fb6463d5b9c76d665f52f66f74762497fb6463d5b9c76d665f52f66f74762497fb6463d5b9c76d665f52f66f74762497fb6463d5b9c76d665f52f66f74762497fb6463d5b9c76d665f52f66f74762497fb6463d5b9c76d665f52f66f74762497fb6463d5b9c76d665f52f66f74762497fb6463d5b9c76d665f52f66f74762497fb6463d5b9c76d665f52f66f7

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.

 

 

Education Revolution

Education is under attack not just in my hometown of Detroit but around the world. JDW WIA

I’ve dedicated the whole of my adult life to teaching kids how to not just be productive adults but adults that excel.

 

 

 

Whether it’s been academics, athletics, or the arts I’ve been there and continue to be on the front line. From coaching multiple sports to teaching vocals and musical instruments, I’ve committed myself in a big way.

 

Now armed with an MA (soon to be MFA) in creative writing, 17 years experience as a public school educator, and the distinction: published author, I stand ready to take that commitment and the kids I teach to the next level.

Help me help our kids learn to love reading and writing by clicking this link  The IA Series Kickstarter and backing our Kickstarter campaign.

Be a part of the next education revolution!


			

My Goods on Goodreads

As the author of the IA series, I’ve had some success on social media,
and people often ask me for tips. Well here’s the skinny.

I use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter equally, but it’s my firm and
religious belief that Goodreads is the past, present, future, and end
all be all for authors, especially new and/or self-published authors.

I say new because there are a lot of new traditionally published
authors out there who think they’ve crossed into the promised land but
will ultimately find themselves wading in the fire and brimstone of
literary hell.

You have to promote yourself and there is no better way
to do it than on Goodreads.

It should be academic that a social media site that has as its focus, readers, and to a lesser extent authors, should be your first point of attack as an author.

That being said. I’m not the only user to have found the Goodreads site to be less than user friendly and the learning curve staggering. Don’t let that deter you. Goodreads is still a necessary evil. Here’s a few easy tips on how to tame this social media literary monster.

Friends

Friends

 

A man that has friends must show himself friendly (Proverbs
18:24) Actively seek friends on Goodreads every day, i.e. make friend
requests daily. Try not to skip a day because there is a limit. Reach
your limit every day (total limit of 5000). For maximum effect choose
your friends strategically. If you want only readers, send friend
request to only readers. Keep in mind, readers are great, but there’s
definitely something to be said for developing friendships with
like-minded authors on Goodreads, so be balanced and versatile in your
search. When you’re thinking about selecting friends also consider
genre. If you write sci-fi/YA like me, you want to seek friends with
similar interests. Find this feature in the dropdown menu in the upper
right-hand corner of the homepage next to your little circle profile
pic.

Giveaways 

Giveaway

Try and run continuous monthly giveaways, even if you’re
only giving away one book a month.

What readers don’t want free books?

Add to that, a percentage of those who win (albeit small) will read and post reviews, but all most all entries add you to their shelf (it’s the default setting) when they enter, and this generates a buzz about your book. That’s a good thing. Find this feature under the “Explore” dropdown menu (3rd one down) of the homepage.

Reviews 

rate

Try to read and review as many books as you can. Why? First
of all it’s called Goodreads, not Goodwrites, and you want to become a
part of the community. Good writers read more than they write so this
is a no-brainer. Exchanging reviews is a way to get reviews, but make
sure you’re not getting scammed and that you’re reading something you
think you’ll like. Also make sure you’re posting honest reviews. After
you finish reading a book and select “Read” underneath the book, a box
will appear asking you to rate and review the book. Just do it.

Groups

Groups

This is an excellent way to be active and part of the
community. Start with one group in your genre and participate as a
reader first. Be a part of the conversation and discussion. Be
patient. Whatever you do, don’t suggest your book. Create a signature
with your book and book info that you use when you send direct
messages to your friends or respond to friend requests. Get close to a
member or two and have them suggest your book as the monthly read. My
book was the book of the month in the Blerd book club, and I gave a
talk about the IA series on Sunday January 17, 2016.

Check out the video of the Blerd book club discussion on my Goodreads page.

Find the “Groups” feature dead center at the top of the home page.

Lists/Listopia

Listopia

One of the things I’ve recently discovered is lists.
Have one or more of your friends vote for you in appropriate Listopia
lists i.e. Sci-fi, Romance, Young Adult, etc. The importance of
growing your friends and being a part of the community on Goodreads
becomes clear here. This will increase your buzz on the site as well.
Find this feature under the “Listopia” dropdown menu (2nd one down) of
the homepage.

This is just an overview, but dig in and get started on Goodreads by
claiming your author page.

What are you waiting on?

Why I Write What I Write

So, I was a varsity boys’ basketball coach in Detroit a few years back. We were at an out-of-town tournament and were having a healthy lunch at Mickey Dees. I was all excited about the final installment (well, I thought it was the final installment) of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith coming out and expressed my giddiness to my guys to which one replied, “Don’t nobody wanna see that junk.” The rest of the team concurred, and I was devastated. After further inquiry, I realized that my guys had not seen any of the Sci-fi movies I had grown up on and were not the least bit interested in the genre, citing, “it wasn’t real.” Where was their imagination? I began to see this lack of imagination, not just on the court, but in their life goals and aspirations.

