Imagine That – George Yuhasz

Imagine That – George Yuhasz

Imagine That: The Magic of the Mysterious Lights by [George  Yuhasz]
Pages: 31
Published: 2019
Genre(s): Children’s Literature

“Imagination is a very special gift that you can use to create anything you want.”

George Yuhasz, Imagine That

This Children’s Book offers very important lessons that kids can carry with them for a lifetime.

Summary

On a night when the sky is full of stars, sometimes there appears light that cannot be explained, even by the smartest astronomers…

Evelyn is a little girl who lives with her parents and brother in a house with a big backyard. On nights when the sky is filled with brightly shining stars, she loves to go outside before bed to see the Milky Way and the Big Dipper and dream about the planets.

But Evelyn has a secret: She is able to see flashes of light streaking across the night sky that no one else can see. And she’ll soon learn that her secret is actually a wonderful gift!

andTBH

This book honestly… was a pleasant and cute story. I honestly haven’t read a Children’s Book in quite some time so I definitely had to switch mindsets when reading Imagine That. The lesson of imagination is truly an important concept to introduce to children, especially when they are brought up in a very curriculum-based learning environment that can be chalk-full of rules and rigid structure.

The vocabulary and sentence structures, I felt, was a little bit advanced and kids with higher reading levels may get more out of it than any child under the age of 7. The use of scientific vocabulary like “constellation” and “astronomer” will definitely foster curiosity in young children to learn more about the subject, and, given the theme of the book, would allow them to think outside of the box while doing so.

I would totally recommend this book for older primary school children, and I truly believe that reinforcing the power of imagination in kids that age can help them become creative and innovative thinkers in the future.

Thank you to George Yuhasz for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sweet Honesty- Lee James

Sweet Honesty- Lee James

Sweet Honesty: Part 1 by [Lee James]
Page Count: 363
Published: 2020
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Romance

“Tomorrow will take care of itself, Baby Girl.”

Lee James

Was I surprised? Yes, I was.

Summary

Her mother was murdered. Her father vowed revenge. She grew up in the shadow of his anger, afraid. Always afraid. Then her rescuer came along and pulled her out of the mud of the train yard and set her under the hot, dazzling lights of a stage. But would her savior be the reason for her ultimate downfall?

Cherry Winslow escapes an abusive father by marrying an indifferent husband, Gideon. Still, Cherry is determined to be the best wife she can in the leaky one-room shack they called home. Her claim to that shack is terminated when Gideon initiates a chain of events that culminates in Cherry being tossed out into the wet.

Cherry’s life whirls out of focus as she is forced to do what she’s never had to do before-make real decisions all by herself.  Her days are filled with excitement when she starts working in an underground speakeasy and she stumbles into clumsy love with the owner, Regan Derry.

Regan soon proves he is no savior and, for the first time, Cherry has the chance to save herself. But can she build her future before she is destroyed by her past?

andTBH

This book honestly… was a big surprise–a pleasantly big surprise. Going in, I wasn’t expecting very much, and perhaps this was partially due to the fact that I may have committed the “don’t judge a book by its cover” crime. (Come on y’all, you know you do it too.) However, once I began reading the novel, my heart fluttered with excitement. So as to better explain why, let me break down my reasoning into my usual three categories– characters, plot, and engagement.

It is once in a blue moon that I ever come across a book where I actually like the protagonist, and it looks like tonight is forecast to be a blue moon. Not only did I like Cherry, the main protagonist in Sweet Honesty, but she was one of my most favorite characters in the novel. Her emotions felt real and were relatable on every level. One thing I especially loved about this character, however, was her arc and development. Many times, while characters in a novel may live through life-altering events and change on a surface level, their being, I guess you could call it, remains stagnant. This was not the case with Cherry. From the very first page to the last, Cherry learned something new either about herself or the world, and she took that information and used it to grow as a person. It’s an amazing feeling being able to follow along on her journey and feel as if you are growing alongside her. Another very important point on characters that I want to note is that even the most irrelevant characters or the ones with the least appearances feel real. I especially appreciate the fact that even the side characters feel as three-dimensional as the main protagonist. It’s a minute detail but it makes all the difference.

