An empty mind is a safe mind.  

Yulia's father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But when she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power. Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one--not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention--and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.


Did not finish; read 68 pages.

Whenever I pick up a historical fiction novel, it’s usually about World War II or the Holocaust. But when I first heard of Lindsay Smith’s Sekret – a novel about Cold War – era Russia with a paranormal twist – I was intrigued, and I couldn’t help but give it a try. Unfortunately, though, which could have been a pheonominal story was run down by poor world-building and a non-progressive plot.

It’s 1960s Russia, and suddenly 17-year-old Yulia and her family are caught by the Russian secret police. The police then offer Yulia a choice: lend them her mind-reading powers and join other teenagers with similar gifts as they try to undermine the American space program, or sentence herself and her whole family to death.

I found the paranormal aspects to be inconsistent. We meet characters who – like Yulia – have these mind-reading powers. Some can see into the future, while others can manipulate your memories or simply make new ones. We even meet characters who can think about a certain location or spot and see what is happening there at that very moment. This would have been wonderful, if they were all actually explained and stayed consistent.

I found it odd that those who can see into the future, for instance, were able to read minds as well. Why were they given both powers? Wasn’t it just one or the other? Did all people with these physic powers have the ability to read minds in addition to having their specific gift?

I think my biggest problem, however, was the pacing. I felt that nothing really happened for the little bit that I read. There was no action, nothing intriguing happening, no character development.

All in all, though, Sekret simply wasn’t my cup of tea. Maybe I was too blunt in selecting something so far out of my comfort zone in the first place, but this definitely wasn’t up to what I had hoped it would be, and with such a predictable plot I felt no need to read on.


54 thoughts on “Sekret

  1. Sounds like it could have been a great book concerning the historical aspect if only the author had done better with the plot and characters. Sorry this didn’t work for you.

  2. Sorry to hear this one was such a let down for you Zoe =( I too hate when paranormal elements aren’t explained and are just there like it’s no big deal. I recently gave up on a book due to slow pacing. I read almost 50% of the book and nothing had happened which is just ridiculous. Authors need to grab their readers in the beginning and give us a reason to keep reading. Thanks for sharing your reasons for DNFing this one!

    1. It’s one of my pet-peeves as well! *sighs* Slow pacing is definitely a bother as well. And I absolutely agree! The beginnings of books are supposed to pull you in and make you want to read…they’re not supposed to bore you!

      No problem! Thank you for the lovely comment! <3

    1. Definitely still give it a try if you’re intrigued! I know a TON of other bloggers who absolutely loved it, so it’s probably just me. 😉

      No problem! Thank you for the lovely comment! <3

  3. Aww, sorry you didn’t enjoy this one Zoe, but at least you didn’t waste your time finishing a book you weren’t enjoying. It’s awesome that you gave the book a go, even though it’s outside of your comfort zone. I’m trying to read more books outside of my comfort zone as well. The characters really do sound a little bland, and the plot quite lackluster. It sounds like the author sacrificed them for research and atmosphere. 🙁 Thank you for the honest review, I hope your next read is much better! xx

    1. Thank you Joy!
      It’s too bad there couldn’t have been more of a balance between the two; as all of those elements you mentioned need to combine to make a good book. They can’t simply stand alone.
      Thank you for always leaving the sweetest comments! You rock! <3

  4. You probably wish you’d had the ability to mind read, you could have foreseen not enjoying this one.

    I’m one who needs either an explosive or intriguing start to a book. If it grabs my attention within the first chapter, I tend to read on regardless of how bad it is. Slow moving usually equals boring in my book. Oh, I’m full of ridiculous puns today 🙂

    Beautifully honest review 🙂

    1. Haha…LOL! I see what you did there Kelly! 😉

      I absolutely agree. If a book doesn’t catch me in the beginning, how am I supposed to expect it will entertain me at all? Beginnings of books are supposed to pull you in and make you want to read…they’re not supposed to bore you!

      Oh Kelly… LOL!

      Thank you! <3

  5. Aw it’s a pity that this one did not work well for you, Zoe 🙁 I have heard a lot of praise but I totally understand where you are coming from. Inconsistency sucks!

    Lovely review! <33

    1. Thanks Mel. It definitely had a lot of potential! There are a ton of bloggers who absolutely loved it, I agree, so it was probably one of those “it’s just me” cases.

      Thank you!

  6. Oh I’m so sorry to hear this. I have heard some great things about this one and I really love historical fiction so I hoped to read this one soon. I’m so sorry that neither the characters nor pacing were good enough. Great review, Zoe!

    1. There have definitely been some glowing reviews for this, and I know a lot of other bloggers absolutely loved it, so it’s probably one of those “it’s just me” cases. Thank you!

  7. Eh, this one sounds like a real disappointment! I’m like you in that I thought the premise sounded good! I haven’t read anything like that before. (And can I admit to intense cover love?!) But, nope. Not going near this now. I think it’s the pacing that quite scares me. I neeeed books to be semi-fast or else I get bored and my mind wanders to other books.

    1. It really was! 🙁

      To be honest, I’m not sure what you’d think of this Cait! The writing is something I can picture you enjoying, but I have a feeling you’d be thrown off by the pacing. In the end, I don’t think giving this one a miss will hurt!

  8. you’re right the period and the evironement is really interesting, I would have loved to learn more about it. But I confess I’m not sure about it after your review, so I think I’ll pass for this one.

    1. It is! I think this is one of the first books set in the Cold War that I’ve read – let alone in the YA genre! If it doesn’t sound up your alley, it’s probably better to just give it a miss like you are. I think you’re making the right decision.

    1. It is fascinating! I think this is the first Cold War – era novel I’ve read – let alone in the YA genre!

  9. History novels seem to be a hit or miss for me. I think it’s great that you noticed the inconsistencies concerning the paranormal aspects–I probably would have let that slide. Anyway, the lack of any happenings is what would have made me quit. Historical novels may tend to be boring, so I would need a bang to keep me going. Lovely review as always, Zoe!

    1. I agree. Typically, historical novels are usually a bit on the better side for me, but this one sadly wasn’t. Haha…thanks! 😉 Yes! Even without the paranormal inconsistencies, I probably would have quit anyway because if nothing happens in the beginning and I’m not hooked, why should I care abut the story? Like you said, historical fiction tends to be a genre that suffers from that frequently, and it looks like this one did as well. 🙁 Thank you Aimee!

  10. I feel like I made the right call after passing over this one when I first saw the cover revealed pretty much forever ago. Not only is it not my cuppa tea, but your review makes me not even wanna consider it.

    It is however a very good review. :] Haha, better luck with the next book, Zoe!

    1. I think you did as well Sierra! 😀 If it’s not your cup of tea, it’s probably not worth the read anyway.

      Thank you! <3 You're so sweet!

  11. Aww, its too bad you didn’t enjoy this enough, but I do understand the struggle, I’m not really a reader of ANY historical fiction, its not exactly my favorite genre to read. Hope you’d love your next read 😀

  12. I’ve never heard of this one before and I don’t think I’m wanting to know more about it judging from your review lol :p To give a book up at 68 pages is saying something.

    I completely adore Historical Fiction honestly. It’s one of my favorite genres and it just coincides with my love of history. I feel like I totally would have picked this one up from the summary alone, so thank you for warning me away. Immersing paranormal aspects in a historical fiction book can be quite tricky, if you’re looking for a case where it works then I’d definitely recommend The Diviners by Libba Bray.

    Though I do adore Historical Fiction, I don’t believe that alone would be enough for me. A lack of backstory, inconsistency with the powers, slow plots, underdevelopment of the characters and poor world building are definite no-nos for me.

    Wonderful review Zoe! You really went in depth into different aspects of the story and I found it to be very informative (:

    1. Yeah, it definitely is! *sighs*

      I love historical fiction as well! I am a huge history buff as well, so it’s always fascinating to me to see how authors take these real-life events and turn them into these wonderful stories. It definitely is quite a tricky task! I’ll definitely have to pick up The Diviners! Thank you for the recommendation Larissa! <3

      Yeah, if those aspects were smoothed up a tad, this could have been wonderful.

      Thank you! <3

  13. That’s really a shame. I was wondering about this one though, because I wasn’t completely sold on it. I’ve had enough of slow books lately, so for sure I will be staying away from this one. Plus my luck hasn’t been all that great with historical fiction lately either, and it used to be one of my favorite genres. It seems like the paranormal parts were kind of just thrown in randomly if they were inconsistent? Boo. Ah well, great review 🙂

    1. It truly is. 🙁 If you’re not in the mood for something slow, this probably isn’t for you! They were definitely random, and they never really seemed to have a particular pattern purpose to them, which was a shame.

      Thank you! <3

  14. I actually do love the sound of the mind reading aspects in this, and I’ve never read a book set in the Russian Cold War, so it could be interesting. Great review Zoe, a shame this wasn’t really up your alley!

    1. It is a fascinating idea, right? I don’t think I’ve heard of another YA historical fiction novel set in the Cold War, so that definitely puts this one apart from the rest! Thank you Jeann! I truly is a shame as there is definitely some obvious potential with this one.

  15. Sad to see that the world-building (or magic-building? Hmmm) wasn’t really explained well. That would befuddle me as well. These are the newer elements in a supposedly familiar world (our world, yes?) so there should have been equal effort given into this one as well. Was this told in a first person POV? Perhaps it would have worked with third-person… then again, what do I know? ^^;;

    But at least she has the historical and cultural parts done right. I really do want to read an authentic account of Russia and their society during that trying time. Great review, Zoe!

    1. Yes, it’s a shame as if was better developed it would have been wonderful! 🙁 I’m glad I’m not the only one who would have been confused by that! It was done in a first person POV; but now that you’ve brought that up, that is definitely a great point. 3rd person is definitely better for fantasy / paranormal.

      Yep…I guess that’s better than nothing!

  16. I thought this was really well-researched too, but it did bore me quite a bit overall. I didn’t hate it, though I can’t say I loved it as much as I was hoping to either. I had really high hopes for it too, especially after a blurb from Elizabeth Wein! I’m still not entirely sure why it didn’t fully work for me, but I think it might have been the characters. In retrospect, I do agree that they weren’t that well developed. Still, I’d be curious to see what the author writes next. Great review, Zoe!

    1. The research was absolutely superb – it’s obvious Smith knows what she’s talking about – but, like you said, there was no action. Wein’s blurb is what convinced me to pick it up in the first place, so I was disappointed about that as well. 🙁 She definitely has promise in the writing aspect, but unfortunately this wasn’t for me.

      Thanks Sam! <3

    1. There have certainly been quite a bit of mixed reviews. If you’re curious, I’d still say to give it a try because it does have quite a bit of potential! I know a LOT of other bloggers who enjoyed it, so it’s probably a “it’s me, not you” case.

      I’d say go for it! Let me know if you end up getting it.

  17. Man, I completely agree. THE PACING WAS HORRID. I was so bored throughout the entire book…

    Also with the unexplained side of things, I didn’t quite understand the whole using music to defend one’s thoughts. Wouldn’t the person trying to read your mind just hear your thoughts + music in the background? Unless the ONLY thing you’re thinking about is the music, in which case obviously that’s all you hear. But that clearly wasn’t the case in this book…ugh. Don’t even want to think about it.

    1. Phew! I was worried I would be the only person who thought that!

      And exactly! How does music block out your thoughts exactly. Definitely something that could have used a little more fixing up, no?

      Thanks for stopping by! 😀

  18. Ugh, how disappointing, and it sounded so promising! I was reading one last week that I got to 50% before giving up because there was no explanation on anything, and I mean, you can forgive and go along with only so much before it’s just annoying and destroys the story. Which, sounds like it did with this one. By 68 pages you should have at least something, mainly why they were fugitives to begin with, that should’ve been a starting point. :/ I don’t like info-dump, and I do like learning along the way but there has to be a balance. And yeah, paranormal explanation please, I was watching The Tomorrow People (and they all have the same paranormal powers) so can see how that could be annoying when one of them are supposed to have one, but then they have another and it’s not explained why or if they only can have one or not. It sounded so good as well, poor execution on that part, but at least the setting felt authentic. 🙂

    1. It definitely had quite a bit of potential! 🙁
      Haha…I would hope by 68 pages in the basic storyline is laid out! 😉
      I am totally with you…info-dumps are the bane of my existence as a reader. Gah…I get angry just thinking about them!
      Yes! We readers can’t be expected to know this information. As an author, it’s your job to explain how these paranormal elements work, and, if you don’t, than it just confuses everyone more. 😐
      Hurray for the setting, right? 😉

  19. I have seen this book, the title and cover looks intriguing but I never picked it up. Like you, I usually pick up historical fiction when it’s about the Holocaust. I am unsure if this is something that I will read, however, I am not saying never. I am quite interested about Russia. 🙂

    1. Russia is quite fascinating, isn’t it? 😀 I’d still say it’s worth a read, as I know a bunch of other reviewers absolutely loved it. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t for me. 🙁

  20. Like you, most of my Historical Fiction is about World War II & the Holocaust. I just can’t seem to be interested in anything else. This paranormal twist on the Cold War could have been an excellent story. Too bad the pacing, characterization and plot were bad! I had seen this book around, but now I don’t think I’ll read it. Great review, Zoe!

  21. I’m sorry this didn’t work out for you, Zoe. I hardly read Historicals anymore and although the premise of this one is definitely interesting, I can understand how the pacing can leave you bored, especially as it looks like nothing happened in 68 pages! The beginning of the book is very crucial and if it was uneventful then I can understand why you weren’t interested enough to move on. Wonderful review, Zoe!

    1. Thanks Amir!
      Exactly! The beginnings of stories are supposed to pull you in and hook you, not bore you! *sighs*

  22. Great review, as always. I have seen a lot of reviews that praised the book but I have to admit that it hasn’t really appealed to me. I hate when powers like that aren’t explained properly, it leaves me very frustrated. I feel like this is the kind of book that would bore me, especially if the pacing is atrocious. Thanks for the honest review, pretty happy I skipped this one.

    1. Thank you! It is very frustrating when the world-building is left so vague, right? 🙁 But the pacing was what bothered me the most. It was simply unbearable! I think you made the right choice! 😉

  23. Oh god. This sounds horrible. I was vaguely interested because I saw her on the Fierce Reads tour and I don’t think I’ve ever read something like it, but I don’t know now. I might read if in the future if I have nothing better to do but it’s definitely not a priority now.

    1. It does have a really unique premise, but unfortunately the execution kind of falters. Definitely don’t put it on the top of your TBR pile, but don’t exclude it either because I know a lot of people liked it. 🙂

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