Book Review: ‘Dyrwolf’ by Kat Kinney

‘Dyrwolf’ is a highly original and very compelling story of a young woman learning who she is and what matters most to her in the face of challenges and adversity. 

Lea Wylder is a complex and interesting character who has much to learn about trust, plagued as she is by questions of identity and loyalty, and caught up in the struggle for survival that encumbers the village in which she lives. Although she definitely has her flaws, her loyalty, resilience and integrity make her an admirable hero and a positive role model for teens and young adults, a demographic that is often confronted by questions and  issues similar to those explored in this book.

A very engaging and thought-provoking read that captivated me from the start, ‘Dyrwolf’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here. 

Book Review: ‘Half Sick of Shadows’ by Richard Abbott

As someone who has always loved Tennyson’s poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’, the title of this book caught my eye and imagination immediately. Rather than being a retelling of the poem, however, this book is a speculative fantasy about the life of the Lady before the events of the poem take place, and on the nature of her observations of the world around her tower.

The story is very creative and highly original in its development, intriguing the reader with hints about the truth of the Lady’s identity and the reasons for her being imprisoned in her tower.

The Lady’s character is quite thoroughly developed, as the reader is allowed into her thoughts and responses as well as into her activities. Other characters in the book are less well developed, simply because the story moves from one group to another as it progresses, but all are portrayed in a personal and evocative  manner that gives both the Lady and the reader a strong sense of connection to them. 

The author has given the well known story a new sense of mystery and intrigue and another layer of mystical connection that gives this book depth and has a profound effect on the reader. 

A most enjoyable read, ‘Half Sick of Shadows’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘The Lady Of The Mist’ by WC Quick

If you have ever suspected that the ‘happy ever after’ of fairy tales wasn’t actually true? 

This is a dark fantasy sequel to Cinderella that brings with it a very different set of premises than those suggested by the ending of the popular children’s fairy tale. 

Written with dark humour and a strong sense of irony, this is a fairy tale for the cynical and subversive. 

An entertaining short read, ‘Lady Of The Mist’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn.  

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘The Queen’s Poisoner’ by Jeff Wheeler

This is a fascinating story – the entirely original characters, locations and magical elements make it fantasy, yet it is overlaid on a foundation of elements of history in The Wars of the Roses and the life story of the English king Richard III. The way in which those historical elements are drawn upon and interwoven throughout the story and rich layers of complexity and interest to the story. The reader becomes deeply engaged in the story as it unfolds, particularly when the key characters are faced with danger or discovery.

The characters are vividly portrayed, crafted to engage the reader’s empathy for the protagonist, a young boy named Owen, and those who prove themselves his friends. There is also a good range of characters for whom the reader enjoys contempt and significant distrust— indeed, disliking them is actually a pleasurable experience.

The Audible narration of the book is clearly read and quite expressive, although occasionally sounds a little flat and stilted – perhaps in contrast to the great use of voice and tone to deliver effective characterisation when the characters speak. While this may cause trifling annoyance for the listener from time to time, it  did not prove to be an issue sufficient to really affect the listener’s enjoyment of the story itself. 

The first novel in what promises to be a most excellent and enjoyable series, The Queen’s Poisoner has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here.

Fast Five: Fantasy Books Not To Be Missed

If you love a great fantasy read, check out these five excellent book recommendations:


Arija and the Burning City
https://www.amazon.com/Arija-Burning-City-Hall-Doors-ebook/dp/B07PJ5TWH9/

The Rainbow Serpent
https://www.amazon.com/Rainbow-Serpent-Lyra-Shanti-ebook/dp/B014ZGJUZA/

Love Bites
https://www.amazon.com/Love-Bites-Darkness-Light-Duology-ebook/dp/B0747W31W1/

Royal Thief
https://www.amazon.com/Royal-Thief-Resistance-Book-1-ebook/dp/B01N8X111F/

Once Upon a Fabulous Time
https://www.amazon.com/Once-Upon-Fabulous-Time-Gauthier-ebook/dp/B077YTLZ7M/

Author Interview: Stephanie Barr

Book Squirrel interviews science fiction and fantasy author Stephanie Barr.

Welcome to another great Book Squirrel author interview. Today we welcome fantasy and science fiction author Stephanie Barr.

Thank you, Book Squirrel!

You’re most welcome. Tell us, Stephanie, what inspired you to write?

I love to tell stories. I love to pretend I’m in a different situation (or some variation of me) and imagine how I could overcome, beat it, react, interact with others, find my way free. I’m a natural problem-solver and I love to both create and overcome problems as I write. I love to help characters grow as they learn and interact with others. Characters are front and center in my own work, my focus, and I love to go adventuring with them and share those adventures with others. 

As for something specific that inspired me, everything kind of does. I love to play what if, and imagine what might happen if I tweaked a few features. Perhaps I was encouraged in that mindset in high school with teachers who didn’t squash that tendency to turn essays into stories, but I can’t remember when I didn’t do this.

What are you working on writing now?

I’m working on cowriting the second book in the Witches and Demons series with Mirren Hogan (called Illusion), focused on an alternate here and now and magic with demons, sort of urban fantasy. 

I’m working on finishing the third book in my Bete series (called Twice the Man) which are sort of science fantasy, science fiction elements (space ship crash landing on a new planet across the universe from their home planet) but adding shapeshifters and psychic powers. I hinted at unfriendly natives in the first two books and now they’re going to make their move, and quite effective it was, with a chemical that removes the shapeshifting and psychic powers of my heroes. Guess they’ll have to outsmart ’em. 

I’m halfway through The Library at Castle Herriot, which is another here and now but there’s a magic library with books that can take you to other worlds including the past, but don’t take them out of the hidden library or you can’t return without living out the book as intended–and you won’t know how it goes. One false step and you’re trapped forever. I’d call it fantasy. 

I’m also coordinating a charity anthology (Challenge Accepted) where all the MCs must be disabled in some way and win the day (proceeds to go to Special Olympics).  And I’m involved in at least three other anthologies at the moment as well as building two of my own based on cat stories. Cats are one of my signatures and you can find one or more in all of my books, so I thought I’d write some stories for them.

Who designs your book covers?

So far, I’ve used two artists and devised some of the covers for my mini-anthologies myself (which are not good covers but the books are free so there’s that). Loraine van Tonder is my go-to cover designer. I love her work and I’ve bought more than a dozen covers from her and will undoubtedly buy more. She’s in South Africa but she is very easy to work with and consistently gives me stunning covers that really make an impression. I stumbled across her FB site from somewhere else, found a premade perfect for Curse of the Jenri with just a little tweaking and she ended up remaking covers for my existing novels (Saving Tessa, Nine Lives, Tarot Queen) except for Beast Within which was created by Brendan Smith. She also revamped my covers for my poetry collection (Musings of a Nascent Poet) and my first anthology (Creating Dreams). Since then, she has built covers for me for Incantation (Book one of the Witches and Demons trilogy), Legacy (my second anthology), and The Taming of Dracul Morsus (as well as several covers for future books). 

Brendan Smith is another cover artist I’ve used several times. He made Beast Within‘s cover within an hour (apparently for fun) and provided a premade perfect for Ideal Insurgent. He also did a cover for my mini-anthology Easy Prey.
He is also very responsive.

Loraine van Tonder can be found on FB if you search Ryn Katryn. Brendan Smith can also be found on FB. 

What’s your favourite kind of music?

I love music I can sing along with: pop, rock, show tunes, Disney tunes. Not a big fan of country (though there are songs that are exceptions), rap or religious music. I like bouncy music as it helps to keep me awake for day job and general everything since I don’t drink coffee. And I can listen to music when I’m doing everything but actually writing. When I’m writing, I need as close to silence as I can get with two kids and ten cats. 

Forest, country, beach or city?

City. I’m not outdoorsy and, if I want something, I want to find it right then, so accessibility to everything is my goal. I don’t want to drive miles to the nearest grocery store or drive half a day to the nearest airport. I live in hurricane alley already so the beach has lost its lustre. I love to curl up in my house with a book or a movie.

What is your pet hate? Have you ever built it into a character or used it in your writing?

