Archive for » June, 2013 «

A-Team: A Review

I’ve been reviewing rather a lot of Liam Neeson films lately so I thought I’d dig out some of his older films and re-watch those with the intention to review so here’s the film based on the 80’s TV series.

This is one of those films where you expect a lot of explosions and stuff like that and it really didn’t disappoint. The action starts pretty soon in and continues from there with rarely a dull moment.

The group make a hilarious combo with the institutionalised Murdock pretty much stealing the show for me. He was the perfect combination between genius and insanity and I’ve always had a soft spot for the intelligently crazy variety of character.

This was one of those films that they casted perfectly and it makes me really rather sad that there’s no sequel in the works. Apparently it just didn’t make enough money. I really think it should have done but I guess there might not have been enough of us who remembered how awesome the a-team was originally.

But, as I mentioned earlier I watched this film more for the Liam Neeson than anything else. He’s really taken to his newer action based roles and being slightly older this particular role just totally worked. His voice worked, his facial expressions worked and I could even believe the cigar smoking.

The whole thing just felt so naturally right it had me soothed into the possible reality of this film. I also loved hating our bad guy, especially when I realised it was the same actor as raoul in the film version of phantom of the opera. Something about his snide smile and little chuckle made it so easy to want to wipe the smarmy… well you know what I mean.

I really really want a sequel, with the same bad guy, if I get the choice.

Character Spotlight: Wahanui Huatare

There are actually two characters with this name in my historical adventure novel, Chains of Freedom, so we’ll talk about both of them.

They both belong to the same tribe in New Zealand which is where they get their surname. Huatare is the name of the tribe and would have been the second name of every tribe member, although to them it was less like a surname and more like a tribal identifier.

Wahanui Huatare Sr. Is Kaihaitu’s father and the father of Wahanui Huatare Jr. Sr is already dead before the beginning of the book and forms the backstory but that doesn’t make him less important. The consequences of this man’s actions, teachings and death are felt throughout this story.

He’s a patient man with a thirst for knowledge that he tries to pass onto both his children. He spends a lot of time with Kaihaitu when she’s younger trying to teach her the many responsibilities of his role as tribal leader. He also hopes that by teaching her to learn and think that she’ll carry the tribe through to success in the future. On top of this he spends time teaching his son as well, although this isn’t really mentioned in the book.

There’s plenty of love between Wahanui and his partner in life so his kids grow up in a loving atmosphere and this gives both children a confidence as adults. He obviously dotes on his children, acquiring the two capuchin monkeys for Kai as her coming of age present and making an effort to spend time with them despite how busy he’d have been.

And this brings me to Wahanui Jr. He’s much more like his father than Kai is but with her being the eldest and the only one fully trained when her father dies Kai is allowed to take over the leadership if the tribe. Through her mistakes and the things she learns her younger brother goes on to be a great leader. With her as an advocate of the peace that can exist between the English and Maori cultures.

This is one of those moments where I get to point out some of the research I did. Wahanui Jr is based upon a real person of the same name (pictured to the left), who led a great tribe of Maori and helped bring peace between the natives and the Red coat soldiers that flooded the land. He even sailed to England and spoke to Queen Victoria about the matter.

We don’t really see much of this character in the book as it’s his younger years but it does make it easier to get an idea of what happens next. It melds nicely into the history of the time, where more and more English settlers came and the Maori culture had to suddenly share their land.

Fracture: A Review

I was given a copy of this book by the author, D. D. Chant to review. It’s the first book in the Chronicles of Discord series.

I totally loved this book!

There were a few tiny niggles so I will start with those and get them out the way. Firstly there was the same omnipresent viewpoint in this book again which confused me a little again and felt a little too head hoppy for my liking but for the most part it was handled well and I only got a little confused as to who’s POV it was. I am definitely a fan of scene breaks and chapter breaks in between POV changes though, and I also found it was a little too descriptive in places, but it really is a minor niggle.

The characters were amazing. Their depth and little characteristics made it easy to get to know them and I felt my self tensing up when Astra did and feeling Kai’s desire to protect.

The plot was nicely fluid and although a tad on the predictable side didn’t have me feeling disappointed at all. I also completely loved how all the sayings of the old world were woven into the plot as well as all the references to what came before the current situation and wars. Those were all nicely drip fed and kept me wanting more.

I really hope the next book in this series comes out soon. This is by far my favourite book by this author so far.

Changes

I’ve been blogging for well over two years now and I’ve decided that I want to change things around a bit. Since the beginning I’ve been blogging once every three days and writing all sorts of blogs in a sort of revolving pattern.

From now on I’m going to try blogging twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. I’m beggining to get a little overwhelmed by the current blogging schedule so I’m going to see if cutting it a little bit and making it a bit more flexible in terms of topics is going to help. On Fridays I’ll post a review of some kind, either a book or film or something else and then on Tuesdays I will blog about whatever I want, from character spotlights to how-to’s to general thoughts on random topics.

This also means that I won’t be scheduling anyway near so far in advance. I’m just going to write them as I feel like it rather than having to try and write in set days. I’m hoping this will mean the blogs get better overall as I’m writing what I really want to and not what I have to, to meet a quota.

