My 1st DNF and 1 Star Book of The Year

Well, it finally happened. I read a book I could not finish, as well as another that received a 1 star rating. A quick perusal of my Goodreads page will lead anyone towards the correct conclusion that I generally rate books between 4-5 stars, because I rarely subject myself to a book I think I might never enjoy. However, I went in blind, reading both of the aforementioned books without researching, and this was the result.

One of the books, The Art of Being Normal, has been on my TBR for ages, so it’s a miracle I never did seek out any non-spoiler reviews where I might have gleaned even a hint of whether I’d enjoy it or not. If I had though, I would have realized it wasn’t a book for me, because it was a non- OwnVoices hot mess, to put it frankly. However, I was fooled by the beautiful rainbow cover, and so here we are. As for the other, The Keeper of The Mist, I picked it up at random from the library, and the synopsis immediately grabbed my attention, so my hopes were high. However, xenophobia was rife in it, and therefore no longer something I wished to consume.

This is not to say, however, that I am not pleased with the outcome. Despite the terrible ratings I gave, I am thankful to have read these books, because one – they were both published roughly 3-4 years ago, and after knowing the majority of their contents, it is easy to see that publishing in YA is transitioning to something somewhat better, even if it’s at a snail’s pace in certain aspects, and two – I will now advocate even more strongly for OwnVoice novels of all sorts, including my own future ones. There are moments in life that shape us, and I believe reading these books was another one for me.

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Sugar Is Not Fly…

I never thought I would seek out veganism as a choice, nor did I foresee myself yearning to go on a whole foods, plant based diet at least 90-95% of the time, but here we are. After a chain of events on July 29th, 2019, this is where I’m at in my vegan journey.

Since July 8th, I’ve been a dietary vegan. While I’ve researched a fair bit, I still have copious amounts of research still to do. Even so, I’ve managed to eat well enough, for the most part. I’ve even been active, which was something that occurred before I became vegan, but it is much easier now, I will say. Overall, I’ve done well, and the results I’ve felt and seen are enough for me to continue with this lifestyle for the unforeseeable future.

With that being said, a few nights ago, I consumed some homemade vegan cake, which did have vegan “butter”, sugar, and dark vegan chocolate. I had a small amount, but that mattered little to my body, which took that as an invitation to subject me to a number of symptoms afterward which had me rethink added sugar, and processed foods overall as being a part of my diet.

Before I began eating a plant based diet, I could not fathom leaving added sugar out of my diet, or carbs, for that matter. Pasta, as much as chocolate, ranch, bread, or even cheese, have been parts of my eating habits for as long as I can remember. However, if this year has proven anything to me, it’s that I can do more than I thought, and I should never say never.

This Meatless Monday, and Every One After

There are a number of labels or adjectives that one could use to describe me. This month I’m adding a new descriptor – vegan.

Last month, I began the process of transitioning from the omnivore I’ve been since I took up eating “real” food, to becoming a person who not only shirks meat, but also honey, eggs, dairy, and any other product that includes any animal’s unwilling contribution to it. If the person I was last year knew what I’ve done, they would be appalled. This older version of myself though is happier, healthier, and grateful that I’ve made the leap.

While I cannot say I am fully vegan yet, I’m getting there. As someone who grew up in Texas, where meat and dairy is consumed in large quantities, going cold turkey was NOT an option. I managed to do it for about two days, before I almost quit, which is not where I wanted to find myself a few months or years later. So, I resumed a mostly vegan diet, until I reach a time where I am able to have transitioned out all that is not vegan.

At the point of writing this, I’ve not eaten meat in over two weeks, and whole eggs in about a week. I gave up honey a while ago, due to the sugar content. However, dairy is probably the one that has taken the longest. I will say, even though I had some yesterday by accident, as a restaurant I ate at did not heed my request that milk not be added into my Thai tea, I prefer non-dairy alternatives to actual dairy, now. Despite the set backs I’ve had though, I’m making great progress towards leaving a less painful footprint on the earth as a whole.

With all of that being said, this past month has given me a break from the blog, as well as some time to think. The journey into, as well as the sustainment of the lifestyle, veganism will not be without its hard ships, mishaps, or fantastic moments. That is why, I’ve decided to begin chronicling those on this blog under the category title: Barely Vegan. Posts will be on “Meatless Mondays”, and discuss a variety of topics related to veganism as I experience and learn more. I look forward to sharing more on this topic. I hope whoever reads about it will enjoy it too!

Some Rather Than None

In a surprising turn of events, I wrote words.

No, really, I did. My spreadsheet even says so. I promise.

By the time this posts, I’ll be working towards my overall monthly goal of finishing with at least 40K under my belt, which will be relatively easy considering I’m closer to 36K at this point than not. This is a non NaNo month, in which I spread myself out over a variety of projects, so I am quite pleased with my work, even if my drive fizzled out towards the end due to life and its inconsistencies, coupled with my inability to focus after these unexpected events transpired. Still, I wrote words that mattered and which helped me grow. That is progress I can get behind.

Now that May is all but over, as I look forward to next month, believe it or not, I am aiming for the whole 50K, if not more. With a new spreadsheet in tow, I will be tracking my progress once again, because it seemed that method helped me to best stay on track, even if I did deviate for a bit. In preparation for the July NaNo, and each one after, I want to keep the work load steady, so that writing that much becomes as easy as breathing. Otherwise, finishing all that I want to may never happen.

