Known as ‘the Kingmaker’, Ricard Neville, the Earl of Warwick, was one of the most influential Englishmen of his time.
Tony Riches’ ‘Warwick’ tells the story of Richard Neville’s life in this vivid and exciting tale full of intrigue, adventure and changing alliances during the time known as The Wars of the Roses.
What sets this novel apart is that the focus remains on Warwick rather than those vying to take the throne themselves, and reveals the political and personal complexity of Warwick’s motivations and actions. Riches successfully brings Warwick and those close to him to life, portraying him as far more than just the political strategist seen in historical accounts of the time.
The audio narration by Frazer Blaxland is clear, fluent, and highly expressive. This book delivers powerful storytelling, and makes for compelling and most enjoyable listening.
‘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.
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.
‘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.
‘The Blue Moon Caper’ is a the fifth of the Damien Dickens mystery novel/audiobook series.
Like the earlier instalments in the series, the book does stand alone, but will deliver spoilers for the previous books. There is definite continuity, but also some new characters and settings, and some great twists, that help to keep the ongoing story interesting and engaging.
Tom Lennon’s narration is well paced and entertaining, making excellent use of voice and accent to differentiate between characters and animate and narrative.
‘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.
’The Binding’ is a tragic and compelling historical fantasy story of unlikely alliances, forbidden love, and the power of memories. The writing is beautiful and the story is superbly crafted. The narration by Carl Prekopp is a joy to listen to, as he gives life and voice to the characters and enchants the listener into feeling as though they are actually there as the events unfold.
The story explores timeless themes including patriarchy and the abuse of power, particularly in terms of social class but also when it comes to the way society as a whole viewed same-sex relationships in the past. Because all of those prejudices still exist in society today, albeit to a lesser extent, the story is powerfully relevant.
The characters, particularly Emmet and Alta, are developed so fully that the audience feels as though they know them intimately, which creates an emotional investment in their lives. This depth of feeling heightens the tensions of the complications and challenges they face, and makes the twists and revelations of the story more impactful.
‘The Binding’ is available in ebook and novel as well as audio.
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.
Dark, witty and ironic, ‘Good Omens’ is a brilliant read. This should come as no surprise, given that its authors are both creative geniuses.
This audiobook recording is brilliant. The casting is fabulous and the performances are outstanding, making this an excellent listening experience which is entertaining and thought-provoking at the same time.
’Good Omens’ ticks all the boxes for the perfect dark comic fantasy.
Set in Dublin and framed in the context of a murder case that is about to go to trial, this intriguing story immerses the audience in the lives of two very different sisters and their individual perspectives of the investigation, both of which are complicated by inner conflicts and their family’s own dark backstory.
The murder case at the centre of the story presents a unique set of challenges, and requires the ingenuity and commitment of both sisters to find the answers and see justice delivered.
The story is very well written and the narration by Aoife McMahon is expressive and engaging.