Book Review: Frozen Secrets

When thirteen-year-old Max finally gets his chance to live on Jupiter’s moon, mysteries unfold in unexpected ways.

Myles Christensen has his hands in a lot of technology, an area some might consider an odd recipe for the makings of an author. As a design engineer and freelance product developer who teaches CAD at the university, he likely gets pieced in with those who live their lives surrounded by nothing but logic. However, each of these skills require creativity and finesse. Add game inventor to Christensen’s list of accomplishments, and author isn’t such a far stretch.

Christensen’s first novel Frozen Secrets is a middle grade, science fiction story that takes readers on an adventure to space and throws in an action-packed mystery in a way I didn’t expect.

My thoughts about Frozen Secrets

In Frozen Secrets, main character Max and his group of friends get tangled up in a mystery while on their way to Jupiter’s moon Europa. Before he knows what’s happening, someone tries to kill him… or a friend… or the pilot of the shuttle they are touring. Max thinks it’s because of something he saw, and he’s determined to learn the truth. What thirteen-year-old boy wouldn’t want to solve that mystery?

Though I’ve read some middle grade novels in the past, most of what I have read has bordered on the YA side of things. So, when I first started Frozen Secrets I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Too young my mind shouted at me. I had expected the book to fit within a higher reading level. Once I acclimated to the necessary he felt sentences, my interest in the story rose a surprising amount.

While reading, my eyes widened at times. My heart even raced. Such reactions were unexpected, considering my need to adjust to the reading level. But, instead of focusing on my other reading projects, I found myself intrigued with what would come next in Frozen Secrets.

Christensen’s writing and the editing done on this book is impeccable. Usually, I find at least a few typos in review books. None–that’s how many I remember in Frozen Secrets. And while those things matter, especially when I’m reading as a reviewer, the true test is whether or not the story pulls me in. While Frozen Secrets took a bit of time for me, an adult, to fall into, I believe young readers will have no problem immediately entering the adventure Christensen has laid.

Squeaky clean. Parents will find no swearing. There is a mild murder mystery and some middle grade ‘crush’ romance. Christensen lists the reading level at 8-18, which I agree with, especially on the lower end. Narrowing it significantly, I believe most 8 to 10-year-olds will find it a fantastic read. Who can go wrong with a space adventure?

Official blurb

Thirteen-year-old Max Parker is a grounded Earthling with the soul of a space explorer. So when he learns his family is relocating to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, he readily agrees to stay out of mischief. But his promise is soon forgotten, and his snooping lands him on a shuttle doomed for a fiery disintegration.

Convinced someone sabotaged the craft to cover up the theft he witnessed, he digs into the incident. Why was this robbery worth attempted murder? Dodging a series of deadly accidents, he follows the clues to an abandoned outpost and discovers a secret that could blow the lid off a moon-wide conspiracy…

Can Max solve the mystery before his interplanetary escapade gets him killed?

Frozen Secrets kicks off the thrilling, teen science fiction series, Europa Academy. If you like fearless friends, high-orbit mysteries, and immersive worlds, then you’ll love Myles Christensen’s action-packed adventure.

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Book Review: Evan the Horrible

Would you put a ring on that rolls out from behind a solid brick wall? Evan does. Now he’s wreaking havoc as he works to save the school in Evan the Horrible.

Kimberly King has another fantastic Forest Hills High book to go along with the Magical Troubles books. And if you liked Evan in The Trouble with Prince Charming you are in for a treat. He’s back in all his annoying glory. This time he’s given all the power he needs in Evan the Horrible.

My Thoughts about Evan the Horrible

King does a lot of things right in her books. Each book includes humor that both middler graders and parents can enjoy. They include dilemmas teens face in fun and appropriate ways. And each one comes with a lesson kids don’t focus on and parents love. In Evan the Horrible that lesson is easily described by the idiom don’t judge a book by its cover. As a secondary lesson, King throws in mind over matter.

In Evan the Horrible, the main character, Jazzy Allen, has distanced herself from the rest of the school. After the loss of her father and consequently her best friend, she drastically changes her outer appearance to avoid becoming close to anyone.

The problem is Evan doesn’t leave anyone alone. As the school trouble maker, he pulls Jazzy into all kinds of crazy incidences that leave her worried about the one thing she cares about: her scholarship. It doesn’t help that he’s suddenly accessed magic that grants all his wishes.

If you’ve read my other reviews, you know I love King’s books, especially her sense of humor. It’s quirky, fun, and clean. We’re talking about food fights, explosions, and paralytic… we’ll I’ll leave that one for you to discover. But when you’re wondering what books your middle grader might enjoy reading next, start with King and don’t forget Evan the Horrible.

The Official Blurb

First, the janitor’s foot was inside the brick wall. Then there was the mysterious ring. But the strangest of all? That was yet to come.

Jazzy Allen’s already complicated life suddenly gets messier when class clown Evan Rice gets both of them sent to the principal’s office. Fearing she’ll lose her scholarship, Jazzy is determined to avoid him at all costs. But when Evan gets hold of a wish-granting ring, he pulls her into his mischievous mayhem while the school becomes his playground.

His magical pranks seem harmless enough, but behind mud-slinging cheerleaders and a food fight of epic proportions, something sinister lays waiting. With their school on the brink of destruction, Jazzy must learn to work together with the most infuriating guy in Forest Hills High before the power behind the ring destroys them…and everything else.

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Book Review: Sea of Strangers

Jeanette leaves Topeka, Kansas, and her fiance, Dr. Phillip Wayment, to attend nursing school in New York, in order to escape her Uncle Rod.

Amelia C. Adams, author of the bestselling Kansas Crossroads series, also brings us the Nurses of New York series. Book one, Sea of Strangers, follows Jeanette from Topeka, Kansas, to New York, where she will study to become a nurse under Dr. Frank Russell, a friend of her fiance Dr. Phillip Wayment.

My Thoughts on Sea of Strangers

Well-researched with perfectly formed sentences and immaculate editing, not to mention a high rating on Amazon, I struggled to pinpoint the reason I didn’t connect with Sea of Strangers better.

I’ve always enjoyed reading historical fiction, especially those that take place in the mid to late 19th century in the United States. Pioneers, the gold rush, early politics, Coal miners, North versus South, it all interests me. I was the middle-schooler who wanted to know the stories of the Oregon Trail characters, especially the banker. I usually connect well with the stories, but this time I felt something was lacking.

I easily dismissed the problem as coming from poor editing or a lack of writing skill. As stated before, the technical aspects of the book were great. But I still found myself wanting to put it down.

In the end, I determined I didn’t connect with the characters. To me, they felt flat. Jeanette has no fault. Sadie, her friend, sweetly rambled. It was the same with every character, though, one characteristic, but nothing more.

On top of that, we know nothing about Uncle Rod, the antagonist, except that Jeanette chased him away with a gun at some point not featured in the book. Perhaps that lack of knowledge comes from not reading the Kansas Crossroads series, in which case, more information should have been provided in this series.

The story follows Jeanette, but the action, especially the rise and fall of the plot is minimal. I as read, I continued to feel as if I were listening to a Barbie or Strawberry Shortcake cartoon. The book consists of mostly dialogue, which often comes across as wordy as opposed to natural. I struggled to picture the characters’ movements. Even when they were described they seemed stiff or cartoon-like in my mind.

Still, I find value in the book. I know. How can I write such a slanted review and then turn and say I find value? As an adult, this book isn’t for me. It doesn’t capture my attention. However, a middle grader or early high schooler interested in historical fiction (and I was greatly interested in historical fiction at that age), may find the book has great merit. It’s short enough to be read quickly. It has plenty of easily-read dialogue. The action isn’t graphic, and there is no swearing. Even more, the end has a great moral to it.

Sometimes we look at books and think only of what they are to us. We can’t do that. Most well-written and moral books have a place in society; we just have to find it. I truly believe this is the case with Sea of Strangers. Though I’m unsure, I believe Adams wrote this story with all audiences in mind, but for adults more than children. Nothing on the Amazon or her website deters from that surmisal, but I suggest Sea of Strangers be read by middle graders.

The Official Blurb

Jeanette Peterson left behind the man who loves her to go to nursing school in New York, promising to come back in six months and marry him. His love is the only thing that sees her through the trials ahead. When the time comes to make the toughest decision of all, will she choose justice or mercy out of many shades of gray?

From Amelia C. Adams, bestselling author of the Kansas Crossroads series, comes this novella about one girl’s desire to follow her dreams and the man who encourages her from miles away.

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Book Review: The Trouble with Prince Charming

With a little help from her fairy godmother, Nikki Baker got it all: the boy and the kiss. But dating the hottest guy in school comes with more than magical butterflies, and wading through the gossip, lies, and betrayal has her mind doing backflips in The Trouble with Prince Charming.

With a little help from her fairy godmother, Nikki Baker got it all: the boy and the kiss. But dating the hottest guy in school comes with more than magical butterflies, and wading through the gossip, lies, and betrayal has her mind doing backflips in The Trouble with Prince Charming.

Kimberly King, author of The Trouble with Fairy Godmothers, has added to the Magical Troubles Collection with book two: The Trouble with Prince Charming. It may not have as many spinning wands, but the magical story brought a lot of purple sparkles into my life.

My Thoughts about The Trouble with Prince Charming

Usually, when I review middle-grade books, I have children in mind, and I try to read through with their perspective. But when King asked if I wanted to review The Trouble with Prince Charming, I said yes for me. If you can’t tell, I wasn’t disappointed.

King wraps this fun story together with such incredible humor; I hardly stopped laughing. Perhaps walking down memory lane caused some of that, but most of it came from her writing abilities.

The story isn’t exactly new. An average girl has snagged Prince Charming and still struggles to fit in. When she does (if she truly does), she looks back at her life and realizes what it’s really all about. It’s a coming of age book set in a humorous background where fair godmothers exist. Who doesn’t love this trope?

In The Trouble with Prince Charming, Nikki’s godmother only makes a couple of appearances, but she’s there when Nikki needs her. I liked it this way. After all, the story of her fairy godmother is over. This story is about Nikki and the boy. What makes Prince Charming Prince Charming, anyway?

Squeaky clean, this is a book I highly recommend to everyone. If you don’t generally pick up indie books and pass by this one, you’re missing out. The Trouble with Prince Charming comes with a best-seller quality and an indie price tag!

The Official Blurb

Sixteen-year-old Nikki Baker finally has everything she’s always wanted: confidence, popularity, and the hottest guy at Forest Hills High. Thanks to her fairy godmother’s help, happily ever after is hers for the taking. But being at the top of the food chain is a dangerous place to be. Gossip, lies and betrayal lurk at every corner while she struggles, holding onto a boyfriend everyone wants for themselves. Expectations run high with a guy who’s used to getting what he wants, but Nikki’s not so sure she’s ready to meet his demands. She must decide whether to trust her own heart, or rely on the fairy godmother who got her there in the first place.

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Book Review: The Spec Set

Spending several weeks of his summer at a geeky science camp babysitting his odd younger brother isn’t the highlighted path E wants to travel.

Spending several weeks of his summer at a geeky science camp while babysitting his odd younger brother isn’t the highlighted path E wants to travel. Then, to top it all off, paths surround him as he and his brother become the focus of the FBI in The Spect Set.

Taya Okerlund creates a remarkable story that follows two brothers on the unexpected adventure of their lives. And though Max, the younger brother, knows of his talents, Emile (E) is just discovering his. A fun YA story filled with excitement, The Spec Set is one I enjoyed reading.

My Thoughts on the Spec Set:

Told through the eyes of Emile, the Spec Set brings the fun vernacular of a teenage boy burdened by too much responsibility for a younger sibling. What makes it worse? Max doesn’t speak. On the rare occasion he does, the single word response hardly covers the required answer. Though watching his brother at science camp isn’t an idea E likes, he still stands up for him regularly. Luckily, Lilly, the latest pain in his side, likes Max and helps out as much as she can. Eventually, when E’s own reality seems to explode, Lilly and Max let him in on a little secret, and he meets the rest of the Spec Set.

I quite enjoyed reading this fun story. Much of Max’s characteristics are obviously written in a way that leads the reader to believe he has Autism with selective mutism. Having a child of my own with Autism, I found the writing well-done. In fact, the story follows kids with conditions who have developed superpowers. The story states clearly they are not savants, but, wow, do they have talents!

So often, incredible children with neuro-diversities are left by the wayside, uncelebrated despite their amazing talents and qualities. The Spec Set may be science fiction but the preface behind it isn’t.

The book could use a good proofread. There are several instances of simple mistakes, usually out of place or incorrect words. It did affect my attention to a degree, and I would preface this point before handing it to my children to read. The story is squeaky clean and perfect for both boys and girls of any age, though readability probably begins with middle graders.

The Official Blurb:

Copernicus Science camp looks harmless enough on the surface, at least no one will tell you otherwise, least of all Max McKenzie, who doesn’t speak at all. He can’t even defend himself when he’s implicated in a high stakes chemical theft from the camp lab. Or can he?

His brother Emile is desperate to help, but he’s waking up to his own problems–chief among them the fact that he’s developed an incredible (and incredibly dangerous) new ability. He doesn’t know how to control his awesome new power, and turns to the one person he’s loathe to ask: Lilly Fang.

Lilly has everything under control, including other people’s biochemistry. (Or is Emile really that crazy about her?) Either way, she’s hiding a boat-load of secrets (and secret powers).

Lilly assembles a team of friends like none Emile’s ever dreamed of to help Max.

There’s Fetu, a near giant, whose presence alone seems to suck the air out of the room. Or does he do that literally?

And Danika, who’s so shy she seems to fade right into the background. Or does she actually become invisible?

And Eliza, who never lifts a finger–but is that because she lifts things with her mind? 

The Spec Set will need all of their combined strengths (and their weaknesses) to combat a threat reaching all the way go to another universe.

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Purchase your copy of the Spec Set on Amazon
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I received an ARC copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are my own.
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