Unholy Satan, this is such a long wrap-up post, I am actually a little sorry. Like, this is bananas. It goes on forever. I did a lot of all of the things this month, and though it started out pretty rough, plus stayed that way for a while, the end has given me a lot of hope.
Mini Book Reviews
Juliet Takes a Breath | Gabby Rivera
I mean, what a way to kick off the month, am I right? This book was absolutely phenomenal. I loved Juliet so much as a character, and I loved her story of questioning, discovery, and empowerment. I love getting to see her from the very beginning, where she’s so wrapped up in obsession for Harlowe, to the end, where she’s starting to discover that she has all of that Harlowe power already inside of her, and while it’s okay to still love and respect what Harlowe taught her, it doesn’t need to be her end all be all. Juliet finally discovers that she is the most important woman in her life, and it’s so good. SO GOOD. I loved all the different representations of relationships in this, too–mentor, friend, elder, cousin, mom, aunt, love interest–you name it, this book’s got it. I loved every single page of this. I loved the summery vibe of it. I loved the conversations in it. I just loved all of it, period.
By Any Means Necessary | Candice Montgomery
UGH THIS BOOK. I knew this book was going to be adorable because um? Hello? A bee farm in busy New York with a romantic subplot and it’s set during college? YES AND YES. My friend, Erin, handed this to me and said, “Tell me if it’s good,” AND GIRL LEMME TELL YOU, IT’S SO GOOD. I love that the romance is so understated in this. It comes out in big ways sometimes, and not in like a ooooooh look at what they’re doing kind of way, but more of a soft conversations full of big feelings kind of way, and it was so wonderful juxtaposed against Torrey’s just total and complete chaos. From anxiety over college and possibly having to drop out so that he can save his uncle’s bee farm, which he can’t figure out if he loves because he just loves it or because he’s trying to hold onto any last possible shred of his uncle, who is really one of the only loving blood relations left to him because the idea of going “home” means encountering his homophobic grandfather, to the constant conversation of outright racism and microaggressions abounding all around, which is just blossomed even more beautifully when paired with all the different kinds of people–queer, diverse, and individual. Every character in this felt like a very separate person from everyone else, and it made this so realistic and wonderful. I just loved every single page of this.
Felix Ever After | Kacen Callender
Top 10 of 2020 right here. This book was amazing. I read a solid chunk of it on the third day because I just literally could not put it down. I stayed up way later than I normally do, my eyes so tired that I had to switch out contacts for glasses, and everything in me praying for a best friend love at the end. Felix’s story gets you right in the heart because it’s so relatable, something we’ve all experienced in one shape or another, and it’s awful. Bullies doesn’t deserve space to exist. And though I wish like anything that Felix hadn’t been bullied, I’m so happy that he was able to start having conversations with himself, his father, and his friends about who he really was and wanted to be. This was just truly a stellar book, and I can’t wait to see what Callender does next.
Blanca & Roja | Anna-Marie McLemore
Gosh, I always go a while without reading a McLemore, and then I finally dive back into one, and I’ve got this wild feeling of what the hell why have I not read everything available yet, so I’m hoping to read another McLemore next month because WOW. This was just so beautiful. I know we all know this, but McLemore’s writing is phenomenal. There is nothing quite like it out there, and the language draws me into the story in a way that nothing else ever has. It’s poetic and musical, sim, but it’s also so decadent. Every word feels like it’s been carefully chosen and placed just so, and it’s wonderful to experience.
Late to the Party | Kelly Quindlen
I just loved this so much? There were so many things that I loved. I adored that this was mostly about friendship, and not just the one between Codi & Ricky. It’s so important to have things like friendship fights and break-ups because they happen all the time in real life, and they’re honestly so much more painful than relationship issues. I loved seeing Codi, Maritza, and JaKory go through their rollercoaster of a friendship, learning how to grow beyond each other and still be best friends. The growth that Codi goes through is messy and awful and weird because that’s how it feels to grow as a teenager. This was just so realistic, and I wish I’d had a book like this back in high school. Or hell, even just in college. I loved the romance, and I loved the friendships even more. I could have done without the massive amounts of underage drinking & smoking, but I know that’s a lot of people’s high school experience. This was honestly just a fantastic read, and I’m going to hold it close to my heart for a long time.
Clockwork Princess | Cassandra Clare
Look, I started reading this in May, and I should have finished it, but I also realized as I was getting into the first 100 pages that I was desperately going to want to immediately read some more Shadowhunters after I finished it, and that happened, and I’m avoiding that as much as possible until July when I can just say screw it and read the entire TDA trilogy (hopefully). This was excellent. And I know a lot of people have already said it, but this is, perhaps, the only example of a love triangle that I really enjoyed. It was very well done, and it wasn’t obnoxious in the slightest. I keep sighing forlornly when I think about Tessa outliving Will, but then I remember she gets to finally love Jem freely after so long without him, and I’m okay again. This was such a satisfying conclusion to this trilogy, and I can see why many people claim it as their favorite in the universe.
Only Mostly Devastated | Sophie Gonzales
Oh, well, heck, this was the cutest ever. I really wish it was, like, 75 pages longer just to add in some more character development. Like, devote all 75 of those pages to flashbacks that are just chapters on their own, and I’ll be totally satisfied. But, as it stands, this was exactly the kind of light, fluffy summer romance contemporary that I was hoping it would be. Of course, don’t let that make you think it doesn’t deal with some pretty heavy topics, because it does. From minor character death to a not-out love interest to homophobia to bullying, this book definitely has its fair share of heart-wrenching moments, and there were times that I wanted to punch the love interest straight to the jugular, but it’s got a sweet, fairytale-esque ending, and I adored the journey from start to finish.
Boy Erased: A Memoir of Identity, Faith, and Family | Garrard Conley
This was a lot. I really wish I could just give Garrard Conley a hug. Not only because he went through conversion therapy, but that he thought there was something wrong enough with him to warrant believing he deserved to go through something like conversion therapy. This has a happy ending, thank goodness, but the road there is fraught with assault and depression, and I wish like anything that no one had to go through that. I think this is an important book to read because it’s still something that not a lot of people are aware is still happening right now. When I told my dad about this book, he had never even heard of conversion therapy, and he wondered why I would want to read something like this. But it’s someone’s story, and it’s real, and it is one of the worst things in the world, and it deserves space to exist.
Naturally Tan | Tan France
This was really sweet. I found myself quoting it a bunch in the days following, and I definitely catch myself thinking about my clothes a little differently in the morning when I go to dress. A super breezy read, and it only took me six days because I took some serious time off from reading to work on editing my book. Otherwise, this truly could have been done in one sitting. It was light, fluffy, still discussed some really important topics, and overall just a fun read. Perfect for the beach!
We Contain Multitudes | Sarah Henstra
This was so adorable! I loved both of the characters so much, and watching them fall in love over the course of 300+ pages of letters was just wonderful. I did often wish there was prose in addition to the letters because the whole recounting scenes via letters was a bit weird, no matter how the characters tried to explain it. It felt repetitive even though it was new information to me, which was strange. Still, the story was lovely, the characters were really well done, and I’m so glad that I finally read this after months and months of continuously putting it back on my shelf.
Call Me By Your Name | André Aciman
I was really impressed with how closely the movie followed this, and how well it captured the essence of the book. I watched the movie first, but I think this is one of those rare instances where the two compliment each other very well. I loved Elio’s voice in this, how he just rambles on and on as he tries to figure himself out, and I felt like a lot of his interactions with Oliver made so much sense. There were, I have to note, some scenes that I just quietly put the book down for and really wished they weren’t in there, but most of this was an absolute delight. I was a little bummed by the ending, and I don’t think I’ll be reading the sequel because it’s just so bittersweet and unfulfilling. I really preferred the movie ending, where we see Elio grieving the loss of Oliver, but we’re given this sense that he’s going to figure out how to move on. In the book, however, it’s very clear he never moves on. He describes it as though living in a coma, and that’s just sad. I want so much more for him, and to think that he spends his entire future living in the past breaks my heart. Combined with the very, very strange scene in Rome and the ending, I had to dock this a star.
Books read: 11
Pages read: 3,507
Backlist progress: 29/80
Holy hell, I’m tired. Both just in general and a little tired of contemporaries. I had two fantasy books on my TBR for Pride, and I didn’t read either of them because I’m an asshole, and good grief I miss fantasy so much. I did read a McLemore, which is magical realism, but I really just need a solid escape from normalcy. That said, my July TBR isn’t fantasy-heavy in the slightest (I don’t know, don’t ask me), but it’s definitely not contemporary:
- The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
- Sanctum by Madeleine Roux
- The Secrets of Winterhouse by Ben Guterson
- Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore
- Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake
I’ll hopefully have a full trilogy & TV adaptation review up for A Discovery of Witches at the end of the month! I already have it scheduled, so really trying to convince myself to read this early, haha. In an ideal world, I finish the entire Asylum series by Madeleine Roux, but we’ll see. Part of me wants to leave these for Halloween, but most of me just wants to reread the House of Furies trilogy, so instead, I’m focusing on Roux’s backlist. I bought the rest of the Winterhouse trilogy intending to read it immediately because I loved it so much, and then didn’t. Honestly, all of these are books I’m “supposed” to be reading, but I also want to read all of them right now, so it works out! Blanca & Roja this month reminded me how much I adore McLemore, and though I’m sad to get down to the last two I own, I really would like to read another one. AND I KNOW. It’s been nearly a year since its release, and I still haven’t finished Blake’s series, but it’s happening, y’all! I’m gonna do it!
