Update: Guest Writer

Hello all,

I forgot to mention this, but my blog just had a guest writer! Yay! Her name is badassselfies (in fitting with the theme of her piece).

Alright, so she is a newcomer and she has never published anything on a blog before, but I think she did an awesome job. She may be a reoccuring writer, so look out for that.

I should be having another book review coming as soon as I finish Perdition by Lindsey Ouimet. I loved her last book, What’s a Soulmate, so I decided to give her other book a go. So far, it is amazing.

This is The Cynical Teenager, signing off!

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Selfie Psychology 101

Selfie Psychology 101

Selfies. The mere word draws a massive collective eyeroll from most social media users, second only to your friends that share over twelve cute cat videos a day. Selfitis is a term floating around for people who have a selfie affliction, an obsession with posting selfies for an affirmation of their worth in the universe. But are selfies all bad? Before you answer with a sarcastic “are you kidding me?”, hear me out.
According to some in the psychology profession, and some bloggers who think they are shrinks, an obsession with selfies stems from a lack of confidence and a need to be popular. The cycle goes like this: post a cute selfie, get fifty likes and some comments of “you are so pretty!” and you feel pretty good about yourself. So you post another, and then another. The selfie obsessed need this external affirmation to feel good about themselves, and so it becomes a real need. It’s beginning to sound like an episode of Dr. Phil, right? But before you plan a TV intervention for your BFF, maybe it’s not always bad. Maybe having a little attention can do someone good.
I will speak from experience as someone who has seven hundred Facebook selfie profile photos, a few fans, and probably more haters, but through it all has gained more self-confidence and a whole lot less concern for what other people think.
Up until about seven years ago, there was probably only about thirty photos of me in existence, and fifteen of those were when I was a kid. I hated my photos. I hated the double chin, I hated my nose, I just hated me in photos. That was back in the day when you took a photo, that was it. No photoshop, no digital fix (can you even fathom it?). When digital SLR cameras came out, I got one so I could torture my kids with endless photos. Then I dabbled in photography as a living. I did all traditional black and white film photos, hand painted. While I loved it, it was very time consuming and I made no money off it, so I started doing all digital work. Then comes along PHOTOSHOP. The first time I fixed someone’s acne-ridden face to look magazine-cover-perfect, I was hooked. In order to hone my skills, I started taking selfies to practice on. I mean, if I could fix such horrible things as my double chin and as a bonus smooth some wrinkles, then I was gonna be in hot demand as a photographer. At this point, after being a hold out for some time, I joined Facebook. Well, you need a profile pic right? Lord knows it has to be good; I mean, there are old high school friends on there that for some reason you still care about what they think. So, I started dabbling in selfies. First just basic deer-in-the-headlights novice ones, then I got bored (along with my followers) and decided to go creative and try to be the crazy funny one. I even did a 365-day project, taking a new photo every day of the year. I had some friends with negative attitudes, wondering why I was “attention seeking”, and had many friends offer encouragement, that they looked forward to my next crazy photo.
Here’s the thing. Along the way I actually DID gain some confidence. You could say, as some of the internet wannabe Sigmund Freuds would, that it was confidence gained in a negative way. That it is based on superficiality and not on something deeper. All I know is that a few years ago I wouldn’t have dared put a photo up on the internet. A few years ago, I also worried more about what people thought about me. There are obviously other factors involved including my age and the older I get the more I don’t give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks. But I credit my selfies with having more confidence to put myself out there, for good or bad.
So, while some may have some psychological issues that make taking selfies a negative thing, before you assume every selfie freak needs to lay on a couch spilling their guts for eighty dollars an hour, it may not be the terrible epidemic that it is made out to be. My advice? If it makes you happy, then get a phone with a front facing camera, a ten dollar selfie stick and a good editing app.
Happy Snapchatting!

Learning Mandarin: A Series

Over the Summer of 2017, I had to pick a language to pursue in college. I had the options of Spanish, French, German, Arabic, Russian, Japanese, Italian, and Mandarin Chinese (Ancient Latin and Greek were also offered, but they were not even on the table for me). I, of course, decided to pick Mandarin Chinese. I loved the characters and the utility of the language.

However, Mandarin turned out to be much more difficult than I had anticipated.

Throughout much of the intro level, my thoughts oscillated from “wow, I’m hot shit” to “wow, I’m a pile of shit.” Between the tones and the stroke orders, I barely know how to say my own name. So, here I am, spreading the love/hate relationship I have with language learning to the rest of the world (or, to the two vistors I get per post).

I’m thinking of starting a series where every so often I provide an update on some of the interesting things I’ve learned in my Mandarin class. My linguistic ignorance may be enjoyed by many.

Does this sound interesting to anyone? Yes? No? Whatever. I do what I want.

Review: What’s a Soulmate?

Everyone has heard the expression “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The phrase is very common, but it usually applies less to actual books and more to real-life people. And yes, when it comes to people, I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment; people are so much more than what they may appear to be on the outside. On the other hand, I completely judge books by their covers.

Let’s be real here. Ninety-nine percent of us are more likely to purchase or rent a novel if the cover is appealing. Otherwise, what is the point of a cover? In my opinion (why would you be reading this post if it wasn’t for my opinion?) a book cover should accomplish three tasks.

  1. Catch a potential reader’s eye
  2. Properly represent the contents of the book without spoiling the plot
  3. Be aesthetically pleasing

The first two points seem like common sense, but the third point is largely subjective. Different types of covers may appeal to different kinds of people. That’s where What’s a Soulmate by Lindsey Ouiment comes into focus.

I was surfing through potential books on Amazon (No, Amazon.com does not sponsor me but a girl can dream) and saw this cover. I instantly fell in love with the cover, and upon reading the synopsis, I snatched this book up so fast my wallet didn’t have time to feel the pain.

Here is the synopsis from Amazon.com:

Libby Carmichael has just met her Soulmate. It’s just too bad he’s behind bars. When you only see the world in black and white until you meet yours, it’s pretty easy to figure out when you’ve found your Soulmate. What Libby can’t figure out is why fate, destiny, or the powers that be have decided that Andrew McCormack is her one, true match. Libby is smart, organized, and always has a plan for what’s coming next. So when she sees Andrew for the first time and her world is instantly filled with color, she’s thrown for a loop. Namely because he’s in a dingy grey jumpsuit. And handcuffs. And being booked into a juvenile detention facility. Surely a boy who’s been convicted of a headline-making, violent crime isn’t who she’s meant to be with. There’s no way she belongs with someone like that…right?

Now, I usually stick with fantasy/Sci-fi/historical fiction, but I can read anything. The synopsis had just enough mystery and freshness that I went into this book fairly optimistic. Did it disappoint? No.


Plot: Usually when I attempt to discuss the plot of the book (or any other part, for that matter), I have to be very careful to just barely toe the line between basic information and spoiler territory. The entire purpose of a book review is to determine whether or not to grab the book for yourself. A recommendation to skip, tentatively rent, or flat-out buy. Spoiling without warning, with a few exceptions, may take away from another reader’s surprise or enjoyment. With What’s a Soulmate by Lindsey Ouimet, I don’t really have to worry about that.

There is nothing in this book that will surprise you. Absolutely nothing. There is no plot twist, misinformation, or secret revelation that will change how you see the universe. Nope. This is a simple story that follows a linear path to its conclusion. Does that mean that this book is trash? HELL NO.

The plot is a simple girl-meets-boy story with a few twists that keep the story fresh and interesting. The simplicity is its greatest asset, as this book knows exactly what it is trying to be, and it does this beautifully. Beyond that, the enjoyment of this book lies firmly with the character cast.


Characters: 

Libby: I was not expecting to like this character as much as I did. She initially seemed to be just about the opposite of my personality. However, she turned out to be an awesome main character. I followed all of her motivations and understood exactly what she was feeling without rolling my eyes or gagging. Her interactions with Andrew were amazing and seemed so genuine. Libby never seemed to pull crap out of her ass just for reader shock value (I’m looking at you Sarah J. Maas) and in general felt so real. While I was reading, I believed that I could walk down Columbus Ave in NYC and find someone similar to her. Her downright believability and realism added to the soul of the book in a monumental way.

Andrew: I was expecting to dislike Andrew from the synopsis. While I know I shouldn’t have immediately made these assumptions, characters in his shoes can so easily fall into the tragic, misunderstood, emo bullshit that I have had the displeasure of reading for too many years. Characters like that can be entertaining, but too often end up missing the mark by a long shot. Andrew was a very happy surprise. Much like Libby, most of his actions have their rational justifications and his personality complements Libby’s very nicely. Towards the middle of the book, some of his actions lost this rationality and he became a little cliched. I still enjoyed his character, especially when he was interacting with Libby, but not as much as I did before.

Beth: I’ve never been too fond of the “best friend” character. You all know the type. That said, I did enjoy this character. She was not a huge player in the actual story, but she did work well off Libby and had a few quirks to differentiate herself from the crowd.

Libby’s Parents: Finally, parents who aren’t dead or assholes. Or dead assholes. Throughout the book, Libby’s parents are very supportive of her yet allow for Libby to be relatively independent. Overall, they felt realistic and wholesome and I never rolled my eyes whenever they entered a scene.

Andrew’s Mother: Alright, touchy subject. Also a tad bit spoilery, but not really. Even so, I’ll add a bolded and capitalized warning to cover my ass. (SPOILERS AHEAD). Once we find out more details about Andrew’s crime, we also find out that Andrew’s mother is being psychologically abused. I am by no means an expert in the area of domestic abuse, but I thought that her character was well done and fairly realistic. Ouimet does not dumb her character down to a “but I love him” argument, especially not once we know about the children involved. Andrew’s mother understands her situation is not right, and she understands that she is putting both of her sons through hell. Despite that, she cannot fully leave her soulmate (Andrew’s father) behind (END OF SPOILERS). Throughout the book, my feelings towards this character ranged from pity to disgust to pride. While definitely not my favorite character, Andrew’s mother and her motivations are perfectly understandable and perfectly displayed.


Writing: I am so sick of writers including pointless shit in their books just to make the story seem more “edgy”. Or “developed”. Or “deep”. A good author knows exactly what to include, when to introduce plot elements, and how to trim the fat off a bloated story. Lindsey Ouimet follows this process to the freaking letter. Everything in this book has a purpose, moving the relatively simple story to its final conclusion.

Ouimet also masterfully composes descriptions that make scenes akin to watching paint dry become fascinating. I swear, she could write about histograms and I would instantly be enthralled. In What’s a Soulmate she takes the basic framework of the story and weaves complex, realistic emotions into the characters to create a beautiful, soulful piece. Lindsey Ouimet, you just found yourself another fan.


Cover: Absolutely gorgeous! I mean, just look at it. Credits to the designer, Jay Aheer.

soulmate

Confession time: This is one of my all-time favorite covers, no doubt about it. The design grabs your attention and aptly describes the book’s contents. Damn.

I do have one nitpick, however. The title. While not misleading, per se, I don’t feel that the title does the book justice. All the characters already know and understand the concept of soulmates, so the title is more for the readers’ benefit than anything. Despite that very minor detail, the cover is amazing.


Score: 

This book was a joy to read, one that I wholeheartedly recommend. While it is no literary masterpiece or huge and engaging universe, What’s a Soulmate by Lindsey Ouimet accomplished what it set out to do in the best way possible.

8.9