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: Other People’s Children

Gail is desperate to become a mother. After years of trying to adopt, she and her husband Jon finally meet Carli, a rudderless 18 year old with a baby bump and an abusive mother. Ready to be parents at long last, Carli gives birth and Gail and Jon take home their new baby Maya. But Carli’s mother pressures her to reclaim the newborn before the adoption finalizes. Then, chaos. Maya becomes the eye of a hurricane of jealousy, pain, and desperate love.

Other People’s Children wastes no time getting to the real story. The reader does not have to wait long for the baby to arrive and then when she does, the story kicks into high gear. What could have become a drawn-out tale of courtroom tragedy becomes a breakneck thriller as the three mothers demand the family they believe is rightfully theirs: Maya. 

Every mother, from Gail to Carli all the way to Gail’s critical mother and Jon’s Aunt Carol, embodies maternal love — they just have different ways of showing it. I loved that Gail was all show and no substance while Carli was the picture of emotional maturity in the face of adversity. I do wish we could have met Marla before she and Jon had their waiting-room confrontation; I’m sure she could have been as dimensional as the other mother. Even Paige, the social worker, offers a nuanced perspective of what it means to be a parent.

There is plenty of foreshadowing for the story ahead, which makes it fun to watch the story play out in its entirety later on. Frankly, I did not expect this book about the meaning of motherhood to be such a page-turner. Other People’s Children started as a family drama, then turned on a dime into a heart-racing thriller. This debut novel is a whirlwind, to say the least.

CW: abuse

Other People’s Children by R. J. Hoffmann is expected to be published April 6, 2021.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Gudetama: Mindfulness for the Lazy

I’ve been reading a lot of heavy books lately and needed a break. When I spied Gudetama: Mindfulness For the Lazy on NetGalley, I snapped it up. It didn’t change my life, but it did make a nice palate cleanser.

Gudetama is adorable. This thicc little egg yolk (?) wants to do nothing more than nap, but his over-enthusiastic friend (?) insists that today is the day to learn about mindfulness. The odd couple floats around town learning and teaching others about self-love, self-respect, and staying in the moment.

Mindfulness For the Lazy discusses cutting out negative influences, staying organized, and empathy. I appreciated that not all of the characters were able to accomplish this! It’s hard sometimes, and it’s important to recognize that. 

This little graphic novel is 0% esoteric. It’s just a speedy PSA about not being a butt. 

Honestly, I thought this graphic novel would be more about mindfulness. There’s a lot about self-care and self-regulating, not so much about how to actually be in the moment. And I can’t quite pin down who the target audience would be. It’s presented in a way that would be easily digestible and even eye-opening for children, but features office drones under mountains of paperwork and adults forgetting to pick up each other from the airport. I don’t think this book was for me, but it was fun.

There are some rays of sunshine in here. From casual non-binary pronoun usage to a character who dunked on someone while using the wrong “your,” it’s the asides that make this story shine. I especially enjoyed the flowchart of how to deal with unpleasant people on social media.

If I were already a fan of Gudetama (and I can imagine it’s very easy to become one!) I’d probably enjoy this little guide more. Gudetama: Mindfulness for the Lazy is perfect for people in a hurry and those who like humor with their self-help.

Gudetama: Mindfulness for the Lazy by Wook-Jin Clark is expected to be published April 6,2021.

Thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

Book Review: Killer Triggers

Well my, my, my.

As a fan of Joe Kenda’s television show on Investigation Discovery, I leapt at the chance to listen to him read his memoirs. I was not disappointed.

In Killer Triggers, retired Lieutenant Joe Kenda recalls several of his most memorable cases while working as a homicide detective in Colorado Springs. He starts each story with the “trigger” for the murder and retells the entire experience of solving the crime — from the time he gets the call until after the killer is locked safely behind bars.

But not every story is like an episode of Homicide Hunter. In this format, Kenda is able to go into much more detail about the investigation, techniques used, his feelings about the case, and even a few amusing asides. There’s a long passage extolling the skills of police dogs and an amusing side story about the time one of them got loose. He later goes in depth about the emotional toll being a homicide detective took on his health and family life, making this a well-balanced true crime memoir.

These stories are true crime, but there is time to talk about the effect of the murders on the surviving family members. This author has no trouble reminding the reader that these are real people who have endured real horrors and he treads the line between sensationalism and compassion.

However, I did find that since Kenda explores his opinions and feelings during each case, his generational bias is showing. He flirts with outdated morals and societal norms which rub this 21st-century reader the wrong way.

I listened to the audiobook version of this book and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m sure it’s a great title on paper, but as a fan of Homicide Hunter, the narration made it that much better. I don’t normally mention profanity in my reviews, but other fans may be startled to hear their favorite detective drop an f-bomb.

I highly recommend the audiobook version of Killer Triggers to any fan of the true crime genre, especially those who recognize the author from his television show. Joe Kenda’s style is direct, deadpan, opinionated, and dripping with gravitas.

Killer Triggers: Murder Comes Down to Sex, Drugs, or Money by Joe Kenda is expected to be published March 9, 2021.

Thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Your Turn to Suffer

You ever crave true horror but can’t find a title to scratch the itch? This is the one you’re looking for. 

