Don’t Get Involved by F.J. Curlew

Don’t Get Involved by F.J. Curlew

A missing shipment of cocaine.
Three street-kids fighting for their lives.
A mafia hit-man intent on killing them.
A naive expat who gets in their way.
Who would you bet on?

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author.

Don’t Get Involved tells of the struggle of life for the many street kids living rough on the streets of Kiev. Every day is a struggle to find shelter, warmth, food, safety; the children having to beg, scrounge and steal any little scraps they could to get by. Sometimes these children must submit themselves to unspeakable things to earn a bit of money – just enough for a few morsels of food and drink, not enough to break the vice-like grip the corrupt hold over them.
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That is until one girl comes into the possession of a life-changing haul of illicit drugs. The money this could sell for is life changing, but the mafia are on the hunt for their lost haul. Nadia, a Scottish expat, her compassion drawing her to the children, like a moth to flame, does what she can to help them throughout her time in the city. Having fled an abusive relationship at home and having forged new friendships and relationships, finds herself drawn into a situation far bigger than herself. She marks herself out to the mafia hit-man and the corrupt military police as she seeks to dig the children out of a situation.

Don’t Get Involved is dark and gritty, providing an insight into the hidden aspects of society that most of us are fortunate enough to not ever have to experience. F.J. Curlew does a fantastic job of painting a picture of the city. From the perspective of outsiders it seems to be a place of wonder, new experiences to be found around each corner. From the side of the street children Kiev appears stark, inhospitable and corrupt to the core. 

The tales told on both sides of this book are tragic for different reasons. The story offers the slightest of glimmers of hope throughout for all involved, and while I was not too sure about the ending, overall I enjoyed this book for the dark, sorrow-filled atmosphere that permeated from the first to the last page.

My rating:
goodread

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The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker

The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker

For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realize he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive.

As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own.

With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher.

Wow, what an incredible read The Fourth Monkey has been. This is the first book I’ve read by J.D. Barker, and that is often the make or break when trying a new author. I can wholeheartedly say that this is one of the best crime thriller novels I have ever read. The killer is highly enigmatic and mysterious. A dark and shadowy figure foiling the police at every turn. The discovery of another body, the body of the killer throws a curveball at the team investigating his crimes. Clues on the body start to point to one last victim with little time left and clues to his background.
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J.D. Barker has found a fantastic approach to making the threat ever present as we follow the team in their hunt for the victim, while they also seek an answer to who the Four Monkey Killer was and why he did what he did. A diary of sorts provides some answers, chronicling the life of the killer as a child and events that developed him into the man he became.

I found The Fourth Monkey to be a rare book. While there are many I have loved, this is one of the few that kept me wanting for the next chance to sit down and find out what happened next. I needed to know where this killer came from. I needed to know what becomes of his final victim. I needed to know who the Four Monkey Killer was. And even once the identity became clear, somehow the twists and thrills did not let up there.

The only disappointment came when I read the final sentence. I had answers, but that wasn’t enough. J.D. Barker has produced a novel that left me wanting more. Thankfully for me, books two and three are on my shelf ready for me to dive right in to. This is possibly one of the best crime thrillers I have read.

My rating:
goodread

The Whispering Room by Dean Koontz

The Whispering Room by Dean Koontz

Jane Hawk—fiction’s most relentless, resourceful, stunning new heroine—continues her battle against a murderous conspiracy in the riveting sequel to The Silent Corner.

“No time to delay. Do what you were born to do. Fame will be yours when you do this.”

These are the words that ring in the mind of mild-mannered, beloved schoolteacher Cora Gundersun—just before she takes her own life, and many others’, in a shocking act of carnage. When the disturbing contents of her secret journal are discovered, it seems certain that she must have been insane. But Jane Hawk knows better.

