As promised, this post is dedicated to books, movies, and fanfiction I’ve consumed recently (and not so recently). I’ve got 23 books, 16 movies, and 6 fics in this post, so I’ve put most of it under a cut. Let’s get started.
BOOKS I READ
Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner (Amazon | Goodreads) – I was kind of disappointed the main character turned out to be cis and straight considering how important crossdressing is to the plot, but this book does a good job of exploring sexism and gatekeeping in fandom and geek culture, cyberbullying, costume design and construction, and the magic of Dungeons & Dragons. Also the illustrations are used really well.
Daughters of the Dragon by William Andrews (Amazon | Goodreads) – This is a good book that was really hard to read and which I never want to read again. It’s about the Korean “comfort women” who were forced into sexual slavery and repeatedly raped by the Imperial Japanese Army during WWII. The Japanese government refused to acknowledge it happened at all until 1993 and continues to downplay this horrific part of Japan’s history.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (Amazon | Goodreads) – A bit heavy-handed and clumsily written, but the premise is so damn good: Lord of the Flies but the plane that crashes is carrying beauty pageant contestants.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt (Amazon | Goodreads) – This was my first Donna Tartt book and my GOD it did not disappoint. I loved the prose, especially the physical descriptions of people and the environment. Francis “Asparagus is in season” Abernathy is a precious gemstone, and I was so into this book that I read it between sets while crushed in the pit at a Dua Lipa concert.
Room by Emma Donoghue (Amazon | Goodreads) – Honestly this was kind of excruciating to read because it’s written from a 5-year-old’s point of view, but once you get used to it, WHAT A STORY! It is about abduction and abuse but also hope and resilience and adaptability.
Ship It by Britta Lundin (Amazon | Goodreads) – I loved this book. I love that the main character is afraid of and confused by her own queerness, I love that she falls for someone who is so sure of her own queerness that she doesn’t leave room for those who are questioning, I love that there’s a bi character who’s not 100% sure about her sexuality despite being comfortable with herself, and I love that the main character gets called out for not caring about minority representation that doesn’t directly affect herself.
The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (Amazon | Goodreads) – I was loath to read this because I wanted The Raven Cycle series to go on forever, but I was in such a bad headspace re: work that I gave myself permission to escape to Cabeswater. It was super effective, and as soon as I finished reading, I immediately started looking for fic because I love all of my nightmare children so much!!!
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (Amazon | Goodreads) – This book really needs a trigger warning for physical abuse and period racism, but if you love gay-ass Victorians, sass, and character development, you’ll have a good time with this one.
Sophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen (Amazon | Goodreads) – Amusing, but disappointingly blasé about sexism and racism in the tech industry. This book was based off the author’s own work experiences in 1990s Silicon Valley, but I feel very strongly that if a book about the tech industry published in 2018 mentions sexist and racist behavior, it should also call it what it is: a systemic problem.
Circe by Madeline Miller (Amazon | Goodreads) – I decided to read this because I loved The Song of Achilles so fucking much, and it did not disappoint. Madeline Miller’s prose has this sort of timeless cadence that works particularly well in the context of Greek mythology, and it’s so beautiful it makes me want to both weep and swoon. This story is about Circe and WITCHCRAFT and POWERFUL WOMEN and (thirsty Spongebob voice) YOU. NEEEED IT!!!
The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter – And How to Make the Most of Them Now by Meg Jay (Amazon | Goodreads) – A bit alarmist but mostly realistic, concrete, and useful. Essentially, there are some decisions you can’t put off making without harming or limiting your future self (especially re: family planning and declining fertility past your 20s), so try to be strategic about how you build your adult life and arm yourself with knowledge.
The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance by W. Timothy Gallwey (Amazon | Goodreads) – This book is tennis-focused, but it’s also about the intuitive learning techniques we possess as humans with bodies and instincts. I haven’t quite figured out how to apply this to thought-based skills like writing, but I have an inkling it has something to do with letting yourself do things badly instead of being paralyzed by perfectionism.
The Lighting Thief by Rick Riordan (Amazon | Goodreads) – I was a little too old and a little too into Harry Potter to read the Percy Jackson series when it was coming out, but I love me some Greek mythology and I had a damn good time reading this despite its predictability.
Prince’s Gambit by C. S. Pacat (Amazon | Goodreads ) – I read this while lolling around at Avila Beach in 90 degree weather, wearing a flimsy bikini and approximately 12 gallons of sunscreen, because I thought this would be unguilty pleasure reading, but listen: the Captive Prince series may appear to be nothing but problematic gay sex slave erotica, but it is in fact a deftly woven, twisty as fuck masterpiece of political intrigue and sheer romance, which happens to be sitting on eight quadrillion units of unresolved sexual tension just waiting to explode. (It explodes in this book. It is excruciating, and delicious.)
