Book Highlight: The Onyx Crown

To celebrate the release of Alan Hurst’s debut novel, The Onyx Crown, we are having a week-long book blitz! There will be an exclusive excerpt reveal, and a chance to win a digital copy of the book at the bottom! 

Front CoverThe Onyx Crown #1

Publication Date: January 27th, 2019

Genre: Fantasy/ Adventure

The Onyx Crown is an exciting foray into the world of African fantasy. From the searing heat of the desert to the vastness of the savannah, it tells the story of three children–Sania, Gesi, and Jorann who grow up in a pre-medieval era of wars and successions, not fifteen years after the greatest king in the history of the continent has been deposed and assassinated. They must overcome the traumatic circumstances of their birth as well as many dangerous trials to fulfill the destiny bestowed upon them as infants. Can mere children use their courage, wits, and uncanny abilities to defeat legendary warriors, entire tribes, provinces, and kingdoms–allowing them to lead the worthy to the greatest prize of all, the Onyx Crown?

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onyx crown poster - savannah

Excerpt

For the next few days, the three of them did virtually everything together, including games, horse riding, and spear training with the First Knight, who seemed to be getting sterner and tougher on them with every lesson. The First Knight, whose given name was Jorell Boro, was famed throughout the fourteen provinces as one of the best living warriors of all time. He’d made his name fighting for the upstart Regent Okon in his war of usurpation against the High King Toloron.

After Toloron was defeated, the regent rewarded Boro with the titles of First Knight of the Crown, Protector of the House of the First Prince, and the moniker “the Bloodless Death,” because supposedly his bladed spear could kill a person so quickly and with such precision that they would be dead before any blood was even visible.

Okon, along with the ruling conclave, also granted a treaty to Pala Jorell’s home kingdom of East Rhydor, including a guarantee that no Numerian troops would invade as long as the East Rhydor king or his son, the prince, were in power.

The First Prince had asked Pala Jorell to begin instructing Zadeemo in the ways of knighthood, and also Gesemni himself, most likely reasoning that Zadeemo would need a sparring partner when the First Prince was absent.

The First Knight had been reluctant to train a “commoner” in the higher arts of warfare but, at the insistence of both the First Prince and Zadeemo, had relented. Still, one could tell he took The Onyx Crown -26- great pains to make sure that Zadeemo understood some of the finer points of the moves he instructed, while not deigning to help Gesi.

Luckily for Gesi, he had tremendous aptitude and seemingly a womb-borne comprehension of instinctual combat. As such, he rarely needed the extra tutoring that Zadeemo couldn’t seem to do without. On this day, the two of them were instructed for quite some time on hand-spear counters, an ancient method of grappling that involved an unarmed warrior wresting the control of spears and other long objects away from their adversary. It was an extremely rough and unpolished method of fighting, and the First Knight took the better part of the morning explaining it to them.

Finally, the paladin suggested they work the puzzling elements out with a few rounds of sparring. Boro handed him a bladed spear and marked out a circle four en-yawo in diameter with his carving knife. Zadeemo was given a pair of lyocell gloves, which felt like silk but were made from the toughest fibers in existence. These were to be used to protect his hands from blade cuts.

Gesi shifted nervously. Always when they’d fought before they’d both been armed. Oddly, there’s a certain amount of safety involved when two weapons compete against each other. But with Zadeemo being unarmed, Gesi felt he’d have to be very careful. He was also very conscious of Zoe sitting on her tilbury, watching them both amusedly.

“Engage!” The First Knight’s voice rang out through the square as the boys stepped into the circle. Zadeemo immediately lowered his stance, thrusting the heel of his boot inside Gesi’s left calf to disrupt his balance, simultaneously snatching at the bladed spear handle.

Shuffle-stepping to counter, Gesi twisted the blade ninety degrees, forcing Zadeemo to withdraw his hands. He knew he was supposed to be nothing more than a punching target for Zadeemo, but in situations like this, his stubborn, competitive imoya always got in the way of things, and yes…he also wanted to show off a bit in front of Zoe.

