Kwik Review: Den of Shadows (Christopher Byford)

Kwik Reads

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There is a special place in hell for Franco de Monaire, I hope he finds it.

TL;DR – An exciting tale about travelling casino, a crime lord and an insane law man.

4.5 Button


What I thought:

I bought this book because I’ve been given the second and third books in the series to review and I thought I’d take the chance and read the first one to set things up – this was a good call on my part.

The story follows Franco, and his troop of showgirls in their train-mounted wandering casino. The Gamblers Den rolls from town to town along the frontier, bring a night of joy and release to the miserable folks that live there. All is going swimmingly until they hit a town called Windberg, and suddenly everything falls apart.

This book is a bit peculiar for me, in that the ‘main’ character, Franco, is the one I hate most and the supporting cast, who get less of a backstory, I really love. Franco is, with the best will in the world, a jerk! The way he treats Misu – a woman who spent 4 years under the thumb of a disgusting crime lord – is frankly despicable. And hypocritical. Maybe I missed something somewhere, but I fail to see how anybody could read this book and not want to slap Franco so hard he ends up in another dimension.

It’s an exciting tale, full of gun fights and flashbacks and fights between more-or-less-good and evil. It’s a lot of fun. The only thing that bugged me was the occasional use of peculiar language, or where sentences seemed to use words in an order I’m unfamiliar with – but nothing sticks out enough for me to remember specifics so it can’t have been that big a deal.

I’m looking forward to the next book!

Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Kwik Review: Sky Chasers (Emma Carroll)


Goodreads Link | Author Website

A fun little book that got me reading again!

TL;DR – The story of two children (and a duck, a rooster and a lamb) taking to the skies.



What I thought:

I spent a whole week completely unable to read anything for more than a minute until one evening I picked this book off my shelf and just read. It came easily.

The book follows Magpie, child thief turned aviator. After a series of accidents, Magpie finds herself in the employ of the Montgolfier family, who happen to be attempting to achieve the first powered flight by use of a hot air balloon. What follows is a tale of adventure, discovery and excitement.

I loved this book. I always say that age ratings in books aren’t good for much. Just because you’re older (and in my case WAY older) than the age range for a book doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it and get a lot out of reading it. Reading should be for fun, and that’s what this book is. Fun. It’s a well written easy read, with lovable characters and an exciting plot.

Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Kwik Review: The Christmas Mystery (Jostein Gaarder)


Goodreads Link


TL;DR – A sort of backwards look at the history of Christianity…also a kidnapping…



What I thought:

As far as I’m concerned I am being exceedingly generous in giving this book a 1 Button rating. In fact the only reason I’m giving it a rating AT ALL is because it kept me interested enough to read it all in one sitting. It was that kind of a book. I don’t even know where to begin.

A boy finds an old advent calendar in a book shop and decides he wants it. He takes it home, opens the door and out falls a sheet of paper. On it is the first chapter of a story about a girl called Elisabet, who chases a lamb (formerly a toy lamb) out of a toy shop, runs back in time somehow and bumps into an angel, who conveniently enough is also going back in time to visit Jesus on the occasion of his birth.

Each chapter of this book is a single day of advent, and each day a door is opened and a further chapter of this bizarre story is told. As the days move on, the group of pilgrims increases inside until they have a bunch of sheep, shepherds, angels, kings (who the book made a point of describing as ‘black like an African’) and so on and they all go back in time to visit Jesus.

Thing is, as they travel across the world from Norway where the tale begins, to Bethlehem were it’s supposed to end (or begin if you prefer) they ALMOST touch upon some really interesting theological, philosophical and historical points of interest. Only every time any character got more than 2 sentences into one of these potentially interesting moments, the shepherd turns around, bangs his crook on something and screams “To Bethlehem! To Bethlehem!” as if somehow they were going to miss the big event…as a consequence it turned what could have been an interesting theological history into a frustrating and pointless walk from nowhere in particular to nowhere special.

To make matters worse, the ‘mystery’ which the books title alludes to comes in the form of a real world kidnapping. Which – I know it’s supposed to give the readers a sort of “what really happened” vibe but it just makes no sense to include. It feels WRONG. This poor old woman who loses her child in the 40’s and has to wait another 45 years to hear from her and we’re supposed to believe that all went down smoothly. I don’t know. Oh and she may or may not have been kidnapped by the people of Palestine to prove a point or leverage a journalist.

Basically what I’m trying to say is, if for any reason you STILL feel like reading this book then do yourself a favour and stop when you finish chapter 23. Or better yet, just pick up the bible and read it the right way round without the haphazardly included kidnapping.

I’m now going to leave you with some alternate entries for the quote box at the start of this review:

“From now on I’m ending every conversation I don’t like by screaming ‘To Bethlehem’ and whacking something with a stick”

“This could have been a really interesting story – then it wasn’t…”

“I have to hope something was lost in translation…”

“I have to assume I’m not the target audience for this book.”

“I finished it in the hopes that the end would pull it all together and be amazing. It wasn’t.”

On the plus side, I finally get to use THIS:


Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Kwik Review: Shadow of the Yangtze (Julian Sedgwick)


Goodreads Link | Author Website

The continuing adventures of Shanghai Ruby. More action, more folklore, more romance.

TL;DR – The second book in the ‘Ghosts of Shanghai’ series follows Ruby and her best fried / love interest Charlie in their quest to rescue Charlie’s sister, Fei. The pair make a perilous journey from the relative safety of Shanghai into the dangerous and wild interior of China. Action packed from start to finish.



What I thought: 

As I said in my review of the first book, I could read about Ruby’s adventures until the cows, and any other missing farm animals, came home. This book was an excellent, action packed continuation from the first.

As Ruby and Charlie make there way up the Yangtze river into the Chinese interior, they encounter a host of deadly situations – from freedom fighters to hopping vampires – but the brave pair will stop at nothing to rescue Fei.

This book has more action than the first one, which is well written and exciting. But the real push for me is the folklore elements, which I love. I adore Chinese folklore and it was a nice touch to not only include some themes but a folk story as well. There is also more romance in this book than the first – ‘Ghosts’ skirted a romantic theme but ‘Shadow…’ gets right into it – I don’t like romance so this was a bit of a negative to me.

Finally, Sedgwick continues to make up verbs for no apparent reason, which isn’t so much a criticism as it is something that amuses me. All in all an excellent book. Roll on number 3, Return to the City of Ghosts.

See the full review of Ghosts of Shanghai here: Book Review: Ghosts of Shanghai (Julian Sedgwick)

Please note: Although my family do know the author, I have do not. I am reading them because they come recommended by my younger sisters, not because of any connection to the author. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

New Feature: Kwik Reviews


Sometimes when I start writing a review, I realise I don’t have enough to say about a book to warrant a full review. Often a book can stand out but I just lack the vocabulary at the time to do justice to a full review.

Enter Ragdoll Reads Kwik Reviews!!

These will be shorter reviews, maybe a few paragraphs. A rating, recommendations etc.

I’m also hoping that by doing these I can refine the art of the short review and hopefully be able to use it as a leaping off point for doing reviews semi-professionally. Who knows. That’s long term – for now, I’m just going to write and see what happens.