not a clean slate; 12.17.19

I don’t know how many times I can say “this fall has really eaten my lunch” but DAMNIT THIS FALL HAS EATEN MY LUNCH. I’m honestly very tired and every time I skip a week of this blog it means I have double the books to talk about for next week and if my books from the last two weeks weren’t so compelling I might honestly consider yelping “CLEAN SLATE” and pretending they didn’t exist. But! Fortunately/Unfortunately for me….most of them were fantastic and one of them wasn’t fantastic in such fascinating ways that I simply must speak on it.

So, deep breaths….and diving….

In at the Deep End – Kate Davies

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….see what I did there?

Julia, our protagonist, starts the book determined to end her 3 year ~dry spell~, which leads to a discovery that she much prefers women to men. She thusly embarks on a journey of not just sexual awakening, but awakening into community and purpose. The book is very funny and insightful; I had several cackles and several “oh SHIT” moments. Structurally it does wander a bit and didn’t quite seem able to effectively tie together all the plot threads it was trying to, but it’s very entertaining and touching and quite sexual* all at the same time, which is a difficult chord to strike and I’d love to read more of Davies’ work in the future.

*A quick couple notes before I move on to one of the heavier aspects of the book: this book does include some *ahem* visceral sexual descriptions, including several forms of kink. Separately, I wouldn’t say this book quite takes an uncharitable view of polyamory, but it’s not particularly charitable either, so if that’s something that might bother you, be aware!

Trigger warning: emotional abuse, self-harm

The book teeters on whether the relationship between Julia and Sam, her first girlfriend, is abusive or “merely” “toxic.” To be clear, what I mean by this is that I strongly come down on the side of it being abusive — Sam frequently gaslights and attempts to control Julia, intentionally isolates her from friends and family, and clearly manipulates her. To me, that’s textbook abuse. And I think the narrative mostly agrees with me, but there are a couple moments near the end that subtly undermine that agreement. [Also, I’ve gained a lot from the Dear Prudence podcast, hosted by Daniel Lavery, where he frequently talks about our societal tendency to use the word ‘toxic’ without any grounded definition. I love the podcast and I’ve learned a lot from it and I highly recommend!]

Royal Holiday – Jasmine Guillory

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2019 may have been trash in many ways, but we did get TWO Jasmine Guillory books in one year, so there’s some redemption! This book features Vivian Forest, the charming mother of Maddie from The Wedding Party, as she accompanies Maddie on a last minute work trip to England to style an unnamed-but-certainly-definitely-Meghan-Markle royal for her Christmas events. While she’s there, Vivian — who has been prioritizing her family and work over romance for a long time — meets and falls for the Queen’s private secretary, Malcolm Hudson.

As with all Guillory books, this one was absolutely delicious. The plot did feel a bit less built out than her other books, and this is probably just a personal preference but the ‘holiday fling that turns into something more serious’ trope kind of stresses me out, but I will never pass up an opportunity to spend more time in Guillory’s world of kind, funny people trying their best and thoughtfully examining the roles love and work play in our lives.

The Testaments – Margaret Atwood


Holy unnecessary sequel, Batman!! I can’t think of a gentle way to start talking about this book, so what I’ll say is this book is what might happen if someone took a hard long look at what really worked well about The Handmaid’s Tale and said “okay but what if we did the opposite of that?” A thing you should understand about this book is that it’s much less a sequel to the 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale than it is a companion novel to the Hulu adaptation show The Handmaid’s Tale, and as such has a whole bunch of corniness, confusing world-building, and hard hitting questions that no one was asking, such as “what if Aunt Lydia was good, actually?” This book is what would happen if the author of a revolutionary text about the natural result about white supremacy and rape culture started standing with a colleague accused of sexual harassment

What I will say for the book is that Atwood remains a skilled and engaging writer, capable of making even a deeply flawed narrative feel alive. This is going to sound dark, but I think both this book and the show are too invested in hope. I’ve stopped watching the show because I lost patience with it, but they’re both insistent on chronicling the beginning of the end of Gilead, which puts its longevity at oh, about 20 years, which makes it seem like an extreme blip rather than part of history’s long arc of white supremacy and misogyny. 

