Let me just start off by saying Emma and the Banderwigh is one of those books that’s so engrossing, you catch yourself biting your fingernails and praying for the protagonists as if they were real people. Matthew Cox has done a masterful job of replicating the mood of great children’s tales like Spirited Away, or Return to Oz with the right mixture of wonder, fun, and horror. In fact there are some scenes in Emma and the Banderwigh that are downright creepy. Even so, it is still appropriate for young readers; In fact, I plan to read this with my kids (ages 5-11). Four stars for the emotionally immersive Emma and the Banderwigh.
This is one of the most wildly imaginative stories I’ve ever read. Craig Nybo has written a truly exceptional novel that is funny, exciting, and suitable for all ages! Set in the future, teen pop idol “Bieber” is exploded in his limo by a vengeful former band member. But super-fan Twana Burch catches the only piece of Bieber to not be incinerated- his finger! From that she pressures an underworld crime boss to use his illegal cloning operation to make a copy of the pop star, but it isn’t perfect. The clone Bieber needs to learn to sing and dance so he can perform in the Pan-Galactic Prom Show. Add into this Ice Beetles fighting for survival against vicious alien voles, and hitmen hunting down Twana and Bieber and you’ve got a crazy mix of awesome that hooked me early on and wouldn’t let me go until I finished it. This is fresh, fast paced and quirky writing that’ll keep you turning pages and make you smile. Five stars for Bieber’s Finger!
If you were to mix Harry Potter with Supernatural (both franchises of which I am an enthusiastic fan) you would get Five Out of the Dark. That’s not to say that the book doesn’t come with a fresh originality all its own. FIVE is the story of five teenage outcasts who find each other in the Seattle underground. Why are they outcasts? Because they can all use magic! And their meeting is more than just chance. Together they learn what they can do, and start hunting the evil creatures that lurk in the night. But soon those things start hunting them back, and they have to use all they’ve learned and lean on each other in order to survive. Five is an exciting, fast paced and well-written story suitable for all but very young kids. It has action, magic, and a sweet and pure romance. And the ending is FANTASTIC! Five stars for FIVE OUT OF THE DARK!
I don’t feel I could summarize the plot as well as the author, so I’m going to steal a condensed version of his description:
“1859; war looms over the United States. Intelligence agents converge on the Kingdom of Deseret in the Rocky Mountains. Sam Clemens, leading the U.S. Army’s expedition aboard his amphibious steam-truck the Jim Smiley, has a mission: to ensure that the Kingdom, with its air-ships and rumored phlogiston guns…enters on the side of the United States and peace.”
You see why I wanted his description?
Wildly original, D.J. Butler’s City of the Saints gives readers a delightful alternate version of frontier history, specifically as it revolves around the Mormon Kingdom of Deseret (Present day Salt Lake City, Utah).
Butler brings to life historic personalities like Mark Twain and Edgar Allen Poe and makes them kick-ass awesome by turning them into spies and assassins fighting to prevent The Civil War.
But wait, there’s more:
Airships, phlogiston Guns, robot scarabs that eat people alive, vibro blades that can cut through anything and MACHINE GUNS! Yes, I said machine guns!
Butler spins an action-packed tale full of interesting characters, historical facts, masterfully crafted prose, and snappy, witty, dialogue. This book is a gem, and one of the most original pieces of fiction I’ve ever read. It reminded me a lot of the “Through the Looking Glass” episodes of Star Trek in which established characters are cast into alternate and sometimes opposite roles.
I recommend this book to anyone who likes steampunk or alternate history, or just an original and entertaining story. A warning: if you are a Mormon (and I am), make sure that you have a solid sense of humor, and don’t get offended by things like Eliza “Roxy” Snow being a sexy spy and assassin. Because who knows? Maybe she was. But most likely not.
DJ Butler is truly a master of the writer’s craft!