Book Review: ‘A Shape On The Air’ by Jill Ibbotson

This brilliant story is an absolutely enthralling blend of historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction.

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Julia Ibbotson A Shape On The Air

This brilliant story is an absolutely enthralling blend of historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction.

Drawn into the life of Vivianne Du Lac, history professor, the reader is almost immediately plunged into an intricate web of complications, challenges and unexpected developments that are woven together so that no strand of the story is independent of the others. The narrative is smooth and well-constructed, and Ibbotson’s writing is excellent.

The characters are very well crafted, especially given that each fits into more than one story strand. Viv is the most complex and detailed of them all, being the central character, but the others are all given depth through their interactions and responses as the story progresses.

More than simply being enjoyable, this is a thought-provoking and involving read in which the reader becomes completely engrossed. Acorn Award I Golden

‘A Shape On The Air’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

Get your copy at Amazon.

Book Review: ‘So Much For Buckingham’ by Anne R. Allen

A well written, clever and very entertaining book.

Anne R Allen So Much For Buckingham
A wonderful blend of comedy, mystery and history, ‘So Much For Buckingham’ plunges the reader into the world of Camilla Randall, an author and bookshop owner who finds her world falling apart around her, bit by bit. Unable for various reasons to rely on those who usually support her, Camilla is overwhelmed by the awful things happening to her and those close to her.  Unwittingly caught up in other people’s murky behaviour, both Camilla and her best friend,Plantagenet, find themselves having to work out what on earth is going on in their lives with very little reliable information to help them.

 

The writing skill and intelligence of the author is demonstrated in the deftness with which the different strands of the story are spun and then woven together. I really enjoyed the fact that this book kept me guessing. The plot is definitely not predictable, and the central characters are both unique and likeable.  The humour with which ‘So Much For Buckingham’ is written is clever, varying between clever puns on names of people from the world of Shakespeare’s play ‘Richard III’, witty conversations, and deep irony in some of the plot developments.  One can read this book at any level of knowledge of things to do with King Richard III, or in complete ignorance of them, and still find the book amusing. The serious moments in the story give weight to the themes of character assassination and cyberbullying in a way which shows the extent of the consequences of such behaviour without devastating the reader.

 

Although this is part of a series, it works well as a standalone. I haven’t read the rest of the series – yet – but at no point did I feel as though there were things I really needed to know from the other books in order for this one to make more sense.

Acorn Award I Golden

In short, this is a well written, clever and very entertaining book. I’ve given it a Gold Acorn for excellence.

 

Get your copy at Amazon.

Book Review: ‘Forest of Ancestors’ by K.A. Denver

Book Squirrel Review: ‘Forest of Ancestors’ by K.A. Denver

K.A. Denver Forest of Ancestors

 

This is a great story which holds a good level of mystery and intrigue that develops at a good pace as the plot progresses. The differences between light and dark magic, and the ways in which each character uses their magic, add interest and complexity to the story. The central characters are varied and quite well crafted although, as a reader, I didn’t really feel as connected to most of them as I would have liked to.

 

I really like the concept of the forest of ancestors as a place of memory as well as of magic, and the ways in which that setting is portrayed and developed in the story. The images were formed quite vividly in my mind as I read, and it was good to see the characters fully engaging with, and responding to, this special element of their environment in personal ways.

 

My one criticism – and it is a real annoyance as a reader – is that there were places in which the writing really needed more thorough editing to remove quite obvious errors that remain in the text. A less fastidious reader might not notice all of them, but a couple of them were quite glaring and should never have made it to the final manuscript.

 

Overall, though, I did enjoy this book. It has some quite original elements and surprising turns that complement the strong storyline.

 

Acorn Award II Silver
I’ve awarded ‘Forest of Ancestors’ a Silver Acorn because, despite its flaws, it is a great read.

 

Get your copy at Amazon.

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Book Review: ‘To Be A Queen’ by Annie Whitehead

Magnificent historical fiction!