If this doesn’t work I will rethink everything again and we’ll try something else.

Unstoppable: A Review

I saw the trailor for this and noticed it had the actor who played Kirk in the rebooted Star Trek series and Denzel Washington and thought it might be worth watching.

As you can see from the picture here this is all about stopping a runaway train. This was actually based on a true story, although the film is made a little more dramatic in that the train has a few more of the highly flammable containers and the population of the place it’s predicted to come off at and explode is a lot more and also is inhabited by the partner of at least one of our two heroes.

Other than that, and one death, the film only rearranges the events of the film rather than making it completely crazy and hardly the truth, and for that I’ve actually really got to commend this film.

The film is fairly linnear and doesn’t have a huge amount of scope but I really did find it riveting. I think knowing it had been a true story helped though. I found it very oddly compelling to watch and the tension really kept me on the edge of my seat.

There was quite a lot of this sort of thing going on, with people trying to travel between all the different trains and parts. and some other hairy moments when they tried to do things like de-rail it. There was even a corporate boss type person you could love to hate.

Over all I’m quite glad I watched it. The acting wasn’t anything stellar but it was convincing enough that this was something I’m glad I’ve seen.

Location Spotlight: Catalpa

This is the name of Captain Alexander Hayes’ first ship and is loosely based on the ship, HMS Surprise in the series by Patrick O’Brian.

This is the floor plan for the HMS Surprise as put together by the lovely people here which I studied about six years ago to help me get a feel for the ship and where everything would be.

As you can see from the plans it’s triple masted and officially she was classified as a 6th rate ship of the line with 28 guns but in this version there’s actually room for 24 standard 32-pound cannonades and 8 18-pound cannonades, giving her four extra guns than normal. She housed a crew of 200+ and was a pretty nippy little ship.

While on board this ship, Marie ventured down into the main hold where Black Vane was held and spent a lot of her time in the Great Cabin, trying to avoid the ship’s Captain. She alludes to going to the lower deck and playing poker with some of the crew, something that would have been frowned upon had this been a ship of the line at the time, but thankfully Hayes was a privateer and the rules were a little different.

Although, I’ve based Catalpa on a real ship I’ve bent the history a little, obviously. Hayes bought Catalpa in a port in England and sailed her to the Caribbean himself, taking passangers who wanted to head over to the new colonies and any goods they desperately needed over there to ensure his crew were well paid and provisioned for.

Catalpa doesn’t actually feature much after the first third of the novel but that doesn’t make this gorgeous ship any less important. This was Hayes’ first and will always have a special place in the Captain’s heart.

The Promise: A Review

I was given a copy of this novel by the author in return for my honest opinion of it. It’s the first book in the Lady Quill Chronicles.

Let me start by saying I love the olde worlde sort of setting so I was fairly sure I’d enjoy this book and enjoy it I did. The characters were all varied and interesting and I adored Adele.

The premise for the books plot was interesting, although I felt it resolved a little too quickly and easily for my liking. All the characters seemed a little too quick to forgive but it was only a small niggle. The book has a pretty fast pace, not dwelling long on any one thing which may have lent itself to feeling too fast over some bits, but I felt the pacing was justified for the most part.

The book also seems to be written in a very omnipresent sort of viewpoint (as I believe this authors previous book was) and moved between the thoughts and feelings of all the main characters. Very occasionally this was confusing but I think it may have been because there were quite a few more characters in this book as I know I didn’t get confused in the previous book that had the same style.

I also noticed an improvement in the writing of the author and look forward to reading more, especially in this series.

Calling vs Career

This has been a pretty hot topic in my life recently and I’ve had a lot of people giving me advice on what to do in certain situations regarding writing over the last few months. After a while I realised that, whenever I got two opposing sets of recommendations for what to do and how to do it, it always came down to whether I approached writing as my calling or my career. I’ll start by defining what the two are.

Calling, according to my understanding of it, is what you feel you are meant to do with your life. In some ways, your reason for being on the earth. It’s the things you can do from your unique blend of skills and life experiences to make the world a better place. I believe my calling is directly related to being put on earth by God for something He’s decided he wants me to do. There are some things that are generic in that. The bible lists a bunch of things every follower of Jesus is meant to do, like ‘Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.’ But in essence, I also believe I’m meant to tell stories in one form or another for the foreseeable future.

Career is more of a financial thing. It’s the success and financial reward an occupation brings. Having a good career is when we reach the top of that paricular occupational ladder and earn a larger amount. It’s very much about the stability it brings to life and how other people measure us against each other. When you have a career you know what you’re doing between 9am and 5pm on week days (mostly anyway) and you know what to put on that occupation slot of all those official forms.

Personally I couldn’t care less about my career. I really mean that. If I make money, great, if not, well I still intend to keep writing and telling stories. Some of it will be easier to do if I earn money but that’s only because it takes money to make some of the stories and do some of the ideas in my head. That doesn’t mean I won’t be sensible and try and make money but it does mean when it comes to a decision where one option is about following my calling and the other about following my career, I will pick calling.

A great example of this is writing in more than one genre. You’ve probably noticed I do this. I’ve got two novels in historical adventure, a novel in sci-fi, which is the start of a series, and several fantasy shorts with a series in that genre on the way as well. That’s three genres. This is considered a bad move in terms of a career as a novelist/author.

Readers like to know what they are getting. The quickest way to build a loyal fan base and sell lots of books is to write in one genre and deliver one style of book again and again. Everyone who likes my work can then buy everything without having to worry that they might not like it, and I can ensure every new book sells better than the last (as long as I don’t royally screw something up).

Writing in more than one genre leaves fans unsure about each purchase and even a little confused sometimes. They need to check what genre it is before they buy and while they love one of my books they may only like elements of others. I know this happens because I had a conversation, only last Sunday with a fan. He loves fantasy and tried my sci-fi book because he liked the fantasy stuff. He didn’t like it as much and he won’t even touch my historical adventure novels. To him I’ve wasted my time writing those (he didn’t actually come out and say that last bit and I’m not sure he’d even go so far as to think it, but it’s essentially true).

But the problem is, a lot of my story ideas are inspired by some kind of revelation and often they only fit in the genres and scenarios they came to me in. If I choose to write in only one genre, I wouldn’t be writing two-thirds of the ideas that come about as a result of storytelling being my calling.

When I pick a new idea, the first a formost decision is what ‘feels’ like it needs to be written next. Which one is it the right time for, regardless of how it fits with what I’ve already got (sometimes I get a nudge one way or another and sometimes I don’t but I always check before deciding with any other method). For now, both my sci-fi and my fantasy feel like they need to be written. There’s lots of great ‘moments’ in those characters lives that keep bugging me to be told. So I imagine that for the next little while I’ll be alternating between those two series. But that doesn’t mean I won’t ever write another historical adventure. I’ve got some more ideas for them, just right now they aren’t bugging me to write them.

So I’m writing in more than one genre and I’ll continue to do so despite the fact that this decision is proving detrimental to my career, at least in the short term, because for me, telling stories is about so much more than how many I can sell and how much money I can make. It’s about telling the right story at the right time so it’s relevant to my readers, no matter how few.

A Good Day to Die Hard: A Review

I went to see this one at the cinema as part of this years massive run of films but forgot to review it until now. Yes that does actually say a lot about this film already.

Unfortunately it was rather forgettable. Let’s face it, none of the die hard films have been amazing (except for maybe the first and that was mostly Alan Rickman) so I wasn’t expecting this to be the best film of the year or anything like that, but it is probably the worst of the five.

For the most part the film featured these three – McClane, McClane Jr and Russian guy who seems to be politically marginalised and on trial for something he may, or may not, have done.

Now as usual with action films these days there were some comedic moments to break up the in your face action and I did laugh a fair bit. A few of the jokes fell flat and I was really really glad I had my friends there to laugh along with me at a few points, because the six of us really were the only people in a packed cinema even close to laughing, and a few times I think we were laughing when we weren’t meant to have been (I’ll come back to this). McClane’s few reminders about being on vacation were genuinly funny though and very well timed and said so I really don’t think it was Bruce Willis’ fault the comedy wasn’t so great.

I also would like to add how amused I am at the release date of this film. Being the very non-girly girl that I am I almost persuaded my fella to take me to see this the day it came out, just for giggles. Yeah, this is my kind of a good date with my guy!

The plot was, well odd. I kinda expected something a bit more modern, especially from the way the film started with the whole court trial, political intrigue stuff. I was expecting some modern info war on terrorism stuff so the Russian Nuclear threat stuff with the complete cold war feel kinda came out of nowhere like a clown in a karate film.

I also appreciated that there was plenty of action in this film. Lots and lots of explosions and shooting etc and some pretty spectacular stunts. Fairly typical ott die hard stuff really. The good guys got attacked a lot, had to do some pretty impressive, and painful looking, stuff to get out of trouble, yet always seemed to be able to get up and walk away afterwards with only a few scratches to show for it. Yeah, that kind of not quite believable action. I had suspended my sense of reality before going into the film (it’s a given with msot action films these days) but even with that I found it happened one too many times.

On top of that there was plenty of the stereotypical, cool guys walk slowly away from stuff exploding, just like this – see! They really did do this kind of thing a lot. Walk slowly away from crashed hellicopter, walk slowly away from scaffolding and rubbish shoot you’ve just fallen all the way through. Walk slowly away from building where you’ve just totally shot the place up!

Yes, this was some of what I meant by the laughter in the not meant to laugh in places. I laughed quite a few times when these unbelievable things happened but the bit that had me in stitches when I really wasn’t meant to be was this line ‘I’m talking terrorism, WMDs, nukes…’ Ummm, yeah, did no one tell McClane Jr that nukes were WMDs? I guess not, because he really did rattle this list off as if nukes were not WMDs, but something entirely unrelated. But I guess not, I guess those pesky terrorists are going to use those WMDs first and then when there’s nothing left they’re going to nuke us too!

All in all, an okay mindless action film, but just doesn’t have a great plot and probably one of the weakest action films that’s out this year.