The Treasure Map by Tyler Scott Hess

Book Blurb:

Jack is a 10-year-old boy ready for a joyous Christmas vacation, but as punishment for a poor report card, he is tasked with cleaning out his family’s long-forgotten attic. Inside, he finds a chest with a treasure map and a letter that transports him to another time, place, and existence.

Jack finds himself living the life of a young man named Niko, an enemy of the State of Ariel, a martyr of the Faithful, sentenced to die during the Independence Day celebrations. When an earthquake strikes, Niko finds the opportunity to escape, discovers a guide known only as the Elder, and teams up with a group of the Faithful to change history.

My Review:

I agreed to write this honest objective review and received a complimentary pre-release copy to do so. It is the first Tyler Scott Hess book I have read.

The story changes time and place every few chapters, some chapters revealing 10-year-old Jack’s life working on cleaning up the attic while missing out on some of his family’s Christmas activities and being fascinated by the treasure map and letter. Other chapters take us into the time and place of the treasure map and letter where the Faithful are in trouble, in prison. Then an earthquake strikes and Niko finds the opportunity to escape. He discovers a guide known only as the Elder and finds a small group of the Faithful who also escaped during the earthquake. They concoct a plan to change history.

I enjoyed this story. Jack is a delightful, typical 10-year-old boy, and the story of Niko’s struggle is believabe and a little frightening.

The story grabbed my attention from the beginning and kept my attention until the end. Jack learned a lesson and learned more about his family. Tyler Scott Hess did a good job of tying Jack and Niko’s stories together as well.

This would be a great story to read aloud to your children. It’s a good story that is suitable for elementary age children through adult, although there is one murder/death near the end, but it is not dwelt upon and it is not graphic.

I recommend this book to families and to those who enjoy stories that include Christmas. I look forward to reading more of Mr. Hess’s books.

Flash Fiction Friday: Love on Skates

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Love on Skates
by Kelly F. Barr

Melissa pulled into the driveway of Lainey’s parents’ home at 5:30 p.m.

“Melissa’s here. See you later.” Lainey called as she grabbed her jean jacket and headed out the door.

Melissa grinned as Lainey got in the car. “This is going to be so much fun!”

“I just hope I don’t fall more than skate. It’s been a few years since I’ve gone rollerskating.”

“Well, Scott’s going to be there, and maybe … you’ll meet someone special tonight.”

“Melissa, what have you done?”

“What do you mean?”

Lainey raised an eyebrow. “Please tell me you aren’t trying to set me up on another one of your blind dates. I told you after the last one, I’m never doing that again. That guy never said more than ‘hi’ to me all night.”

Melissa scowled. “As I recall, you didn’t make an effort to talk to him either.”

“The guy was a farmer. I don’t have anything against farmers, but I don’t know anything about farming. I had no idea what to talk about. It seemed all he and Scott wanted to talk about was tractors.”

“Okay, okay. I’ll admit, it wasn’t a good fit. But…”

“No! No buts. No more blind dates.”

“It won’t be a blind date. You’re going skating with me, and he’ll just happen to be there.” Melissa grinned at her again.

Lainey groaned.

At the skating rink, Lainey put on her skates. When she stood, her legs were about as stable as a newborn colt’s. She skated back and forth, outside the main rink, to try to gain her sea legs.

As her legs grew steadier, she entered the main circle, but stayed on the outer edge, away from the experienced, faster skaters.

Others, including Melissa, flew past her over and over. Melissa smiled and gave a little wave every time she passed, but Lainey focused on keeping her balance.

When the rink announcer called the first couples’ skate, Lainey aimed herself toward one of the main rink exits. As she rolled to the exit, she noticed a group of young men just on the other side. She had never learned how to stop properly using her skate stoppers, so she hoped she could just glide past them.

However, one of her wheels caught on the little lip that separated the two circles, and she lost her balance. As she fell forward, her blue-green eyes met the blue ones of a young, very good-looking blond male, and a spark of something other than fear and embarrassment shot through her as their gaze connected. She put her hands out to brace her fall, but the blond moved to catch her.

Her hands landed squarely on his firm pectoral muscles, and heat flooded her cheeks. She jerked her hands from his chest as if she’d been burned. “I’m so sorry.”

The handsome blond grinned. “Don’t be. I kind of like having a pretty girl fall for me.”

“I … I wasn’t… I didn’t mean to.”

“Would you like to join me on the main rink?” His hands were still on her hips. “I’ll keep hold of your hand. I won’t let you fall.”

Lainey placed her hands on his and removed them from her hips, released one, and held the other. “Okay. What’s your name?”

“Kaeden Phillips, and yours?”

“Lainey Price.”

“Ah, you’re the one I’ve been waiting to meet.”

“Wait … what?” She looked at him and blinked. “Wait, you know Melissa?”

“Hm-hm, indeed I do. I’m so glad you were able to come skating with her tonight.”

The music and couple’s skate ended. Kaeden brought her to a smooth stop at one of the main rink exits. “Would you like to go to the snack bar for something to drink?”

“Okay.”

Kaeden helped Lainey settle in a chair then went to the counter to order their drinks.

He returned, placed their drinks on the table, and took the seat across from her. “Are you planning on going away to college after graduation?”

“No, my folks can’t afford it. Are you going to college?”

“I’m twenty-one. I work at a lumber yard.”

Melissa skated to their table. “Lainey, it’s 9:15.”

“Oh no, we need to go.” She struggled to get up, but fell back into her chair.

Kaeden stood, moved to her side of the table, and helped her up. “Lainey, what’s wrong?”

“I’m supposed to be home by 9:30. My mom has trust issues. She’s afraid I’m going to make the same mistakes she made when she was my age. If I’m late, I’ll get a lecture, and I’ll be lucky if she doesn’t ground me.”

Kaeden led her to a bench and loosened her skate laces. After changing to her shoes, she grabbed her jean jacket, and headed for the door.

“Wait … Lainey.” Kaeden skated after her and grabbed her arm. “Can I see you again?”

Lainey paused. She placed her hand on the side of his face. “Call me. My number is 252-7785.”

“I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Melissa caught up to Lainey in the parking lot and grinned. “So, you like Kaeden?”

Lainey nodded.

“Does that mean I’m forgiven for the epic failed blind date?”

“Only if Kaeden actually calls me and takes me out.”

They grinned at each other, then Melissa pulled onto the road.

 

Flash Fiction Friday

What If?

by Kelly F. Barr

Was he making a mistake? They say you can’t go back in time. Thirty years had passed and he was pushing fifty. Could it just be a mid-life crisis?

She hadn’t crossed his mind in years. But then he’d found that old shoebox—the one he’d hidden way back in his closet, the one that held letters and photos faithfully sent to him during the four years he’d spent in the marines.

Maybe he’d started thinking about Carly again because he’d found the box or maybe he was lonelier than he wanted to admit. The kids were grown … had their own lives now, and it had been six years since his wife passed away.

He carried the shoebox to the living room, sat in his favorite chair, and removed the lid. He picked up the first envelope and carefully withdrew its contents. Two sheets of paper with cursive writing on every line. No one writes cursive anymore.

He read letter after letter, traveling back in time in his mind. Then he withdrew the contents of another envelope and found a picture of Carly standing near a tree smiling, strands of her long blonde hair blowing over the left side of her face and her blue-green eyes sparkling. She was a beauty. The letter accompanying the photo was the one—the one that made him a fool—the one where she had suggested they might spend some time together the next time he was home on leave.

That letter that had changed their relationship. Fresh out of high school and he’d enlisted in the marines. Carly promised to write to him the entire four years he would serve.

But when he’d received this letter, he wrote back, informing her he had a girlfriend.

Jenna had been that girlfriend, and Jenna was the girl he married upon his discharge.

Carly had been hurt. The cursive of her next letter had angry slants and dark punctuation marks. Her pen bled, How could you let me think you might be interested in me? How could you tell me how much my letters and photos meant to you—ask for more photos—when you have a girlfriend? What, are you … one of those men with a different woman in every port!

He hadn’t expected to ever hear from her again, but a month later another letter arrived, and her letters continued until his discharge. Carly had kept her promise despite the hurt he’d inflicted upon her.

What would happen if he found her … went to see her? Would she be happily married? Could there be anything between them? He wanted to try—needed to know.

A Google search found a Carly Nelson who was a songwriter. Could she be his Carly Nelson? He clicked a link and a photo popped up. A twenty-something woman with auburn hair and brown eyes.

Next he tried Facebook and found a Carly Nelson Winchester and clicked her profile photo to make it bigger. The photo filled his laptop screen. It was her—his Carly. She had a few more lines around her eyes, some silver streaks in her hair, but the smile was unmistakable. Another click and he read about her. She was still in Pennsylvania, married with four children. He searched her photos, but none of the recent photos showed a man with her.

He opened another tab, searched the airlines, and booked a ticket on the next flight to Pennsylvania. He packed a carry-on bag then lay on the bed to try to sleep but the butterflies in his stomach and the drum pounding a rhythm in his chest wouldn’t let him.

He closed his eyes and memories of working with Carly at the shoe store in the mall flowed through his mind like an old movie: Carly laughing at his corny jokes, teasing him about another female employee she knew had a crush on him, but never letting on she might be interested.

He rose from his bed, grabbed his carry-on, walked out the door of his apartment locking it behind him. Sitting behind the steering wheel of his red classic Ford Mustang, he placed his hands on the wheel, rested his head on them, and prayed this wasn’t a mistake. That Carly might be glad to see him … be willing to give him another chance.

At the Harrisburg Airport, he rented a car and drove into Lancaster … to the address the internet listed as hers. When he pulled up in front of the house, his palms grew sweaty and his throat dry because there she was … his Carly, sitting in a wooden rocking chair on the porch.

As he brought his rental car to a stop and shut off the engine, she rose to her feet and moved to the porch steps. He slid out of the car, walked around the back, and started a slow trek up the walkway. She moved a couple steps, then stopped, tears trickling down her cheeks—tears of joy or something else?

When he stood before her, she reached out a hand as if to touch his cheek, then stopped and let the hand drop. Her eyes searched his. “Keith … Keith Phillips?”

He offered a hesitant smile and nodded. Was that sadness in her eyes?

“It’s been such a long time. What are you doing here?”

Special Blog Post — Keen Blog Tour

Keen Blog Tour Banner

Hi Everyone,

My friend Laura Zimmerman’s new book is coming out in one week! To celebrate and get the word out, I am participating in a blog tour. I will post an interview with Laura Zimmerman, here on my blog on July 10th.

Below, you will find the dates and websites where you can follow the celebration of the soon-to-be-released Keen by Laura L. Zimmerman. I do not have direct links for each website in this post, but all you have to do is type the web address in your search bar to find each one.

Keen Blog Tour Schedule

Flash Fiction Friday: A Reluctant Beginning

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Photo by Sven Mieke on Unsplash

 

A Reluctant Beginning

by Kelly F. Barr

Marion’s shoulders sagged and she sighed as she lowered herself onto the seat in her daughter’s car. She looked at her house and kept her gaze upon it until it slipped out of sight and a tear trickled down her cheek. She would miss that home and all the wonderful memories it held. She would no longer feel close to Harold, the husband she had shared forty years with in that house.

Marion turned her eyes to the road before them. Susan, her daughter, reached over and patted her arm. “You’ll be fine, Mom. You won’t be alone anymore and there are daily activities to keep your mind and body active. You’ll make friends quickly. You’ve always been good at that.”

Marion didn’t respond. She didn’t want to live in an old folks home. She didn’t want to have to make new friends and start a new life. She liked the life she had, and what about her children and grandchildren? Would they make time to visit her or would she be abandoned like so many others whose families placed them in a nursing facility, then went about their busy lives forgetting the aged family member?

Susan pulled to a stop in front of one of the new facilities forty-five minutes later. It was an attractive building on the outside. Susan disappeared through the entrance but returned just minutes later with a pretty raven-haired woman whose emerald eyes  sparkled as she smiled and took Marion’s hand.

