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totally top 3: may 2019


I absolutely loved Claire North’s, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. Like I said in my review, once I realized what I was reading, I wasn’t sure that I would like it, but even when it made me feel a little dumb, I enjoyed it. Harry is just an incredibly interesting narrator to hang around with, both because of what he is and also because of the dry way he relays his observations of the world around him. Though he’s never effusive, you can feel these wonderful tremors of joy and anxiety and fear and possibility with just the subtlest change to the narrative voice. Wonderful writing and world-building and a great, simmering queer subtext, and the wonderful line, “He enjoyed toying with me, and, in my way, I enjoyed being toyed with.” — one of the absolutely horniest things I’ve ever read.


I’ve been listening to Phantom Planet’s “BALISONG” and Big Data’s “Put Me to Work” on repeat a LOT all month long. “BALISONG” has this great chugging rhythm and Alex Greenwald’s hypnotic voice rising and falling in all kinds of interesting ways and it’s got me extremely hyped for a full-scale comeback. “Put Me to Work” is fucking great, extremely dance-y and perfectly current while also feeling a little flashback-y like all good synth music. Also, who doesn’t love a shout-y sing-a-long chorus?


I waited a long time to watch Call Me By Your Name because despite my Genuine! Best! Efforts! I am a jerk who sometimes ends up turned off of things because the hype has overwhelmed me! I don’t think it was necessary this time, but man, was it worth the wait anyway. What a lovely piece of moviemaking and storytelling. I’ve been trying to articulate a lot of things about it both as a movie I liked and as a Piece of Queer Media (especially a compare and contrast with Brokeback Mountain, oh man. There are even shirt parallels!) but mostly I keep being grateful (which says something really fucking shameful about pop culture) that this felt like a movie about a gay relationship that I was just able to enjoy as a romance because no one died a horrible death and the heartbreak was just nice regular heartbreak. Progress!?!??! Also, what a lovely story about family, too. (Shoutout to Reid, the tattoo artist I saw a couple of weeks ago who said it “really fucked him up” because I hadn’t seen it yet and couldn’t have a conversation about it, but you know what? Fucking same, dude.)


And three to look forward to…

late night   simon james green, alex in wonderland   the dead don't die

totally top three: april 2019

The end-ish of this month has been ROUGH because I got sick like a dumb idiot and also because I have to go in for my semi-annual endometrial probing and I also have other stuff scheduled and I don’t handle having plans very well? I prefer to be free and I will assume that this is just my nature as a pisces, since one of the other things I find myself obsessed with in 2019 is astrology even though I don’t believe in it at all. What an adventure being alive is!

I did at least manage to like some stuff this month, so that’s cool!


I thought Unicorn Store was incredibly sweet and charming and also it made me cry a little bit, but in a nice, moved way, which is always great. Brie Larson is a national treasure who I already love a lot and Mamoudou Athie is a wonderful new addition to my list of People to Be Obsessed With. I liked that this just leaned into its premise and let it play out as weird as it wanted to without sacrificing any of its characters’ humanity. Samuel L. Jackson was also great as always and man, what a wardrobe!


I didn’t actually know anything about Jessica Knoll’s Luckiest Girl Alive when I finally started reading it 10,000 years after the hype died down and though I don’t think it mattered much enjoyment-wise, I do think I would have been extremely fucked up by the expectation that it might be anything like Gone Girl because it just… Is not at all that kind of book and I don’t know what marketing person decided to fucking, die on that hill. This is some of the best writing I’ve read in a long, long time and a really complicated, interesting narrator to spend time with and I am so glad I read it and happy to never read it again.


Lizzo is a babe, a talent, a hero, an idol, an inspiration and Cuz I Love You is joyful and fun and energetic and beautiful and I am so glad I’m alive on earth at the same time as her. I can’t imagine telling a young version of myself about Lizzo’s entire existence and I am so envious of and happy for young people right now. Favorites: “Cuz I Love You” & “Like a Girl” & “Jerome” & “Better In Color”


And three to look forward to…

avengers: endgame   frank iero and the future violents, barriers   tom ryan, keep this to yourself

totally top five 2018: reading

I made it another year reviewing all the books I read on Goodreads! Maybe this year I’ll 1. get better at reviewing and 2. read more dang books?!

And now in no particular order!


Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End ripped my heart out in all the best ways. It has a simple, genius concept that’s executed clearly without lengthy dragging explanations. It drops the reader in and expects them to accept the world as-is and then makes them fall in love with rich, engaging, charming characters and get attached to them, all the while knowing exactly how the story is going to end. Despite yelling the title at myself every time I felt even a tiny little glow of hope in my ribs, I was still absolutely devastated in the end and loved every second of it.


Janet E. Cameron’s Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World is a coming-of-age story that stays with its protagonist a lot longer than most, which I found both refreshing and really satisfying. I like the way time and place shape the story and that Stephen is struggling with more than one aspect of his identity. I like that even though it reaches extremely dark places, it never feels hopeless or like it’s enjoying the character’s suffering. There’s stronger writing here than I was expecting and some places where I knew the words would stick around for a long time. Really lovely.


Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism seemed like a fun, throwback book when I bought it, but it ended up being a lot more: scary and creepy and immersive and frustrating (I hate when you’re in the head of a character that other people don’t believe! It makes me furious and it was executed SO WELL here.) and also really lovely and moving and sweet. The heart of this book is a deep, living friendship between two girls and even with a great plot and pitch-perfect pop cultural references (that never feel cheap!) that friendship is what carries the story each step of the way. There’s some really great, grotesque imagery in here and I loved the multimedia elements, but most of all I loved that it had a really satisfying ending that never lost sight of the girls at its center.


S.J. Goslee’s Whatever was super, super fun and charming and smart and funny and had tons of great, teenager-y dialogue and goofy, teenager-y shenanigans to really get absorbed in. Also there is really fun, charming, awkward flirting! And characters who really like each other! And have interesting voices! All of the characters here are really engaging and the story as a whole is really what I most enjoy when reading YA, my most frequent genre of choice: teenagers who are figuring shit out, navigating rough spots, and still having a pretty good time.


K. Ancrum’s The Wicker King wins the award for Book That Made Me Yell At My Wife the Most because she hasn’t read it yet, but also won’t let me talk to her about it because she doesn’t want to be spoiled and I want, SO BADLY, to talk about it! This book is so freaking beautiful and dense and interesting and painful and god, I don’t know how to articulate it. I love the characters and the weirdness and the relationships and the imagery and the visual components and the really intense, almost brutal relationship at the center of it. This book was so unpredictable and unexpected for me. Also, it has one of the best author’s notes I’ve ever read. I feel like stumbling across this book at Wild Rumpus while being mildly intimidated by a free-roaming fluffy chicken was a tiny little moment of magic in 2018 and I am so grateful for it.


Honorable Mentions

natasha washington, calling calling calling me   carrie fisher, the princess diarist   simon james green, noah can't even


Previously

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totally top three: november 2018

I know that there have been a million memes and jokes about how 2018 has had zero connection to the space-time continuum, but WHOO-BOY, that shit’s no joke. There was an Olympics this year. AN OLYMPICS. How even? And now it’s December? What am I supposed to do with this?

Crystal and I have been watching — and rewatching — The Great British Baking Show because it is deeply soothing while still being fun. It’s engaging without being mentally taxing and I find the majority of the bakers incredibly charming AND easy to cheer for regardless of who progresses as the competition does. This newest season was particularly enjoyable with 11 competitors I liked immediately and one I learned to tolerate pretty quickly. (Look! I just did NOT care for Karen’s smug attitude from the jump! Humility is a VIRTUE.) I was also so satisfied with the winner, even if that pita challenge stunt was stupid enough to seem like it was pulled from an American cooking competition show.



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My scalp is STILL driving me crazy after more than a year of giving up dry shampoos almost entirely — I think I’ve used styling products maybe… three times? In more than a year? — and I finally got angry enough that I tossed all the half-used shampoos and conditioners and bought the Amino Acid Shampoo and Conditioner from Kiehl’s, which I’d seen recommended frequently for dry scalp and fine hair. I can’t say it’s life-changing necessarily — if I ever find an actual life-changing hair care routine, you will DEFINITELY hear about it — but it smells nice and gently cleanses my hair and scalp without making either one feel stripped and the conditioner keeps my hair from getting staticky but also doesn’t make it flat and greasy. Also, you need a TINY bit of each to get it done, so the price doesn’t seem as daunting. And U KNO WUT, I’ll take it!



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Jeffrey Burton & Don Clark’s All Is Merry and Bright is a really beautifully illustrated kids book for the holiday season. The pages are almost overwhelmingly full and super fun to look at and though what little writing there is could be stronger, it’s genuinely just NOT the point of the book anyway. We have this one out on our coffee table as part of our holiday decor and even just glancing at the cover makes me happy. So lovely.


And three to look forward to…


      

totally top three: october 2018

October has been a MONTH, man. Since the end of it is going to be a mess, I started this on the 10th and am now finishing it on November 2nd. 2018 is really blasting by, isn’t it? I’m exhausted.

Crystal and I saw Fall Out Boy live twice this month and the shows were honestly spectacular. We saw them together in November 2007 and then for a variety of reasons (none having anything to do with Fall Out Boy, to be honest, just L I F E) hadn’t seen them again and it was really weird and interesting and exciting to see what ten years can do for a band. We had so much fun it was kind of unbelievable and I came out loving a couple songs that I was sort of meh about previously. (You cannot watch Patrick Stump jam out while doing “American Beauty/American Psycho” and not come out obsessed with it.) I love live music so much, it’s hard to articulate. It was so important to me for so many years and I took my access to it so extremely for granted. These last few months of shows have been massively revitalizing to me and I hope we can do it again soon.



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I hate brushing my teeth! This is literally a thing I have struggled with my entire life. As an adult, I am lucky to 1. know that it’s partially a sensory issue, and 2. have a very good dentist & hygienist who help me take care of my teeth, but also, I just want to be better about it! Generally, if I can get myself started, I can brush fine, but it can be hard to make myself do it twice every single day. (I read that the optimal number is actually three times in two days, but dentists say twice a day because it’s easier and humans are big dumb forgetful animals.) I figured the best thing I could do to improve on it (after YEARS of trying to make myself a twice every day person) was to make sure I was always brushing for two minutes every time I brush. I have a Sonicare which I like a lot AND has a timer, but also can’t handle using every time I brush my teeth (GOD WHO KNEW YOU COULD HAVE SO MANY PROBLEMS WITH SUCH A SIMPLE LIFE FUNCTION) so I bought myself a timer in hopes that it would inspire me to brush for the full two minutes! And when I found one that looks like a rocket, I knew it was meant to be. And you know what? Two minutes is a LONG time. But staring at a lil rocket helps.



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Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism was such a good, fun, creepy read with a really wonderful core of friendship and love. It reminded me of my favorite kind of campy 80s horror movies and also my favorite stories about loyalty. It has a great cast of characters, makes good use of pop culture (without being annoying or feeling phony), and an ending that made me tear up. And definitely a great read for spooky season!


And three to look forward to…