Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret by Trudi Trueit

Nebula SecretUnder the Stars, National Geographic Partners, 2018

Cruz Coronado has made it! He’s about to leave Hawaii to go to the Explorer’s Academy in Washington, D.C. It’s been his dream to attend the academy all his life–his mother was a graduate, after all. But even before Cruz leaves Hawaii, it’s clear that someone is trying to make sure he doesn’t go.

The academy is everything Cruz dreamed of–amazing technology, including a simulator where the recruits practice missions, clever friends from all over the world, and his aunt, the closest thing Cruz has had to a mother since his own mother died when he was five. But someone’s still trying to knock Cruz out of the academy. Will Cruz and his new friends be able to stop them before it’s too late?

The Nebula Secret is a great start to a new seven book series and a new fiction venture for National Geographic Kids. (The second book is due out in spring 2019.) The story is fast-paced and engaging. The characters are appealing but not without flaws. It’s got all the elements needed in a series kids will want to follow. They’ll also love the end notes that feature real science and real scientists doing cutting-edge work today. This series is a must for your middle grade list!

I received a copy of The Nebula Secret from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

Flow Like Water by Mark Burley

Book Two of the Hit the Ground Running Trilogy, Blue Moon Publishers, September 2018.

Eric Bakker, his brother, and his friends continue their quest to find Eric and Michael’s parents. As their quest takes them across the North American continent the stakes get higher, with more scientists missing. In possession of an ancient book and increasingly desperate to find their parents, Eric and Michael pursue leads that take the entire group across the Atlantic. At the same time, they’re fleeing the Vidi, a group of immortals bent of wiping out anyone with the knowledge of the book and its contents.

In Europe, they must use the group’s considerable skills of navigation, research, languages, technology, and parkour to penetrate secrets kept for hundreds of years, or risk losing their parents forever.

Flow Like Water is even more adventure-packed than Hit the Ground Running (though it does contain less parkour). The cracking adventure continues with an appealing and very human cast of young people. The reader’s understanding of the mythology is deepened, and the story is enhanced by two separate legs of foreign travel—great for armchair travelers like me. Even as some mysteries are resolved, still others are deepened. I can’t wait to see how the series will conclude in the final book.

The Secret Code Menace by Pamela Cosman

The secret code menaceRansom Publishing, UK, 2016

During summer vacation Sara, Daniel, and Jared came up with an awesome secret code. They think it’s the perfect thing to keep parental units, teachers, and annoying little sisters in the dark. The first real test of the new code comes on the first day of school when a harmless message gets changed in transit and puts Sara in some serious hot water at school. Despite that, they don’t give up on the code. Instead the brother, sister, and cousin team get busy finding ways to protect their code from errors that others could introduce. And it’s a good thing they do, because when the local bank is robbed in the middle of Sara and Daniel’s field trip, their code may be the only thing that can get them out of a difficult and dangerous situation.

Pamela Cosman has written a ripping adventure starring a group of ordinary middle school kids. The characters are appealing and real. The stakes are high. And the kids save the day. It’s an engaging story with STEM concepts worked in. The secret code involved is a binary code and useful for learning how computers pass information. The Secret Code Menace takes readers along for a fun ride while clearly showing how engineers solve problems with corrupted information in DVDs, cell phones, and other types of communication so that users may not even notice a problem.

A section at the end of the book gives even more information for kids who are interested in learning about error correction coding in more detail. It also offers solutions to the unsolved puzzles in the story.

Pamela Cosman is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at University of California, San Diego. In The Secret Code Menace she uses her considerable knowledge and teaching skills to make engineering concepts clear and fun for upper elementary and middle school readers.

This is the start of a great new series for kids. It will appeal to readers who simply want a good story and also to kids who are fascinated by secret codes and STEM concepts. This is a must-add for classrooms, school libraries, and fun summer reading.

Starter Zone (The Revelation Chronicles book 1)

by Chris Pavesic, 2017.

When scientists found a way for people to live forever, it seemed like a good thing. Hydrologists found that consciousness could be imprinted on a droplet of water and kept in tanks. But when the tanks were breached, disaster ensued and civilization as we know it dissolved.

Cami and her little sister, Alby, are trying to make their way out of the post-apocalyptic city in hopes of finding safety in the country. However, rain is dangerous now because each drop could contain someone’s consciousness looking for a body to house it. Combating people and nature is only the beginning of Cami and Alby’s adventure.

Starter Zone is a cracking story and a great start to an exciting new series. Full of mystery, intrigue, and high stakes, the story will pull readers in and keep them reading. Pavesic’s gaming history is clear in the writing and I think lovers of role-playing games, both virtual and IRL will especially enjoy the story.

Thanks to the generosity of the author, I had the opportunity to both read and listen to Starter Zone through the Kindle and Audible versions. The audio book is well produced and performed with varied voices, making the story and characters easy to follow. The one exception to this is the computer voice that gives results and statistics. I found that difficult to follow. Fortunately, this didn’t make it hard for me to follow the story line. All-in-all I loved having the audio book to listen to as I finished knitting my Christmas gifts.

I recommend Starter Zone to pre-teen and teen readers and to adults who like a good game-based adventure. I was quickly drawn into the story and began rooting for Cami and Albi from the first chapter. I was a bit startled at the somewhat abrupt ending to this first book of the series, but it also left me eager to read the next installment.

Chris Pavesic knows how to tell an epic story with interesting personal and ethical problems for the main character to overcome. I’ll be watching for more books in the Revelation Chronicles series.