Review Copy: The Dragon of the Month Club

When two kids find a magical book that invites them to conjure a different dragon every month, they are sucked into another world--literally. #spon | A book review by NewberyandBeyond.com
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Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

On the thirteenth of every month a new dragon conjuring spell is revealed and the two friends attempt to summon the latest Dragon of the Month. The varieties are almost endless: Air Dragons, Paper Dragons, Fog Dragons, Waterfall Dragons, Rock Dragons, Tree Dragons – not to mention special bonus dragons for all the major holidays, including a particularly prickly Holly Dragon for Christmas.

But one day when a conjuring spell somehow goes wrong Ayana and Tyler find themselves unexpectedly drawn into a fantastical world of adventure based on the various books scattered all across Tyler’s messy bedroom. Travelling from one book-inspired world to the next with nothing to rely on but their wits and a cast of strange and exotic dragons at their disposal they must try to somehow find their way home again. (Summary via Amazon.com)

I’m excited to tell you about this new series from Iain Reading, author of the Kitty Hawk mystery series (see those reviews here, here, and here). In The Dragon of the Month Club, Ayana and Tyler discover a magical book that enrolls them in a special club for conjuring dragons. I love the idea of conjuring a new dragon every month! Each different dragon, from the sand dragon to the paper dragon to the fog dragon, is so creative.

But there’s more than just dragons in this book. When something goes wrong with a spell, Ayana and Tyler are suddenly transported to a different world, in which they must make their way through various stories and settings from the books scattered on Tyler’s floor. It has kind of a Wonderland feeling as the kids travel through their book world. This includes old-fashioned fairy tales, the sci-fi classic Dune, and the world of Sherlock Holmes. Any book lover will enjoy the mixture of favorite old stories and brand-new dragons. So neat!

Although I really enjoyed this book, I’m even more excited about the next in the series. I can’t wait to see what new kinds of dragons await!

Rating: Good but Forgettable

ARCs: Kitty Hawk Books 4 and 5

The adventures of Kitty Hawk continue in her exploration of a Titanic mystery and a European art scandal. #spon | A book review by NewberyandBeyond.com
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Note: I received free ARCs of these books in exchange for an honest review. All summaries via Amazon.com.

I’m so excited to be able to continue my reviews of the Kitty Hawk series! So far, I’ve been loving the amazing settings and fun mysteries that these books contain (see my reviews of the previous books here and here), and the latest two installments are no exceptions.

Kitty Hawk and the Tragedy of the RMS Titanic

This fourth book in the series brings Kitty to the emerald hills of Ireland where she meets a handsome stranger and is quickly swept up in a perplexing hundred-year-old family treasure hunt involving secret codes and puzzling clues that lead her on a fast-paced adventure that carries her from Dublin to London – from the decks of the ill-fated ocean liner Titanic to the temples of ancient Egypt and the streets of Jack the Ripper – until she finally unlocks the mystery and discovers the long-hidden treasure.

This book is filled with the terrifying and fascinating history of the Titanic. I loved the photos, newspaper clippings, and other historical documents included in the text. The mystery revolves around some cryptic ciphers which Kitty’s newfound friend Andrew thinks will clear his great uncle’s name of failing to save the Titanic–and possibly lead to a long-lost treasure. But when another man with ties to the Titanic starts chasing after the treasure, Kitty and Andrew find themselves in danger.

The setting, as usual, is fantastic. Especially the mound tombs in Newgrange, which I found fascinating. And I love any mystery that revolves around secret codes or chasing clues (National Treasure was my favorite movie as a kid, and I can still quote almost every line!). I really enjoyed this mystery, and I think you will too.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

Kitty Hawk and the Mystery of the Masterpieces

After meeting up with an old friend in the eternal city of Rome, Kitty Hawk unexpectedly stumbles (almost literally) into a bizarre mystery involving creepy disembodied voices, secret hidden rooms, unbreakable mathematical codes, ominous chain-smoking strangers and an array of plundered artworks by such famous masters as Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro and Vincent van Gogh – all of it wrapped up and entwined in an enigmatic riddle hanging in plain sight right in front of everyone’s noses. With the help of friends both old and new, Kitty Hawk follows a trail of cryptic clues that leads her on a breathless tour across a quintessentially European landscape – from ancient Roman Italy to the darkest corners of Germany, Austria and beyond.

In this fifth installment, Kitty stumbles upon some priceless artwork thought to be missing, and she is then plunged into a world of spies, codes, and art theft. (And Charlie is back! Hooray!) Kitty explores large swathes of Europe in this book, from Italy to Germany and Austria. This setting is not as exotic as some of Kitty’s other adventures, but as always, it is described in such a way that it makes you feel like you are seeing the sights right along with Kitty. (Of course, it helps that I have actually been to a couple of the places mentioned!)

As I mentioned in my review of book 4, I love mysteries that center around codes and ciphers, and this book is chock full of them. If you love codes as much as I do, be sure to check out the “further reading” note at the back of the book to learn more about these real-life, mysterious codes. I did find this book a little more generic than some of Kitty’s other adventures, but I enjoyed reading more about Kitty’s continuing travels, and I look forward to reading the next installment!

Rating: Good but Forgettable

ARCs: Kitty Hawk

Kitty Hawk's adventures continue with journeys to Key West and Iceland. #spon | A book review by Newbery and Beyond
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Note: I received free ARCs of these books in exchange for an honest review. All summaries are via Amazon.com.

Kitty Hawk and the Hunt for Hemingway’s Ghost

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.

This sequel to the first Kitty Hawk book takes place in my stomping grounds, so I was really excited to read about Kitty’s Florida adventures. I’ve never been to the Keys, although I only live a few hours away, and reading this book really made me want to visit! Kitty comes across some interesting (possibly crazy) people as she explores Hemingway’s hometown, and when she decides to explore abandoned Fort Jefferson, things get even stranger. Of course, Kitty finds herself in the midst of another mystery.

One thing that the author does so well in these books is make the history and geography of the area come alive. I loved reading about Fort Jefferson in particular–so fascinating! I was not particularly engaged in the mystery of this book, but the setting and Kitty’s character more than make up for that.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

Kitty Hawk and the Icelandic Intrigue

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 in side-by-side in an uneasy truce and magical realms seem to lie just out of sight beneath the surface.

I have to say that this book was my favorite of the Kitty Hawk series so far. It was more action packed than the previous books and really had that Nancy Drew feeling (which, you might remember, is a real compliment from me!). Kitty is far from home here, and she is immersed in Icelandic culture–including rotted shark and mysterious elves. Pretty soon, Kitty is involved in an adventure which places her in real danger in the rugged environment of Iceland.

This book definitely made me want to read the next book in the series. The mystery was intriguing, the action was fast paced, and the setting and characters, as usual, were vibrant. Take a look at this series for some fun mysteries, a spunky main character, and fascinating geography.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

Review Copy: Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold

Kitty Hawk's Alaskan adventure becomes more of an adventure than she'd hoped for when she gets caught up in a gold rush era mystery. #spon | A book review from Newbery and Beyond
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Note: I received a free ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold is the first in a series about Kitty, a teenage pilot living in Canada who is determined to travel the world.  She wants to follow in her idol Amelia Earhart’s footsteps (but without dying at the end, obviously), and her first stop is in Alaska.  Kitty is spending the summer flying her plane over the waters of Alaska and documenting the habits and movements of the whales that populate them.  But when Kitty spots something strange in the background of one of her whale photographs, she stumbles across a mystery that has its roots in the gold rush of the 1800s.

One of the most fun things about this book is Kitty’s relationship with the criminals she comes across.  I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoilers, but let’s just say that once Kitty decides to investigate, she falls in with the funniest group of criminals I’ve read in a while.  Although it may come across as a bit unrealistic, I enjoyed it.

This book also does a good job with teaching the history of the gold rush, without making it too dry and boring.  There are a few info dumps, but they’re presented as stories the characters tell to Kitty, which keeps them from becoming overly intrusive.

While I really enjoyed this book while I was reading it, I did forget most of the details as soon as I put it down.  I can’t remember any of the characters’ names (except Kitty, and her name is on the cover!), or the details of the mystery.  The book was also told as a flashback from an event that took place in the first chapter, but the story never circles around to that event at the end (a pet peeve of mine).  I would definitely be interested in reading the next book in the series because of the travel and historical aspects, but I won’t be expecting a hugely unforgettable story.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

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