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Called to Create

Book Review: Called to Create by Jordan Raynor | Jest Kept Secret

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my affiliate policy here.  Title: Called to Create Author: Jordan Raynor Genre: Religion/Entrepreneurship Blurb We were created by an infinitely creative God to reflect his love and character to the world. One way we do that is by continuing his creative work. In this energizing book, serial entrepreneur and bestselling author Jordan Raynor helps artists, entrepreneurs, writers, and other creatives reimagine our work as service to God and others… Perfectly poised to reach today’s growing creative class, this unique work restores God’s position as the first entrepreneur, helping readers see the eternal value in the work they do today. – Goodreads My Thoughts I was worried that this was going to be cheesy—one of those “beat you over the head with the moral” kind of books. But it wasn’t. The gospel principles are sound, the insights are profound and thought-provoking, and the stories were inspiring. Raynor uses famous entrepreneurs and creatives to illustrate his points, including C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the founders of various charities and corporations. I enjoyed reading their stories and learning from their examples. I also really loved the concept that God was the first entrepreneur, and that by being creative and entrepreneurial, we can become like Him. That is especially true as we run our creative endeavors with certain Christlike attitudes, including a desire to bless the lives of others, attention to detail and quality, following divine inspiration, and focusing more on giving than taking. I’ve mentioned before that I feel called to create this blog. I want to glorify God and serve His children with all I do. With that in mind, Called to Create was an endless source of inspiration and enlightenment. I wish I owned a copy so that I could highlight everything that I found particularly useful, but chances are, that would be most of the book. If you are a creative person—whether professionally or not—this book is an excellent treatise on the ways we can use our God-given talents to glorify Him and to do His work on the earth. Score: [clear] And don’t forget to save this book to your Pinterest reading list! Thanks!

Carried: How One Mother’s Trust in God Helped Her through the Unthinkable

Review of Carried by Michelle Schmidt and Angie Taylor | Jest Kept Secret

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my affiliate policy here.  Title: Carried: How One Mother’s Trust in God Helped Her through the Unthinkable Author: Michelle Schmidt and Angie Taylor Genre: Memoir/Spiritual Blurb On October 19, 2016, Michelle Schmidt’s plane landed in Oregon, where she was meeting her daughter, Annie, for a camping trip. But Annie didn’t show up at the airport to pick up her mother as planned. Thus began a season of searching and coming up short, of miracles and frustrations, of love poured out and faith tested, until Annie’s body was finally discovered more than three weeks later in the Columbia River Gorge, where she had fallen while hiking. As Annie’s mother opens her heart to tell her story, her husband’s story (Jon Schmidt of The Piano Guys), and Annie’s story, she writes: “It is my hope that my journey of being tutored by God to trust Him more—not only through the loss of Annie but through some of my most vulnerable and personal past experiences—will be the means of bringing strength and hope to anyone suffering at this time.” When the unthinkable happened, Michelle Schmidt made a choice: to trust in God. This remarkable book will give readers the courage and inspiration to make that same choice. – Goodreads My Thoughts I remember when Annie Schmidt, daughter of John Schmidt of Piano Guys fame, went missing. My heart broke for their family, and I prayed that they would find Annie safe and sound. I will admit, I was quite surprised and confused when Michelle Schmidt stated rather early on that she believed Annie was dead. I knew there had to be more than the media was telling us, because there is no way a loving mother would give up on finding her daughter alive unless she had a ridiculously good reason. So when I was given the opportunity to read Carried before its release, I jumped at the opportunity to get the whole story. And boy, did it open my eyes. This book is a very raw, honest account of the horrifying experience of realizing that Annie was missing, and of the clear and obvious ways the Spirit sustained her family through their search. I won’t divulge the details of how Michelle came to believe that Annie was deceased—partly because I am morally opposed to spoilers, and partly because the telling of it is so heartbreakingly beautiful that I could never do it justice. Suffice it to say that the influence of the Spirit was very much a part of those dark days. But Carried is more than just a book about finding Annie. In it, Michelle also shares past experiences that helped build her faith and gave her the peace she would so desperately need when Annie disappeared. She tells of health issues, career decisions, and family experiences that shaped her testimony of a loving Heavenly Father who guides and directs His children, even when things are really hard. As a professional creative, the stories she tells of the early days of John’s music career were both relatable and encouraging. He is so well loved, and his music touches hearts all over the world. I can only hope that someday, Jest Kept Secret will have such a positive influence. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Carried. It is a surprisingly sweet and uplifting story, despite what it’s about, and it provided a much-appreciated spiritual boost over the last week as I reflected on the ways God has sustained me in my own trials. Score: Available At [clear] [clear] And don’t forget to save this book to your Pinterest reading list! Thanks! Disclosure: While I did not receive monetary compensation in exchange for this post, I did receive a complementary copy of the book to read so that I could write an honest review. All opinions are mine, based on my own experience, and were not influenced in any way by the author, publisher, or distributors of this book.

