Book Review: The City That Barks and Roars

Okay picture this. Zootopia, right? But instead of a bunny and a fox, it’s a penguin and a monkey. And it’s the 1950s, so they’re, like, wearing fedoras and stuff. So the penguin and the monkey, they go around looking for this panda detective that’s gone missing, but also some beavers who have kind of a sketchy past, and there’s a pastor goat… a badass panther in a slinky dress… ooh, maybe an underground cat-napping ring that’s led by the dog mafia!

Honestly though, it’s pretty good. It’s funny, fast-paced, and has a solid mystery. There’s a huge cast of colorful characters/animals that really give a good feel of what Noah’s Kingdom is like. I don’t quite understand some of the animal mechanics (How does a penguin drink coffee? How does a rhinoceros drive? Where do rats get tiny cop uniforms?) but it’s really not important. If you’re going to get hung up on logic, you wouldn’t enjoy this.

Admittedly, it got off to a bumpy start and could use an eagle-eyed editor. There are a distracting number of spelling and punctuation errors. Some readers may not enjoy being addressed by the author, but I thought it was really funny that the author sneaks in asides with real animal facts.

The City That Barks and Roars by J. T. Bird is perfect for that surprisingly large intersection of people who love both silly talking animals and hardboiled detective novels.

Thanks to BookSirens, the publisher, and the author for providing a copy of this ebook. I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Book Review: Rumple Buttercup

I just love this book. The illustrations are adorable, funny, and the message is sweet without being overbearing. It’s a perfect lesson for anyone of any age: you’re weird, I’m weird, and that’s awesome so let’s have a parade.

And there’s a secondary, equally valuable lesson about giving people space to feel comfortable. The townspeople knew all about a Rumple Buttercup without making a big deal about his shyness or invading his personal space, so when he’s finally ready to come out of the storm drain, it’s on his terms. It’s positive without being saccharine.

Let’s not forget that Matthew Gray Gubler illustrated and hand-wrote every word of this piece — even the Library of Congress stuff! It’s just that extra touch that makes Rumple Buttercup such a treasure.

Rumple Buttercup: A Story of Bananas, Belonging, and Being Yourself by Matthew Gray Gubler was published April 2, 2019.

Book Review: The Lodge

What could be cozier than Christmas in a hunting lodge in the Scottish Highlands? For newbie constable Andrew, the inn owners, and a handful of well-paying guests, the tables turn when the hunted animals take revenge.

The Lodge by Chris Coppel is a bullet of a book: fast, compact, and impactful. It’s a short revenge tale that teeters on the edge of splatterpunk. There’s plenty of creative gore and atmosphere, but not a lot of creepiness. The lodge and the surrounding countryside are as beautifully visual as the deaths are gruesome. If you’re in the mood for something quick and grisly in an idyllic landscape, The Lodge is for you.

It reminds me a bit of a 90’s whodunit: a big spooky house, a locked-in atmosphere, and plenty of mysterious bumps in the night. Every now and then, a character would hear a shout from another room, rush in, and immediately ask what happened. Oh dear, it was the deer!

Like any good horror story, The Lodge doesn’t take itself too seriously. The bizarre reanimated animals are nightmarishly weird and creative in their retribution. Even the Christmas tree gets in on the action! And the human characters are good for a laugh: desperate for a positive Yelp review, the owners do their darndest to metaphorically sweep the deaths under the zebra-skin rug. The reader enjoys plenty of that “I know something you don’t know” feeling when the characters find themselves in a pickle.

I think it would have benefitted from being either a little bit shorter or a little bit longer. There were some gaps in the backstories and I think they all could have been either fleshed out or summed up. However, I did enjoy knowing the backstories and after learning the guests’ histories, I’ll admit it sparked a bit of a grinchy smile when karma caught up with them. Once everything started to make sense (sort of) it did feel a bit rushed and too tidy. A bit over the top, but what else would you expect from a story like this?

I can’t quite decide which genre The Lodge belongs in. The cover says thriller, it reads like horror, but it’s more of a vegan revenge tale with gore in it. The spook-factor is a little low, so there’s not a lot of dread, but plenty of revulsion. The reader can see everything coming from a mile away. In a vengeance tale, I consider this a good thing.

Whatever it is, The Lodge is just a lot of fun! Probably not so entertaining if you’re an avid hunter, but if you’re in the mood for a jolt of gross-out horror, this is just the ticket.

I read this book during a blizzard. And yes, I did make a vegan dish for dinner.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

What’s new? Reviews!

I am pleased to announce that I am now a NetGalley reviewer! For years, I’ve been envious of the ARC reviewers who get sneak peeks of new releases, and I’m thrilled to finally join their ranks. Unsurprisingly, I was a little over-enthusiastic with my requests on day one, and five of my requests were approved within 48 hours of joining. A little daunting, yes, but I’m over the moon.

I enjoy all literature bizarre and unsettling, so most of the titles I plan to review will be horror or at least weird. So far, so good.

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My first book up for review, Welcome to Brookville by Kelly Ennis, was a quick and dreamy read. I’ll be honest, I picked this title based on the cover in the hopes of some serious atmospheric weirdness. WOW did Ennis deliver! This collection of vaguely interconnected short stories takes place in the town of Brookville, where nothing normal seems to happen. If there had been giant rabbits spouting non sequiturs in their living room (spoiler: there aren’t) I’d almost believe it could be a Lynch movie. Almost. I felt like the most pertinent pages ripped out of my copy, so I could never say for sure what was going on, but I think I liked it.

The overarching themes of imprisonment and anxiety brought even the mildest psychological horror to the forefront. I can’t say what this book was about, exactly, but it left me with some disturbing and frustrating after-images, and in that way, it was successful.

Click here to see the full review.

There are four more books to review in the next couple weeks, and countless more in the pipeline. Mount TBR just got a lot higher.

Next up, The House of Dust by Noah Broyles.