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.
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:

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.
34389773._SY475_Three Exhausting Weeks
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:

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:

The Darkness Within by Lisa Stone

The Darkness Within by Lisa Stone

A gripping new thriller debut that asks the question, how deep in our hearts does evil lie?

When critically ill Jacob Wilson is given a life-saving heart transplant, his parents are relieved that their loving son has been saved.

However, before long, his family are forced to accept that something has changed in Jacob. Their once loving son is slowly being replaced by a violent man whose mood swings leave them terrified – but is it their fault?

Jacob’s girlfriend, Rosie, is convinced the man she loves is suffering from stress. But when his moods turn on her, she begins to doubt herself – and she can only hide the bruises for so long.

When a terrible crime is committed, Jacob’s family are forced to confront their darkest fears. Has the boy they raised become a monster? Or is someone else to blame?

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

The Darkness Within as a debut thriller from Lisa Stone promised wonderful, deliciously dark things from it’s blurb. I was really looking forward to an exciting thriller filled with twists and turns and a seam of excitement at its core. Unfortunately I find this book wanting by the end. The story itself had potential, the concept of personalities transferred during organ donation. The darkness that takes over the new host is so out of character it must be a result of the transplant.
34066358This element of the book presented an interesting dynamic, something that has been hypothesised with some anecdotal evidence, but nothing medically concrete. The story charts the last days of the donor alongside the days prior to the transplant for the recipient. The story flips post-operation to chart the change in personality of Jacob and the all consuming darkness that takes over his persona.

This is the part of the story that really let it down for me. I found the “twists” to be predictable, the direction and destination visible very early on. The characters started to grate on me – as the books progressed their attitudes and motives never wavered even when presented with evidence making them feel a touch unbelievable. The story itself was okay, but lacked what I look forward to when I dive into a thriller – a thrilling story.

My rating:

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .

I purchased a copy of this book for my personal reading.

Good Omens as been in my TBR pile for far longer than it had any right to be there for. With the recent release of the TV adaptation on Amazon Prime recently I felt it was the perfect time to dive in to Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s comic fantasy novel describing the events preceding the end of days. In the past, I’ve struggled with co-authored books where subtle differences in writing style became apparent throughout. This always broke my enjoyment. On this front I was pleasantly surprised as Pratchett and Gaiman weave a story with no break in the narrative.fantasy6I absolutely loved this book and cannot understand why or how I have waited so long to read what is now a firm favourite book for me. The story follows the prophecies of Agnes Nutter, a witch who has the unusual talent of being the only person to ever predict anything with something close to accuracy. Her prophecies foresaw the end of days and all of the events leading up to it and the coming of the Antichrist. The armies of Heaven and Hell are amassing ready for the ultimate war.

The demon Crowley and meek angel Aziraphale have been on Earth ever since Adam and Eve gave in to temptation and were expelled from the Gardens of Eden. The two have spent aeons on Earth sowing the seeds of evil and good mostly respectively, though occasionally each sowing both for efficiency. Their relationship is built throughout the book developing a millenia-long friendship of two figures who are polar opposites in character.

The cast of supporting characters – Anathema Device, Newton Pulsifer, The Them, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to name a few are wonderfully-well crafted. Good Omens has become one of my very favourite books and I cannot believe I waited so long to read it. The comic timing, the fantasy, the science-fiction, everything about this book has been put together with a deftness of touch the only two of the best fantasy authors could produce. And while I am here, five episodes into the six episode TV adaptation of the book, and what a wonderful adaptation it is too! Yes there are some things in the book not in the series, some things in the series not in the book but nothing story-critical in either camp: both make for fantastic pieces of art in their own rights.

My rating:

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan

When a bookshop patron commits suicide, his favorite store clerk must unravel the puzzle he left behind. Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the BookFrogs—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when Joey Molina, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore’s upper room, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions. Trinkets and books; the detritus of a lonely, uncared for man. But when Lydia flips through his books she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop, and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago and, as she soon discovers, never completely left.

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

I have been looking forward to starting this book for some time now. The premise caught my eye, the idea of it being a little bit of a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. A local down and out, Joey, who frequents the Bright Ideas Bookstore, he strikes up a friendship with Lydia, a bookseller with a broken history. Having survived an horrific murder at a sleepover as a child, Lydia struggles through life making the best of things that she can. One night Joey is found in the bookstore, having taken his own life, by Lydia. That alone was unexpected enough, but the discovery of a photo from Lydia’s childhood birthday with two young friends only adds to the confusion.

From this shocking revelation the story unravels into an avalanche of mysteries and secrets. As a massive fan of mystery novels I was really excited to see where this one would lead. Unfortunately that excitement was short lived. It took until well beyond the halfway mark for the mysteries to begin to make sense and the rest of the book followed suit.

While the book was unpredictable in terms of the scope and nature of the mysteries it really did not rescue the book for me. It felt like it ground along far too slowly, and with a lead in Lydia who as far too inward-looking, I really struggled to push through. I found it a real struggle as it limped from one revelation to the next. Much as I wanted to like it, it just moved too slowly. I am sure for many, the mysteries and the plot will be entertaining, but my predilection for fast-paced, high-octane mysteries this did not work for me.

My rating:

Kitty Hawk and the Hunt for Hemingway’s Ghost by Iain Reading

Kitty Hawk and the Hunt for Hemingway’s Ghost by Iain Reading

Kitty Hawk and the Hunt for Hemingway’s Ghost is the exciting second installment in a new series of adventure mystery stories that are one part travel, one part history and five parts adventure. This second book in the series continues the adventures of Kitty Hawk, an intrepid teenage pilot who has decided to follow in the footsteps of her hero Amelia Earhart and make an epic flight around the entire world. After flying across North America Kitty’s journey takes her down south to Florida where she plans to get a bit of rest and relaxation before continuing on with the rest of her long and grueling flight. As Kitty explores the strange and magical water world of the Florida Keys her knack for getting herself into precarious situations sweeps her headlong into the adventure of a lifetime involving mysterious lights, ancient shipwrecks, razor-toothed barracudas and even a sighting of the great Ernest Hemingway himself. This exhilarating story will have armchair explorers and amateur detectives alike anxiously following every twist and turn as they are swept across the landscape and history of the Florida Keys all the way from Key West to the strange and remarkable world of Fort Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas.

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

Kitty Hawk returns in another globetrotting adventure in her trusty de Haviland Beaver seaplane. Ahead of an attempt to emulate her hero Amelia Earhart in trekking solo around the world. Following a series of upgrades to her seaplane and a shakedown flight across Canada and the Northern United States, Kitty heads down to the Florida Keys for a relaxing break before the longer flights yet to come. Rest and relaxation are the order of the day in Key West – lazy days by the pool, pampering treatments in the hotel spa and a tour of the past residence of legendary author Ernest Hemingway.18516023A short hop from Key West down to the furthest tip of the Florida Keys lies the Dry Tortugas National Park, home of the ruins of Fort Jefferson. The chance to camp out and study the history of the facility was enticing to Kitty, making the most of her break. But wherever Kitty seems to go, adventure and conspiracy are never far behind. Mysterious lights out in the water catch the young adventurer’s eye leading to a discovery of centuries lost sunken treasures and illegal attempts to recover it.

After reigning in her overactive imagination, Kitty, with a little help from some new friends, begins to dig in to the mystery and uncover the unusual goings on. The history of the area is played out before her as she learns of the Spanish occupation of the New World and the trade in valuable metals and jewels, and the perilous seas in the area. Putting herself into some questionable situations Kitty manages to uncover a far less supernatural truth than that which she first suspected, nonetheless bringing the case to a conclusion.

Once again author Iain Reading has crafted a fun, informative and exciting read. The bubbly and adventurous Kitty Hawk makes for a wonderful heroine filled with energy, passion and a curiosity that is never stunted even when faced with adversity. The second book in this series picks up right where the first left off and doesn’t disappoint. The history sprinkled liberally throughout makes for interesting reading, while the story itself is captivating. Once again, Reading has created a book enjoyable for young and old to read.

My rating: