Thursday, May 3, 2012

Where Have I been?

Right after I go on and on about my lofty expectations for this year in a long post, I disappear for over three months! Much of this was due to some financial snafus, namely that I was without cable/Internet until about a week ago. The toughest three months of my life, let me tell you! I have been busy, though, and I feel like my life is headed toward the right path for me, which is definitely a good thing.

So what's been going on with some of my New Year's plans? Well, I have been taking acting lessons for a few months now, and the more I do, the more I realize how much I long to get out of the business world and into more creative pursuits. I have also volunteered with a local theatre as a stagehand to get some "behind the scene" type experience as I train. Finally, I have started submitting my headshot to projects around the area, and I hope to become involved in a couple of productions soon to gain some real experience and have some fun!

The theatre I volunteer at is actually putting on a production in October that I long to be a part of, and the auditions are in about two weeks. I hope I can handle it! Fortunately, I will be attending an audition "boot camp" 3 days before my audition, so hopefully that will help me to get rid of some of my jitters and give my best performance. I will need to, since there are only 2 female roles in this particular play! I expect it to be competitive.

It's tough to be in a situation where I'm as old as I am and have absolutely no experience in acting. Not even a school play in high school or middle school. I am comfortable with being one of the first to make it after having no long-term background, though. I just hope I can convince other people of my passion. I'm definitely committed to this, even if it is something that is newer in my life. And it's not that I never wanted to pursue acting. I just never had the guts. I even lived in Hollywood for 2 years for pete's sake. I got pictures done and the whole thing, but I just couldn't bring myself to go through with auditioning back then. No confidence. That's something that age has given me. Sometimes if you want to do something you just have to go for it because you love it, and not even consider whether you might "make it" or not. I mean, of course the goal is to make it and reach some sort of status, but it is definitely a profession that you have to do because you love it. The pay off is inconsistent, questionable, and not guaranteed. It's not like many other straight-laced jobs where if you work long or hard enough, and have the proper skills, you will climb the ladder. Acting can be a crapshoot and it involves a lot of subjective opinions and luck. All you can do is prepare, train, increase your acting and other special skills and put yourself out there to work. My only wish is that I didn't have to keep this damn day job. :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Review of Fracture: Debut Novel from Megan Miranda

By the time Delaney Maxwell was pulled from a Maine lake’s icy waters by her best friend Decker Phillips, her heart has stopped beating. Her brain had stopped working. She was dead. But somehow Delaney survived – despite the brain scans that show irreparable damage. Everyone wants Delaney to be fine, but she knows she’s far from normal. Pulled by strange sensations she can’t control or explain, Delaney now finds herself drawn to the dying, and when she meets Troy Varga, a boy who recently emerged from a coma with the same abilities, she is relieved to share this strange new existence. Unsure if her altered brain is predicting death or causing it, Delaney must figure out if their gift is a miracle, a freak of nature – or something much more frightening…..

As soon as I read that Fracture was a debut novel from a Biology major that formerly worked in biotech, I knew I had to read it. I love the supernatural and the paranormal, but science definitely has a place in my heart and its inclusion in Fracture’s plot made it sound intriguing to me. Plus this was author Megan Miranda’s debut novel and I try to read debuts since I hope to become published one day myself.

Fracture begins almost immediately with the key plot point. Delaney Maxwell and Decker Phillips venture out onto the lake, against Delaney’s better judgment, to avoid taking the long way around to meet up with their friends. Delaney falls, the ice cracks, and she plunges in, trapped for eleven minutes before she is rescued. And oh yeah, during that eleven minutes, she dies. The next time she wakes up, it’s nearly a week later and the doctors can barely understand how she is even alive, let alone coherent. Her best friend, the trusty Decker, has been there at her bedside the whole time.

When Delaney goes home, she begins having these strange sensations within her brain that seem to become stronger when she is around someone who is close to death. She also comes across Troy Varga, a boy who has survived a similar traumatic accident with coma, and experiences these strange sensations too. Troy is a breath of fresh air at first, someone who can relate to what has happened to Delaney, especially as she discovers that her friends and family are not dealing with it so well. Troy is more than he seems at first, though, as Delaney quickly discovers. Ultimately, she wonders if she is just sensing these deaths or if she has become so wrong in the head that she is actually causing them.

I don’t want to give away too much of the story that hasn’t already been offered through other sources, but I would like to say that the best part of Fracture for me was its character development and emotional ride. I found the emotions Delaney’s friends, and especially her mother, were dealing with – emotions that were not always kind and supportive – to be quite believable. The lines that best summed up this point for me were, “He dragged me through the house, and I let him, because I wasn’t sure who I was most scared of at the moment. The stranger I was learning about too quickly, or the woman I’d known my entire life who was quickly becoming a stranger.” I also liked the Decker storyline, as I think it reminds us that sometimes you don’t realize what you have until it’s almost (or is) gone.

The only part that fell short for me was the actual plot. I would say that 90% of the books I read are some type of Urban Fantasy or have an otherwise Supernaturally-based plot, but I felt as though this one could have done without that paranormal twist. This would have been a five star story for me if it had just been a girl that came out of a traumatic accident alive, and was forced to deal with her changing relationships. The paranormal element cheapened that slightly, and also tried to wrap up too quickly. I think if it had been drawn out or if it had reached a more sensational climax, it would have worked. That said, I liked the ending as part of a non-paranormal story, and I thought it made sense.

Overall, I felt Fracture was an interesting and enjoyable read. I would give it four and a half stars based on its writing and character development alone. I look forward to reading more novels from Megan Miranda.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2012 Goals and Resolutions

First of all, Happy 2012!

I'm not necessarily the type to make resolutions each new year, but this year I figured I would join in on that tradition and strive to fulfill one that is important to me. Time.

I have spent many days and nights recently bored out of my mind, but at the same time I have avoided taking any actions to resolve it. For instance, instead of getting productive or experiencing what life has to offer, like creating a new piece of jewelry or art, or even going out by myself to see a movie at a local theatre if no one will go with me, I might shop online for hours, wasting my evenings, and getting more pissed with myself. Most of the time I don't even buy anything, so I think it's been more of a way for me to avoid facing whatever was holding me back from using my time more productively.

I've tried to consider what has actually stopping me from taking any actions, and even though I came up with a couple of excuses, none of them are truly legitimate. The only half way legitimate excuse is that I have been avoiding embracing life due to my fear and my own paralyzing self-consciousness. A good example of this might be that I see other people doing the things I want to be doing, and it's like I only recognize the end result - Alan Rabinowitz and his conservation efforts with wildcats, the amazing novel an author wrote or the beautiful piece of jewelry a person created, etc. And in my mind, I think to myself "I don't even know why I should start something because I'm never going to be able to match that kind of wonder or effort." Maybe my perfectionism comes in here too, "If it's not going to be awesome, I don't even want to make it."

And the sad part is that I know what advice I need to take. For example, no writer becomes a success over night. An author typically works for years, practicing, editing, reediting, and often writes multiple finished works before they even get published, if they even ever do. There is no such thing as an overnight success. Sure, people might have "born talent," but it's rare to see a prodigy. The majority of people have to hard work or develop their raw talent.

What I am getting at here is that I need to use my time more effectively, and slowly, but surely bring myself out of my shell. So my 2012 resolution is just that, to use my time more effectively, especially toward my ultimate goals. If I choose to watch a movie or go on a television marathon, I think that is okay if it's a conscious decision, as long as I'm not using it to distract me or to avoid something that's going on deep inside.

My general goal this year and beyond is to do exactly what I created this blog for, to start really experiencing what life has to offer. For instance, the Global Field Program I was accepted to last year, and will start this year, will see me headed to Belize in July. It will be my first time out of the country, unless you count Mexico (I don't only because I lived in southern California and it was too easy to drive right over the border!). Additionally, I want to really focus on learning the Russian language this year. It's something I have dabbled in in the past, but have not taken seriously enough up to this point to become fluent. I am also starting acting classes later this month, and plan to turn in some headshots next month to a casting agency to hopefully start getting extra work, at least. Finally, I want to start writing everyday, even if that means a post for this blog. I need to practice. If I am ever going to get this great novel idea I have in my head out, I'm going to have to really learn how to do it.

So there you have it. A simple, yet lofty resolution that may not be easy, but it's time for me to really get out there. Being a glorified billing clerk just isn't doing it for me.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011 Wrap-Up: The Worst

As promised, I have included what I felt was the worst of 2011 below.

Worst 2011 Movie: I wish Don't Be Afraid of the Dark was a 2011 movie because I recently watched it and it would make this category too easy! Keep in mind that there may be worse movies from 2011 that I have not seen, such as Twilight: Breaking Dawn, but from what I actually saw, I chose: Cowboys Vs. Aliens. I feel like the movie had the potential to be good, but it fell short in its delivery in one way or another. For instance, I loved the idea of a movie about aliens facing off with a different historical era, instead of the typical "let's blow up a big city" story line that many entail. Cowboys was so slow to build, and never really did get off the ground, though. Even the big action scenes were paltry. It's a shame because the cast, including Daniel Craig, Clancy Brown,and Harrison Ford should have made it a winner.

Honorable mentions: Red Riding Hood mainly due to the ending and an overall cliche plotline and Frightnight because it's another unnecessary remake! I hate them, and I often wonder when "Hollywood" is going to get it's own brain back! Sadly, I know the future of remakes is going to be even worse. The only saving grace in the movie was David Tennant as Peter Vincent, although I didn't think Colin Farrell made a bad looking vamp. It really wasn't the acting so much that ruined it for me, as it did provide a few laughs.

Most Disappointing 2011 Book: I don't really know what book to put here. I don't feel like I ready any books that were blatantly bad. I did have a couple of disappointments, however, so maybe I can just list one of those? For example, I love Lauren Kate's Fallen series, but I originally expected it to be a trilogy, and after reading book 3, Passion, I almost feel as though it could have worked just as well as one. It's not that the book was bad; it was written as well as the rest of the series, and definitely had its moments. I did feel as though much of the book was unnecessary, however, and I was kind of disappointed that Cam was missing from 95% of the book, as I am Team Cam, and not Team Daniel. :) I felt somewhat cheated that Luce and Cam didn't have more moments in Passion, as the first two books seemed to set the story line up as a potential love triangle situation. Hopefully Rapture will resolve this? Passion mainly dealt with Luce's feeling's about her relationship with fallen angel, Daniel. She was looking for proof that the love between them is real, and wanted to experience the past memories between them for herself.. I can certainly understand her need for proof of their past history, but I didn't think we needed to re-live every single lifetime they shared. By the end of the book, it almost felt like something a writer would write for themselves in order to get to know their characters better. I feel like it would have worked better if the lifetimes had been consolidated into Book 2, Torment, and the ultimate Book 4, Rapture.

Most Disappointing 2011 Television Show: Again here, I try not to spend too much time on shows I think I will dislike, but I have been disappointed with Grimm. It's one of those shows I really want to like, but I have watched the first few episodes and have not found myself able to get into it on a regular basis. It probably doesn't help that network shows go on hiatus so often now that they sometimes show you four episodes, and then take a month long break. Some shows take some time to get interesting NBC! If you are unfamiliar, Grimm follows detective, Nick, who finds out he is the last in a line of supernatural hunters known as the Grimm. It is based on Grimm's Fairy Tales, and also has Russell Hornsby as Nick's partner, who was great in Playmakers. I might keep trying if it doesn't get cancelled, so we shall see.

Worst 2011 Concert: None! I only saw two and both were great :)

Worst 2011 Album: As I mentioned on my last post, I didn't buy any albums last year, so I have been sorely behind in the music loop. Lady Gaga put one out last year, though, so I'm going to have to go with hers: Born This Way. I'm sorry if I just don't get the hype. I find her to be the most overrated personality in entertainment, yet people keep eating it up. Her music sounds like a lot of recycled former entertainment queen's, including Madonna or Cher, and she just tries her best to be "shocking." I appreciate that people have differing taste in music and entertainment, but this one is just not for me.

Worst 2011 Events (World): I can think of two events right off that definitely fall here: Japan's 9.0 earthquake in March that took over 15,000 lives and the horrible plane crash in Russia in September that killed the majority of the Lokomotiv KHL hockey team, including former NHLers Pavel Demetra and Ruslan Salei. The NHL had a tough year in general, with additional tragedies including the suicide of Wade Belak and the accidental overdose death of tough guy, Derek "Boogeyman" Boogaard. Here is a great retrospective article from a friend of Belak's regarding his depression and suicide: Also, another interesting article from the New York Times regarding Boogaard's brain: There were other deaths too, of course, including Steve Jobs, baseball great, Harmon Killebrew, Andy Whitfield (Spartacus: Blood and Sand, another great new show), and Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes.

Worst 2011 Events (Personal): Personally, a long time family friend, Don Alden, died suddenly a few months back. It wasn't exactly unexpected, as he was 85 years old, and had heart issues in the past, including an actual heart attack. He was a grumpy old man sometimes, but he is still missed :)

I'm sure I'm missing something horrible and important, just as I am sure I missed something wonderful yesterday, but those were the biggest memories I could personally pull up, and I appreciate you taking the time to visit them with me. I will be back tomorrow with my 2012 plans and resolutions!

Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 Wrap-Up Favorites

I haven't written in a while, but I wanted do a post of 2011 favorites before I completely embrace 2012. I didn't get to see as many movies, read as many books, or go to as many concerts or events as I would have liked to, but the following were my favorites based on each:

Favorite 2011 Movie: Super 8 - What a magnificent, Family Guy worthy train wreck! I kept waiting for it to end, but it kept on delivering to the point of hilarity. The kids and their friendships were also fun, and made the movie worth watching.

There were other movies I enjoyed, so some honorable mentions go to Final Destination 5 (I like how they tied it to the 1st movie, which in my opinion was really the only one worth watching), and Black Death, as Sean Bean is always great to watch, and the movie was an interesting look into how people react to the unknown. Moneyball was pretty decent too, and I liked how Source Code looked outside the box of reality and left you with hope.

Favorite 2011 Book: Warped by Maurissa Guibord - Most of the books I have read in the past couple of years have been young adult novels because I hope to write within this genre and also because I find them just plain fun! What I liked most about Warped, though, is that it was different than the typical supernatural plots involving vampires, werewolves, and fallen angels. Not that I don't enjoy those elements, but it's still a nice vacation from it to read something new. Warped was a debut novel and beautifully written. It's about a girl who finds an old tapestry amongst some old books purchased by her father for his store. The tapestry is of a magnificent unicorn, but not your typical happy-go-lucky garden variety. When the girl, Tessa, accidentally pulls at a thread from the tapestry, a story unfolds involving secrets, the past, and the Norns (sisters of fate). I don't want to give too much away in case you haven't read it, but I do hope to see a sequel at some time in the future, as the book seemed to leave things open for one. I'd also like to mention that it stood on its own, however.

Honorable mentions: Cassandra Clare released book two of the Infernal Devices trilogy, Clockwork Prince, right at the end of the year, and I haven't been disappointed. Her Mortal Instruments trilogy is one of my favorite young adult series', and I like how the Infernal Devices series takes a travel back to the past so we can discover shadowhunters of another era. Forget Will, though; I'm on Team Jem. I find it funny that my two favorite books from this past year both have title characters named Tessa, though! Clarity from Kim Harrington was another book with paranormal elements outside the norm, and I really enjoyed the mystery. Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs was unique as well, although I felt the story could have been more fleshed out toward the end. It wrapped up a little too quickly for me. Finally, A Touch Mortal from Leah Clifford is another series I enjoyed about fallen angels, but it also introduced something new to me in Siders. I hope for good things from this series in the future.

Favorite 2011 Television Show: This one is a tough one, so I'd like to just mention my top five. The Killing on AMC is a new detective type show with great side plots including a political race, the relationship of one of the main characters with her son, and overall unsavory or secretive actions. They did a good job in the first season of making everyone look guilty at some point of murdering the 17 year old girl the show is based on. Game of Thrones (with Sean Bean) on HBO is an excellent fictional, medieval drama about Noble familes fighting for control of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. It's brutal, and I think it does a good job of portraying how things may have been in that type of environment in our history. American Horror Story on FX is a wacky, crazy story about a house purchased by a family and their daughter, and the ghosts that inhabit it. I'm disappointed that the 2nd season will see a new house and family, but I guess with how things ended it kind of makes sense. Falling Skies from TNT was a good dystopian, alien invasion show, and I was intrigued with its first season. Finally, The Secret Circle is a fun new young adult supernatural drama about 6 young witches that form a circle, and discover the mistakes of their parents in the process.

Honorable mentions: I also really enjoyed Ringer with Sarah Michelle Geller, A Gifted Man, and Once Upon A Time, but I have a feeling these will be cancelled. I haven't had a chance to see Hell on Wheels or Being Human (US edition) yet, but I want to.

Favorite 2011 Concert: Rammstein in Chicago in May. This was my first time seeing them, as my boyfriend is a huge fan and I never was so much in the past when they originally showed up in the US. I have to say I was blown away, though, and enjoyed myself immensely. The Song Engel was amazing, as their singer, Till, puts on a huge pair of angel wings and fires them up throughout the song. It's quite the sight. It was also fun to converse with all the other fans and their memories of the band, as this was Rammstein's first visit to the area in many years.

Honorable mention: Pat Benatar at the Taste of Blue Ash, here in Cincinnati in August. That lady can still rock it!

I don't really have a favorite album because I don't remember the last time I bought one. I typically listen to music of Sirius radio in my car, and also a lot of existing stuff that I have grown to love. I have to admit that I haven't really heard anything I like enough recently to live without. So sad :(

World-wise, it doesn't seem like a whole lot of good things happened this year, especially with everyone continuing to be so concerned with the economy and all of the political ball-busting going on! I guess I would say Osama Bin Laden getting erased couldn't be considered a bad thing, and I also feel like it's good for countries with overbearing leaders like Egypt and Libya to finally rise up and take a stand. It can be hard to speak out when you have been oppressed for so long and have to worry about your life or death, and not just if you are going to be able to pay your next car or credit card payment, like here in the US. I realize some people here in the US may be worse off than that, but I feel I can safely say that the majority of us can at least state what's on our minds without fear of our lives, and I would like to be thankful for that.

Finally, my favorite moments of 2011 personally were being accepted to the Global Field Program offered by Miami University of Ohio and the Cincinnati Zoo for my Master's of Zoology (I actually start it this year, however, as I had to defer it due to finances), finally getting my own car again (and it's shiny and new!), meeting Robert Englund, Doug Bradley, and Malcolm McDowell at Flashback Weekend in Chicago in August, plus spending time on the Zombie Army bus to party, and meeting Penn Jillette at Joseph Beth Booksellers in September! I am also excited to have rediscovered some of my creative roots. I became involved with papercrafting and also with making jewelry again. I will show some of my results as I become more confident with my output!

Tomorrow I will be back with my worsts of 2011. Wednesday I will follow with my 2012 resolutions and hopes! Thanks for reading :)