Book Review: ‘Or What You Will: A Reimagining Of Twelfth Night’ by CH Clepitt

Just like Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, this is a fun romp full of coincidence, disguise, trickery, and mistaken identity, albeit set on a tropical island in the 21st century. 

Clepitt’s trademark humour infuses the narrative with warmth and a lighthearted tone that make the story very entertaining. The characters are, in keeping with Shakespeare’s play, delightful and a bit daft at the same time, which is how the story is actually made to work. 

Given that the play already bent the gender roles and expectations back in the 1600s, it is a  plot that easily lends itself to the incorporation of gay and lesbian characters and themes, achieved with the intelligence and wit that are characteristic of Clepitt’s writing.

There is sufficient homage to Shakespeare’s tale to make it recognizable, and sufficient originality and development of setting, plot and characters to make the work distinct as Clepitt’s own. 

A most enjoyable read, ‘Or What You Will’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘The Interspecies Poker Tournament’ by Claire Buss

’The Interspecies Poker Tournament’ is a prequel to The Rose Thief’, Claire Buss’ first novel to feature Ned, Jenni, and the rest of the Thief Catcher gang.

It is a wonderfully quirky fantasy story, full of rich and diverse characters that all have their own priorities and vested interests in catching the murderer.

It’s written with humour and warmth that infuse the story with a genuine feel-good tone, despite the multiple deaths, general trickery and deliberate obfuscation by some, and the presence of some rather sinister characters. 

This novella-length book can easily be read in a couple of hours, and would best suit a YA-and-older audience. I found it to be a great diversion on a quiet afternoon, and thoroughly enjoyed the story. 

’The Interspecies Poker Tournament’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘Betwixters: Once Upon a Time’ by Laura C Cantu

What a wonderful, spellbinding story! 

‘Betwixters’ has just the right balance of friendship, danger, adventure and magic to make it a highly engaging and memorable story that draws the reader in right from the start. 

Noah, Skye and Ethan are three regular kids who find their courage and friendship tested by the most unique circumstances, but it is those same qualities that they rely on to find the solution to their problems. They are realistic and relatable characters, brought to life in a really vivid way. The wider cast of supporting characters is similarly true to life, 

The story is wonderfully written, infused with suspense and tempered with humour, and frequently evoking a warm and positive tone that provides a very good balance for the darker elements of the story.

A great story for all ages from middle years up, ‘Betwixters’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘The Apple Tree Throne’ by Premee Mohamed

When an image on the first page is so beautifully written that it forces the reader to stop and ponder it, one knows they are in for a literary treat. 


‘The Apple Tree Throne’ is one such story: wonderfully evocative and beautifully written, making use of rich images that linger in the mind and invite one’s thoughts back in quiet moments.

The Gothic elements of the story – storms, dreams and apparitions – add another layer of complexity and imagery that provides darker contrast to the often whimsical and sentimental tone of the writing. 

This is an often wistful story that immerses the reader into the experiences of Lieutenant Benjamin Braddock, a returned soldier who has a new life thrust upon him while still trying to deal with the remnants of the old one. Therein lies his challenge: he must reconcile himself with the ghosts of the past in order to move ahead. 

The fruit of war wounds and indelible memories, Braddock’s emotional and mental state is portrayed with gentleness and empathy, so that the reader gains as much understanding of his complex character and his desire for integrity as they do of his struggle to accept things as they are. 

The setting is very English, in an era that, while it feels like the end of the 19th century because electricity is relatively new and wars are still being fought with muskets and swords, is entirely fictional: the monarchy has long been done away with and England has become a republic, although social classes and wealthy people with large estates still exist. 

This is a most enjoyable book. Light and dark are very well balanced, and the overall tone is positive.  It would suit readers of Clasic literature and poetry, and any who enjoy a thought-provoking story that is both well-crafted and entertaining. 

‘The Apple Tree Throne’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

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Book Review: ‘Inspector Hobbes and the Blood’ by Wilkie Martin

The first book in Wilkie Martin’s ‘Inspector Hobbes’ mystery series, this is a highly original contribution to the genre. It is at different times suspenseful, macabre, darkly humorous, and quirky, while maintaining a well-developed and interesting mystery storyline. 

The cast of characters is delightful, made up of mismatched and very different personalities that one might not expect to get along with one another at all, and yet they are oddly complementary. In that sense, there is much in this book that challenges the ways in which people often perceive others based on looks, occupation or social status.  Inspector Hobbes is an enigma: beneath the intimidating exterior and generally gruff presentation lies a good heart and a very literal sense of humour. Still, he is clearly not your everyday local police inspector, and the questions about his past and his otherworldly nature are both puzzling and captivating. That many of these questions remain unanswered is a point of continued intrigue that holds strong appeal for the natural curiosity that is common among readers of mystery novels. 

Similarly, Mrs Goodfellow is both kind and terrifying at the same time, providing yet another contrast to Andy, whose trademark quality is his mediocrity: he wants to be ‘more’ than he is but never quite manages it. It is his profound sense of disappointment in his unrealised dreams and his helplessness when the events of life conspire against him that make him relatable to readers and have them silently hoping for better things for him. When he falls in with Hobbes and discovers life beyond his less-than-stellar career in journalism, the unlikely friendship between the two provides a frequent source of both amusement and fascination.

The oddities of the characters and the macabre elements of the story add further layers of mystery and curiosity to the story, which is well-developed and proceeds at a good pace. Unlike some other mysteries, there is nothing predictable or formulaic about this book. 

A most enjoyable dark urban fantasy mystery story, Inspector Hobbes and the Blood has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘Pretty Waiter Girls’ by Greg Alldredge

An excellent steampunk fantasy mystery novel, ‘Pretty Waiter Girls’ is a captivating story set in San Francisco, 1899, where mystery, magic, science, inventions, petty crime and serial murderers exist uneasily alongside one another. 

Helena Brandywine is a charming heroine – young, feisty, smart, good-natured, and keen to rescue others from danger. While she aspires to become like Sherlock Holmes, Helena is more empathetic and less aloof than her hero. The detective, Doyle, and Helena’s companions and employees Sigmund and Lane are all effective foils for her youth and impulsiveness.  As they investigate the disappearance of a young socialite and the death of another young woman from very different circumstances, each of the central characters turns out to be as complex and challenging as the mysteries they seek to solve.  This sets up a dynamic between them that is both enjoyable and fascinating.

The narrative is interesting and exciting, and very well constructed. The story is as full of action and adventure as it is of mystery and intrigue. The writing has a positive, adventurous tone that really suits the genre and style of the story and keeps the reader hooked on the action of the story as the mysteries and challenges that face Helena unfold. The mysteries are well constructed, made more fascinating by their relation to questions relating to Helena’s family, and by their apparent connections to the shadowy beings that frequent the city in the dark. 

A most enjoyable read, ‘Pretty Waiter Girls’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

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Book Review: ‘Blood and Ink’ by DK Marley

‘Blood and Ink’ is brilliant historical fiction that takes the questions surrounding Shakespeare’s life and the authorship of the works that bear his name, and weaves them into a most enjoyable and credible narrative. 

The story is rich in vibrant detail, from the sounds of horses’ hooves on cobblestones to the swish of cloaks and the innermost thoughts of both Shakespeare and Marlowe as it follows their lives from childhood to their final days. 

The web of intrigue and espionage surrounding the court of Queen Elizabeth I is brought to life in the characters who surround her and the machinations of the Star Chamber, drawing the reader into the high drama and adding another layer of complexity to the tale told in these pages. 

The writing is bold and vivid, seamlessly incorporating quotations from the works of both Shakespeare and Marlowe. While it is definitely fiction, the author has made the story feel so real that it could, in fact, be history. 

An excellent work of historical fiction, ‘Blood and Ink’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

Find your copy here.