Breakwater by Catherine Jones Payne

About the book:

Mermaids. Murder. Mayhem.

A red tide is rising.

As the daughter of one of the mer-king’s trusted advisors, seventeen-year-old Jade has great responsibilities. When her fiancé murders a naiad, plunging the underwater city of Thessalonike into uproar, tensions surge between the mer and the naiads. Jade learns too late that the choices she makes ripple further than she’d ever imagined. And as she fights against the tide of anger in a city that lives for scandal, she discovers danger lurking in every canal, imperiling her family and shattering the ocean’s fragile peace.

Can the city’s divisions be mended before the upwelling of hate rips apart everything Jade loves?


My review:

I have to admit that I resisted reading this story for a long time. Many of my friends recommended it, but I’m not a fan of mermaid stories. I get frustrated with the rehashing of The Little Mermaid (mermaid sees human man, falls in love, wants to be a human, yada, yada), so I put it off as long as I could. I finally gave in the other day and was more than pleasantly surprised.

Breakwater is not your typical mermaid story. Yay! Instead of sappy romantic wishes, this story starts out with murder — much more to my taste (that wasn’t meant in a creepy way 😉 ). It’s a story about how greed and power corrupt and about the strength it takes to stand up to immorality in the face of losing everything you love.

And actually, Payne’s decision to have the story take place “under the sea” added depth (wink, wink) to the plot that I’ve never really enjoyed in a mermaid tale before. The details she chose to focus on regarding the mer-people and the naiads were rather fascinating.

In other words, this was a great read. I definitely recommend you read Breakwater, the first book in the Broken Tides trilogy, even if, like me, you’re not a big fan of mermaid stories. I enjoyed it so much that I’ll be reading book two, Crosscurrent, soon.

Happy reading! 🙂


Heirs of Tirragyl by Joan Campbell


About the book:

Since birth, Nyla has shared everything with her twin brother – royal tutors, the right to the throne of Tirragyl…even their soul. Many believe it wholly belongs to Alexor and should be returned to him regardless of the sacrifice – Nyla’s death. However, her future isn’t the only one in question.

A threat looms over the kingdom. The influential Lord Lucian intends to seize the Grotto, an underworld settlement known for harboring fugitives. And if legend is to be believed, it is also the hiding place of the most powerful of objects, the Guardian Rock.

As Nyla fights for her life, she realizes she’s not only a soul heir but also the sole hope for the kingdom’s survival.

My review:

This was a wonderful read! The pace was swift: the multiple plot lines kept me racing through the pages. The author kept the various characters, storylines, and settings separate enough to not be confusing, yet still painted them beautifully into a grander picture that has yet to fully be revealed (Can’t wait to read the next book!).

However, if I judged books solely by the cover, I don’t think I’d have picked this one up. The cover is my least favorite part of the book. It so reminds me of cheesy romance novels from the eighties! 😉

I’ve never read a story by Joan Campbell before. This is book two in The Poison Tree Path Chronicles, and while I loved reading this, I know that there are pieces that were revealed in the first book that could have helped me understand the motivations for why certain things happened. But I had no idea how much I’d enjoy this story! I thought it may be an interesting read (and it definitely was), but now I feel absolutely compelled to read the others in the series! I highly recommend you grab your own copy (and maybe try starting with the first in the series Chains of Gwyndorr) and enjoy!! 🙂

To Raise a King by Justin Orton


About the book:

When Matt escapes a Scottish boys’ home to search for his parents, he instead finds himself fleeing for his life. Cast back in time to the brutality of 6th-century Scotland, he is sent on a dangerous quest – a race to recover the missing fragments of King Arthur’s broken crown in an epic bid to save two worlds from certain destruction.

Love, betrayal and murder follow Matt as he battles against a backdrop of powerful magic and political intrigue that soon erupts into open war. Matt’s faith in himself, and his trust in his friends will be put to the ultimate test as he fights to Raise a King.

“To Raise a King” is the first novel in the “Broken Crown” series, and builds on the original Arthurian legend that says Arthur did not die, but was placed in eternal sleep by Merlin.

Follow Matt’s struggle for survival, and his harrowing journey across Scotland. Experience a young man’s struggle as he deals with the loss of innocence, an unexpected romance, and the shocking discovery of his own heritage.

“The Broken Crown” provides a remarkable glimpse into dark-age Scotland, and weaves together history and legend to produce an action packed tale rich in characters and adventure.