I don’t have many pet hates when it comes to people. I have a few pet peeves on writing: clunky dialog, characters who have to break character to do something to make the plot go, thesaurus mania (using synonyms when you clearly don’t understand the nuances), and (this is my big one) book that don’t complete a story arc

But you seem to be talking about people and I do have two: rapists and bigoted folks, people so caught up on what someone is that they don’t care WHO someone is. And, yes, I’ve used them both in my writing. Rapists are never anything but antagonists. Bigotry is not uncommon in my antagonists, but sometimes they do grow out of it.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a veterinarian until I realized that animals throw up. A lot. I still have a low tolerance to regurgitation even after three children and ten cats. So, sometime around then I wanted to be a writer. But, I didn’t want to be a starving writer so I was going to get a day job (which I did) but I would never, in a million years, have predicted that my day job would be rocket scientist or that I would get a degree in engineering physics – a total fluke. So, I’m still capable of surprising even myself.

What’s your favourite season? Why?

I like the fall. I was born in the fall, is one reason, but the real reason is that I live somewhere really hot (Houston) and, though I hate the hard cold and snow and stuff, I do like the cessation of brutal heat. 

Who are your three greatest literary inspirations?

E.  A. Poe. I started out reading a lot of classics and no one wrote poetry that touched me more than Poe. I love his tricks with suspense, is amazing vocabulary, his understanding that the sound of a word can add to the tension and emotion of a poem or prose.  My early poetry, where I started when I began writing were all poems of the epic rhyme and rhythm type.

Heinlein. Not saying there aren’t some misses in the books, but, of the sheer volume of stories and novels, he’s got more greats than I could count and I’ve read most of them. He had a real turn for dialog, a great voice that made people feel real in nothing but a line or two. That’s a gift. He injects humor in most of his work without in anyway detracting from his speculative fiction, or the tension and pathos. I love that and have tried to do the same. I like his personality, often self-deprecating, when in anyone’s POV and his fondness for cats. Of course, I like his apparently effortless world-building where there are tons of details to build the world without taking any chunks of time to make them so, just weaving it into the narrative in a perfectly natural way. Plenty to learn there, too. 

Georgette Heyer. Yes, yes, why would a fantasy/SF author be inspired by a Regency romance author? Because she’s very good. Not only with very intelligent characters (and with great humor) but her character interactions are fantastic and charming. I’ve read most of her books a dozen times apiece and can read (or listen on audio) to them over and over even now and find myself cheered.  I want people to enjoy my own books in much the same way. 

Name two things in life that you wish were easier.

Marketing. I’ve no hand for it at all. As a rocket scientist, I can speak with assurance, backed by data. When it comes to pushing my work (which I love) on people when I know the reactions are subjective, is much more challenging for me. I don’t like to be pushed myself. I have the gratification that many of the people I do know that have read one have been eager to read more, but we’re still talking about a very small number of people. Getting the book in the hands of someone open to fall in love with a new author is not so easy and I haven’t figured out how best to do it. 

Raising children. Not a particularly unique thought, but since I’ve done most of my child-raising as a single mother, I wish I had a better handle on it, especially with my two youngest on the spectrum. They are both, however, two of the happiest children ever so there’s that. And my eldest, while not quite as happy, is quite a accomplished and has the nature to carve her way with distinction.

Where can we find your books?

My books are most easily available on Amazon and Smashwords but you can find them on any ebook and most book retailers.
Ideal Insurgent is also available most places that sell audio books.

Where can readers follow you on social media?

I’m on Facebook and Twitter.
I also have a writing blog, or people can sign up to receive my newsletter.


Book Review: ‘Ye Olde Magick Shoppe’ by Claire Buss

‘Ye Olde Magick Shoppe’ is a delightful short story from Roshaven, the setting of the author’s’ fantasy novel, The Rose Thief.

Central characters Ned Spinks and Jenni the Sprite return with their quirky brand of investigation when a mysterious shop appears in Roshaven. Of course, nothing is straightforward and their endeavours to solve the mystery being about more mayhem than they anticipated.

This is a fun story for all ages that can be enjoyed in less than half an hour. It does work.as a standalone story: prior knowledge of Roshaven and its residents is not essential to understanding and enjoyment of ‘Ye Olde Magick Shoppe’, but readers who have not yet read The Rose Thief will very likely want to after this brief taste of Buss’s enchanting storytelling.

This excellent short story has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

Find your copy here.