Category: Young Teens


This came out later than planned. This one’s thanks to the awesome folks at Curiosity Quills Press. Here’s Richard Roberts’ Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew Up The Moon. Enjoy!

Please Dont Tell My Parents I Blew Up the Moon cover

Bad Penny and the rest of the Implacable Machine are bored out of their minds. Going back to school after a break full of super villainy and fighting heroes both their own age and grown up will do that. So of course they jump at the chance to visit Jupiter and see things no human has before. No human except the ones who already live there. With a homemade space ship and the help of a giant spider the Implacable Machine will see everything from alien invaders to robot overlords and the colonies trapped between them. With any luck, they’ll be able to help the rebels and their new friend get their homes back and be on their way towards heroism.

Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew Up The Moon follows Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain pretty directly with the Implacable Machine trying to settle back into day to day school lives. It’s got a really strong start there, giving the reader a taste of how dull things are after Penny and company have gone toe to toe with some of the best of the best but then have to go back to being just kids. It gives the reader one of a number of good reasons why the team is so ready to take up Spider’s offer to see what lies beyond the asteroid belt first hand. But it also pulls back a little to anchor things back in the reality of the setting, which is good because the book goes way out there.

This one feels a lot slower than the previous book, largely due to the necessity of doing all the world building for the Puppeteers and the Jupiter colonies and, and, and. This is unfortunate because it slows the book down just enough that it makes it easy to put down. There are all these places being introduced and their rules and culture and it leads to things feeling a little flat. The Puppeteers are scary aliens that can take over people and force them to do whatever. One of the colonies is very steam punk flavored and people are constantly being told what to do by the automatons that functionally rule the place. It feels sketched out but not quite filled in.

There’s a similar problem with some of the characterization. The new friend character bounces between being totally cool with Penny’s powers and how they work and then freaked out about it and jealous over how her brothers and everyone else react to Penny’s power. It’s like a switch flips when Roberts felt the situation demanded it. It doesn’t tend to feel like it fits, like there should have been more build for it and more awareness on Penny’s part. The final boss of the novel has a similar issue, though I can’t really go into that without spoilers.

There are parts that are a ton of fun, especially early on before they reach the Jupiter colonies. The whole bit surrounding the Red Herring being built is a lot of fun. Plus the little bits of Penny and company in class and their classmates’ reactions to Penny’s power manifesting make for a couple of nice notes that what she’s got going on is out of the ordinary. I’m also interested in seeing how the workings of her power continue to develop, given the way Mourning Dove reacts to it and how much it seems to be capable of when given free reign. I’m really excited to see more of all that as the series continues.

As and over all thing, I enjoyed Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain more than Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew Up The Moon. While both needed world building it flowed much better for me in the first book, likely due to being set in our world but with supers.  I would have liked to see more put into the new characters introduced, but I feel like at least a couple of them are going to show up again later, so it seems pretty reasonable that they would get more development then. Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew Up The Moon is nowhere near a bad book though and I am very much looking forward to reading the next one, so it gets a three out of five.

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Late again. Sorry all, things have been sort of running in all directions and I feel like I can’t catch up. That aside, this is the first in a series that I’m going to be reviewing the entirety of thanks to the awesome folks at Curiosity Quills Press. Here is Richard Roberts’ Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain. Enjoy!

Please Dont Tell My Parents Im a Super Villan cover

Penelope Akk wants to be a hero like her parents. She knows her power will activate any day now and she’s more than ready to prove herself. When it hits like a lightning bolt of inspiration and leaves her with a new tool that is more than amazing, she’s on her way to greatness. At least, she thinks she is until a confrontation with a hero’s sidekick leaves her and her friends labeled villains. Turns out that no matter how much she wants to be a hero, Penny Akk is really good at being a super villain and her friends aren’t all too ready to talk her out of it. Might as well have fun while it lasts, right?

Richard Robert’s Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain is something of an odd duck of a novel. There’s this whole world built up with heroes and villains and powers. There were aliens that invaded awhile back, but no one’s seen them in forever. Then we have the protagonists sort of getting dropped into all of this. They’re all varying degrees of familiar with the world’s heroes and villains, Penny because of her parents and Clair and Ray due to being into the fandoms, but this is the first time they’re in the middle of it all. It’s odd but easy to go along with.

This book was a lot of fun in a way that I haven’t seen in a while. There’s this massive element of embraced silliness that comes with the whole super villain deal, largely because we’re seeing them as people interacting with, essentially, comrades rather than just antagonists. The little mistakes that Penny makes when telling the Machine to do certain things because she simply hadn’t thought of them are great. They’re a sort of growing pains for a villainous mastermind in training deal. The bits with Clair just goofing around in her bear suit or geeking out about various heroes and villains with Ray do a great job of keeping the tone light and fun.

The various villains that the team winds up rubbing shoulders with are likewise really entertaining. A special focus is given to the other mad scientists, who each have their own particular theme or type of tech that they specialize in, but it winds up being a bit like seeing all the members of this one club grouped up. They rib each other and joke around about their various inventions and how they work. There’s this fantastic character, Apparition, who I feel like I would read a book about on her own. Another character Lucyfar feels like she could also be a favorite of mine later on in the series. Plus, the villains take the protagonists seriously and treat them like they know what they’re doing. The heroes don’t, which feels a little weird all said.

There are a handful of places where it feels like the team winds up doing villainous things because the plot demands it rather than because it fits entirely with what’s going on with the characters. I also found myself wishing that more was done with Miss A, the sidekick who kicks off the Inscrutable Machine’s villainy, because she felt like she could have been such a fantastic antagonist for them. In addition to that, her whole plan to flush out the children of super villains that she’s convinced are at her school is terribly irresponsible and breaks with the idea of not making it personal that’s sort of threaded through a lot of the discussion of hero/villain dynamics. She’s pretty implicitly breaking the understood rules with that and I want to see something come of it.

That said, there’s time for something to come of it, and I’m interested in seeing what comes next. There’s a lot of promise to the world here and Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain gives really good bones for the series to come. It earns a four out of five and I’m going to be coming back to this series later on.

This one was a ton of fun to read and then not so much to review, I kept trying to stretch it to my usual review length and feeling like I was being over repetitive. So this one is short, but I think I’m happier with it this way. This one’s from First Second books, here’s George O’Connor’s Olympians: Hermes: Tales of the Trickster. Enjoy!

Olympians Hermes cover

God of thieves and businessmen, travelers and shepherds, Hermes began his godly career the night of his birth by sneaking away from the cave his mother had sequestered them away in and stealing his half brother Apollo’s cattle. He features in many stories and has inspired many more. For now, let a wanderer entertain you with a few of them.

I have a tendency to assume that everyone had a middle school Greek mythology phase, where they were super into it and wanted to know all the things. George O’Connor’s Olympians: Hermes: Tales of the Trickster reminds me of that pretty seriously.

This isn’t a super in depth book of mythology, it isn’t trying to be, but it is a fantastic introduction and includes some of the better known Hermes myths with a couple that I don’t remember ever seeing before. That was pretty nifty. The lack of going super in depth is likely also because this is aimed at a younger audience. That’s worth noting mostly because reading this really made me wish that my schools’ libraries had had something like it back in the day.

The art here is awesome. It makes me think of super hero comics with how buff the male characters tend to be and how bright the colors are. The character art is expressive and fun, especially when Pan is being focused on. Similarly, the back ground art can be fantastic with sprawling hills and forests and night scenes that have fantastic light work. I almost want to track down the previous books just for the art.

Overall after reading Olympians: Hermes: Tales of the Trickster I find myself very much wanting to read the other nine in the series. I very much enjoyed this comic and would happily suggest it to readers who want to check into or back into Greek mythology. It’s definitely aimed at a younger audience than me, but then is still well written enough to be entertaining outside of that. I give it a five out of five and note again that, if the rest of the series is as good as this one, O’Connor’s Olympians series would fit well in a school library.

This one was a bit difficult for me to write for a lot of the same reasons that most of the other books aimed at a younger audience are difficult for me to review. It’s not a bad story by any means and I feel like a younger me could have benefited greatly from reading something like this. Thanks to the folks at First Second this is The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang. Enjoy!The Prince and the Dressmaker cover

Lady Crystallia is the belle of the ball, the woman every girl wants to be. She’s beautiful and charming and everyone loves her. Lady Crystallia is a secret. Prince Sebastian should be trying to find a betrothed, it’s what his parents want. It’s what he should want. Mostly he just wants his secret to stay hidden so he can keep being Lady Crystallia and going out at night. Frances knows Sebastian’s secret, she makes all of Lady Crystallia’s dresses after all. She’s Sebastian’s secret weapon and Lady Crystallia’s biggest fan, but can she bear to stay secret when all of Paris loves her work and she can’t say anything about it?

Jen Wang’s The Princess and the Dressmaker is a very attractive book. The art is nicely expressive and the costuming is beautiful. It’s very much a coming of age story, a finding yourself story, and I’m not entirely sure what to do with it.

Frances is, I think, the protagonist I identify with more. She has a dream she wants to follow, but her terrible job stifles it until she takes a risk and gets a lucky break. She gets to be the person seamstress for Sebastian the Crown Prince of Belgium. More than that she’s his secret weapon in living his truest life as Lady Crystallia, making his dresses and being allowed to create what she considers beautiful. But she can’t do anything with this creativity beyond making Sebastian’s dresses; she’s a secret keeping a secret. All she can do is watch as her fashions become popular without anyone knowing that they are hers. That leaves me perhaps more frustrated with Sebastian’s side of things than his character deserves.

This is, after all, a coming of age story and Sebastian is at most a teenager under a ton of stress from his parents and with a ton of fears about how people, especially his parents, would react. I feel like the story did a good job showing how badly the stress bothers Sebastian and how equally badly he handles it, but only occasionally. Mostly we see Lady Crystallia being the bell of the ball and Prince Sebastian being tired and disinterested in finding a betrothed. I feel like more could have been done with showing him trying to live up to being the kind of prince his parents want him to be. More could have also been done with Lady Crystallia as Sebastian’s sort of comfort zone, the person he becomes when he needs to be confident and comfortable. This is kind of a short book though, so there isn’t a ton of room for that.

Ultimately I am not the audience for The Prince and the Dressmaker, I think I am a little old for it and I’ve mostly found my footing. Coming of age stories are good and can be really enjoyable but this one wasn’t for me. The art was really nice and I would definitely read more of Jen Wang’s work in the future, so I’m giving this one a four out of five.

 

Frost

Not much to blurb about today. It’s quiet in my neck of the woods and that’s pretty ok. I did wind up cutting several things from today’s review for spoilery reasons. So, if you all are cool with tagged spoilers in the reviews, let me know in the comments. Today’s book is courtesy of the nice folks at Scholastic. Here’s Frost. Enjoy!

Frost cover

At sixteen Frost has never been outside the apartment she grew up in, and with good reason, the world outside is a hunting ground for ravenous cannibals and robots gone rogue. It hasn’t been a safe place to live since before she can remember. She needs to leave though. Her pet, Romes, is dying and she can’t bear to see him in pain. Even as the memories of her father try to hold her back, to keep her in her safe prison with the family robot for company and protections, she knows she has to leave and save the only living thing left to her. She grew up on stories about the utopia at the other end of the city, the Battery, where all the science that’s been lost still exists. With Bunt’s help she might be able to make it.

So, M. P. Kozlowsky’s Frost is an odd book. I mean that in a lot of ways. Part of this comes from the fact that Frost feels very much like the first book in a series rather than a standalone novel. It builds slowly for a good two thirds of its page count, then crams in a ton of stuff that could be pay off but that also feels like set up for next time. This book is kind of a mish mash of ideas, so it can be a little difficult to separate them all out.

Let’s start there though. This book is a mess of ideas that could be really cool but then don’t really go anywhere. There’s too many separate threats and concepts for the time spent on any of them. We get a lot about Frost’s feelings and several imaginary flashbacks to before everything fell apart, but not a ton of world building. For example, the Days of Bedlam are the in world name for whatever happened to lead to the current world. It involved robots. That’s about all I know about it from reading the book. Building on that could have been a great way to show more of the world and to explain some of the other stuff. The cannibalistic Eaters, the Broot, the rogue robots, even the climate being messed up all seems to stem from this one set of events. How? It’s mostly waved away as people going too far and it blowing up in their faces, but that’s not satisfying and ,again, leads to this feeling like the start of a series.

There’s also not a lot going on here in the character department. Frost is our ingénue main character innocent, naïve, and just out to save her pet but she doesn’t really seem to change or grow in the course of the book. She’s out in the world for the first time in her life, finds out all this life changing stuff, deals with some seriously messed up situations, but then at the end she’s not a more mature character or more aware. She’s still desperately searching for the same thing she was at the beginning of the book and with not a lot of change in the tone of it.

But she inspires hope in people who meet her, that’s got to count for something, right? Not so much. The side characters she inspires hope in, Flynn and Barrow, are initially written as being hardened by the world they live in and the tragedies of their pasts. Then in comes this random girl, who is super sure that if she can just reach this mythical place she’ll be able to save her pet. She’s so sure of this thing that they both think is impossible at best that they both start believing in hope again. Flynn this could work with if it was done better. He’s the same age as Frost and, despite his tragic back story, is given several moments where he’s shown to want something to believe in. His father, Barrow, not so much. Barrow’s arc feels like it was cut short, which is unfortunate, it was a pretty standard “guy wants to protect his kid even if it means doing questionable things” but it felt more grounded than any of the other character arcs.

A lot of my issues boil down to being issues about character work or world building. There’s a lot of potential to Frost, lots of interesting ideas. In a few instances there’s a quality pay off to an idea established earlier, but there isn’t enough of that for the book as it stands. The book is also very simple both in how it deals with its characters and how the reader is fed how characters feel, almost to the point of it just being straight up telling. In a more solidly written book that wouldn’t have been as much of a problem, but here it goes back to feeling like the author had so many ideas that he didn’t have time to develop any of them.

That’s kind of where I ultimately land on Frost. It’s way too underdeveloped, if Kozlowsky had taken any one of the ideas he introduced here and focused on it the book could have been fantastic. Most of the other issues I had could have been forgiven if the story had been tighter. As it stands though everything is too scattered and underdone so what could have been a solid three to four book winds up being a two out of five, not because it offends me but because it needed so much more work. I might give Kozlowsky’s writing another shot down the road, but it would need to be a book that I’d heard good things about.

Here it is, the third and final of the Marshall Cavendish books I was sent, also the one I originally requested.  I’m also going to be doing a give away of a signed copy of Memento Nora to celebrate its release, more on that after the review.

Angie Simbert’s Memento Nora isn’t the kind of thing I’d expect to find aimed at younger audiences.  Near daily attacks drive people to Therapeutic Forgetting Clinics where with one little white pill they can leave their fears behind.  Nora has her first visit after the bookstore she and her mother are about to visit blows up in front of them, dropping a dead body right at her feet.  So, off to forget she goes, at least until she sees mystery guy Micah spit out his pill.  At least until she hears what her mother is forgetting.   She decides to remember and, alongside Micah and his best friend Winter, share their memories through a comic, Memento.

As I said at the beginning, I hadn’t expected this to be aimed at younger teens when I first read the blurb on Goodreads.  It deals with some pretty heavy stuff from government conspiracies to issues at home, and does so without flinching away from the characters reactions.  The characters were well thought out, though they felt a little older than their listed ages.  The chapters for Micah and Winter were limited and scattered throughout the book, but did an excellent job of developing their characters and back grounds.  Memento Nora gets a bit scary when you pause to think about it, that world is something that I could see people letting happen.  It’s built on fears and worries that most people seem to either lack or be content to ignore, and on the idea that we as people will trade our very memories for an illusion of safety.  I give it a five out of five and look forward to seeing what Simbert does if she writes another novel.

On to the giveaway!  Because I enjoyed the book and because I feel like it, I’m going to giveaway one copy of Memento Nora signed by the author.  Interested?  Just post a comment below, something about the book or current world events, and your email address.  On April 1st I’ll announce the winner.  Winner will have three days to get back to me with a mailing address, if they don’t then I’ll choose another winner.  Thanks!

A quick edit, I’ll only be able to send to commenters from the Continental United States due to issues with shipping.

What’s this? A review posted on time?!  Wow, looks like it is.  End of Spring Break, I’m not going to post much here so I can get back to being around my family.  Enjoy the review!

Crystal Bones by C. Aubrey Hall is the second of the Marshall Cavendish books I was sent to review.  It is the first of a trilogy of teen fantasy novels featuring the half fae twins Diello and Cynthe.  It is also, again, aimed at a younger audience.

It all starts the night before the twins’ thirteenth birthday when Diello hears a voice in the storm calling his mother.  This is, of course, foreshadowing into their parents’ deep dark past, as mentioned in the blurb.  Diello is then disappointed when his father gives him a useful gift for his birthday rather than the traditional fun present and both twins are sent out to do their chores unlike any previous birthday they’ve had. The first few chapters seem to be pretty well dedicated to reminding the reader that growing up sucks.  There are however magic herbs in the morning milk which apparently get the fae either high or drunk and the fair is that day.  But they’re told not to go because of the dangers of being around humans.  It follows that an errand for their mother leads them right into the thick of the fair and straight towards danger!  The deck is stacked against our heroes, will they survive and figure out the mysteries surrounding their parents’ pasts or are they doomed to failure?

I’m going to say right off the bat that I got caught up in Crystal Bones about halfway through, where the meat of the story started.  Up until then had been mostly lead up, background, and foreshadowing which, while necessary to the overall plot, wasn’t particularly different from any other coming of age fantasy novel that I’ve read.  There were also some points where it felt like Cynthe could have been omitted from the book, while both twins were billed as the heroes in the blurb it  is very much Diello centric.   She does get some moments of awesomeness but, all told, could have been removed in favor of making Diello a bit more three dimensional. Hall also seems to think that if humans hating half fae isn’t mentioned every time the twins run into a human the reader will forget.  This leads to a ton of fantasy racism which can make the book a bit hard to read at times.  Crystal Bones gets better as it goes, once I got to the meat of the story I was hooked.  Unfortunately it also cuts off rather abruptly in an almost painful sequel hook, leaving a rather unsatisfying ending and a year long wait to find out what happens.

As a final note before I rate it, Crystal Bones seems to be Hall’s first novel so I’m sure that most of the kinks will be worked out for the second book.  It’s also worth noting that, any issues aside, I did enjoy the book it’s just that most of what I enjoyed probably constitutes spoilers and I don’t want to ruin anything for other readers.  That said, I give it a three out of five and a note to myself to keep an eye out for the next one.

Sorry that I’m late posting a review again.  Spring Break started today, so the last few days have been a bit busy what with getting home and settling in.  I should have another review up this coming Saturday for the second of the three Marshall Cavendish books.

ZiTFACE by Emily Howse is one of three books that I recently got from Marshall Cavendish.  I’ll admit that I was a little surprised to get three books from one request, but I was also more surprised that all three were aimed squarely at readers “twelve and up.”  So, I’m not the target audience once again, but when have I let that stop me?  So here’s ZiTFACE from a college kid’s perspective.

Olivia has it all, great friends, good looks, and a job as an actress doing commercials.  But then she gets a zit.  The zit stresses her out and becomes more zits.  She’s stuck feeling as if her life is spiraling out of control with no one to talk to and her agent pressuring her to fix her face immediately.  Then, she starts to rethink everything and finds that she likes what she sees.

The first, roughly, half of the book is back story and setting Olivia up for her big fall.  Quite a bit is said but aside from the set up for Olivia’s Wacky Water commercial, not much happens.  A lot of seemingly insignificant things were gone over multiple times, but that lends an idea of the kind of kid that Olivia is to the narration.  There really wasn’t any big fall for Olivia to take the kid that mocked her was already established as being a bit of a jerk, her manager was quickly established as being a control freak and an opportunist, and the shallow romance interest guy that she lost was acknowledged as shallow from his first introduction.  The only moment when one of the problems felt like a genuine problem was when she had a fight with her best friend.

I have to admit, this isn’t the kind of book I’d have picked up as a kid.  Olivia is introduced as being the girl that everyone should want to be, but she comes across as a bit of a whiner.  I can sort of understand her reaction, she does have a lot to lose, but at the same time every problem she has could have been avoided if she’d stopped and talked to her friends.  Olivia never sat down and said, “hey, sorry I’ve acted weird lately, problem skin,” instead she gets defensive and suspicious of everyone.  On the up side, as the book goes on, Olivia grows up a bit and starts to think about how small her problem is compared to other peoples’.  I’m a little luke warm towards ZiTFACE, it isn’t really my kind of book but it’s also fairly well written.  My biggest problem was with the way it treated acne like the plague, an attempt at fixing this was made at the end in the author’s note and because of the narrator’s age can be forgiven somewhat.  I give it a three out of five.