Review: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

I read Fun Home by Alison Bechdel with my book club in our second meeting in June where the genre was LGBTQ+ authors. I have not heard or seen the musical and my knowledge of Bechdel was limited to her creation of The Bechdel Test.

Fun Home was a searing memoir about discovering yourself, discovering the truth, and trying to reconcile grief, disappointment, and empathy. It would be too simplistic to say that it’s a story of a woman recounting her journey into adulthood and discovering her sexual identity as a lesbian in the 80s. It is also too simplistic to say that it is about a woman discovering her father’s own closeted sexuality and how it shaped and informed her own relationship with homosexuality and herself. It’s hard for me to really put into words what this book does or communicates because it manages to share so much in a way that doesn’t make the reader feel overwhelmed, even while reading through the author feeling that way. There were aspects of the story that resonated for me and aspects that I could only appreciate from the outside looking in. This book didn’t feel like it was written for me, or for you, or for anyone. It felt like it was written for Bechdel as a way of processing her grief and confusion and pain and the reader is the lucky witness, all the luckier if there is something that they can share and feel seen by.

The graphic novel is visually captivating and the words and images matched in tone. There were references to literary works by Proust and Joyce and this also felt like a way in for the reader if they could connect with those works. I knew on a surface level about some of the themes and how they related to the overarching story but I’m sure it was just another aspect that would have hit home harder if I had a familiarity with them.

This is not a light read, though it was at times humorous. I remember distinctly that once I finished reading it I sat in silence for a moment, walked to the kitchen and squirted a bunch of reddiwhip in my mouth, and then continued sitting in silence for a bit longer. I want to read Bechdel’s sequel graphic novel about her mother, Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama, but I decided to wait after reading this before taking that on one so I could read something lighter to space the two out. I think one of my reading goals for next year will be to read that one and we’ll see how it goes. In the end, I do recommend this book, but be aware that even if you don’t feel that you hit any of the traditional boxes to connect with or be deeply affected by this book, the themes of family secrets and fraught parent-child relationships are widely applicable so don’t go retraumatizing yourself willy nilly.

Review: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

I’ve been planning on starting a book club since I was in undergrad and am so proud to announce that this year I finally jumped in and started one! I tried googling to find advice about how to run a book club but didn’t find much that was helpful so I ended up making something that has worked so far for us. Each month, going in alphabetical order, someone gets to choose the genre for the month and then everyone can submit choices of novels for us to read in that genre. We then vote for the book we want to read and whichever one wins, we read. The only set rule is that the books have to be no more than 300 pages to accommodate people’s schedules. It’s an imperfect system but we’re seven months in and it’s going ok! The genre for our first book club was Fantasy and the book we ended up reading was The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro.

This was the second of Ishiguro’s works I’ve read, having been introduced to him in undergrad when we read The Remains of the Day. This is a very different novel, however, and I think I ended up liking this one better than the other.

Though it is genuinely a fantasy novel it is not the typical dragons and swords book that comes to mind (though both a dragon and swords are in this novel). It is set post-Arthurian Britain and the main characters in the novel are Axl and Beatrice, an elderly couple who find themselves losing their memories at an alarming rate and choose to try and go in search of their son who they can hardly remember and have been filling in the gaps with their own projected desires or beliefs. There is a mist that has spread throughout Britain complicating matters and we follow the couple as they journey to find answers and companions on their quest including a former Knight for King Arthur and a boy determined to find and save his mother.

This book left me feeling deeply, deeply, sad. But not in a bad way. In a reflective way that sort of feels good in its own strange, aching way. I related to Axl a great deal and his quest to make everything be ok and fight hard to refuse change. The novel also brings into question what being a hero is and who you can trust, including yourself, in times of chaos. I enjoyed the choice Ishiguro made to have the main characters be elderly because so often, especially in fantasy, the protagonists are in their prime and at the start of their journey, looking forward more than they look back.

Not everyone was affected by The Buried Giant in the same way I was though it still caused a good conversation and everyone took something away from it.

Review: Becoming A Counselor by Samuel T. Gladding

Alright you guys this is gonna be quick.

This is a series of vignettes by renowned Wake Forest University professor who has worked in the counseling field for years. In this book he recounts different events from his life and in the last two sentences relates it to counseling. Reading this book was like sitting through a holiday dinner with your grandfather who tells you meandering stories that he finds hilarious and poignant and you find a speed bump between dinner and going home. Except in this instance I had to pay $30 for it because it was required reading in a class for a university that already took enough of my money that it felt especially rude to make me buy one of their professor’s publications.

Review: Slouch Witch by Helen Harper

I chose this book because I needed something to fulfill the Because Witches category in the Heaving Bosoms Reading Embrace. Before this one I DNF’d Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz. In all honesty, I almost DNF’d this one and still read another witchy romance because I didn’t feel this could actually fulfill that category.

First of all, here’s the Amazon synopsis:

“Let’s get one thing straight – Ivy Wilde is not a heroine. In fact, she’s probably the last witch in the world who you’d call if you needed a magical helping hand. If it were down to Ivy, she’d spend all day every day on her sofa where she could watch TV, munch junk food and talk to her feline familiar to her heart’s content.

However, when a bureaucratic disaster ends up with Ivy as the victim of a case of mistaken identity, she’s yanked very unwillingly into Arcane Branch, the investigative department of the Hallowed Order of Magical Enlightenment. Her problems are quadrupled when a valuable object is stolen right from under the Order’s noses.

It doesn’t exactly help that she’s been magically bound to Adeptus Exemptus Raphael Winter. He might have piercing sapphire eyes and a body which a cover model would be proud of but, as far as Ivy’s concerned, he’s a walking advertisement for the joyless perils of too much witch-work.

And if he makes her go to the gym again, she’s definitely going to turn him into a frog.”

Here’s the thing, I had some misgivings right from the jump with this synopsis. Some HB’s had highly recommended it to me so I pushed past it but I got a real meh vibe from this summary. Whenever a character’s voice starts with “let’s get one thing straight” I have a knee jerk eye roll reaction. It just feels like that kind of high school not-like-other-girls tone that really irks me because I was 100% that girl. I could appreciate that she wants to relax and hang out with her cat because I am 100% that grown woman. Through reading the book I found the mystery compelling but the heroine and hero irritating in different ways. She gives too few fucks, he gives too many, and I understand they’re going for an opposites attract vibe but it didn’t play for me as it was supposed to. Also the romance felt thoroughly unnecessary and unrealistic. There were some side characters I felt they could have done more with and by the end of it I didn’t feel compelled to read further into the series. I think my biggest concern was that it felt sometimes like the author was trying too hard to impress upon the reader that this character was Too Above It All To Care and I can appreciate that in a character to an extent but it became a bit repetitive. The book was also written in first person so the author ended up telling more than showing which is a common problem I have with first person narration (both writing and reading).

Ultimately I don’t regret reading it but I don’t intend to keep going and as I said I did end up reading another witch-based book that was actually a romance to fulfill this category.

Review: Tikka Chance On Me by Suleikha Snyder

Hello reader! it’s been almost a year but it was my last year of grad school so there was a lot going on to distract me from this blog. Luckily, it did not (entirely) distract me from my reading! Also, I finished and can now say that I have graduated with my Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling!

But this blog is about books so let’s refocus on that. These next batch of reviews will be shorter because I’m trying to get them all in before the end of the year. Historically if I fall behind in a project I just abandon it, but I don’t want to do that with this blog. So even if the posts are shorter, I am determined to get something down on this blog to track my reading.

I read Suleikha Snyder’s romance novella Tikka Chance On Me and it hit me in so many catnip places. It had a character based on bearded Chris Evans (√), had a unique and likeable heroine (√√), references to Captain America (√√√), a genuine conflict and not just talk-to-each-other-already tension (√√√√) and very well written sex (√√√√√√√√√√).

In the words of the Amazon synopsis:

He’s the bad-boy biker. She’s the good girl working in her family’s Indian restaurant. On the surface, nothing about Trucker Carrigan and Pinky Grover’s instant, incendiary, attraction makes sense. But when they peel away the layers and the assumptions—and their clothes—everything falls into place. The need. The want. The light. The laughter. But is it enough? In this steamy contemporary romance that Entertainment Weekly calls “so flaming-hot it might just burn you,” Trucker and Pinky won’t find out until they take a chance on each other—and on love.

On the surface this premise wouldn’t necessarily appeal to me because I typically read historicals. What sold me on it was 1) a glowing recommendation from the Heaving Bosoms Podcast and 2) this tweet from Suleikha Snyder.

I’m a simple woman. I know what I like and I liked what I saw and I definitely liked what I read. If you’re looking for a quick read that will make you feel multiple (if not all) the feelings, I highly recommend this novella. Plus it’s only $2.99 on Amazon and well worth the investment.

Review: Priest by Sierra Simone

Disclaimer: This book deals with suicide, molestation, and has many scenes of a sacrilegious nature involving a priest breaking his vow of chastity. If any of those are things you cannot handle or are uncomfortable with, you have my full blessing to scroll on by til the next review.

Continue reading “Review: Priest by Sierra Simone”

Review: Gmorning, Gnight by Lin-Manuel Miranda

This book was truly everything that I needed in a very busy week.

For anyone who doesn’t know, this book is a collection of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s good morning and good night tweets which he started to reach out and inspire his fans and himself in turn. Some people might consider some of them saccharine but I think we could all stand a little sweetness in our lives right now.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the illustrations but that’s just personal taste in art. I don’t deny the talent of the artist, it was just a little busy sometimes.

Nevertheless, the messages that Miranda shares are so incredibly simple but the simplicity does not diminish their impact. One of the reasons it resonated was because, as Miranda explains in the prologue poem, the messages he writes are just as much for himself as they are for the reader. When he writes about feeling lonely, it is because he was feeling lonely. Knowing that the words I read which are causing this emotional resonance is not just connecting to words but the emotions of the author made it feel personal despite knowing that he is an incredibly public figure.

I was recently set up in an office space for my practicum and the first thing I knew had to be on my desk was this and honestly that’s about the biggest compliment I can give a book. Definitely check it out, regardless of your feelings about Hamilton or any of Miranda’s other works.