Kings Rising by C. S. Pacat (Amazon | Goodreads) – I had already been unbelievably fucked up over the Captive Prince series since the 2nd book, but this 3rd and final installment somehow fucked me up even more!!! I HAVE LOST MY MIND!!! I went into this series thinking it would be a problematic smutty story using the sex slave trope, but Damen’s views on his culture’s acceptance of “voluntary” slavery actually change over time. The relationship between Damen and Laurent is 75% UST and 25% EXCRUCIATING, EQUALITY-BASED ROMANCE. There is SO. MUCH. POLITICAL INTRIGUE!!! C. S. Pacat is exceptionally good at showing without telling, and it’s just a whole big beautiful goddamn journey. I wish I could unread the series just so I could read it for the first time again.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (Amazon | Goodreads) – I saw the Netflix trailer and decided to read this before the movie came out. It was a cute take on the fake dating trope, but Lara Jean’s internal monologue was a little too teenage and the story was a little too love triangular(…?) for my taste. That being said, after I finished reading, I went to my room to look for an old multi-page love letter and then cried over how unappreciative I was when I’d received it. It really is special when someone handwrites their feelings on paper and gives them to you.
P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han (Amazon | Goodreads) – Entertaining enough, but, like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (the prequel to this book), also kind of boring in that it’s basically just a love triangle story.
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (Amazon | Goodreads) – I found the pacing of the first half of the book to be excruciatingly slow, but the twisty second half more than made up for it. I’m undecided on if I want to read more of this series because the prose doesn’t quite work for me, but I’ll see.
Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee (Amazon | Goodreads) – The author wrote this middle grade book after her daughter came out to her, and as the daughter put it in her Tumblr post, this book was “written by a mom who has asked questions and done her research and tried as hard as she possibly could to make her own queer kid feel safe and loved and valid” and it’s ADORABLE.
MOVIES I WATCHED
Crazy Rich Asians (Amazon | IMDb) – I watched this in theaters 3 separate times and cried during Colin and Araminta’s (beautiful, ridiculous) wedding every single time. The mahjong scene was EVERYTHING, and Michelle Yeoh was so, so good. Awkwafina’s use of a blaccent for comedic deliveries is kind of problematic, but if you have the energy to overlook it, this movie is a joyous rom-com that’s actually about family and self-sacrifice, and it felt very true to my Asian American experience.
Marie Antoinette (Amazon | IMDb) – I liked Lost in Translation and disliked The Virgin Suicides, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect with Marie Antoinette, but I ended up loving it. I’m not sure what exactly Sofia Coppola intended, but what I got from it was a meditation on the limited roles women are confined to in society, and consumerism/hedonism as escape/survival. The set and costumes are fantastic, naturally, and the whole film feels kind of Terrence Malick, in the best way.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (IMDb) – Lara Jean’s outfits are killer, and it was every bit as cute as everyone said it would be. I found it wonderfully tender in a way the book failed to be, because it explicitly centered the story around grief and the fear so many of us hold about having to experience loss again. I’ve already tweeted about this, but seriously: If I’d had rom-coms like this when I was growing up instead of Win A Date with Tad Hamilton! (which has godawful messages about purity and nice guys), maybe it wouldn’t have taken me quite so many years to accept that I, too, preferred fantasy romance to the real thing, because I, too, was terrified of having to experience the pain of losing someone again, and that I, too, could both miss someone and feel angry at them. I think perhaps if, instead of my grief counselor pointedly asking whether my first Christmas without my father made me feel sad (not particularly tbh; I was too busy drinking up the happy experience of having fun with my cousins after months of trying to tamp down the sadness and anger my third-grade mind was incapable of processing), someone had just said to me, “We don’t have to talk about it, but it’s not ‘whatever'” – I think perhaps I would’ve been able to date people before age 23, and better appreciated the love I’ve received and rejected.
Set It Up (IMDb) – The premise for this rom-com was SO promising, but the execution left something to be desired. That being said, Lucy Liu is sooo good in this, and it happens to include some really good advice about letting yourself write badly.
Magic Mike (Amazon | IMDb) – I genuinely liked this movie, and I do NOT understand why people make fun of it. Calling Magic Mike a male stripper movie is like calling Brokeback Mountain a gay cowboy movie. Like, it’s technically accurate, but it completely misses the point. Anyway, I loved Channing Tatum in this almost as much as I loved him in 21 Jump Street, which is saying a lot.
Carol (Amazon | IMDb) – I should probably read the book on which this film is based (The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith), but my reaction is basically just ROONEY MARA! SARAH PAULSON!! CATE BLANCHETT!!!
The Princess Diaries (Amazon | IMDb) – This is one of those movies everyone watched in middle school but which my younger self deemed too girly, so I just… never saw it. Honestly I thought I would like this more, considering how much I liked Legally Blonde, which came out the same year and which I also deemed too girly to watch at the time, but Anne Hathaway was extremely charming as Mia Thermopolis, and it was cute and fun enough.
The Bleeding Edge (IMDb) – This documentary about the medical device industry was educational and straight-up horrifying. To summarize: 1) The FDA approval process for medical devices is dangerously lax. The 501(k) process allows “substantially equivalent” devices (including poorly tested iterations of previously approved devices) to be fast-tracked for approval, even if the original device was later recalled for being unsafe. 2) All of these are inadequately tested, and all of these are still FDA-approved and on the market in 2018: Essure (implanted sterilization device; can cause debilitating chronic pain, severe bleeding, uterine damage; shatters easily during attempted removal, launching metal shards into the body), cobalt hip replacements (can cause cobalt poisoning, leading to severe neurological damage), mesh implants (can cause severe pain and pressure on organs, is extremely difficult to remove), da Vinci robot-assisted surgery (requires minimal training to operate, can lead to increased operation time and increased likelihood of complications such as (dear GOD) bowel evisceration from routine hysterectomies).
Venom (Amazon | IMDb) – I feel like perhaps I liked this too much? I mean, I didn’t like it as much as, uh, “monsterfuckers,” which is a term I learned from last week’s edition of The Rec Center, but god. I mean, the story is clunky and Michelle Williams’ wig is not great, but it’s set in San Francisco! It’s just the right amount of gross! It’s blatantly homoerotic and really kind of dumb and it’s SO ENTERTAINING! And Tom Hardy is so??? fucking good, and so fucking gorgeous!!! This is not a Film™, but it’s not trying to be one either, and I absolutely recommend it.
Locke (Amazon | IMDb) – I searched “Tom Hardy” on Netflix and hit play without reading the synopsis. It’s 85 minutes of Tom Hardy driving a car and making phone calls with a soft Welsh accent. Literally the whole film takes place inside a car, and Tom Hardy’s face is the only face ever onscreen. It was legit.
FIC I READ
“So Impossibly Summer” by two_of_swords (The Raven Cycle, Ronan/Adam, T) – AU where Adam is a lifeguard, and Ronan hates the beach.
“Lines on Palms” by Fahye (Captive Prince, Damen/Laurent, E) – AU where Auguste is alive and Laurent is in fact “journeying to Akielos as part of an embassy,” aka AU where Damen’s canon daydream is reality.
“The Boy Who Only Lived Twice” by lettered (Harry Potter, H/D, E) – This was a reread. I distinctly remember this being “that one Drarry fic where they’re Unspeakables and Draco’s codename is, weirdly, Rabbit,” but I’ve decided this is a better line to remember it by: “He looked good enough that Harry didn’t understand why everyone wasn’t bisexual.”
“More Than That” by joosetta (Harry Potter, H/D, E) – An epilogue-compliant goddamn delight. Draco teaches Potions, Harry is the new DADA professor, and they’re both “52 year old men who refuse to age gracefully.”
Making a Home at the End of the World” by Starlingthefool (Harry Potter, H/D, M) – Pacific Rim AU. “Apocalyptic feelings” is a good way to describe this.
“The Changeling” by Annerb (Harry Potter, H/G, T) – AU where Ginny was sorted into Slytherin, told in 3rd person from Ginny’s perspective. This spans her entire time at Hogwarts, up until the end of the war, and it is SO GOOD. It explores prejudice, autonomy, self-control, loyalty, and so much more, fully fleshing out Ginny as a complex, flawed, likable character in a way I never fully believed in canon. I think this might be my favorite world-building bit from this fic, spoken by Luna, after she reveals that women used to be prohibited from having wands:
“You build an entire education around the use of wands and then decide who has wands. Adults, not kids. Wizards, not…Goblins or House Elves.”
Demelza lifts an eyebrow. “Wizards, not witches.”
Ginny nods. “Purebloods, not Muggleborns.”
Hannah looks at her wand. “I never really thought about it.”
And that, Ginny thinks, is probably the point.
That’s all for now. I’m working my way through a bunch of library ebooks, a pile of used books I bought 3 years ago and still haven’t touched, my Netflix queue, and my “Marked for Later” backlog on AO3, so you can probably expect another massive update in a few weeks. ✌🏻