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.

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.

September Wrap Up!

So, September is over and done with.. That went too quick for my liking.  We had a good holiday, if not a little blustery – but what do you get for going to Wales, by the seaside, at the end of September?? We loved it though, the child (and the man-child) were very well behaved, no tantrums, not many tears, it was fab!! I got some decent reading done, with 4 books under the “Read” pile. My Goodreads reading challenge now stands at 124/150.

This month, I’m doing things differently.  Instead of saying what I’ve purchased, I’m going to concentrate on the actual read side of things. On that note, here is what I snuggled up with this month!!

1:  Passenger by Alexandra Bracken. Rated: 4/5
2: Christmas at the Little Village Bakery by Tilly Tennant. Rated: 4/5
3: Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky by Holly Martin. Rated: 5/5
4: Christmas Under a Starlit Sky by Holly Martin.  Rated: 4/5
5: All She Ever Wished For by Claudia Carroll. Rated: 4/5
6: Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard. Rated: 4/5
7: Unexpectedly Wilde by Rose Chen. Rated: 2/5
8: The Plumberry School of Comfort Food by Cathy Bramley. Rated: 5/5
9: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Rated: 5/5
10: The Paris Secret by Karen Swan. Rated: 4/5
11: Letters from Lighthouse Cottage by Ali McNamara. Rated: 5/5

Worse Read:
Without a doubt, Unexpectedly Wilde. Oh my god, I don’t even know where to begin with it.  Firstly, let me say that I do not normally go for stories with lots of sex, or verging on the “erotica” label. But with this one… The description given on Netgalley was what made me think it wasn’t like that. I was wrong. Now, I’m not a wimp or a prude or anything when it comes to sex, I just don’t really get the whole erotica thing.  Anyway, that wasn’t the only reason why I didn’t like this book.  On one page, the ex-wife’s name was one thing, and then a few pages later it was a completely different name!!!!!! Then another example that I can think of was a friend was on their honeymoon in one place, and then towards the end of the book it was a different one!!! Surely if you’re writing a book you keep track of details, right?? Just makes sense that it all matches up throughout the book.
This book to me, had a huge amount of potential, but it just fell flat on it’s over sexual face.  It was poor.

Best Read:
Well, with the amount of 5/5 I’ve given, I cannot pick. It’s unusual for me to give 4 of them in one month!!!! Each of them had their own fantastic elements to it.
Six of Crows was fantastic to read, I loved the world – having read The Grisha Trilogy earlier this year.  I loved the characters, I loved the ending, I loved everything about it.
Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky was a brilliant start to what is hopefully and ongoing series.  The characters were fantastic, the island was such a beautiful setting (I need to visit), it’s a great read to get you in a festive mood.  The writing was wonderful, and I cannot wait to see if there will be anymore of them after Christmas Under a Starlit Sky.
The Plumberry School of Comfort Food was such a comfort read.  It set me up for my little reading marathon on holiday, it was just perfect.  I sort of wish I could visit the cooking school, maybe have a little one-on-one with Tom?? Just a wonderfully perfect, comforting book.
Letters from Lighthouse Cottage was great.  It was wonderful to read the backstory of Grace, and how she got to her perfect life.  it was done differently, and I loved every moment of it.  The characters in this book were great, we see how they grew, developed from awkward teenagers into adults, parents, spouses.  I loved the idea of Remy, it certainly made the book have a completely different feel to it.

Biggest Surprise:
This is definitely Christmas at the Little Village Bakery.  While I enjoyed the first one, I didn’t actually have high hopes for this one.  The description, in my own opinion, does not match the book at all. Something about Milly’s cousin being too flirty with Dylan, it just didn’t happen in the book. In fact, cousin Darcie was a shy girl, not what I pictured when I read the description.  Anyway, good points.  I loved the fact that the story didn’t actually centre around Milly and Dylan.  It was nice to read about Spencer and Tori, and their worries about getting married, where to live, their completely different parents.  It was nice to read about other characters, I didn’t particularly connect well with Milly in the first book.  Anyway, I think this book is slightly better than the first, but I cannot see if it can be added to with another one – if there is one, I will read it.  The only way I can see it being added to is with Darcie.  I would enjoy reading about her story, where she came from, where she goes.

Any Disappointments:
Not really, which isn’t a surprise.
I did struggle to get into Glass Sword, but I got there eventually. I’m excited for the 3rd book in the trilogy, and very intrigued with where it is going.  As I said, I struggled to actually get into it. I can’t really pinpoint why though, I loved Red Queen, I was very excited to pick this up but it just didn’t start with the Oomph I was expecting.

October Plans:
This is where I struggle. I’ve got to plan an international giveaway for a author (any tips will be gratefully received!), and read and review both her books (watch this space!!).
I’ve also got extra copies of a book to giveaway as well so look out for that as well.
Other than that, no special Blogging Plans. I’m going to be aiming for 2 reviews a week, fingers crossed I can do it! I’m hoping to get one up by the end of the week this week, and then 2 next and every week from then but we shall see.
This month is busy with homelife as well.  We have a 3rd birthday with the child, with another week away visiting Mum.  Our poor feline-baby, Percy, must think we keep abandoning him!

ARC Review: Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg


Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet
by Charlie N. Holmberg
Published: 28June 2016
Publisher: 47North
Format: Ebook
Pages: 296
ISBN/ASIN: 1503935604 (ISBN13: 9781503935600)

Synopsis:
Maire is a baker with an extraordinary gift: she can infuse her treats with emotions and abilities, which are then passed on to those who eat them. She doesn’t know why she can do this and remembers nothing of who she is or where she came from.

When marauders raid her town, Maire is captured and sold to the eccentric Allemas, who enslaves her and demands that she produce sinister confections, including a witch’s gingerbread cottage, a living cookie boy, and size-altering cakes.

During her captivity, Maire is visited by Fyel, a ghostly being who is reluctant to reveal his connection to her. The more often they meet, the more her memories return, and she begins to piece together who and what she really is—as well as past mistakes that yield cosmic consequences.

From the author of The Paper Magician series comes a haunting and otherworldly tale of folly and consequence, forgiveness and redemption

My Thoughts:
First I’d like to thank Netgalley and the publishers for my copy in exchange of my review.

I think that this book is just only slightly better than The Paper Magician trilogy. What could be so wrong with cakes and magic? Not a thing it seems!! I’ve read, and fairly enjoyed, The Paper Magician Trilogy.  I didn’t know how I was going to feel about this book.  Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet is completely different, but again has magic as a main focus point of the story.

As soon as I started enjoying and finally getting into the book, it just changed.  It didn’t feel, or read, the same as it started out.  Once I got used to that, it ended.  It just… finished.  Too quickly. I didn’t like the ending of the book.  It happened in a way that I wasn’t really expecting, or even thinking about.  I didn’t particularly like the way it jumped from memories to Maire and Fyel and back again.  It confused me, but obviously helped explain a lot of backstory.

I would have been happy to sit there and read about Maire’s life in her little bakery for a whole lot longer than I actually did.  What I mean by it not reading or feeling the same is that it wasn’t the same Maire. She became ‘more’ if that explains it? She didn’t come across of the Baker with magical cakes anymore, she came across slightly as “I’m better than everyone”, or maybe just selfish?  I’ll hold my hands up and say that I liked her in the beginning of the book but not the ending.

Apart from all of that, Maire is a likeable person.  She may have no memories, but that just adds to her character and charm.  I would have liked to have got to know more about Arrice and Franc as they are a huge part of Maire’s story.  Allemas is a strange addition and not easy to like, although it does become sort of clear who is he, and why he’s like he is, as the story goes on.  The addition of what I can only guess are his thoughts at the beginning of each chapter is wonderful.  It gives us an insight into his feelings towards Maire and Fyel.

The authors writing is as magical in this book The Paper Magician Trilogy, if not a whole lot more.  It sparked my imagination in brilliant ways and made me desperately to want to get my bake-on! Some of Maire’s recipes would have been an incredible addition!

I do have a couple of questions as well about the ending, mainly the epilogue.  Was the Mother and Father at the end Maire and Fyel? I’m taking a huge leap and saying yes it was.  Was it Maire’s punishment from the Gods, to touchdown? Or completely their own choice? I’d like to think it was their choice maybe, to fufill Maire’s dream, or even to correct her mistakes.

My Rating: 3/5. Although I eventually enjoyed the book, there was just too much that I didn’t like.

Reader Recommendations

I’m going to try something new.  Well, new for me.  I don’t know if there is anything like this, or even remotely similar in the blogging world but I want to try it anyway.

Right, my thing! Every Wednesday, I’m going to do a “community” recommendations post.  It can be something you’re currently reading, something you want to shout about from the highest of rooftops, or something that you have recently discovered.  It could be your favourite author, or a genre you’ve recently found you like.
You can ask for your own recommendations, or just have a quick peek at what is floating around in other readers lives at the moment.

I’m currently looking for books based around Fairy Tales, so like a retelling of them.  After recently discovering The Shadow Queen by C. J Redwine, I’ve been on the hunt for fairy tale similar books.  So far, I’ve come across The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer – although I’ve not read them or purchased them yet.  I’ve also found what seems to be a retelling of Aladdin.  It’s called The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury.  Again, I’ve not read or purchased (every time I’ve gone to buy it something else has come up!)
What I’ve recently read is Rebel In The Sands by Alwyn Hamilton which has a Middle-Eastern mythology sort of thing going on and I loved it!! So, does anyone know of books like that?

Two new releases what I cannot recommend enough are Letting in Light by Emma Davies and One Hot Summer by Kat French.  Both have received numerous amounts of high praise, and if you follow me on twitter I’ve been constantly sharing and retweeting about them!

Please leave any recommendations in the comments! I’m always on the lookout for something new, and you never know, you may find your next favourite book!!!
If you follow me on Twitter, send me a tweet with a recommendation!

Thanks for reading lovely people!

Book Review: The Shadow Queen by C.J Redwine

The Shadow Queen by C. J Redwine
The Shadow Queen (Ravenspire, #1)
Published: February 2016
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Format: Paperback
Pages: 390
ISBN: 1407170600 (ISBN13: 9781407170602)

Synopsis:
Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.
In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.
But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

My Thoughts:

I’m going to be honest straight away, my rating for this book is somewhere in between 3 and 5 stars.  I really, really do not know what to rate it.

My reasoning for not knowing is for many reasons.  To start with, making me want to rate it highly is that I loved the fast-paced action, even the romance, which wasn’t a great deal, added to the book.  I liked the writing style, and I liked the characters – shame a good one died though, and I enjoyed the setting, which was described perfectly and has left me wanting to know more about both Kingdoms.
Lorelai is a great heroine, along with the help of Kol and the rest it makes a great story.  I even really enjoyed the fact that it’s a retelling, or extremely similar, to Snow White.  Lorelai is a great Snow White, with Irina as the Evil Queen and Kol makes an even better Huntsman.  Also, the fact that apples have a huge role within the book as well! The were a few parts that actually made me chuckle to myself as well!

My reasons for wanting to give it a low rating.  How many stories are there now about a girl who is trying to reclaim her throne from the evil hands of a relative are there now? I get the genre is for Teenagers/Young Adults but for once I’d like a late 20 something fighting for her place!! (Sorry I’m going off track here)
Anyway – I didn’t like the fact that one of the best characters gets killed off, just devastating!!  I think that they would have made the book that little bit more enjoyable if they were in it all the way through.
There were parts that dragged, a lot.  The ‘conversations’ between Lorelai and Kol were a tad awkward in places and I skimmed over them.

So, I’m in a bit of a predicament.  I honestly don’t know where I should put the rating.  It’s 3-5/5.

I will add, I understand why it’s been giving a lot of terrible reviews.  If I didn’t actually enjoy it as much as I did, it would have gotten a worse review from me.  And I know I’ve sort of contradicted myself by saying about the romance between Lorelai and Kol was great, and then the next I’m saying it’s awkward.  I just feel that there could have been some better interaction between them in places.  I loved the fact that he was there right at the end, as a surprise.  It did surprise me, and I really, really want to read about them again!!

Book Review: Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

HEX

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Published: 28th April 2016
Format: Hardback
Pages: 380
ISBN13: 9781444793215

Synopsis:
Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay until death. Whoever comes to stay, never leaves.
Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth-century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Blind and silenced, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children’s beds for nights on end. So accustomed to her have the townsfolk become that they often forget she’s there. Or what a threat she poses. Because if the stitches are ever cut open, the story goes, the whole town will die.
The curse must not be allowed to spread. The elders of Black Spring have used high-tech surveillance to quarantine the town. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break the strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into a dark nightmare.

My Thoughts:

Firstly, let me thank Hodder and Stoughton for my review copy via Bookbridgr!

Hmmm… I was expecting some horrifying, nightmare-inducing story, but sadly, for me it really wasn’t.  Granted, everyone is different but I didn’t really see a scary side to this book.

It was brilliantly written though.  Parts of the story were written as a witness account, asking the reader questions, involving them in decisions.  Other parts were written as it was happening.  Great writing style, and good character depth.  it was a shame some characters weren’t built up more – like Matt who needed something extra.  The setting of Black Spring was great.  In fact, the whole storyline was great.  I enjoyed the book, and just disappointed I didn’t find it scary.  It’s been a while since I read a horror book and wanted a good scare!

The ending was a tad gruesome, if not a little confusing for me.  I had to keep re-reading bits for it to sink in and  help me understand what was happening.  Without giving anything away, it’s making me wonder if Katherine wasn’t in a long line of people who were keeping Black Spring living in fear.  What happens to Steve after the ending? Was it Tyler at the door? Did he go through with the stitching?

I read part of the acknowledgements and it said something about the ending in the Dutch version? Has anyone read it? Is it different?? That perked my interests slightly.

So, overall, an enjoyable story, great characters, great settings, and an unexplainable ending. However, because I didn’t find it scary I’m rating it 3.5/5