“Mrs. Randolph, it’s so nice to meet you and welcome you to your new home. My name is Rhonda, and I’m going to help you get settled in.”

Marion tried to smile, but just couldn’t get her mouth to cooperate. Settled in. She used to have a whole house that was hers. Now, she’d only have a room. She’d had to leave so many things behind. Her lips trembled as tears threatened, but she pulled her shoulders back and drew in a deep breath then released it slowly.

A young man had come out the door behind Rhonda pushing a cart and was now helping Susan with Marion’s bags and the few other things she was able to bring to her “new home”.

The quartet walked through the entryway into a large lobby with lots of plump-cushioned chairs, well-polished, dark wooden tables and large green plants. They entered a short hallway where they entered an elevator large enough for the four of them and the young man’s wheeled cart, as well as Marion’s large suitcase on wheels, which Susan pulled.

They rode the elevator to the third floor, entered a long hallway with doorways on either side. They walked about halfway down the corridor and Rhonda stopped to open a door on their right. There was already a small plaque outside the door that held the name “Marion Randolph”.

Marion stepped into the room and tears began to stream down her cheeks. The room was actually a small apartment. Upon entering, she stood in a sitting room—her favorite Oriental rug on the floor, her favorite rocking chair and wing-back chair on the far two corners, her lampstand between them. Her Longaberger Magazine Basket was next to her rocking chair and her oak table with the little drawer was between her two favorite chairs in front of the lampstand. There was also a sofa along the wall and her coffee table was a couple feet in front of it. Her favorite photo of Harold hung on the wall above the sofa, as did a new photo—one of all her children and grandchildren.

“Mom, what do you think?” Susan put an arm around Marion’s shoulders and gave her a gentle squeeze.

Marion sniffled, then offered her first smile that day. “Oh dear, I had no idea. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Then it wouldn’t have been surprise. Let me show you your bedroom with its beautiful view.”

Keeping her arm around Marion’s shoulders, Susan led her to the next room.

There stood her bed covered with her favorite quilt, her nightstand, and her small, tan, plush chair. Her nightstand held a phone and her favorite photo of her and Harold on their wedding day sixty-two years ago. The back wall held a large bay window with a wide windowsill where pots of her favorite plants sat, and before one end of the bay was her small desk and chair. Along the other wall were three bookcases holding her books.

As she stood before the window with Susan, the view that met her eyes was very inviting. Below was a large courtyard with a small vegetable garden, rose bushes, and a beautiful flower garden with a path and several benches. There were several trees offering shade from the sun during the hottest part of the day as well.

“You still haven’t told me what you think.”

Marion looked at Susan, then kissed her cheek. “It’s much better than I expected.”

“Good. I’m glad you like it, and I’m sure you’ll like it even more as you get to know the other residents. Stan and I will bring the kids to visit as much as we can. Now I’ll leave you to settle in and start exploring and meeting people. I love you, Mom.” Susan kissed her cheek and walked out the door.

Marion’s heart sank once again, wondering how long it would be before she saw Susan and her family again. They lived the closest and had always spent so much time with Marion since Harold had passed away three years ago.

“If you’re all right, I’ll let you rest as well. But if you need anything, just pick up the phone by your bed and punch the number five. Someone will answer and be able to help you with anything you need. Oh, and that little door off from your bedroom, is your private bathroom. There is a medicine cabinet in there with your personal care items. I’ll be back to take you down to the dining room on the main floor. You’ll be able to meet lots of other residents during dinner.” Rhonda smiled one last time, then pulled the door shut behind her.

* * * * *

At dinner that evening, Marion was introduced to Trudy Jamison, Carol Wright, Betty Stewart, Artie Martin, and Elmer Baker. They all sat at a large round table together. Elmer greeted Marion with a dimpled smile and sparkling blue eyes. He had a full head of snow white hair and was quite handsome.

“I hear you’ve got one of the apartments on the third floor with a view of the courtyard. You know those are the most sought after and expensive rooms in this place.” Trudy met Marion’s eyes with a challenging gaze.

