Book Review: The Aletheian Journeys: The Arrow Bringer by Lisa Mayer

A new reviewer has joined the team! Welcome, Sara to the Breakeven Books team. You can find Sara on her Instagram at saramact! She has reviewed The Aletheian Journeys: The Arrow Bringer by Lisa Mayer.

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This novel is a C.S. Lewis inspired Christian fantasy. Taking place in the land of Aletheian, which is in another world, the two main characters fight against the evil ruler, Kotu, to bring peace back to the land through inspiring the love for an omnipotent and near-forgotten caretaker, the Arrow Bringer.

The plot is long and flows from one conflict to the next, never sticking to a traditional storyline, so you don’t know what’s coming next. The author focuses a lot of the book on the inner turmoil of the main character and narrator, Evangeline, as she works through her issues with her initial turning away from the Arrow Bringer and her responsibilities to the people of Aletheia. The secondary character, Shawn, is also struggling with his own faith, though he is much more confident in his role. Through preparing for an epic battle with Kotu and his followers, the Aletheians must go on a journey assigned to them by the Arrow Bringer to prove their love and faith.
Though I enjoyed the fantasy world Mayer had created, the model has some definite flaws. There are several parts where the story is lacking a certain “flow”, and so occasionally reads a bit rough. For example, she introduced a few characters as if we should already know who they were, or mentioned personal relationships between characters that were not exposed at all before that, and so came across as forced.

Unfortunately, the Christian allegory and allusions are about as subtle as a brick. There is no mistaking this for anything other than a Christian story, and in many parts makes such obvious references and defers from the plot so much that it is very distracting from the story. Eventually, the Arrow Bringer character even takes human form, is renamed Justus, and sacrifices himself for his followers. Though I enjoy a good Christian story, this novel is so blunt about it that I found it very distracting from the fantasy elements of the story, and found it hard to enjoy because of this.

Overall, this book has a good premise, as the idea behind the fantasy elements of the story is entertaining and intriguing. The author fleshes out the characters she chooses to very well, and makes them relatable. I enjoyed reading through Evangeline’s personal journey as she progressed through the story. Unfortunately, the bluntness of the Christian elements detract from the overall story and make it hard to read without feeling like you’re reading the New Testament.

Book Rating: 3/5.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us by the author for an honest review. We have not been compensated in any way.

Find the book on Amazon! Or check out the author’s website. You can also find Lisa Mayer on Twitter.

Talk to you soon bookworms!

Book Review: Booth by Jason Pellegrini

We have a very in-depth review for you guys from an addition to the BreakevenBooks team. Our new reviewer Chris Connors decided to take on Booth by Jason Pellegrini.

Synopsis: At dawn, on the day of his execution, Joseph Bateman finds himself reflecting on his life, one filled with poor decisions and evil people. Even his lifelong best friend played a pivotal role in earning Joseph his seat on death row. A phenomenon occurs as the electricity meant to kill Joseph is sent through him, and his essence is ripped from the body he has known his entire life and thrown into a new one. Only the body he now inhabits isn’t new at all; it is the body of a person who lived over a hundred years before Joseph’s birth. Now living in an unfamiliar era of history and trapped inside a foreign body, Joseph learns he has been sent back for a reason: to earn redemption for his damned soul and to find a sense of peace he has never known. All he needs to do to get there is to prevent one of history’s most infamous murders.

The book blurb captured my imagination right away. Obviously, Joseph William Bateman’s redemption is hinged on stopping John Wilkes Booth—note the initials of both names– from killing Abraham Lincoln, but since Booth did kill Lincoln does this mean Joseph didn’t get redemption? Is there an alternate timeline involved? Was redemption in an unexpected form, maybe a surprise twist? I looked forward to seeing how Pellegrini dealt with this.

The first half of the book starts out with Joseph on death row contemplating how he got there, and the writing in the first few chapters pulls you right into the story.

Murdering one man did not get him to where he was in life (although he’d soon learn he was actually very wrong about that). A long series of unfortunate events had landed him on Death Row. So Joseph Bateman, in the closing hour of his life, chose to reflect.

The small details about his early love for jelly beans (his mother called him Joey Beans), the description of their taste and what jelly beans meant to Joseph are well-crafted, putting you in touch with the child whose imagination helped him escape a bad parental situation by turning the Moon into a giant sweet sugary jellybean that was slowly eaten away only to return anew. Through these chapters, we see how childhood and young adulthood events shaped Joseph’s life and led him to the electric chair.

As Joseph grows older we see him fighting to be nothing like his abusive father, fighting to get away and become his own man, to live happily ever after with his early childhood best friend and later his lover. You feel for Joseph knowing, like Romeo and Juliet, that his dreams will not come true and he is his father’s son, but you still root for him hoping it’ll somehow work out despite him being a few hours from his execution.