On a semi related note, I actually read 5 books this month, as well as one graphic novel. April was the worst reading month I’ve had in years, so to read that much after the previous month, was a breath of relief. In terms of overall enjoyment – I loved each book that I chose. Two thirds of them were new releases, with the other two being books I’ve had on my TBR pile for a while. Not a single one disappointed, thankfully.

While I do not plan to set a definitive TBR for next month, I will say that I’d like to read at least 5 queer books, if not more. Massive monthly TBR piles, like I tried to set for each month at the beginning of the year, will not do it for me. At least, not while I’m juggling all that I am. Even so, I’m sure I will enjoy the next month, and whatever reads it brings.

So that’s my May in a nutshell, with writing and reading – two actions which are intrinsically linked. If you do either, do you have any goals for next month? Are you setting a definitive TBR for Pride Month, or winging it?

Either way, I hope that if you’re reading this, that you’re having a great day!

T.J.

Pride Month Posts

What I thought this year’s Pride month would mean to me, and what it has turned into over the course of the last few months, has altered greatly. While I’m still finalizing the ideas in my head for next month’s posting schedule, it’s safe to say that books and writing will not be the major focus. This is mainly to do with the fact that, unwillingly, the identity of LGBTQIAP+ people has become further inherently political than ever before. What better time to highlight politicians and policies that could be detrimental to us as a whole so we can fight against them, than Pride month and the 50th anniversary of Stonewall?

Regardless of what happens in the coming days, I feel that largely leaving off of this particular topic as a whole is no longer an option. It never really was, but even more so now, it is not. So, next month, whether alongside regular posts, or in place of, depending on what I decide, I will be discussing all that I mentioned above, as this is the time to work towards a better future for us, and the generations yet to come. We can and should all do better, myself included.

This is, of course, not to discredit those that have already been more vocal in the community, and work tirelessly to fight the bigotry and oppression that those of us face, whether daily or throughout any given point of our lives. Y’all are the reason that we, the more reticent bunch, even have a leg to stand on. I acknowledge I write this post from a place of privilege, as I do not know the true extent of what some have been through, or might endure in the coming days. However, I hope that my previous and future contributions to the world might help bring it to a better place for all, and not just myself.

Lead Me Not: A Book Review

Beliefs are formative for not only our thoughts, but the actions we carry out daily, as well. In the case of Isaac Morris, in Lead Me Not by Ann Gallagher, he is entrenched in the mindset of homophobic rhetoric, alongside the majority of his fundamental Christian church and family. One could wonder, what would it take for him to be educated on the world outside of the groupthink he has been forced to drown in?

For a while now, I’ve been in search of a book that not only tackles the subject matter that this one does, but which also sets up a realistic depiction of both sides in this contemporary argument. Though I disliked reading the homophobic bits, and detested certain characters throughout the novel, what sold it for me was Isaac and his transformation, as well as the in depth look at not only the mindset of people like him, but also the scripture in the Bible as seen through each other’s eyes.

With that being said, was Isaac a good or likable character for the majority of the book? I suppose that depends upon each reader. As for me, as a character, I loved him. Certain choices he made though, were reason enough for a person to dislike him, if he were a real person. His background does play a large part though on how he reacts or interacts with certain revelations, because hatred buried that deep in someone is not changed overnight. However, eventually, the pay out that comes later is worth his less than likable tendencies, thoughts, and actions.

As for the other characters, I enjoyed each one, honestly. The love interest, Colton Roberts, a stark contrast to everything that Isaac believed previously, was also well written, and a great choice to be set opposite of him. I enjoyed reading his chapters as much, if not more, than Isaac’s, to be honest. As for the antagonists, though they made me want to scream or toss my Kindle, were realistic. The siblings outside of the ones who were cast in with the rest of the antagonists were decent, as was the older pastor who had taken care of Colton from a young age. He ground the story in ways that made me grateful that he was included.

The setting, which is Seattle, Washington, as well as the different places that are visited throughout the course of the novel, compound the message that the narrative is seeking to show overall – we all have our own struggles, but it costs nothing to hear each other out and be kind to our fellow humans. I enjoyed watching Isaac interact with his choice of occupation – a gay bar, of all things. Likewise, how his opinion of Colton’s church changed over time after various visits, was interesting as well.

My one bone to pick with this book, honestly, is the way that the older sister who has been distanced from the family, reacts to the news of the whole project, which is the driving force of the plot for much of the book. Being that she is removed from it emotionally, outside of worrying about Isaac, I felt she should have also asked how it was fair to treat someone the way that her brother and sister were, for a manipulative venture. Addressing that better on page would have been most welcomed, honestly, and is ultimately what led me to knock down a star from my final rating.

Overall, I will recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Christian and LGBTQIA+ romance melded together. The subject matter is tough, but it is still a good story, and one that does deliver a powerful look at what can happen when we all put aside our pride, or toxic beliefs, and just listen.

I rated this book a 4/5 stars on Goodreads.

In Inspiration I Trust

Last week, according to my spreadsheet, was in fact the worst writing week that I have had to date since starting it. There are multiple empty spaces that remind me I did not write a single word on my works in progress. Those blanks will haunt me for the rest of the month.

This is not to say, however, that I was not still working on anything, because I was. However, it was not the traditional work that one expects to do when planning for writing a book. Regardless, it gave me more inspiration, which has propelled me forward to finish out this last week strong.

Below I will leave the aesthetics, which I created for the characters from my current WIP. Let it not be said that I have nothing to show for my work. (All images are free stock photos. I lay no claim to any single one.)

Morgan, the main character – Pronouns: They/Them
Annabelle
Will
AdriΓ‘n
Julia
Aurelia