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Along for the Ride

Book Review: Along for the Ride | 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: Along for the Ride Author: Sarah Dessen Genre: YA Contemporary Content Warning: PG-13 for mild language and one implied sexual encounter Blurb It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live. A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend. In her signature pitch-perfect style, Sarah Dessen explores the hearts of two lonely people learning to connect. – Goodreads My Thoughts One of the reasons I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction is because the characters tend to be quite flat. One of the reasons I make an exception for Sarah Dessen is because her characters are dimensional, realistic beings that I spend more time rooting for than rolling my eyes at. Along for the Ride is no exception: Auden is a smart girl who judges too quickly. Eli is a quiet, contemplative guy who doesn’t fall into the brooding boy cliché. The girls Auden meets while working at her stepmother’s boutique come across as vapid and shallow at first, but as Auden gets to know them, we learn that they’re smart, kind, and supportive. Dessen has also done an excellent job of worldbuilding across the novels I’ve read by her. Colby is a touristy beach town, but by focusing on the “real” people who live there, Dessen creates a setting that is believable and interesting, not kitschy and formulaic. Along for the Ride didn’t quite have the impact that Saint Anything had for me, but it was an enjoyable story with a variety of great relationships. Score:   And don’t forget to save this book to your Pinterest reading list! Thanks!

The Scorpio Races

Book Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater | 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 Scorpio Races Author: Maggie Stiefvater Genre: YA Fantasy Content Warning: PG-13 for violence and brief strong language Blurb It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die. At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them. Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen. – Goodreads My Thoughts YESSSSSSS!!!! THIS is exactly the sort of Stiefvater book I have been craving for years. It has her typical beautiful, heartbreaking prose with themes that make me weak in the knees. It has solid, likable characters and actually scary villains. It has horses written by someone who clearly knows what she’s talking about. It has romance built on friendship and friendships built on not being romantic. And best of all, she finally, finally, finally gave me the climax deserving of all that rising action. Score:   And don’t forget to save this book to your reading list on Pinterest!


Book Review: Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi | 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: Furthermore Author: Tahereh Mafi Genre: MG Fantasy Content Warning: The MC is an eccentric child who hates wearing clothing, but that’s about it. Blurb Inspired by her childhood love of books like A Secret Garden and The Chronicles of Narnia, bestselling author Tahereh Mafi crafts a spellbinding new world where color is currency, adventure is inevitable, and friendship is found in the most unexpected places. There are only three things that matter to twelve-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. The day Father disappears from Ferenwood he takes nothing but a ruler with him. But it’s been almost three years since then, and Alice is determined to find him. She loves her father even more than she loves adventure, and she’s about to embark on one to find the other. But bringing Father home is no small matter. In order to find him, she’ll have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. It will take all of Alice’s wits (and every limb she’s got) to find Father and return home to Ferenwood in one piece. On her quest to find Father, Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss. – Amazon My Thoughts Tahereh, you brilliant girl! Furthermore was so fun! The worldbuilding (or should I say worlds-building?) was so well done and imaginative. I love the relationship between Alice and Oliver. Both were really well developed and easy to root for. The “villains” were an interesting shade of grey, and the humor was perfect—I laughed out loud and often. I can’t wait to read this with my future kids. Score:   If you like this post, please share it with your friends! Thanks!

Bel Canto

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: Bel Canto Author: Ann Patchett Genre: Historical Fiction Content Warning: Scattered strong language and sexuality Blurb Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country’s vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman. Roxanne Coss, opera’s most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening-until a band of gun-wielding terrorists breaks in through the air-conditioning vents and takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different countries and continents become compatriots. Without the demands of the world to shape their days, life on the inside becomes more beautiful than anything they had known before. At once riveting and impassioned, the narrative becomes a moving exploration of how people communicate when music is the only common language. Friendship, compassion, and the chance for great love lead the characters to forget the real danger that has been set in motion and cannot be stopped. Ann Patchett has written a novel that is as lyrical and profound as it is unforgettable. Bel Canto engenders in the reader the very passion for art and the language of music that its characters discover. As a reader, you find yourself fervently wanting this captivity to continue forever, even though you know that real life waits on the other side of the garden wall. A virtuoso performance by one of our best and most important writers, Bel Canto is a novel to be cherished. – Amazon My Thoughts Ann Patchett is a genius. You’d think a book about a hostage situation would have lots of action and a fast-paced plot, but Bel Canto takes its time. The lyrical prose draws you in, the characters—all of them—force you to fall in love with them, and the crock pot plot leaves you questioning everything you expected when you first opened the book. I haven’t read anything else by Ann Patchett, and to be perfectly honest, I only read this one because it fit a book challenge category and my aunt had given it a 5-star rating on Goodreads. But I’m sold. I’ll definitely be reading more Patchett in the future. Score:

Saint Anything

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: Saint Anything Author: Sarah Dessen Genre: YA Contemporary Content Warning: Mild language and underage drinking Blurb Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident? Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time. The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans. – Goodreads My Thoughts The only other book I have read by Sarah Dessen was Lock and Key, which I won in a giveaway hosted by YA Highway several years ago. I’ve never really felt drawn to contemporary fiction, but I enjoyed that one and always meant to read more of Dessen’s work. But Saint Anything just turned me into an official Sarah Dessen fangirl. I could not put it down. Reading Sydney’s voice was like reading my own, even though our experiences are vastly different. Her journey to find healing after someone else’s bad decisions is a realistic blend of frustrating moments and funny ones. The cast was spectacular, the writing was solid, and the story was so very good. Score:  

Finnikin of the Rock

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: Finnikin of the Rock Author: Melina Marchetta Series: Lumatere Chronicles Genre: YA Fantasy Content Warning: Some violence (not graphic), mild language, and sexuality Blurb Finnikin of the Rock and his guardian, Sir Topher, have not been home to their beloved Lumatere for ten years. Not since the dark days when the royal family was murdered and the kingdom put under a terrible curse. But then Finnikin is summoned to meet Evanjalin, a young woman with an incredible claim: the heir to the throne of Lumatere, Prince Balthazar, is alive. Evanjalin is determined to return home and she is the only one who can lead them to the heir. As they journey together, Finnikin is affected by her arrogance . . . and her hope. He begins to believe he will see his childhood friend, Prince Balthazar, again. And that their cursed people will be able to enter Lumatere and be reunited with those trapped inside. He even believes he will find his imprisoned father. But Evanjalin is not what she seems. And the truth will test not only Finnikin’s faith in her . . . but in himself. – Goodreads Thoughts This is my third time reading this book, and I still love it just as much as I did the first time. In fact, maybe I love it a little more now than I did then, since I always seem to get something new out of it during a re-read. I love the characters. I love the world building. I love the promise of hope even during so much darkness and pain. I love the feminist angle I can actually get behind: Evanjalin is strong without Finnikin, but they are stronger together. I love how the book doesn’t sugarcoat any aspect of displacement or war, but still brings so much joy by focusing on healing and love and hope. I LOVE Finnikin of the Rock. I haven’t read the rest of this series, partly because I’m a little afraid I won’t love it as much as I love the first book. Trilogies usually disappoint me. But I’ve read other books by Marchetta and every single one of them is on my list of favorite books, so maybe it’s time I finished the series… Score: This will always, always be  

The Chaos of Stars

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 Chaos of Stars Author: Kiersten White Genre: YA Fantasy Content Warning: Mild language and a few crude jokes Blurb Kiersten White, New York Times bestselling author of Paranormalcy, is back with The Chaos of Stars—an enchanting novel set in Egypt and San Diego that captures the magic of first love and the eternally complicated truth about family. Isadora’s family is seriously screwed up—which comes with the territory when you’re the human daughter of the ancient Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris. Isadora is tired of living with crazy relatives who think she’s only worthy of a passing glance—so when she gets the chance to move to California with her brother, she jumps on it. But her new life comes with plenty of its own dramatic—and dangerous—complications . . . and Isadora quickly learns there’s no such thing as a clean break from family. Blending Ally Carter’s humor and the romance of Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly, The Chaos of Stars takes readers on an unforgettable journey halfway across the world and back, and proves there’s no place like home. – Goodreads My Thoughts I didn’t love this quite as much as White’s Paranormalcy series or Mind Games, but it was still pretty enjoyable. I liked the main character a lot and related to her on many levels. The cast of supporting characters was varied and well-done, and I enjoyed their friendship with Isadora. Ry, the love interest, was a bit too perfect for my taste and seemed really unrealistic, and his “big surprise” at the end wasn’t much of a surprise. But I liked the weaving of myth throughout the narrative and enjoyed watching the relationships between the characters evolve. The plot was well-paced, the writing was solid, and the climax was exciting. This was a fun, easy read. Score:  

The Princess Bride

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 Princess Bride Author: William Goldman Genre: Fantasy Blurb What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be…well…a lot less than the man of her dreams? As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad’s recitation, and only the “good parts” reached his ears. Now Goldman does Dad one better. He’s reconstructed the “Good Parts Version” to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere. What’s it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, and Miracles. In short, it’s about everything. – Goodreads My Thoughts I have never seen a movie that follows a book as well as the film adaptation of this one does. It was almost word-for-word, and the only differences (plot-wise) were the shrieking eels (or lack thereof), the Zoo of Terror, and an expanded ending in the book. And seeing as I LOVE the movie, it makes sense that I would also love the book—which I did. This will be one that I read with my future kids. It’s exciting, witty, and well-paced. A perfect afternoon read. Score:  

The True Meaning of Smekday

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 True Meaning of Smekday Author: Adam Rex Genre: MG Sci-Fi Content Warning: Scattered mild language Blurb It all starts with a school essay. When twelve-year-old Gratuity (“Tip”) Tucci is assigned to write five pages on “The True Meaning of Smekday” for the National Time Capsule contest, she’s not sure where to begin. When her mom started telling everyone about the messages aliens were sending through a mole on the back of her neck? Maybe on Christmas Eve, when huge, bizarre spaceships descended on the Earth and the aliens – called Boov – abducted her mother? Or when the Boov declared Earth a colony, renamed it “Smekland” (in honor of glorious Captain Smek), and forced all Americans to relocate to Florida via rocketpod? In any case, Gratuity’s story is much, much bigger than the assignment. It involves her unlikely friendship with a renegade Boov mechanic named J.Lo.; a futile journey south to find Gratuity’s mother at the Happy Mouse Kingdom; a cross-country road trip in a hovercar called Slushious; and an outrageous plan to save the Earth from yet another alien invasion. Fully illustrated with “photos,” drawings, newspaper clippings, and comics sequences, this is a hilarious, perceptive, genre-bending novel by a remarkable new talent. the planet from a really big catastrophe. – Goodreads My Thoughts I LOVED this book! It is so fun, and really well written, and the characters are perfect. The humor was so well done—from the subverted pop culture references (Happy Mouse Kingdom) to the Boov manner of speech (“Can I come into the out now?”) to the apologies after swearing. I loved it all. I also really loved the diverse cast. Tip, the MC, is half Black, half Italian. Several of the kids at Happy Mouse Kingdom are Hispanic, and Chief Shouting Bear (my favorite character) is Native American. Well done, Mr. Rex. I am a fan. Score:  

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