Surprisingly, Zadeemo must’ve anticipated his counter because he nimbly moved to his left, crashing his knee into Gesi’s right thigh and causing him to grimace. Ducking underneath the spear, Zadeemo swung his right elbow fiercely into Gesi’s solar plexus. The few servants and townspeople who were looking on cheered loudly, including Zoe.

At that second, he felt like he was going to black out. Zadeemo may have been slower than a stuck rhino, but he had strength far beyond what most twelve-year-olds could muster.

Instinctively, he twisted his bladed spear to block the next grasping move he felt was coming, slid his left knee under Zadeemo’s right, and reverse-swung the spear in a sweeping arc toward Zadeemo’s chest. The cheering stopped, followed by a deathly silence as Zadeemo crashed down to the dirt awkwardly. Everyone was staring at Gesi. Some looked angry, some fearful, some puzzled. Even he didn’t know how he’d won.

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About the Author

Author Pic

Alan Hurst is an author and entrepreneur. Hurst who spent most of his childhood reading Asian wuxia fiction, Marvel comics and encyclopedias is delving into trilogy territory with THE ONYX CROWN. He briefly studied religion at Harvard.  Later, he settled in Washington, DC where he founded a software consulting firm, hosted the Urban Nation Radio podcast, and occasionally played the World Series of Poker.  When not writing or enjoying time with his family, he prefers to take his Ducati motorcycle out for the occasional spin!

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Blog Tour Promo: The Princess and The Peacock

Who doesn’t love a great fairy tale retelling? That’s why I’m so pleased to share this lovely novella with you. I have an excerpt for you to read, and a chance to win your very own print copy of the book! Enjoy!

Book Cover

The Princess and the Peacock (Birds of Fae #1)

Publication Date: January 25th, 2019

Genre: Fantasy/ Fairy Tale Retelling

The first time I fell in love with Princess Mele was when I saw her smile, and I fell in love with her the second time the moment I heard her sing. Two memories burn within Kaipo’s heart — the death of his mother, which left him alone to die, and the arrival of Princess Mele, which gave him a new reason to live. Together with his adopted brother, Kaipo seeks out Jaya, the Fae Queen who lives on the Forbidden Mountain, in order to gain the beauty he requires to win Mele’s heart. But Jaya has other plans for the scarred outcast who climbs up her mountain …

The Princess and the Peacock is the first in Birds of Fae, a fantasy fairy tale novella series from C. S. Johnson.

Excerpt

THE PRINCESS AND THE PEACOCK: Kaipo desperately requests a wish from the Fae Queen, Jaya, after climbing up the Forbidden Mountain on Maluhia.

Desperate, I hold out my hands, palms upward, in a gesture of pleading. “Queen Jaya, I ask that you grant me my wish, as I stated, and as you promised. It is only fair, after all.”

“Dare you bother me in my own musings?” Jaya slams the end of her staff into the ground. The air around her whips out ferociously, as if her emotions stretch out far beyond her heart. “Very well then, Kaipo. I will grant your wish.”

She comes up in front of me, and I nearly stagger back at the overbearing fullness of her being. Her finger reaches out and touches my forehead.

Instantly, I am frozen; the essence of my soul shines as her power leeches into me. Just before my eyes go sightless, the last thing I see is her triumphant smirk.

“Yes,” she whispers, so softly I almost think I am imagining it. “I do believe this is just the magic needed to give you beauty Princess Mele will be unable to resist.”

Her words brush over me, leaving me weak with joy as my world is drowned with light, and I eagerly fall into its brightness.

For a moment, as I bathe in that transcendent sensation, I wonder if I had actually fallen off the mountain earlier, and this is just a final coming home into the arms of death.

“There.” Jaya’s voice echoes from far away, and behind her, I hear Rahj gasp in surprise. I try to smile, but I feel my face resist the movement.

Taking one last deep breath, I open my eyes.

A bouquet of dark, iridescent color swims before me, and it takes only two seconds before I realize every miracle I expected was horrifically wrong. Instead of scarless flesh, my arms have been transformed into wings of shimmering blue, with hints of green and black tipping off their feathers. My own body, once lean and hungry, is bulging out with meaty bird muscle, and my neck is three times as long. My legs are sticks with claws, and I can feel the ground part eagerly as I stumble, stabbing the divine earth as I go.

