Review: Goldie Vance Vol #1 by Hope Larson

Trucking right along with the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge I read Goldie Vance Vol #1 for the “Read a mystery where a woman isn’t the victim” category.

Goldie Vance is a biracial teenager in the 1960s who works and lives at a hotel with her father. Her on paper job is valet but she works as hard as she can freelancing to support the on-site detective, Walter, in solving various crimes. She is helped by her friend, a receptionist and aspiring astronaut, and other acquaintances around the hotel.

Goldie reminded me of a blend of Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown, which is high praise. She takes risks and makes understandable mistakes but also works hard to take responsibility for them and come back out on top. I also appreciated that while she is biracial at a time in history when we are more comfortable depicting the racial tension in our society, her race is never disparaged or treated with disgust. Nor are the many other characters of color in the series which I also appreciated. Too often representation is “handled” by throwing in one non-white person and calling it a victory. In this graphic novel, Goldie is surrounded by people of color and it is incredibly refreshing. I want to be very clear that this is not some gold star moment where the author deserves a cookie for making this choice. This is just an author who is finally giving readers a more accurate look at the racial makeup of society which has always been more colorful than works set in the past, even the near past, tend to depict.

I really enjoyed reading Goldie Vance and am excited to read more of the volumes which are already out. If you enjoy intrepid girl sleuths and unusual settings, like hotels in Florida in the 60s, please give this a read! Volume 1 is currently available to read with Kindle Unlimited. If you don’t have Kindle Unlimited you can buy this graphic novel wherever graphic novels are sold.

Review: The Adventure Zone Murder on the Rockport Limited by Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Travis McElroy, Justin McElroy, and Carey Pietsch

This is the sequel to The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins graphic novel. This series takes the reader through the arcs from the Balance campaign in The Adventure Zone podcast.

Quick review cuz it’s kind of a gimme that I would love this one. Murder on the Rockport Limited was my favorite Balance arc and I enjoyed how they translated it from podcast to graphic novel. The characters look right, the dialogue is fun, and it hit the moments I remembered and loved. Special shoutout for the introduction of Angus, Boy Detective.

If you’re interested in picking it up I’d start with the first because it gives important background information but then definitely go ahead and read this one as well. I eagerly look forward to the third in the series, Petals to the Metal, and plan to preorder it soon.

Review: Sunstone by Stjepan Sejic

This is going to be pretty brief because guys, I did not like this graphic novel one bit.

The premise of Sunstone (as written by a straight dude) is two (new) lesbians in the BDSM community meet up after months of chatting online to hookup and see if their chemistry in person is the same as online.

Part of my bias is that this book was selected for my book club’s  August genre, Romance. This book mocks romance literally from page one.

The whole book reads like a young straight guy’s porn based lesbian fantasies that dares to pretend to be the voice of women. This graphic novel doesn’t show the male gaze, it shows the male leer, making these women posture and pose in straight from Playboy positions to tantalize the (almost certainly) male reader of the graphic novel.

Also, for a graphic novel which is a visual medium, it was stunningly and confusingly filled with telling instead of showing. The formula is teasing, almost-dirty-talk, fade to black, and then “oh wow that was the most intense sex ever” thought bubbles. He literally refers to orgasms (female orgasms in particular here) as overdone and boring.

Prayer circle for his wife.

Even visually this story is just bland. The art is uninspiring and the color palette is red, brown, and black. The whole thing feels like a gross pretense of sexiness fumbled by a grown man who did not consult a single lesbian. I also do not know his relationship with the BDSM community and don’t mean to speak for them but a lot of his representation of this also felt… off.

Anyway, I actively advise avoiding this if you’re looking for romance, erotica, good writing, interesting characters, or truly anything I look for in books.

If you are looking for eerily identically bodied (and pubic haired – wut?) bodies and wanna jerk it to some ladies almost doing sex, have at it.

I think I would have felt less sour about this read if it hadn’t been misrepresented. It’s not a romance, not every story with sex and two characters who enjoy each other’s bodies (and presumably brains) has to be one. It also has a real “I’m Not Like Most Girls” vibe which, if you read the Slouch Witch review, you know I hate. It felt especially sinister and gross coming from a man voicing a woman.

Oof.

Anyway, I’m going to wrap up here and move onto better things.

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.