In the wake of her husband’s inexplicable suicide—and the equally mysterious deaths of scores of other exemplary individuals—Jane picks up the trail of a secret cabal of powerful players who think themselves above the law and beyond punishment. But these ruthless people bent on hijacking America’s future for their own monstrous ends never banked on a highly trained FBI agent willing to go rogue—and become the nation’s most wanted fugitive—in order to derail their insidious plans to gain absolute power with a terrifying technological breakthrough.

Driven by love for her lost husband and by fear for the five-year-old son she has sent into hiding, Jane Hawk has become an unstoppable predator. Those she is hunting will have nowhere to run when her shadow falls across them.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher.

FBI agent gone rogue Jane Hawk continues her relentless search for the shadowy organisation behind the death of her husband and the terrifying threats against her son. Yet more despicable acts are perpetrated against innocent people by a seemingly lone wolf home-grown terrorist in a close-knit Minnesota community.34962255._SY475_

Local sheriff Luther Tillman refuses to believe such a despicable act could have been carried out by a mild-mannered, much respected special needs teacher and digs into the life of the suspect, fuelled on by the FBI and Department for Homeland Security shutting him and his office out of the investigation. His discoveries led him to a town fully populated with people under nano-tech control. An inevitable collision course with Jane is inevitable given her trail of the senior members of The Arcadians leads her to the same pseudo-community.

Once again, Koontz has succeeded in creating a fast paced book thanks to short, pacy chapters and characters that as a reader I felt I could really invest in. New characters including Luther Tillman are highly likeable, while the villains of the story are utterly loathsome but not in a Disneyesque way. They were believable but utterly arrogant and self assured. 

The story twists and turns towards its conclusion, unveiling layers upon layers that change the direction and dynamic of proceedings. Discovering there are more books in the series is a wonderful gift knowing I have more of Jane Hawk and her unwavering drive to uncover the truth yet to come.

My rating:
goodread

The Silent Corner by Dean Koontz

The Silent Corner by Dean Koontz

“I very much need to be dead.” 

These are the chilling words left behind by a man who had everything to live for—but took his own life. In the aftermath, his widow, Jane Hawk, does what all her grief, fear, and fury demand: find the truth, no matter what. 

People of talent and accomplishment, people admired and happy and sound of mind, have been committing suicide in surprising numbers. When Jane seeks to learn why, she becomes the most-wanted fugitive in America. Her powerful enemies are protecting a secret so important—so terrifying—that they will exterminate anyone in their way. 

But all their power and viciousness may not be enough to stop a woman as clever as they are cold-blooded, as relentless as they are ruthless—and who is driven by a righteous rage they can never comprehend. Because it is born of love.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher.

This is possibly only the second Dean Koontz book that I’ve ever read. The Silent Corner certainly appealed to me: an edgy, fast-paced thriller with a dark undercurrent. The abuse of technology as a central theme for the nefarious goings on throughout the book were well thought out and very plausible.
32148091._SY475_Following the inexplicable suicide of her husband, FBI agent Jane Hawk takes a leave of absence to research an unexpected spike in suicide rates around the country. With no signs of depression in her husband, and no known reason Jane believes there must be another explanation.

What follows is a race against time to prove what she knows to be true, toppling an organised group of corrupt power players with tendrils spreading across America. Their vices deep and dark, leading Jane into the Dark Web, and corners of the human mind too grim to contemplate. She must stay out of the crosshairs of those she hunts, and remain one step ahead of the authorities, including her very own FBI.

With short, punchy chapters I felt the action moved along at a really good pace, never feeling too laboured. The story covers a wide range of dark topics but isn’t too heavy. While the descriptive text in the book at times becomes a bit overused for my liking, it doesn’t diminish what is an action filled, dramatic thriller.

My rating:
goodread

Kitty Hawk and The Icelandic Intrigue by Iain Reading

Kitty Hawk and The Icelandic Intrigue by Iain Reading

Following in the footsteps of her hero Amelia Earhart, Kitty Hawk sets off on an epic flight around the world and arrives in Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik where she finds herself immersed in a beautiful alien world of volcanoes, Vikings, elves and trolls. Before she knows it Kitty is plunged head first into an amazing adventure that sweeps her across a rugged landscape where humans and nature exist side-by-side in an uneasy truce and magical realms seem to lie just out of sight beneath the surface.

