First Chapter Review: Alchemy by Mike Wood

Alchemy by Mike Wood is a coming of age novel that I grabbed as a Kindle freebie in 2014.

BLURB: The summer of 1984 was a golden time in America. From California, where gymnast Mary Lou Retton was winning Olympic gold, to Cape Cod, where explorer Barry Clifford was discovering pirate gold, the nation seemed obsessed with the precious metal. But for 15-year old Al, that obsession hits a little too close to home when he finds a code-filled notebook belonging to his missing father that may contain the ancient formula for turning lead to gold. Convinced that his father’s sudden disappearance is connected to his secret experiments in alchemy, Al sets out to find the truth. He enlists the help of Cammie, a beautiful girl staying for the summer while her marine biologist father tracks a wayward manatee, and together they begin unraveling the mystery. But the closer they get to an answer, the closer they grow to each other, and as the end of summer draws nearer, Al wonders if they can break the code without breaking his heart.

COVER: I live a little over two hours away from Cape Cod. This is the perfect cover to draw the reader into the setting where Al lives. I also love how the author works the year the story takes place into the road sign.

FIRST CHAPTER: Told by Al as if he is speaking directly to the reader, he explains the challenge of his name, a bit about his family and his life, and the day he made the mistake of taking a neighbor’s magazine.

KEEP READING: A resounding yes! I remember when I downloaded this book, because it reminded me of my high school years and was set in a place I knew. Even though Wood has Al give the reader a ton of information in the first chapter, I feel it reads like a teenager would speak and is a cohesive sequence of events. Al is funny and engaging, which makes the reader want to keep turning the pages… especially considering how the first chapter ends.*

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0038M2HC6
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Booksurge (January 12, 2010)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ January 12, 2010
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 1331 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Sticky notes ‏ : ‎ On Kindle Scribe
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 368 pages
  • This First Chapter Review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

    *Based upon the ending of the first chapter, this novel may not be appropriate for younger readers.

    Book Spotlight: The Lightbound Saga Trilogy by S.G. Basu

    13-year-old Maia is a land-dwelling Solianese living on the planet of Tansi. She has been raised by her doting grandfather. Her mother, Sophie, supposedly deceased, is accused to be a traitor who fought for the Xifarians who have subjugated Tansi. Loathing her family’s history, Maia has put herself into self-exile, vowing to steer clear of the temptations that led her mother astray. But when she is drafted into a peace summit by the Xifarians, she must walk into Xif, the planet she has always wanted to avoid. Here she meets loyal teammates Kusha, Dani, Nafi, and Ren, as well as Miir, their team mentor who is as accomplished as he is temperamental. As Maia and her teammates thwart a plot to harm the underwater settlements on Tansi, she also discovers Sophie was not a traitor but a hero. Sophie sacrificed herself to save Tansi by breaking the dark heart within Xif that would have destroyed the Tansian system.

    Maia visits the Jjord nation in their underwater colonies on Tansi. More of Sophie’s secrets come to light while she is in the colonies as well as more of the Xifarians’ plots to rebuild the dark heart of Xif. As Maia’s link with Sophie becomes apparent, Maia soon finds herself in the crosshairs of the Xifarians who kill her family and send her running for shelter across the dead lands of the Solianese. Chased by the Xifarians, including her former mentor Miir, Maia barely manages to stay alive with the help of her teammates. 

    While on the run across Tansi, Maia meets a mysterious man who not only unlocks a power within Maia but also turns out to be a seer of the R’armimon, an ancient and powerful enemy of the Xifarians. Maia is revealed to possess the light that formed the dark heart’s core. When her mighty Xifarian foes corner her, Maia unleashes the power of the light on them, overpowering everyone including Miir who she presumably kills during the fight.

    Maia struggles with her newfound power. She pieces together information and realizes that Miir had been working behind the scenes to help her. The team is on the verge of fracturing when Maia reveals she killed him. The Xifarians grow desperate to resurrect the dark heart that would enable them to leave the Tansian system and escape the R’armimon’s massive fleet that is drawing near. The seer of the R’armimon offers help against the advancing fleet and asks Maia to find artifacts that could enable her to protect Tansi. Meanwhile, the Xifarians try to trap Maia and capture the light inside her. Maia narrowly escapes the trap with the help of the R’armimon seer and his troops but allying with the R’armimon takes a toll on her friendships. Maia is alone and hopeless until she discovers Miir is alive. To make amends for the wrongs committed by his nation, he vows to help Maia uncover Sophie’s past and help her complete her quest for the artifacts. 

