The Best Books I have read this year – 2020

It’s hard to believe that we’ve got to this point but we have. For all the words you could use to describe the dumpster fire that is and was 2020 I am going to use the word grateful.

Grateful for the authors who have provided me with not only an escape through their wonderful works but grateful to them for providing a vital centre pillar of content for this blog – reviews. Some of these creators have become friends and important connections in the world of online authoring for me. This post is dedicated them and the best books I have read this year.

While the criteria of ‘best books’ is derived mainly from my own personal taste it is also influenced by how many views the review got on here along with my admiration for the author. These works are an extension of some wonderful personalities who make up an incredible community. So let’s dive in…

‘Nocturnal Farm’ by Villimey Mist

A flawless and fresh vampire tale full of mystery and unexpected twists…Quote from my review

For all that the vampire genre has been through over the years let’s just say it’s incredibly difficult to find originality – I should know I’ve written a couple of vamp tales myself… but the ‘Nocturnal’ series stands out to me and Villimey Mist does an awesome job at continuing a gripping story with a refreshing take on vampires. I reckon soon enough there will be a third book out so now is the perfect time to jump on the ‘Nocturnal’ rollercoaster of gore…

‘Break Them All!!: A Modern Era Awakening!’ by DRTao

A unique mind opening insight into breaking the shells that govern our existence…Quote from my review

Here at the Hall of Information we review all types of books and this mind opening breezy self help book is the most read review of 2020 and it’s also a book the resonated with me. It focuses on breaking down the barriers in our mind like ego and ambition to give a better outlook on life. It’s worth a read trust me!

‘Nightjar’ by Paul Jameson

Pure immersive and original literature that reads much like a classic… – Quote from my review

‘Nightjar’ caught me completely off guard and before I knew it I was whisked away into the ‘Feudal Future’ through classic and uniquely stylistic description and writing. The style and story is so unique I felt compelled to reach out to author Paul Jameson some time after for a Hall of Information interview and we delved deeper into the mind and creativity of a truly awesome story teller. This book is very much a contender for my favourite of the year.

‘Swinging Sanity’ by N.F. Mirza

A brave expression of feeling through poetry that is both thought provoking and inspiring… – Quote from my review

Those in the WordPress Bloggersphere will know the author/poet of this collection as the awesome Stoner on a Rollercoaster and this book really stood out to me. To be able to share verses of the subjects seen within the pages of this collection is incredibly brave, creative and generous.

‘Scarred by Damien Linnane

A brutal tale of justice blinded by revenge… Quote from my review

Australian author Damien Linnane reached out for a review of his awesome revenge thriller and since then I have found out he wrote this tale while in prison – this makes for an interesting and unique personal story. We’ve spoken regularly via email about publishing and book marketing and these days you can catch him on various podcasts relaying his unique journey.

‘The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley’ by Nina Romano

A ballad of love, life and destiny in the West – Quote from my review

I’ll happily admit that I still haven’t read another romance since this one back in April but for good reason because ‘The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley’ was incredible. The epic love story between two souls is something I was really immersed in and it also made for a wonderful lockdown distraction. The Western genre is something I hold close to my heart and this one I highly recommend! Nina Romano combines well researched history with some gripping story telling.

‘Memories of Mars: a Novella (Custodian Library Archives Book 1)’ by Colin Yeoman

A thought provokingly original novella that will leave you wanting more… Quote from my review

Combining real science with imaginative fiction all wrapped up into a novella length story is not an easy feat and Colin Yeoman succeeds with this thought provoking read that is seemingly just the beginning. The question is did man originate on Mars? And how exactly did we find ourselves on Earth? Of course this story just browses that subject which is well worth pursuing – those who like high end space sci fi especially. You can also read my review of the sequel here.

‘American Blasphemer’ by By John Gillen

A masterful labour of modern honesty, told through the lens of a lonesome soul trying to figure out this world and life… -Quote from my review

Talk about raw, emotional and candid but there are many more words I would use to describe this journey of honesty. This literary novel doesn’t hold back in what could even be the anti-bible. American Blasphemer served as my first Reedsy Discovery Review and ushered in a new era of access to higher profile authors and books. The fact Reedsy approached me is credit to the authors who provided me with books to review so I could get noticed.

‘How LJ and Rom Saved Heavy Metal’ By S.D. McKinley

An entirely unique and original page-turning journey of variety on the open road…  – Quote from my review

This book wins the award for the most unique and ‘out there’ read of 2020 but in a fun and interesting way. S.D.McKinley has fused the buddy road trip story with elements of the paranormal and a hint of high octane. You can expect a boat load of different things all flawlessly put together in a well told story, that’s why it got 5 stars from me.

‘Moon-Sitting’ by E.M. Harding

An original and well-paced character driven sci-fi with a difference… -Quote from my review

‘Moon-Sitting’ is a cleverly written story that starts in one place and opens into a world of something much more. It stands as a book that caught me entirely off guard through the twists and revelations that become apparent. It’s books like this that give science fiction and novellas a collective positive voice. Even after six months and many books later I haven’t read anything like this one since – the world building is something that stood out especially in this one.

‘Mark of a Demon’ by Despoina Kemeridou

A modern feel-good fable of forbidden love and a hint of darkness… – Quote from my review

Despoina Kemeridou’s writing has a unique fairy tale style vibe and it is very much present in her second novel but this time there’s a more of an adult feel. