Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold

Reading, I. (2012). Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold (Book One of the Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency Series). Self-published.

MG* or YA / Adventure / Mystery / Historical 

I give this book 3 out of 5 Stars

Blurb (from Goodreads): Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold is the thrilling first installment in a new series of adventure mystery stories that are one part travel, one part history and five parts adventure. This first book of the Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency Series introduces Kitty Hawk, an intrepid teenage pilot with her own De Havilland Beaver seaplane and a nose for mystery and intrigue. A cross between Amelia Earhart, Nancy Drew and Pippi Longstocking, Kitty is a quirky young heroine with boundless curiosity and a knack for getting herself into all kinds of precarious situations.

After leaving her home in the western Canadian fishing village of Tofino to spend the summer in Alaska studying humpback whales Kitty finds herself caught up in an unforgettable adventure involving stolen gold, devious criminals, ghostly shipwrecks, and bone-chilling curses. Kitty's adventure begins with the lingering mystery of a sunken ship called the Clara Nevada and as the plot continues to unfold this spirited story will have armchair explorers and amateur detectives alike anxiously following every twist and turn as they are swept along through the history of the Klondike Gold Rush to a suspenseful final climatic chase across the rugged terrain of Canada's Yukon, the harsh land made famous in the stories and poems of such writers as Jack London, Robert Service and Pierre Berton. It is a riveting tale that brings to glorious life the landscape and history of Alaska's inside passage and Canada's Yukon, as Kitty is caught up in an epic mystery set against the backdrop of the scenery of the Klondike Gold Rush.  

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold is a perfect book to fire the imagination of readers of all ages. Filled with fascinating and highly Google-able locations and history this book will inspire anyone to learn and experience more for themselves as Kitty prepares for her next adventure - flying around the world.


Hall Ways Review: Author Iain Reading has written a sweeping story that takes readers over land and sea as main character and young pilot Kitty Hawk discovers the world of whales and the often sordid history of the Gold Rush.  Reading's strength is in his descriptions of the landscapes that Kitty encounters where rich details make it easy for the reader to envision the settings.  Additionally, Reading has created an interesting, believable character in Kitty, who on the one hand shows maturity and responsibility well beyond her years, and on the other hand shows she is flighty (no pun intended), boy crazy, and one hundred percent teenage girl. Her inner monologue was spot-on and provided much needed humor and reminders that Kitty is only eighteen, despite what she's already doing with her life.  Readers, be prepared to learn a lot of facts about everything from history to topography to nature in all its wonder.  And if the facts included in the book aren't enough, the author provides a fabulous supplement of additional information and links for readers to further explore the topics in the book. 

The real problem I had with the book was that it seemed like a late, but not final draft of the book.  For one, there is simply too much information presented, which makes it overwhelming and difficult for the reader to discern between what's important to the plot, and what's simply extra bonus but related information. Secondly, the font is small and the print is dense with very little white space on the page, which visually is a turn-off for many readers (especially reluctant readers). Most troubling -- especially in a book aimed at younger readers -- is the number of writing errors including: typos, missing and incorrect punctuation, dropped words, agreement errors, and numerous long, unpunctuated sentences.  As an example of the issues, the sizable paragraph from the Goodreads blurb (in bold above) is only three sentences long, is missing commas (thus creating run-on sentences), and uses the word "climatic" when the word "climactic" was intended. A thorough, professional edit is needed (book blurbs included) to eliminate the unnecessary, correct the mistakes, and bring focus to the main plot line. Incidentally, the main plot line of the Yukon gold mystery is actually quite engaging and the book becomes a real page turner -- once you get there.

Despite the need for editing, the bones of a great series are here. My hope is that since books two through five of this series are already published (with the promise of eight more books after that), the author has addressed these issues.  There definitely has been a shift in the cover art, and the books published after Curse of the Yukon Gold have a sleeker look, which is more in line with a young adult audience, though the intended reading audience is a little bit hard to pin down. With the main character fresh out of high school, it seems that age range would be the ideal reader, but the writing and Kitty herself seem more middle grade at times. The content is tame and possibly too slow moving for older young adults. At the same time, some of Kitty's actions are not just reckless but extremely dangerous (as in her ease and comfort with kidnappers, lack of communicating her plans, stunt flying, etc.) and perhaps not the best example for younger readers*.  

Thank you to Book Publicity Services and the author for providing me a print copy in exchange for my honest opinion -- the only kind I give. 



Friday, December 25, 2015

Absolute Truth, For Beginners

West, K. (2015). Absolute Truth, For Beginners. Self-published.

