Welcome to my 1 new email subscriber! 👋
View this email in your browser
Greco-Roman chipped statue
Trying to imagine who I am.

The Girly Perfection of Flawless Polished Nails

How I painted my fingernails like a man

I hated painting my nails. While I zealously painted my toenails for decades, I hated painted fingernails. They always chipped, and I’d pick at the remaining polish and destroy my nails as layers peeled away like onion skins. I couldn’t stop myself from picking them apart.

Until my late 20s, I was too poor and cheap to get professional manicures. But even when I did (not often), I’d dread the walk over to the neat little racks showing off what brands and colors the salon offered to pick mine.

My nails have always grown quickly and are strong and thick. Every keyboard bares indents from my nails, water carving through stone to form a river over time. While they eventually break, my nails stand against the wear and tear I’ve put them through, like ranching, gardening, and washing dishes. I’ve never had gels or professionally applied length because I could have natural long ones. Mostly, I’d look down at my nails one day, and they’d be very long again. Or I’d break an index fingernail, and suddenly keyboarding was catawampus. Or a cis woman would notice my hands, exclaim at how very long my nails were, and share how disappointingly brittle hers are.

But polish? Every chip made me feel like a failure. Like a little bomb telling me I did something wrong. I just had them done; they should be flawless like a woman in an advertisement with her flowing hair, lush makeup, and buttery hands with flawless nails.

Intellectually, I know no one’s nails are flawless, even if fresh from a manicure.

Every little chip felt like another flake of failure at being feminine, at being a woman.

Continue reading

Bookworm corner 📚

Chef's Kiss by Jarrett Melendez and Danica Brine ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: m/m contemporary romance graphic novel

I'm a sucker for cooking romances, especially if they're queer. This was a sweet read on my sick day. The characters are very fun.

I would've liked for a little more space for Ben to actually talk to Liam about his feelings and their new relationship.

The Empire of Gold (The Daevabad Trilogy #3) by S.A. Chakraborty ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: historical fantasy

These books are really great and engrossing in general. I was captivated and obsessed most of the time, and I long to talk to someone who has also read the entire trilogy.

Four stars:

1) It could've been 100 pages shorter. (The audiobook was 27 hours long!) The marid and ifrit stuff got a little too much, and a lot of it didn't go anywhere or could've been condensed.

2) There was a bit of unexplained magic in Nahri's and Dara's connection that could've been used to get around the "we'll never see each other again" ending. It was important that Nahri gave Dara a choice, but also, did he even know one of his choices was still Nahri? Because Nahri was not clear about that.

3) Killing Manizheh was overly justified by turning her into a less complex villain between murdering her people and enslaving Dara.

4) Muntadhir and Jamshid had the actual love story here, and neither of them had a POV. I worried more about them this entire book than any other characters. Instead, we see their reunion from Ali's POV. (Though I'm glad we didn't get more torture scenes.) Then there's the weird bit at the end where Ali pretends he doesn't know about Muntadhir and Jamshid. It would've shown more growth in Ali and his intent to do right by his brother and have a closer relationship.

(Being in love with Jamshid aside, I'd always assumed when Ali slut shamed Muntadhir, it was for sleeping with a lot of people, not just a lot of people who are women. So I was surprised when Ali was like, "my brother is bi!??")

Muntadhir and Jamshid were both stripped of their ideas of self — Muntadhir's pretty looks and Jamshid's soldier strength — and had murderous parents most of the city probably hates, or hates at least one side. Not overlooking that Jamshid’s dad killed Muntadhir’s dad! This is much more interesting. Give me the cozy epilogue about mending trauma, loving each other again, and arguing over domestic stuff since you cannot tell me either of them knows how to like launder their clothing.

5) Nahri never gets to have sex she's enthusiastic about. I thought she'd sleep with Dara or Ali at least once after Dara had sex with the dancer at that party. (Though not being in love with Muntadhir aside, sleeping with his virgin brother would've probably been a disappointment.)