    Maia regains the trust of her teammates and tries to convince the Tansian leaders of the impending threat of the R’armimon fleet. With help from Miir, she continues to uncover more of Sophie’s past. They discover that along with Sophie, Miir’s mother was also part of the plot to break the dark heart of Xif. Together with her friends, Maia rushes to find the artifacts the seer demands as the massive Execution Fleet of the R’armimon appears next to Tansi.

    Book Excerpt:

    The large oblong lobby inside was brimming with anxious newcomers. From the far right end, a liberally sized glass staircase spiraled up to the floors above. The absolute lack of color struck Maia; the interior was stark with white walls, white floors, and white furniture.

    “Kusha, Dani, Maia,” a voice, clear and sharp, rose from somewhere in the middle of the room. “Are you here yet?”

    Maia shot a puzzled glance at Kusha and Dani, only to find them as surprised as she was. Hoping to detect the origin of the summons, they made their way across the crowd. The voice rang out again when they were nearer to the center of the hall; its clarity stood out among the muffled humdrum. The source turned out to be a wee little girl who stood with some papers in her right hand, and a red weapons case clutched firmly in her left. A cascade of auburn hair surrounded her head like a silken cloud, falling past her shoulders in curly waves. Her blazing green eyes narrowed when she saw the approaching trio, and she sighed loudly while brushing off the locks of hair from her forehead.

    “About time you arrived . . . had nearly given up on you,” she announced. “I’m Nafi, from the Third Continent. Care to tell me about yourselves?” 

    She stood with her head cocked, listening to their introductions. When they finished, Nafi pulled out the topmost sheet from the small sheaf she held in her hand and waved it. 

    “Our team information—we’re Core 21 and all our stuff will be numbered per our core. Also got the week’s task list.”

    “Thank you,” Dani said, smiling gratefully. “So nice of you to take care of all that.” 

    Nafi did not smile back. She simply thrust the piece of paper into Dani’s hand. Maia peeked at the sheet, which listed their names in order.

    CORE 21

    Dani R. – V – 07656M

    Kusha V. – V – 21356Q

    Maia A. – V – 87243M

    Nafi P. – V – 01938F

    Ren L. – R – 110920D

    Miir T. – R – 947430X

    “These must be the numbers the Tokii assigned to us,” Maia exclaimed, noticing that the number on her lapel matched the one next to her name on the list.

    “Yes. Those are unique random identifiers. Every person on this planet is allotted one. ‘V’ stands for Visitor, and ‘R’ implies a Resident,” Nafi explained.

    “Ren seems to be a resident of Xif,” Dani said, shooting a questioning glance at Nafi. “Have you found him yet?”

    “Oh yes, Ren . . . he’s a little busy showing off his swordsmanship in that corner.” Nafi rolled her eyes and pointed dismissively at the nook behind the staircase where a substantial crowd was gathered.

    “Showing off?” Kusha raised a curious eyebrow.

    “To say the least,” Nafi scoffed. “If he keeps at it, there’s no chance in the world for us to win this contest. I think—”

    “All right, fine,” Dani interrupted, bringing Nafi’s tirade to an abrupt end. “So, we know who Ren is, but what about Miir?”

    “He’s a mentor or team counselor. They assigned a senior from Circle Four to guide each core. Whether he’ll meet us here, I don’t know.” Nafi sounded a little disappointed. She tilted her head toward the staircase, clearly referring to Ren. “Was hoping that Mister Show-off there would be able to help us, seeing he is from Xif and all.”

    “Let’s go talk to him then,” Maia suggested. 

    They walked to the corner of the hall where the crowd now stood in hushed silence. Finding an unobstructed view through the solidly packed gathering was not an easy job, but Maia eventually managed to peek inside. A boy stood at the center in a steady stance, wielding a pole sword that was twice as tall as he was. The curved blade at the end of the long burnished handle of his sword glowed with open menace. Maia could not see his face clearly because of the dark red hood that covered his head and hung over his brow. 

    “What is he trying to do?” Maia whispered to a girl who clearly did not appreciate the small talk at the crucial moment. She scowled at Maia before replying.

    “He’ll split that liemeberri into four pieces . . . midair. Keep watching.” She pointed at another boy who stood with a small purple fruit in his hand, facing the boy with the pole sword.

    The boy with the sword did not even flinch when his assistant tossed the liemeberri in the air. He did not look up, but simply sensed the trajectory of the fruit as it rose, reached the peak, and then started to fall. He moved when the target was a little above the level of his head. In a blur of action, the sword went up and down and then from left to right. The crowd stood in complete silence as the four pieces fell in a neat pile on the floor, forming the whole fruit like it had not been cut at all. The applause broke out immediately. 

    Maia stared in awe, dumbstruck by the precise execution. The boy stuck his sword casually into a belt that hung across his shoulders and walked up to a group of rowdy-looking kids. When he started collecting what looked like Xifarian money, Maia blinked, taken aback by his brashness. He was audacious, no doubt about that, daring to put up a wager on his first day at the academy, right before the opening address. Slightly flustered, she started to weave her way through the crowd toward Kusha and Dani who had found a spot to watch from the opposite side. 

    A frown was deeply etched on Maia’s face when she stepped on someone’s toes. Looking up, she stifled the gasp of surprise with the utmost difficulty. A boy carrying a long sword on his back and a red hood over his head stared back at her. His intense gaze was fixed on Maia—his dark pupils, bizarre with their spatter of white dots, widened as he studied Maia’s face. 

    So . . . this is Ren, our fifth teammate. 

    “My eyes won’t burst into flames if that’s what you are expecting,” the boy said in an odd raspy voice. He scrutinized her face one more time. “Oh wait, I get it. You’re not impressed with my little demonstration there.” 

    He has noted my disapproving look. Maia wavered for a moment between lying and telling him the truth and decided to go with the latter. “I didn’t like your idea of . . . making money,” she said, trying to choose her words with care, “not that I don’t appreciate your skills.”

    “A stranger dares to give me a sermon on my little financial venture. You have guts and . . . I like it,” he replied, a temperamental smile playing on his lips. 

    “Well, that’s good, seeing that you two will be working together in a group for a while.” Nafi had strolled over to the pair. “I’m Nafi, and the gutsy one here is Maia. The other two of our core are way over there.” Nafi pointed to the other side of the crowd. “That boy with the red headband is Kusha, and the shining angel with him is Dani. And by the way, I, too, thoroughly despised that betting action you had going. Stunts like these could have us disqualified from the contest. Don’t know about you, but I’m here to win.”

    “I’m Ren,” the boy said smugly, ignoring Nafi’s lecture. He pushed the hood off his head revealing a shock of spiky silver-and-black hair. Five silver rings adorned his left ear, matched by rings that decorated each of his fingers. Maia had to admit that the flamboyant persona of their teammate from Xif was meticulously matched by his flashy appearance.

    “Already know your name.” Nafi waved the piece of paper listing their group. “Some people have to work when you choose to play.”

    “You seem too little to be here, even to play,” Ren retorted.

    “I’ll be twelve soon, thank you very much.” Nafi’s eyes flashed. “And since you think I’m too young, let’s hear how old and wise you are?”

    “I’m already twelve,” Ren replied with a smirk. “And if you’re looking for wisdom, look no more, you’ve found me.” 

    “We’ll see about that.” 

    As the two stood measuring each other up, Maia could not help but question the prudence of the Board. She wondered what could have driven them into matching two such abrasive personalities. This did not bode well for her or the team. In the very next moment, she banished the smidgeon of worry from her mind. 

    Why should I care if the team falls apart? It would be the greatest possible way to escape the contest and Xif, and if it happened soon enough, she might even be able to catch the caravan to ThulaSu.

    Purchase from Amazon: https://amzn.to/3Tb71xt 

    S.G. Basu is an aspiring potentate of a galaxy or two. She plots and plans with wondrous machines, cybernetic robots, time travelers and telekinetic adventurers, some of whom escape into the pages of her books. Although she’s an engineer by training, writing has been her passion since childhood. Her other loves include extra-hot lattes, fast cars and binge watching sci-fi movies.

    Find out more about the futuristic worlds she creates at sgbasu.com. She can also be reached at sg@sgbasu.com.

