Book Review: Den Of Shadows by Christopher Byford

Den of Shadows: The gripping new fantasy novel for summer 2017 (Gambler's Den series, Book 1) by [Byford, Christopher]

Den of Shadows (Gambler’s Den #1) by Christopher Byford
Publisher: HQ Digital
Published: May 2017
Format: Ebook
Pages: 250 (Or 176 according to Goodreads)
ISBN13: 9780008257484
ASIN: B06XGKQPHK

Amazon UK
Goodreads

Description

The Gambler’s Den weaves its away across the desert… But will it stop at your station?
While fighting off poverty in the blistering desert heat a travelling casino offers one night of solace. One chance to change your fortunes. But once on board there is more to the show than meets the eye: enter Franco, the elaborate ringleader, Wyld the stowaway thief and Misu the fire breathing showgirl.
In a kingdom ruled by the law Franco ensures his den remains in line. But when he’s faced with saving the fate of the train, and those on board, he may be forced to break his own rules. Life on the den isn’t just a job but a way of life and once you’re in you’ll never be able to leave.

My Review
Firstly, let me thank Netgalley and the publisher for my copy in exchange for my honest review.

I feel this needs to be said. That cover is just beautiful. It is definitely one of the most gorgeous covers I’ve seen this year so far.  The colour is just spectacular, it makes you think of magic, of possibilities, of adventure.

This book has been had a lot of confusing thoughts from me.  I loved parts of it and never wanted it to end but then I felt it dragged on for too long on other parts.  The book is beautifully written, don’t get me wrong.  It’s descriptive, it gives you the backstory of characters, it gives you a sense of where they are from, why they wanted to be on The Gambler’s Den, it left nothing unanswered for me.  And yet, I feel a bit puzzled by it all.  There isn’t enough of it but then there’s too much of it as well.

Franco, being the main man, had the most page time.  I was intrigued by his backstory, and while I wanted to know more, I wanted to see more of his present than his past.  A likeable character, he was extravagant, not quite larger than life but very close to it. Flamboyant comes to mind.  He made me think of a Ringmaster at a circus in a way.
I would have liked to have known more about Jacques, Misu, and Wyld.  Maybe even some of the other showgirls that were mentioned. While we do get some backstory, it’s mainly the explanation of how they came to be on the Den.  I feel that we missed out on a lot about them, and had too much in one go about Franco.  All the characters are likeable though, and all add something to the storyline.

As I said, this book was beautifully written, with some glorious descriptive scenes.  The world has a lot of possibility, especially as we are on a train! This series of books has a huge about potential, I think it can only get better with each book.  And I’m very curious as to where it is going in the next.  The pace of the book can only improve for me, I hope anyway.  The only fast paced part of the book is near the end of the book.  Other than that it sort of plods along, taking it’s time with everything.  I’m hoping the next is better.

Overall, I’m giving this book 3/5.  With a huge amount of potential, I can only hope that the next is bigger and better.  I feel like I’m missing something from this review so it’ll probably end up getting edited at some point.

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Blog Tour: Summer’s Lease by Carrie Elks

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Summer’s Lease by Carrie Elks.
Publisher: Piatkus
Published: 13th July 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 368
ISBN13: 9780349415505

Goodreads

Amazon UK

Synopsis
Cesca Shakespeare has hit rock bottom. Six years after the play she wrote bombed at the box office, she’s unable to hold down a job, keep an apartment, and worst of all her family have no idea how far she’s fallen. So when her fairy Godfather offers her the use of his friend’s Italian villa for the summer, she grudgingly agrees to try writing a new play. That’s before she finds out the house belongs to her arch-nemesis, Sam Carlton.

When Hollywood heart-throb Sam Carlton sees his name splashed across a gossip rag, all he wants to do is hide. That’s how he finds himself traveling to Italy, deciding to spend the summer in his family’s empty villa on Lake Como. Except when he arrives it isn’t as empty as he’d hoped.

Over the course of the hot Italian summer, Cesca and Sam have to come to terms with their pasts. What begins as a tentative friendship quickly grows into an intense attraction – and then a scorching fling. But they can’t hide from reality forever . . . as their different worlds collide, Sam and Cesca face a choice: is this just a summer romance, or could their love weather even the coldest winds?

My Review

A delight to read on a horrible wet, windy, typical British summer day.  Thank you to the publishers for the chance to read and review this spectacular book.  Any book set in Italy will always have me in its grips within pages, especially one written by Carrie Elks.  I have only read one  other book by her, but I loved this one just as much as that.  Her writing is wonderful, her characters bounce from the pages and read spectacularly.

Cesca was an amazing leading lady, going from her downward spiral unconfident ways to a confident, young woman who goes for what she wants.  She comes across as a bit of a stray to begin with, forever trying to find her place in the world.  She thought she had her place once, but then it all fell apart.  Since then, Cesca has always blamed one person: Sam Carlton.  I’ll get to him in a minute.  I loved Cesca’s story, her backstory, everything.  Her sense of loyalty to her family is wonderful, especially the bond she shares with her 3 sisters.

Sam, your typical Hollywood actor. Handsome, “chiseled”, charming, what else can you ask for?  Except, with the beginning of the story from Cesca’s view, he only ever thinks of himself.  But he doesn’t, and Cesca realises that.  I loved Sam.  He hides from his mistake, yes to protect himself, but also to limit the damage done to his family.  He cares about what will happens to his mother, and his sisters.  Not so much his father though.  Sam is caring, he comes across as a sensual man, a sexy man.  He definitely knows what he wants.

Chemistry flows from the page the first time they come into contact with each other, and it just gets more intense as the book goes on. With a few hot and steamy parts further on in the book, I was expecting it to be quite cheesy and a bit cringey but I was wrong. It was done in a non-cringe way and didn’t leave anything to the imagination.  They work well together, whether they are arguing, having a normal conversation or having sex.  They work perfectly.

I’m glad things work out well in the end, I don’t think I could have handled it if it didn’t.  I will happily read anything else to do with Cesca.  I wonder if we’ll be getting one for each sister? I’m very intrigued by them.  I would love to know each of their stories.

I happily give this book a huge 5/5.  In fact, I would happily give it 10/10!!!!

About the author

Carrie Elks lives near London, England and writes contemporary romance with a dash of intrigue. She loves to travel and meet new people, and has lived in the USA and Switzerland as well as the UK. An avid social networker, she tries to limit her Facebook and Twitter time to stolen moments between writing chapters. When she isn’t reading or writing, she can usually be found baking, drinking wine or working out how to combine the two.

 

ARC Review: The Summer of Serendipity by Ali McNamara

The Summer of Serendipity by Ali McNamara
Published: July 2017
Publisher: Sphere (Little, Brown Book Group UK)
Format: Ebook
Pages: 368
ISBN13: 9780751566215
ASIN: B01MQJVNBC

Goodreads
Amazon UK

Description

My Review

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for copy, in exchange for my honest review.  I’m so glad I got to read this, I’ve loved other books by Ali McNamara and this one does not disappoint.

I found this to be a magical story, full of folklore, history, mysteries and romance.  It was interesting to read the different legends.  I know it’s a fictional place, but it made me realise that everywhere has these little stories, legends, rumours, whatever you want to call it.  They all stem from somewhere don’t they?

Written well, as always for Ali McNamara. The characters all had feeling, depth, and a likeability that touches you.  There is a lot of eye-rolling though, and winking. What’s that all about? Anyway, I liked all of the characters.  The setting was beautiful, as is all of Ireland.

Ren is determined, stubborn, but a very likeable woman.  Kiki plays well against Ren. For Ren’s matureness, Kiki is the opposite. She’s ditzy, doesn’t get a lot of Ren’s references, but she’s still very likeable.  Finn.  I’ve been trying to find the right words for Finn but I’m struggling.  He’s likeable, you get to see a little of his history, his backstory but on the other hand I don’t know…  I felt like I didn’t get a lot from him.  I don’t know.  All the characters worked well together, there is chemistry between all the characters, a fondness between them.  Kiki and Ren found their home in Ballykiltara and it shows.

It makes a nice change that the loss that a character’s suffers is an animal.  Many stories centre around the loss of a person, not an animal.  People’s lives are affected by the loss of a pet or like Finn, a business.  it shows that it does change the way people are.

This book was just great.  I loved how it was written, I loved the majority of the characters, and I just really enjoyed it.  I give it 4/5.

 

Blog Tour: Q&A/Review: The Once in a Blue Moon Guesthouse by Cressida McLaughlin

The Once in a Blue Moon Guesthouse by [McLaughlin, Cressida]

The Once in a Blue Moon Guesthouse by Cressida McLaughlin
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: 29th June 2017
Format: Ebook
Pages: 500
ISBN13: 9780008219284
ASIN: B01MY458DB

Goodreads

Amazon UK

Synopsis
Robin Brennan has come home to Campion Bay. Now her parents have retired, she’s set to become the new landlady of The Campion Bay Guesthouse.
Bookings have been as thin as the hand towels, and it doesn’t take long for Robin to realise that the place needs a serious makeover. Perhaps throwing herself into the task will help to heal her sadness at the tragic end to her dreams in London.
As she gives the guesthouse a new lease of life, Robin encounters old friends and new, including old flame Tim, who’d clearly like to reboot their romance. But what about Will, the new arrival at No. 4, who’s rocked up with the cutest dog ever?
Caught up in a flurry of full-English breakfasts and cream teas, Robin’s never sure what, or who, the next check-in will bring…

Q&A With Cressida McLaughlin

1. What does your writing day look like? And do you have a favourite place to write?

My brain is much better first thing, so I like to start early, 7.30 or 8am, and will try and work through until lunchtime on writing or editing, whatever stage I’m at. After lunch I’ll do other things, social media or blog posts or Q&As like this. The main hazard is Twitter, which can suck up hours of my time if I let it. I should put one of those ‘no internet’ thingies on my computer, but it would frustrate me not being able to look something up if I needed to. (Which is obviously a rubbish excuse from a Twitter addict.)

I have an office in one of our spare bedrooms at home, and I love it. I can have music playing, my sparkly lava lamp on, coffee and tea when I want, a candle burning. It’s very snug and colourful – it has lots of Poldark postcards on the walls – and it’s the ideal space for me to be creative.

2. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? Can you tell us a bit about it?

I feel bad that I don’t remember the first story I ever wrote, but I do remember that whatever I did write, I always wanted it to look like a book. I folded sheets of A4 paper in half, stapled them at the fold and then drew a cover on the front, writing the words and adding pictures on the pages inside. My parents taught me about the magic of books from day one, and I loved the idea of my words being inside one – an ambition I feel very lucky to have realised. I remember very vividly a murder mystery my sister wrote for primary school. The story was brilliant, it was put together like a proper book, and I remember wishing that I’d written it. That has stayed with me much more than any of the stories I wrote when I was small – she was definitely an inspiration to me.

3. Do you have a favourite film adaptation of a book? What was it and why?

I thought the adaptation of Gone Girl was excellent, and very faithful to the book, but my favourite has to be the BBC adaptation of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, with Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret Hale and Richard Armitage as John Thornton. It’s bleak, dramatic and very romantic. The scenes in the mills, with the cotton falling like snow while John Thornton stalks about in his stark black suit and hat, are so powerful. It’s a classy adaptation that I never get bored of re-watching.

4. If you were forced to write a different genre, what would you chose?

Creepy ghost story, definitely. I may have the beginnings of one on the go at the moment, just to see if I can do it . . .

My Review:

Firstly, thank you to Netgalley, and the Publisher for my copy of this book in exchange for my review.  Also, for letting me take me part in the blog tour.

A light hearted story, revolving around Robin who is starting fresh in her home town of Campion Bay. Taking over her parents guesthouse, she starts from scratch after losing her friend and closing her events business.  A likeable character but a little predictable. She comes across as kind, caring, thoughtful, if not a little held back because of her time in London.  The whole story was a little predictable but then again that’s what we all need as a pick me up from time to time!! This book is definitely a pick me up book. It was heartwarming, friendly, a little amusing, and has some delicious recipes at the end.

Throughout the whole book we have likeable characters, from Molly, Will, Paige, the guesthouse guests and other people from the town. Of course, we have a villain (in a sense anyway) in the form of Robin’s childhood sweetheart, Tim. Not so much a likeable character but it works for this story.  He comes across as sleazy, a little too confident and thinks he’ll get his own way no matter what.

The writing style was easy to read, it kept me reading and was easy enough to keep track off. The book is separated into 4 parts (I think they were published individually before?), each part flows brilliantly into the next. The time frame is only over a couple of weeks but doesn’t feel like that as you read it.  But then on the other hand, it goes by so quickly you don’t really get a sense of the timeframe of everything.  Such a quick pace is always good for me, I love getting caught up in everyone’s stories.

I think it’s safe to say that I liked this book, a lot.  I loved the writing style, the quickness of it, the characters.  I can’t really pinpoint one thing that I didn’t really like about it.

I give this book 5/5

Book Review: Seven Steps to Happiness by Stella Newman

Seven Steps to Happiness by [Newman, Stella]

Seven Steps to Happiness by Stella Newman
Publisher: Headline Review
Published: 20th October 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 352
ISBN13: 9781472220110

Goodreads
Amazon UK

Synopsis
Is there a formula for happiness?

If it’s Netflix, two-for-one Malbec and the perfect toasted-cheese sandwich, Lenny has it covered. But when her friend Juliet finds herself at rock bottom, Lenny realises it’s going to take more than that to fix her.
Luckily help is at hand in the form of HappyGuru: a plan which promises happiness in seven easy steps. So when Lenny is asked to research it, she puts scepticism aside and persuades Juliet they should give it a go.
The friends quickly find themselves immersed in mindfulness, juice cleanses and death-defying circus stunts. Yet as Juliet becomes increasingly buoyant, things only get more complicated for Lenny.
Can it be that happiness is only seven steps away?

My Review
I begun this book thinking it was going to be all slow going, a little hard to get on with, and if I’m honest a little boring.  Then something happened.  I can’t pinpoint what part of the book it was but something made me sit up and pay that little bit more attention.  It had be gripped. I felt for the characters, I felt the pain or the happiness, the sadness, everything right beside them.  I connected with them, I wanted everything to work out for them.

Lenny, to begin with, was a little… I just can’t put my finger on it.  I wouldn’t say self-centred, she definitely wasn’t that.  I really couldn’t figure her out until Juliet’s world falls apart.  She comes into her own then, she stays beside her friend when she needs her the most.  She never falters, she is loyal, and her main concern is to get Juliet to become happy again.  Everything she does is to help her friend.  Her own world crumbles down, and it’s the reverse of everything she did for Juliet.  Lenny does get her ending though, which I was very pleased about.

Juliet to begin with comes across as a stable, secure family woman.  Until it all comes tumbling down around her unexpectedly.  I felt for her, I really did.  I think I connected more with Juliet than Lenny.  I’m not sure why, maybe it’s because we see what she lost.  I know we saw everything with Lenny as well, and now this will sound horrible, but Lenny never had much to begin with.  Not like Juliet.  Juliet has to lose everything before she finds her happiness. As with Lenny, Juliet gets her ending.  She’s happy, she’s at the top of the happy mountain.

This is the first book I’ve read by Stella Newman, and it definitely will not be the last.  Her writing style took a while to get used to, but it was just wonderful.  It gripped me when I least expected it, it nearly had me in tears because it made me feel everything they felt.  I never thought that this book would make me feel like it has.  It has taken me a few days to even think about writing a review for it.  Sometimes it’s the books we never expect to have an impact, that actually have an impact.  This book has sat on my shelf for a long time, and I felt it was the right time for it.  I’m glad I waited.

This book has it all.  Loss, love, laughter, happiness, sadness.  Funny moments, heart breaking moments.  The characters are beautifully developed, written perfectly.  The food described within the book.. Christ, I want one of those cheese toasties desperately. I would have done anything for one of Lenny’s cheese toasties.

This book. Well, I read another review for it and they said that do you ever get the feeling that certain books are meant to find you at the exactly right time? I completely agree with that.  Wholeheartedly agree with it.  This book found me at a time that I needed to look at everything and be extremely grateful, and just happy. I loved it, I loved the characters, the writing style, just everything.  For that, I give it a massive 5/5.