Jaya’s laughter follows me cruelly as I hurry around in a circle, frantically trying to find a way to see my new self.

“Here,” she says, and out of the middle of her meadow, a pond appears. I race toward it, ardently wishing this is all an awful misunderstanding of magic or even perhaps a friendly joke from Jaya.

But no; it’s not.

I glance into the water’s pond and freeze, taking in the sight before me in shaking horror.

My beady eyes, still their mix of green and brown, stare back full of fear. My shabby hair has been perked up into a colored crest on my small head, sticking straight up in the air, as the rest of my body gleams with an artful array of feathers.

I open my mouth to scream, but only a squawk sounds out. As I step back in fear, my tail feathers fan out, and I am vividly aware of the truth.

I am no longer a man; I am a peacock.

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About the Author

Author-CS- Johnson

C. S. Johnson is the award-winning, genre-hopping author of several novels, including young adult sci-fi and fantasy adventures such as the Starlight Chronicles, the Once Upon a Princess saga, and the Divine Space Pirates trilogy. With a gift for sarcasm and an apologetic heart, she currently lives in Atlanta with her family. Find out more at http://www.csjohnson.me

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March 4th

Reads & Reels (Excerpt) http://www.readsandreels.com

Port Jerricho (Review) http://www.aislynndmerricksson.com

I Smell Sheep (Excerpt) http://www.ismellsheep.com/

Tsarina Press (Excerpt) https://www.tsarinapress.com

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Didi Oviatt (Review) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

Stacy is Reading (Review) https://stacyisreading.blogspot.com/?m=0</ p>

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March 6th

Life at 17 (Review) https://lifeat17.wordpress.com

Breakeven Books (Promo) https://breakevenbooks.com

Jessica Rachow (Review) http://jessicarachow.wordpress.com

Reading Nook (Excerpt) http://readingnook84.wordpress.com

March 7th

J Bronder Reviews (Review) https://jbronderbookreviews.com/

The Return Cart (Review) http://thereturncart.com

March 8th

Darque Dreamer Reads (Review)  https://darquedreamerreads.wordpress.com</ a>

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There is a new book on the block that I am promoting. This one is called Justice Gone by Nick Lombardi. Justice Gone is the first in a series of psychological thrillers involving Dr Tessa Thorpe, wrapped in the divisive issues of modern American society including police brutality and disenfranchised returning war veterans. You can get it here: https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/1785358766/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_bb_ca-20&linkCode=as2&camp=15121&creative=330641

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Book Review: Sea Raiders by Carey Fessler

We finished a trilogy! As many of you know, we have been reading through Carey Fessler’s middle-grade trilogy. Well, we finished the last one which was called Sea Raiders so check out the review below.

SEA RAIDERS 127KB

Synopsis: The battle has begun, and the pirates want blood.

Twelve-year-olds Emma and Scott are on board the dive boat the Sea Urchin, anchored at night off Dragon Island when a band of trigger-happy marauders boards their boat.

So begins their battle to survive a modern-day pirate raid and escape their hostage situation so they can return home to their families. But not before having to fight for their lives and escape to a savage land and the last place on earth they wanted to return–Dragon Island. Can the young hostages stay alive and raise the alarm?

This was a great end to this middle-grade trilogy. The adventure just continued right where it left off and of course the main characters found themselves in another predicament.

There were some new characters added (rich Texans and pirates to be exact) that really progressed the development and culmination of the series. The whole series is set in Australia and the surrounding areas which are places I dream to travel to so it made it that much more exciting for me (exploring it in my mind’s eye if I can’t get there in person).

One thing I really liked was that the author showed their positive feelings about the LGBTQ+ community by making one of the main characters gay. It was revealed in a humorous way and really shows the progress we have made on this front. Kids should be introduced to this at a young age and should be taught that there is nothing wrong with being who you are and being able to love who you love. So I applaud and commend the author for being progressive and including it in their book.

I ended up really liking Brock (he is the mutant). His character developed into a nice and compassionate character compared to the old grump he was in the first book.