It is a great start and whatever Pellegrini did for these first few chapters needs to be applied to the other chapters because the rest of the book seems clunky by comparison. His use of long and short sentences that pull the reader into the story, in the beginning, fades away as the chapters continue; much of the sentence structure is the same type with little variation, and the compelling rhythm is lost.

Subtlety is not put to good use in this book. We’re whacked over the head with the obvious on numerous occasions. Considering Joseph is on death row at the start of the book then foreshadowing his fate with statements like “…just one more step on the path that would lead Joseph to death row” over and over seems a bit of overkill (so to speak).

The descriptions of the abuse his father metes out on his mother are cartoonishly over-the-top. He doesn’t just rape, kick and beat her, but also brings home his gambling buddies to rape her. I worked as a Direct Care Worker for 8 years with youth in the justice system and on the streets and I know these things happen. What makes the book scenario so unbelievable is that 1) the father doesn’t abuse the kids (an abusive man doesn’t make that distinction), and 2) the mother stays with him despite all this.
There are women who will stay with abusive men till she’s killed. However, Joseph’s mom, Emily Bateman, is portrayed as a saint, a good woman, a great mother. You don’t have those qualities and still, put up with such violence and torture for many years. The women who do stay around to be tortured are often so damaged they’re not capable of being good and kind on a long-term or even regular basis.

In this case, I think Pellegrini could have written less while implying more horror without bludgeoning the reader with the abuse. The father could have been given more of a dimensional character to help us see why Emily didn’t leave him. That being said there are still well-written gems popping out in these sections like how Joseph runs out into the yard to find his sister during a particularly horrible beating of their mother; they end up cuddled together in the trunk of an old car comforting one another. Quite
touching, well done.

So Joseph’s reflections– not reminiscences, he tells us (another nice bit of writing detail that makes Joseph a real flesh-and-blood character)—proceed in a chronological order till his execution. The second half of the book deals with Joseph’s death and the transferal of his soul into the late 1800s where he is expected to stop an assassination. I was looking forward to this half of the book.

We meet up with a mysterious figure (the man with eyes) who Joseph has unknowingly met a few times before. This is his guide, called J, a 2,000-year-old soul who betrayed a friend, whose own path to redemption comes from helping others find their redemption (J’s actual name isn’t given, but it’s obvious). Given J’s behavior though I suspect he won’t be finding his own redemption anytime soon. He tells Joseph a few times to watch out for Booth, that Booth will do anything to stop him. However, none of that is true (no spoilers so I can’t elaborate). His early cryptic statements aren’t helpful. He tells Joseph the walls will fall and Joseph will see (I was hoping J would say, “Shaka, when the walls fell; Sokath, his eyes open”, but I guess 2,000-year-old souls don’t keep up with pop culture references).

There’s also a scene where J kills someone by twisting a knife into their stomach and letting them bleed out so the soul can be set free to embark upon a task. Yes, it was necessary, but what happened to a warm bath, a nice bottle of wine, and slitting your wrists? Or a bullet? J will never get redemption if he keeps this up.

This second half of the book is the weakest section. We’re told many times (again) that Joseph is an expert on Booth so knows all of Booth’s movements before and after the assassination. The whole section reads like it was taken from a history book without any fleshing out of characters: he went there, then he saw this, then he did that, next he rode here, he met a doctor, he left a doctor. Bizarrely Joseph re-enacts all of Booth’s movements for the silliest of reasons. If you’re going to change history why not do everything different?

Perhaps a way to improve both sections is to alternate the chapters. Instead of a long chronological recounting of Joseph’s childhood followed by a chronological accounting of his actions in the 1800s, it could be possible to jump back and forth. You end one chapter of Joseph’s childhood wanting to know what happened next, but first you have to read a chapter of him in the past (which when it ends you want to know what happens next, but your next chapter is back to the childhood). It would build and maintain suspense, keep the reader turning pages, make thematic connections between the past and present, and slowly let the story unravel rather than laying everything down in plain sight. It would make us feel we’re traveling between times as the author could add flesh and detail to both worlds.

Fortunately, Pellegrini pulls it back together for the final act. I don’t want to give spoilers, but he delivers an ending and an epilogue worthy of the hopes I had for the book when I first read the blurb. I thought I knew where he was going, and I was partly right, but he still surprised me.

Overall, I liked the concept. It is fairly original. There is some good writing in the book, and an editor would help the author bring that quality writing to the sections that were lacking. I suspect Jason Pellegrini is still on the steep learning curve of writing and will improve immensely with practice. He’s shown he can write well. Now he just needs to do it consistently. I look forward to reading his future books.

Book Rating: 3.75/5

And that is our wonderful review by Chris Connors!