6) It's not unfeminist to have your female character taken care of your male characters. Like Nahri isn't shown as leaning on the support of anyone. Crying with Dara about him leaving and crying with Ali at her mother's traumatic memories do not count.

7) Zaynab was cool af in this book. She deserves more.

8) If Ali and Dara were so alike, it would've been of better use to have them confront each other than make it the reason Nahri gets smitten.

9) Nahri and Jamshid would've been closer at the start of this book, not only when they discover they're siblings/cousins.

10) In the second book, the parent-generation out schemes the children in a vicious slap of realism. In this ending, everyone is okay with two 20-year-olds running the city.

11) Dara is the most interesting and complex character, and he's often the only adult in the room.

Finding Home Volume 4: The Gardener by Hari Conner ⭐ 5/5 stars
Genre: m/m historical fantasy romance graphic novel

This final volume concludes such a beautiful queer story. The writing and the art shine so beautifully to fill out this world. I love this so much, and I will miss reading about Chepi and Janek, but I'm glad they got their HEA.

As a planty person, the art blows me away every time, and the story moved my cold heart to warm fuzzy feelings.

📽️ Watch my Finding Home review on TikTok

Get a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters #1) by Talia Hibbert ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: m/f contemporary romance

I love that this book dealt with Chloe's chronic illness and Red's previous abusive relationship. Both of them have to deal with their real problems, and while they certainly help each other, it's still something they individually take charge of and are the experts in what they need.

Overall, I had mixed feelings about this book. Red's characterization early on is choppy because Hibbert chooses to reveal, to the reader and Chloe, Red's past trauma in the second half of the book, which makes his characterization sketchy in the beginning. It makes some of his reactions toward Chloe's behavior incredibly unsympathetic. We don't understand Red’s motivation in the way that we immediately understand Chloe's because we know of her chronic illness. We're just supposed to trust he's a good man because he loves his mom and treats elderly tenants with respect.

As an SEO, I did throw the book across the room when Chloe's job was revealed.

I agree that the third act break-up situation was overwrought, and I'm unsure how I feel about the apology.

But by the end of the book, I found it charming, and I grew to like these characters and their romance. I will be reading the following books in the series. And I hope Gigi gets a book about her romance with her yoga instructor.

📽️ Watch my Get a Life, Chloe Brown review on TikTok

The Tea Dragon Tapestry (Tea Dragon #3) by Kay O'Neill ⭐ 5/5 stars
Genre: fantasy middle reader graphic novel

The Tea Dragon books are so lovely. O'Neill's illustrations are gorgeous, and their writing is thoughtful and heartfelt.

Both Greta and Minette have beautiful coming of age and healing arcs.

📽️ Watch my The Tea Dragon Tapestry review on TikTok

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren ⭐ 2/5 stars
Genre: m/f contemporary romance

This book is an easy-breezy read. I read it in less than 24 hours. This writing duo knows how to keep the story flowing, and at points, their humor is perfection.

But I realized that a lot of it was incredibly forgettable. Except for the explosive food poisoning body fluids that create the situation where the MCs must take their siblings' honeymoon, I won't probably remember a lot about this book in a year.

The Unhoneymooners is all from Olive's point of view, except for the epilogue, which is from Ethan's. When we got there, I realized the problem: these writers do not understand Ethan as a character. It showed in the quality of the writing, not just that we went from a more neurotic character to a more stable one. Because they didn't understand Ethan's motivations toward Olive, besides her hot tits and (to him) truth-telling, the book doesn't quite congeal together.

The sex was largely fade-to-black and written without the mention of genitals. The writers only used the words "penis" and "vagina," and they were used in banter, not in sexual scenes. Same with "labia" being used in a joke. A few times, Olive mentions that Ethan excites her "lady parts" when referring to sexual feelings, but not during sex.

In the one sex scene, Olive seems to question if Ethan's interested in her (attraction for sex), and this is right as he goes for a condom, and they are entirely naked, so I'm going to assume she can see his dick. Verbal confirmation is hot, but this was written almost like they were only kissing with all their clothes on, and she considered that maybe he didn't like her (enemies-to-lovers trope).

