Category: Young Teens


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.

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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.