Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir by Tyler Feder

Coping with grief is hard and never-ending. As a librarian, I am constantly on the lookout for books that discuss the topic of grief in a new way. Enter author and illustrator Tyler Feder. She has written Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir, what Feder describes as ‘sad but also silly and weird, just like loss’. Feder’s illustrations are soft, gentle, and simple which serve as the perfect accompaniment to her heartbreaking subject matter. This book is part cancer memoir telling the story of Feder’s mom’s death and part reflection on her motherless life. Feder gives readers a glimpse into a devastating time into her life, while also being humorous. She makes note several times throughout that this memoir is for the people who are struggling with loss who just want someone to understand and get what they are going through.

Tyler Feder loves her mom Rhonda. That has never been in doubt.  As the oldest daughter, Tyler made Rhonda a mom and shared a special bond with her. No one loved more in Tyler’s life than her mom, all be it a bit blunt but full of joy. It’s hard to distill such a large personality to a single memoir, but Tyler pays devoted homage to her by weaving poignant yet piercing details throughout.

When Tyler was 19 years old, her mom died of cancer. This memoir covers everything from her first oncology appointment to the different stages of cancer to the funeral. Feder then goes a step further to show her family sitting shiva and how they adjust to the new afterward without their mother and wife in the ten years after. The art in this book is gorgeous and seeing Tyler show her love and heartbreak through her work tore at my heart as I read this book. This graphic memoir also felt like a self-help book as reading Tyler’s journey somewhat mirrored my own travels through grief. You see Feder’s grief fresh after her mother’s death as well as how she is working through it ten years later. Highly recommend this graphic memoir to anyone who is looking for a new read.

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Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Elizabeth Acevedo has written a new young adult novel detailing the stories of two sisters grieving the loss of their father. Clap When You Land  weaves together their two separate stories into a tight tale of sorrow, loss, and finding a bright spot amidst immense grief.

Camino Rios only sees her father in the summer. Every June, he flies to visit her and her aunt in the Dominican Republic. Papi lights up her tiny community and his presence is everywhere she looks. Even when he’s not there, he protects her. This time when Camino goes to the airport to pick him up, she arrives to see groups of people crying and watching the news. Not her papi…

Yahaira Rios lives in New York City with her father and mother. Papi is her hero. He taught her to play chess and nurtured her talents. He has left every summer to go to the Dominican Republic on business for as long as she can remember. It’s almost the end of the school year and papi has just taken off. Yahaira is called to the principal’s office and notices teachers clustered in corners, crying, and stealing glances at her. A disheveled mami is in the office with devastating news. Her father has died in a plane crash. Her hero is gone.

Grieving their father’s death, Yahaira and Camino struggle to find a new way through life. Without money, Camino doesn’t know how she will keep going to high school and college seems to be now firmly out of the picture. Without her father, Yahaira and her mother are unmoored. Her mami and other relatives spend hours whispering and stop talking as soon as she walks in the room.

Separated by distance, both girls have to figure out a new reality without their father. He’s gone and nothing they do can bring him back. The deeper their grief, the more they struggle to find a new purpose. Just when it feels like they have reached their breaking point, they each learn the other exists. Papi had many secrets.

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Someone Knows by Lisa Scottoline

Mistakes you make in high school can have the ability to destroy your life. Lisa Scottoline talks about these mistakes and their life-long consequences in her newest novel, Someone Knows.

Someone Knows by Lisa Scottoline is a page-turning novel about how one decision can destroy family, friendships, and hope of a positive future in a split second. This domestic thriller dives into the choices of a group of high school friends who are forced to keep a secret and how it affects each of them.

Twenty years ago, four teenagers are spending the summer hanging around the suburb that they live in in Philadelphia. Fifteen-year-old Allie Garvey has had a rough childhood. Her older sister Jill has cystic fibrosis and that diagnosis has changed her entire life as well as that of her family. Hanging around with three other teenagers, Allie is finally able to experience a normal teenage life. When a new boy moves to town, the relationships the four have developed are put to a test.

