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    abnormal is the new normal

    “Brand new hello!” Welcome to Silliest Stories Out of Bustleburg, Jimmy Misfit’s collection of tales from America’s Worst City. With biting children, daily fires, fashion shows gone awry, and some vampire-run businesses, if you don’t see hints of your own town in this read, the joke’s on you. The collection begins with a busload of weary prospects to Bustleburg, and ends with a family trying to evacuate. The point is, no one wants to stay and it’s difficult to leave. Each story is narrated by one of the town’s residents. Penny Sweet, 7, tells about her sister Tootles, whose biting habit is so bad, it wins the family a rare vacation. In another story, she interviews her grandpa, a retired firefighter, whose department been on strike his whole career, hence, the frequent fires. Zachary Quarles, 26, is an extreme croquet pro and self proclaimed American innovator. His is the way of the future: “Gossipy and disloyal athletes. The drama. The foot stomping” (70). This kind of future isn’t just for croquet - debutante Mauve Mertz, 39, attempts to win the favor of the high society Gamboge Girls with her fur coat fashion show, until an idealistic New York designer has a plan of his own. These insider perspectives give us a glimpse of what passes for normal in this fictional Mid-South-North town. What makes these characters so funny is their obliviousness. They don’t realize how abnormal their normal is, stuck in the eternal fight between evil and more evil that plagues Bustleburg. On one hand, a mob vampire family runs some businesses and on the other, Reverend Maple of the Pious Revivalist Church gives out points for vindictiveness. Count Razvan Simonescu, 412, remarks, “it must be a sign of the times. We’re the old guard of terror. The Reverend is the new, and somehow, we need each other” (166). Bustleburg begs the question: what old and new guard of terror are we under? And whatever the answer, is there anything to do, but laugh? Read closely. Jimmy Misfit packs each sentence with so much information, it’s easy to lose the thread. But stick with it and the picture of a comic dystopia becomes crystal clear.
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    Great world building!

    If Welcome to Nightvale and the Hunger Games were mixed into a smoothie, it would taste like the Silliest Stories Out of Bustleburg. With a royal family in addition to a mayor, the town of Bustleburg is not your typical town. Run by major polluters Dellaflame safety services and Toxaco, Bustleburg outlaws ovens, trees and libraries as fire risks. Birds and museums are also outlawed. There is a five-tiered caste system with the rich living the good life in Privilege Pond where the forbidden items are still allowed. Containing 21 connected stories, this book is an interesting dive into an intriguing world. It would be a good choice for fantasy fans. 3 stars! Thanks to JMS Books LLC and NetGalley for a copy.
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