Physical therapist, Lori, lives a relatively uncomplicated life until the mysterious Cabal appears out of nowhere and demands that she “confess and atone — or suffer.” Bizarre nightmare creatures continually chip away at her safety, her sanity, and everything she loves until she can uncover and atone for her own horrible truth.

Your Turn to Suffer is the most intense book I’ve read in a very long time. This title is dedicated to David Lynch, and that definitely makes sense. The sudden slips between normalcy and the surreal dreamscape are nightmarish to say the least. It’s cryptic, bizarre, horrible, beautiful, and most of it remains just out of reach. Until it doesn’t.

Around the midpoint, there are some short scenes involving minor characters and townspeople when the nightmare hits. This is the turning point where the plot stops being distinctly Lynchian and diverges into something paranormal yet hyperrealistic at the same time. The effect is gutting.

The terms “splatterpunk” and “extreme horror” are sometimes used interchangeably, but this, I feel, is the difference. Yep, there’s a lot of gore, but the story touches on obvious fears as well as psychic horrors that I didn’t even know existed. Some scenes were pure fantasy a la Beetlejuice, while others were way too real. 

About a quarter of the way through, the book reaches a point that would be climactic in the hands of other authors, but Mr. Waggoner turns the heat higher and higher until we’re burning, then turns it up one more time. 

That said, I do think there are too many things going on in this world. The Cabal is made up of such diverse, um, entities that it’s hard to know what’s scary and what’s just weird. Some of the scenes are so “out there” that it’s just too much. There are no rules whatsoever.

It’s hard to summarize this story and do it justice. Basically, if you like your horror with a side of mindf*ck, you should just read this. This one pulls out all the stops. I can’t imagine any reader would be unaffected by this brutal book.

CW: strong horror elements including animal abuse and a disturbing scene with child victims.

Your Turn to Suffer by Tim Waggoner is expected to be published March 23, 2021.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Murder Most Pemberley

Eliza Darcy (yes, she’s related to THAT Darcy) visits some relatives in the sprawling estate of Pemberley. Before long, she finds herself entangled in a murder mystery that promises to be much more complicated than a simple whodunit. With her literature-based sleuthing skills and the dashing Heath at her side, she finds herself deeper and deeper in danger the closer she comes to unmasking the killer.

There’s a lot going on in this book! A gorgeous setting, sweet romance, a great sense of humor, and a gripping mystery — what’s not to love? It’s easy to root for our nosy heroine, and the dotty old aunt Iris and party-girl Joy are icing on the cake. I was surprised how intense the story became towards the end; it ramped up to be a bit darker than most cozies, so sensitive readers, brace yourselves.

The flirting between Eliza and Heath is swoon-worthy, let’s say. I imagine anyone with a thing for English blokes would have a massive crush on Heath by the end of this book. It’s a clean, sweet romance that feels genuine. The match doesn’t seem too improbable and the couple had such great banter, it’s a joy to see them on the page together. 

For the first third of the book, I was afraid Murder Most Pemberley wasn’t for me. I love a good mystery, especially a cozy, but I’m not a huge Jane Austen fan — I’m more of a Dickens person, to be honest. I don’t have a working knowledge of Pride and Prejudice. The word “Pemberley” meant nothing to me before I picked up this book, so I’m sure I missed tons of great lines, asides, and meaningful scenes. But even without a love of Austen, the story held water.

By the time the Agatha Christie influence reared its head, I was already sucked in. The central mystery is scandalous, twisty, and branched. Eliza doesn’t trip over many clues; she goes out and finds them. She’s very snoopy and whoa does she sniff out some dirt! There’s so much going on in this book, I have no doubt this is just the first installment in a long, long series. 

I can’t wait to read the next installment and even as a non-Austen fan, I gave this an easy 5 stars. I suspect a reader with a crush on the original Mr. Darcy would give it 6.

Murder Most Pemberley by Jessica Berg is expected to be published May 8th, 2021.

Thanks to BookSirens, the author, and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Tainted Love – Women In Horror Anthology

This was an excellent way to celebrate both Valentine’s Day and Women In Horror Month!

Like any anthology, Tainted Love was hit or miss, but this was mostly hit. The interpretations of the prompts of love and horror were wide and varied. Not all stories were scary horror — some were sad, some were social commentary, some were fantasy, and one was hard sci fi. This anthology explored a wide variety of settings, time periods, voices, and story lengths, as well. I loved seeing the broad range here.

Not every story portrayed romantic love, either. From obsessive romantic love to narcissism to familial compassion, this anthology explores the vast types of loves that exist. They may not always be healthy — although some of them are, surprisingly! — but they are always passionate.

There are 14 distinct stories in this anthology. I enjoyed most of them and especially liked Of Guys and Dolls. It is a quick dive into two types of love, romantic and sibling, with devastating results. The level of horror in that story was delicious. Vanitas and Prey are tied for second favorites; these longer titles have great levels of character development and explore very different aspects of horror.

CW: Although there is a broad trigger warning encompassing many potential triggers, it should also be mentioned that there are scenes of animal abuse. This book is definitely not for sensitive readers!

Tainted Love: Women in Horror Anthology by Azzurra Nox and Erica Ruhe is expected to be released February 16, 2021. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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