Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Review by: dancingonrain.

Kubo had his eye taken from him when he was a baby.  Now, a few years older, his mother’s sisters come to claim Kubo’s other eye for their father.  Only after Kubo finds the legendary armor his mother once spoke of will he be strong enough to withstand his enemies and defeat them.  Along the way Kubo befriends a monkey and a beetle who join his quest to help him.  Kubo must not only find this legendary armor, but learn to hone his magical abilities as well–one ability which involves bringing origami to life.  Despite all the hardship Kubo has endured over the years, he’s also only ever wanted to have a complete family and  by the end of the movie, you hope that he can have it all too.

Wow.  Just wow.  This movie is breath taking and definitely a step up from Laika’s other movie, The Boxtrolls.  This movie definitely has a little bit more mature content (and some fight scenes), but it’s also told and shown in a way where children could probably understand it as well.  They might be a little creeped out by Kubo’s mother’s sisters, who are two of the main antagonists, but I was creeped out by them too and I’m an adult.  Haha.

Laika’s animation has always been amazing to begin with, but in this movie, even more so.  I put off seeing this movie because I was afraid I might be a little disappointed (for whatever reason that was I have no idea), but I was far from disappointed.  It exceeded my expectations.  It’s one of those movies where you really do have to listen and watch and pay attention to every little thing that is shown or said in order to understand every little thing that is happening, but at the same time, if your attention darts away for a second, you’ll still be able to put the pieces together eventually anyway.

I highly recommend this movie to anyone interested.  It’s almost two hours long, but it’s totally worth it.  This movie is worth your time to see.  It’ll definitely be worth your money.

The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing: A 16 step program gaurenteed to take you from idea to completed manuscript by Evan Marshall Book and Computer Software Review

 

Book: The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing: A 16 set program gaurenteed to take you from idea to completed manuscrip

Computer Software: Novel Writing Software–The Marshall Plan

Review by: dancingonrain

This book is exactly as its title suggests.  I read it once a few years ago and then again last month.  It’s still as useful as it was the first time I read it.  The author is a publisher so not only do you get advice on how to writer your book, you also get some advice about how to go about finding publishers and editors and what they usually do and do not look for in a book.  The book not only has good information, but it also has blank worksheets so that you can photocopy as many as you like to help you plan your novel.  The Marshall Plan has other books including a workbook (where it has more worksheets than the previous book listed) and another book more specific to getting published.

These books are great tools to help you out, but there is also a newer The Marshall Plan computer software you can download.  It’s basically the same thing.  The books have a little more detail in them, but the computer program has set up all the worksheets for you in an organized fashion so if you prefer to have that instead of millions of worksheet papers flying around on your desk, this program can help you keep everything a little organized.  The downloadable program does cost money, but I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and think it’s worth it.  The program is more to help you plan out your novel rather than to write it.  You’d probably use microsoft word to actually write the novel, but the program has helped me organize my characters and ideas better.  You choose a word count, a “suppose,” and then the program will structure the layout for you so you don’t have to.  It does give you room to do your own structuring and point of view character uses towards the end of the beginning, the entire middle, and the end of the end so you’re not completely tied to one way of outlining the entire time.  I’ve actually found this program more helpful, especially for longer works, than Scrivener, but both programs still have their uses.

Either way, if you’re an aspiring author or writer of any kind, I would highly recommend both the books and the program.  😀  !

 

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson Book Review

Review by: dancingonrain

 

The main story begins with two Idrian Princesses, Vivenna and Siri.  Originally Vivenna was supposed to travel to Hallandren and wed the God King as a peace treaty between their two nations, but their father sent Siri instead.  Siri is supposed to produce an heir for Hallandren as part of that treaty, but how can she when she’s not allowed to speak or look at the God King?  And he seems to want to do nothing but sit in the same room with her and just watch her?

Vivenna travels to Hallandren in hopes to rescue her sister from that fate.  Along the way she meets the mercenaries Denth, Tonk-Fah, and Jewels and her Lifeless, Clod.

But things do not appear to be what they seem.  For both girls.  When Vivenna meets a mysterious man known currently as Vasher, (he’s used many names in the past) she begins to question everything she once knew.

And as for Siri, things change for her in a big way when she discovers a secret about the God King that not only a select few know and that is also something she was never supposed to find out.

This book was great!  While it did start off a little slow for me, once the story picked up, it really picked up.  There was lots of action.  This is not to say that there were non-stop battles, but more that there was always something happening to move the plot/story forward.  While you may not have been aware of it in the earlier parts, as the story progressed closer to the end, everything started to fall in place .  At some parts you told yourself that “that makes sense and why didn’t I realized that sooner.”  You always had a feeling that something was off, but you couldn’t quite put your tongue on it.  This is especially true when we discover something tragic about the God King and it changes our perception of him.

I love the stories where you head into them thinking you’re going to enjoy one point of view character the most and be annoyed with another, but then as you progress through the book, the opinions you originally thought you were going to have ended up being the exact opposite.  I went into this story thinking I wasn’t going to be all that invested in Siri and much more invested in Vivenna, which, in the end, was not true.  I definitely enjoyed reading about Siri more than Vivenna.  This is not to say that I didn’t like Vivenna, just that I liked Siri more.  And, of course, I liked Vasher from the beginning.  From the first scene he’s presented in, I wanted to know more about him, the kind of world this was, this interesting thing known as Breaths, and his mysterious talking sword, Nightblood.

I would have to say that overall I enjoyed this book.  I liked this one, Warbreaker, more than Elantris, but less than the Mistborn series.

Either way, if you’re looking for a stand alone novel and like epic fantasy, try this book.  😀

Elements of Fiction: Beginnings, Middles, and Ends by Nancy Kress Book Review

Review by: dancingonrain

This book is written in three sections.  Beginnings, middles, and ends.  It is written in a way to help the aspiring writer who may be struggling with one of the above or all of the above.  The book provides detailed exercises, descriptions, advice, and examples to help s/he breakthrough whichever of the three sections s/he finds the most difficult to write.

While the reader only needs to read about the section that gives him/her the most difficulty, I still found the book, as a whole, helpful anyway.  I thought the author made some good points.  Some of the information you may have already known, but it was still presented in a clear and helpful way.  I also felt like this book may help some writers that have a “writer’s block” in particular to one or more of these sections.

One thing I appreciated was that Kress did talk a little bit about what may or may not turn off editors and publishers throughout each of the sections and how a writer really only has the first 3-5 paragraphs to grab an editors or publisher’s attention for a short story and about 5 pages for a novel, which makes those beginnings even more important.  And then she discussed how to refine the start of your book.

One thing I learned, but really is actually quite obvious, is that if you struggle during the beginning, middle, or end, or even more than one part, then the chances that your very beginning set up are well done, are not high.  She really emphasized how one section influences the other and how everything is connected to one another.  If you are struggling with a specific part, chances are that the problem has actually originated earlier than where you are now.  She then went on to discuss how to rework it to make everything flow better.

Overall, I thought this book was a valuable source, but whether or not you need to buy it really depends on the writer him/herself.  If you’re short on money, or just don’t want to spend money on another book, I’m sure you could find this one at a library or online somewhere.  I found it a useful source to me so I did buy a copy to keep in my bookcase.

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir Book Review

Review by: dancingonrain

After Laia helped Elias escape his execution after the Fourth Trial in the first book, An Ember in the Ashes, Laia and Elias, now fugitives, flee Serra and being a dangerous journey where they not only have to avoid and deal with Martial soldiers, but bounty hunters, other creatures, and nature itself.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf, the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison, to save her brother Darin who is the key to the Scholars’ survival.  He holds the secret to making weapons that can defeat the Empire once and for all.

Elias is determined to help Laia rescue her brother even if it means his life so that the Scholar slaves may have the chance to rise and defeat the Empire with these special weapons Darin can make.  But in doing so will have to come face to face with his former best friend, Helene, who has been ordered to find and kill him by Emperor Marcus.

I find it hard to talk about this too much without giving anything away/spoilers, but I’ll do my best to keep it brief.

I waited months for this sequel to be released and now that I have finished it, I can honestly say I was NOT disappointed.  This sequel was even better than the first book of the series, An Ember in the Ashes.  While the book was predictable at times, it was still well done and I was able to over look that fact because of the story’s rich plot and developed characters.  While I felt that Helene could have used a little more development, overall  the book succeeded in convincing me of the characters’ motivations and wants in a realistic way.

This book was an emotional roller-coaster.  During one scene you would be laughing at a character’s typical jealousy antics and then in the next scene you’d be crying and then the next scene you’d want to throw the book at a window.  And then repeat that sequence all over again, but in a different order.

This book kept me glued to my seat and if I didn’t have a job and other commitments, I would have finished this book in one-sitting.  I avoided starting to read it at night because then I knew I’d be up all night.  Some people could get away with staying up all night, but I need my sleep in order to function  semi-decently.  Ha ha!

Overall, this book was definitely worth my time and purchase.  There have been few book series I have purchased and enjoyed as much as I did when I first bought them to many years later.  An Ember in the Ashes and A Torch Against the Night will not be one of those series.  I know I will enjoy these books for as long as I live.  I would highly recommend this series to all those fantasy lovers out there.

This series is like a young adult version of A Game of Thrones mixed with Roman Empire Gladiator-esque feel.  If you love those components of a story and don’t mind books a little more on the dark-side, then I know you’ll enjoy this book as much as I did.

Happy reading! 😀

A Different Kind of Daughter: The Girl Who Hid from the Taliban in Plain Sight by Maria Toorpakai with Katharine Holstein Book Review

Review by: dancingonrain

Maria Toorpakai was born a girl, but raised as a boy (Genghis Khan) in order to have a freer life and not be restricted to the lack of freedom women had in the Middle East.  Her secret was eventually discovered and she had to figure out if she wanted to hide her true self in order to keep everyone she cares about safe or if she wanted to be who she is despite the inevitable consequences.

I’m normally more of a fantasy/adventure junkie and can’t stand anything written about the “real world,” but I was trying to broaden the genres I read.  This book seemed as good as any to start and I must say that I did enjoy it overall.

While a good part of the beginning was backstory and I lost interest through pages and pages of it, but this was also more of a personal preference rather than a book flaw.  I personally would have much rather seen more about her story with squash since that seemed like her true passion and that it presented problems for girls in Middle East.  While the book definitely spent a good amount of time on this topic, I think I would have loved if it had expanded on her and her love of the sport despite harassment more rather than the backstory of moving from place to place.  Still, I did like the book despite my preferences.

I thought this book did a great job with characterizing Maria/Genghis.  I didn’t know if that was intentional or not, but one part of the backstory that was useful was we got to see what a scrapper she was and while I would have preferred the prose showed it more rather than told it, I still thought it was presented successfully.

One aspect of this book that I thought was well done was it showed me just how bad life for anyone living there at the time was and even now.  I always knew it was hard for the people living there with the Taliban, but now I have a little more insight into it and from the perspective from someone who actually lived there and not just what the U.S. news decided to tell (or not tell) you.

And despite the fact that I’m not a religious person, I did enjoy the philosophical discussions Maria/Genghis had about religion and other aspects with her father.

Overall, while this genre is not my usual cup of tea and some of the excessive background story detached me from the story on occasion, I still enjoyed this novel of one girl’s struggles and who ultimately perseveres in the end.

 

Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints by Nancy Kress Book Review

Review by: dancingonrain.

 

Synopsis on the back of the book:

“How do you create a main character readers won’t forget?  How do you write a book in multiple-third-person point of view without confusing your readers (or yourself)?  How do you plant essential information about a character’s past into a story?  Write Great Fiction: Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint by award-winning author Nancy Kress answers all of these questions and more!  This accessible book is filled with interactive exercises and valuable advice that teaches you how to:

1.) Choose and execute the best point of view for your story.

2.)  Create 3-dimensional and believable characters

3.) Develop your characters’ emotions.

4.) Create realistic love, fight, and death scenes.

5.)  Use frustration to motivate your characters and drive your story.

With dozens of excerpts from some of today’s most popular writers, this book provides you with the techniques you need to create characters and stories sure to linger in the hearts and minds of agents, editors, and readers long after they’ve finished your book.”

 

I read this book cover-to-cover at the library, but  I also don’t think that was necessary.  Someone could have easily picked and chose certain topics or chapters that s/he specifically needed help with and only read those sections.

All-in-all the book does cover a lot of topics and I did learn a few new insights here and there.  For example, in one chapter, Kress talked about how frustration is generally the highest motivation for a character.  Yes, many other things can and will motivate that character, but in the end, s/he generally acts because they’re frustrated in some way.  So what would frustrate your character and drive them to act/behave in a certain way?  Kress obviously  explained it better in the book, but that was another way of explaining character motivation that I hadn’t heard before.

If I had to choose a number one strength of this book, it would be the exercises at the end of each chapter.  There was usually 3-6 exercises (most of them in-depth) and they definitely helped me broaden my insight to my characters and/or plot (or whatever else the chapter had discussed).

While this book did have many useful exercises and gave me some more insight, I feel like some chapters didn’t spend enough time on the topics discussed for that section.  Yes, this book went through a lot of topics, but because of that I felt that some of the topics were given the short-end of the stick.  I don’t know if I’d buy this book, but if you’re near a library, check it out and see for yourself.  It would be a nice reference to have here and there.

😀