The overall plot of Sweet Honesty wasn’t anything too complicated, but it was executed quite wonderfully. Just from reading the summary and taking note of the genres, you honestly can’t be prepared for all that happens in the novel. There’s a little dash of every kind of spice for everyone–from thriller to drama to romance and much more. When I noticed this in the novel, I became a little worried. Usually, trying to include everything in just three hundred pages doesn’t end well for anyone. And while I felt as if the novel could’ve done without some aspects of the plot, Lee James’ words were able to hold it all together. It felt like a rubber band that I was expecting to snap but only ended up stretched to its absolute furthest extents–still intact and wonderful as ever, but definitely provoking a dicey situation for a few seconds.

The engagement in this novel was stellar. Almost every word seemed to fit right with the next, and this definitely kept the momentum going. I did take note of the fact that there were some very large time jumps throughout the novel, and executing large time jumps successfully is a difficult task. Regardless, Lee James did a wonderful job with this as well.

I will admit that 363 pages is quite long, and while I have recommended books in the past to read in one sitting, this is not one. In my opinion, one can get more out of Sweet Honesty by reading chapters from it every day and letting the words soak for some time before reading the next bit. I was pleasantly surprised with this novel and strongly believe that it is deserving of the title ‘Best Seller’ in the very near future; I look forward to the day when that happens. Until then, I very much recommend the book Sweet Honesty by Lee James to anyone that may have an interest in romance and historical fiction, with a dash of drama and thrill. I definitely got ‘Raisin in the Sun’ vibes from this book, so if you liked that story, you’ll love this one.

Thank you to Lee James for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Characters: 10/10
Plot: 8.5/10
Engagement: 9/10

Total: 9.2/10

Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury

Page Count: 256
Published: 1953
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Political Fiction, Dystopian, Novel

That’s the good part of dying; when you’ve nothing to lose, you run any risk you want.

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

It’s eerie how accurate so much of this novel is to our modern world.

Summary

In the dystopian world of Fahrenheit 451, firemen are meant to burn books, one of the most illegal possessions one could have. Guy Montag is a fireman, and he thoroughly loves his job. He never questions the morality of his work and continues on in his repetitive and boring life, going to work everyday and returning home to his TV-addicted wife Mildred. However, Montag would never have been able to foresee the extent to which one encounter with an eccentric neighbor would change his entire life.

and TBH

This book honestly… was a journey. I can’t summarize it better with any other word. This novel, Fahrenheit 451, is all about a journey. Containing not one dull moment, it follows our protagonist Guy Montag on his journey of awareness and realization. The more and more he learns of the very thing he makes a living out of destroying, the more the thought of his job repulses him. Desperate for social change, he seeks out like-minded souls who help him in devising a plan to bring literature back to the world.

The social problems presented in this novel are, as I mentioned, eerily similar to our present condition. They’re so close, that I would readily entertain the idea of Ray Bradbury being a time traveler.
Constantly needing stimulation, something to keep us preoccupied, we tend to get lost in our own little worlds. As this novel does such a beautiful job of illustrating, superficial activities and remedies can only keep us satiated for so long. True happiness becomes lost in our desperate attempts at running away from the very conflicts that shape who we are as individuals. This whole concept can be exemplified by one character, and in this case, it is Mildred, Montag’s wife. For that matter, any societal issue displayed in this novel can be exemplified by a given character, and that is what I find so amazing about Fahrenheit 451.

Although about the importance of literature and centering around societal issues, there is never a dull moment in this novel. I loved being able to be in Montag’s head and know not only his thoughts, but feel his emotions as well. The grief and desperation felt by this character sent chills down my spine at times, especially paired with the extreme and high-stress situations he was put in constantly. Getting used to imagining the Parlor Walls, Seashells, and such might have been the only thing that bothered me slightly at the start. However, by the time I was able to imagine everything, the story had jumped to life and I was swept up in the excitement of it all.

Containing an important message, I feel that this novel is definitely an important read. It’s also good to note that despite having an important message, this book never slowed down and was always engaging. I am extremely glad that I read this beautifully written book, and it’s definitely going on my “favorite books” bookshelf.