Overall, this was a great end to a fun middle-grade series and I hope this author writes another series because I will definitely read it.

Book Rating: 4.5/5

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

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

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Book Review: Shanghaied by Carey Fessler

Hey bookworms! I am back with another review for you. This one was called Shanghaied: Escape from the Blackwolf by Carey Fessler and is the first book to a trilogy. I will be reviewing the entire trilogy so the other reviews will be following this one.

SHANGHAIED 194KB

Synopsis: Twelve-year-olds Emma and Scott stumble across a dark secret and are shanghaied by a rogue submarine that once suffered a ghastly fate: a radioactive incident that transformed its crew into mutants.

They are plunged into the depths of the ocean, far beyond the reach of help, where the Blackwolf battles against lurking enemy navies.

Now they must find a way off the submarine without being killed first–or even worse, being forced into service for the rest of their lives.

The race to escape has begun.

I rather enjoyed this book. It was another middle-grade book so it doesn’t quite capture your attention or have fully fleshed out characters like YA does but the story progresses quickly and you get to think like how a kid would. In dangerous situations, the kids would do something so bold or brave and I would think to myself that I wouldn’t even have the courage to do that. Oh to be a kid again and not know that fear that growing up can teach you.

There were quite a few technical terms about working in a submarine which I thought was pretty cool. You were learning about life at sea while enjoying the daring escape these kids were trying to plan and execute.

Plus, it had mutants! Creepy, slimy, hairless mutants. Well, they all had different descriptions as they were all unique crewmembers but still fun none the less. The captain was a grumpy, mean mutant and so was most of the crew but not all of them were bad as you will come to find out.

At one point, Scott and Emma find themselves in a situation I would be truly terrified and they manage to keep their cool and get through it. I can’t tell you what that situation is because I don’t want to spoil it but I would lose my cool real fast.

I also realized after I finished the book that there were two characters they eluded to multiple times but never brought them back up so I am not sure if they will be in the next one or were just forgotten about.

This one ends somewhat intensely and you can pretty much guess that the next one will pick up right where they left off so I am excited to get reading it and find out what comes next.

Book Rating: 4/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads. If you like this review, we did another one for this author’s other book called Foiled.

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

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Book Review: Foiled by Carey Fessler

New book review alert! We have delved into the world of middle-grade books this time. Presented here is a book called Foiled by Carey Fessler.

Foiled 172KB

Synopsis: It’s 1947 on a U.S. Army base near Roswell, New Mexico, and eleven-year-old Kate’s friend and neighbor, Billy, shows her a secret. A CIA agent arrives at Billy’s house, to recover the Top Secret items, and threatens the family, warning them to never talk about the incident—ever. Special Agent Falco informs them of their sudden reassignment to Germany. Billy, not wanting to move to Germany or return his treasures, begs Kate for help. Feisty and fiercely loyal, she agrees to hide him.

Thus begins a most unusual road trip in which the two friends use their wits, their knowledge of the terrain and geography around the base, and sheer determination to evade capture. Kate must also reach her grandfather, more than two hundred miles away, and warn him how the secret poses a dangerous threat … to anyone involved.

Their race has begun, and there’s no turning back.

This was an average middle-grade book. It had likable characters, despicable villains and quite an adventure through different parts of New Mexico. I was kept entertained all the way through it with Billy and Kate’s antics. They bantered back and forth just like two young kids would and it was fun to experience this kind of honesty and childlike innocence.

It was set in the 1940s and had all these references to things that are a part of our history (especially baseball and comic books). I identified with Billy as a child because, like him, I would read comic books and want to be just like the superheroes/protagonists of the adventure.

There were some parts of the book where I would think that they should be a little more descriptive of the scene but this could have been because of the nature of it being a middle-grade book. The author was just making it easier for kids to understand and in turn, this would keep them from losing interest in the novel.

Overall, I think it is a genuine adventure book that would be fun for kids to read when they are experiencing books for the first time and just starting to explore the world of literature. It just gets better and better the more you open your world to reading!

Book Rating: 3.5/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads or the Author’s Website.

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

Simultaneously contemporary and classic, chic prints mix with a classic color palette in Kate Aspen’s Modern Classic collection. Adorned with class and style, your wedding will inspire memories that will be treasured for years to come.

Book Review: Pandora’s Succession + Giveaway Winner

A new review by our external reviewer Sara MacTaylor for a book called Pandora’s Succession by Russell Brooks is ready to be read. Don’t forget to check out Sara’s Giftshop for some gift ideas for Christmas!

Pandora's Succession by Russell Brooks

Synopsis: CIA operative, Ridley Fox, never stopped hunting his fiancée’s killers—a weapons consortium called The Arms Of Ares. When Fox follows a lead to one of their top-secret bioweapons facilities in Chechnya, he barely escapes alive. However, he’s learned that Ares has weaponized a hyper-deadly microbe called Pandora. The trail leads Fox to Tokyo, where he teams up with an old flame and fellow operative, Nita Parris. Aside from Ares, they must contend with rogue agents who’ll stop at nothing to get Pandora. This throws Fox and Parris into a deadly game of spy vs spy, as they must rely on each other to locate the microbe. For if it’s unleashed, it could mean the end of humanity.

This book was a great first start to the series. The novel follows the main character, Ridley Fox, a secret agent, as he works to stop two separate rivaling organizations fighting for control over a deadly substance that would wipe out humanity. There are many twists and turns along the way, a variety of characters and organizations and locations.

Unfortunately, there is almost TOO much going on sometimes, especially at the beginning. I found it a little difficult to remember which character was which and which double agents worked for which organization, etc. I eventually got it sorted about halfway through the book and was able to enjoy it more.
The action is entertaining and I was eager to see where the story went, and I’ll be happily reading the next book in the series. I would like to see the story and the characters fleshed out more and think that this book is a great start to the series, and has set itself up well to continue the action and entertainment.

Book Rating:4/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and leave a rating on Goodreads.

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

Giveaway Winner: Trish Carlson


There is also another book on the block that you should check out if you haven’t heard of it yet. It is called Addicted To Hate by Lucia Mann and it is a great one! You can find it on Amazon or on her website: www.luciamann.com!

Addicted to Hate - Front Cover


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Book Review – Mermaids Are Real

You get a book review! YOU get a book review. We have another one for you guys over here at Breakeven Books. This one is called Mermaids Are Real: The Mystiq Prong by Bo Wu.

Synopsis: Benji Fisher has spent the first twelve years of his life growing up in a small fishing town, Topside. He’s gotten used to the gang of dolphins who follow him on his surfboard and the voices he hears under the water; odd things that have, in their repetition, become part of normal everyday life.

However, none of that prepares him for the recruitment speech he gets from an octopus named Octavius and three of the dolphins the night before his thirteenth birthday.

What would you do if your ‘calling’ in life required you to take a leap/dive of faith? Would you take the plunge?

This is a fantastic book. If I had to say a book that it was like, the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan comes to mind. This series was just magical and I had the same feeling of magic and adventure when reading this book. It was mainly set underwater which appealed to me as I love the water and was called a fish as a child.

The main character Benji is very lovable. He is just trying to figure out his life at 13 years old and is then thrown into an entirely new world that he now needs to adapt to and become a part of. He reminds me of a young Aquaman (DC Comics). There are so many interesting aspects of the underwater world that this author has created and it was a pleasure to explore and learn the history of the Aquari.

Once again, I quite enjoyed the antagonist of the story. For some reason, I always like them the most. He demonstrated a strong leadership and badass attitude towards leading his people and ruling over the Topsiders (the people on land).

There isn’t really anything bad I can say about the book. The author gets a little too descriptive at times about the surroundings or the process of an action being portrayed but other than this small detail, it is a great book. I would recommend it to YA readers and anyone who wants a good old classic adventure on the bottom of the ocean.

While reading this book, I found it rare that I actually wanted to put it down. And I was excitedly telling my coworker about it while on our lunch break. It is a book that sticks with you and leaves you wanting more.

Book Rating: 4.5/5

You can find this book on Amazon and Goodreads and the author on Facebook and Goodreads!

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in physical format to read and give an honest review.