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. 

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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. 

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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: ‘The Curse of the Dragon Stone’ by J.B. Richards

This is a story of powerful contrasts: friendship and treachery, love and enmity, good and evil, life and death, dragon and wolf. 

The tale is well crafted and beautifully told. The narrative is well paced, balancing drama with action and darkness with lighter moments. The characters are varied and interesting, each having unique interests and motivations that help to develop and drive the story.  

Kirin is a complex and conflicted central character. Tyriel complements his fiery nature, yet also presents Kirin with one of his most profound dilemmas. Together with the Fabiola Sisters, these two must take up the fight against evil and seek to right the wrongs of the past. 

A convenient novella length read, this book certainly delivers a rich and inviting narrative that will have definite appeal for readers of fantasy and paranormal romance. 

This first of three parts of The Dragon’s Heir Trilogy certainly whetted my appetite for  the next two books in the series.

‘The Curse Of The Dragon Stone’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn 

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Book Review: ‘Lavender Mist of May: A Cat Collier Mystery’ by Carol Ann Kauffman

‘The fifth novella in the Cat Collier mystery story continues the story of Cat and her fiancée Carter, while she investigates various matters as a private detective.

I really enjoyed this story, which is well paced and provides well developed, balanced moments of tension, drama and action as the narrative progresses.

In keeping with the rest of the series, this is a short read, comfortably finished in a little over an hour.

‘Lavender Mist of May’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn.

Find your copy here.