    Books by S.G. Basu:

    The Lightbound Saga series (YA Dystopian Science Fiction)

    Maia and the Xifarian Conspiracy

    Maia and the Secrets of Zagran

    Maia and Regency Protocol

    The Lightbound Saga 3 Book Bundle

    The Firefly League-A Lightbound Saga novella

    Elementals-The Serial Thriller (Paranormal Science Fiction)

    Population Morpheus (Near Apocalyptic Science Fiction)

    Jumpers (Paranormal Thriller)You can visit the author’s website at www.sgbasu.com or connect with her on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.

    On My Kindle

    What if everything you believe is a lie?

    Maia has spent most of her life trying to run away from her past. When a chance encounter lands Maia in a dubious peace initiative, she has to walk down a road she had hoped never to tread. Little does she know that the real truth about her long-deceased mother is somewhere down this path.

    But before she gets to that, Maia will discover true friendship, face an unimaginable evil, and fight her deepest fears to save the world she loves.

    A planet on the brink of extinction. An enemy from the dark side of the universe. Only one girl and her secret stand between them.

    Maia and the Xifarian Conspiracy is the first book of the Lightbound Saga, the MG/YA science fiction series that features non-stop action, unexpected plot twists, captivating characters, and a spunky heroine. If you like fast-paced adventure, thrilling new worlds, and epic storylines, then you’ll love this page-turning coming-of-age series from author S. G. Basu.

    Take an incredible journey with the loveable and adorable puppy Rivers as he travels overseas with his adoptive dad. Rivers, through his own journey, experiences the world through God’s eyes and finds joy in God’s faithfulness as he encounters new people, places, and things. A delightful story of adventure and learning to love something new.

    Colorful illustrations make this a must-read for young children who are just forming their understanding of love in action and different cultures.

    DISCOVER, WONDER, EXPLORE, IMAGINE

    This is what learning about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics is all about.
    We must develop the motivation to discover, the curiosity to wonder, the courage to explore, and the creativity to imagine.

    “The mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size.” – Albert Einstein
    Such is the inspiration for this book. And it is truly a wild, whirling tornado of breathless fascination.

    Each story is an adventure, each tale a discovery.

    Every page is dripping with captivating tales from history and scientific wonders in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, all of which have been specifically curated and written for YOUNG READERS.

    The purpose of this book is to fascinate but also to empower and uplift.


    The stories filling these 200 pages will inspire awe and fascination in both reluctant readers as well as budding aficionados of the written word. You will be amazed at what your child excitedly learns from a book like this.

    Get this book today and ignite your child’s curiosity.
    ★ Fascination is an incredible gift. ★

    Grady Whill and the Templeton Codex by Carole P. Roman

    Join Grady Whill and his friends on an exciting adventure that feels like Harry Potter meets the Fantastic Four.

    In Grady Whill and the Templeton Codex, everyone is talking about Templeton Academy, the new superhero high school. Recruiting only the best of the best, Grady is certain he will never get in. When his best friend, Aarush Patel is selected, he assures Grady he has the right stuff. Even the school bully, Elmwood Bledsoe, is attending. As Grady and his friends embark upon this mysterious adventure, they hope to discover the knowledge of the power within.

    I was a huge superhero fan as a kid–comic books and Saturday morning cartoons. I was Spider Woman one year for Halloween. 🙂 So, when I heard about this new series by Carole P. Roman, I knew I had to read the first book.

    Roman did so many things well in this novel. You have the mysterious, supernatural Templeton Academy, which is like a character itself, and the dilemma of Grady trying to figure out why Uncle Leo doesn’t want him to attend the school and having a feeling it all ties into part of his family’s past. And where I feel Roman truly excelled is creating the world of a teenager, even if that world is placed in some mysterious school where kids have to learn the secrets of the Codex. Grady’s bully winds up at the same special school as he does. Where Grady is unsure of himself, Elmwood is overly confident. He is attracted to Pari, Aarush’s cousin, who attends school with them. All the things an everyday teen would cope with, Grady must endure.

    Grady Whill and the Templeton Codex features a diverse group of well-developed characters. Whether they are part of Grady’s friend group, antagonists, or school staff, the author created a unique bunch of characters that all played a great role in the story.

    After this strong and engaging series debut, I am eager to follow more of Grady’s story. Let’s hope it is on the way soon!

    Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0B4T6PWPH
    • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Chelshire, Inc.; 1st edition (July 18, 2022)
    • Publication date ‏ : ‎ July 18, 2022
    • Language ‏ : ‎ English
    • File size ‏ : ‎ 3349 KB
    • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
    • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
    • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
    • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
    • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
    • Print length ‏ : ‎ 267 pages

    I received a free digital copy of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

    Book Spotlight: The Atlantean Horse by Cheryl Carpinello

    Ancient Mystery…Mystical Prophecy…Biblical Horsemen

    One Epic Task

    The Task: Retrieve the Five Feathers of the Phoenix to raise Atlantis so its people can return home.

    The Chosen: Cousins Rosa & Jerome embark upon a perilous and personal quest to retrieve the first Feather. Rosa’s special gift, kept far in the Past, will be revealed, and Jerome will discover his.

    The Opponents: The Four Deadly Horsemen of the Apocalypse will stop at nothing, not even murder, to possess the Feathers.

    Join Rosa & Jerome as they risk all in their search for the First Feather!

    Book Excerpt:

    Taking a deep breath, I wonder—for the first time in two years—at the ties that bind me, ties I now think of as a gift rather than a curse.

    She said you would help. She said you could help because you walk in two worlds.

    “What…what do you want?” Idiot, I tell myself. You know better than to ask that question.

    This time the man speaks out loud. “The time is now.”

    I finger the ankh again, squeezing it, absorbing the warmth. “Time for what?”

    “It is time for Atlantis to rise again. It is time to gather the Feathers of the sacred Phoenix bird to set the island in motion.”

    I blink as images of a sunken island and fleeing people, animals, and birds fill my head. “What…what do you want from me?”

    “You are the one who must gather the Feathers on the Sun Days and bring them to the Atlantean Horse so that my people and my land can once more be united. It’s been too long, and our people wish to come home.”

    “Me?” My eyes widen in disbelief.

    The man nods. 

    Putting my hands around my head, I try to block out the hundreds of voices from the visions running rampant through my brain. Voices crying out for help. 

    A shiver travels down his body shaking me out of the trance. His hands vigorously rubbing his arms prompt me into action.

    “Get inside. You have no business being out in this weather dressed as you are.” I open the screen door and move to the side to let him pass. No, don’t start. Don’t say a word. She sent him here. She wouldn’t do anything to hurt me. I know what I’m doing. I hope.I glance around the neighborhood to be sure no one else, especially Jerome, is around. Maybe I’m the only one who can see him, like Tut. 

    “Thank you, Rosa,” he says, continuing to briskly rub his arms. “She didn’t tell me that your world is wrapped in ice.”

     

    Release Date: September 23, 2022

    Publisher: Silver Quill Publishing

    Kindle: 149 pages; $5.99

    Amazon: https://amzn.to/3eHdTmT

    I’m a lover of mythology, myths, legends, and tales from the ancient/medieval worlds. I enjoy exploring how these have transcended time/space to influence our world today. Myths and legends don’t fade away; they are just repackaged for a new audience.

    As a high school English teacher, I continually challenged my students to find connections between today and times long gone by. Some took more digging than others, but the connections were always there. One of my favorites, Star Wars, borrows several concepts from the Legend of King Arthur. The Star Trek series goes even further back into the mythology of ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt as well as others.

    I write Arthurian Legend for young readers and teens (I never refuse to let mature readers enjoy my stories!). These stories exhibit what I consider to be cornerstones of that Legend: Courage, Honor, Loyalty, and Friendship.

    My tales from Egypt and my new series Feathers of the Phoenix meld the ancient/medieval worlds with today. The Atlantean Horse (Book 1 of Feathers of the Phoenix) also brings the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse out of the Bible and into the modern world. They and my main characters are after the feathers of the Phoenix in order to bring Atlantis alive again.

    P.S. I believe in magic and Unicorns!!

    Website Link:  https://www.cherylcarpinello.com

    Blog Linkhttp://carpinelloswritingpages.blogspot.com/

    Twitter Link:  https://twitter.com/ccarpinello

    Facebook Link:  https://www.facebook.com/cheryl.carpinello1

    Goodreads Link:    https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2924554.Cheryl_Carpinello

    Instagram Linkhttps://www.instagram.com/ccarpine1/