My review:

This was an interesting read, but I’m still not sure how I really feel about it. I’ve been fascinated by the legend of King Arthur for most of my life and enjoy seeing all of the different interpretations of the stories. To Raise a King, while it is definitely a reworking of the legend of King Arthur, focuses a lot on Merlin: his backstory and his role in Arthur’s life and “death.”

And that’s where it gets really weird. Orton has chosen to depict Merlin as a “Marsonian” — a former inhabitant of Mars. Yep, you heard me right, Merlin’s a martian. Everything else in the story related to the legends of Arthur is very well-researched and lines up with recent historical finds, so the whole martian thing just seemed so out of left field for me. I was glad to get past that section of the book and get lost in the quest.

My other big issue was head-hopping. We jump perspectives a lot (though it does get better toward the end of the book), skipping from one character’s ideas/thoughts/views to another’s with no indication that there is a change until you have to stop for a moment and figure out whose eyes you are looking through. It makes it a bit hard sometimes to stay in the flow of the story.

Yet, Orton’s descriptions of the scenery in Scotland are absolutely lovely. I was mesmerized by the beauty he describes and so want to be walking through those glens and alongside those lochs. And the overall plot following Matt’s quest was definitely enjoyable.

So, while it was not a perfect read for me, there was enough to make me kind of like this book and even want to read the next book in the series. If you like your Arthurian legends with a healthy dash of science fiction, you’d enjoy reading this one, too.

Many thanks to Justin Orton and NetGalley for the digital copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂


**Note for parents of readers: while this is a YA novel (the main character is only 17), I would rate it a PG-13++ for language, violence, and some sexual content. And it is definitely not a Christian novel, so don’t be expecting anything along those lines. 🙂

Spark by J.M. Hackman


About the book:

Brenna James wants three things for her sixteenth birthday: to find her history notes before the test, to have her mother return from her business trip, and to stop creating fire with her bare hands.

Yeah, that’s so not happening. Unfortunately.

When Brenna learns her mother is missing in an alternate reality called Linneah, she travels through a portal to find her. Against her will. Who knew portals even existed? But Brenna’s arrival in Linneah begins the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, including a royal murder and the theft of Linneah’s most powerful relic: the Sacred Veil.

Hold up. Can everything just slow down for a sec?

Unwilling yet left with no other choice, Brenna and her new friend Baldwin (Um, hello, Hottie!) pursue the thief into the dangerous woods of Silvastamen and beyond. Exactly what Brenna wanted to do for her sixteenth birthday. Exactly. When they spy an army marching toward Linneah, Brenna is horrified. Can she find the veil, save her mother, and warn Linneah in time?

And more importantly, why on earth doesn’t this alternity have Belgian waffles?

My review:

Spark is J.M. Hackman’s first full-length novel, and I spy a promising career behind Brenna and her Firebrand abilities!

Hackman’s writing style is relaxed, but also drizzled with lyrical imagery and a liberal sprinkling of snark that conveys a perfect teenage girl voice. One of my favorite descriptions was of morning in Linneah: “Dawn had arrived, holding hands with a vivid orange-streaked sky.” Such beautiful imagery! But you can also see the teenage snark in her description of some food in Linneah: “A large platter held a boar lizard roast, which like the cliché, tasted like chicken, but had the consistency of pencil erasers.” 😀

I enjoyed Brenna. She’s a lovely heroine, flawed but feisty. Naïve enough to get herself into bad situations, but also just skeptical enough to get herself back out and all with a sense of humor.

This was only book one of the Firebrand Chronicles, and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. I’d recommend you grab your own copy of Spark and dive into the adventure! Happy reading! 🙂

Iridescent by Kait Spangler


About the book:

Things are more than they appear…

Aly Roberts wasn’t expecting much out of small town Airyville, North Carolina. She certainly wasn’t expecting to get caught up in a conspiracy involving the town’s gated community, Lagniappe. The people of Lagniappe are private, and Aly’s new friend, Riley Monroe, is certain that they’re hiding something. Lagniappe’s secrets are dangerous, and uncovering them may just change their lives forever.

My review:

I so wanted to like this book: strange happenings, weird family members, conspiracy theories, superhumans…

But unfortunately, it left too much to be desired for me to recommend you read it. The writing was fairly amateurish, which I could probably have overlooked if the dialogue and plotting would have been stronger.

The main characters are teenagers, but you’d still hope they’d have some common sense locked away somewhere! The young girl is just moving to a new area, and the first person she meets is a boy in her class who is completely obsessed with a nearby housing development. And she still wants to talk to him after she learns this? Aly’s cousin, the one Aly of course thinks is weird, just happens to live in that particular gated community. Why wouldn’t Aly just ask her cousin what’s going on and save everyone in the story a whole lot of trouble? No common sense…

The story got weirder as the writing regressed, and it took all I had to finish reading it. Do I care what happens in the next book in the series? Not really. But I’m guessing the characters will do stupid things which land them in difficult situations that they are miraculously saved from for bizarre reasons.

Sorry, I hate to say this about any book, but I don’t recommend you read this one. It ended up being a bit of a waste of time for me and that breaks my heart. Bummer!

The Broken Crown by Amryn Cross


About the book:

Princess Emilia Aurelius was only seven when she watched her mother die at the hands of her father—martyred for believing in the God of the Atlas Empire’s Insurgo rebels. At seventeen, exiled to a military outpost where no one knows her true identity, she’s vowed to leave her royalty behind and explore the truth of the Insurgo rebels her mother loved.

When the Emperor of Atlas summons the princesses from each of the provinces to the imperial city to choose a wife for the crown prince, Emilia must leave her military life behind to join a royal court rife with cunning and intrigue. Navigating the waters of court politics and budding love are treacherous on their own, but Emilia fears for her life should anyone learn of her Insurgo sympathies.

With an unlikely ally in the captain of the emperor’s guard, Emilia must uncover the truth of the Insurgos, start a revolution, and learn to become the princess she’s vowed never to be, all while protecting her heart from a prince who could sign her death warrant.

My review:

The Broken Crown is kind of a modern retelling of the Book of Ruth—by the grace of the God of the Insurgos, Emilia finds herself cast into a position to potentially help this group of rebels. She’s even told by her mentor that she’s been given this path “for such a time as this.” It’s a lovely and intriguing twist on the ancient tale from the Bible.

I thoroughly enjoyed Emilia as a character—she’s been training with the military since she was rather young, so she’s tough and skilled, but she finds it very difficult to trust anyone. And life in the palace is so far removed from the life she’s lived for so long in the military outpost that her transition from warrior to princess is, at times, comical. Emilia is a fabulously multi-faceted character.

And, Felix makes me swoon a bit! *sigh* He’s a fierce protector, stoic when necessary, and always steadfast. I know that the princess is supposed to end up with the prince for a happily ever after to occur, but I do hope that when the next book finally releases, Felix and Emilia can set aside their differences and fight for each other, rather than just for the cause.

Before this book was given to me, I’d never heard of Amryn Cross. But after finishing, I will read her work again! Hope you will too! 🙂

Common by Laurie Lucking


About the book:

One person knows of the plot against the royal family and cares enough to try to stop it—the servant girl they banished.

Leah spends her days scrubbing floors, polishing silver, and meekly curtsying to nobility. Nothing distinguishes her from the other commoners serving at the palace, except her red hair.

And her secret friendship with Rafe, the Crown Prince of Imperia.

But Leah’s safe, ordinary world begins to splinter. Rafe’s parents announce his betrothal to a foreign princess, and she unearths a plot to overthrow the royal family. When she reports it without proof, her life shatters completely when the queen banishes her for treason.

Harbored by an unusual group of nuns, Leah must secure Rafe’s safety before it’s too late. But her quest reveals a villain far more sinister than an ambitious nobleman with his eye on the throne.

Can a common maidservant summon the courage to fight for her dearest friend?

My review:

Royalty, romance, and a murder plot…what more could you want in a story? And Laurie Lucking has done a fantastic job of weaving them all into a beautiful and charming debut novel.

The relationship between Leah and Rafe is so smartly crafted—starting out unexpectedly and growing over the years as friendship, then finally, despite their best efforts, more. It made them seem even more innocent and charming and worthy of cheering them on through the twists and turns of court life.

And Lucking manages to keep the story going without it seeming to drag. She keeps her characters in just enough peril to keep the reader turning pages, but not so much that you need extra oxygen to keep up!

And finally, I have to admit, I loved the nuns! What a collection of characters! I truly hope that I get to know them more in the next installment in Lucking’s Tales of the Mystics series.

Common was a truly enjoyable read and I highly recommend you pick up your own copy today. Then just curl up with your favorite hot beverage and get happily lost in the world of Imperia! 🙂