Benny Rose The Cannibal King by Hailey Piper

As a kid of the 80’s I remember going to this video rental place. This was before blockbuster came to town. It was in this old house. I was in about 4th grade the first time I was allowed to pick out a movie on my own. Honestly, I don’t remember what it was. But to walk through the aisles of movies. Picking the VHS cover up and reading the back was such a big deal. Normally, my parents wouldn’t have let me pick out my own movie by myself but this time they did. Remembering back to those times makes me happy and nostalgic. Those are good memories, but I also remember around the same time that kids were going missing in my home town. No one I knew went missing, but there were plenty of stories. Stories told at lunch and on the playground. Kids whispering behind their hands about what happened to the missing kids. Too bad the truth was much worse than the stories. Benny Rose The Cannibal King took me back to the 80s. Thank you to the author for sending me a review copy.

Synopsis: Some girls and their encounter with the cannibal king.

What I liked: Piper does it again with her fast paced tale of Benny. the premise of the story was amazing. The pacing of the novel was fast and action packed. Piper’s characterizations really made you feel all the feelings for the characters as the story went along. Sadness, anger and heart pounding fear for them. There is a twist in the story which I didn’t see coming and it knocked me upside my head. The legend of Benny Rose was something that we all possibly heard when we were kids. It was crafted in such a way that it would have been one of those stories that kids would have sat around on Saturday nights telling with torches under our chins. The climax was fast paced and action packed…..heart pounding. The ending was fantastic. Even though…..you have a suspicion that the ending isn’t the ending. It has that wonderful open ending where the reader can continue the story in their head.

What I didn’t like: There wasn’t anything that I didn’t like.

Star Rating: 5 Stars!!

My thoughts: Because, it was early and I haven’t had enough coffee I actually overwrote my other review so I am retyping this. LOL. Piper absolutely floored me with this story. It was such a unique take on how urban legends grow and take on a life of their own. Even if many of them are based on a loose reality. But this story hit all the high notes for me. It was deliciously gory with a heart! So much heart. Piper is one to watch folks I have been saying it. I can’t wait to see what else Piper has up her sleeve.

So, if you want to know what happened to the missing kids. The truth is always much worse than fiction. The found the man that was taking kids. he lived in a house across the wash from the town house complex that I lived in. (If you don’t know what a wash is it is a dry river bed). When the police showed up the man barricaded himself in the house when the police showed up. The man (I have no idea what his name was) left his house in a body bag. I don’t remember that part but I remember the police helicopters and the lights from the cars. That was really the night that I learned that humans are much scarier than any fictional monster that I could read about or see on the screen.

Women in Translation: The Tenant by Katrine Engberg trans. by Tara Chace

In the last few years there has been an increase in Nordic Noir. Dark crime stories where a horrible crime has been committed. A rumpled detective is assigned and he or she have to unravel all the dark secrets of the individual. It is a particularly popular genre since the release of the Stieg Larsson’s Slander books. I have personally read them and loved them; as well as, the movies based on the book. NOT the English remake but the Swedish language movies. The nordic noir genre generally revolves around secrets. Secrets of the victims, secrets of the people investigating the crime and secrets of the victims relations. I am here for it!! So when I saw The Tenant come up I knew I had to read it and I am so glad that I did. THANK you Scout Press for my review copy.

Synopsis: A brutal murder of a young woman….brings out many dark secrets of those around her.

What I liked: Sqqquueeeaaalll. I love Nordic Noir. Especially, well written and plotted out stories. Engberg didn’t disappoint. The story was fast paced and addicting. Which I needed. The characters were three dimensional and well written. The secrets where dark and well hidden. I didn’t actually guess the who did it until close to the end of the book which delighted me. Also it read very smoothly which lends to the translator Chace. She was able to take the story from Danish to English and not lose the story and the twist and turns. The twist and turns were fantastic. You didn’t see them coming until it was right on you, which was perfect.

What I didn’t like: There isn’t anything that I didn’t like about the story.

Star Rating; 4 stars

My thoughts: I am so very happy with all the women in translation that I am reading. A good chunk of books that are translated are Nordic Noir. This was Engberg’s debut and I am very impressed with it. I can’t wait to see what else she has up her sleeve for her next book. If you like Nordic noir I highly recommend this book. It is a quick paced read.

#LOHFReadathon YA/MG Book: Lie to Me by Kaitlin Ward

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children there were 421,394 NCIC entries for missing children in 2019. Many of these children are involved in familial kidnapping cases. Where it is someone in the family that kidnaps the child. As a child of the 80’s I grew up looking at the missing pictures on the side of milk cartons. Being told to come in before the street lights come on. We were really given carte blanche. Kids today don’t have it as free as we did back then. When you add the final girl trope with the idea that bad things can happen to children especially teenage girls. Lie to Me was an interesting take on the final girl trope add in a little sprinkling of serial killer. Thank you to Scholastic for sending me my review copy!!

Synopsis: After what ever one thinks in an accident, a teenage girl looks for clues as to what happened to her.

What I liked: Ward’s writing made the story easy to read and appropriate for ages 7 and up. The pacing of the story was perfect. The language that was used by Ward was age appropriate. The action scenes were not gorey and there was a little bit of romance. What I really appreciated was the the diversity in the story. The characters were representative of the type of friends that kids would have. Also, there was Bi representation in the story which is very important a many stories don’t have that kind of representation. The language between the teenagers was spot on and realistic. I appreciated the ending….if you read it you will know what I am talking about.

What I didn’t like: There wasn’t anything in particular that I didn’t like.

Star Ratings: 3.5 stars

My thoughts: I enjoyed the story and it kept me engrossed. The main issue I had with the story was the idea that the MC didn’t follow her instincts to begin with. That she was worried about hurting people’s feelings with the way she felt. I think we need to see more stories with girls speaking out when their gut is telling them something isn’t right. There is another trope that was in the book that I have an issue with…..the possessive boyfriend. I don’t personally think that it is a healthy trope. That a possessive boyfriend is one that loves you etc. It is a trope that I feel can be harmful to girls …..where they believe that is how a relationship should be. I love how Ward did turn this trope around and it fits the narrative of the story. This is a story that could actually start a very good discussion about relationships and listening to your gut.

#LOHFreadathon book by LGBTQIA+ Author: The Possession of Natalie Glasglow by Hailey Piper

Possession is universal. There are many traditions that talk about possession by animals. But, the Egyptians have a really interesting take on animal spirits. In Egypt an animal who has been killed violently the spirit of the animal is able to leave the body and stay with the body of the animal. What would happen if a trophy hunter brought back the body of a trophy would that animal’s spirit come back home with him? Hailey Piper explores this in The Possession of Natalie Glasgow. This is the first book I’ve read for the Ladies of Horror Fiction readathon also I won this book in a contest.

Synopsis: A completely different take on possession.

What I liked: There is so much in this story to like. The pacing was brilliant. The story was fast paced. Which was interesting because it seemed that Piper was drawing the pacing from how this would play out in life. Piper’s characterizations are very well written. I enjoyed the fact that the main characters were women, not just women but strong women. Women who lived through some horrible things but kept looking for answers.

What I didn’t like:

Star Rating: 4 stars

My thoughts: Hailey Piper has been on my radar as a writer since she wrote a guest post for the Ladies of Horror Fiction. It was about the Intimacy of Monsters. The post really resonated with me. It struck the heart of why I read horror. It is to be able to confront my own monsters without fear of what can happen to me. That type of fear no longer has a place in my life now, but can bubble up to the surface at any time. It leaves you weary and tired. However; Piper wrote about this amazing intimacy that people have with monsters. The post blew me away and I knew that Piper was going to be writing fiction that I wanted to read and I was right. Needless to say I read this novella in one sitting.

Grief Is a False God by Gemma Amor

The definition of grief is “deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death.” There are many different ways that grief can manifest itself. What if grief manifested itself in a physical way? Or what about the idea of a feeling attaching itself to a piece of land or a home? There are discussions about whether hauntings are a feeling that has seeped into the pores of a structure and are continually replaying on a loop. Grief is one of the strongest emotions that humans can feel. Grief is explored in great detail in Grief is a False God. Many thanks to Cemetery Gates media for sending me a review copy.

Synopsis: The story of how grief can overtake an entire family.

What I liked: Amor’s writing evokes many different emotions. She writes from a place where you know that she has felt the same emotions that her characters are feeling. The story was sharp and a very different take on a trope that I felt was refreshing. The darkness that she conveys through the story is so well written it seeps through the pages and into your heart. The pacing of the story was perfect for the type of story that it was it drew the reader in and engulfed them.