Are other Christina Lauren books steamier and more explicit?

I'd love to read a take from a Latinx reviewer on Olive and her family. The gay cousin felt like a stereotypical gay male best friend and a diversity checkbox, and I wondered about Olive’s racial and ethnic background feeling the same as it pinged me that way.

Also, never take a job that requires you to sign a morality clause. Gross. I'm glad Olive got a better job in the end. The Unhoneymooners wraps up in a very satisfying way for all characters. Except that Dane wasn't tossed into a volcano.

📽️ Watch my The Unoneymooners review on TikTok

Film Podcast! 🎥

Erica & Friends Talk Lady Snowblood (1973) image is Lady Snowblood in a white kimono with a knife and black parasol
Learn to be an assassin in Japan! 🌸 We’re talking Lady Snowblood (1973). Directed by Toshiya Fujita, this film is an exploitation flick centering on the intergenerational revenge of women and what Tarantino ripped off for Kill Bill. Lady Snowblood follows Yuki's offing a checklist of villains who harmed and murdered her family. This episode’s movie friend is Kevin Smythe!
How can you listen? Via my Patreon. For $2/month, you get all 30+ previous episodes and new ones.

Things I wrote recently

Book progress:

Querying for The Reclamation Project is several full-time jobs. I’ve found about 20 agents who are appropriate for my book and open to taking submissions. I’ve sent the requested materials off to about 15 of them and received two rejections. I need to search for more agents.

I’m about 2/3 of the way through an 80-page section for edits for the sequel, including reading them to Jacob. In one chapter, he found too much of a tonal shift.

Green thumb update

The weather in Seattle is finally (for real) warming up!

For the summer plan, I’ve planted one of four beds fully. I've poked around in a few of the other ones but have not committed to finishing.

Because I was fed up with the weather, my seedlings weren’t as strong as they could be for transplanting. I didn’t have room for them indoors. They’ve been on my porch for a while now. I need to get some kind of greenhouse tray setup for next year.

I was feeling a tad depressed about my garden progress. But I ventured to the Beacon Hill Food Forest and other community gardens on recent walks, and their plants are no further along than mine. Climate change sucks!

My next indoor plant project will be preparing for the Cascade Cactus and Succulent Society’s plant sale — in partnership with the Volunteer Park Conservatory’s fall fundraiser plant sale. I’m hoping to sell some plants. Not to just make money for the club, but to share the plant love (and maybe have fewer plants).

I need to find someone to assist in taking care of my indoor jungle this July while I travel out of town. If you’d like to help (I will pay you and you can opt to stay at my house), please let me know.

Mason bee on a kale flower
mushrooms growing in the oregano
Zeta is in Erica's canvas overalls
Ostrich fern fronds
Top left: A mason bee gathering pollen in kale flowers.
Top right: Mushrooms fruiting in the oregano.
Bottom left: Zeta climbed into my gardening overalls during a lunch break.
Bottom right: Ostrich fern fronds are beautiful.

Other things

[BILLIONAIRES SUCK] Bill Gates’ Post-Divorce P.R. Tour Is Rewriting History of Elite Covid Failures by Sarah Lazare — “Gates is just some rich guy, and the only reason he exerts such outsized influence over the global health system, and then gets to write and speak of his “expertise,” is because he is extremely wealthy. He has no degree in public health, has no formal training, he’s not a doctor or an epidemiologist. He’s pontificating about preventing the next pandemic, while the policies he has funded and backed are directly failing this one.”

[BOOKS] EE Ottoman: A Trailblazer Episode by the Fated Mates podcast — EE Ottoman is the first out trans romance author to specifically write romances featuring explicit trans characters. His first story was published in 2013. Despite this being very recent history, this interview shows how much collecting this history is so important.

Get ready for Pride month!


Erica McGillivray

This newsletter is sponsored by my Patrons! You all are the best.
Support my writing and podcasting. ✍️

Follow me on Twitter
Copyright © 2022 Erica McGillivray, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp