Book Review: Encounter at Cloud Ranch

Our external reviewer has launched his own website!! You can find him over at This & That Books but luckily he is still doing some reviews for us on the side. This one was called The Legend of the Clouds: Encounter at Cloud Ranch by Robert James Connors.

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Synopsis: When Jason Cloud finds a bizarrely-fanged skull and butchered cattle on his father’s Arizona ranch, it leads him into an encounter with a dangerous alien species. Spread at the foot of the spectacular cliffs of northern Arizona, the C9 Ranch is home to Jason, his widower father Tom, and two trusted hands, but Jason turns first to his university professor for help.

An enjoyable book for a couple of reasons. First, within a page or two there’s a mystery that needs unraveling. It draws you in. If you have not read the book preview then you won’t be sure where the story is leading, which is part of the appeal.

Secondly, the book takes place in northern Arizona (I had pegged it as south-west Utah based on the rock and plant descriptions so I was close). If you’ve ever been to those areas or watched westerns, you’ll find the scenic descriptions familiar. Connors’ descriptions make the place come to life. I had one of those slight shock moments when I looked up from the book and saw northern trees devoid of leaves instead of slick rock vistas that were in the book. It’s nice when a book is written well enough to pull you into its world so that you experience a slight dislocation when you look around. Incidentally, there’s a horse named Curly—which made me think of Curly from City Slickers (Billy Crystal, Jack Palance). The scenery descriptions in the book match the scenery of that movie.

The book is plot-driven rather than character driven. In that way it’s a bit like the short Louis L’Amour books where the lack of character development is compensated for by the plot, the characters as they are, and the dialogue. Connors does a good job of driving the plot and making likable characters, even the side characters.

There are a couple of love story interests that are predictable and seem a bit forced. For example, a healthy 30-something year old was found dead near his barn. It was never clear what killed him, they didn’t even know why he died (they’re not saying it was aliens, but … ). His death, though, did then allow his widow to become a love interest for another character. After the funeral, no-one ever wondered how he died even though near the end of the book answers might have been available.

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The second love interest had a forced quality to it as well. A professor had been to the ranch to investigate the bizarre cattle killings, and while on-site with her student their truck was sliced by something that could cut metal easily. Whatever it was had tracked them, showed it was intelligent and had essentially left a “go away” message. But the following winter she returned to the ranch with her kids because the creature hadn’t made itself known all summer. The strange intelligent beast could cut a cow clean in half and walk off with the meat; it could carve metal like it was toffee; it was smart and hostile. You would not be bringing your kids to a place where something so unnatural was living even if it hadn’t been seen for five years. However, both the love plot and the main plot required she and her kids be there.

Then there was an event that really has nothing to do with the plot even though there was an “I’ll be back to deal with you” type situation. That never happened, and the event was never mentioned again. Cut that section out of the book and it wouldn’t make the slightest difference to the story.

Those are more nit-picking things though. The book was a good read. It seems Connors was inspired by some of the petroglyph rock art that show tall alien-like creatures, such as petroglyphs found in Sego Canyon. I wish he’d developed that aspect of the story a bit further as the petroglyphs and rock art are rich in history and culture.

Overall, another good read that you can easily finish in an evening.

Book Rating: 4/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in an ebook format by the author to read and give an honest review.



Thank you to our Patreon Supporters:

Get your name/blog added to our blog posts and Youtube videos by supporting us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/breakevenbooks

Are any of you interested in Harry Potter? I did a tiered ranking of all the characters and would love to hear your thoughts on it! Check out the video below:

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Book Review: The Wicked King

It’s time! I have finally completed the 2nd book in the Cruel Prince trilogy and I was nervous to review it because I wasn’t sure if it would live up to the hype. But I am happy to say that it did and I really enjoyed The Wicked King by Holly Black.

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Synopsis: After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

This series started off so strong and just kept up the pace in this thrilling next installment in the series. I was so excited to get back into this world and explore more of it. I had been missing all of these characters and their mischievous intentions for one another.

Jude is always thinking like 4 steps ahead and planning out everything so that it always goes right and I loved being behind the scenes and seeing how she did this. And to be fair, she really has to stay on her toes in the world of fae because everyone is looking to deceive you for their own personal gain.

There was a certain reveal in this one that broke my heart and I was sad by it but in no way did it hinder my experience of the book. If anything, it added to it. The bonds that were built between characters were definitely tested in ways they couldn’t even prepare for and it was glorious!

We got to see more about a lot of the side characters in this plot which was awesome since they were introduced in the first book but not built upon as much.

I am very excited to see how Holly Black concludes this series. It has been a non-stop thrill ride for me and there had been so much build up for a potentially big finale. I really hope that it keeps me impressed by the end.

Book Rating: 5/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I read this book because I wanted to and in no way was compensated for this review.



Thank you to our Patreon Supporters:

Get your name/blog added to our blog posts and Youtube videos by supporting us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/breakevenbooks

I did the Ride or Die Book Tag and talked about some great books in this one! Check out the video below:

Book Review: The Blood Within The Stone

Chris has been reading more and he even made his own book blog (This & That Reviews)! But today, he did a review for The Blood Within the Stone by T.R. Thompson so check out his review below!

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Synopsis: A shadow is spreading across the land. Fear will be your downfall.

When the Prefects of Redmondis discover that their quick minds and quicker fingers hide secret potential, young thieves Wilt and Higgs find themselves unwilling recruits. Wilt’s ability to sink into others’ thoughts, knowing what action they will take before they do, is both a prized and dangerous gift.

The Nine Sisters of Redmondis have sensed a growing threat, and search for the one who can control the power of the blood within the stone. But even their sinister plots are nothing compared to the force that controls them.

As Wilt and Higgs rally their newfound weapons, they discover that the threat to their lives, and their reality, is much greater than they realise.

This was an entertaining non-stop read. From a technical writing perspective, the words and sentences flowed to mirror the storyline. Action scenes had short quick sentences; scenes that built suspense had the longer formative sentences. It was done well enough to bring the reader along with it.

The story itself had a few unexpected turns, which I wasn’t sure would happen because the start will be familiar to readers of fantasy literature. It was the story of a street thief who having latent magical abilities or talents rose up from their humble beginnings to positions of great influence and/or power (a la Robin Hobb, Patrick Rothfuss, Trudi Canavan, Raymond Feist).

But the storyline doesn’t always go where you think. I enjoyed the unexpected turns the book took. The ending itself was different from most works and rather clever. It left me wanting to read the second book in the series. Based on the epilogue I think the second volume will be even better than the first—and the first book is good especially since this is Thompson’s first book. I thought he’d had more publishing experience. Well done.

There were a few minor things that had me pause. Some times things happen that aren’t quite explained properly. I’m not sure what an initiate did to deserve death except perhaps relax.

And in one instance an event happened that didn’t seem to have much bearing on anything. In this case, the heroes had to get past some patrolling dog-former-human creatures. One character suggests we can easily get rid of these vermin. A kinder hearted character says there is a simpler way. He draws a symbol in the air, it attracts one dog, they then kill it and proceed on their way. How that helps them get past the rest of the dog-creatures isn’t explained. The only thing it accomplished was the heroes vowed to make the villain pay for his evil work, which is what they were on their way to do when they had to hide from the dog-creature patrols. I didn’t see any point in that part.

Incidentally, the hero is an expert in the use of a sling. It featured in the beginning to help him get noticed for his rise up the ranks, but after that, the skill wasn’t needed. It would be too much of a trope to have him rescue himself and his companions near the end with surprise sling skills. Too predictable as you see that trope in movies; e.g., if the first ten minutes of a film shows a character throwing knives at fencepost targets you know in the last ten minutes of the film there will be a surprised bad guy looking at a surprise knife in his chest. Still, it appears the character doesn’t even practice anymore, which in real life at least is unusual as you want to maintain your skill level after working so hard to attain it.

That last part isn’t a criticism though, just an observation. The book was a good read, it had unexpected twists in the plot, and leaves you wanting more. It was an enjoyable way to pass a Monday evening.

Book Rating: 4/5 

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in an ebook format by the author to read and give an honest review.


Check out Sean Carlson’s brand new novel called Road To Emmaus: The New Deal which is available now on Amazon! Here is a synopsis of the book: In the midst of the Great Depression, newly elected US President, Franklin D. Roosevelt offers a new deal for the American people. An advisory team, coined the ‘brains trust’ build the foundation of his government’s policies which will impact American families for generations to come. But can human intervention and a new alignment of ‘truths’ resurrect a shared hope powerful enough to save a nation from itself?The dusty road of human history cuts through the heart of every soul. Our search for truth is not easy travel as the deadly allures of myth and deceit call us by name, presiding behind altars of ruin. The illusion is set. And lost in the forgotten timelines of a world under seige, an ancient promise remains.All of recorded history is an understanding of the pieces of ourselves that have come before and the road that remains. This journey is both and ’embarking on’ and a ‘leaving of.’The history of yourself precedes you – going back to the beginning. No piece of history in the cosmos or on earth is exclusive of you. From an exiled apostle imprisoned in the heart of the Roman Empire to Cambodia’s killing fields and South America’s secret horrors. You wear the scars. From a litany of underground movements and failed revolutions, to the fabled utopian kingdom of Camelot, the claim for truth has worn many faces.The long cold war between the icy dominion of Kalashnikov and a succession of presiders struggling to raise the chalice to the parched lips of the world continues. The battle remains yours to fight.You were a part of the old deal and are an even bigger part of the new deal. The dead hand of the past is no longer the end of us. Our history is not confined to the past nor is it bound to the laws of earthly dimension. It is as timeless and free as you. The road awaits…

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You can buy the book here: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/0995270295/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_awdo_t1_ixPHEb9GMG63M



Thank you to our Patreon Supporters:

Get your name/blog added to our blog posts and Youtube videos by supporting us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/breakevenbooks

I’m a little late getting to my April Wrap Up but here it is! The Magical Readathon was a lot of fun and these are all the books I read for it. Let me know if you have read any of them and what you thought! Check out the video below:

Book Review: Sister of Saidnaya

I read this book back in March but hey, I am being a classic book blogger and getting to the actual book review over a month late. This is the life of a book nerd. Finishing one book and then being immediately distracted by a new one. Anyways, this one was called Sister of Saidnaya by Rose Ann Kalister.

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Synopsis: In 1922, a young Nadra traveled by boat from the small Christian village of Saidnaya, Syria, to the ports of Boston, and on to Hedley, West Virginia. With little education, Nadra navigates an industrialized nation as a young, immigrant woman. She must delicately balance the expectations of her heritage with the temptation of independence in the new world.

I wanted to like this book a lot but it just didn’t do it for me. I was going into it hopeful because I tend to not like historical fiction as much and I was hoping that this story about a Syrian refugee family coming to America could change my mind. But in the end, I just ended up bored for most of this book.

The main character was moody and stubborn at times which was the only part of the book that entertained me. Other than that, I was just trying to get through it but having a hard time. I had to push myself through to finish it.

I like reading books with diverse points of view because it helps me understand other cultures and I do think that this book had a lot of structural, informative information on the Syrian culture which was refreshing. The storyline is what lost me because I felt like it was going at the pace of a snail. I need a faster-paced book to keep me engaged.

Overall, I would recommend this to someone that wants a more relaxing read that will teach them about the Syrian culture and show the adversity and struggle of being a refugee in another country.

