Thursday, January 16, 2020

A mystery in low gravity: Frozen Secrets by Myles Christensen

Title: Frozen Secrets
Author: Myles Christensen
Series: Europa Academy (Book 1)
Genre: MG Science Fiction / Mystery
Pages: 298

What Goodreads has to say:

He has trouble following the rules on Earth, but Jupiter’s moon could kill his curiosity for good…

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 trouble. 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, Max digs into the incident. What else could they be hiding? 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 he solve the mystery before his interplanetary escapade gets him killed?

What I have to say:

A mystery in space? Sign me up!

The climax is an Iditarod race across the frozen surface of Jupiter's moon?

Even better!

From page one, I knew this was going to be a fun, action packed book. 

It starts off with two kids trying to launch an antique jetpack that they rebuilt.

In Jonathan's (one of said kids) words: "The fuel lines might leak, the combustion chamber might explode, the nozzles might shear--" 

Any number of things could go wrong, and Max (the kid strapped to the jetpack) could very likely die.

But that doesn't put Max off one bit. He has a talent (problem?) for getting into life-threatening situations. And while the jetpack adventure comes just shy of proving fatal, don't worry, because it's very probably the least life-threatening situation he'll find himself in for the rest of the book.

Getting stuck in a sabotaged shuttle, getting sealed in an underground tunnel, getting stranded in the wilderness with low oxygen levels, getting caught in a crazy car chase, getting caught by enemy spies, nearly blowing himself up in a drilling rig, jumping off a precipice--these are all in a day's work for Max Parker: super secret spy.

OK, he's not a super secret spy, he's 13, and he's probably grounded for life at this point. But he wants to be a super secret spy.

And honestly, for a frequently grounded 13-year-old, he does pretty dang well.

Max is a fun character. And his supporting cast is fun, too--from his seriously awesome older sister to his diverse group of friends and the villainous members of the Xenium League. 

I especially like Max's friend Cameron, who gets pulled into the spy adventure reluctantly and isn't fond of taking risks. (He's a rock-solid friend, though.)

And what's any young teen mystery in space without a little awkward romance? YES. Bring it on.

Oh yeah, it's a mystery. That part is fun, too. It kept me guessing as to who was on the good guys list and who was on the bad guys list. 

Did I mention it's in space? While the book starts on Earth and has a brief sojourn there in the middle, most of the action takes place in the new Europa colony on Jupiter's moon. Europa City is an awe-inspiring place that speaks to the space-happy child in me. Also....

Zero gravity is awesome. 

So basically, picture trying to solve a mystery as a 13-year-old with the fate of humanity at stake and your friends and family in danger. Then picture doing it in low gravity, on a frozen moon. That's this book. You like?

I do. I had a lot of fun solving this mystery in space. 

Well, credit where credit's due. I didn't really solve it. 

That was Max Parker: super secret space spy.


Until tomorrow.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Review: The Spirit of London by Rob Keeley

Title: The Spirit of London
Author: Rob Keeley
Series: The Spirits series
Genre: MG Fantasy / Ghosts
Pages: 152
Buy Childish Spirits (#1)

What Goodreads has to say:

On returning to London, Ellie investigates the mystery surrounding 47 Foster Square. Who is the sender of ghostly messages asking her for help? What is the secret of the Meadowes family? And what does Edward know about all this?

With her parents about to divorce, and her Mum acting very strangely, Ellie quickly discovers that a sinister force lies between her and the truth...

The Spirit of London is the second instalment in the thrilling and suspenseful ‘Spirits’ series and follows the success of The People’s Book Prize-nominated Childish Spirits. It focuses on slavery and a mixed-race family in Georgian times. Ellie finds herself facing a very dangerous foe and will need all her courage and humanity to get her through. The Spirit of London also sets up a story arc that will continue into future books in the series. The book will appeal to girls and boys of upper primary and lower secondary age – and to parents and teachers reading the book aloud!

What I have to say:

If you've read a previous review in which I praised Rob Keeley's novel Childish Spirits to the skies, it should come as no surprise that I also loved the sequel, The Spirit of London. Much like the first novel in the Spirits series, the sequel is mysterious, engaging, slightly creepy, and all-around adorable.

There's a new house, new ghosts, a new mystery to solve. And Ellie is on the case...even if she'd rather not be.

I actually read this novel in one sitting because I was so engrossed. (Also I was on a 6+ hour flight so what else are you going to do, but honestly I might have read it in one sitting regardless.) Just as in the first novel, the characters are strong, the mystery intriguing, and the stakes high.

Edward is just as annoying as ever, but somehow I now want to adopt him more than ever. The scene where he and Ellie go out on the town was hilarious and quite possibly my favorite part of the novel. He's so exasperating but in such an adorable way. Don't ask me how.

I also loved the new mystery. It's cool that in these books geared toward children/preteens, the author manages to bring up historical and societal issues like the poor treatment of governesses and the stigma against interracial marriages. Was that a spoiler? I hope not.

But not all the issues are in the past. In the present day, Ellie's struggles with the breaking up of her family make for a nice echo (or maybe it's the other way around?) of the family issues faced by the historical characters. Maybe it suggests that the problems of the past don't go away, they just change shape a little. And maybe by looking to the past, Ellie can resolve her own problems in the present.

As for the future, it's anybody's guess, but that ending is one heck of a good way to make me want read the next book. What new adventures will Ellie face next? I can only imagine.


Until tomorrow.