Kitty Hawk and the Icelandic Intrigue is the dazzling third installment of the Flying Detective Agency series featuring Kitty Hawk, an intrepid teenaged seaplane pilot with boundless curiosity and a knack for getting herself into – and out of – all kinds of precarious situations.

This is a perfect book to fire the imaginations of readers of all ages – armchair explorers and amateur detectives alike. From dangerous criminals and corrupt government officials to mystical beings and clashes with the elemental forces of nature, this book has it all. Come and join Kitty Hawk as she experiences the strange and extraordinary world of the Icelanders, and unravels the Icelandic Intrigue.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher.

The third book in the Kitty Hawk series follows on where we left Kitty in The Hunt for Hemingway’s Ghost, preparing to depart from Florida to start her around the world adventure proper. A short layover in Newfoundland sees Kitty learn about the history of the earliest Viking settlers to land on the continent before setting out to Iceland, a land of ice and fire. An uneventful flight over the Atlantic, with a brief stop to refuel in Greenland and Kitty arrives in Iceland to meet up with the family of a friend back home who will be her hosts for the stay.
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As is now commonplace in these books, Reading takes readers and his characters on a well-researched guided tour around the locations of the book with interesting facts and insight into the history and culture to be found in the locations his books are set in. Having just booked a holiday to Iceland it made this a wonderful read to hear about places we will be seeing. Kitty’s enthusiasm for travel is infectious as she explores destinations, and joins in with the family she is staying with as they go about their daily tasks.

Where Kitty is involved, adventure is never far away and she finds herself drawn into a plot to bring down plans for industrial expansion on the arctic island. Finding herself kidnapped and in serious trouble our intrepid traveler has to keep her wits about her to unpick the threads of this nefarious plot and bring the perpetrators to justice before they can cause any harm. Enlisting the help of a cast of supporting characters Kitty saves the day, allowing her to enjoy the remainder of her stay before continuing her epic around the world flight.

Kitty Hawk and The Icelandic Intrigue once again makes for an enjoyable and entertaining read. The sense of menace and danger is never too intense making a safe read for younger readers, and the well-researched nature allows anyone to enjoy the book safe in the knowledge the descriptions of Iceland are accurate and informative.

My rating:
goodread

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

A collection of seventeen wonderful short stories showing that two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is as talented a writer as he is an actor.

A gentle Eastern European immigrant arrives in New York City after his family and his life have been torn apart by his country’s civil war. A man who loves to bowl rolls a perfect game–and then another and then another and then many more in a row until he winds up ESPN’s newest celebrity, and he must decide if the combination of perfection and celebrity has ruined the thing he loves. An eccentric billionaire and his faithful executive assistant venture into America looking for acquisitions and discover a down and out motel, romance, and a bit of real life. These are just some of the tales Tom Hanks tells in this first collection of his short stories. They are surprising, intelligent, heartwarming, and, for the millions and millions of Tom Hanks fans, an absolute must-have

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher.

Uncommon Type is my second short story collection in a row. This book is a series of 17 stories from the mind of Oscar-winning silver screen legend Tom Hanks. Each in some way, shape or form connects to the common theme of typewriters. In some cases these wonderful mechanical devices from the heart of the story, in others they appear as a cameo. I’ll be reviewing this book in a different way to my normal reviews, reviewing each story to rate the book overall.
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I really enjoyed this as an opener to the collection. When two old friends with very different perspectives on life enter into a relationship built almost entirely on lust, something has to give. Hanks builds relatable and likeable leading characters. The clash of polar-opposite personalities is well crafted, showing the issues when a relationship forsakes the important elements of the people within. An enjoyable opening gambit to the collection.

Christmas Eve 1953
This tale opens with a family man returning home on Christmas Eve. Family traditions unfold around him: the placing of family gifts under the tree, sharing dinner, enjoying Christmas records together before leaving notes to Santa alongside a glass of milk and a plate of cookies. As a massive Christmas lover the depictions of this most wonderful time of year left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling. The story takes a deeper, more emotional twist when our protagonist takes his annual phone call from an old friend, a fellow ex-soldier where they catch up. Throughout the call we here an internal monologue of sorts, a recounting of the man’s personal, dark experiences of the war. This story was a real thinker, one I felt was deep and wonderful at once.

A Junket in the City of Light
This story follows the less-than-famous co-star in the latest in a franchise of international blockbusters. It follows his tours around the globe to promote the film, the hectic schedule of a secondary character always in the shadow of his far more desirable leading lady. I found this story a bit more drab, sluggish and less entertaining than the previous two, but still something of an insight into the life of an up and coming actor.

Our Town Today with Hank Fiset – An Elephant in the Pressroom
I quite enjoyed this story. It felt like a wistful look at the industry of newsroom publishing. A discussion on the future of news media moving in to online or digital outlets, the medium of print dying out. It recounts the tale of the narrator’s old colleague and his old habits even as modernisation reigns around him. A warm, cozy story looking back to days gone by in the face of progress.

Welcome to Mars
Another warming story, at least in the most part. Welcome to Mars sees a father in an unhappy marriage want to take his son surfing on his 19th birthday. Memories are recounted about some of the troubles the family unit have seen, so this seems a positive, heart warming event. When the father has to go and make some business calls however, the son injures himself out on the water. In seeking out his dad to help, he discovers an unsavoury secret about his father’s relationship adding a sour twist that made this an intriguing story.

A Month on Greene Street
A single mother of three moves in to a new street after the collapse of her marriage. She seems to have a special talent, the ability to see a brief flash of events in the immediate moments surrounding them. As her husband arrived home late from work one evening, she saw that he had been seeing another woman. In her first month she sees a few other pops relating the creepy neighbour who turns out to be a decent guy trying to make a better life for himself. The story ends with a happy final flash, possibly of her future here on Greene Street.

Alan Bean Plus Four
This was a bit different. I couldn’t make up my mind if it was the product of overactive imaginations on the part of the characters or actual events, but was entertaining nonetheless. It follows the four lead characters from Three Exhausting Weeks as they work to build their own spacecraft to travel around the moon. The story charts their journey to construct the vessel, along with their trip through space and around the moon. It’s a fun tale, though just seemed a little random compared to others in the book.

Our Town Today with Hank Fiset – At Loose in The Big Apple
While his wife visits New York for a college reunion, her husband tags along to take in the sights and sounds of the big city. He takes in all the big hitters, but finds himself homesick, comparing everything to his home town and realising bigger isn’t necessarily better. It makes for a warm tale of the joys and comforts of home.

Who’s Who?
Sue is an aspiring actress who has up and moved her life to New York to chase her dream of starring on Broadway. Hanks paints a picture of shattered dreams, how she started out as a young actress back home in Arizona, and her pursuit of the dream. A chance encounter from an old face from her past leads to a change in her fortunes.

A Special Weekend
This one was a bit less entertaining than some of Hanks’ other short stories here. It follows a boy heading out for a surprise weekend for his upcoming birthday with his mother. The trip involved a big surprise for the birthday boy. Sadly, his mother had to work so the surprise got put off and pushed back, while she avoided mentioning her new boyfriend to her son. He finally gets his treat right at the end of his weekend.

These Are The Meditations of My Heart
I think this is my favourite story in the book. A romantic ode to the typewriter. After purchasing a cheap typewriter at a swap meet, a young lady takes it off to be repaired back to a working order. The proprietor of the repair shop refuses to repair what he says is essentially a toy, stating it is not a true typewriter. The man digs in to the motivations for owning a typewriter, going through some of his restored vintage machines, waxing lyrical about each and their romantic virtues. Given I would love to own a typewriter myself, I found this story to be beautifully written – a wistful look back to simpler times.