Book Rating: 2/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author in a physical paperback format to read and give an honest review.


Check out Sean Carlson’s brand new novel called Road To Emmaus: The New Deal which is available now on Amazon! Here is a synopsis of the book: In the midst of the Great Depression, newly elected US President, Franklin D. Roosevelt offers a new deal for the American people. An advisory team, coined the ‘brains trust’ build the foundation of his government’s policies which will impact American families for generations to come. But can human intervention and a new alignment of ‘truths’ resurrect a shared hope powerful enough to save a nation from itself?The dusty road of human history cuts through the heart of every soul. Our search for truth is not easy travel as the deadly allures of myth and deceit call us by name, presiding behind altars of ruin. The illusion is set. And lost in the forgotten timelines of a world under seige, an ancient promise remains.All of recorded history is an understanding of the pieces of ourselves that have come before and the road that remains. This journey is both and ’embarking on’ and a ‘leaving of.’The history of yourself precedes you – going back to the beginning. No piece of history in the cosmos or on earth is exclusive of you. From an exiled apostle imprisoned in the heart of the Roman Empire to Cambodia’s killing fields and South America’s secret horrors. You wear the scars. From a litany of underground movements and failed revolutions, to the fabled utopian kingdom of Camelot, the claim for truth has worn many faces.The long cold war between the icy dominion of Kalashnikov and a succession of presiders struggling to raise the chalice to the parched lips of the world continues. The battle remains yours to fight.You were a part of the old deal and are an even bigger part of the new deal. The dead hand of the past is no longer the end of us. Our history is not confined to the past nor is it bound to the laws of earthly dimension. It is as timeless and free as you. The road awaits…

roadtoemmaus-SC-3D

You can buy the book here: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/0995270295/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_awdo_t1_ixPHEb9GMG63M



Thank you to our Patreon Supporters:

Get your name/blog added to our blog posts and Youtube videos by supporting us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/breakevenbooks

I’m a little late getting to my April Wrap Up but here it is! The Magical Readathon was a lot of fun and these are all the books I read for it. Let me know if you have read any of them and what you thought! Check out the video below:

Book Review: The Only Child

I have been craving a thriller lately so I ended up picking up The Only Child by Mi-ae Seo and it ended up being a pretty good read.

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Synopsis: Criminal psychologist Seonkyeong receives an unexpected call one day. Yi Byeongdo, a serial killer whose gruesome murders shook the world, wants to be interviewed. Yi Byeongdo, who has refused to speak to anyone until now, asks specifically for her. Seonkyeong agrees out of curiosity.

That same day Hayeong, her husband’s eleven-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, shows up at their door after her grandparents, with whom she lived after her mother passed away, die in a sudden fire. Seonkyeong wants her to feel at home, but is gradually unnerved as the young girl says very little and acts strangely.

At work and at home, Seonkyeong starts to unravel the pasts of the two new arrivals in her life and begins to see startling similarities. Hayeong looks at her the same way Yi Byeongdo does when he recounts the abuse he experienced as a child; Hayeong’s serene expression masks a temper that she can’t control. Plus, the story she tells about her grandparents’ death, and her mother’s before that, deeply troubles Seonkyeong. So much so that Yi Byeongdo picks up on it and starts giving her advice.

This book was what I was looking for in a thriller. It was super creepy (anything to do with creepy kids always gets to me) and I was here for it. I really enjoyed how it was told from multiple perspectives because it gave you insight into both sides of the story and helped with the deductions being made as to what you think the ending will entail.

I will say that I found it to be a little bit predictable but that did not take away from the thrilling factor of it. Even still thinking about it now, I bumped it up to a 4 star rating instead of 3 because it creeps me out knowing how it played out.

There were so many aspects of this book that I found I was cringing at (in a good way) because of how obviously creepy they were and I really liked that. I honestly can’t say much more about the book without giving away anything.

I would recommend this book to anyone that wants to feel thrilled and to be trying to piece together the plot as you go.

Book Rating: 4/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me in physical ARC format by Harper Collins to read and give an honest review.


Check out Sean Carlson’s brand new novel called Road To Emmaus: The New Deal which is available now on Amazon! Here is a synopsis of the book: In the midst of the Great Depression, newly elected US President, Franklin D. Roosevelt offers a new deal for the American people. An advisory team, coined the ‘brains trust’ build the foundation of his government’s policies which will impact American families for generations to come. But can human intervention and a new alignment of ‘truths’ resurrect a shared hope powerful enough to save a nation from itself?The dusty road of human history cuts through the heart of every soul. Our search for truth is not easy travel as the deadly allures of myth and deceit call us by name, presiding behind altars of ruin. The illusion is set. And lost in the forgotten timelines of a world under seige, an ancient promise remains.All of recorded history is an understanding of the pieces of ourselves that have come before and the road that remains. This journey is both and ’embarking on’ and a ‘leaving of.’The history of yourself precedes you – going back to the beginning. No piece of history in the cosmos or on earth is exclusive of you. From an exiled apostle imprisoned in the heart of the Roman Empire to Cambodia’s killing fields and South America’s secret horrors. You wear the scars. From a litany of underground movements and failed revolutions, to the fabled utopian kingdom of Camelot, the claim for truth has worn many faces.The long cold war between the icy dominion of Kalashnikov and a succession of presiders struggling to raise the chalice to the parched lips of the world continues. The battle remains yours to fight.You were a part of the old deal and are an even bigger part of the new deal. The dead hand of the past is no longer the end of us. Our history is not confined to the past nor is it bound to the laws of earthly dimension. It is as timeless and free as you. The road awaits…

roadtoemmaus-SC-3D

You can buy the book here: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/0995270295/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_awdo_t1_ixPHEb9GMG63M



Thank you to our Patreon Supporters:

Get your name/blog added to our blog posts and Youtube videos by supporting us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/breakevenbooks

I am all settled into the new house and am getting back into the swing of things. Here is my TBR for the Bookemon Readathon! Check out the video below:

Book Review: Confessions Of An Old Man

This book seemed like a very interesting read and Chris gave us his perspective on it. This one was called Confessions of an Old Man: How Millennials are Being Robbed by Munir Moon.

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Confessions of an Old Man is about how the next generation is being robbed of their future and what can they do about it. The goal of the book is to get Millennials angry enough to actively engage with the American political system and take control of their destiny instead of their future being decided by rich old white men. It is a statement of collective guilt that places the responsibility on my generation, the baby boomers, for dealing a bad card to their children and grandchildren. My generation controls the Congress, the Supreme Court, and the presidency, so we cannot shirk from the responsibility.

Millennials and the iGeneration combined are called the MI generation in this book. They are defined as those who were born between 1980 and 2018, and they represent about 150 million Americans or 32% of eligible voters.

I enjoyed this book, and found many of his arguments familiar (his reference section shows we have read the same material).

Munir Moon is a boomer who doesn’t use lazy stereotypes about the MI generation. He doesn’t blame them for not buying houses because they’ve spent too much money on things like “avocado toast” (That was an actual argument).

Moon knows his generation drove up the cost of education so that it has outstripped inflation and wages. He knows young professionals today are saddled with student debt decades longer than the boomer generation. He knows house prices have sky-rocketed and many Millennials can’t afford to buy houses because of school debt, stagnating wages, and vanishing permanent jobs in favor of free-lance non-benefit jobs. He knows that the system his generation built is being used to siphon money from lower and middle classes to the very rich because of the magical belief that money from the rich will trickle down to everyone else.

He has some good suggestions for fixing this. For example, if student loans are forgiven it could potentially pump trillions of dollars into the economy as 44 million graduating students would now have more income to use in the economy, to buy houses, to raise families earlier. He says there should be a third party that represents the silent majority aka the Independents. A third party makes good sense and is already working in multiple countries (this means the US probably won’t try it—and I’m only half-joking). And he tells the MI’s to go into politics to change the system.

In his book, he tries not to assign blame to one particular party. He uses generic both-sides-at-fault comments. However, nearly all his specifics of why the system is rigged point at Republicans. He lists their bills, their legislation, their tax cuts that favored the top 1%, and their resistance to enacting legislation that recognizes equality for everyone. Women are about half the population but are only 20% of House/Senate and only 5% of them are Republicans. That 5% is now lower because after the 2018 election the number of women in the Republican party went from 23 (in Moon’s book) to a record low of 13.

His generic both-sides-at-fault often fall into the “false equivalence” category. For example, he equates the Republican tax cut where 82% of the benefits go to the top 1% with Obama’s automaker bailout in 2008. But, the automakers repaid their obligations ahead of schedule, and even the conservative Forbes magazine later praised Obama as his initiative added 640,000 auto industry jobs, resulted in 1.55 million workers paying taxes on good jobs, and fueled economic growth of their communities. By contrast, an investigation into the top Fortune 500 companies showed 80% of the increased revenue from the Trump tax cut going to investors through buybacks and dividends rather than to their employees.

An amusing example is when he says elements in both parties are moving to the extremes in their respective parties. We already know what extreme right looks like, but what does extreme left look like? Turns out “extreme” left is pretty much what all other developed countries have. Since all those countries rank far above the US in every quality of life index perhaps the US should adopt those “extreme” policies? And no, those extreme policies are not “socialism”. Politicians bring up that Cold War boogeyman to fight against progressive policies that provide safety nets. Ironically, even Canadian politicians use the socialism scare tactic unaware that the policies we already have are what the US calls socialism when Bernie Sanders suggests them for the US.

A third example of trying “both-sides” was even more amusing. He calls Hilary Clinton’s election a colossal failure and that she won’t go away. Clinton received 2.9 million more votes than Trump. That’s 48.2% of the vote to Trump’s 46.1%. Not a colossal failure by any definition. Also, the only reason she kept appearing in the news was because Fox and Trump were “but her emails” despite several investigations and exonerations.

I think there are a few flaws in Moon’s section on US healthcare system reform (caveat: I’m Canadian so I’m not fully informed on how the US system actually works—thank God—so I could be wrong about flaws). His suggestion on fixing US healthcare is to take the existing free-market approach and try a different type of free-market approach.

It is the free-market approach that makes the US system a disaster. A different free-market system just means a different type of disaster. It’s rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Why not adopt one of the many successful models other countries use?

I also thought his logic defending his new market system was flawed.

We procrastinate in getting regular health checkups, wait until a medical incident occurs, and then end up in the emergency room

It’s not procrastination if you’re making the difficult decision between medical care and food or rent, something no other developed country worries about.

He continues,

However, Americans are incentivized to procrastinate in maintaining a healthy lifestyle because they know that they can always go to the emergency room and be taken care of.

There are many documented reasons why people don’t maintain a healthy lifestyle. This is not one of them. If they can’t afford a trip to the doctor, they know they can’t afford an exorbitant trip to the emergency room.

Another flaw in his new free-market approach is when he says each person should shop to find the best price for the best procedure. He needed an MRI for his back. He was in too much pain to wait two weeks so he phoned around, found a place in suburb of LA, and got in the next day for $350 instead of $450.

Many people can’t afford even the “cheap” payment of $350. Many do not have cars. Public transport can be an hours long affair with numerous connections so you may need babysitters or take time off work (more expense; also imagine doing public transport while in constant pain).

Many people wouldn’t have an idea of where to start to get a good deal. People have enough difficulty finding decent car insurance rates, and decent healthcare insurance. And, many people may not even have the internet so they’d have to do a trip to a local library or café (again, while in pain or not feeling well) so they can work out all the necessary steps required. Stress and anxiety also make it harder to cope with complex interactions. People who are on the spectrum may also have difficulty doing any of the above.

In short, the people who need healthcare the most (the poor, those with mental health issues, the vulnerable, the neurodiverse) are the ones who will again fall through the free-market system cracks just as they do the old system.

Regardless, Moon’s book is refreshing as it shows even the older generations see things need to change, and that the MI generation is already changing society (Black Lives Matter, Me Too, Climate, Equality, LGBTQ, Women marches). His book could be seen as a depressing litany of things that are wrong in the US system, but instead leaves you feeling optimistic about the future.

Book Rating: 4.5/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in an ebook format by the author to read and give our honest review.


Check out Sean Carlson’s brand new novel called Road To Emmaus: The New Deal which is available now on Amazon! Here is a synopsis of the book: In the midst of the Great Depression, newly elected US President, Franklin D. Roosevelt offers a new deal for the American people. An advisory team, coined the ‘brains trust’ build the foundation of his government’s policies which will impact American families for generations to come. But can human intervention and a new alignment of ‘truths’ resurrect a shared hope powerful enough to save a nation from itself?The dusty road of human history cuts through the heart of every soul. Our search for truth is not easy travel as the deadly allures of myth and deceit call us by name, presiding behind altars of ruin. The illusion is set. And lost in the forgotten timelines of a world under seige, an ancient promise remains.All of recorded history is an understanding of the pieces of ourselves that have come before and the road that remains. This journey is both and ’embarking on’ and a ‘leaving of.’The history of yourself precedes you – going back to the beginning. No piece of history in the cosmos or on earth is exclusive of you. From an exiled apostle imprisoned in the heart of the Roman Empire to Cambodia’s killing fields and South America’s secret horrors. You wear the scars. From a litany of underground movements and failed revolutions, to the fabled utopian kingdom of Camelot, the claim for truth has worn many faces.The long cold war between the icy dominion of Kalashnikov and a succession of presiders struggling to raise the chalice to the parched lips of the world continues. The battle remains yours to fight.You were a part of the old deal and are an even bigger part of the new deal. The dead hand of the past is no longer the end of us. Our history is not confined to the past nor is it bound to the laws of earthly dimension. It is as timeless and free as you. The road awaits…

roadtoemmaus-SC-3D

You can buy the book here: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/0995270295/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_awdo_t1_ixPHEb9GMG63M



Thank you to our Patreon Supporters:

Get your name/blog added to our blog posts and Youtube videos by supporting us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/breakevenbooks

I am all settled in to the new house and am getting back into the swing of things. Here is my TBR for the Bookemon Readathon! Check out the video below:

Book Review: When Life is Full of It

I may have been moving to a new house but our guy Chris has been keeping the reviews coming while I am away from the office. This time, he reviewed When Life Is Full Of It: Antidote for your Mind by Stan Belyshev.

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Warning, this book is not intended to tickle your selfish ego with more motivational encouragements, give you an essential oil massage or to give you simple principles on changing your attitude so you can claim your participation trophy at the end. Heck no! My goal is to slap you with a reality check of common sense by throwing you into the boot camp called LIFE! And with that said, life can be defined in a short sentence: It’s not what happens; it’s what you do with it.”

This is a motivational book that uses aphorisms along with inspirational profiles from people who changed the world. For me, the biggest inspiration is that Stan Belyshev, tired of his life’s direction, sat in a hotel room to write this book. As far as I can tell he had no background in any motivational-related studies when he started writing. He’s gone on to be an entrepreneur and motivational speaker.

In the book, there are biographies of people who changed the world, or who demonstrated the power of courage and forgiveness. Among them are the financially successful. Biographies of those people aren’t really inspirational. Many of them amassed their wealth by exploiting workers, and the ones left alive continue to fight against giving workers a living wage or benefits.

Another reason why biographies, in general, aren’t always inspirational is because motivational biographies rely on a cognitive bias called survivorship bias. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivorship_bias

E.g., During WWII planes were returning from missions with bullet holes in the wings, tail, and belly. The air force decided to armour those parts. A mathematician stopped them. He said the planes survived despite bullet holes so those parts of the plane weren’t as crucial. He said they needed to discover what happened to the planes that didn’t return. Those planes had holes in the cockpit and engine areas. These areas were more crucial to survival so those areas needed reinforcement. This saved lives and more planes returned. If they had just relied on the information from the survivors all their reinforcements on the belly and tail wouldn’t reduce causalities.

Motivational books that derive advice from the successes are putting “armour on belly and tail”. Successful people say they are successful because of their habits, attitudes, and strategies. However, for every successful or inspirational person who did these things, there are another 1000 people who did exactly the same things yet failed.

We’d learn more about success by examining why people failed despite doing everything the successful did. Incidentally, the biggest predictor of financial success is being born into a rich family with highly placed connections. You can ignore all the inspirational strategies and still be financially successful.

Mixed in with biographies are aphorisms in bullet form, most of which will be familiar. Aphorisms without context, though, are as enlightening as a fortune cookie.

An improvement would be to have chapters devoted to one aphorism, and then demonstrate how to evaluate it for practicality in your circumstances. For example, “Never give up no matter how many times you are rejected”. Detail the types of rejection (you, your work, your ideas, your strategies). Add information from counselling and psychology that review the nuances of not giving up vs altering strategies vs yes, you really need to give up. Look into how cognitive biases and logical fallacies keep us “putting good money after bad” (to use an aphorism). Explain when to persist, when to stop, when to move diagonal, when to jag. (Cop Land: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nifWUdAZRcY)

For example, I didn’t achieve my dream of being a marine biologist. So, I “gave up” and became a terrestrial biologist. That led me to teach invertebrate zoology, which includes a great deal of marine biology. It led to work in the Arctic, in the mountains, on the tundra, in deserts, AND in marine environments. I obtained a broader range of experiences and still ended up doing marine work as a terrestrial biologist. I gave up (or “went diagonal”), but found more than expected on the new path. In the words of cowboy philosopher Kenny Rogers, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em; know when to fold ‘em…”

Cognitive psychology and counselling fields explore the ways we make bad decisions; they suggest strategies to minimize errors in our thinking, and how to avoid cognitive pitfalls. Experts like Richard Wiseman and his Quirkology bring this information to the viewers in entertaining ways. Cognitive psychologists like Stephen Lewandowsky work with scientists to aid them in communicating their findings with the general public so there’s less misunderstanding on important science issues. Incorporate the work of these and many other experts.

In a small sideline, Belyshev falls into the confirmation bias trap. Confirmation bias occurs when you notice things that support what you already believe, and disregard the things that contradict what you already believe.

He writes he’s worried for the future, Because we are witnessing a fragile generation which cannot handle a little heat, called reality. That’s why so many people call them “snowflakes.”

So “many” (citation needed) people call them snowflakes because that’s a lazy stereotype that relies on confirmation bias. You can point to every single generation in existence and find some examples who are “snowflakes”. Anti-war protestors in the 60s and 70s had their hardiness questioned too.

The two generations born since the 1980s (Millennials and Generation Z) are fighting to fix a broken political system and an ailing earth that they’ve inherited. They are driven to change things for themselves and their children.

I’m not from those generations. However, I know how resilient, informed, and hard-working they are because they’ve been my classmates when I’ve returned to school. They’ve been my students when I was a professor (five different universities and colleges). They’ve been my coworkers at consulting firms. They understand issues on both global and local scales; they coordinate with people in countries around the world to enact change. They’re more politically involved than any other generation including the 70s generation, and many countries have elected their “youngest ever” politicians. Look at the social change they’re forcing with Climate Marches, Equality Marches, Black Lives Matter, and Me Too protests. Now that’s inspirational.

A 52-year old Navy Seal who went to Yale thinking his classmates would be sheltered snowflakes came to respect them as well. https://gen.medium.com/my-semester-with-the-snowflakes-888285f0e662

He’s also optimistic about the younger generation.

Let me assure you, I have not met one kid who fits that description [snowflake]. None of the kids I’ve met seems to think that they are “special” any more than any other 18–22-year-old. …

If this place is peopled by “snowflakes” I’m proudly one of them. I’m a snowflake with a purple heart.

While Belyshev’s motivation to write his book is inspirational, the book itself lacks the depth, research, and context that would make it a thought-provoking read. Perhaps a younger reader may see it differently.

Book Rating: 2/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in ebook format by the author to read and give our honest review.


Check out Lisa King’s brand new novel called The Vanishing Hour which is available now on Amazon! She is a Canadian author from London, Ontario and I am super excited to share the love on her new book! If you like post-apocalyptic books, then this one is for you!

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You can buy her book here: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B081ZHCPGF/



Thank you to our Patreon Supporters:

Get your name/blog added to our blog posts and Youtube videos by supporting us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/breakevenbooks

Anyone miss concerts? I know it has been awhile since I have been to one and miss the sound of live music. Here is a video of me using concert prompts to talk about some books! Check out the video below:

Book Review: The Cretin Gene

Our external reviewer Chris is making up the most of these reviews as I get ready to move into a new home and I am super grateful for that. This time, he read a book called The Cretin Gene by Brendan Hall.

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Synopsis:
Al Horowitz, ageing cartoonist and self-styled ninja, is catapulted from peaceful dotage to national notoriety when a dissident’s assassin disguises himself as a benign Horowitz vegetable character. Reviled in the press and hunted as a murderous agent of North Korean dictator Boh Gi Mon, Horowitz is soon on the run with his nephew ‘The Kid’, a reclusive arch-nerd geneticist, battling a plot to cretinise the populace through customised junk food additives and media programming. As the zombified masses rise in effigy-burning rage against Horowitz and his supposed fifth-columnist cadre, young lab colleague ‘Technicia’ joins the fight to save intelligent life in the UK while also juggling two male egos and her own secret of the heart.

It made me laugh many times. It was also clever. What a treat!

Each chapter is told from the viewpoints of one of the two main characters: Al and The Kid aka Dr. Grossman. In each of their narratives, they cast themselves as the hero while casting the other in a lesser or even bumbling role. Reading their respective versions of the same events, and of how they perceive themselves vs how the others perceived them, was amusing.

Chapters by The Kid, who is nerdish in the extreme and can quote pi to a thousand places (probably more but I wanted to work in a Weird Al reference), are written with sesquipedalian loquaciousness; that is, lots of big words in long sentences reminiscent of a Victorian writer who was trapped in their house by the plague with only a thesaurus for company. To write as The Kid would be a lot of work. Indeed, later chapters by The Kid are considerably less loquacious than the first few chapters, but still notable.

Another thing that made the book a good read were the many cryptic and not-so-cryptic references to poetry, to history, to chess, to books, to songs, to old war ditties and to movies. There were references to Stephen King works, veggie-tales, the Benedict Cumberbatch alternate name game, “1000 Years of Annoying the French” (maybe), a Spanish insult I haven’t heard since my high school days, original Batman tv show, and references to Victorian poems including two I mentioned in my review of The Frightful Verses. https://breakevenbooks.com/2020/04/17/book-review-frightful-verses/

Al Horowitz’s name is shared by a deceased real-life US International Master who was a prolific chess author in the middle of the last century (there’s a chess game at the end). For a long time, Horowitz’s chess books were the only easily available English language chess books.

A Cool Hand Luke (also Smokey and the Bandit) reference could have applied to my initial reading. “What we have here is a failure to prognosticate”. I hadn’t read the synopsis—just jumped in. I didn’t understand why everyone was rioting over the murder of a cartoon character. I didn’t understand why a science-based novel about a plague could get key terms wrong—it’s a gene, not a genome! For some unknown reason, I have a plague on my mind.

Then CLICK, I realized I was reading a Douglas Adams-type novel where serious and ludicrous work together for humorous effect. For example, people who have been “cretinized” have severe reactions to books. Books that rile them up to even higher levels of aggression and cretinization include self-help manuals, romance, and teenage vampire novels (lol!). Other books, from encyclopedias to Chaucer, result in lethargy to outright extermination (if you’ve attempted Chaucer potential extermination is an understandable outcome). Quoted poetry was like Vogon-inspired torture to the cretins. https://hitchhikers.fandom.com/wiki/Vogon_poetry.

A side chapter satirizes some of political extremism seen in politics today. Tabloid journalism, shock jocks are spoofed along with their attendant racism, bigotry, and anti-intellectualism. Modern day culture takes a hit too.

We… we see cretins. All the time. They’re everywhere. Walking around. Shouting. Taking selfies. They don’t even see each other, they just press the buttons. They only think what they’re told to think, Dr. Grossmann. Then they share it on MeFace in phonetic spelling and caps lock. You see, they don’t know that they’re cretins…” (movie reference alert).

At the final confrontation, the evil genius responsible for the mayhem, and good genius Dr. Grossman play a game of high stakes chess. Given all the references in this book, I thought there may be a hidden reference (see position below). Nope, or I missed it.

If your reading preferences include books by Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett you’ll probably enjoy this book. Some good chuckles, an enjoyable diversion, and clever.

Bonus material for chess fans (White to move)

chess

Opening is B44, Sicilian Defence. Based on a 2.5 million game database the first time this position arose was in 1983 by chess prodigy and UK Grandmaster, Nigel Short, who won with White. Short’s game was only recently found and put online in March 2020 so the book isn’t referencing a fellow countryman.

After that, the next games to reach this position started in 1998. From then to March 2020 there are 994 games. White wins 30%, Black wins 33%, Draws 37%. That’s a respectable win ratio for Black, which is the side The Kid was playing.

Deep Rybka (an analysis engine) assesses the position game as equal.

The real Horowitz doesn’t appear to have reached this position in any of his games.

Book Rating: 5/5 stars

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in ebook format by the author to read and give an honest review.


Check out Lisa King’s brand new novel called The Vanishing Hour which is available now on Amazon! She is a Canadian author from London, Ontario and I am super excited to share the love on her new book! If you like post-apocalyptic books, then this one is for you!

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You can buy her book here: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B081ZHCPGF/



Thank you to our Patreon Supporters:

Get your name/blog added to our blog posts and Youtube videos by supporting us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/breakevenbooks

If you have read the Hunger Games series or watched tho movies then you will be able to understand! I did a tiered ranking of all the characters and how I felt about them. Check out the video below:

Book Review: The Book of Songs

Our digital bookshelf is getting a lot smaller as we read all these books on our ebook TBR. Chris has sent in another review for a book called The Book of Songs by Louice Svedin.

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Synopsis: Anne has led a privileged life: she is a weaver, a magic user, in a world ruled by the extraordinary. Yet one day it all changes. She is deemed too powerful by the aristocracy and is sent to a monastery for life. To avoid this fate she embarks on a journey, driven by a prophecy she doesn’t want to fulfill. But will she have any choice in the end?

Anne is also a thoroughly unlikable character with the temperament, emotional maturity and intelligence of an impulsive spoiled 13-year old. Maybe by book’s end she matures, but once I hit the 50% mark in the book I’d had enough.

This book has numerous problems. It reads like it was written by a 14-year old. It still has elements of the way a child tells a tale. This happened. Then this. Then that went away. Then this happened. Then something magic. And a big bird appeared. It’s like reading a description of a child’s dream. Events sometimes don’t make sense, they jump around.

Some of the issues are due to translating from Swedish to English. Characters groan in agony, except they’re not in any pain. Another one fainted with a disdained groan, but it was exhaustion, or possibly disappointment, not disdain. Other characters leer, but context indicates they’re not leering. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means” (easy cultural reference).

Then there were the adverbs. A short cut to spotting adverbs is that many end in “-ly”. We have “He sighed dramatically”, “smiled sardonically”, “hissed condescendingly”, “said tiredly”, “said annoyedly”. Adverbs were legion enough to drown a herd of pigs (difficult cultural reference). Stephen King, in his excellent readable book On Writing, says this about adverbs in dialogue:

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs,… they’re like dandelions. If you have one in your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day… fifty the day after that… and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s — GASP!! — too late.” ….

Attribution verbs are also many: “Anne scoffed in annoyance”, “growled in frustration”, “growled in anger”, “groaned in agony”. King covers that too.

Some writers try to evade the no-adverb rule by shooting the attribution verb full of steroids. The result is familiar to any reader of pulp fiction or paperback originals:”

 “Put the gun down, Utterson!” Jekyll grated.

“Never stop kissing me!” Shayna gasped.

“You damned tease!” Bill jerked out.

 The best form of dialogue attribution is said, as in he said, she said, Bill said, Monica said.

Not that King always took his own advice, but before you break the rules you first have to know them.

However, the story itself fails in any language. There doesn’t seem to be any consistent rules for how the magic works. If moving the plot forward requires magic then there’s magic. If it requires no magic then there’s no magic, even though there’s no reason why magic couldn’t be used. Deus ex Machina.

Too many events are unbelievable even in a world where magic exists. Anne escapes by impulsively (ach, an adverb!) stepping out of a flying airplane, telepathically contacts a giant bird (she’s not telepathic, but the bird is—not that we even know about the bird yet) for a rescue. It catches her on its back before she hits the ground. There was no reason for the bird to be anywhere near the airplane much less keep up with it. The most probable outcome of Anne’s impulsive act is her eyes widen greatly as she growls in frustration just before she makes a new hole in the forest floor.

Why not call for the bird telepathically while still inside the plane; if it’s close (highly unlikely) let it get into position, and then Anne could step out. That way the poor bird doesn’t need to catch Anne at the last second of a 9.81 m/s2 free-fall (that’s 32 feet/s2 in antediluvian units) where Anne’s kinetic energy transforms them both into a jellied mess and an even bigger hole in the forest floor.

It seems each new page brings a myriad of questions and story problems. In the first page Anne disarms three weavers who attacked her (no explanation as to why or even how they attacked) by slowly taking out her flute and capturing them in a spell. They helpfully stand in place and let her.

Yet later in the book she tries to quickly grab her flute during a battle, but it is knocked out of her hands and she is captured.

Why didn’t the weavers tackle her while she slowly drew her flute? They had fired something at her back (magic, rock, big stick, gun?), but managed to miss while being just a few paces away. Did they just have one shot? Anne even slowly turned around to face them. Lots of time to tackle her while her back is turned—there’s three of them. Still lots of time to tackle her as she slowly pulls out her flute.

Or, soon as they missed their dangerous target then run for cover before she slowly turned around and before she slowly drew her flute.

Which raises another question regarding Anne—if someone fired something at your back and missed wouldn’t you spin fast to ensure they weren’t taking a better aimed shot, or doing a group tackle, or preparing to brain you with a big stick?

And what are weavers anyway? In the confrontation Anne threatens to remove their claws, but later they seem to look like humans or are they are humans, but also look the same as Anne who is, as we learn, is also a weaver or a songweaver or a human or all of the previous? And the whole school is a school for weavers so was it her own classmates trying to attack her? It’s as if the author had different ideas what weavers were, but instead of choosing one idea she incorporated them all into the story regardless of internal consistency.

And being a songweaver is something Anne wants to keep secret, but she weaves and uses flute magic quite openly, hence it is not a Sherlockian leap to deduct she’s a songweaver. Hardly a secret then.

I admire people who can sit down and write a book so I admire Louice for writing her book.

But please—and this is for all would-be authors—run your first draft by some friends or people whose opinion you trust. If they say “It has issues” (that’s polite talk for “It sucks”) then DO. NOT. PUBLISH. YOUR. BOOK! You do NOT want your name associated with a poorly written and poorly planned book that turns readers—and publishers—off anything you later write. Your next books could be good, but no-one will be willing to read them because your first book had multiple “issues”.

Book Rating: 1/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in e-book format by the author to read and give an honest review.


Check out Lisa King’s brand new novel called The Vanishing Hour which is available now on Amazon! She is a Canadian author from London, Ontario and I am super excited to share the love on her new book! If you like post-apocalyptic books, then this one is for you!

IMG_0595

You can buy her book here: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B081ZHCPGF/



Thank you to our Patreon Supporters:

Get your name/blog added to our blog posts and Youtube videos by supporting us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/breakevenbooks

Ever heard of Book Snobbery? Well, I did the Book Snob Book Tag and answered some questions regarding the topic. Check out the video below:

Book Review: Loveboat, Taipei

A cute contemporary read with a diverse main character perspective…..um hell yea, sounds like a blast! I read Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen and enjoyed it quite a bit.

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Synopsis: When eighteen-year-old Ever Wong’s parents send her from Ohio to Taiwan to study Mandarin for the summer, she finds herself thrust among the very over-achieving kids her parents have always wanted her to be, including Rick Woo, the Yale-bound prodigy profiled in the Chinese newspapers since they were nine—and her parents’ yardstick for her never-measuring-up life.

Unbeknownst to her parents, however, the program is actually an infamous teen meet-market nicknamed Loveboat, where the kids are more into clubbing than calligraphy and drinking snake-blood sake than touring sacred shrines.

Free for the first time, Ever sets out to break all her parents’ uber-strict rules—but how far can she go before she breaks her own heart?

I rather enjoyed this book and had a great time with it. Ever goes through a lot of hardship and grows as a character immensely from the beginning to the end of the book. Her growth comes from developing as her own person being away from her family and on her own for the first time. Her life up until this point was very scheduled by her parents and now she has the chance to understand what freedom feels like and to be able to make her own decisions based on what she wants.

It was also very interesting to learn more about Asian culture as Ever spent most of the book in Taipei. She was even experiencing a lot of this for the first time as well being an Asian American citizen and growing up in America.

The romantic scenes in this book were very real and down to earth and some of them were very hard hitting and brought out the emotions in me. That is a sign of a good book.

I felt like the book had a natural flow to it which helped with advancing the plot. It wasn’t everything to me so that is why I only gave it a 4 out of 5 stars but it was a cute, adorable, diverse rom-com and I would recommend reading this one as I did enjoy it!

Book Rating: 4/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me in physical ARC format by Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review.


Check out Lisa King’s brand new novel called The Vanishing Hour which is available now on Amazon! She is a Canadian author from London, Ontario and I am super excited to share the love on her new book! If you like post-apocalyptic books, then this one is for you!

IMG_0595

You can buy her book here: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B081ZHCPGF/



Thank you to our Patreon Supporters:

Get your name/blog added to our blog posts and Youtube videos by supporting us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/breakevenbooks

Ever heard of Book Snobbery? Well, I did the Book Snob Book Tag and answered some questions regarding the topic. Check out the video below: