Audiobook Review: The Gold Dragon Caper. A Damien Dickens Mystery by Phyllis Entis

‘The Gold Dragon Caper’ is a the fourth of the Damien Dickens mystery  novel/audiobook series. 

The story is complex and full of intriguing twists, and progresses at a pace that keeps the reader hooked without feeling rushed.  A number of the characters from previous books in the series return in this story, giving a pleasing sense of continuity and connection for those who have read or listened to them, but there are also enough new characters to keep things fresh and interesting. 

The book does stand alone for readers who have not read the previous installments, but will deliver spoilers for anyone who might want to read the earlier books. 

The narration by Tom Lennon is very easy to listen to, and very much suits the detective noir style and tone of the story.

Book Review: ‘A Moth in the Flames’ by S.E. Turner

When the reader first meets Sansara, it quickly becomes evident that she is a powerful young woman with a destiny to fulfil, but they can not predict how she might achieve that mission, nor what her role will be in the resolvution of the mysteries and complications of earlier storylines. 

The way in which the pieces of the puzzle fall into place and this instalment is seen to fit neatly into the broader narrative leaves readers who have followed the series as a whole with deep satisfaction. The conclusion of the book is well executed, and yet it does not feel like a complete ending: there is  a sense that there is more to come, and that there is a new generation of adventurers, warriors and leaders to come. 

The fifth book in The Kingdom of Durundal fantasy series, ‘A Moth In The Flames’ stands on its own as a very good fantasy story, full of mystery, adventure, magic and challenge. While first-time visitors to the Kingdom of Durundal will be able to infer the assumed knowledge needed to give this story its own integrity and resolution, returning readers will bring with them the deeper understandings and knowledge that will enable them to draw more meaning from the conversations and explanations between characters that reference the events and characters of the previous books in the series. 

So, while readers of fantasy are sure to enjoy this book on its own, my recommendation would be to start with book one and enjoy the richness of the bigger story, so that Sansara’s story is enjoyed in its entirety. 

Book Review: ’13 Ways to Midnight’ Book 2 by Rue Volley

In this sequel to ‘13Ways To Midnight’, Echo’s story continues as she tries to realign her priorities and build her life in Port Royal. 

Readers will find Echo to be realistically flawed and conflicted, but also admirable in the way she seeks to maintain her personal ethics and integrity. She is a character who challenges readers to consider right from wrong, and to understand that ones actions, even the ones considered to be minor, can have unexpected consequences that still need to be reconciled. 

The story is original and unpredictable, keeping the reader guessing and building a sense of anticipation. The story is very appealing for Young Adult readers, with sufficient complexity and interest to engage wider audiences, too.

’13 Ways to Midnight’ is proving to be an excellent series. 

Book Review: ‘Miss Mabel’s School For Girls’ by Katie Cross

It is a rare thing to find a series of books for Young Adult readers  that ticks all your favourite boxes: mystery and magic underscored with macabre and gothic elements, strong female characters, quirky twists, and themes and ideas that are universally compelling and interesting for teen and adult readers alike.

Just as it exists in the world-famous Harry Potter series, it exists in The Network Series by Katie Cross. This first book in The Network Series delivers a well-paced, expertly constructed story that ticks all of those boxes and more. 

Make no mistake, though: This is no mere imitation. ‘Miss Mabel’s School For Girls’ is original and unique, and the story is thoroughly engaging. The book ends with sufficient resolution to bring the story to a satisfying conclusion while dangling enough magical carrots to leave the reader wanting to just keep reading. 

The writing is excellent, creating an environment and atmosphere that is vivid and almost tangible, and propelling the reader into a story full of mystery, suspense and foreboding. 

Readers of all ages will find this book hard to put down, and should expect to be left wanting more. Thankfully, there is an entire nine book series, and another fantasy series featuring dragons by the same author, to look forward to. 

New Release: ‘The Taint of Treason’ by Greg Alldredge

Greg Alldredge, author of excellent steampunk, dark fantasy and urban fantasy novel series, has a new fantasy novel landing tomorrow. 

‘The Taint of Treason’ is the first in Alldredge’s new Lilliehaven epic fantasy series, which promises to carry the reader into a world of magic, danger, adventure, and courtly intrigue. 

’The Taint of Treason’ is available now for preorder
It will be available in both ebook and paperback on May 5.

The throne was her rightful place…
… unfortunately, her evil stepmother took it all away.

The life of a princess should be a royal blessing. But when Morgan’s ageing father marries a younger woman, the Crown Princess’s life becomes—treacherous.

Through a royal miscalculation, the Empire is now at war with a Necromancer of unknown strength and with unfathomable motives. Conflict has invaded the Wu Empire.

Morgan stands accused of treason; now, her life hangs in the balance. Forced to run, as the might of the Genke clan’s army hounds her escape.

Ghosts and monsters haunt the young princess, while she quests for a path to regain the throne.

Can Morgan find enough allies?
How will she save her Empire?

You’ll love the first book in the Lilliehaven epic fantasy series. Courtly intrigue meets swords and magic. The twists will keep you turning the pages.

Golden Squirrel Awards 2019

Book Squirrel has read and reviewed some fantastic books this year. While not every book can receive an award, Book Squirrel presented the third annual Golden Squirrel Awards to books in twenty different genres across a variety of age ranges, interests and styles on December 31st, 2019.

Just to make it clear, this is not a contest that people can vote on. This is an entirely subjective and preference-driven selection process. Book Squirrel knows what he likes, and that’s what he reads. When he reads, he always leaves a review. And here on the Book Squirrel blog, he awards gold, silver or bronze acorns instead of a star rating system. 

At the end of the year, he chooses the best of the books he has read and reviewed, and gives some nice shiny awards to the wonderful authors who entertained and enlightened him in the past twelve months. 

You can be sure that the winners of Golden Squirrel Awards are excellent reads, and worthy of recognition. 

Click on the awards below to navigate to the Book Squirrel review of each book.

And the winners are…

Book of the Year!

Best Children’s Book: 

Best YA  Fantasy:

Best YA Paranormal

Best YA Sword and Sorcery:

Best Audiobook: 

Best Contemporary:

Best Cozy Mystery:

Best Fairy Tale:

Best Fantasy:

Best Historical Fiction:

Best Holiday Themed Book:

Best Horror:

Best LGBTQ+ Book:

Best Mystery:

Best Non-Fiction:

Best Paranormal:

Best Science Fiction:

Best Short Story:

Best Steampunk:

Best Urban Fantasy:

Congratulations to all the winners!

Christmas Reading Recommendations

Ranging from children’s books to Yuletide horror and everything in between, I’ve squirrelled away the best in Indie Christmas Reads for you.

The books presented here have all been reviewed on this blog either last Christmas or this year.

Clicking on a book cover will take you to the review and its relevant links.

Christmas also features heavily in R.M. Gauthier’s Christmas Miracle series, in which the stories take place in Christmas Town, USA at different times of the year.

Book Review: ‘Tied to Deceit’ by Neena H Brar

This is a really good mystery set in India in the 1970s. The cultural insights add a fascinating layer of  interest to the story and further complicate the mystery at the core of the novel. 

The characters are diverse and colourful, each of them with something to hide and many of them with a motive for the crime.

The story is well crafted and keeps the reader guessing throughout. It’s easy to read, and the glossary at the back proves very helpful in understanding the Indian words used for cultural items such as clothing and food. The settings are easy to visualise, and the colours, textures and flavours of India are evoked by the author’s provision of wonderful sensory detail. 

Overall, this is an excellent piece of murder mystery fiction. 

‘You’re Not A Goth Until You Sack Rome’ by Jeffery Cook and Kathleen Perkins

As unpleasant as the experiences may be, it is often when experiencing persecution or encountering conflict that people make surprising discoveries about themselves.

That is absolutely the case for Rae Schwarz when she discovers that there is much more to her life than homework, preparing for Halloween and avoiding the school bully. What ensues is a story of resilience, friendship, loyalty, discovering new talents and looking beyond the surface to recognise what is hidden underneath.

This story is refreshing and original, written with a very comfortable style and personal tone that makes it very relatable and highly engaging. The characters are interesting and varied, each complementing the others in ways that are not immediately obvious to the reader at the outset, and demonstrating that it is entirely possible to be ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. 

A book laden with positive messages and values, ‘You’re Not A Goth Until You Sack Rome’ demonstrates a profound acceptance of differences and individuality and encourages the reader to recognise their own unique combinations of personality, ability and talent, and to learn to see others in the same way. 

This is a most enjoyable and entertaining story, written for a YA audience but suitable and appealing for all ages. 

Book Review: ‘An Unexpected Brew’ by JE Mueller

The concept of coffee being magical is not a new one by any means, but how good would it be if a barista could brew a bit of luck or confidence into your next cup? Similarly, the tale of Cinderella is not new, but this adaptation of the story has qualities that are original and different. It is an unexpected and delightful brew indeed. 

The author has given the old story a new setting and context, and provided some interesting twists to keep readers guessing. 

The characters have been reinvented so that they are quite original, yet recognisable and true to the conventions of the much-loved fairy tale. The central characters are likeable and relatable, and their interactions are natural and engaging. 

The target audience is YA, but it is a story that will be appealing for a much broader readership. This is a really fun and engaging read.