tw: sexual assault, suicide

Goodbye, Vitamin – Rachel Khong

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Somehow this book was exactly the right thing I needed to read in the middle of a hectic schedule darkened by some winter blues. Not only is it a short book, it’s written in journal-style vignettes, chronicling the protagonist’s year of moving into her parents’ house at age 30 to assist in the care of her father. Ruth is still dealing with the breakup of a relationship she had wrapped her life around when her mother asks her to move home for a year. Her father has Alzheimer’s, and the book tenderly follows Ruth through the year as she both deepens and re-examines her relationship with her parents and brother.

It has a generous and observational sense of humor and takes an exquisite shift about a third of the way through. I do think it could have used about 50 more pages, because there was imbalance to me between the first half of Ruth’s year and the second half. However, through incredible skill on Khong’s part, a truly sparse number of pages feels like you’ve read much more than that, but in a good way. It doesn’t feel tiresome, it feels like you’ve known these characters for as long as they’ve known each other and care about them almost as much as they care about each other. 

Give Me Your Hand – Megan Abbott


I love, love, love a Megan Abbott book. Her writing is twisty and intense and thoughtful and page-turning. What makes reading her even better is that I discovered my love for her on the recommendation of my local librarian when I was in high school. While her depictions of teenage girls were not reflective of my own experiences, they sparked a love of suspense and twisty characters.

This book is her latest (from 2018) and examines the connection between two women when they’re teenagers and when they’re in their late 20s. It’s about ambition and secrets and friendship and envy and I almost don’t want to say more about it. Abbott knows how to turn a story on its head halfway through, and though a couple of the turns felt almost predictable, their consequences ripple in ways that stick with me more than a typical “gotcha!” might.

Also, Abbott created a spotify playlist for this book and it’s PERFECT and I’ll probably listen to it way more. ALSO also, there’s an adaptation of Abbott’s book Dare Me coming out on USA later this month and it looks EXCELLENT. This adaptation has been in various stages of development for years and I’m so excited that it’s finally happening. 

tw: suicide

That’s all for me! Next week I’m just putting out a list of my favorite books from this year and that’s all she wrote! Feel free to get in contact, via email or twitter or wherever if you’re seeking book recommendations for the coming holidays because that’s one of my greatest joys in life! Toodle loo!

wintertimes are here; 12.4.19

Hello there! I hope the weather is being nice to you, and that even if it’s not you’re getting to spend a lot of time cozy and reading.

The Viscount Who Loved Me – Julia Quinn


The second Bridgerton book! As I hoped, it delighted me more than the first did, despite a fly in the ointment that I’ll get into later. As with the first book, this features an extremely reluctant male protagonist, to the extent that it started to feel ridiculous less than halfway through. Anthony Bridgerton, the eldest of the Bridgertons and one of the four brothers that Daphne Bridgerton CANNOT STOP MENTIONING EVEN IN HER TINY CAMEO IN THIS BOOK, knows he needs to marry and produce heirs for the sake of his family but he rejects the idea of falling in love because of ~reasons~. Therefore, he sets his cap at the belle of this year’s balls, only to find her older sister, Kate, irresistible. 

I really enjoyed the chemistry between these two; I am weak for enemies-to-lovers and I am also weak for “comforting one another through terrifying experiences.” (trigger warning: you do find out later in the book that Kate definitely has a PTSD-like reaction to thunderstorms due to a buried memory of her mother’s death and the way that’s resolved is….bizarre.) I’m very excited to see this one in the Netflix series, and also to see the story of the third son, Colin, who seems absolutely adorable. I’m fairly certain I know who his love interest is, which leads me to the fly, which I really hope they don’t do in the show: there is a character who was in the first book and is described as having lost a great deal of weight between then and now, which is why she’s “””happier””” and I think my eyes rolled entirely out of my head when I read that.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer – Michelle McNamara


This book took the true crime world by storm last year, partly due to McNamara’s compelling and compassionate research and highly successful crime blog and partly due to the fact that the subject of the book was at last caught two months after the book’s release, but sadly after the author’s death. McNamara unexpectedly passed away in 2016 and the book, which she’d been researching and writing for years, was finished by her assistants and published posthumously. 

Trigger warning: the Golden State Killer was a serial rapist and murderer and the book details many of his crimes.

The Golden State Killer, a subject McNamara and many other amateur sleuths and law enforcement officers have obsessed over for years, proved impossible to catch for decades, having moved multiple times across California and using a number of strategies to ensure his safety. McNamara tracks both the history of the case and her own experiences with it; she’s thoughtful and inventive without too much extrapolation, and while she probably could have been a bit more victim-centered she’s open and reflective about why it is that this particular killer has proved mentally and emotionally inescapable for her. I liked this book, but I didn’t quite love it the way many did. One of the things that consistently bugged me throughout was how much McNamara (and her co-writers) seemed to valorize law enforcement. McNamara worked with a number of detectives and officers regularly, which is potentially why she shied away from getting into the many ways that police make life more dangerous for people of color, often re-traumatize survivors, and are frequently perpetrators of violent crimes themselves (the Golden State Killer himself turned out to be a former police officer). I’d encourage reading this piece about the true crime genre (and one podcast in particular).

The Water Dancer – Ta-Nehisi Coates


Okay so I expected this to be good, because Coates is an incredible writer. This is his first published novel, and after showing himself to be a fantastic essayist, memoirist, journalist, and graphic novelist, this book proves he’s also a superb novelist. 

I tend not to be much of a historical fiction person outside of romance novels, so though I planned on reading it and expected it to be good, I didn’t expect to be so thoroughly absorbed in it. It was one of those books that whenever I wasn’t actively reading it I was thinking about reading it, and though it’s a thick book the pages flew by. 

We meet our protagonist, Hiram Walker, as he’s drowning. When he mysteriously survives, he starts to notice the beginnings of an ability that could change not just his life but the lives of countless enslaved people. Hiram was born enslaved to the man who was also his biological father, and grew up serving his father and half-brother in pre-Civil War Virginia. There’s some brief flashback to his growing up, when we also meet many of the characters that his ability will affect. I don’t even want to say much more about it because GO READ IT. I really hope Coates writes more fiction in the future because he can write a sentence like nobody’s business, and the same is true for descriptions and characters. I’m usually not bothered by music with lyrics when I’m reading but for this I had to only listen to instrumentals because I didn’t want to be distracted even a little bit.

Trigger warning: sexual assault

Stay warm and stay reading things that make you happy!

flames, flames on the side of my face; 11.14.19

So a couple weeks ago I saw the movie Clue for the first time and, hot take: it’s a great movie! Just like, breathtakingly good, and I was so happy to finally have the context for this iconic moment, which also happens to coincide with this week’s books!

Interview with the Vampire – Anne Rice


This book……content-wise starts at an 11 and then just skyrockets to 11 hundred all while remaining narrated by someone who’s constantly at a 2.5? I read it for reasons that honestly do not make any sense to me after having read it…something something ~pop culture~ something something Brad Pitt? Also because one of my favorite podcasts, Overdue, read it in 2017, and I’m trying to work through as much as their backcatalog as I can. So maybe if you’re interested in the book…..just listen to them talk about it??

Rice is a very prolific writer (often known for her erotica) but this may be the book of hers with the most cultural touchpoints, thanks in part to the 1994 movie adaptation. (Which I will….probably watch.) It literally is in the frame of an interview with a vampire, who tells this guy his life/unlife story, which prompted so many moments for me of “wow Stephanie Meyer really just…took a lot from this huh?” I can’t say that the narrator himself was very compelling — when a guy starts out as a plantation owner and then spends most of his life as a vampire feeling conflicted about causing and allowing death but never lifting a single finger to stop it….it’s nearly an impossible sell for me. The book also has a bonkers relationship to sex — it’s never explicit, but as the Overdue guys have a lot of fun saying, has a lot of ~sensuality~ some of which is very very uncomfortable!!