A few years later, when I became a teacher, I began to observe the books my students, students of color, were reading. The vast majority were about the streets, drugs, gangs, violence, and teen pregnancy, and this literature was celebrated as being “real” and “relatable” to kids growing up in the city. I took issue with this because I was one of those kids that grew up in the city and although I witnessed some of those things, my life was richer than that. I also knew that in order to rise higher, my imagination had to be even richer. So I write to that end. I write for the boys I used to coach and the ones that came after.

I write for Antonio Drew Van who told me “I had been hoping to find a “Harry Potter” type book and series where the main character is African American and I believe IA: Initiate fills that. Additionally, I look for “Super Hero” type books where the superhero is also African American. My grandson delights in these characters on TV with European features, white skin, and flowing blond hair who don’t look like them. I have to interrupt that.”

I write for Dianna Scowera, reviewer for Readers’ Favorite who said, “If today’s kids have a need for a superhero their own age, Winston has more than succeeded in supplying it with his IA series. I don’t think there are enough African American superheroes in the comic book world and Naz could surely take the lead to fill that large gap. I’ll wait for the day I’m at another comic con to see the kids running by my table dressed up like Naz and think of you ;)”

I write for the boys in my “boys read” program who say the books out there just don’t interest them. I write for the students I teach every day who need role models to aspire to. I write for all the people out there who say there aren’t enough people of color as protagonist in mainstream stories. But most of all I write for me because at one time or another, I have been all of those people.

The Force is Strong with This One!

How fitting it was for D.J. Bodden to choose this as the title for his review.  I am a big fan of the Star Wars movies and I’m looking forward to watching the newest addition to this legendary series with my family when it opens this week.

The reviews for the IA series are beginning to come in, and I am excited and humbled to say that the feedback has been outstanding!

I am proud to post two of the latest reviews, one for the first book in the series IA: Initiate, from a Top 500 Reviewer on Amazon and one for the sequel IA: B.O.S.S., from D.J. Bodden author of The Black Year series.

Read and believe!

The Characters Actually Breathe, They Are So Real

What? Another young adult thriller filled with supernatural elements? NOT EVEN CLOSE! John Darryl Winston is carving a name for himself for contemporary young adult fantasy filled with realistic characters and fantastic dialogue! IA: Initiate the foundation for his IA series is a fine blend of genres that will have even the most reluctant readers gravitating to his work. Whether you are a young adult fancier or not, this is great creative work that flows at a comfortable pace, no breakneck speeds, no trudging along at a snail’s pace, and thank you, Mr. Winston, no info dumps!
Set in a less than choice part of town, thirteen-year-old Naz has appointed himself as his younger sister, Meri’s protector. Gangs rule the streets and everyone not with them is fair game. When Naz becomes the victim of bullying, he makes an incredible discovery that will lead him down a path he never knew existed. To survive in the world he lives in, he must embrace the unbelievable and do it quick. But how can he not think he is going a little crazy when he hears voices and is walking in his sleep? Does he need therapy to overcome brutal evens in his life or are they just a part of the building blocks of the man he is to become?

It’s Naz and Meri against the world, two young individuals, family by blood, but bound by love. Siblings gotta love ‘em, in a world too harsh to feel safe in, these two are a force to be reckoned with.
John Darryl Winston has created wonderful role models for young adults, as their dialogue shows their emotions. What could be better than dimensional characters and detailed scenes to bring it all together and make a story breathe? Believe in the unbelievable and revel in the talent of John Darryl Winston. To the top of the hidden gem pile for this one!

~Dianne~ Top 500 Amazon Reviewer

 

The Force Is Strong With This One

IA: B.O.S.S. picks up where IA: Initiate left off, and answers a lot of the questions I had in the first one. The writing is smooth and well edited, and the characters still feel very distinct – both from each other and from standard YA denizens. That’s the IA series’ charm, you see: the challenges are mostly the same, there are bad people in the world and someone should do something about it. But the point of view of the characters is so different they come at the problem diagonally, never quite doing what you’d expect.
The best analogy I can give you is that you walk into a room covered in broken pieces ceramic, steel, and glass. As you watch, the dust gathers, the bits tumble and pool and cluster, and an android comes together, first a leg, then a skeleton, then synthetic flesh. Its eyes glow, and it hums a song. It’s not quite human, and it has a few extra pieces that might be decorative or deadly, and you’re not sure if the result will be wondrous or horrible. That’s Naz, the main character.
The story itself is well executed and paced; it’s like seeing Anakin Skywalker grow up in a bad urban neighborhood instead of a desert planet, with dubious mentors. By the end, we’re still on that backwater world, one foot on the boarding ramp of a ship, and the galactic republic awaits. It left me satisfied but still curious, and I look forward to seeing where Mr. Winston will take it from here.
~D.J. Bodden~ Goodreads Reviewer