I didn't get up to a whole lot in June, since I have been steadily working on new collages for a Gallery1988 show in August and haven't had much free time. I did get a new tattoo though, and that was pretty darn exciting. I'll be posting again soon with more information about the upcoming show and some sneak peeks.
I adore the work of screenwriter/actor Leigh Whannell (although some of his recent work has been too scary for me to watch), so I was very excited to see his first foray into directing. Upgrade is great fun - it's a bloody nod to the tropes of the action/horror/sci-fi genres with the twists and turns that Whannell does so well. Plus, it contains an excellent Saw-style montage (a "Sawntage" if you will). While this is definitely not going to appeal to everyone, if you have liked any Whannell's other screenwriting ventures (Saw I & II, Dead Silence, Insidious, etc.) I would recommend Upgrade.
Since my brain has been so hyper-engaged with art stuff, I've mostly been reading romance books to help me relax and cheer me up when I need a little bit of a stress break.
The premise: reluctantly famous rock star front man falls for a recovering addict who gave up his music career. It is total romance candy with angst and beautiful people smooching each other and I was SO INVESTED IN THIS BOOK. *sigh*
A modern, gender-swapped take on Sense and Sensibility that works a lot better than I expected. While the "main" romance seemed a bit underdeveloped, the characters and story were very well crafted and kept me engaged.
These two books finish up Alisha Rai's Forbidden Hearts series, which I definitely recommend if you like modern romance stories. They have all of the ingredients of a good romance series: feuding families, forbidden entanglements, long simmering crushes, interesting protagonists, and plenty of steamy interludes. Wrong to Need You was probably my favorite of the bunch, but the whole series is worth reading.
Wicked and the Wallflower is the first entry into Sarah MacLean's new Bareknuckle Bastards series and was a lot of fun to read. The hero is the bastard son of an evil duke, who makes a living as an ice merchant and not-so-secret crime lord (with a heart of gold, naturally) and smuggler. The heroine is a social pariah spinster who spends her time picking locks and sneaking out of the house. MacLean has mentioned recently that her writing style changed in the social and political wake of Trump's election and I have definitely noticed how important agency and enthusiastic consent has become in her books. There is never a sense of "she says no but she means yes" in these books. Both parties are vocal and clear about what they want and they take actions to achieve their goals. The book felt a smidge wobbly in places and rushed toward the end, but overall Wicked and The Wallflower was time well spent.
This was my only non-romance selection in June and one of the reasons I dove so hard back into the comforting embrace of romance books. Because this one made me cry. A lot. The House of Impossible Beauties follows the fictionalized lives of the real-life House of Xtravaganza (included in the documentary Paris is Burning), a group of gay and trans youths creating their own family within the Harlem ball community. The members of Xtravaganza struggle through addiction, abuse, sex work, constant tragedies both big and small, and the rise of AIDS, all while trying to cling to hope and love and the possibility of a better life. It is a heartbreaking account of LGBTQA+ history and a really stark reminder of how a lot of things have changed and how some things have stayed the same.