In conclusion…..what even is this book.

Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger – Rebecca Traister

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I don’t know if a book has ever made me feel so angry and so validated at the same time!!! 

I read one of Traister’s other books, All the Single Ladies, right before starting this blog and loved it a lot. I’m constantly impressed by Traister’s writing, both in books and articles. She’s officially a journalist, but her books are deeply grounded in both history and critical theory while remaining accessibly readable (and she has a great sense of humor!) I was a bit concerned going into the first book that it was going to be mostly focused on white women, with a few sections narratively “off to the side” about women of color, but that is very much not Traister’s deal. In both books, she presents as full and inclusive an analysis as she can, matter-of-factly pointing out ways in which oppression intensifies for women of color and the ways that white women frequently leverage their proximity to white male privilege to intensify that oppression even more, while including the many ways that women of color have lead and pioneered movements.

This book focuses on women’s anger, both in the current moment and historically, the ways that patriarchy and white supremacy both stifle and purposefully mischaracterize that anger, and the many ways in which anger fuels activism. There were so many times reading it that I felt both angry and invigorated and I highly recommend it. 

Bye for now! Go watch Clue!

a romance novel and an essay collection walk into a blog; 10.30.19

Whew. Okay. Tomorrow is Halloween, and my plans as of this moment are pretty much to go to a showing of the 1978 Halloween and ignore everyone. But before that, let’s get into some books!

Fumbled – Alexa Martin

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You may remember how much I loved the first Alexa Martin book I read [Intercepted], so it should come as no surprise that reading the second in her ‘Playbook’ series was an excellent tonic for the onset of the fall blues. This one features Poppy Patterson, a single mom who’s spent the last decade avoiding the man who fathered her child and broke her heart…and is now one of the star players of the Denver football team, TK Moore. But when she runs into him at work the sparks are still there and she’s faced with incorporating TK into their son’s life while figuring out if the two of them can make it work as a couple.

I wasn’t quite as into this one as I was with Intercepted [which, to be fair to Fumbled, was QUITE A LOT]; the love interest was a harder sell for me and for very understandable narrative reasons, the relationship between them took a bit long to get going. That being said, I still liked it a lot! Poppy was a delightful and compelling protagonist, and Martin’s sense of humor is absolutely wonderful. She’s also excellent at filling out her protagonist’s lives with tender and supportive friendships. I also really appreciated that this book dug a little deeper into some of the issues in the football industry — particularly the high-impact injuries players experience which often have long-ranging consequences far past a player’s career trajectory. Martin herself is a former football wife and her characters’ complicated feelings about the sport their loved ones play feel sincere and grounded while not overshadowing the relationships between the characters themselves. The next book in the series, Blitzed, comes out the first week in December and I am COUNTING THE DAYS! [34]

The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability, and Other Reasons to Fall in Love With Me – Keah Brown


I love a book of essays, especially from someone I’ve been following on Twitter and then have the chance to take in their thoughts in long-form. Keah Brown is a disabled Black writer and activist whose essays are both personal reflection and cultural analysis. She writes about her personal love of fashion while critiquing its lack of inclusion, the ways in which jealousy has influenced her relationship with her sister, how society’s rampant ableism makes it difficult for disabled people to love themselves and their bodies, and a wide range of other topics. 

Every single essay in this book is infused with thoughtfulness, warmth, and necessary call-outs on the imperative need for all of us to combat ableism, racism, homophobia, and sexism on both individual and societal levels. Brown’s essays are deeply lifelike, positioning all parts of her life as interconnected and informative of one another; she explains how disability inclusion is often the last item on the agenda and how the inclusion that does happen almost always centers whiteness, right alongside why Paramore is her favorite band. I can’t wait to find out (and read) what she does next!

[tw: suicidal ideation]

That’s all for this week! Stay safe, stay respectful, and eat lots of candy!

freaky time stuff; 10.23.19

Hello hello, look at me, actually doing this one on time! Something not on time was October’s Pop Culture Pen Pals; this month really ate both Hannah and I alive but we got it out yesterday, and friends, it’s pretty good! We wrote about Derry Girls and Hustlers, which you should DEFINITELY watch, as well as our feeling about the decline of Stranger Things. We have some fun stuff in mind for the next few months, so remember to subscribe!

Parallel Worlds: A Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos – Michio Kaku

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One of my biggest fears is outer space. So naturally I read and watch as much about outer space as possible. I don’t have any explanation for this — my roommate thinks it’s because I feel like if I learn enough about it I won’t be scared of it, which I do not agree with, because the more I learn about it the more terrifying it becomes. But it’s also SO fascinating, especially when we get into the freaky time stuff, which is exactly what this book is about. 

I picked it up wanting to know more about the parallel worlds theory, which I was bummed to find out was a smaller part of the book than I anticipated. This is partly due to the sheer amount of physics Kaku needs to summarize and explain before even getting there, but even after we got there we moved on pretty quickly. Kaku is an engaging writer who does a good job at explaining extremely complex theories and ideas to non-physics reader, but there were some tangents that didn’t feel quite necessary. Anyway, I’m still glad I read it so that I can tell everyone I see about the idea that millions of years in the future scientists might figure out how to slingshot the earth into a larger orbit in order to avoid being swallowed by the sun. Fun!

Pretending He’s Mine – Mia Sosa


I found this book via the twitter account of a romance-only bookstore called The Ripped Bodice, which is thankfully located in California or I would be spending ALL of my time there. Their account does a ‘Featured Book of the Day,’ which has SIGNIFICANTLY added to my library holds list. Based on the brief description they used, I bumped this one to the top INSTANTLY because ‘close proximity’ is one of my favorite tropes. [Usually leads to ‘one bed,’ which this one definitely did.] The protagonists, Ashley and Julian, have known each other since they were teenagers, and have always been attracted to each other, but are determined not to date [another fantastic trope] because Julian is an agent [Hollywood, not spy] who represents Ashley’s brother [one of the protagonists in the first book in this series, which I haven’t read yet]. However, with Ashley temporarily crashing at Julian’s place and the two of them pretending to date at a wedding [!!!] that determination is quickly cracking.

This book had A LOT of the tropes I love, but I didn’t love the book. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been inadvertently on a slow SLOW burn streak lately, but even though their external reasons for not being together were solid, their internal feelings about it started to feel repetitive. I also wasn’t particularly bought in with either of the protagonists, but we were introduced to the protagonists of the next book in the series Crashing Into Her, which I am pumped to read. [It’s ‘enemies to lovers’!!]

Red at the Bone – Jacqueline Woodson


THIS GODDAMN BOOK!!!! I read one of Woodson’s other books, Another Brooklyn, last year and really enjoyed it, but this knocked my confident anticipation out of the PARK! IN A GOOD WAY! Like Another Brooklyn, this is a short book filled with poetic imagery and language. I know for a lot of people ‘poetic language’ [myself occasionally included] rings a certain “oh this is going to be hard and complicated to read” bell, but this book couldn’t be farther from that. It’s a very quick read — I honestly yelled “OH NO” when I realized I only had 20 pages left and realized how quickly those 20 pages were going to go by. Another “ehhhh” buzzword for me is “intergenerational,” because often those stories get a little sprawling for me, but Jacqueline Woodson is the fcking BEST and is incredible at identifying and arranging the most potent parts of her story to really just mess you all the way up in a short 200 pages.

The book starts at the coming of age ceremony of 16 year old Melody, our first narrator. We then move through her parents and maternal grandparents, each one giving us a slice of the story, working backwards, forwards, and inwards through time. [So in a way….this book is also about freaky time stuff.] I could have read an entire book from any one of these characters’ perspectives but am also so glad I got to read them all next to each other, contextualizing one another like a family does. It’s a lovely, perfect book and I already want to reread it.

See you next week!

snow thank you; 10.16.19

Okay I know I know you didn’t deserve that pun but then again I didn’t deserve witnessing snow in mid-October, so! I mean, it didn’t stick, but honestly what the hell. 

Anyways, before I get into the books, I wanted to share some breaking news, which is that I went to see the movie Alien [1979] last night and, hot take: it’s a good movie! 10/10 recommend!

Lot – Bryan Washington


If you’re not sure if you like short stories but you do love narrative propelled by strong imagery you should definitely read this book. You should probably read this book anyway, as it’s an excellent debut story collection that tenderly celebrates the city of Houston (Washington’s home) while exploring the challenges of gentrification, natural disaster, and racism that the city struggles with. The stories alternate between the continuing narrative of one particular character and a variety of other characters (or, in a few incredibly skillful stories, the point of view of an entire pick up baseball team and neighborhood). These stories carry you along so smoothly that it’s extra-delightful when a particular image or turn of phrase stops you in your tracks. In an ideal world I would have taken either a little more time with this book or read it in one sitting; unfortunately I wasn’t able to do either, but at least that means I can verify it’s still great outside of those ~ideal circumstances~.

Lord Dashwood Missed Out – Tessa Dare

One bed! One bed! This book has one bed!!!


“One bed” is a trope beloved among readers of romance novels and watchers of rom-coms, and this short and sweet novella basically revolves around it. I read it in two quick sittings (I think it literally clocks in at about 100 pages) and would have read much more of it. Print romance novellas are a bit hard to come by, as a lot of the romance genre has shifted to e-reader exclusive, which I think is great in general for the world and annoying for me personally because they make my eyes hurt. So I was particularly delighted to find this quick jaunt by an author I’m already coming to adore, about a lady writer who finds herself thrown together with the man she wrote a fiery screed in response to his scorning. There are a lot of interstitials with characters from one of Dare’s other series, which I probably would have enjoyed more if I’d already read those books, but they were charming nonetheless.

Old In Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over – Nell Painter


After a long and prestigious academic career as a historian, this memoir starts when Painter decides to follow a long-held passion and pursue art. She begins with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and continues into a graduate degree, grappling with her own internal tension between ‘academic’ and ‘artist,’ her simultaneous enthusiasm over growing technical skills and frustration with the many conflicting messages she gets about technique and meaning, and the ways in which her identity as a Black woman in her 60s frequently separates her both from her classmates and the artworld as a whole. I really really enjoyed it; the book is informative and soothing and funny and reflective about craft and the many joys and difficulties of being passionate about making art.

This is one of those books that has been on my ‘to read’ list for so long that I honestly don’t remember how it got there, but it turned out to be exactly what I needed to read write now. I would imagine it might be even richer if you’re a person who knows anything about art (or better yet any sort of visual artistic skill yourself, which even the most cursory glance at this blog will tell you I don’t), but Painter excellently pitches it in a way that an engaged reader can easily understand (or look up) what they need to.

Okay that’s all for now! See you hopefully next week but more likely the week after that!

support millenneagram!!!; 9.30.19

Another unscheduled 2 week break! Fun! Turns out when things are hectic at work, even if they’re less hectic after work, all I want to do is…not more work! And also watch Couples Therapy on Showtime! I really don’t understand my compulsion to marathon this show, as I generally like my TV to be highly scripted and also it’s very stressful to watch! But it was also impossible to stop watching, so here we are! Please watch it and tell me everything/yell with me about how BAD one particular person on the show is.

Also I know it’s not Wednesday but I really wanted to boost a fundraising effort whose last day is TODAY. It’s in the last book, which had to be last because I wanted it to be the preview image and that’s literally the only way I know how to do it on this damned site!

Fleishman is in Trouble – Taffy Brodessor-Akner

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Starting off with the “literary pool read” of the summer!! Brodessor-Akner, known widely for her insightful profiles, has written a book about (among many other things) divorce, middle-age, wealth, New York, parenting, dating, and ambition. I do not have experience with very many of those things! And yet! Once I heard a [non-spoiler] excerpt read on an episode of The Cut On Tuesdays I had to read it, and while I was reading it I was antsy during every break because I needed to get back to it. 

The premise is that Toby Fleishman’s ex-wife disappears, but from there it’s like a russian doll of books!! It just somehow keeps expanding inward, with tiny but wrenching plot twists and characters you want to both want to succeed and also want to sit them down for a Serious Talk About Their Choices. Despite the sound of the premise, it’s really not a thriller — is there a genre for “emotional suspense”?? That would be this book, and soon to be miniseries!

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much MoreJanet Mock


I haven’t read a memoir in awhile, which means Mock’s memoir got to the top of my library stack at the exact right time! Some of you may know of Mock from her activism and/or television work [most recently she wrote, directed, and produced on Pose, which I’ve heard excellent things about and plan to watch soon], and if you read this book [or just listen to my opinion on it, or both, whatever] you’ll find that she’s also a fantastic memoirist.

The book covers roughly the first 20 years of Mock’s life, growing up in Hawaii, Oakland, and Dallas with a growing certainty that her gender identity did not match what she was assigned at birth. Her writing is gorgeous, with lovely imagery and incredible generosity for everyone in her story. Whenever she pulls back to explain something [like the process of starting hormone replacements or the devastating numbers on trans homelessness], she writes with clarity to a beginner level without watering down her own nuanced perspective. I’m particularly excited to read her second book Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me.

P.S. if you’re looking for a good cause to donate to, consider Trans Lifeline!

[tw: attempted suicide, childhood sexual abuse]

The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkein


So I’ve been on a bit of a Tolkein break since finishing Two Towers in *checks notes* last October. I didn’t feel quite ready to dive into Return of the King, so here we are, the LOTR: Kids Edition, or something like that. What I’ve heard amongst LOTR fans is that feelings on The Hobbit are deeply divided; some like it more than the trilogy, some deeply dislike it, some find it amusing but barely canonical, none find it worthy of three 2+ hour movies that’s for sure.

As for myself, I mildly enjoyed myself! It’s a much faster read than any of the trilogy, and I feel like maybe fewer songs? As with Two Towers, I continued to be deeply delighted whenever Gollum was around and honestly I do think he should have won that riddle game. Bilbo cheated multiple times and that’s my final word on that.

A Duke By DefaultAlyssa Cole


The second in Cole’s ‘Reluctant Royals’ series, this book follows Portia (best friend to Ledi in A Princess in Theory) to Scotland for an internship at an armory. She’s doing her best to set herself on “Operation New Portia,” determined to leave partying, drinking, and — inconveniently for a romance novel — sex behind for the time being as she attempts to prove herself to her parents and herself. Inconveniently for her, the owner of the armory is….alluring. Inconveniently for him, he’s about to learn a whole lot about himself.

This has got to be the literal SLOWEST BURN I have ever encountered in a romance novel. But it was for real and understandable narrative reasons, which were done super thoughtfully. There’s also a lot that Portia’s grappling with emotionally, which Cole handles with such care and nuance. Also, she has a great sense of humor and skillfully reveals each character’s horniness in truly delightful ways.

Millenneagram – Hannah Paasch

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You know in Mary Poppins when Mary Poppins is unpacking her carpetbag for the Banks children, and she pulls that plant out of her bag and says “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”? [I guess John Keats said it first but whatever who cares.] That’s how I feel about this book, both the inside and out.

Disclaimer: Hannah is a friend, so I was extremely well-disposed to like this book before even starting it, but I can promise you that within the introduction alone you’ll be similarly well-disposed! It was Hannah’s work that got me invested in the Enneagram in the first place, translating an ancient system of processing one’s experiences and motivations into a graspable understanding of why I react the way I do to things that happen today.

It’s great for any pre-existing level of Enneagram knowledge, whether that’s none or “I keep Riso and Hudson on my bedside table.” Also! Hannah has a Millenneagram podcast! Which is nearly funded for a second season!! If you’re interested in helping to keep this thing going, check out the Patreon, and if you’re on Twitter you might want to check out the *ahem* inspired fundraising campaign going on there.

Okay bye! See you next week, maybe/hopefully!