Disclaimer: This book was sent to Breakeven Books by the author Jason Pellegrini for an honest review.

 

 

Book Review: Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda was a breath of fresh air. I read this book in 2 days and found it very entertaining and a genuine reminder of how much you feel when you are so young and in love.

This book was about a young boy named Simon who is in love with another boy from his school. He has never met this guy, they have just exchanged emails back and forth and have been very secretive about their real identities. Until a boy at school see’s Simon’s email before he logs out on a computer. He then blackmails him to help him out with a girl at school.

This book brought up a lot of thoughts of how people perceive each other. I for one have gay friends and wouldn’t ever think to treat them any differently then I would my straight friends. But the book was from the perspective of a gay teenager that hadn’t come out yet, and it’s not that he was afraid to but that he just didn’t want it to be a big deal because everything he ever did was a big deal. But for a lot of people, it is a big deal and a very scary thing to do. There are so many different reactions that could come from someone coming out and that is kind of sad. No one should be afraid to be who they are. 

I come from a religious background and that made me think a lot about how that could go if I was in Simon’s position. My parents are amazing and I love them with everything I have in me. They have prepared/taught me everything I know and I don’t know what I would do without them. I would hope to never lose them over anything like this but that is a possibility for a lot of people. I am not in this position, but this book made me think about if I was and what would happen.

It would be terrifying because you wouldn’t know how the people that are supposed to love you the most would react. Your parents are your rock. They are your foundation; they build you up and prepare you for life and help you become who you are. To lose this would be world shattering and it gave me an insight into how scary it would be.

Love is love and everyone should be accepted for who they are.

The book was really great. The way his parents and everyone react when they finally find out is so supportive and uplifting. Simon has an amazing family. I would 100% be the dad if I was part of this family because every line he had in the book is something I would probably say. And everything he said made me laugh:P

Book Rating: 4.5/5

Disclaimer: I read this book because I wanted to and purchased it myself. This review is for me because I wanted to write it and that is that.

Let me know what your thoughts are on this book if you have read it and if not, what are your thoughts on having to come out. If you are straight, then just try and put yourself in Simon’s shoes like I did to get an idea of what it would be like.

Talk to you later bookworms.

Dani is not a spammer!

My friend Dani @ Touch My Spine Book Reviews is being attacked by WordPress for interacting with her fellow bloggers and liking/commenting on their posts. This is really not cool on WordPress’ part. I enjoy talking to Dani and she is always great for having a fun discussion abut books or just being a nice person. She doesn’t deserve to be called a spammer.

I couldn’t be more upset! I did nothing for spam behavior and I got sent this after inquiring about my followers!!! Look at this email!!!! I did nothing wrong at all guys! My spammish behavior was following like 5 or so people and commenting on my followers and posting a few times!!! Now it’s not […]

via So I might be Super Screwed Because of WordPress! Please read my followers! I might not be able to communicate much longer!😭 — Touch My Spine Book Reviews

The fact that the guy emailing her has the title of Happiness Engineer is a joke. He should recognize that she isn’t a spammer and help her out considering she put time and money into her website with them.

What do you think about this? Let me know in the comments.

Book Review: Turtles All the Way Down

Another John Green book to add to the bookshelf! God I love his writing. Every time I pick up one of his books, he surprises me with how much he gets into his characters.

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I really enjoyed this book. This is my version of a synopsis:

Aza is struggling with mental illness and the loss of her father as her and her friend Daisy attempt to solve the mystery of the disappearance of a famous local billionaire. The way they find most of the clues to the case is through the billionaire’s son Davis. There is romance, confusion, chaos and humour all packed into this novel.

What is enjoyable to me is the fact that you get to see inside Aza’s mind and how she is in a constant struggle with herself dealing with the demon she believes is trapped inside. She doesn’t think that she belongs to her own body and is fighting to stay in control of herself rather than let her inner demons win. Her thought processes and how she goes back and forth as if she is two personalities fascinates me. She lets the smallest things ruin her day which is interesting because that is from my perspective but from hers, it is a huge deal because of her mental illness.

And Davis has his own problems that he deals with. His younger brother Noah is just looking for a father figure to look up to and he just wants someone to believe in. Davis puts all his emotions into his love of astrology and tries to grasp at something he deep down knows he can never have by trying to start a relationship with Aza.

Both of these characters have lost someone very close to them and you can see that it affects them greatly throughout the book. They are just two lost minds trying to stay connected on the constant tumble down the spiral.

If you are interested in Mental Illness at all, this would be a good book to read. I will admit that it is not really a “feel good” book but none the less, it is still a fascinating read in my eyes because I learned a lot about how someone living with mental illness perceives the world.

You can find this book on Goodreads and Amazon.

Disclaimer: I bought this book with my own money and wrote this review because I wanted to. I am not being compensated in any way for this review.