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Books I Read In 2019

img_7960I made a goal last year to read one book per month for all of 2019. I am extremely happy to announce that I have met that goal – I actually surpassed it!! One of my new year’s resolutions actually was met, and I’m very proud. Here is a list of all the books I made my way through in the past year:

JanuaryMan Up! By Ross Mathews

February It Takes Balls By Josh Wolf

MarchThe Glass Castle By Jeannette Walls

AprilAre You There God? It’s Me, Margaret By Judy Blume

MayA Wrinkle In Time By Madeleine L’Engle

JuneOrange Is The New Black By Piper Kerman

JulyOut Of Orange By Cleary Waters

AugustKaramo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing and Hope by Karamo Brown

SeptemberDiva Rules By Michelle Visage

OctoberRunning With Scissors By Augusten Burroughs

NovemberOver The Top By Jonathan Van Ness

DecemberNaturally Tan by Tan France

Other Books I Read:

Desert Southwest (WildSam Field Guide)

Flipping The Switch By John G Miller

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

Darkness To Light by Lamar Odom

Selfish by Kim Kardashian

Antoni In The Kitchen by Antoni Porowski

Queer Eye: Love Yourself. Love Your Life.

bookI have complete and full intentions to achieve this goal again next year, as well as maybe even start to work on doing some more writing of my own. I have so many things on my “to read” list, so I know I’ll be keeping myself busy.

Thanks for reading!

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The Complete Queer Eye Book Collection

I’ve done lots of reading this year, which led me into a deep dive into the works of my five favorite guys. You can catch them on Netflix’s Queer Eye: Jonathan Van Ness, Karamo Brown, Tan France, Antoni Porowski, and Bobby Berk.

My breakdown for the first three books can be found by clicking the links below:

img_79241. Over The Top by Jonathan Van Ness

IMG-66542. Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing and Hope by Karamo Brown

img_79733. Naturally Tan by Tan France

img_86264. Antoni has a cookbook rather than a novel, called Antoni In The Kitchen.

There’s an intro in the beginning where we get to learn more about Antoni and where he drew his inspirations for food. He grew up in Montreal with two Polish parents, and experienced a variety of culture growing up. He also mentions Queer Eye of course, which includes a forward from original “food and wine” expert, Ted Allen. I also love that Antoni mentions his sexuality, because he felt insecure about being on a show starring gay men when he is really more on the spectrum of sexuality.

img_8628Though Antoni comes from Polish decent, the book is not overloaded with Polish recipes. It’s actually a lovely cultural mix of Polish, Italian, Middle Eastern, Moroccan, Aussie, American, and so much more. Every recipe is included with a paragraph of Antoni explaining the dish and why he loves it, as well as some anecdotes, tips, and detailed instructions. I also appreciate that every recipe comes with a picture, because I don’t understand recipe books that don’t show you what you’re supposed to be making. This is loaded of pictures of both food and Antoni for you to drool over. Once I make some of these dishes for myself, I’ll be sure to review.

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5. Queer Eye: Love Yourself. Love Your Life  

Bobby is way too busy renovating the houses of America to have the downtime to write a book about himself – I mean seriously, do they let him sleep?? He is, however, credited in the book that brings the Fab Five all together: Queer Eye: Love Yourself. Love Your Life. This book is a whole breakdown of everything Queer Eye (the new Fab Five). The producers of the show talk about their ideas for both the original and the reboot; The word “queer” used to have a negative connotation, and I think we can credit these shows in part for the taking back of that word completely. It’s now an empowering word that I love using to describe myself. Thanks, queens!

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I enjoyed reading about Bobby’s unique upbringing, since he was the one I knew the least about. A lot of the info on the other men I already knew from reading their individual books, so it was nice for me to see Bobby’s backgrounds included. I’ll also say that I’m just not sure about this mustache phase that Antoni was going through here – very Johnny Depp meets James Franco; it’s a whole look.

It’s a great coffee table book, but it’s also completely packed full of content. There’s so much to page through: bios of the guys, deep dives into each of their specialties, and a whole Queer Eye recipe section with dinner menu recommendations. If these guys have already found their way to your heart, this book will make you happy.

 

All books are available on Amazon or other places where books are sold!

Thanks for reading.

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Naturally Tan by Tan France

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Since I already made my way through the books by Karamo and JVN, I figured I had to dive into Tanny’s book as well: Naturally Tan. Known as the style expert, Tan France has been changing the world via Queer Eye once French tuck and floral shirt at a time. His level of sass and pettiness is undeniable and also warranted and evident in the pages of this book.

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Tan has lived such an interesting life from day one. His family is from Pakistan, he grew up in the UK, but spent time in many different places. He’s an entrepreneur that works hard and makes things happen. He’s been thrown so much in life and yet has always maintained this essence of himself that shines so bright for everyone to see. I also feel that he really opened my eyes to a culture that I had not a lot of knowledge on prior, and I am thankful to know more as a result of Tan.

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First of all, it should not go unnoticed that there is an incredible amount of racism that people who look like Tan are forced to experience. His chapter about 9/11 is short but really powerful. I could never imagine what someone like Tan goes through, and I did not even understand the amount of airport privilege I have. It’s so cruel the way people can judge based on absolutely nothing but lack of knowledge. Americans are simply uneducated about so many cultures, which could be the cause of the racism.

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I absolutely love the relationship between Tan and his husband, Rob. The level of respect and love that exists between them is wonderful. I agree with so much that he says about relationships and marriage, that your normal state should not be “hard”. You should not feel like you need to “get away” from who should be your favorite person. Love should be easy, and sure there are obstacles, but it should enhance your life. My favorite parts of the book involved Tan talking about Rob, and the life they share together is amazing and inspiring. 

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Honestly, Tan is a sassy queen who can hold a grudge and lives for an “I told you so” moment. He really showed the unapologetic version of himself, which honestly kind of confused me. There’s so many kind things shown of him on the show that are gentle and compassionate, but he really sounded bitter in many moments of this book. I’m just surprised that he chose to showcase so much of this side of himself, because I know the softer side is in there.

tanReal quick: Tan, hunny. I really do love you. But your views on hair are wrong. Bangs look good on the right person, red dyed hair is bomb with the right skin tone, and it’s fine to play with the length and texture of your hair. I enjoyed going through your hair journey with you Tanny Bananny, but it’s even more of a reason not to trust your advice. Leave the female hair advice to the females, babe.

naturally tanI really did enjoy Tan’s book and the unique insights it provided. I loved that the book is written with short, anecdotal chapters that are super easy to flip through. Please watch Tan on Queer Eye for all your style needs, and you can also follow him on social media @tanfrance. Naturally Tan can be found wherever the finest of books are sold.

Thanks for reading!

Darkness To Light by Lamar Odom

lamar odomI was right in the middle of my Kardashian deep dive when I heard Khloe talk about the fact that Lamar came out with a book about his life. Sign. Me. Up. Are you kidding?! I was such a huge fan of Khloe and Lamar when they were together, loved their show, and was really rooting for Lamar’s recovery. He was also recently on Dancing With The Stars and you bet your ass I threw a couple of votes his way.

My friend gave me a subscription to Audible as a birthday gift, knowing my love for reading. She thought it would be a cool and new way to listen to img_7963some of the words by my favorite celebs. Lamar’s book was available, read by Chris Palmer, former football coach and former college athletics administrator.

On Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Khloe talks with her best friend, Malika, about Lamar’s book that is being released and the press interviews he was doing to promote it. They show a clip where Lamar expresses remorse for how he “treated that queen” and admitted that apologies were owed. Malika asked Khloe if she would consider reading the book, to which Khloe playfully replied, “yeah, but I kinda already know how it ends.”

lamarLamar has been through a lot in his life, and I only knew about his struggles with addiction in his post NBA career. The book really highlighted for me how corrupt athletic systems can be even at a young level. Many of the young athletes are not even aware of the pay offs and shady dealings that are being done to get them their success, and it’s hard to have trust in who is looking out for the best interest. Not to mention that with professional sports comes money and access to things that can really fuck your life right up. Lamar’s life definitely didn’t start out easy as a result of his family, and it didn’t get any easier when all of those athlete affects starting coming into his life.

Lamar definitely dives into the shadows of his darkness, specifically surrounding his addiction with drugs and sex. He admits to heavy drug use as well as having sex with over 2,000 women in his lifetime. That is not a type – over two thousand women. Many of these sexual encounters were infidelity in his relationships; Lamar has children from his first love, but he also had a relationship with actress Taraj P Hensen – which I did not know. And then there was of course his marriage to Khloe Kardashian, whom he spoke highly of in the book. He actually spoke very respectfully about all the women he was with and may have caused lamar and khloharm to. He didn’t, however, speak so highly of mother-in-law Kris Jenner. Lamar actually accused her of calling the paparazzi for a publicity stunt when he was trying to reconnect with Khloe. There’s also quite a lot of bitterness surrounding how his hospital room was handled during his coma, during which he and Khloe were separated but still legally married. The media was insane, and the Kardashians were trying to keep control of the narrative during this time. I truly believe that Khloe was trying to do what was best for Lamar with the information that she had, even if some mistakes were made. Lamar does show gratefulness, but all has definitely not been forgotten.

Darkness to Light by Lamar OdomThe book get really deep and truthful, as Lamar admitted to his faults, his weaknesses, and his mistakes. There’s a lot of shit that’s been thrown at Lamar in his life, and yet he takes responsibility for the way he reacted. I think it’s so brave of him to share his story and his truth, and it was certainly worth the read. You can find this on Audible like I did, or wherever most books are sold.

Thanks for reading.

Over The Top by Jonathan Van Ness

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There has been A LOT of buzz around JVN’s new book! Of course I’ve been a huge fan of Jonathan Van Ness for a very long time, but I love how much media attention he’s been getting in the past year. Jonathan originally was known for his recap show Gay of Thrones, and then earned mainstream attention after becoming a member of Netflix’s Queer Eye‘s Fab Five. The book has made headlines this year because of the secrets that JVN opens up about in the book, and his bravery is insanely admirable.

In one of the episodes of Queer Eye, the Fab Five talk about coming out img_7955of the closet. Jonathan says something along the lines of, “Hello! The sky is blue. The grass is green.” meaning that there really was no “in the closet” for him. He was clearly and obviously flamboyant from a young age, and that left for a good amount of teasing while growing up. The story of his friend from the swim team is one that I’m sure many queer people can relate to: a friend where the lines get blurry and complicated… and then in the end.. awkward. It’s sad that there was so much shame in being gay in these small towns, because it can do a lot of damage.

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I really enjoyed reading about his reflections on past relationships. Speaking in the abstract makes everything so poetic and tragically beautiful. I could feel that when JVN talked about Sergei. They clearly cared so much about each other as humans, even if their demons constantly came between them. Their story hurt my heart, but the love was clear and present the whole journey. Who gave them permission to be so hauntingly gorgeous?!

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It was super exciting to see Jonathan go to Tucson for college! However, his experiences at the U of A were not entirely positive. He was clearly in a dark place at this point in his life, and he was searching for answers in some of the worst places. I appreciate his willingness to be open about his escort experience, which left him vulnerable and broken. I’m sure it was not easy for him to be honest about his behavior during this time, but I appreciated that he shared this in his writing. There are a lot of experiences within the male gay community that is swept under the rug, and JVN was able to bring some to light. During this time of darkness, he was luckily able to reach out to his family for the help he needed, and headed home to “start over”.

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Recovery, self-love, and mental health are things that JVN is always promoting, and it’s clearly as a result of his life experiences. His words on recovery are inspiring, and he is always reminding everyone to love themselves for where they are at. He says, “One thing I have come to notice in my life is that recovery for me has not been linear. It’s more two steps forward, three back, five forward, two back, so I’m always improving but there are setbacks within the improvement.”

I love Jonathan and every single itty bitty baby gorgeous thing he ever does, and I of course loved this book. But truthfully, I think he could have REALLY JVN 4dove into his dark places and gone even deeper. It definitely would take being EXTREMELY vulnerable to do this, as Jonathan as already revealed so so much in this book. Home girl has been through some shit! I just feel like there was so many stories and deep details that we didn’t get to hear, as he barely skimmed the surface of what he’s been through. He explains the the summary of the dark places, but I was so interested in his life of tricks and compulsivity, and so I definitely wanted a little more. Still, I totally know how hard that would be for JVN, who is very much connected to people worldwide with Queer Eye and his social media presence. I still absolutely applaud him for how much he did open up and reveal in the pages.

I love the way Jonathan combats the stigmas around HIV. This is such a significant conversation! Learning about being “undetectable” is so JVN 6incredibly important to educate people on the virus, and even I learned a lot from his writing. I’m so glad that JVN was recognized for this conversation in the media!! This really can help so many people to not only get the help they need, but also feel comfortable to live a full life while managing their diagnosis. It’s so wonderful that modern medicine can allow those who are diagnosed with HIV and AIDS to live a long lives. In the book, Jonathan mentions how his doctor said he would “go on to die of a heart attack or cancer just like everybody else.” – which is of course a morbid joke, but just shows where HIV is JVN 1in terms of a terminal diagnosis. 

 

 

Below are a list of resources provided by JVN in the book. Also, if you are a member of any community that may be high risk for HIV, please ask your doctor about PrEP, or visit the CDC website or What Is PrRP? or for more information.

Planned Parenthood
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)
Phoenix House
The Trevor Project
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs
Advocates for Youth
GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network)
Peer Health Exchange
ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)

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He is fierce. He is real. He is raw. He gets into it, hunny! Jonathan gets sups vuln and you need to hear all the spilled tea. Grab your little baby copy wherever the finest of books are sold and come along for the gorgeous ride! Queer Eye is of course always available on Netflix – the Japan episodes were released not too long ago, and I know they were filming in Philly this summer!! JVN 2For all things JVN, you can visit jonathanvanness.com or follow him on social media @JVN.

“In general, if you can’t take me at my raw, heated moment, you don’t deserve me at my composed Emmys glam moment.” – Jonathan Van Ness, re-quoting Marilyn Monroe ♡

Thanks for reading!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

img_7970I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, but I didn’t really dive into things once the 7th book and 8th movie concluded. My girlfriend, however, decided to do a Harry Potter deep dive recently, where she was rereading the books and we would watch the movie after she finished each one. She then started to look into the Fantastic Beast movies and other books and things associated with the Wizarding World. A package came one day with a Harry Potter book I had never seen before: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

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This story takes place right where the 7th book left off – 19 years later, and Harry’s children are going to Hogwarts. Ron and Hermione’s children are attending as well, and they must go through the sorting hat and deal with the regular childhood trauma of trying to fit in. Harry’s son befriends the son of Draco Malfoy, which is obviously problematic. Rumors and discovered magical artifacts lead them into a whirlwind of an adventure.

hpcc!! Disclaimer: this is not a novel. This story was actually developed into a play, and the book is a copy of the script. !! J.K. Rowling worked with Jack Thorne and John Tiffany to create this, and it exists only in script format. It’s relatively easy and quick to read as a result of the way it’s laid out, but it does not have the same feel as reading a true Harry Potter novel.

I have just a little bit of an issue with part of the plot.. it’s just a little bit of a stretch. Harry’s son wants to go back in time to save Cedric Diggory, but his desire to do this and reasoning hpbehind it is extremely random and forced. He’s angry at his father but this just seems like a strange way to act out. Perhaps if he was hoping to impress his father or earn his respect or affection I would understand, but that’s not how it was set it. It just seemed pushed in my opinion, but hey I mean what a win for Cedric!

hppThe plot certainly does not disappoint, and has lots of crazy twists and turns – in true J.K. Rowling fashion. I don’t want to give anything away, but there were definitely things that I did not see coming. It’s quite an adventure where we get to see how the wizarding world unfolded after the Battle of Hogwarts – in more than one reality. I’ve never seen the play, but the script was worth the read in book form. I believe you can find this on Amazon, but I am unsure if it’s available in all book stores, unfortunately.

Thanks for reading!

Movie Reviews Part 1

Well, it took me over a year, but I finally finished all the movies on my list from last fall! Just in case anyone was wondering what I thought, here are my reviews and feedback from each of the films:

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Bohemian Rhapsody: A+
As a Queen fan, I absolutely loved this movie. Rami Malek makes an amazing Freddie, as we explore his amazing life and talent. The music was exceptional of course, and the Live Aid performance is almost identical to the one from real life. Will watch again and again.

 

night schoolNight School: A
This was a hilarious feel-good movie that I would definitely watch again. It’s lighthearted and easy to watch, yet still relatable on a human level. I so appreciated that the story didn’t end up with Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish getting romantically together. At the one point I thought they might, she rolled her eyes with a “boy, I’m gay”. Yaasss girl!!

 

peppermintPeppermint: A-
I genuinely applaud not only Jennifer Garner for her acting in this film, but mostly her agents for getting her this role. I’m truly impressed, and she killed it. In general, I think Hollywood is shying away from making movies like this now, but this was a great action movie. Bullets flying, car chases, explosions, all layered on top of a good plot line. It was easy to get into this movie and it wasn’t as predictable as I was expecting it to be.

 

searchSearching: B+
The entirety of the movie takes place from the screen of a laptop, where we see the plot unveil through videos, messages, phone calls and more. It actually reminded me of an episode of Modern Family that takes place entirely on an iPad. The story was interesting enough to follow along, but the format of the film was what I liked the most.

 

the nunThe Nun: B
I’m definitely not an expert when it comes to scary movies, but I really enjoyed this one. It helped to see some familiar faces from AHS and Weeds as the main characters, but even without them, the movie overall was pretty good. It had plenty of parts that made me jump, but wasn’t just gruesome for no reason. The creepy factor was high, and it wasn’t overly predictable. But again, I’m definitely not an expert in this area.

 

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A Star Is Born: B-
The movie was wonderful, but was hyped up a little too much by the time I watched it. Everyone told me I was going to cry my eyes out, but I only shed roughly one tear instead. The best part was getting to see two of my favorite queens, Willam and Shangela, on screen in drag. Other than that, I mean yeah.. it was good I guess.

 

Next up, I’ll be making my way through the movies I listed from this summer.

Thanks for reading!