Review by S. Horrigan:
Reading short stories on the Kindle always feels to me like a bit of a lottery. Not only is the quality often variable, but unless the author/publisher gives an approximate page count, you have no real idea how much reading you are going to get. I have read free short stories that have been an hour or more of reading and equally paid for short stories that have taken me less than ten minutes to read - the length of the story being no indication of its quality either.
Shelagh Watkins has neatly got around this problem by creating her own little anthology of four short stories that in total give you just over an hour of reading. Each story alone would probably be too short to publish as a standalone work, but taken all together they work well as a collection.
Of the four stories, my favourite was Tank Full and Thankful. This was a lovely meandering little tale about a couple moving to Dunedin in New Zealand to work for six months. The comparisons made between Edinburgh and its literal namesake Dunedin made this an interesting little geography lesson. The little twist at the end of the story was very nicely done and I had definitely not seen it coming. This is definitely a "feel good" story.
My second favourite was A Friend in Need. This was a lovely little story of friendship and had me singing Rolf Harris's "Two Little Boys" to myself - you will have to read the story yourself to find out why though. The ending was slightly telegraphed, but was still uplifting when it happened.
The third story Leo's Daughter: Mistress of the Web, just didn't really hit the spot for me. This should have been my favourite of the collection as it has a fantasy/mild science fiction feel to it, but it just didn't turn out to be the case. It was by no means bad, but felt like two loosely linked separate stories rather than a coherent whole. There was one line concerning an old woman making chips though that was one of the best plays on words I have seen for some time and actually had me read the sentence several times in disbelief at what I had read - very nicely done!
The final story Not a Hill of Beans is very short indeed and will only take you a minute or two to read. It felt to me more of a socio-political commentary than a real work of fiction though.
The presentation of this collection is impeccable - Each story is prefaced by a short and appropriate quotation. The formatting is almost perfect (with the exception of a few words that must have spanned lines in other versions as they are unnecessarily hyphenated) - and there is a nice afterword from the author done in the format of a question and answer session. This talks about her inspiration and ideas as well as outlining some of her other work. One of these stories, Mr. Planemaker's Flying Machine, even though it is a children's story has made it onto my wish list for future reading!
Overall: 4 stars - I really liked two of these stories, one was OK, and one wasn't really a story at all in my opinion. I liked the author's uplifting style and her description of her other books makes me want to read in one particular as I suspect her children's story writing will be even better than this collection!