Our Town Today With Hank Fiset-Back From Back in Time
Our now good friend Hank Fiset returns. Sat at the table with his trusty old typewriter, Hank takes us on a meander down memory lane – recounting just some of the key events in his life that he has shared with his typewriter. Another warm, wistful look back at simpler times.

The Past is Important to Us
An elderly, eccentric billionaire spends his fortune on a procedure allowing him to hop back to June 1939, New York so he can experience World’s Fair. Initially he visits with his young wife, though she loses interest pretty soon in time travelling to the same date over and over. On a solo visit the old man spots an attractive young lady that catches his eye and he becomes infatuated. This leads to repeat visits until he is told his health only permits one final visit to a nostalgic past. 

Stay With Us
I struggled with this story. It seemed to be written in the style of a screenplay complete with stage directions. It follows a wealthy man and his assistant as they take a trip to the heart of nowhere USA, under the premise of buying up land. Masquerading in his view of the common man, he ends up at an old, struggling motel on a now-silent highway. The owners recount their memories of their establishment back when the highway was thriving and the rooms were always full.

Go See Costas
A meek immigrant from Eastern Europe makes the journey from Greece to New York. Having lost everything – his family, his life, he hopes America offers a new start for him. This story is a tale of multiculturalism and the strife those less well off face – something of a timely tale in today’s world.

Our Town Today With Hank Fiset-Your Evangelista, Esperanza
This is our final visit with Tri-Cities roving reporter Hank Fiset. Here he extols the virtues of the priceless black liquid – no, not oil, coffee. He regales us of the best coffee outlets in the area, but one seems to take the cake. It also acts as an office space for Esperanza, a bank worker who has forsaken all smart technology, the trivialities of social media too, in lieu of a good old typewriter. Here she can type up her bank papers, as well as love letters, notes and all other manner of documentation for coffee shop clients for the small price of the occasional mug of coffee.

Steve Wong is Perfect
The final story in this collection sees a return to the crazy characters we met in Three Exhausting Weeks and Alan Bean Plus Four. This time the gang head out for some light-hearted ten pin bowling. Steve Wong manages to bowl the perfect game. Then repeats this feat on the following two visits. This sets off a chain reaction leading to an appearance on ESPN with $100,000 at stake if he could achieve this feat once more on TV.

I really enjoyed this collection of short stories. Tom Hanks is clearly a man with a love for the simple things in life, and this book demonstrates that not only is he a fantastic actor, but a pretty good wordsmith to boot!

My rating:
goodread

13 Dark Tales (Collection One) by Michael R. Martin

13 Dark Tales (Collection One) by Michael R. Martin

A shocking event on an evening train only revealed by hypnosis, a man driven to extremes to rid himself of nightmare neighbours, and a rural driving holiday stopped in its tracks by a mythical creature. Just three of the 13 Dark Tales, inspired by macabre urban myths and sinister folklore, in this first collection. Read them in the dark hours when they might call to mind a disturbing story you can’t quite place or a strange shape glimpsed from the corner of your eye; things you dismissed as too fantastic to take seriously but left nagging doubts, nonetheless. Some of them may be true.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author.
13 Dark Tales is a collection of short stories from British author Michael R. Martin. Each story falls into one of three genres: thriller, horror or science fiction, each linked by the common theme that they are all dark in some way. The stories are well built given their brevity, and distinct enough from one another to not feel like they are all a similar tale.

Dark_Tales_Coll01_KDP_Front_Cover01Some short story collections are an unfortunate collection of stories that feel rushed or incomplete, but Martin has clearly put a lot of thought into this collection, ensuring he uses a vastly limited word count wisely to build characters, locations and the story themselves.

This made for a nice collection, with stories short enough to dip in and out of while also being thoroughly enjoyable and feeling every inch the product of the author; with all the tells his longer works have running throughout.

My rating:
goodread