Characters: 10/10
Plot: 10/10
Engagement: 9.5/10

Total: 9.8/10

Dig Two Graves – Andrew Davie

Dig Two Graves – Andrew Davie

Dig Two Graves by [Andrew Davie, Craig Douglas]
Page Count: 95
Published: 2020
Genre(s): Action, Revenge, Novella, Crime

“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

Confucius

If this novella was a candle, it’d probably be one of burning wood, smoke, and musk.

Summary

Dig Two Graves alternates between two time periods:

(1973) In Laos, a Secret War has been raging between the United States aided Royal Lao Government and the communist Pathet Lao faction. Lan has fled his village due to the war and leads a band of guerrilla fighters against a ruthless Colonel and a drug trading Air America pilot.

(1988) In Charleston, South Carolina follow the exploits of Luke, a bail bondsman, where, eventually, his timeline intersects with that of the Colonel.

andTBH

This book honestly… was a quick, action-packed revenge story, to put in short and simple terms.

The most fun part of this novella, I’d say, was the parallel timelines that eventually converge. Both timelines are set up so that the reader honestly can’t tell how in the world they could possibly overlap, but at the end of the book, it obviously all comes together. And I believe that a major contributor to this successful convergence was the well-executed description of setting. Whether it was Earl drinking with his friends in Laos or Luke doing his job about 15 years later in America, I could always tell which one was which and was definitely impressed by that.

Following the protagonist Luke was a blast. Every fight he got himself into was exciting and wonderfully written, which is good as there was an abundance of action packed scenes throughout the novella. Although Luke was quite a stereotypical action hero during most of the story, the small twists provided at the end of the book did make his character much more intriguing.

Speaking of intriguing characters, the Colonel’s character is definitely one to mention. Cruel and immoral, he was the perfect antagonist with a strong motive to justify his seething anger. However, given that he and his men were not on a peaceful vacation to Laos, death should have been expected, and to me, his motive for revenge just didn’t feel strong enough to fuel him for as long as it did. Still, the novella remained engaging and I, as mentioned earlier, thoroughly enjoyed the fight scenes.

Overall, Dig Two Graves was a short and sweet action-packed novella with fun characters, whether main or side; as mentioned earlier, the fight scenes and characters are engaging and written wonderfully.

Thank you to Close to the Bone Publishing for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Characters: 8/10
Plot: 4/10
Engagement: 7.5/10

TOTAL: 6.5/10

Of Mice and Men- John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men- John Steinbeck

Pages: 107
Genre(s): Novella, Fiction, Tragedy
Published: 1937

“I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why.”

John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

A true classic.

Summary

During the Great Depression, migrant ranch workers George and Lennie are traveling to their next job after having to skip town due to an unfortunate incident. George has to constantly take care of Lennie (who is quite a big responsibility.) Everyone’s fate, however, eventually boils down to whether or not Lennie can do as he should when George isn’t there or if he will lose himself and do something that he’d very quickly come to regret.

and TBH

This book honestly… is quite the masterpiece. Truth be told, after hearing that Of Mice and Men was about two migrant workers and was set during the Great Depression, I thought, “Huh…Well, how thrilling can this actually be?” I was so glad that I was proved so devastatingly incorrect.

Novellas are a fascinating type of literature. Entire stories are packed into just a few pages, yet they’re usually brimming with new ideas, statements, and emotions. If Of Mice and Men was stretched out and made into a longer book, I don’t think that it would’ve hurt the story, however; the book would’ve lost its charm. A full length novel would require a few filler pages or chapters and probably would’ve diluted the book’s effectiveness.

Now, I did sit down and read the whole thing in one go and certainly don’t not recommend doing that. If I’m being honest, reading it all in one go makes it even more thrilling. Yes, Of Mice and Men was a superb story overall, but I know what you’re thinking–what about each element? Well, the plot was simple and easy to wrap your head around. Two guys are going to work on a ranch with the end goal of eventually running their own ranch. The characters…well, they were definitely written wonderfully. Lennie and George’s relationship was a rare friendship and seemed, even to the other characters, too good to be real. The fact that their relationship wasn’t all “rainbows and unicorns”, however, made it feel authentic and proved its realness. The direction the story heads is surprising and thrilling. Every single word on every page is engaging and no dialogue occurs without reason or purpose.

Of Mice and Men is a classic and it was written in 1937 but I don’t want you to yawn and disregard it. I am not kidding when I say that after finishing the book, I sat there just staring at the last page for a solid 5 minutes. It took a while to recover too.

Of Mice and Men is a quick read but the story is sure to stay with you for a very long time.


Characters: 10/10
Plot: 9.5/10
Engagement: 9.5/10

TOTAL: 9.6/10

Ender’s Game- Orson Scott Card

Ender’s Game- Orson Scott Card

Page Count: 382
Published: 1985
Genre(s): Science Fiction

“If you try and lose then it isn’t your fault. But if you don’t try and we lose, then it’s all your fault.”

Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game– the great war between aliens and humans.

Summary

Andrew (Ender) Wiggin is the youngest out of three children. He is also the only one chosen to be sent off to military training, given the fact that his brother was too violent and hot-headed and his sister…well, she was the exact opposite. Ender’s training is rigorous and dangerous, especially for someone his age (6-years old). Very quickly, though, Ender’s prodigal brilliance begins to show, and what he believes to be computer-simulated video games turn out to be something much bigger than he could ever have imagined.

andTBH

This book honestly… has to be one of the best, if not the best science-fiction novels I’ve ever read. Personally, I don’t think that Ender’s Game shows its age at all, so don’t let the publishing date mislead you. Ender’s Game was an exciting journey where I felt like I was able to bond with Ender’s character throughout the story. Ender’s character development was amazingly written, and I felt as though the book/author wasn’t afraid to address certain societal issues in a blunt and clear way.

One of the key aspects of a sci-fi novel is the existence of a unique and different reality that the characters live in, as opposed to the Earth that we experience. I’m always a little apprehensive to read stories about aliens because, honestly speaking, I just don’t know how a book can make the concept of aliens (green, triangle headed, beady eyed, sentient beings) very believable. Ender’s Game, however, eliminated this apprehension completely. Everything about this book was believable which made it all the more amazing.

When I finished Ender’s Game, I was left wanting more–in a good way. Even though it had not ended on a cliffhanger, I still wanted the book to go on–it was that good. I don’t often re-read books, but Ender’s Game was definitely an exception. I remember telling nearly everyone that I know to read this book.

I realize that this is an extremely positive book review, but I genuinely don’t have any complaints for this book. If you have not read it yet, Ender’s Game is an unforgettable must read, and I suggest you get it asap. You won’t regret it.


Characters: 10/10
Plot: 10/10
Engagement: 10/10

TOTAL: 10/10

Unwind- Neal Shusterman

Unwind- Neal Shusterman

Page Count: 355
Published: 2007
Genre(s): Biopunk, Sci-fi, Dystopian

“In a perfect world everything would be either black or white, right or wrong, and everyone would know the difference. But this isn’t a perfect world. The problem is people who think it is.”

Neal Shusterman, Unwind

Graying the line between right and wrong and raising questions that ask what makes something socially acceptable or not–Unwind is one crazy ride.

Summary

It’s America. The Second Civil War over reproductive rights has been fought, and three teens (Connor, Risa, and Lev) are on the run, attempting to escape from being unwound.
After the Civil War, the Pro-Choice and Pro-Life armies came to an agreement called The Bill of Life. This Bill states that all life, from the moment of conception to the age of 13 years old, cannot be touched. However, between the ages of 13 and 18, parents/guardians may choose to ‘get rid’ of ‘troublesome’ teens without technically killing them, since all of their organs will be transplanted into other living people.
The story follows rebellious Connor, orphan Risa, and born-to-be-unwound Lev as they attempt to escape their untimely ends.

and TBH

This book honestly… has to be one of my favorite reads. If you’ve read Scythe, Thunderhead, and/or The Toll (also by Neal Shusterman), Unwind is a very good series to get into. I personally read it after reading Scythe. However, regardless of whether or not you’ve read any of those books, I still recommend reading this one.

The main thing that I enjoyed about this book was the dynamic moods throughout the story. No matter what was going on, I found myself being able to empathize with the characters. The mood of every scene in the book is conveyed extremely well and helps the journey feel like a rollercoaster ride.

The story was thrilling and the chemistry between certain characters was perfect. In a world like the one in this book, there was no way any teen would have been able to make it through the journey, psychologically at least, alone.

As with most dystopian genres, the overarching theme certainly provided food for thought, and the ‘biopunk’ aspects of it were very intriguing– morally ambiguous, but intriguing. Due to its fast pace, Unwind is a quick read, but I wouldn’t say it’s a light read, per se. If you’re looking for an exciting and captivating story to read, I would recommend this. And if you aren’t satisfied by the end and need more, there are four more books in the series to keep you busy.


Characters: 9/10
Plot: 10/10
Engagement: 9.5/10

TOTAL: 9.5/10

Caraval- Stephanie Garber

Caraval- Stephanie Garber

Page Count: 416
Published: 2016
Genre(s): Fantasy, Fantasy Fiction

“Welcome, welcome to Caraval! The grandest show on land or by sea. Inside you’ll experience more wonders than most people see in a lifetime. You can sip magic from a cup and buy dreams in a bottle. But before you fully enter into our world, you must remember it’s all a game.”

Stephanie Garber, Caraval

As the quote suggests, Caraval is one of the most magical experiences you’ll encounter–if you’re lucky enough to get tickets to the show.

Summary

The Fantasy Fiction novel Caraval follows sisters Scarlett and Donatella who have lived on a tiny island with their ruthless father for their entire lives through an incredibly dangerous and thrilling adventure. Scarlet’s dream is to go and see Caraval, a far-away, once-a-year interactive performance, but that dream is shattered when her father arranges a marriage for her. Miraculously, Scarlett receives an invitation to the show, and is taken there with the help of her sister Tella and a mysterious sailor. However, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s genius organizer, Legend, and the game turns out to revolve around finding her. Although Scarlett is constantly reminded that everything that happens from here on out is just an elaborate performance, she’s nevertheless carried away by the magic of the game along with the other players. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before she disappears forever.

and TBH

This book honestly… was quite captivating. I’ve found that with the Fantasy genre, making ‘magic’ believable tends to be a difficult task and so far, not many books I’ve read have been able to beat the magic of the Wizarding World. But I do believe that Caraval is a strong contender.

The biggest feature of Caraval that made me fall in love with it was the careful smudging of the line between real and make-believe. The fact that even the characters were often struggling to distinguish between the two made me feel even more like I was right there, trying to make it through Caraval at Scarlett and Julian’s side.

The whole book was like taking part in a dangerous and exhilarating game, and that was one thing that definitely kept me needing to turn the page. And, of course, it only got more and more exciting as I got closer and closer to reaching the end.

The relationships established and built throughout the novel were very exciting to see develop as well. I especially enjoyed the theme of sisterhood in addition to the romance, since I’ve noticed that a variety of relationship dynamics can add dimension to characters. In the case of Caraval, this was carried out quite successfully. Although Scarlett’s ambivalence was just a bit frustrating to read at times, I don’t think that her character or her relationships would’ve been as well-developed or meaningful without it.

When I picked up this book to read, randomly, from the room’s unused and quite obviously just-for-show bookshelf, I was honestly just looking for a way to fill 20 minutes. But (and I am not exaggerating when I say this) I read one page and could not put it down. Caraval is a thrilling novel and you are definitely missing out if you have not read it yet. But if I’ve managed to convince you to read it now, make sure you don’t have anything important to do in the next 48 hours and get ready to spend an all-nighter reading Caraval from cover to cover.


Characters: 9.5/10
Plot: 10/10
Engagement: 10/10

TOTAL: 9.8/10

And Then There Were None- Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None- Agatha Christie

Page Count: 272
Published: 1939
*Alternative Title: Ten Little Indians*

“In the midst of life, we are in death.”

Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None…it’s a classic!

