’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.
A stunning, tense and dark adventure that carries the reader from the streets of Ketterdam to the splendour of the Ice Court on the most dangerous mission Kaz Brekker and the Dregs had ever taken on.
The writing is powerful and compelling, conveying the desperation and adrenaline of the story, and the imagery is rich in sensory detail.
Telling the story from the different characters’ perspectives create an intriguing dramatic irony that both informs the reader and helps to build the suspense and anticipation that completely hooks the audience.
The narrators – one for each central character – are expressive and very listenable, making the story flow and creating a very effective interweaving of the strands of the story. The characters really come to life with the audio, especially in the recounting of their backstories, the exposition of their thoughts and fears, and the revelation of their perceptions and responses to the other characters and the experiences they share.
The story remains suspenseful and maintains the innate tension of the story right to the end.
This novella-length story serves as a prequel to Goodwin’s The Forensic Genealogist historical mystery series featuring Morton Farrier, using an intriguing research case to frame the beginning of Morton’s relationship with Juliet.
Morton’s investigation takes him back to 1924 and the death of a young woman in an asylum. The results of his research are completely unexpected, in more ways than one.
The story is well-constructed and highly engaging, with some really nicely crafted creepy moments and great twists to keep the reader guessing.
The narration is clear, well-paced and most enjoyable to listen to. The audiobook runs for a little over 2 hours, a great length to for well into a quiet afternoon, a drive or a longer commute.
A work of historical fiction, although based on the life story of one of the author’s forebears, this is an interesting story that is probably quite realistic about the prospects of a younger daughter of a prominent family during the early years of the reign of James I.
I confess I almost stopped listening as early as the prologue, in which a man speaking as though he were present when the young Princess Elizabeth was taken into the Tower of London was still alive as its Keeper in 1617. I returned to the beginning and listened again, decided the way in which that section was phrased was ambiguous, and continued with the story.
The main character, Lucy, seems at times to be almost too virtuous to be quite believable, although she does have her moments where her flaws and human nature are revealed, in which she seems more relatable. For some readers, her tale will evoke deep sympathy, while others may feel she spends too much time engaging in self-pity and decrying her lot in life as the victim of the selfishness and vanity of various other people.
The most believable characters are the hateful ones: Lucy’s sister Barbara, Aunt Joan, and Frances Howard. These characters exemplify the worst of human nature, along with a certain young man who is fickle at best and heartless at worst. It is in disliking these characters that the reader feels the most empathy with Lucy.
The narration is most enjoyable, with lively expression and very good use of tone, voice and accent to bring the characters to life.
Overall, it is a fairly good story, expertly narrated.
Elfrida, or Ælfryth, was the first anointed and crowned queen of England, ruling alongside her husband, Edgar, in the 10th century.
‘The First Queen Of England’ Part 2 is the second instalment of Elfrida’s story, and shows just how strong and resilient she was in a world dominated by patriarchy, politics and warfare.
Just like the first book in the series, this book is very well written and is entirely consistent with the historical context of the story, even though it is undoubtedly fiction.
It is a significant achievement on the author’s part to reanimate characters from the long-distant past in such a way that the reader feels as though they know them and can understand their concerns, cares and motivations. It is pleasing to witness the dynamics of the characters as they mature, and intriguing to observe the intricacies of the machinations and politics at court and the personal impact on the queen and king as individuals as well as rulers.
The narration by Sheila Daly Payson is most enjoyable. Her voice is pleasant and her reading is fluent. Her characterisation of the different roles is effective, and really brings the various characters to life.
As richly detailed and intriguing as part 1, ‘The First Queen Of England, Part 2’ is a most enjoyable story. This is in every aspect a very pleasurable audiobook experience, and is also available as an ebook or paperback.
The sequel to ‘Stalking Jack the Ripper’, this is equally gripping and dramatic historical fiction set in Romania, with the majority of the story taking place at the school of forensic medicine that is housed in the castle that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler.
The book blends history, folklore, horror and forensic mystery genres in a uniquely twisting tale in which Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell once again seek to solve a series of mysterious deaths.
The action is well paced, heightened by plenty of suspense and intrigue. There are plenty of mysterious characters and viable suspects, and the story is so well constructed that the truth almost imperceptible until it is revealed.
The narration by Nicola Barber is excellent, and gives a great deal of listening pleasure.
‘Hunting Prince Dracula’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.
Anyone who has read a book or two by CH Clepitt will understand that it is perfectly reasonable to expect that everything she writes is a ripping good yarn. ‘The Book Of Abisan’, in which contemporary fiction blends seamlessly with magical fantasy, is the kind of book that only reinforces that sort of assumption. It’s brilliant.
The storytelling is well paced and infused with moments of humour that balance the action and intrigue of the plot. The storyline is original and interesting, and the suspense and tension are palpable as the mysteries and quests of the story emerge and interweave.
The various settings contrast well with one another and serve to highlight the sense of strangeness the characters experience when they find themselves in a juxtaposed world. This also keeps the reader fully engaged in the story because there is nothing predictable about where the story might take them next… which is, of course, half the fun.
The characters are varied and complex, each with personal motivations that drive their actions and decision making. There are some really wonderful characters who keep the reader invested in their personal stories as well as the tale overall, and others who are designed to be hateful and play that part very well.
The Audible narration is very good, with excellent vocal control and variations in tone and voice that help to develop both plot and characterisation. The narrator’s voice is pleasant and her diction clear, although she does say “somethink” instead of “something”, which is the one minor thing that bothered me during this audiobook experience. Apart from that, Alicia Rose is pleasant and enjoyable to listen to.
This highly engaging and absorbing story has been awarded a Gold Acorn.