New Adult / Adult / Contemporary Fiction / LGBTQ

I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 Stars


Book Blurb: 
Elisa Mancini is a Nobody. Painfully insecure, more at ease with books than with people, at twenty-three she’s a university dropout living at her aunt’s, drifting from one day to another, and waiting for something big to happen. 

Judith Shapiro is a Somebody. Arrogant and eccentric, she’s a superstar of mathematics, the subject of scientific articles, and the undisputed ruler of the world around her. 

In a trillionth of a trillionth of a second, Elisa falls madly in love with Judith Shapiro. For sixty-eight days she is the mistress of an internationally acclaimed mathematician. 

But loving Judith Shapiro is like running a marathon in a war zone. As days pass, Elisa’s wild infatuation takes on a suicidal bent, and the world around her starts to go to pieces. Just as everything is about to blow up, the moment of truth comes.

Absolute Truth, For Beginners is a story about truth, time, and love. Or about identity, positive nursing, degrees of happiness, Baroque art, scientific theories, homosexual lovemaking, arrogant television producers, and becoming who you really are.
HALL WAYS REVIEW: Katarina West is such a gifted, thoughtful, REAL writer. She proved it in Witchcraft Couture, and she's proven it again in Absolute Truth, For Beginners. Here, readers meet Elisa, a twenty-four-year-old who has big dreams and aspirations but completely lacks confidence. (REAL) It is only an act of desperation (the first of many) that lands her a job -- her first grown-up job -- that has her moving away from home and starting an independent life. Elisa's world is both humorous and heartbreaking, and as Elisa becomes hopelessly consumed by passion for her new love, readers will likely relate and remember their own experiences. From the starstruck start, through the blissfully unaware middle, and into the obsessive destructive end, thanks to Katarina West's remarkable writing, readers will feel every part of Elisa's emotional landscape in her affair with Judith. 

As a woman closer to Judith's age than Elisa's, I had a very hard time tolerating the relationship. It was inappropriate, abusive, unhealthy, and Judith clearly was mentally unstable and felt like a predator to me. I found myself searching for just one tidbit of insight to make Judith an okay person and not a self-absorbed user and abuser. Just as Judith is unreachable and un-knowable to Elisa, so is she to the reader, which was frustrating but I believe quite intentionally done by West. Readers (and Elisa) are not supposed to know Judith. Because of this distance, Elisa has to create her own version of Judith: a Judith who spends time with her and talks to her an listens to her -- and it is that Judith with whom Elisa falls in love. It was heartbreaking to watch because clearly, reality was bound to enter the picture at some point and there was no way it would be pretty.  Here again, West masterfully describes the rawness of rejection, the false hope of thinking the relationship isn't really over, the madness of getting even, and the beauty when hope rears its head again.

As the story progresses and then concludes, it is almost an afterthought that the relationship was a lesbian one. This is no accident because Katarina West is writing about passion, love, grief, and heartbreak. These feelings and experiences are a shared human experience, and the sexual preferences of the players are not important.  West handles them with finesse and keeps it classy.

American readers will notice that European conventions of writing and punctuation are used and will be delighted with some new vocabulary and expressions.  The editing could have been a bit more thorough, as there were some typos, dropped words, comma splices, etc. -- hence the 4.5 star rating. Naturally, Ms. West was gracious and appreciative of the feedback, and I fully expect corrections to be forthcoming. Thank you to the author for providing me an eBook in exchange for my honest opinion -- the only kind I give.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Katarina West is the author of Witchcraft Couture, her debut novel. She was born in Helsinki, Finland, into a bilingual family that in addition to humans consisted of dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs, canaries, rabbits and – thanks to her biology teacher mother – stuffed owls and squirrels.

She spent time travelling in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and went on to study at Queen Mary and Westfield College in London and the European University Institute in Florence, where she completed a PhD in political science and published a book based on it, Agents of Altruism. During those student years she started work as a journalist, and continued writing for various Finnish magazines and newspapers for over ten years, writing on various topics from current events and humanitarian issues to celebrity interviews and short stories. She also briefly worked as a university lecturer on humanitarian issues in Northern Italy.

Katarina lives in an old farmhouse in Chianti with her husband and son and when not writing, she is fully immersed in Tuscan country life, from jam-making and olive-picking to tractor maintenance.
Connect with Katarina West and her books:



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

House of the Rising Sun ~ ~ ~ Blog Tour* & Review

Lone Star Literary Life Blog Tours


a novel
James Lee Burke

Author: James Lee Burke
Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
# of pages: 448

Order today from

New York Times bestseller James Lee Burke returns with his latest masterpiece, the story of a father and son separated by war and circumstance—and whose encounter with the legendary Holy Grail will change their lives forever.

From its opening scene in revolutionary Mexico to the Battle of the Marne in 1918, and on to the bordellos and saloons of San Antonio during the reign of the Hole in the Wall Gang, House of the Rising Sun is an epic tale of love, loss, betrayal, vengeance, and retribution that follows Texas Ranger Hackberry Holland on his journey to reunite with his estranged son, Ishmael, a captain in the United States Army. 
After a violent encounter that leaves four Mexican soldiers dead, Hackberry escapes the country in possession of a stolen artifact, earning the ire of a bloodthirsty Austrian arms dealer who then places Hack’s son Ishmael squarely in the cross hairs of a plot to recapture his prize, believed to be the mythic cup of Christ.

Along the way, we meet three extraordinary women: Ruby Dansen, the Danish immigrant who is Ishmael’s mother and Hackberry’s one true love; Beatrice DeMolay, a brothel madam descended from the crusader knight who brought the shroud of Turin back from the Holy Land; and Maggie Bassett, one-time lover of the Sundance Kid, whose wiles rival those of Lady Macbeth. In her own way, each woman will aid Hackberry in his quest to reconcile with Ishmael, to vanquish their enemies, and to return the Grail to its rightful place.

House of the Rising Sun is James Lee Burke’s finest novel to date, and a thrilling entry into the Holland family saga that continued most recently with Wayfaring Stranger, which The New York Times Book Review described as “saturated with the romance of the past while mournfully attuned to the unholy menace of the present.”

Praise for the author 
“The heavyweight champ, a great American novelist.” —Michael Connelly
A classic saga of the American West from James Lee Burke
House of the Rising Sun

One of America’s most acclaimed and versatile novelists returns with a harrowing, historical epic featuring Texas Ranger Hackberry Holland. Starting in revolutionary Mexico circa 1918 and winding through seedy, gang-controlled San Antonio, Holland fights his way back to his Army captain son while protecting one of history’s most fabled artifacts.

“A gorgeous prose stylist.” —Stephen King

“The reigning champ of nostalgia noir.” —The New York Times Book Review

HALL WAYS REVIEW: Author James Lee Burke is a wonderfully gifted writer -- his descriptions are such that they are sometimes more vivid than real life, if that makes sense. His descriptions of the Mexican landscapes are incredible and pull the reader right into the scenes.  Readers familiar with Burke's novels know that his writing is often somewhat dark, but this is probably the darkest story yet. It's grim, violent, and gory,  and the author doesn't shy away from graphic descriptions of racism and warfare.  This is not a book to be read by the reader looking for a feel good experience.  

On the other hand, the violence and bleakness were accurate for the times, so the historical element and significance of what was happening in the world in those times is spot-on. Burke gives readers plenty of reminders that what happened then isn't so far away from what's happening now. In one scene, the main character's son is hospitalized for physical injuries sustained in war, but he's reminded that no amount of morphine can erase the mental scars -- PTSD has always been and will always be.

The story isn't told in a linear fashion and uses flashbacks to fill-in the details. This mostly works, but some readers will likely find it confusing and wish for a more chronological unfolding of the story.  Burke's writing and word choices are well-done and when he's on, he's REALLY on; however, there are sections that get quite wordy and readers may find they are anxious to move along and get back to the story.  After so many lengthy passages, the resolution felt a bit rushed and as such, wasn't completely comfortable or satisfying -- more like a good enough ending.  Good story? Absolutely. Good delivery? Depends on the reader.

James Lee Burke, a rare winner of two Edgar Awards, and named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, is the New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty novels and two collections of short stories. He lives in Missoula, Montana.

Check out these other great blog stops on the tour!
Monday, December 14 - The Crazy Booksellers - promo

Tuesday, December 15 - All For the Love of the Word - promo
Wednesday, December 16 - Bookishjessp - promo
Thursday, December 17 - Book Crazy Gals - promo
Friday, December 18 - Because This is My Life Y’all - promo
Saturday, December 19 - Missus Gonzo - review
Sunday, December 20 - Texas Book-aholic - review
Monday, December 21 - Secret Asian Girl - review
Tuesday, December 22 - The Page Unbound - promo
Wednesday, December 23 - Hall Ways - review


 blog tour services provided by


*NOTE FROM KRISTINE at HALL WAYS: Except for the Hall Ways review, the content of this promo post was provided by Lone Star Literary Life Blog Tours.  If you're a Texas blogger interested in joining the ranks of Texas Book Blog Tours, contact Tabatha Pope