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.

Beyond Blood (A Detective Cliff Husto Thriller) by Jack King

Beyond Blood (A Detective Cliff Husto Thriller) by [King, Jack]

Beyond Blood by Jack King is a murder mystery novel with Detective Cliff Husto on the case. The story is about an advertising agency and how several employees of Mathis & Oliver get murdered by a serial killer — a serial killer that is highly intelligent and leaves no trace that he was even at the murder scene.

This book kept me guessing and turning pages almost to the very end. The first couple chapters seemed to be quite fast-paced and introduced a lot of characters. However, chapter three or four finally fell into a well-paced rhythm and I became caught up in the story. It was difficult to really get interested in and really care about any of the employees and bosses of the advertising agency, but Detective Cliff Husto was a likeable character from the start. As Detective Husto began to unravel the mysteries of the murders, and especially the background of the suspect, things became even more interesting.

I will say that there is a part of the story that I found predictable due to similar stories I read in the past, but in the end, Jack King gave it an interesting twist that made the ending very satisfying.

For those of you who prefer all of your Christian fiction to be completely clean, I will warn you that this book includes some violent scenes and profanity. I will also say that  Jack King created realistic characters and a realistic story, and as Christians, I hope you realize that every story–every Christian life–faces struggles and temptations and none of us is perfect, so to expect everything in Christian fiction to be completely clean and the hero to be perfect, to me, makes for an unrealistic, unrelatable, and boring story. To read a story that has some grit, struggles, temptations, and maybe even a touch of evil is to read about real life.

I highly recommend Beyond Blood by Jack King to anyone who enjoys a good murder mystery with an appealing detective on the case.

Armor of Aletheia by Ralene Burke

Armor of Aletheia (Sacred Armor Trilogy Book 1) by [Burke, Ralene]

“Armor of Aletheia” by Ralene Burke is a new release by this Fantasy writer. It is the story of Karina, an orphan raised in a castle. But when the king dies, his wife wants Karina dead.

The Creator sends Karina on a quest, where she meets many new and interesting friends. Before her quest can be completed, however, she must return to the castle and seek help for the Temple of Aletheia, but is thrown into the dungeon.

Karina faces many obstacles and must lead in a war. The story is filled with action, adventure, and a bit of romance.

This is the first book I have read by Ms. Burke, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was well written and captured my attention at the start and held it until the very end. Her characters were well developed and I became invested in them from the start as well–wanting those that I liked to succeed and those that I did not like to fail.

Ms. Burke included one unexpected twist I had not anticipated as well, which added tension and conflict to the story.

This is obviously the first book of a series, as it ends with the words “To Be Continued”, but the ending holds enough resolution and ends wrapped up to satisfy the reader until the next book is released.

If you are a Fantasy reader, you will enjoy “Armor of Aletheia”. I believe this story is suitable for middle grade readers through adults. There is violence due to war, but it is not overly graphic. There is no inappropriate language or explicit intimate scenes.

His Blessing in Disguise by Ava Winters

His Blessing in Disguise: A Western Historical Romance Novel by [Winters, Ava]

“His Blessing in Disguise” by Ava Winters is a sweet romance story. I gave this story a 4-star rating based on the story line and characters. Ms. Winters did a good job of making her characters believable and likeable. The story line was interesting and had just the right amount of tension and conflict.

“His Blessing in Disguise” is set in the Old West where Layla runs away from her outlaw husband to begin a new life on her own. She finds her place in Richstone but complications arise when she begins to have feelings for one of the town’s lawmen, then her outlaw husband comes looking for her.

Tensions heat up as Layla’s outlaw husband convinces her to leave town with him while the lawman, now Sheriff, has already given his heart to her but will not stand in the way of husband and wife. Will Layla and Peter ever see each other again?

For those of you who dislike reading books with editorial mistakes and flaws, I have to say if I was rating this book on the technicalities of writing, I would’ve given it three stars. In addition to too many dialogue tags in the first chapter, there were typographical errors and wording issues scattered throughout the book. The biggest problem I came across, however, was the fact that one entire scene was immediately rewritten following the first telling of the exact same scene but with a different setting and some other differences. I really can’t see how that happened, but it led to quite a bit of confusion on this reader’s part until the story returned to its proper place.

Chemistry of a Kiss by Kimberly Krey

Chemistry of a Kiss: A Sweet YA Romance (Sweet Water High Book 5) by [Krey, Kimberly]

Chemistry of a Kiss by Kimberly Krey is part of Ms. Krey’s Sweet Water High YA clean romance series. I haven’t read any of the other books in the series, and this was my very first read by Kimberly Krey.

Harper is dating TJ but his kisses don’t have the effect she is looking for. She likes TJ and wants to help him learn to make some better choices. Then she receives a partner and an assignment at school. One of her teachers pairs her with Jett and assigns them the project of researching and reporting on “The Chemistry of a Kiss”.

During their studies, Harper finds herself thinking about kissing Jett, but there is a bit of history behind them that causes her some embarrassment. Then there’s the complication of his ex-girlfriend, When Harper’s mother makes a rule that Harper can’t exclusively date one guy, she and TJ figure if Harper lets her mom think her studying on some evenings with Jett are actual dates, things will be okay. That doesn’t exactly work out as planned.

Things get more and more complicated as Harper falls for Jett but isn’t sure if Jett feels the same way or if he’s just trying to make his ex-girlfriend jealous so she’ll come crawling back. When a Sadie Hawkins dance is planned at school, things seem to fall apart around Harper, until another plan is put into action. What happens at the dance is quite a surprise as tensions mount and tempers flare.

This was a great story and an easy read. I enjoyed it from the first page to the last and read it in three nights. I loved the characters and the interactions and relationships Harper had with her grandparents and her mother and sister, not just the peer relationships among the teenage characters. The dialogue and the way Harper thinks are all very realistic and believable. I loved the sweet romance with its kisses. I grew nervous just before the Sadie Hawkins dance, but was thoroughly pleased with the ending as well. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys clean romance stories. I am older than a young adult, so you don’t have to be a young adult to enjoy this story.

I look forward to reading more books by Kimberly Krey.

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

Image result for fawkes by nadine brandes

Fawkes is an historical fiction novel by Nadine Brandes. It is about a plot against parliament, which is an event in history, but Ms. Brandes has added a fictional fantasy story line which is about the power of colors. She has also included the plague in the story because the plague was really happening during the time period of this story. However, she has chosen to put an interesting twist on the plague as well.

I must say that if it wasn’t for my interest in the main character, Thomas, the son of Guy Fawkes, an actual historical character involved in the plot against parliament, I’m not sure I would have continued reading this book beyond the first few chapters. There was so much emphasis on color power and masks in the first part of the book, that I found it to drag on and on. I didn’t actually get really interested in the book until the second half.

I suppose part of the reason I didn’t fully enjoy the story is because I didn’t fully understand the battle between the Keepers and Igniters, and though I thought the White Light was supposed to represent God, I didn’t think it was an accurate representation.

The story began to pick up when Thomas discovered his friend, Emma’s secret, which had a profound effect on their relationship, and from there Thomas began to search for answers pertaining to the color powers and the truth behind them. He had never been comfortable with the constant fighting between Keepers and Igniters and the killing of innocent people. He also wasn’t comfortable with the plot his father and his friends were planning against parliament. He had some difficult decisions to make, and he’d been infected by the plague twice.

As Thomas fought his own internal struggles and the plot against parliament began to be put into action, the story finally hooked me, and during the last third of the book, it definitely kept me turning pages. I was very pleased with the ending as it was realistic and satisfying.

I must say that Ms. Brandes did an excellent job with writing this story. It is very well-written and I found no mistakes that should have been caught in the editorial process, which tells me that Ms. Brandes had a good editor, maybe more than one, so there were no grammatical or typographical errors.

The thing I am most thankful for is that Ms. Brandes included a section in the back, “What’s True and What’s Not”, where she explained what was historically true and where she received her information, and what she chose to add to write a full-length historical fiction novel about an historical event. I had never heard of Guy Fawkes or that particular plot against parliament (apparently, there were several).

This was the first book I’ve read that is a Fantasy Historical Fiction, and as I am a new Fantasy reader, maybe that was part of my problem with this book as well, because I love Historical Romance stories. I think the Fantasy part of this story just didn’t appeal to me. I know many people who read it and loved it, so I know my lack of interest is due to my own opinions and not anything Ms. Brandes wrote, and as I said, I did really enjoy the last third of the book, and was invested in Thomas Fawkes, the main character, from the beginning. Therefore, I hope, if you are considering reading Fawkes, you will give it a try, especially if you’re a big Fantasy fan because you might really like it.

The Gold Son by Carrie Anne Noble

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I was so excited when I met Carrie Anne Noble at the Realm Makers book stand at our local homeschool convention this year, especially when I found out that she’s written a book about Leprechauns! I have not heard of any other authors writing fiction fantasy stories about Leprechauns, so I knew I had to buy this book. I also bought Ms. Noble’s first book, which I will read and do a review on at a later date.

SUMMARY OF THE BOOK, BASED ON BACK COVER BLURB:

The Gold Son is about a human boy named Tommin. He is an ordinary sixteen-year-old who wants to make beautiful shoes and take care of his granny. The thing about Tommin that is not ordinary is his insatiable need to steal. He’s driven by a curse that demands more and more gold.

One day the mysterious Lorcan Reilly comes to town with his “niece”, Eve. Tommin believes Lorcan wants to help him, but instead Lorcan whisks him off to the underground realm of the Leprechauns, where he and Eve are forced to prepare to become one of them.

Eventually, Tommin and Eve find themselves falling in love with one another, and they begin to plan their escape. However, things don’t go according to plan, and Tommin’s humanity is slipping away. If Eve can’t find the remedy in time, Tommin will be destined to become a thieving trickster for all eternity.

MY REVIEW:

I have to say that I had trouble getting hooked into the story. I felt that the beginning seemed a little slow and repetitive.

In chapter three when Lorcan Reilly and Eve came on the scene, things began to pick up, but I didn’t really get caught up in the story until they were in the underground realm of Leprechauns. There things became interesting as other characters were introduced and Tommin’s struggles began — struggles of missing his Granny and wanting to return home; struggles as his urges to steal gold became almost unbearable and affected his health. As his feelings for Eve strengthened and problems continued to keep them apart, I couldn’t stop turning pages to see if they would overcome the issues and finally be together.

An unexpected twist made me gasp and nearly broke my heart, but I kept turning pages. Now I had to know how this book would end.

In the end, I enjoyed the book and its characters. Ms. Noble’s portrayal of the Leprechauns and their realm was very interesting. I had never researched much about Leprechauns. What I thought was that they guarded the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and that they wore green clothing and shamrocks. Ms. Noble showed me new things about Leprechauns that I didn’t know and I found it all very fascinating.

I do think the book is geared more for middle grade readers, which is not my normal reading material, but I enjoyed The Gold Son and look forward to reading Ms. Noble’s first book, The Mermaid’s Sister in the near future.