Butler revives the moribund with her fresh take on aliens, vampires, and the undead.

Wrong Side of the Grave

An alien who feeds on vampires is stumped when the recently dead in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, are apparently no longer dead in Butler’s (Book of the Lost, 2013, etc.) YA supernatural thriller.

Eric Jansen is just your typical teenager and drummer for a rock band. Except, when not in human form, he’s a red-eyed, centuries-old alien who has spurred the local Mothman legend. His food source on Earth is vampires, allowing him to work in cooperation with a secret government agency. But he becomes the men in black’s first suspect when bodies at the funeral home start sitting up, walking, and talking. He and his human bestie, Bridget, initiate their own investigation, while the city folk crowd the cemetery, convinced that subterranean loved ones will soon awaken. Eric, however, fears that someone may be on to him when Bridget suddenly disappears. This entertaining novel navigates well-trod ground with style. The vampires, for instance, seem like typical bloodsuckers but are actually aliens that Eric’s kind has followed to Earth. Both Eric and Bridget are cynical but charmingly so, and endless alien-related puns never get old, like Eric’s suggestion that “people who live in invisible spaceships shouldn’t throw stones.” Along with a grand plot and vibrant characters, including the enigmatic Agent Hisato Ikeda, who Eric thinks might be an alien, Butler delivers a notable mystery/thriller. Dramatic tension is wielded expertly; Eric and Bridget, for example, distrust a funeral director and news reporter, who may have their own agendas. Butler dabbles into Eric’s background but doesn’t overdo the flashbacks. The same is true for aliens in general; readers only glimpse the interior of Eric’s concealed spacecraft (and hear what can only be presumed is alien profanity: “Slux!”). Romance between Eric and Bridget is wonderfully understated, as everyone but the couple appears to recognize that they’re more than just friends. Limitless possibilities to explore their relationship, as well as a lingering unconquered foe, give the next book of the proposed series a smashing head start.

Butler revives the moribund with her fresh take on aliens, vampires, and the undead.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1507898079

Page Count: 264

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

SNOW PLACE LIKE HOME

From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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