Book Review: The Secret Keepers, by Trenton Lee Stewart

Click here to buy on Amazon.

Eleven-year-old Reuben spends his days exploring, hiding, and practicing parkour among the abandoned buildings of the Lower Downs as a way to escape the rough times that have befallen him and his mom–but his discovery of an extraordinary antique pocket watch changes everything. When Reuben finds that the watch has the power to turn him invisible, he’s propelled on the adventure of a lifetime.
Now Reuben is being pursued by a group of dangerous men called the Directions, and someone–or something–ominously called The Smoke. They all want the watch, and with the help of new friends, it’s up to Reuben to unravel the mysteries surrounding it and protect the city from evil.
New York Times bestselling author Trenton Lee Stewart’s latest novel will enthrall old and new fans alike with the twists and turns of an inventive and compelling adventure reminiscent of The Mysterious Benedict Society series. (Via Goodreads)

When this book finally appeared at our local library, I snapped it up. I’ve been wanting to read it for ages, but… wow. I wasn’t expecting it to even come close to the glory of the Mysterious Benedict Society, but I was very pleasantly surprised.

 Things I loved:

The plot! Trenton Lee Stewart is so good at plot twists. Generally I can predict every twist in the book that I’m reading – but with this one, it actually caught me off guard a couple of times. Fantastic!

The cast of characters was great, as usual. I felt like Rueben, Jack, and Penny were all very unique to the book, and it didn’t feel like it was taking from the Mysterious Benedict Society.

As I got to the end, I couldn’t stop reading. I was completely and totally swallowed into Rueben’s world, and I was living and breathing beside him. It’s not often that a book does that to me. And the end itself was great.

A quick word here about the antagonist… I was surprised that he wasn’t reminiscent of Mr. Curtain from the Mysterious Benedict Society. Instead, he was a villain in his own right, perfect for the story and perfect for Rueben.

 Things I didn’t love:

The main issue I had with this book was the lying. Rueben lies to his mother about where he goes during the day while she’s at work, and eventually the lies grow and he’s lying to her about where he is. He tells her he’s at a sleepover, when he’s really off discovering dark secrets and solving mysteries. Although the lying is looked down upon by at least one other main character and a number of minor ones, there are really no consequences for Rueben (spoiler alert!) because his mom is so happy to have him back.

A character takes the Lord’s name in vain twice, I believe. (I may have overlooked other times.)

The length of this book is over 500 pages, which might be a little intimidating for some eleven-year-olds (the age it’s targeted for). However, I think it would be great for more advanced readers.

The only other problem I had with this book was the fact that it starts off slow, and has some lengthy descriptive passages all throughout that could have been done away with, although I think this is just Mr. Stewart’s writing style. It takes a chapter or two to really get into it.

In summary:

This was another great read by Trenton Lee Stewart, although I didn’t appreciate the excessive lying. My rating is four and a half stars.

Click here to see this review and others on my Goodreads account.

Book Review: Destiny, Rewritten, by Kathryn Fitzmaurice

Click here to buy on Amazon.

 

Synopsis:

This sweet contemporary story about poetry, family, and determining your own destiny is perfect for fans of books by Wendy Mass, Joan Bauer, Sharon Creech, and Rebecca Stead.

Eleven-year-old Emily Elizabeth Davis has never met her father, so when a book of poetry with his name in it goes missing, Emily and her friends search all over their hometown of Berkeley, California, hoping to track it down. Meanwhile, even though her English-professor mother insists that Emily is destined to become a poet (she named her after Emily Dickinson!), Emily secretly corresponds with her idol, romance writer Danielle Steel.

As Publishers Weekly says, “Fitzmaurice’s story deftly mingles Dickinson, Danielle Steel, a budding crush, and protesting tree sitters while maintaining suspense that leads to a satisfying ending.” (Via Goodreads)

I didn’t like this book, and I knew I didn’t like it by page nine. It’s exactly the kind of children’s book that bothers me. (Mild spoilers ahead.)

 Things I didn’t like:

It has a perplexing mish-mash of religions, worldviews, and ideologies such as Catholicism, determining your own destiny, a tiny bit of feminism, and whatever you call being a hippie.

Emily’s mother is a hippie, parts of the book revolve around the “tree-huggers” trying to prevent trees from being cut down, and near the end, Emily herself sleeps with the tree-huggers.

The romance. It is mild, but honestly, I’m not a fan of romance in children’s books. I mean, the main character is eleven. There’s nothing inappropriate; it’s just way too old for the age group this book is intended for.

Emily plays hooky from school to look for her missing book, bringing her best friend and her eight-year-old cousin with her. They talk a gullible cashier into impersonating their parents and calling them in sick, forge a signature on a school excuse, go to various bookstores and visit a palm reader, take a bus, and walk home from school like nothing happened. It’s totally and completely irresponsible, but what’s worse, none of them receive any consequences whatsoever, even though Emily’s mother found out about it.

Emily also goes to a romance writing group at the library that her mother doesn’t know about. I’m not sure I like the idea of an eleven-year-old wanting to write romance novels, but I think her desire to write happy endings to romances is born out of her constant wondering who her father is, and if someday he’ll come back to her and her mother.

Although I did enjoy some things about the book, in my opinion it wasn’t enough to redeem it.

Things I liked:

The character development. My favorite character was Mortie, the eight-year-old cousin who is obsessed with all things military. He was hilarious! I also felt like Emily’s progression throughout the book was well-done, even if I didn’t like the way she was progressing.

The writing style was fairly concise and to-the-point, although the varying religions/worldviews/ideologies were confusing.

The ending was sweet and all the pieces connected nicely. Even though I didn’t love the way the author put it down to “Fate” or “Destiny”, I liked the way it ended. Unfortunately, I felt like the happy ending was overshadowed by all of the things I didn’t like.

In summary:  Although this is a sweet story, I wouldn’t recommend this book for middle grade readers, or honestly anyone because of the defiance shown by the main character, the romance, and the strange worldviews. Most of it made me want to cry, “Why, oh, why, would you put this in a children’s book?” For those reasons, I would rate it two and a half stars.

 

 

Thursday Book Haul!

We almost always come home with treasures, usually in the form of books, after visiting our favorite thrift store. (Is that a good thing or a bad thing? The more books the merrier, I guess.)  It’s an amazing place where kids books are only 25 cents.

Here’s my book haul from Thursday!

 

Cry From the Dungeon, by Betty Swinford. I’m a sucker for vintage books. And this one was from the Moody Bible Institute. Win-win!

Alexi’s Secret Mission, by Anita Deyneka. Another vintage book.

Strange But True Science, by Editors of Publications International Ltd. This is a cool-looking science book I found for Justus, although I’ll probably end up reading it too : )

The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien. This book is lovely and floppy, and it doesn’t crack and the pages don’t fall out like our current copy. I wasn’t able to find this exact copy on Amazon.

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. This copy is so much prettier than mine, and the pages are easier to turn. I’ll donate my old one to the thrift store. The link isn’t the exact copy I have, but I believe it’s probably out of print.

Hero Tales, by Dave and Neta Jackson. A beautiful hardcover copy. Since we already own it, Mom will try to sell it on Ebay.

Horton Hears a Who Pop-Up, by Dr. Suess and David A. Carter. This book was so cute, I just couldn’t resist. We’ll probably give it to someone we know who has young children.

Anyway, that was my Thursday book haul. Hope you enjoyed it!