Category Archives: Culture

Thoughts on Plots: Big Little Lies

I heard about Big Little Lies the same way that everyone else did. The trailer dropped and I said “Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, and Zoe Kravitz all play moms of the same age kids?”

I set up my DVR to record it immediately and when it popped up, I watched the pilot in shock and awe. But as many of us writers do, I headed out to the store and read the whole book before the second episode came out. (I did the same thing with Outlander many years ago. A pilot is just like a reeeaaaalllly long book trailer to me, I swear.)

Big Little Lies is totally not in my genre, but the brilliance of it is that it’s so intriguing that I barely noticed. I couldn’t put it down! I had to know what happened to Jane, if Ziggy was innocent, and who died. From my own school days, I remember all the parent drama that used to fly. So the idea that it could end in murder? Exciting.

I continued to watch the series after reading the book (although I almost stopped after a few over-the-top HBO scenes). In the end, I’m glad I did. It was a well done show! Well acted and well written, but I always have some complaints when they turn a book into a show.

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What the series got right:

  1. The overarching eerie mystery of who is hurting Amabella. They struck the tone well and made Ziggy seem sweet, but a little off, so that we do question him.
  2. The casting was perfect. There’s not a single actor I would change. Reese Witherspoon is perfect as Madeline and their choices for the kids were excellent too.
  3. Laura Dern as Renata deserves her own line here. Renata is an off putting, powerful, in-your-face, drama mama. And Laura Dern plays the weariness of her so well. She’s overworked, exhausted, and clear concerned that she’s not a good enough mom. I’ve seen that in so many real moms and I loved seeing it so accurately portrayed on screen.

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What I’m sad they changed:

  1. Why the hell did they have to make Madeline have an affair? It just seems over the top. I get that they needed to stretch one book into a whole mini-series, but seriously? Her husband was one of my favorite characters in the book and I enjoyed their dynamic. Madeline steamrollered him constantly, but he loved her anyway.
  2. No back story for Bonnie! I miss getting to know a little bit about why she did what she did, but I also appreciated how they really highlighted the way Madeline was willing to go to bat for her.
  3. The final sequence left out the husbands! I really liked the fact that it was husbands and wives together, facing down their demons and covering for each other. I really missed that in the show! I think they were going for a girl power moment, but it felt misplaced to me. This book is all about marriage and relationships, after all.

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What I liked that they added:

  1. Those opening credits were awesome. I love the idea of the shots from the backseat of the car- how the kids see their moms! So brilliant. And it set the tone so well for the show.
  2. Yoga class. This was a small scene, but I got such a kick out of seeing a bunch of the feuding parents stuck in yoga class together.
  3. The expanded drama of Amabella’s birthday party. I liked the twist of the moms judging Bonnie for being too sexy.

 

For anyone who just watched the show: read the book! It’s even better!

XOXO

************

Cameryn

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50 Books Challenge: 2016

I won the 50 Books Challenge in 2016! It’s been a few months, but I thought I’d share all the awesome books I read in case anyone is looking for some suggestions! They’re mostly YA, of course. What did you expect from a YA writer?

If you’re hoping to complete the 50 Books Challenge for 2017, then let me give you a tip: I kept track of all the books I read in my Passion Planner. There’s a lovely blank section in the back, so I printed out a blank list from 1-50 and filled in all my books as I went. I also marked up my monthly calendars with how many books I needed to have read when.

Here’s the complete list of books I read, with my recommendations at the bottom!

  1. Facing Your Giants – Max Lucado
  2. Wandering Star – Romina Russell
  3. The Vintage Teacup Club – V. Greene
  4. In the Eye of the Storm- Max Lucado
  5. Dreamstrider – Lindsay Smith
  6. The Darkest Minds – A. Bracken
  7. Glass Sword – v. Aveyard
  8. Cinder – M. Meyer
  9. Lady Midnight – Cassandra Clare
  10. The Great Hunt – W. Higgins
  11. Scarlet – M. Meyer
  12. Cress- M. Meyer
  13. Winter – M. Meyer
  14. Burning Glass – Kathryn Purdie
  15. Sleeping with Bread – The Linn Family
  16. Seven Black Diamonds – Melissa Mar
  17. Daughter of Dusk – Livia Blackburne
  18. Snow like Ashes – Sara Raasch
  19. A Court of Thorns and Rosese – S. J. Maas (the one re-read on my list!)
  20. The Heir – Kiera Cass
  21. Graceling – Kristin Cashore
  22. Flawed – Cecelia Ahern
  23. Beyond the Red – Ava Jae
  24. A Court of Mist and Fury – S. J. Maas
  25. The Crown – Kiera Cass
  26. The Star-Touched Queen – R. Chokshi
  27. Falling Kingdoms – M. Rhodes
  28. Rebel Spring – M. Rhodes
  29. Gathering Darkness – M. Rhodes
  30. Frozen Tides – M. Rhodes
  31. The Iron King – J. Kagawa
  32. Beautiful Creatures – K. Garcia and M. Stohl
  33. My Lady Jane – Hand, Ashton and Meadows
  34. Ice like Fire – Sara Raasch
  35. The Crown’s Game – E. Skye
  36. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – J.K. Rowling
  37. The Keeper of the Mist – R. Neumeier
  38. Shadow and Bone – L. Bardugo
  39. Ruin and Rising – L. Bardugo
  40. Siege and Storm – L. Bardugo
  41. A Gentle Thunder – Max Lucado
  42. Empire of Storms – S. J. Maas
  43. Three Dark Crowns – K. Blake
  44. Girls with Swords – L. Bevere
  45. The Black Key – Amy Ewing
  46. Supernatural Ways of Royalty by K. Vallaton
  47. Walking in this World – J. Cameron
  48. The Shadow Queen – C.J. Redwine
  49. Settle for More – Megyn Kelly
  50. Crystal Storm – M. Rhodes
  51.  BONUS- 365 Day Devotional – Max Lucado

Recommendations:

  1. A Court of Mist and Fury– Sarah J Maas didn’t disappoint with her follow up to ACOTAR! This one turns up the heat with some super steamy love scenes, but as always with Miss Maas, she tells a killer story to go with it. As Feyre struggles to overcome her PTSD, her bargain with Rhys kicks into full gear, but she soon starts to lose her love for the Spring Court and considers a different future!
  2. Lady Midnight– Cassandra Clare does it again! She always tells the best stories, with amazing characters, killer action, and forbidden romances. With the parabatai bond causing Emma and Julian to experience some strange reactions to their budding romance, Emma pulls away, but there’s a twist! The book left me on a cliff hanger and I’m dying for the next one.
  3. The Lunar Chronicles– I know, I know. I was behind on this one! I resisted the lure of Cinder the Cyborg for some time, but then gulped the entire series down in a week! So good. I love the light, fun writing style- even while covering some heavy topics. Approachable and enjoyable!
  4. The Falling Kingdoms series– A really fun fantasy series with lots of romance and drama to keep you turning the page! There are fascinating character dynamics that change throughout the series. I appreciate the idea that Cleo has more than one great love throughout the series. Because don’t most of us have a few different loves throughout our lives?

Happy Reading!!!

***********

Cameryn

The 8 Best (Non-Sparkly) Vampires

Vampires have gotten a seriously bad rap lately. When Twilight became a tween sensation, it almost turned the entire supernatural genre into an extension of the romance genre. Tsk, tsk. Bad Twilight. Let’s remember all of those fantastic vampires that kick ass and do something other than pine for Bella!

angel 1. Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping…waiting…and though unwanted…unbidden…it will stir…open its jaws, and howl. It speaks to us…guides us. Passion rules us all. And we obey.”

Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and later his own spinoff) gets the Number 1 spot because of David Boreanaz’s major skills at being both psychotically evil and a wonderful, brooding boyfriend. Both were insanely convincing! From helping Buffy and saving her friends, to tormenting Buffy to the edge of insanity, Angel does it all and makes it look good.

simonlewis 2. Simon Lewis, The Mortal Instruments: “Well, when a mommy vampire and a daddy vampire love each other very much…”

Simon from The Mortal Instruments book series (and the one movie) earns his spot on the list by being the Daylighter. (Sorry Vampire Diaries, Simon can walk in the sun without a ring.) He gives up his immortality and his memories to save his friends, and he always injects some much needed humor into the group. Throughout the series, he’s a human, a vampire, a ladykiller, and eventually, a shadowhunter. Also, if Isabelle Lightwood wants to date him, how can he not make the top of the list? (The new Shadowhunters tv show will begin airing on ABC Family in 2016!)

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3. Caroline Forbes, The Vampire Diaries: “Everyone needs to stop kissing me!”

Caroline starts out as a prissy, uptight cheerleader who gets in the way and acts as a compelled toy for Damon. Just a little way into The Vampire Diaries‘ long run, Caroline somehow becomes a vampire badass. She’s smart, funny, strong-willed and an integral member of the team.

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4. Drusilla, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “I can see [the stars]. But I’ve named them all the same name, and there’s terrible confusion.”

Who doesn’t miss this insane, doll-carrying, slightly psychic vamp from the early years of Buffy? Spike and Dru were the perfect bad guys: psychotic murderers and crazy in love. But Drusilla’s unique abilities to have no idea what’s going on right in front of her, but still be a lethal threat, makes her rank above Spike.

The Vampire Diaries Pictured: Ian Somerhalder as Damon Photo Credit: Art Streiber / The CW © 2010 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

5. Damon Salvatore, The Vampire Diaries: “I do believe in killing the messenger. Know why? It sends a message.”

The Vampire Diaries‘ Damon has an excellent character arc showing his transition from a chaos-loving, revenge-obsessed torturer to a semi-productive member of society. He’s a veritable seven layer dip of emotions, regularly murdering people in fits of rage. However, he prioritizes his family and friends and doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty to save them.

minaharker6. Mina Harker, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: “You’re sweet… and you’re young. Neither are traits that I hold in high regard.”

From the very first vampire story, Mina Harker is the lead female character of the original Dracula novel. Harker shows up in a lot of vampire stories, but I am a particularly big fan of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Harker is the only woman welcomed into the Gentlemen’s league. Even though many don’t want her there, she saves the day repeatedly.

ca. 1998 --- Actor James Marsters --- Image by © Stephen Danelian/CORBIS OUTLINE

7. Spike, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “Love isn’t brains, children, it’s blood. Blood screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love’s bitch, but at least I’m man enough to admit it.”

Oh, Spike. Who can say no to that face? Even with the bleached ’90s Buffy hair. The original ‘bad boy gone good’ vampire tale (Sorry Damon), Spike is only low on the list because compared to Angel and Drusilla (both from Buffy as well), Spike is the less unique character. However, Spike avoided being a one-trick pony with his impressive transition throughout the series. Thank you Joss Whedon for making it feel believable that the evil baddie from Season 2 could somehow become a love interest only three years later.

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8. Selene, Underworld: Tanis: You don’t scare me, Selene. Selene: Well, we’ll have to work on that.

Selene from Underworld is a vampire Death Dealer, working for her vampire clan as an assassin. She is fighting in the war between vampires and lycans and wants to eliminate the lycan race. Ice cold with deadly skills, Selene doesn’t show much of herself to anyone until Michael Corvin comes along, a human. Suddenly, her priorities change. Selene is killer to watch on screen as she pulls off crazy stunts to save Michael.

Obsessions: A History

I’m so obsessed with Reign, the Mary Queen of Scots drama on the CW. Like SOOOOOO unhealthily obsessed. I love it. I can’t get enough. I just recently discovered it, and I DEVOURED both seasons. Now I have to wait 3 months until Season 3! I can’t stand it. But it got me thinking about some of the strange, all-consuming obsessions that I’ve had in my life. Here they are:

1. Green Day

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This was a die-hard obsession of my 8th and 9th grade years. I wore WAY too much eye makeup and black nail polish. Listening to such angry music all the time made me kind of hate my (very good) life! I figured that out eventually, but I still nurse a little crush on Billy Joe Armstrong.

2. Veganism

My junior year of high school through my freshman year of college, I was obsessed with all things vegan. I read a massive number of books and got really into cooking elaborate vegan recipes. I stayed vegan until my senior year of college, when I studied abroad in Italy, and was left with no choice but to consume mass amounts of gelato.

3. Avatar: The Last Airbender/Legend of Korra

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BEST SHOW EVER! I don’t know if this obsession really ever died, but the first time I saw  it, I skipped class to finish the final season with my roommate! We could not turn it off and ended up attempting to beatbox the end credits after each episode.

4. Greek Mythology

In 6th grade, I was introduced to the world of Greek mythology and I immediately fell in love with the archetype characters. I quickly began constructing my own stories using the gods and goddesses as characters! This obsession faded into obscurity for a while, but last year when I read Goddesses in Everywoman, the obsession was unleashed again! Now, I find myself thinking “she’s such an Athena” on a regular basis.

5. Harry Potter

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Who wasn’t obsessed with Harry Potter at some point? But for me, this is a lifelong obsession that continues on. I am a 23-year-old woman who goes on Pottermore. I have -yikes- 4 pieces of Harry Potter art hanging in my apartment. (In my defense, though, I have several gallery walls worth of art.) I also love listening to the Harry Potter audio books when I’m driving between San Francisco and Los Angeles alone. The 5 hours fly by. That’s only like 1/3 of Goblet of Fire!

6. Red Hair

When I was little, I had a red-headed Barbie named Courtney. And the obsession was born. Later, Satine from Moulin Rouge fed my love of red hair.  Needless to say, I have been a red-head since my Dad gave me permission in high school to die my hair.

7. Buffy

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I resisted Buffy for a long time. I’ve devoured every other Joss Whedon show, but I was nervous about Buffy’s cheesy ’90s special effects. Boy, did I get over that fast! The first time I watched Buffy, I would get off of work and calculate exactly how many episodes I had time to watch before I had to go to bed. It made me want to start wearing cross necklaces, and I finally understood the strong and silent type. Hello, Angel!

Those are my craziest obsessions. What have your greatest obsessions been?

Thoughts on Plots: Reign

In the effort of full disclosure, I will say that I love Reign. It’s my first ever CW show, but I love the acting, the story, the wardrobe, and the semi-historical nature of the show. Not to mention: some serious badass girl power. Mary Queen of Scots (Adelaide Kane) may be the young queen of a troubled country, but she is a powerhouse and will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Even though she reigns at a time when women have almost no freedom, she still makes her actions count and uses her power for all it’s worth. But I’ll admit, Reign has a few flaws. It features some pretty ludicrous and unhistorical plot twists and relies heavily on romantic drama. So here’s the best, the worst and the essential. Then you can decide whether you want to binge-watch in time for Season 3!

Here are the predominant aspects of the CW’s historical drama, Reign: 

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                                                              Killer chemistry between Kane and Regbo

The Romance: Oh, the romance. The show starts Season 1 with Mary moving to French Court to get to know her fiancé, the dauphin of France, Francis (Toby Regbo). He immediately pushes her away, insisting that he doesn’t know whether they will actually be married. Yet, the attraction between the two of them is obvious and they eventually admit their feelings. Unfortunately, romance is never that easy for royals. Everyone from the King to Scottish rebels seem to get in the way. There is great chemistry between Kane and Regbo, even if the Will They/Won’t They becomes a bit excessive. For the supporting characters, the exciting romance between Lady-in-Waiting Greer (Celina Sinden) and kitchen boy Leith (Jonathan Keltz) is one for the ages. And a surprising romance between Narcisse (Craig Parker) and Lola (Anna Popplewell) involves some unexpected games- including one where Lola tricks Narcisse into watching a maid bathe from a balcony.

Reign -- Image: RE01_KEYGroup1 -- Pictured (L-R): Toby Regbo as Prince Francis, Adelaide Kane as Mary, Queen of Scots, and Torrance Coombs as Bash – Photo: Mathieu Young/The CW -- © 2013 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Magic: What separates this show from actual historical events (besides some of the high drama), is the slight hint of fantasy. There are minute magical elements to the show that keep viewers guessing if they’re just superstitions or if they’re actually happening. The show starts off with prophecies made by the Court Seer Nostradamus, but they also face Pagan Rituals, a cannibal, a woman who can bring back the dead, and a castle ghost. It’s a lot of fun and adds some much needed romance-free intrigue!

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The Friendships: The show has several prominent friendships that play important roles: the relationship between Mary and her ladies (Lola, Greer and Kenna), and the relationship between Francis and Bash (half brothers). Mary’s relationship with her ladies is one of mutual support through any failure. From Lola’s unplanned pregnancy to Kenna becoming the King’s mistress, Mary is frank with her opinions but never stops supporting her friends. Francis and Bash’s relationship is a bit all over the place. They hate each other, they love each other, but they are always brothers and would take a knife to the chest for each other.

If you’re undecided about whether or not to tune in, here are the best and worst aspects of the show: 

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Greer’s tough, but savvy, decisions show her strength as a character and role model.

Highlights:

1. Believable Bad Guys 

One of my favorite things about the show is that the bad guys are very believable. They all have reasons behind their actions. Firstly, Catherine (a sometimes good, sometimes baddie) did all of her worst deeds for love and protection of her children. She would go to any length for them. Conde became a bad guy because he was abandoned by Mary and pushed into a corner by his brother, leaving him no alternative but to follow through with the only people offering him support.

2. Greer

The only non-noble in Mary’s crew, Greer is under a lot of stress to marry up. After meeting a gorgeous, funny, and smart kitchen boy, Greer starts sneaking around to see him without ruining her reputation. A season later, for reasons I won’t give away, Greer loses her money and standing at the castle. She is forced out and carves out a life for herself as a Madame. She experiences the first slice of power and freedom that she has ever had. When the love of her life proposes, she rejects him, because she would have to give up her lucrative business. Celina Sinden did some fantastic acting throughout both seasons, but her character is given so much more to work with in Season 2!

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                                                                      Ridiculously good looking bad guys.

Lowlights:

1. Unrealistic Drama

Even though I love the show, I’ll give that some of the drama is pretty unrealistic. Lola’s one night stand with Francis, with no reason why she would want to do that, and Bash’s immediate ‘will die for you’ love for Mary, without any lead up are the two most predominant examples. However, Mary’s reaction and decision to wed Bash after she finds out about Nostradamus’s prophecy is a bit hard to swallow. And lastly, Catherine’s romantic interest in Narcisse is unbelievable, considering he has hooked up with her daughter AND her grandson’s mother.

2. Too Many Attractive People

Everyone is gorgeous. Even the bad guys! Narcisse, Conde and Catherine, all featured bad guys from both seasons, are ridiculously attractive. Get a look at this face. It was almost enough to make me root for Narcisse sometimes! It wouldn’t kill the show to throw in some normal looking people once in a while, just to shake things up!

3. Not historically accurate.

The most common complaint that I hear about this show is that it isn’t historically accurate. No, the dresses that they wear aren’t period appropriate. Yes, they made a lot of changes to the history. And finally, Bash, King Henry’s bastard son, is a made-up character who plays a major role in the show. (He is credited third after Mary and Catherine.)

After reading my lengthy breakdown, what do you think? Will you give Reign a shot?

50 Books in 2015 – Part 1 of 3

I decided at the end of February that I wanted to participate in the 50 Books challenge, which simply means that in 2015, I will read 50 books. With April over, I thought I would share what I’ve accomplished in the first third of the year! It’s been a rough one, but I’ve still managed 17 books. So here’s what I’ve done so far.

January

1. Heir of Fire

2. Slayers

3. Slayers: Friends and Traitors (Book 2)

4. Trial by Fire

5. The Jewel

February

6. The Red Queen

(Rough month for me, I was really off my reading game!)

March

7. Inferno

8. Quiet

9. Zodiac

10. The Shadowhunter Academy (short novel)

April

11. The Dead Key

12. The Elite (re-read)

13. The One (re-read)

14. The Bane Chronicles

15. City of Glass (re-read)

May

16. City of Heavenly Fire (re-read)

17. Dragonfly in Amber (current)

What’s next? God Loves Ugly (for non-fiction) and Percy Jackson (for fiction). I’ve heard excellent things about both books! My biggest recommendation so far is Trial by Fire, by Josephine Angelini. It is a very unique, alternate reality fantasy! I can’t get over it! (Also, it’s pretty sexy. Just sayin’.)

I’m a little behind on the numbers, but it’s been a rough few months! As anyone paying attention can probably tell, April afforded me a lot of reading time. Here’s why, in one word: unemployed. So it’s a trade off! Yay, books!

My only concern with my current numbers is that I included a few book I was reading for the second time. I checked out a few places online and everyone seems to count rereads, as long as they haven’t counted those books for a previous challenge, and they read the books cover to cover.  I’m counting them, with the stipulation that I state they are a re-read. Who else is participating in the 50 Books Challenge? I’d love to follow your progress! Also, if anyone is as obsessed with reading as I am, let’s be friends on Goodreads!

My Millennial Failures (and why I’m TOTALLY okay with them)

In high school, I was pretty cool. I was up on trends, artists, et cetera. Flash forward six years, and I am so out of it, you would think I never kept up with it. (Does that make any sense?) Anyways, it is called to my attention daily just how out of it I really am by some coworkers who happen to be just a bit too trendy/millennial/current whatever you want to call it. They can’t understand me for the life of them, and I can’t make sense out of half the stuff they say. So here are a few ways that I’m a millennial failure (and TOTALLY okay with it):

1. I’m not big on partying. My ideal Saturday involves mass amounts of reading and writing. I don’t go out and get wasted with my closest fifty friends every weekend. I honestly don’t consider myself as having fifty friends. I have a lot of people who like me, but as far as friends go, I only count people who really care about me and actually KNOW things about me. And I only drink and get a bit crazy when I’m with people that I consider close. I’m just not interested in having drunk dudes at bars hit on me. Sorry other millennials.

2. I don’t listen to hip-hop/rap/current pop music. Unless it’s on a movie sound track. I don’t know any of the artists or own any music like that. I don’t watch the Grammys, because I don’t care about any of the nominated artists. As far as music goes, I like what I like and don’t keep up with what’s popular. It means I listen to a lot of Tom Petty, Queen and the Postal Service.

3. I’ve never been on Tinder and hope I never will. Much like my dislike for being hit on by drunk guys in bars, I also dislike being harassed over an app. They should just advertise it: We bring all the harassment of bars to your phone! I’ve had enough friends on there with crazy weirdos messaging them every day, that so help me God, if I ever get a Tinder, people should know I have a brain tumor.

4. I like to be alone. I’ve written articles to this effect before, on Sociology of Style, but I will reiterate that I think my generation is woefully out of touch with themselves and their own feelings. Millennials who are actively everything I’m not tend to NEED to constantly spend time with others and never be alone.

5. I don’t get into causes for causes’ sake. I think a lot of millennials take on social causes, and claim to know what their talking about, with NO research. One of their friends told them that they should care about Bill X29 going through in two weeks because it affects women. That’s all they know, and they’re out signing petitions and raging on Facebook. So then, I’ll ask them, what is the petition specifically about. What female issues will it affect? This matters to me. And you know what: THEY NEVER KNOW! “I don’t know, but my roommate is really upset about it.” And sometimes I feel like I’m the only millennial asking the deeper questions. (At least near me, I know other sane millennials must be out there!)

Anyway, if you’re a generational failure like me, it’s okay! Celebrate your differentness and find some friends who are as weirdly awesome as you. You can all go be alone and not party together!

I’ll leave you with scary Millennial statistics. Check it:

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