Categotry Archives: Apocalyptic

Heart of Dread: Frozen

Frozen Book Cover Frozen
Heart of Dread, Book 1
Melissa De la Cruz, Michael Anthony Johnston,
Juvenile Fiction
Putnam Publishing Group

More than a century after a catastrophic disaster wiped out most of humanity and covered much of the earth with ice, fifteen-year-old Cass yields to the voice in her head urging her to embark on a dangerous journey across a poisoned sea to the mythical land, Blue.



This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by Hatchette Children’s Books in exchange for an honest review.

When I began “Heart of Dread: Frozen”, I thought I was going to be reading a somewhat typical dystopian novel.  Boy, was I ever wrong.  It is impossible to place it in one, or even two, categories.  Finally, I decided to go with dystopian, apocalyptic, and fantasy.  There is an even amount of all of them.

This novel is a wild ride right from the start, alternating between third person points of view focusing on two flawed, mysterious, and very different individuals. We have Wes, the mercenary, and Nat, the girl with a secret.  Their backstories are revealed very slowly, and combined with the action, it makes it difficult to put down.

If I describe any of the plot that is not already included in the synopsis above, I run the risk of spoiling a surprise, and that would take away from the fun. And if nothing else, this is one fun book.  Anything that could possibly be included in it is, and the ending was a cliffhanger that has me upset that I need to wait a few months for the next.

I normally try to avoid fandom-speak in my reviews, but my thoughts can be summed up by this:  “I didn’t mean to ship it this hard.”


Content Warning:

Violence, Animal Death, Some Sexual Talk

Ashen Winter

Ashen Winter Book Cover Ashen Winter
Ashfall, Book 2
Mike Mullin
Juvenile Fiction

More than six months after the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano, Alex and Darla retrace their steps to Iowa hoping to find Alex's parents and bring them to the tenuous safety of Illinois, but the journey is ever more perilous as the remaining communities fight to the death for food and power.



“Ashen Winter” is a solid second installment in the “Ashfall” series by Mike Mullin.  Wasting no time, the book picks up a few months after the first has left off.  Spring, or what can be called spring, has arrived and Alex decided it’s time to set out to find his parents.

Unlike its predecessor, “Ashen Winter” is a page turner from the very first chapter.  I carried it around for a day, reading every second I could, and would have recommended it to everyone I came across if I could have put it down long enough to speak.  In fact, the only problem I have with it is that there is one point that it becomes a bit repetitive, though I even enjoyed those bits.  Anything to get more of Darla and Alex.

Beware, “Ashen Winter” is not for those with weak stomachs.  The attention to detail is incredible and realistic, but that does mean that things are not at all ok in the post-Yellowstone Super-volcanic world.  People under the best of circumstances are capable of horrible things.  Under apocalyptic conditions humanity takes a total nosedive.  Mr. Mullins is not afraid of the gore that ensues.

Along with the gore, I feel like this is a perfect manual for an introduction to Doomsday Prepping. The things that are essential make perfect sense, but I would have never thought of them.  In fact, I am fairly certain I will be one of the first to be flensed.  At least I will have Chapstick now.  (Really. Buy Chapstick.)

The characters are still wonderfully flawed and well-developed, with more being added in seamlessly.  Darla may be my favorite heroine in literature. If this were the Hunger Games, Darla would take out everyone at the Cornucopia and be elected President of Panem before even leaving the arena.  Even Katniss looks weak in comparison to her.


Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Gore, Animal Deaths, Sexual Situations


Ashfall Book Cover Ashfall
Ashfall Trilogy, Book 1
Mike Mullin
Juvenile Fiction
Tanglewood Press

After the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano destroys his city and its surroundings, Alex must journey from Cedar Falls, Iowa, to Illinois to find his parents and sister, trying to survive in a new society.



I absolutely love this book, and the only reason for four stars instead of five is that I felt the beginning dragged a bit.  Once the action got going I literally could not put it down.  No joke, I carried it into the grocery store with me.

Mr. Mullin’s novel is most certainly not for the faint of heart.  It pulls no punches in the gore and general lack of morality that would surely accompany a catastrophic event the size of the Yellowstone super volcano.  It’s all there in stark reality:  death, greed, abandonment, hopelessness.  People can lose their minds in those types of situations.

The characters are excellently written, and Alex has an amazing and believable character arc that flows as though Mr. Mullin actually observed someone being forced to grow up too quickly in a time of crisis.  He’s still a child, but we get to see him slowly turn the corner toward becoming a man.

Now on to possibly my favorite female protagonist in the history of young adult (maybe even adult) literature:  Darla.  She is both entertaining and tough as nails.  I have no doubt that she would not only take out Katniss at the beginning of the Hunger Games, but also every other tribute.  This girl has everything.  If for no other reason, read this book to meet her.  Excellent character.

Very few things please me more than an author who is not afraid to write teenagers as they actually are, as opposed to the more sanitized versions preferred by adults.  This author is one of the best at that.  Sure, they may die, but Alex is still a boy.  What boy his age doesn’t think about sex?  I have seen some call it unrealistic, but the instinct of humans is actually to become more sexually active when they feel their species is being threatened.  This is the same throughout the animal kingdom.  So we have a teenager, hormones, and a primal instinct to protect the species.  If sex didn’t come up the novel would be ignoring the obvious.  Bravo!

Highly recommended read, and to be honest, I now have a strong urge to stock up on condoms and Chapstick.  The disaster and fallout are written so vividly that suddenly doomsday preppers don’t look so strange after all.  When a road melted in Yellowstone, I was quite ready to leave the country.  That’s a good book.


Content Warning:

Strong Language, Violence, Gore, Animal Death, Strong Sexual Situations