Annie Whitehead To Be A Queen
Truly great historical fiction is that which immerses the reader in the events of history without distorting them, yet at the same time transports them into the story so completely that they feel they know the people and places that they meet there. ‘To Be A Queen’ achieves this goal in the magnificent telling of the story of Aethelflæd, which comes from one of my favourite periods of English history, when the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia were in turn holding out against the Vikings and pushing them back, and when Alfred had not yet been named “ the Great” by those who recorded his role in history.

Whitehead’s writing is superb, blending a seamless and powerful narrative with poetic terms like “king-helm” drawn from the Old English style such as that seen in ‘Beowulf’ to give a reflection of how English was spoken then and to communicate ideas visually as well as verbally.

The author has created intimate and vivid portraits of the characters amongst the broad brush strokes of history, bringing to life the events and conflicts of the period in which Alfred, Ethelred and Edward fought to preserve England from the attacks and raids of the Vikings. Ancient kings, royal women, thegns, ealdormen, fractious children and servants alike are given flesh, emotions and qualities that make them leap off the page.

Aethelflæd is portrayed first as child, then as woman, then as the lady to whom all of Mercia pledged allegiance. Her vulnerabilities and flaws are real, giving a very strong sense of reality and familiarity to this woman of incredible strength and conviction. Aethelflæd has long been one of my favourite figures of English history, but I shall always feel from now on as though I know her more intimately and completely than before I read ‘To Be A Queen’.
Acorn Award I Golden
This book is truly worthy of more than a Gold Acorn. Alas, no higher honour exists!

‘To Be A Queen’ is available on Amazon.

Book Review: ‘The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor’ by Amy M. Reade

Someone does not want Carleigh Warner to restore Peppernell Manor to its former glory. Just who that person is turns out to be a more complicated question than the reader initially supposes.

Amy M. Reade The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor
Someone does not want Carleigh Warner to restore Peppernell Manor to its former glory. Just who that person is turns out to be a more complicated question than the reader initially supposes.

 

Set in an antebellum mansion outside of Charleston, surrounded by old money, old blood and old memories, Peppernell Manor is full of mystery and intrigue that develop steadily as the story progresses.  The reader does feel as though they are transported to the south, and as though the house and characters take shape before them as they read. Some of the minor characters are somewhat underdeveloped, but that doesn’t detract from the story too much, but rather adds to the plot in the sense that the reader continues to be suspicious of them and their motives as the plot thickens.

 

I started this book expecting it to be more about haunting and less of a contemporary mystery, and although that wasn’t quite the case, I was neither disappointed by the story nor by how it worked out.  Acorn Award II Silver

 

I’m awarding ‘The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor’ a Silver Acorn as a very enjoyable mystery story.

 

Find it on Amazon.

Book Review: The Bookshop on Rosemary Lane by Ellen Berry

This is a book that delivers the full gamut of emotions through the course of Della’s story. It’s a well-written and very satisfying read.

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Some people find it easy to leave the past behind. Others cling to the parts of it that hold precious memories or give them comfort. Both types of folks exist in this beautiful story of loss, grief, and finding oneself among that which remains.

 

When love, trust, and Della’s understanding of her own family are called into question,  the reader is reminded just how rare personal integrity can be, and just how profoundly it speaks for itself to others who value it.  The reader finds themselves silently cheering for Della every time she resists the type of mediocrity to which she seems to have been relegated since she was a child, and rejoicing with her when she overcomes her challenges and does something truly extraordinary.

 

This is a book that delivers the full gamut of emotions through the course of Della’s story. It’s a well-written and very satisfying read.

 

Acorn Award I GoldenThe Bookshop On Rosemary Lane has been awarded one of Book Squirrel’s shiny Gold Acorns.

 

Find it on Amazon.

Author Interview: Ammar Habib

Book Squirrel chats today with Ammar Habib, a bestselling and award winning author of paranormal suspense thrillers.

Interview Red

Book Squirrel chats today with Ammar Habib, a bestselling and award winning author of paranormal suspense thrillers.

Ammar Habib Photo.JPG

Welcome, Ammar. It’s a privilege to have you here today. 

Thank you, Book Squirrel! It’s a rare thing to be interviewed by a squirrel!

What can I say? I’m a rare squirrel. 

You certainly are.

Thanks! So tell me, what inspired you to write?

The one book that inspired me to become a writer is Og Mandino’s The Choice. I read the book when I was seven-years-old and it is what put me onto the path of becoming a writer and inspired the dream to one day have millions of copies of my books sold around the world.

Outside of books, the other main thing that acting as a catalyst for my writing was my 2nd Grade Teacher at AP Beutel, Mrs. Scott. When I was in her class years ago, she gave me a homework assignment to write a one-page story. This was the first time I ever wrote anything. That experience breathed the love of writing into me and I’ve never stopped since!

I’ve also discovered that I’m not the first author in my family. My great-grandfather was a writer after his career as a police officer in India ended. My maternal grandmother was also a writer, having some of her works published in the newspaper. Although my own mother was not a writer, she has her Master’s degree in Fine Art. So I think this artistic capability probably runs in the family too.

What’s your favourite thing that you have written?

I like to say that my favorite and best book is always my next project!

What are you working on writing now?

I actually have quite a few projects in different stages of development. I recently signed a contract for a children’s picture book, which will be releasing next year. I also have a police novel releasing next year as well. My agent is shopping around a Young Adult novel and is also shopping around a non-fiction project of mine. I also have a graphic novel being read by some publishers. So 2018 will be very exciting God-Willingly!

Who designs your book covers?

As of right now, most of my book covers have been created by Fiona Jayde.

What’s your favourite kind of music?

I don’t necessarily have a favorite kind of music in terms of genre. I’m more particular about lyrics and making sure that I listen to something that isn’t going to drag me down mentally. However, I definitely use music to my advantage when writing and find that listening to music that mirrors the type of scene I’m writing helps me nail down the tone of the scene!

So, you are what you listen to?

That’s one way of looking at it!

 What movie can you watch over and over again?

Hands down, it’s The Last Samurai. I love that movie from the characters to setting to plot to theme. The ending still gets me on the edge of tears, even though I’ve watched this movie many times. This film was actually the inspiration for the graphic novel script I recently wrote.

 When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Ever since I was seven, one of my dreams was to one day become a New York Times Bestselling author! I’m still excited about continuing to strive towards that dream.

What’s your favourite quote, ever?

Here’s a quote from President John Quincy Adams: “Duty is ours. Results are Gods.” I love this quote because it reminds me not to worry about the results of my action. I just need to do the best I can and keep my intentions pure, and then leave the outcomes up to a higher power.

I like that. It’s very inspirational.

I agree.

Speaking of inspiration, name three people you admire, and give reasons.

There are definitely more than three people I admire and look up to, but I’ll just keep it at three for the sake of space. The first two are a couple, my father and mother. They’re my heroes in life and gave me the foundation to pursue my dream.

The third would be my brother. He is my best friend and #1 fan and I cannot explain what his support has meant to me through every step of this journey as a writer! Without these three people in my life, I would not be the person I am today and the person I am becoming tomorrow.

They sound like great people. We should all be so lucky.

Indeed!

Name two things in life that you wish were easier.

Here’s an answer that most authors can definitely relate with:

1) Getting a publishing deal
2) Raising awareness of your books.

Both are sometimes equally hard as the other and something to celebrate upon achievement. But thankfully as I continue to work in the industry, I’ve gotten more opportunities for both and am continuing to grow more proficient at my craft. All this leads towards growing closer to my dream of becoming a New York Times Bestselling author in the near future!

Where can readers buy your books?

My books are on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

And where can we follow you on social media?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ammarahsenhabib
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmmarAHabib1
Instagram: https://instagram.com/ammar.a.habib/
Blog: ammarhabibblog.wordpress.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/Ammar_Habib

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/cTopbv

Thanks for being here today, Ammar. 

Thanks for having me!