One night, they end up drinking and partying in the woods. After deciding to play a dangerous prank, the night turns deadly. Running for their lives and in shock, the teenagers decide to keep what happened a secret. Each believes that being caught or telling someone in authority what happened would make the situation even worse for them.

Allie has lived with this secret for 20 years. It’s eating her up inside, especially since she had never told anyone. Allie distances herself from her family, friends, and her husband. Heading back home to Philadelphia for a funeral of one of her childhood friends, Allie struggles with grief, panic, and shame. Clearly the others have been facing the same struggles as her and one had reached the breaking point.

Coming to terms with this unexpected death, Allie realizes that she can’t keep living life the way she has been. She must make a change, but doing so means she would utterly destroy and lose everything. Allie wants to learn the truth about how the prank turned deadly. While she’s searching for answers, Allie learns things that shock her and change the events that she thought were true.

This novel is a fascinating examination of what it really means to want justice and to receive it. Family, marriage, love, and friendship are all tested throughout. I enjoyed the twists and turns this novel took with an ending that I did not expect. Check out the book and let me know what you think in the comments below!


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The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

From the outside, certain families may look like they have everything together. They all get along and everyone new is welcomed in with open and loving arms. The ultimate goal: the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship is whole and loving. Sally Hepworth takes this idea of the perfect family and destroys it in her newest novel, The Mother-in-Law.

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth tells the story of the complicated relationship between Lucy and her mother-in-law Diana. Told through flashbacks between the past and present, readers learn about how their relationship began. This story is also told from different point of views, which allows secrets to flourish between each character.

When Lucy first met Diana, she noticed something was off about her. Diana is always unfailingly polite to everyone and generous, but she never completely warms up to Lucy. Lucy knows she isn’t the wife that Diana envisioned for her son, but despite that she still tries to win her over. Diana has been happily married for years, works hard as a recognized figure in the community, and advocates for female refugees in order to help them succeed. All of these things form a bubble of likeability and lovability around Diana. Everyone loves her. Lucy doesn’t. Try as she might, she just can’t think of a nice thing about her.

Flash forward five years.

Diana’s dead.

A suicide note is found by her body.

The family is devastated. Thinking that the cancer that has run through her body finally killed her, the family tries to come to terms with it. Major problem: the autopsy finds no cancer. What it finds instead: Poison and evidence of suffocation.

Police begin an investigation into Diana’s death and start asking questions of the family members. Diana changed her will close to her death and disinherited both of her children and their spouses. There’s no way for them to access any of her money or possessions. Could that be motive for her murder? Lucy doesn’t seem too concerned or broken up over Diana’s death: something that quickly marks her as a suspect.

The Mother-In-Law is ripe with hidden secrets, disintegrating relationships, and complex motives for little actions. Check it out and let me know what you think!


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Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

Reese Witherspoon has been knocking it out of the park lately (in my opinion) with her book club picks. Reese’s Book Club x Hello Sunshine Book Pics are all listed on her website. I encourage you to pop over there to see both what she is reading and what she is encouraging others to read. Looking at her list at the beginning of August, I decided to give her July 2019 pick a try, knowing that the content would be controversial, triggering, and relatable in today’s times.

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker is Reese’s July 2019 pick. Like mentioned before, this book may be triggering for some as it discusses sexual harassment. Whisper Network is described online and in press materials as a book that takes the #MeToo movement and turns it into an empowering, fierce, and funny legal thriller with elements of shocking soap opera revelations. While some reviewers loved this book, others thought it trivialized the movement. Since reviews of this book ranged the spectrum, I wanted to read it to gain my own perspective of a book that covers such a sensitive topic.

Whisper Network looks into the whispers that circle around companies on a daily basis. The facts, rumors, speculations that slip through office spaces form a network where people learn only the information that is passed through the grapevine. The whispers that swirl between staff are ignored, swept under the rug, and easily explained away by superiors. What’s the controversy? It all starts with Ames.

Truviv, Inc, an athletic apparel brand in Dallas, Texas, is undergoing a change. The CEO of the company has unexpectedly passed away, leaving an opening for a new CEO. This could be an issue.

Sloane, Ardie, Grace, and Rosalita have worked at Truviv for years. All working mothers who live in the shadow of their male boss, the women know how to navigate their working lives. Knowing what they do about the organizational structure and through talking with others, word quickly gets out that their boss, Ames, will likely become the new CEO. This is problematic for multiple reasons. While each woman has their own relationship with Ames, whispers surround Ames as someone the women in the office all need to look out for.

Whenever a new woman is hired, Sloane, Ardie, and Grace struggle with how to let her know since those in charge brush their concerns aside. Ames’s promotion will tumble the unsteady relationships each woman has developed with him. They are wary. When a new woman joins the office and begins getting close to Ames, the women decide that they need to take action. When word gets out that Ames has been making inappropriate moves on a colleague, the women are fed up. Watching from the sidelines isn’t changing anything. Enough is enough.

Sloane, Grace, and Ardie all decide to handle the situation in different ways, but ultimately work together to bring Ames’s behavior to light. They fight back. Tired of covering up for Ames’s conniving ways, the women become aware of a ‘BAD Men’ list circulating around Dallas. Someone has added Ames’s name to the list.  A shift happens in the office as a result bringing down a major and catastrophic change to their normal working lives.

Everyone has lies and secrets that they hope will remain hidden. In order to bring about change, these lies and secrets will be exposed, but that is not necessarily a good thing. Personal and professional lives will drastically change as a result of the women’s many actions, leaving some of them utterly destroyed and someone dead.


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Meet Cute by Helena Hunting

Some days (or weeks or months), all I want to read are romance novels. I’m deep in the midst of several romance reads right now. These books serve as a major deviation from my usual reads of twisty crime thrillers and are a necessary light read for me when I just need a break.

I noticed the cutesy cover of Helena Hunting’s latest romance novel peeking out from the new shelves a few weeks ago and was intrigued enough to start it.  I devoured this book in less than 3 days. Such a fun light read with charming characters! Meet Cute by Helena Hunting tells the story of a couple’s long road to a happily-ever-after with a pinch of Hollywood magic when a famous hunky heartthrob bumps into his ultimate fangirl again after years apart.

Kailyn Flowers knows exactly what she wants and exactly what she needs to do to get it. Described by friends and family as very controlled, rational, and calm under any circumstances, Kailyn has one glaring exception that leaves her breathless: Daxton Hughes. Daxton is the former teen actor that she had a complete and total crush on when she was younger. In law school, Kailyn believes herself to be in control until she literally runs into Daxton and the two are left sprawled on the ground. Kailyn reverts back to her fangirl self and may have mortified herself by professing (loudly) her undying love for Daxton. After that situation ended, Kailyn thought she’d never see him again, but oddly enough their meet cute leads to a friendship and a sort of friendly rivalry that helps them both survive law school. Their friendship takes a huge hit at the end of school however when Daxton betrays Kailyn in a way for which she will never forgive him.

Flash forward years and Kailyn has an established job at a reputable law firm that gives her joy. One day, a new client comes into the office and she is floored. Daxton Hughes has walked back into her life and he desperately needs her help. Dax is now guardian to his thirteen-year-old sister and is very overwhelmed. Kailyn finds herself drawn into his messy life. Once meeting Dax’s younger sister, Kailyn knows she would do anything to make sure this struggling girl and her older brother find a positive way to manage their new normal.

Dax and Kailyn meet frequently to discuss work matters. While these meetings are initially chilly, they quickly turn friendly. Once Dax’s sister starts meddling, these friendly and benign meetings turn into flirty charming dinner dates that leave the both of them yearning for more. Kailyn is hesitant to go further because despite the chemistry palpable in the air, how can she let Daxton back into her life when he has hurt her in the past? Their complicated past and even more complicated present may be enough to keep the two apart.


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The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

Starting a new relationship means that you are not just in a relationship with your new partner, but that you have to build relationships with their family and friends. Sometimes those relationships are positive, while others start rocky and only get worse. In Sandie Jones’ new novel, The Other WomanJones examines the relationships that exist between a woman and the intense bond she shares with the man she loves.

The Other Woman is a twisty thriller that centers around how far someone is willing to go to get what they want. After a bad breakup, Emily has finally met the man of her dreams. Adam is perfect and everything she has ever wanted in a man. Emily thinks that her life couldn’t be any more perfect until she meets Adam’s mom, Pammie. Right from the start, Emily notices the odd and slightly off relationship that Pammie and Adam share. Thinking that Pammie is just overprotective of her son, Emily tries to work things out. Quickly things spiral out of control. Pammie is overbearing, overprotective, and, worst of all, extremely critical of everything Emily wears, says, or does around her. Nothing Emily does could ever be right. No one else notices Pammie’s bizarre behavior though. Mentioning this to Adam only serves to anger him and tarnish his mother’s perfect reputation in his eyes. Emily decides to stay the course.

Adam and Emily’s relationship progresses and flourishes as they begin to make plans to spend the rest of their lives together. Emily and Pammie’s relationship? Still rocky. With each new milestone Emily and Adam reach, Pammie seems to lose control even more. When Emily finally secures a forever relationship with Adam, she quickly learns that Pammie will do anything to keep her and Adam apart. Pammie wants Emily gone forever. Emily wants Adam forever. Those wants are not compatible. These two formidable women face off against each other in a battle of wills that will leave their relationships and lives in tatters.


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The Witch Elm by Tana French

I have always wanted to read a book by Tana French. For ten years, French exclusively wrote the Dublin Murder Squad series. I don’t like reading series out of order, so I filed French down to the bottom of my to-read list until I could find all the books in the series. When I realized that her newest book was a stand-alone, I was excited! I could finally fulfill my desire to read Tana French. (And yes, I know I could have found her series and read them, but it’s much easier to find (and read) a standalone.)

The Witch Elm by Tana French is her latest novel released in the beginning of October 2018. This standalone mystery is separate from French’s Dublin Murder Squad series(I can’t stress that enough!). Based on the reviews that I read, The Witch Elm is a prime example of why you should check out what a book is actually about about before you pick it up. Most reviewers were excited that Tana French had put out a new book and decided to immediately read it. As I progressed through different reviews and websites, I saw that most had assumed this was a continuation of her Dublin Murder Squad series or had assumed that her newest would be a detective-centric story. It’s not! Having not read her others, I’m not sure how this one stacked up to her previous works, but I enjoyed the twists and turns of this novel a great deal.

In The Witch Elm , readers are introduced to happy-go-lucky Toby. Everything always seems to work out for Toby.  From his job to his girlfriend and his apartment, Toby seems to have it all. At the very beginning, Toby steps outside of the storyline of the book to inform readers that things have taken a turn for him. Through this novel, Toby says he will lay out the ways that his life has taken a turn. One night Toby is out having drinks with his friends, telling the story of how he has managed to come out of a touchy work situation in a positive manner. Hoping things will turn around, Toby drunkenly heads back to his apartment where he is surprised in the middle of the night by two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Not able to recover or live on his own, Toby finds himself living back at the Ivy House, his family’s ancestral home, taking care of his sick uncle.

Left damaged and traumatized after his attack, Toby struggles to take care of himself and his sick Uncle Hugo. Luckily for both men, Toby’s girlfriend moves into Ivy House to help care for them. This brutal attack has forever altered Toby and he isn’t sure how to adjust to his new normal. Uncle Hugo’s illness has left the family in doubt as to what will happen to Ivy House after he dies, which may happen sooner than they all think. All together for lunch one day, Hugo begins to broach this topic. Before they get very far, a scream is heard from the garden. The children have found a skull, tucked into the old witch elm at the foot of the garden.

With this discovery, Toby’s life will spiral even more out of control. Detectives, crime scene investigators, and the media descend in droves on Ivy House. Everyone in the family is on edge with Toby confused in the center. The aftereffects of Toby’s attack has addled his brain, making it hard for him to keep events straight. Constantly confusing the past and present and forgetting what is false and true rocket Toby to the top of the detectives’ suspect list. Through the course of their investigation, Toby is forced to look back on the idyllic childhood he lived and his perfect recent past. What he believed to be the truth may not actually be what happened. This novel takes a deep look at how what we believe to be true may not actually be how others remember what happened. While I enjoyed the suspenseful storytelling weaved throughout this novel, Toby was a character I had to work to love. Tana French crafted Toby’s character this way in order to force readers to really look at what we would do when forced to change ourselves into someone new. I encourage you to read this book and let me know what you thought in the comments below!


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Ink In Water: An Illustrated Memoir (Or, How I Kicked Anorexia’s Ass and Embraced Body Positivity)

Anyone who has struggled with addiction or compulsion will likely  appreciate Ink In Water and find it inspiring. Davis, described as a “young punk artist” by Library Journal, tells an autobiographical story about incredibly painful life experiences revolving around disordered eating, recovery, loss, and finally–helping others overcome similar disorders. Now a personal trainer, coach, author, and “body image advocate”, Davis’s memoir reveals how she first developed an eating disorder and got ensnared in the negative feedback loop that accompanies the psychology of self-harm.

The illustrations depicting Davis at the height (or really, rock-bottom) of her disorder show an emaciated, isolated individual who was starving herself to death. But by the end of the memoir, illustrations show a woman who has learned to cut herself some slack. In contrast, the woman in the final pages of the memoir is strong, determined, and no longer fears taking up space. To the contrary, Davis is interested in building herself up, through the practice of weight-lifting and strength training. Rather than shrinking and trying to make herself smaller, she embarks on a lifelong journey of recovery by focusing her mental and physical energy on becoming stronger.

While this graphic novel is largely about learning to love yourself, it also did a wonderful job of showing what a loving, supportive relationship can look like. I got a little teary when reading about how Davis’s partner essentially doubled-down on being loving and supportive through the hard times (rather than turning away from her when she was at her worst). When Davis experiences a particularly devastating loss of one of her best friends, mentors, and sponsors, her partner plans a trip to New York City to help her get out of her head.  Their relationship beautifully demonstrates how loving partnerships allow for being openly vulnerable and loved and supported in spite of individual faults or shortcomings.

Check it out. I didn’t really even start regularly reading graphic novels until I picked up a work of graphic medicine. As someone who genuinely enjoys non-fiction (I know — crazy!), graphic memoirs have been a really nice change of pace. This book reminds me of how resilient we are, and that we can get better and come back even stronger after being in the grips of something that threatens to destroy us.

The Child by Fiona Barton

In The Child by Fiona Barton, Barton weaves a twisting tale of psychological suspense that will rip through your senses as you try to figure out what is happening. Have you ever wondered what happens when old houses are demolished? What if they discover something hidden in the ground? Hidden in the walls? What of the secrets that are uncovered?

The Child begins with the discovery of a tiny skeleton during the demolition of an old house in London. Journalist Kate Waters stumbles upon this story and decides to dig deeper into what happened to the child. Piecing together what information she can gather, Waters is continuously left with more and more questions with the chief one being: who is the building site baby? Forced to work with a young male intern, Kate is able to convince her boss, Terry, that she needs to investigate.

Angela is a grieving mother who is struggling to comes to terms with a devastating event that tore her family apart almost forty years ago. Her family is trying to help Angela move on with her life, but they are just as torn up as she is.

Emma is a young wife who is going through some major anxiety. She is having trouble just living her life, much to the chagrin of her husband who is trying to help her however he can. Emma’s issues seem to stem from her past. She was raised by her single mother, Jude. The two have a strained relationship that will leave readers wondering what exactly happened between the two to cause such dislike.

Angela, Emma, and Jude all have some interest in the building site baby. Kate’s investigation into what happened to the baby elicits a different reaction from each woman. Kate finds herself going back to the building site and visiting each house to try to track down someone who knows something about the baby. The more she investigates, the more secrets and connections Kate digs up. Kate finds herself becoming a keeper of Angela, Emma, and Jude’s secrets. Her journey to find out what happened to the building site baby evolves into a much larger conspiracy that consumes Kate’s life, but leaves her hesitant about what she can and cannot disclose to the authorities.


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