The Mara Dyer series by Michelle Hodkin

It’s taken me several weeks to get to this, but I think I am finally ready. I am ready to tackle a review of the Mara Dyer series.

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Order of books:
– “The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer”
– “The Evolution of Mara Dyer”
– “The Retribution of Mara Dyer”

This book left me a complete wreck. It pulled you in and seriously messed with your head.

Meet Mara Dyer. A normal teen who undergoes a horrible trauma of being the only survivor of a building collapse. Her best friend, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s sister, all dead. Her family moves her to Florida, where she can start over and heal. But what Mara doesn’t know is that she has this really creepy ability to make things happen. Only thing is… it always involves death.

Meet Noah Shaw. The typical bad boy of the school. He likes girls… a lot. He messes with people’s head. But he is somewhat attracted to Mara Dyer. He’s brooding and kind of suicidal. He really wants to die… and he doesn’t really care how. He has a “super” power. Not going to say what kind of power, but it’s really awesome.

Noah and Shaw are both attracted to each other, but guess what? They aren’t meant to be together. They bring the destruction of the other person in their wake.

What I really thought was a pull factor for this book was the fact that it talked about how the main character is not always the good guy. You follow Mara around, but is she really the victim? Think about every protagonist in the history of fiction. Most main characters are the good guys. They’re fighting to prove themselves the innocent. But with this story, we don’t have a cookie cutter character. She is as messed up as they come. You want to believe that some institution is making her like this, that it’s all because of some crazy drug. But the real truth is that it’s all her. She is as wicked as they come… in a sense. I mean sure, she does have that “I want to be saved” kind of mentality, but for the most part, she becomes her power. She becomes a jaded person, and even her love for Noah can’t help the fact that she is a black plague in this world.

The things that I thought were kind of cliched and boring are very small. I don’t know about you, but I’m fed up with the line, “she let go of the breathe she didn’t know she was holding.” That is literature suicide. If you want your work to be taken seriously,  never use that term. It feels lazy and unimaginative. However, this did not altogether dissuade me from liking the book.

In another blog post I mentioned about use of the body. I didn’t feel as into the character as I would have liked to be. Meaning that I didn’t feel what was happening to the character. In film you can see the character physically get hurt, but in fiction, you have to paint the picture. I’m sure the character had some thoughts about being in her own skin. Take getting up for example. There are several sensations by that movement alone. Try writing down how it feels to walk out of bed and go about your daily lives. I’m sure you’re aware of your body as some point.

Overall I would give this series a 4.5/5. I enjoyed being pulled into the world of Mara Dyer. I hope everyone out there takes my recommendation and start reading it. I would actually love to see this put into a film.

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How to review works of art properly

What shouldn’t you say once reading a book or watching a movie?

There are things that you should never EVER say when you are critiquing a work of art. I wanted to discuss those here, so that maybe my readers who do not know how to review something correctly, can have some background on what not to say.

1. Never say “I could have done this better. I would have…” Maybe it sounds okay in your head, but seriously, never say this out loud. It will cause people to think of you as a pretentious douchebag. You really don’t want to do that, do you? Everyone can have their own interpretation of something. Just because you happen to work in the same field, that doesn’t give you the right to insult them because it’s not how you would have done it. So never start off a critique with the idea that you would have done it better, or you don’t like it just because it’s not the way you would have told it.

2. Do not ever make things personal. Meaning, do not attack the writer/filmmaker/painter by interpreting what they are going through and belittling their work of art because of their personal situation. Maybe that person is going through something that you could never fully understand. So you should never say that someone wrote this because of whatever is going on in their life at the moment. Unless the artist states it in an interview or even in their bio, do not try to analyse the artist without the research. Even if you know that person in real life, do not try to analyse their situation.

3. It isn’t going to make anyone like your reviews if you attack the artist. So if you are reviewing something, don’t say that the artist is less of a person or any kind of hateful comment. Your purpose is to only review the work. The artist is a separate entity altogether.

Those are the basic rules of reviewing, as told by me. I don’t make the rules, but these are some of the things that I have noticed when going to review something with friends.

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Finally got a selfie with Seb, the new guitarist for Swimmers. He’s awesome!!!!

Blind Progress: a writing piece

So over the years, I have noticed an improvement in my writing abilities. I could formulate sentences better than when I was younger. I think the thing that really stuck with me over the years is what I like to call “blind progress.” Mainly what this is, is the brain’s inability to notice when something you have done over and over again has changed. You’re incapable of even realizing how much you’ve changed until you’ve grown older. And yes, that is exactly what growing up feels like.

When I was younger I always feared that my writing sucked. And that no matter what I did, I would never sound as amazing as other writers. It has taken me my entire high school and college careers combined to realize that I have a voice. My voice might not sound as sophisticated as any of my classmates, but it’s mine. Of course no one can hear the way I sound in my head.

My writing skills have drastically improved from stating the obvious, to telling a story. I think what makes a bad storyteller and a good storyteller is the ability to not “state the obvious” but to paint a picture. Look around you for a second. Think about the placement of the furniture around you. Obviously the desk is in front of the window, with the chair placed right next to it. That is stating the obvious. But if you can paint a picture to the reader without stating the obvious, then you’ve gotten farther than I got my first four years of high school.

So if I was to describe the scene that I’m in right now I would write it like this:

Jillian sat on her bed, thinking of what she wanted to write next. Her bookcase staring her in the face, as if to remind her every morning that she was a reader. She would always be different. And that was okay. Her body seems relaxed in her position on the bed. Clothes, shoes and unopened letters litter the small open space on her floor. The room is small, but cozy, with enough space for a desk by the window and a TV by the door. Jillian spends many nights wondering if it matters whether or not her room is clean. She worries that maybe she’s isolated herself for way too long.

And that was an example of something that I would consider to be an improvement from how I used to write.

I started this blog post wanting to get across the idea that writing is an ever changing process. I may not have published anything, but I do know how to write. I would write something a little more in depth about this, but I feel like I’ve already gotten my point across with my other post. I will write a review for the Mara Dyer series next. =)

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Here’s a picture with my friend Erin from a few years ago.

Writing advice: sex, drama and change!

In the next few lines I will try to convey some more writerly advice for everyone. I would love to edit other people’s work, because as you know, you can learn a lot from other people’s successes and failures. The failure part is key, in my opinion. Because you see how it fails in someone else’s work and maybe it’ll show you what you failed to do in your own work. As much as I would hate to be a teacher, I would like to be a tutor. Someone to help further other writers’ work. I would love to join a writing community because I miss when we got to present our works to the class during my undergraduate studies. At the time I hated that aspect of the class. Sharing work. I was always so self conscious. I wanted to go first because I wanted to get it over with. I didn’t want to sit there and panic about sharing what I wrote. But it all helps in the end. I just looked at my Mibba profile (http://www.mibba.com/member/1995) and saw a few of the weird fan fictions I had written. Some were taken down but others were kept on. They all look like crap. But it’s what got me where I’m at now. I realized I liked writing a while ago. Mainly because of fan fiction. Here’s a snippet from one of my fan fictions.

****

I woke up tied down to a chair, in the dark, with duck tape over my mouth. I could hear the roar of an engine, meaning I was in a car, and I could see some distant colors. It was frightening to think that just a little while ago, I was having fun on my first date with Billie and now… this. I was afraid not of myself, but of Billie. What would these creatures do to him? I wasn’t scared for myself because I knew the fact that I was one of them would help me understand how to accomplish what I have to do.

Yes, I am one of them. Well, in a way. You see, I am half human and half vampire. It isn’t like Twilight, where we sparkle in the sunlight. No, we half vampire, half human, or Damphir, we are able to go out into the sun without burning or sparkling. Our human genes allow us to do this. Moroi, which are mortal vampires, meaning that they need blood to survive, are very sensitive to light and can have magical powers. Strigoi, the undead, which are your typical vampires, burn up in sunlight and are very powerful, like the Damphires, if not stronger. Yes, we Damphires are strong, so we can protect Moroi, since they are the ones who create Damphires. Without them, we would be goners.

So, I am a very special Damphir. I have the ability to see people’s auras. Creepy, yes. Damphires don’t normally have magical powers, so my case is special. I was just beginning to rip apart the ropes that tied me down, when someone turned on the light.

What I saw was a surprise. It was a Strigoi, which we Damphires are destined to kill off. But this wasn’t just any Strigoi, it was my ex-lover, Damien. I call him my ex, because a Strigoi was unnatural. You might say vampires are unnatural, but we, meaning Moroi and Damphires, are born. Strigoi are made. We both made a promise that if one of us turns Strigoi, we’d hunt the other down.

“Well well well, look what we have here.” Damien, in a voice that sounded similar to his old voice, said.

“What do you want Damien?”

“Ah, I want to make you like me, Strigoi. I can’t live without you.”

“We both know that is a lie.”

“Fine, if you really want to know why I’m doing this. I saw you with that human, what’s his name… oh yeah, Billie Joe Armstrong. I thought you would do something for me if I said I would kill him in an instant.”

“What is it?”

“I want you to help me get to Justin Bieber.”

Justin Bieber is the ruler of the Moroi world. If he dies, everyone will be mourning the death of him, so most Moroi will be at his funeral. So, Damien would want to take over the throne. Yes, hilarious, since he isn’t Moroi. But, there is a way. My friend Amy, a Moroi, has a different power than most Moroi. Most Moroi can control one of the four elements: fire, water, earth and air. Amy has a whole different element, Spirit. She can heal things, go inside someone’s mind and even bring people back from the dead. She can only go inside mine and vice versa because I’m shadow kissed, meaning that she raised me from the dead. Freaky, yes.

So, Damien is trying to become the ultimate ruler of our world, by trying to get Amy to turn him back into a Strigoi. Everyone loved Damien. He could sweet talk any girl into doing anything, just by breathing. Damien reminds me of Brad Pitt, but a bit paler. Moroi are supermodel skinny and the guys aren’t any exception. They are scrawny, not the muscle builder like The Rock.

“So, if I help you, you won’t hurt Billie?”

“No, I won’t. I swear no harm will befall him.”

“Okay, so I’ll do it. Can I go back home yet?”

“Sure, after this.” Then he leaned over and kissed me.

****

As you can see, my writing has improved. It’s funny though. This is towards the end of the fanfiction (it hasn’t been finished. It’s only about eight chapters long.) and there is so much wrong with it in the beginning. This was just the most hilarious part of what I wrote. The first paragraph of the story makes me really laugh out loud. “Billie Joe Armstrong is the coolest man ever in my life. I am the biggest fan ever. I mean, I will rewind the TV whenever I see his face. His face is the face of God and I’m uberly jealous of his wife, Adrienne. I love this man to death, if only I could meet him.” See? It’s seriously hilarious! Anyways, here is some writerly advice. Hope you like it!

When do you know when to stop writing and let it just sit?

Well, when I start writing, I normally have to sit down for an extended amount of time and just write. Sometimes I’ll write complete nonsense. I’ll write like I’m just talking to myself. You know those moments when you just say something to yourself, even if no one is around? Yeah, I’m not crazy at all. Anyways, when you talk to yourself you kind of tell yourself what to do. It reminds me of that one Doctor Who episode called “Listen” where the Doctor is all like, “what if there were people with you when you think you’re alone and when you’re talking to the air you’re actually talking to someone?” or something like that. I was so confused by that episode. You know, this episode:

Doesn’t he look dashing? Anyways, when I start to write sometimes I will talk to myself… through writing. I’ll literally say, “Jillian, you shouldn’t make him do this. It’s too crazy. I want this to happen…” and then somehow I’ll start talking about my day or whatever. When you’re alone a lot, this is what happens. You start kind of talking to yourself and shtuff. So when should you stop writing and wait to let it breathe? I normally stop when I have a feeling that the characters are going to do something really cliched. Or the characters bore me to death. Sometimes I get into this rut of sameness. Eventually my stories will turn out formulaic and I start thinking about another project. At that point, please, for God’s sake, leave your work be! It needs to breathe for a little bit. A good story is like fine wine. It needs time to sit and be made better.

So what should I write about? How do I come up with these ideas?

I think, at least for me, writing should come to you in different spurts. You get motivated to write, then you get motivated to do something else. We are always changing, always moving. Sometimes I find that I use time to create the best stories. As we get older, we start to see people differently. Are you over the age of 20? Well if you are, you know that feeling you get when you see teenagers? You can look at them at a distance and wonder how they can be so annoying. Some of them are so self centered and so arrogant. You have to wonder what will become of the future. Sometimes I like to see what would happen if they were put into the body of a 30 year old (like in that movie 13 going on 30)

One of my favorite movies. You can literally take anything you see in this world and make a story about it. But sometimes I fear that maybe there’s already so many stories about the subject I’m writing about. So go out into the world and try to find an interesting subject.

*Warning! Adult content  ahead!*

So I wanted to talk about a subject that I have encountered in my writing career. (Yes, I’m calling it a career.) Sex Scenes. I’ve written a few sex scenes in my life. They were all really corny and seriously need work. But I wanted to talk about sex scenes since I know some people do it wrong… hahaha. That’s what she said. XD. Anyways, there is a good way and a bad way to write them. I will say it now since it pertains to writing them. I am a virgin. I have no clue how it even feels to have sex. I can only imagine how it would feel. But I do know how it feels when you’re making out with someone. So normally I write about those feelings and just kind of … embellish.

The first thing you should know is that you shouldn’t just use “this happened and this happened.” You actually have to describe the scene.

Here’s a snippet from my short story, “Waiting for the Elevator.” :

We head down to the bar around the corner from our building. After three more drinks of beer and whiskey, words do not make sense to my drunk addled mind. I turn to Nick, wanting to tell him something about a unicorn and a wasp, when all of sudden, my lips attack his. I’m not sure where this is coming from. He eagerly returns the kiss while gripping onto my hips.

“Lets take a cab to my place,” he breathes in between kisses.

I don’t know what to do, so I go along with whatever he has in mind. In a blur, we’re in a cab headed to Nick’s place. Fervent kisses are placed all around my body and I am in heaven. His hands are around my waist, holding me to him but even then, it’s not enough. The cab ride takes five minutes and we can barely make it out of the cab in time. We stumble up the stairs of his apartment building while still clinging onto each other.

As soon as we, somehow, get inside of Nick’s apartment, Nick pushes me against the door. My stomach is in knots. I cannot get enough of this guy. Nick puts his hands under my ass to hoist me up. My arms go around his shoulders for support and we are moving around his apartment trying to find his bedroom. Kisses are placed haphazardly throughout my body. We finally manage to find his bedroom.

Nick closes the door behind us and then proceeds to throw me on the bed. He slowly climbs on top of me, as if to savor this moment. He kisses me deeply while taking off his button up shirt. He only breaks the kiss to take my shirt off. His hands grasp the hem of my shirt while slowly pulling the shirt up. He is driving me insane. I twist our bodies so that I am on top. I take off my shirt and run kisses up and down his body. I unclasp my bra and let the flimsy piece of clothing fall down. Nick takes his hands and rubs each boob. I start to suck on his neck while he works on my belt. Once the belt is off, Nick pulls my jeans down, revealing my blue lacy panties. Once that is off, I slowly undo his belt and pull his pants down.

Next thing I know, I wake up with light streaming through the blinds. I look down and Nick’s hands are around my waist. Oh crap. I slowly move his arms around me and tip toe out of the bed. I gather up my discarded clothes that were thrown around the room and tiptoe towards the door.

****

As you can see I decided to not include the actual sex part. But that is how you can write a sex scene and be a virgin. You kind of … imagine what it would be like. You’ve probably seen a ton of sex scenes in TV shows or movies. But when you’re writing about sex, please refrain from using the word “thing” and “pussy.” I think it’s so fake when you use those words.

Why am I even writing this blog post?

Well, mainly because I was inspired to try to give some writerly advice to other people. There are so many things that I’ve learned over the years. And it would be great to be able to edit other people’s work. I would like to write my own book one day, but editing other people’s work would work just as well. So if anyone wants me to read their manuscript or anything, I’m open.

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I found this photo on my computer… I laugh whenever I see it. Seriously. I look so tired.

Are you in a reading slump?

Ever feel like you are in a reading slump?

I know I do. What is a reading slump you may ask? Well, it’s this thing that happens when you get so lazy you don’t want to pick up a book, even though you would love to read. You have that huge TBR pile next to your bed, don’t you? Well even if you don’t, you have probably felt this way at least once in your life. You love to read, but you can’t pick up a book because you feel so friggin’ lazy.

So what can be done?

Most of the time I just let it be and wait till I feel motivated. But usually I was motivated because I didn’t want to read whatever we were supposed to be reading for class. Now that I’m out of school it’s hard to stay motivated. So what can you do if that does not work? Read at least a chapter a day. Even if it is super late, pick up that book you have been trying to read and … READ!! It may take you several tries to get the words to stick in your brain, but you’ll get it in the end.

So what do you do when you’re in a reading slump???

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Paying more attention to writing than singing

I’m terrible at keeping a momentum up for my writing. I find myself watching endless hours of mindless TV to pass the time. This does not help at all with the overwhelming sensation that I’ve somehow come to a stand still in my life. There are a bunch of possibilities in which my life will turn out great. And another infinite possibilities that it will all be a failure. So no matter which angle you look at it, there is an equal amount of failure and success. But do we know what a success is when we are staring at it in the face? I highly doubt it.

These past few weeks have been really hard for me. I’ve had to deal with the fact that I won’t have a musical to fall back on. I was always comforted by the fact that I was either rehearsing for a musical, or actually performing the musical. Now that it’s over, I have to sit back and think about what I really want in life.

So what do I want in life? To be honest, I’ve never really felt a huge want in my life. I have always just felt like, “oh that sounds fun. Lets try that.” And then when it’s done, I kind of go back to my indifferent mood. I know it’s possible to want a whole array of things, but what I want in this life is to want one thing and to stick with it. It’s been a hard decision and one I can only make for myself. But I want to pursue writing. I have all these ideas in my head that I want to write down and I really need to focus on that for a while. And maybe it won’t happen just yet, but at least I know I’ll be in the right direction.

Which is why I am going to say this. I am not doing any musicals or plays for a while. I need to be in an environment where people aren’t always stabbing people in the back and starting drama. I’ve worked with a bunch of actors and actresses over the past two years and while there have been some great people, there have also been some bad people who make me want to pull my hair out. While I may be a little out there and crazy, I am also a very introverted kind of person. I like my alone time.

I will tell you here and now. I am no actress. I have little confidence in myself and sometimes that is really crippling when it comes to finding jobs or even friends. Although I will tell you it hurts when someone tells you straight up that you are not good enough for a lead part. I totally called them an asshole to their face. One point for Jillian!  Anyways, my decision isn’t permanent, but for now I’m laying low in the performing scene. I will still be open to seeing people perform, but I won’t actively try to be a part of a musical.

Oh and guess what???? I’m trying to study abroad. I didn’t get to do it in high school or in college so I thought it would be a great time to do it.

It’s nearing Christmas time!!! I’m super excited! I love Christmas. I love the smell of Christmas. And the good cheer. What I want for Christmas is a DSLR camera so I can take better pictures of myself and other objects of interest. It also takes video so that will be a cool component of my present. I would also love to go to the Supernatural convention.

Anyways, I hope everyone enjoys their holidays and I hope you guys stay tune for more holiday posts.

rapunzel omg sexy sketch