What I didn’t like: There wasn’t anything that I didn’t like

Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

My thoughts: This story hit all the notes for me. The sadness that permeates the characters are so well expressed that you can feel them as you are reading. The sadness and grief. The story is so well executed that you don’t see where it is going until it gets there. Then it unfolds a bit at a time until you see the fullness and reality of the entire cast. There are some parts of the story that felt very personal to me. It feels like the story had been manifesting itself in Amor’s brain for a long time.

This is an illustrated story. The illustrator is Anibal Santos. Santos seems to have been able to take Amor’s words and put a face to the darkness in them. The color palette is perfect for the story and the line work is fantastic.

Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi

Sometimes, there are books that you read that you really don’t know what to say. Not in a bad way, but in a good way. I am sitting here, trying to figure out what to say about a story that is very powerful and deep. That has a lot to say…..But says it in a different way. Riot Baby does this and much much more. Thank you to Tor.com for sending me a review copy!!

Synopsis: In contemporary America there is a brother and sister. The sister has powers.

What I liked: With his writing Onyebuchi gives a voice to so many who don’t have voices. His writing is strong and powerful. His characterizations are amazing. I appreciate how he took many aspects of modern America and twisted them into a contemporary dystopian society. I loved how he used the supernatural aspects of the sister’s travels to look through American history and the idea of true freedom.

What I didn’t like: Nothing

Star Rating: 5 Stars

My Thoughts: OHHHH there is so much to unpack in this story. So much sadness and hurt. It questions, the idea of true freedom. It questions the trajectory of America. The thing that I really appreciated was Onyebuchi showed the brutal reality of the American prison system. Here is something that I thought about while I was reading, was the aftercare that prisoners who are released from the system receive. How, do we care for individuals who have been in the prison system during their formative years? What do we do for those people who are vulnerable or who have been institutionalized. Are people really free then? There was something that struck me when he was talking about the box that felons have to check. When you have to check a box to announce that you have been in prison there is not the freedom that is many might think is there.

There are aspects of the book that I can’t personally, speak to as I am not a POC and I don’t want to speak from a place of privilege. I am super excited as Onyebuchi is going to be at the Tucson Festival of Books!!!

Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen by Dexter Palmer

In about 1726 there was a woman named Mary Toft who, lived in Goldaming Surrey in England, with her husband and three children. In the Spring of 1726 Mary had had a stillborn delivery. However, at that time she stated that she had seen a rabbit and chased it. She didn’t catch the rabbit at that time. There was a second rabbit in the same place as the first rabbit. She wasn’t able to catch that one either. From that time forward the only thing on Mary’s mind was rabbit. The only thing that Mary wanted to eat was rabbit. This went on until the family was not able to financial support Mary’s rabbit habit.

It was during the time that Mary began to have what can only described as labor pains. She was attended to by her Mother-in-law who was a midwife. Mary delivered parts of a tabby cat and rabbit parts. Her mother-in-law sent the parts that were delivered to a physician in Guilford, named John Howard. John Howard himself didn’t believe that the animal parts that he received had been delivered by Mary. He was called to her home two days later where under his gaze Mary again delivered rabbit parts.

This went on for around two months. Mary’s story was heard by the King who requested that she be brought to London and watched day and night by courtiers and eminent surgeons. On December 7th, after being in bed for close to three months Mary admitted that she and her mother in law had perpetuated the hoax.

This story is so amazing. So when I was offered a review copy of Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen I jumped at the chance. Thank you Pantheon for my review copy.

Synopsis: The fictionalized account of Mary Toft and her rabbit births.

What I liked: Holy crap I loved this book. Palmer took what could have been a very dry story and made it a story that I didn’t want to stop. His writing is lyrical and lends itself beautifully to the time and space that he is writing about. I was very impressed with how he worked Ann’s character into the story. It always worries me when there is someone that has bodily differences in a story. But her character was well written and her bodily difference actually didn’t make her character. It was in addition to her character. Palmer was able to weave a very dark part of London history into a moral lesson. Which was very impressive.

What I didn’t like: There was nothing I didn’t like in this story.

Star Rating: 5 stars

My thoughts: Again I loved loved this book. The liberties that Palmer took fit so well into the narrative that you would have thought that they were actually part of the historical story. That is the sign of a very talented author. One that can weave two time frames together with no issues. Palmer’s research into the time period and the nuances of English culture during this time period shows how much he cared about the book and the story that he was writing.