Reviewed by Nina
TITLE: Gumption & Gumshows
AUTHOR: Alex Kidwell
LENGTH: 172 pages
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
BLURB: August Adahy Mendez would rather be buried in the world of his detective novels or a good film noir movie than in real life. He’s overweight, undermotivated, and stuck in a dead-end job. As a Chincha, he’s part of a long line of chinchilla shifters, but the greatest accomplishment in his life so far has been moving an hour away from his close-knit herd. That all changes when August’s grandfather leaves him enough cash to pursue his dream: becoming a detective himself.
Sam Ewing is a bitter divorcé who enjoys watching football and being alone. It’s easier when his only interaction with people is when he collects rent from his office building tenants. Then August rents space from him to set up his new detective agency, and Sam is drawn to him despite his misgivings.
Sam soon finds himself involved with one of August’s cases, and the men join forces to catch their criminal. The greater challenges they face, however, are how August makes Sam want to give love a second try and how Sam makes August believe that real life might be even better than fiction.
I’ve noticed there’s a fine but clearly defined line dividing those who think this book is “So freaking CUTE!” and those who find it dull and uninspiring.
As I was a poor baby with a killer flu and in dire need of some happiness while reading this, I quite naturally fell into the first category, but sometimes I got this close to throwing my ereader out the window and chasing away all the sugary goo with some alcohol. That might’ve been moody, sick me talking – but in any case, you’ve been warned.
Objectively speaking, this story is, indeed, adorable.
It’s the story of August Adahy Mendez, in his words screwup, serial daydreamer, lover of fast food and chocolate pie, in my words a tight ball of insecurity with a core of steel, a kickass imagination and a penchant for detective work, Sam Spade style.
We’ve all been through those moments of terrifying, shocking self-disgust that hit you like a train in the middle of a seemingly unimportant action, making you suddenly realise that you’re not good enough. Well, Auggie’s still going through that (and who wouldn’t, with a nickname like that? Okay, sorry, I just had to mention that). There’s no refuge from that, other than turning into his animal form – feeling small and invisible, finally able to hide.
Sounds pretty angsty, right? It’s really not. The process of overcoming this unpleasant state of mind starts without much difficulty as soon as Auggie inherits a truckload of money from his granddad (or, um, Pop Pop) that allows him to open a little PI office, gets his first big case investigating some disappearing money at a dry cleaner’s, and… meets Sam, his hot, grumpy, emotionally scarred and secretly protective landlord. Cue manga style eye-hearts and awkward babbling on Auggie’s part, and now tell me this dynamic doesn’t remind you of something. No? Nothing? I’ll give you a clue: it starts with S and ends with “terek”, and it has the addition, in this case, of abundant doses of sugar. I’m kind of flabbergasted nobody else seems to have noticed the similarity, because it’s so… blatant. And frankly, for me, a bit annoying, because if I want to read about sterek, I’ll go dig in the immense mass of awesomeness that is the fandom (which I often do, but that’s a whole different story).
Once all the plot threads are set forth on their way and free to mingle and tangle, you can just sit back and relax, because there’s not going to be any big drama or blow-up. It’s essentially a very enjoyable, danger free romp jumping back and forth between the almost sickeningly sweet romance and the admittedly kind of dull mystery, until there’s no need to jump back and forth anymore because Sam gets more involved than he expected in Auggie’s life – in every way.
The things that made this story different from a hundred others so similar to it are essentially two: the shapeshifting, or skinwalking, and Auggie’s… chubbiness. Is that politically correct? Not offensive to anyone? Cool.
Auggie’s ability to transform into a chinchilla at will is a huge part of his life, and consequently, though in a smaller measure, of Sam’s, but at the same time it’s treated as something quite normal and almost unsurprising, with all the little animal impulses and needs that filter into Auggie’s everyday life (it sounds more creepy than cute, but it’s more cute than creepy) and the comfort and perks of being able to turn into something small and fluffy with very sharp teeth. And man, it works. No too quick acceptance, no exaggerated disbelief – somehow the author managed to find the perfect balance.
The role this element played in both the romance and the investigation was interesting and clever, and I don’t think I need to mention the unbelievable adorableness of the thing, because it’s quite obvious. Suffice to say I want a chinchilla now.
The other element, Auggie’s chubbiness and the way he comes to terms with it, especially thanks to the fact that Sam isn’t bothered by it in the least – on the contrary – is refreshing, delicately but lightheartedly handled and simply well done.
The writing is extremely pleasant and smooth, and it has the particular kind of beauty of something you don’t notice until you notice that you’re not noticing it, or until you spot a specific turn of phrase or expression that makes you want to smile. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?
Bottom line: a sweet, uncomplicated and entertaining read without much bite to it but with some cleverly constructed, refreshing elements to spice it up. It wasn’t quite my thing, but I found it objectively– oh, fuck it: it was adorable.
BUY LINK: DSP Store
Nina is one of the official reviewers on The Blog of Sid Love.
To read all her reviews, click the link: NINA’S REVIEWS