Summary

And Then There Were None is a story of 10 strangers, each with their own problematic pasts, that are lured to an island. Here, one by one, they’re mysteriously killed off.

and TBH

This book honestly… is the definition of a murder mystery novel. In just a few words, And Then There Were None (ATTWN) has a gripping story line with a solid structure and wonderful characterization.

Now, when I say ATTWN is the ‘definition of a murder mystery novel,’ what I mean to say is that the plot is very well written and planned out. In mystery novels, especially murder mystery, I think the biggest mistakes/flaws you could find would be having a weak structure where it’s easy to poke holes in the story and including too many red herrings (something, especially a clue, that is or is intended to be misleading or distracting). Having too many red herrings, in my experience, eventually leads to unsuccessful plot twists (which are often very painful to read.) However, ATTWN, I’m glad to report, has a very strong structure and does a phenomenal job of allowing the reader to assume the role of detective which, let’s be honest, is the only reason we read mystery novels. Although it’s a little slow to start out, the novel definitely picks up speed once the exposition is finished and you’ll be attempting to connect-the-dots in no time.

Let me talk briefly about characterization. (I say ‘briefly’ because there really isn’t a whole lot I can say without spoiling something integral to the book.) The way this book is written, it’s extremely easy to develop a mental profile of each of the characters. In murder mysteries, character traits and backstories are often what we look at in order to solve the mystery, and ATTWN has strong, easily distinguishable characters, relationships, and side-plots. The novel makes it easy for us to sympathize with the characters, and leaves us weighing the morality of their actions/fate.

On the whole, And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie is probably one of the best examples of what a murder mystery novel should be (that I have read), and I would definitely recommend this book for you to read. It’s the type of book that I would even recommend you read with a friend. Decide to read a certain number of chapters every week and then convene to discuss the story–trust me, it’s really very fun. If that’s not something you’d want to do, And Then There Were None is a good book to read on vacation, on the plane, on a long drive, or really anywhere–even at home with a nice cup of tea as accompaniment.


Characters: 10/10
Plot: 10/10
Engagement: 10/10

TOTAL: 10/10

Twilight- Stephenie Meyer

Twilight- Stephenie Meyer

Page Count: 498
Published: 2005

“So, did you stab Edward Cullen with a pencil or what? I’ve never seen him act like that.”

Stephenie Meyer, Twilight

Yes, you read that right. Today’s topic of discussion will be the world-famous romance novel, Twilight.

Summary

17-year old Bella Swan moves from sunny Arizona to go live with her dad in the very rainy state of Washington. Although Bella believes that her life will remain unchanged, perhaps even get more boring, her encounter with the teen vampire Edward Cullen proves otherwise and sends her life hurtling in an entirely different direction.

and TBH

This book honestly… is, despite its not so great rep, quite entertaining. I actually read Twilight a couple years ago, and I remember that I had enjoyed it very much at the time. (So, if you are a younger teen or have watched the movie (which I will definitely address at some point in this review) I would recommend this book to you.) Still, any age can really read it–you should just be aware that the language is not very challenging, so it’s not a very heavy read.

Twilight’s new take on vampires was definitely one of its more unique and exciting features. I did appreciate the fact that the science of vampires was well thought out/established and most everything any of the characters did or endured made sense. I do think that the book could have benefited from a more imperfect Edward Cullen, however. Despite his supernatural perfection, perhaps a few flaws in his personality could’ve given him more depth. The same goes for his relationship with Bella. If Bella and Edward’s relationship had a few conflicts besides the obvious ones, perhaps it could’ve been a deeper and more complex relationship.

Overall, Twilight was a uniquely action-packed romance novel. And I strongly urge those that have either seen the movie or are going to see the movie to read it. As is the case with most film-adaptations, the movie does not do justice to the book and the story should not be only judged by the film.

Seeing as how Twilight has now come out on Netflix, I’m sure many of you that haven’t seen it are going to want to watch it. My biggest advice, though, is to read the book first. Trust me, you won’t regret it. However, if you are not a huge fan of clichéd romance novels, Twilight may not be the best fit for you.


Characters: 8.5/10
Plot: 9/10
Engagement: 9.5/10

TOTAL: 9/10