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

Book Review: The Soul of An Octopus by Sy Montgomery | Jest Kept Secret

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my affiliate policy here.  Title: The Soul of an Octopus Author: Sy Montgomery Genre: Non-Fiction Blurb In pursuit of the wild, solitary, predatory octopus, popular naturalist Sy Montgomery has practiced true immersion journalism. From New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, she has befriended octopuses with strikingly different personalities—gentle Athena, assertive Octavia, curious Kali, and joyful Karma. Each creature shows her cleverness in myriad ways: escaping enclosures like an orangutan; jetting water to bounce balls; and endlessly tricking companions with multiple “sleights of hand” to get food. Scientists have only recently accepted the intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees but now are watching octopuses solve problems and are trying to decipher the meaning of the animal’s color-changing techniques. With her “joyful passion for these intelligent and fascinating creatures” (Library Journal Editors’ Spring Pick), Montgomery chronicles the growing appreciation of this mollusk as she tells a unique love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about the meeting of two very different minds. – Goodreads My Thoughts I will never look at octopodes[1] the same way again. This book chronicles the surprising relationships Montgomery forms with a series of octopus friends, as well as the human friends that join her on her journey of discovery. Montgomery provides thought-provoking insights into the meaning of intelligence, desire, consciousness, and mortality as she tries to comprehend the reality of a perspective so completely different from our own own—and yet, it is a perspective which doesn’t seem altogether unfamiliar. Told with the same loving, respectful, and curious voice that I came to love in The Good, Good Pig, The Soul of an Octopus was an instant favorite. With Montgomery’s record sitting at 2 for 2, I think I really need to read more of her work. Score: An emphatic [clear]   And don’t forget to save this book to your Pinterest reading list! Thanks! [1] I learned recently that the plural form of “octopus” is not actually octopi, as most people believe. It’s octopodes because the word “octopus” is Greek. Pluralizing with an “-i” suffix is a Latin rule.

We Bought a Zoo

Book Review: We Bought a Zoo | Jest Kept Secret

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my affiliate policy here.  I think the timing of this book review is pretty appropriate considering today is a double post day, and the other post is the beginning of this month’s Battle of the Zoos series. Be sure to check that out while you’re here! Title: We Bought a Zoo Author: Benjamin Mee Genre: Memoir Content Warning: Scattered strong language Blurb In the tradition of “Marley & Me” comes an unforgettable memoir about the mysteries of the animal kingdom, the power of family, and the triumph of hope over tragedy in this chronicle of the Mee family’s purchase of the Dartmoor Wildlife Park, a dilapidated zoo in the English countryside. – Goodreads My Thoughts I LOVED this book! It was fascinating to learn about the day-to-day operations of a zoo and the world of zookeeping. The writing was tight, the voice was well-developed, and the humor was so British. I fell in love with all of the characters (human and animal) and it made me miss England so badly. I could do with a few less F-words, though. No need for any of that. Score: [clear]   And don’t forget to save this book to your Pinterest reading list! Thanks!

Even This: Getting to the Place Where You Can Trust God with Anything

Book Review: Even This | Jest Kept Secret

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my affiliate policy here.  Title: Even This: Getting to the Place Where You Can Trust God with Anything Author: Emily Belle Freeman Genre: Religion (LDS) Blurb Even This invites readers to make room for daily personal experiences with God. From the very first page readers will walk down a spiritual path meant to remind each of us that God will meet us in the unexpected, bringing His goodness, giving us cause to trust, reminding us of His capacity. Filled with deeply personal stories about holding onto belief, daring to trust, and longing for understanding, Even This chronicles one woman’s quest to find God in the everyday moments-with one of the most powerful experiences taking place as she searches for sea shells while walking on the beach-and provides many opportunities for individual introspection. “Yes, God is good and He can be trusted,” Freeman concludes, “and it is the daily discovery of these truths that has the potential to become the greatest journey of a life and lead us closer to Him.” Ultimately, the author hopes Even This will encourage and motivate readers to: Stop letting fear dictate the depth of your belief through simple daily reflections that will restore your confidence in God. Let go of your need to control by discovering what is holding you back from being completely vulnerable in your relationship with God. Diminish the power of doubt by coming to understand why the place of deepest asking is where the believing begins. Learn how to trust that God may have something entirely different in mind than you could ever anticipate–something better. – Goodreads My Thoughts I borrowed this from the library, but it’s officially on my list of books that I need to own. Even This is a series of anecdotes that taught the author an important lesson or gave her insight into her relationship with God. The stories are moving and truly brought the Spirit, and I felt both my mind and my heart growing with new understanding. I laughed. I cried. I felt close to my Heavenly Father. And not only is Freeman incredibly insightful, she’s also a masterful writer. Her prose was lovely and evocative, an absolute pleasure to listen to on a Sunday drive. It reads like a novel, but touches hearts like a General Conference talk. I highly recommend this one. Score: Available at And don’t forget to save this book to your Pinterest reading list! Thanks!

Girl Online

Book Review: Girl Online by Zoe Sugg | Jest Kept Secret

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my affiliate policy here.  Title: Girl Online Author: Zoe Sugg Genre: YA Contemporary Content Warning: Mild language Blurb Penny has a secret. Under the alias GirlOnline, she blogs about school dramas, boys, her mad, whirlwind family – and the panic attacks she’s suffered from lately. When things go from bad to worse, her family whisks her away to New York, where she meets the gorgeous, guitar-strumming Noah. Suddenly Penny is falling in love – and capturing every moment of it on her blog. But Noah has a secret too. One that threatens to ruin Penny’s cover – and her closest friendship – forever. – Goodreads My Thoughts I read this book on the recommendation of a young friend of mine, and it was surprisingly cute. Is it formulaic? Absolutely. Is it cheesy? You betcha. Is it little more than teenaged chick lit? Totally. And yet, I really enjoyed it. Penny is remarkably relatable for me—she’s a photographer, blogger, clutz, anxiety sufferer, and a hopeless romantic experiencing love for the first time. I loved her family and how loving and supportive they were, and Penny’s BFF, Elliot, is adorable. And although I guessed the truth about Noah pretty much right off the bat, it was still fun to watch their relationship unfold. Maybe I liked this because I read this so close to having my own whirlwind romance, but whatever. I enjoyed it. Score:   And don’t forget to save this book to your Pinterest reading list! Thanks!

Bloody Jack

Book Review: Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer | Jest Kept Secret

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my affiliate policy here.  Title: Bloody Jack Author: L.A. Meyer Series: Bloody Jack #1 Genre: YA Historical Fiction Content Warning: Thematic elements, mild language, and war violence Blurb Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy Life as a ship’s boy aboard HMS Dolphin is a dream come true for Jacky Faber. Gone are the days of scavenging for food and fighting for survival on the streets of eighteenth-century London. Instead, Jacky is becoming a skilled and respected sailor as the crew pursues pirates on the high seas. There’s only one problem: Jacky is a girl. And she will have to use every bit of her spirit, wit, and courage to keep the crew from discovering her secret. This could be the adventure of her life–if only she doesn’t get caught. . . . – Goodreads My Thoughts I had never heard of this series before, but when I found it listed as a free-to-stream audiobook on Audible Channels, I thought I’d give it a try. I’m really glad I did—what a fun book! Jacky is quite the protagonist: saucy (yet insecure), resourceful, loyal, and funny. Her relationships with the other ships boys lead to plenty of humor, and the sailors aboard the ship provide a motley cast of mentors, bullies, creeps, and heroes. I will definitely read more of this series. Score:   And don’t forget to save this book to your Pinterest reading list! Thanks!

The Silver Mask

Book Review: The Silver Mask by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare | Jest Kept Secret

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my affiliate policy here.  Title: The Silver Mask Author: Holly Black and Cassandra Clare Series: Magisterium #4 Genre: MG Fantasy Content Warning: Thematic elements and mild language Blurb A generation ago, Constantine Madden came close to achieving what no magician had ever achieved: the ability to bring back the dead. He didn’t succeed . . . but he did find a way to keep himself alive, inside a young child named Callum Hunt. Now Call is one of the most feared and reviled students in the history of the Magisterium, thought to be responsible for a devastating death and an ever-present threat of war. As a result, Call has been imprisoned and interrogated. Everyone wants to know what Constantine was up to-and how he lives on. But Call has no idea. It is only when he’s broken out of prison that the full potential of Constantine’s plan is suddenly in his hands . . . and he must decide what to do with his power. In this spellbinding fourth book of Magisterium, bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare take us beyond the realm of the living and into the dangers of the dead. – Goodreads My Thoughts The Silver Mask is as enjoyable and light as the others in this series have been, but it also starts to delve into some deeper questions like, if we could raise people from the dead, should we? Or how far should we go to help our friends? The kids are just as believable and entertaining as ever, and the villains get even more interesting. Well, some of them do. Anastasia Tarquinn is a bit flat and uninteresting—I wish we got more of a sense of danger from her. She could really be interesting if they focused more on her obsession with Call and less on her just showing up at opportune moments. I also wish we’d seen more of Alistair Hunt. His kid has been kidnapped. You can’t tell me he wouldn’t fight against the Assembly to get him back. And where was he in the final battle and the aftermath thereof? Still, despite some flat characterisation and plot holes, I’m really looking forward to the last book, The Golden Tower, which is due out this year. Bring it on. Score:   And don’t forget to save this book to your Pinterest reading list! Thanks!

The Red Queen

Book Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard | Jest Kept Secret

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my affiliate policy here.  Title: The Red Queen Author: Victoria Aveyard Series: Red Queen #1 Genre: YA Fantasy Content Warning: Mild language and violence (war) Blurb This is a world divided by blood – red or silver. The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change. That is until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power. Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime. But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart. – Goodreads My Thoughts Whoa. I liked this. Some of the violence was a tad graphic for my taste, but the writing was decent and the story was intriguing. I liked the concept of power (superhuman abilities) being tied to blood, and I liked the creative variety of abilities that exist in this world. The villains were pretty dastardly, but I did see it coming a mile away. There were also a few plot points that felt a little forced or convenient. But it was a fun, compelling read that kept me turning the pages (well, listening). You’ll like this if you liked the Hunger Games (which I didn’t), Divergent (which I did), or Red Rising (which I didn’t). Apparently, these sorts of books are hit and miss for me. This one happened to be a hit. Score:   And don’t forget to save this book to your Pinterest reading list! Thanks!

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