“I had no idea. My daughter made all the arrangements. She even surprised me by having all of my most treasured possessions already moved in before I arrived.”

Trudy sniffed. “I see. I haven’t seen any of my children in eight months. They usually only visit once a year.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. That is one of my worries about being here—that I’ll be … forgotten.”

“I know it won’t be the same, but you’ll soon have plenty of friends and activities to keep you busy here, as long as you don’t allow yourself to become a recluse in your apartment.” Elmer winked at Marion.

As dinner ended, Elmer rose and moved around the table to help Marion from her chair. As she rose, he offered her his arm. “Would you care to visit the courtyard before it gets dark?”

Marion, surprised at the flutter in her stomach, placed her hand on it. That was something she hadn’t felt in quite some time. She placed her other hand in the crook of Elmer’s elbow and a jolt shot through her fingers as she felt the warmth of his arm through his shirt. “That would be lovely.”

As they stopped to admire one of the rose bushes, Elmer pulled a pocketknife from his pants pocket, opened it, and cut off a rose, then gently placed it in Marion’s hair. “You’re a beautiful woman, Marion.”

Heat crept into Marion’s cheeks and she hoped he didn’t notice her blush. “I haven’t been told that in years, and I haven’t given love or romance a thought in many years. My Harold’s only been gone three years.”

“I think that’s long enough to at least consider the possibility of love and romance.” Elmer grinned.

Marion’s heart skipped a beat as his dimples deepened.

Elmer escorted Marion back to her apartment. “I’m glad you’re here Marion. I hope to get to know you much better, and even if your family doesn’t visit often … I won’t let you be lonely.” He patted her hand.

She smiled and her eyes filled with tears. “Thank you, Elmer. You’re very kind.”

Marion slipped inside her apartment, shut the door, and looked at Harold’s photo on the wall. “What would you think of Elmer? I never gave thought of another love after you, but maybe it is time. I do miss having the love of a good man.”

 

Tea and Poetry Tuesday

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Gingerbread
by Louisa May Alcott

‘Gingerbread,
Go to the head.
Your task is done;
A soul is won.
Take it and go
Where muffins grow,
Where sweet loaves rise
To the very skies,
And biscuits fair
Perfume the air.
Away, away!
Make no delay;
In the sea of flour
Plunge this hour.
Safe in your breast
Let the yeast-cake rest,
Till you rise in joy,
A white bread boy!’

Beyond the Valley by Rita Gerlach

Beyond the Valley (Daughters of the Potomac Book 3) by [Gerlach,  Rita]

The third and final book in the “Daughters of the Potomac” series by Rita Gerlach, Beyond the Valley is my favorite. I enjoyed all three books, but I found myself on the edge of my seat cheering for things to get better in Sarah Carr’s life in this book. This book made me laugh and cry, which is another way I measure how good a book is–that it evokes strong emotions within me and moves me to both laughter and tears.

This story begins with a tragic event that affects Sarah’s life, and this event is quickly followed by three more tragic events in Sarah’s life. Then things in Sarah’s life seem to improve a little for a short while before the next tragic event, and this is the pattern for the rest of the story–Sarah, dealing with one tragedy after another, and all she wants is to be free and loved.

When she meets a doctor, who falls in love with her, it appears that her hopes and dreams will be fulfilled. However, as an indentured servant, Sarah is not free to marry as she wishes, and the man who owns her refuses to allow the doctor to buy Sarah’s indenture, but instead sells her to a backwoodsman. And so, Sarah’s life is thrust into more struggle for survival, as her heart aches to be reunited with the doctor.

Sarah’s faith, courage and bravery in all that she faces is an inspiration.

The doctor’s unwillingness to give up in his search for Sarah because of his love for her is the stuff an outstanding romance story is made of.

Once again, I highly recommend the “Daughters of the Potomac” series by Rita Gerlach to all who love history, romance, and adventure. The first two books are strongly connected, and I believe should be read together. However, this book, though connected to the first two, could be read on its own without the reader feeling lost.

These books and the strong characters in them will live in my memory for a long time to come.