Kal @ Reader Voracious posted a much-needed discussion right now: Black Lives Matter: How to Get Involved, Resources & Reading Recommendations. The Black community has always needed us, and we haven’t been listening. They’ve done everything they can to protest peacefully and stand their ground in silence, but that’s not enough anymore, and they need everyone’s help.
Margaret @ Weird Zeal posted more than 40 books featuring queer MCs written by Black authors, and my Goodreads is on fire. She also discussed ways not to support She Who Shall Not Be Named while still loving Harry Potter.
CW @ The Quiet Pond discussed the history of Pride month, dropped an amazing rec that I read this month, and listed a bunch of Black-owned bookstores for all of us to support!
May @ Forever and Everly put together the most incredible list of 50+ (!!!!!!!) LGBTQIA+ BIPOC books by BIPOC authors, so HELLO #OWNVOICES! Seriously, this list is a gift, set your phasers to stun and add all of them to your Goodreads.
Not a book blog, but this discussion on why it’s not really possible to divorce art from artist, in response to She Who Shall Not Be Named, is really excellent, and I recommend you all read it instead of the comments-turned-off response she wrote after Daniel Radcliffe was more than we ever deserved.
CG @ Paper Fury chats about all the ways we can continue to support diverse books for basically the rest of all time, and honestly? You’re already doing it for the white/cis/straight/abled authors you’re reading, so it’s going to be super easy to settle into a wonderfully diverse future of book reading.
I did it. I finished writing sister witches 3. The trilogy is over.
It was the most exhausting week of my life, and my mom started asking me if I was okay toward the tail end of it. My eyes were just beaten to hell every day when I woke up since I was on my laptop pretty much all day for work and then for hours after to write. But it’s done. 25,053 words written in the first week of June means that I not only surpassed the ~20k goal I had, but I finished the book in its entirety. The whole trilogy. I’m honestly having trouble believing it. I’ve only spent just under two years with these characters, but it’s a story that’s lived in my bones forever and a day, and it’s been probably one of the most life-shaping books I’ve written. There’s a reason I want to get it published first. It’s a story other women like me need.
I spent about two hours listening to the same three songs on repeat (You Can’t Stop the Girl by Bebe Rexha, Out of Love by Alessia Cara, and Coming Home, Pt. II by Skylar Grey), stayed up until midnight, and it was so bittersweet, but it was a goodbye full of closure and love and magic.
I also went totally hard on the editing, for SW1. My goal was to get halfway, and I edited almost 200 pages, adding an additional 1,907 words. I did actually add more words than that, but I still haven’t typed them up, so I have no idea what the real number is, which is a bummer because those last additions were a lot.
Next month is going to be a lot of fun because, drum roll please, I FINALLY GET TO START VAMPIRE DETECTIVE.
- SEND OUT QUERIES if not already done.
- Finish editing SW1.
- Start drafting vampire detective. Maybe about halfway into act one? (~20k words)
Since I’ve finished editing the first 50 pages of SW1, which is usually the max of what an agent will ask for, queries will start going out. I also want to wrap up first draft edits entirely on SW1 so that it’s off of my radar for a bit so I can finally start focusing on Andrew’s story. If you want to learn more about Andrew and his weird gang of friends, I pretended that I was going to write this for NaNo last year, and then didn’t, but I did write an entire post up about it! Also, you might have noticed that my monthly goals section disappeared. It was starting to get repetitive and just taking up unnecessary space, so it’s mostly been moved to this section. I still have a monthly goal of reading 50 pages and completing a Duolingo lesson every day, but since I’ll almost always have just writing goals, we’re shifting things a little.
What I’ve Been Watching
Oh HELL, The Half of It (2020) was the softest movie ever, and I am never going to get over it. I feel like we have eight million movies about straight people have these movies full of nothing and then suddenly romance, and they’re great, but wouldn’t you rather if they were queer and there was a wonderful friendship outside of the romance? I will say, I’m pretty disappointed they tried to go the romantic route with one aspect of the story, but it resolved itself nicely, and I just? UGH. I cried. I laughed. I melted into a puddle.
Erin & I are doing twice weekly movie nights for Pride, which means I’ve got lots of opportunities for incredible movies, and Y’ALL. WHY HAVEN’T I WATCHED MOONLIGHT (2016) SOONER? This was truly one of the most beautiful movies I’ve ever seen. I would watch four more hours of it in a heartbeat. Hell, give me fourteen seasons of just slice of life softness, and I am here, take all my money. Honestly, beautiful really is the only way I can think to describe it.
Things can’t always be sunshine and daisies, though, sometimes I’ve got to break a few hearts, and I did exactly that to Erin with The Normal Heart (2014). And, oh boy, I forgot how rough this movie was–and, honestly, how incredibly gay. Like, that opening scene. Erin kept saying, “This isn’t fair. It’s so gay, and I know it’s going to be so sad soon, and what the hell.” I also forgot which of the characters died in this–it’s set during the original outbreak of the AIDS epidemic–and my heart! This is such complex look at the different kinds of relationships and people that exist in the world, and it’s wonderful, if also the saddest ever.
I also finished up the third season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2020) this month, which means I am officially caught up. I would like to note that I’m really disappointed in the way that the show just painted all Pagans as evil, end of story, and I nearly stopped watching because of that. A while back, I wrote a ranty review for These Witches Don’t Burn because it does a lot of the same things as Sabrina, but basically, it boils down to that witchcraft is honestly the most inclusive spirituality/faith/whatever you want to call it you’re going to find, and this “Pagans are evil” or “normals are the worst” vibe is just? Not even kind of accurate. I’m bummed out that Sabrina went that way, but I will also admit that they then swerved right into Hecate and started praying to the triple goddess at the end, and well, that’s kind of exactly my jam. It’s still disappointing that they had to be exclusionary, but I do really, really appreciate getting to see the triple goddess in mainstream media.
And y’all, come on, of course I watched the latest season of Queer Eye (2020). It’s Pride, did you expect something else? This made me cry just like every other season before it, and I absolutely adored it. Karamo & JVN were just wild this season, I fell more in love with Tan than before, and Antoni still has the ability to reduce me to a weeping mess in a second.
Okay, look, I Love You Philip Morris (2009) is a true story, and somehow the movie is super tame compared to what the real life dude got up to, and wowza. Like? What did I just watch? This movie is bizarre, and then I went to the MC’s Wiki, and I was like WHAT all over again. That plot twist at the end was just–I don’t even know how to describe it. I really enjoyed this because it was light and funny, and, with the state of the world, we needed a little of that.
Y’ALL IT’S TIME. Tumblr has loved The Handmaiden (2016) for forever and a day, and I’m so hyped we finally watched it. This is definitely going to be one of those movies that I think about for a long time. Halfway through, Erin said, “I feel like we’re watching Kill Your Darlings for the first time,” and I felt very similarly, but with Snowpiercer vibes. For both of those, we just sat in shock and silence as we watched, pausing only once to quietly whisper what the fuck is going on. In the best way possible because I LOVED this movie. It was so well done. I expected literally none of the twists. I’m still shook from it. Like. Was that a fever dream?
We’ve really been doing good with the balance between heavy and light, because after The Handmaiden, I was so ready for something like Loving Annabelle (2006). Which, like, not exactly light because it deals with a very inappropriate teacher/student relationship, and it’s got questionable characters, but it was definitely not murder and tentacle porn. This was fine. I mean, it wasn’t awful or anything, but it wasn’t that great. I’m not mad that I watched it, but I definitely would have liked it more around its release.
I knew Boy Erased (2018) was going to be difficult. The book absolutely broke my heart, and there were times that I had to take a break from it, so watching the movie was definitely going to be a challenge. And, well. Most of the time, Erin and I pause a lot, talk over the movie, and just generally take a full hour longer to watch any movie because we’re always doing something else, but with both The Handmaiden and Boy Erased, we just sat there in silence and absorbed what was happening. This is important to watch because it discusses something still very relevant in our history, and it is history & current news, so we need to give it the space it deserves. It was excellently done. It was a great adaptation from the book, and I appreciate the four years later section that we get in the movie that’s not in the book. It is, however, going to hurt.
I’m not gonna lie, I got two whole minutes into the first episode of The Witcher and was like, yup, 10/10 will love this show to death. It reminds me so much of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, which you REALLY need to watch if you haven’t already, and I totally binged the entire thing in a week. I’m so sad it’s over, I needed more Jaskier, and wow, hi, I just love Henry Cavill so much? He’s my favorite Superman since Smallville, and so, it was really cool to see him in such a radically different role.
Because Erin and I apparently thought one movie about conversion therapy wasn’t enough, we also watched But I’m a Cheerleader this month. This was truly one of the wackiest movies I’ve ever watched, and I kept looking over at Erin like WHAT in the HELL are we watching, and she just kept giggling. This felt like an acid trip, and I’m not sure I would recommend it, but also not sure I wouldn’t?
To close out Pride (LIES, we’ve got two more movies left), we rewatched an old favorite, Handsome Devil. I’d honestly probably forgotten about 85% of this movie, which made it even more fun to watch again because it nearly felt like the first time all over again. This was wonderful, as always, and is something I’ll probably rewatch many more times. Also, it’s given me newfound appreciation for Andrew Scott, again, since I’m used to him playing villains or creepy people, and we really need to give him more teacher/nerdy roles, he’s so good at it!
I feel like we should dive into the absolute best part of the month first?
You’re welcome, and yes, you should devote a full hour of your day to watching the entire thing. It’s 100% worth it. I cried, I laughed, I immediately wanted to watch the entire thing again.
This month was a lot. I keep thinking that not a lot happened, and then I remember that all the things happened.
I cooked a Portuguese meal that I’ve been wanting to cook forever–peri peri chicken. A few of my characters in my planets novel are Portuguese, and peri peri is one of their favorite meals. I try not to write about any food that I haven’t eaten/made firsthand before, so I was really excited to try this one out. I paired it with Portuguese white wine mushrooms and punched potatoes (you actually get to punch them, it was so fun).
I also went to a protest in a city near me, and though I was so proud of the turnout, I was a little bummed to see that I was one of about three people that were supporting queer Black lives. The reverse of my sign was a rainbow flag with the Black fist in the middle because, with all Pride parades cancelled, well, you’re gonna get some gay fury from me instead.
Speaking of Pride! The owner of the yoga studio where I work swung by for a surprise present of Pride strawberries, and it was just the sweetest thing in the world. I feel so blessed to have people in my life who love and support me no matter what.
And I’m finally back to hiking! My brother and his friends were up camping one weekend, but I couldn’t go due to teaching my last Saturday yoga class, so I grabbed a friend and her adorable dog, Stella, and we went up to Sunapee. It’s one of my favorite mountains to hike, and it’s just so beautiful. Lake Solitude in the middle of the mountain is so stunning to see, both at eye level and above on White Ledge looking down. I’ve only actually summited Sunapee once because the real summit is boring as heck–it’s just got a ski lodge, power lines, and no real view, so Liv & I counted White Ledge as our summit since, I mean, look at it, and it was such a joy to be back up there.
And then I did it all over again! My girls were busy the last weekend in June, but my dad was finally free and not mountain biking for once, so we hiked Bald Peak up in the Kinsman’s. There was a bear alert sign at the start of the trailhead, citing a few bear incidents in the area recently, so that was a bit stressful. We’d also forgotten that it’s a consistently gradual incline rather than little breaks here and there, so, by the time we reached the summit, we were pretty tired, and the summit was covered in gnats, so that was a bit of a bummer. I’m so happy to be back hiking, though, and I’ve already got another one planned for this upcoming weekend, so there will be plenty of pictures next month, too! And no, Penelope didn’t come hiking with us, though I did try to tuck her into my backpack when no one was looking.
I also tried making raviolis this month, and that, uh–well. Suffice to say, it’s going to be some months before I try pasta again because it was easily one of the worst cooking experiences of my life, and that’s after having tried chocolate babka.
The yoga studio where I’ve worked for the last four years has also closed its doors. We’ll be opening again in the fall, but in a different location. That means that I’m no longer employed as a yoga teacher, though, so I’ve got a new page up in the navigation bar at the top that talks about my virtual class offerings! If you’ve got any questions, let me know. And, speaking of yoga, ya girl tried to do a 108 workshop on the summer solstice, but it was 90 degrees, and we were outside, so we did a slow flow and ritual instead, so I decided to do the 108s on my own the next day.
I used ten clear quartz points to count each sun salutation because I usually forget which one I’m on after about two, and I grabbed every citrine, carnelian, what have you that I could find to count each set of ten. You can see my dumbass grin on the last eight because I was just so proud of myself for doing them. I’ve been doing them twice a year, on New Year’s & the summer solstice, for the last two years, and it’s so much fun every time, but I’ve never done them by myself before. I wasn’t sure I’d have the will to keep going because 108 is a fuckton, but, turns out, when you don’t have to match other people’s speed or breath, you fly right through them and have a damn good time.
And I think that’s it? Wow, June was actually way busier than I thought!