Book Review: ‘Midsummer’s Bottom’ by Darren Dash

When an amateur theatre company reunite for their 20th annual performance of Shakespeare’s’A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, one might expect they’d have their act together.

‘Midsummer’s Bottom’ immerses the reader in the lives of the actors, but also in the lives of the fey characters who are weary of seeing themselves represented in the troupe’s performances.

Like the play being performed, the story is an enjoyable romp through a glade in a forest, complicated by love, jealousy, and fey interference in the lives of humans.

This book is well-written and quite entertaining. The characters are varied and interesting, made complex by their desires and motivations, and intricately connected to both the play and one another’s lives.

Just how the plot will resolve keeps the reader guessing right to the end.

This book is recommended for readers aged 18 and over, as ‘Midsummer’s Bottom’ does contain some adult  content, although not graphic or gratuitous.

Audiobook Review: ‘A Song of Sixpence’ by Judith Arnopp

‘A Song of Sixpence’ tells the story of Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, her marriage to Henry VII, and the lives of her siblings in the years after the death of Richard III.

The book has been well researched, filling in the spaces between known facts and recorded history with a well-constructed and very credible ‘what if?” story about the fate of her younger brothers, known as the Princes in the Tower.  The author draws the reader into the lives of both Elizabeth and her younger brother Richard, using their perspectives to weave a rich tapestry of storytelling in which historical figures are fleshed out, consistently with what history tells us of them, yet taking on life once again, each with their own unique blend of different motivations, fears, flaws and strengths that make this story both compelling and engaging.

The narration by Alex Lee is very easy to listen to. Her reading is expressive and fluent, and her use of tone, voice and accent to achieve effective characterisation is consistently excellent.

Book Review: ‘Of Vultures and Kings’ by William Joseph

‘Of Vultures and Kings’ Is a most enjoyable children’s fantasy book that takes the reader on an adventure into enchanted forests, secretive realms and dangerous, unknown places.

This is a very entertaining story that delivers positive lessons about friendship, loyalty and trust in times of adversity and fear.

A great book for independent readers and for family reading, this book would make a great addition to personal collections and to school and community libraries.

Golden Squirrel 2020 Indie Book Awards

Book Squirrel announced the third annual Golden Squirrel Independent Book Awards on December 28th, 2020.

These are the books or series that Book Squirrel has deemed the best in their genre from those read and reviewed on this blog in 2020. 

This is not a voting or popularity contest. It’s entirely subjective, based on Book Squirrel’s excellent taste. Book Squirrel has been as fair and impartial as a squirrel can be in awarding the winners with a 2020 Golden Squirrel Gold or Silver Award. 

There is a Gold and Silver award given by genre, and an award for Book of the Year

Best Children’s Books

Ronaldo and the Flying Reindeer Academy by Maxine Sylvester

Book Squirrel’s Review

Lucy Evans Instaexplorer: Dragons Rock by Millie Slavidou

Book Squirrel’s Review

Best YA  Fantasy

Mya by Missy Sheldrake

Book Squirrel’s Review

Miss Mabel’s School for Girls by Katie Cross

Book Squirrel’s Review

Best YA Paranormal

13 Ways to Midnight series by Rue Volley

Book Squirrel’s Review  

Dead by Morning by Kayla Krantz

Book Squirrel’s Review

Best YA Urban Fantasy

Foul is Fair by Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins

Book Squirrel’s Review

Kennedy Awakens by Greg Alldredge

Book Squirrel’s Review

Best Audiobooks

Ice and Embers by Melanie Karsak

Book Squirrel’s Review

The Damien Dickens mystery series by Phyllis Entis

Book Squirrel’s Review
Book Squirrel’s Review

Best Cozy Mystery

Cirque de Slay by CeeCee James

Book Squirrel’s Review

The Marquesa’s Necklace by PJ MacLayne

Book Squirrel’s Review

Best Short Story

A Dark Covenant by F.B. Hogan

Book Squirrel’s Review

All The Children On The Porch by Dona Fox

Book Squirrel’s Review

Best Fairy Tale

Ice and Embers by Melanie Karsak

Book Squirrel’s Review

Eye of the Beholder by CH Clepitt

Book Squirrel’s Review

Best Fantasy

The Hollow Crown by Jeff Wheeler

Book Squirrel’s Review

A Moth in the Flames by S.E. Turner

Book Squirrel’s Review

Best Historical Fiction

The Day I Saw The Hummingbird by Paulette Mahurin

Book Squirrel’s Review

The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham by Tony Riches

Book Squirrel’s Review

Best Holiday Themed Book

A Queer Old Christmas by CH Clepitt

Book Squirrel’s Review

A Haverton Christmas by TL Clark

Book Squirrel’s Review

Best Horror

Dead Lake by Darcy Coates

Book Squirrel’s Review

The Malan Witch by Catherine  Cavendish

Book Squirrel’s Review

Best in Diversity

My Dream Woman by CH Clepitt

Book Squirrel’s Review

Promise of the Opal by Lyra Shanti

Book Squirrel’s Review

Best Mystery

The Spyglass File by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Book Squirrel’s Review

Footprints In The Sand by Pam Lecky

Book Squirrel’s Review

Best Paranormal

Fallen Captive by Aliya DalRae

Book Squirrel’s Review

Red Dot Capers by C.A. King

Book Squirrel’s Review

Best Romance

Regency Love by TL Clark

Book Squirrel’s Review

Sweet William by Sherrie Hansen

Book Squirrel’s Review

Best Science Fiction

The Auctioneer by J.S. Frankel

Book Squirrel’s Review

Andora Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe by Richard Dee

Book Squirrel’s Review

Best Steampunk

Webley and the World Machine by Zachary Chopchinski

Book Squirrel’s Review

The Last Temptations of Iago Wick by Jennifer Rainey

Book Squirrel’s Review

Best Urban Fantasy

Bentwhistle the Dragon: A Threat From the Past by Paul Cude

Book Squirrel’s Review

The Unhuman Series by Wilkie Martin

Book Squirrel’s Review

Book of the Year


For its combination of original story line, characterisation, excellent writing, and ability to carry the reader to a different time and place, the award for BOOK OF THE YEAR 2020 goes to

‘Mya’ by Missy Sheldrake

Book Squirrel’s Review

Congratulations to all the winners!

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

The third novel in Wilkie Martin’s Unhuman urban fantasy mystery series is just as entertaining and intriguing as the first and second.

‘Inspector Hobbes and the Gold Diggers’ delivers another riotous mystery story while at the same time taking a more personal turn for both Inspector Hobbes and his sidekick, Andy. 

As always, Martin’s witty writing is highly entertaining and as engaging as the story itself.

This quirky and fun read provides yet another great escape from reality. 

Audiobook Review: ‘Ice and Embers’ by Melanie Karsak

What a magnificent tale! Subtitled ‘Steampunk Snow Queen’ this was far, far more than a fairy tale retelling. It is a complex blend of Gaslamp fantasy, mystery, historical romance, and Shakespearean theatre that enchants and encompasses the audience, drawing them into the story and behind the scenes until there is no desire to escape. 

The cast of characters is a varied and colourful as in any piece of theatre, their features, costumes and voices full of colour, texture and depth. Individually, they are lifelike and realistic; together, they generate a level of energy and drama that  makes the audience feel as though they are right there in the scenes and events of the story. 

A magical blend of beautiful writing and flawless narration, Ice and Embers is a masterpiece of storytelling. 

Book Review: ‘Kip and the Grinders’ Hall of Doors Book 2 by Zachary Chopchinski

The sequel to ‘Webley and the World Machine’ in Zachary Chopchinski’s Hall of Doors Steampunk adventure series  is an action-packed, highly entertaining adventure story that features Adal, Arija and their friend Kip, a Dweller of Webley’s World Machine. 

This story is set in Taraveil, another of the worlds that lie beyond the doors in Webley’s Hall of Doors. Once again, Chopchinski’s world building is complex and detailed, full of fascinating technology and diverse, colourful characters. Rich sensory detail adds texture and dimension to the various settings and environments in the book, complementing the action, characters and complications of the story.

Snarky and confident, Adal and Arija meet their matches in Ypsilon and her Grinder compatriots. Through conflict, danger and the formation of unlikely alliances, the integrity and loyalty of each of the central characters is tested as the story progresses.

Just like Adal and Arija, Ypsilon, Sasha, Van and Masa are characters that young adult readers will relate to. They are strong and flawed, passionate and vulnerable, smart mouthed and profoundly loyal to their own.

Chopchinski’s writing is edgy and descriptive, in keeping with the story and the world in which it is set. The story moves at a good pace, keeping the reader and their imagination fully engaged.

‘Kip and the Grinders’ is fast paced, distinctly original steampunk fiction that demands to be finished once started.

Book Review: ‘The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham’ by Tony Riches

This is a richly detailed and colourful story set during the troubled reign of Henry VI. The book tells the story of Eleanor Cobham, wife of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, a younger brother of King Henry V. 

Eleanor is a fascinating character who demonstrates intelligence and resilience throughout the events that shaped her life and the future of her family. The story is told in first person, so the reader develops a strong sense of empathy with her as the story progresses. 

Her perspective delivers fascinating insight into well-known events of the past from the point of view of a woman whose security and future depended on those who held power and who jostled for position at court. 

The story is complex and thought-provoking, full of intrigue and political manoeuvring, nuanced by reminiscences and regret. It highlights the precarious nature of courtly life and the swiftness with which one’s circumstances could change, and reminds the reader that true clarity and wisdom are delivered only by hindsight. 

Riches’ writing style is engaging and easy to read, yet still consistent with the way in which Eleanor and her contemporaries would have thought and spoken to one another. 

‘The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham’ is a most excellent work of historical fiction. 

Audiobook Review: Dragon School Books 1-5 by Sarah K.L. Wilson

‘Dragon School’ is outstanding YA fantasy adventure featuring Amel Leafbrought, a teenage girl beginning her career as a  dragon rider. 

Despite significant physical and social challenges, Amel demonstrates determination, integrity and resilience, presenting a really good role model for young people who often confront obstacles of one kind or another in achieving their goals. Her discovery of abilities that others do not have is a powerful element of Amel’s narrative, and serves as a strong encouragement for others who experience physical disabilities or limitations. 

Amel’s experiences of other people, whether peers, teachers or dragons, demonstrate important lessons about the importance of careful discernment about who should be trusted, and about the true nature of friendship. 

This series is highly original and well constructed. The story progresses at a very good pace, with plenty of adventure balanced by reflection and the development of friendships and connections between characters. The imagery is colourful and detailed, the characters diverse and varied, and the complications and problems they face are compelling. 

The world building is unique and interesting, featuring complex and thought-provoking social systems, detailed and thoughtful architecture, and geography quite unique to this world. 

The narration by Jigisha Patel, is clear and fluent, with excellent diction and expression, although there are a couple of minor errors. Her use of voice and tone to develop character and deliver the narrative results in a compelling story that is as engaging and enjoyable as Wilson’s writing. 

While there  are more episodes to follow, this audiobook ends with sufficient resolution to satisfy the audience, and a tantalising promise of more adventure to come.

Book Review: ‘Footprints In The Sand’ by Pam Lecky

The second in the Lucy Lawrence mystery series, this is a most intriguing story, full of twists and turns, and set in a most exotic location. From Nice to Cairo to Sakkara, the reader is taken on a journey of many discoveries — not all of them archaeological.

The characters are colourful and lively, each with personal motivations and interests that they tend to keep to themselves, adding layers of intrigue to the secrets and mysteries that Lucy finds awaiting her in Egypt.

It is clearly evident and most pleasing that the author has taken care to keep the characters and their actions consistent with the time and places in which the story is set.

The story is well-crafted and written in a style that is very easy to read. The narrative unfolds at a good pace, with enough suspects and red herrings to keep both Lucy and the authorities guessing and to ensure very little predictability.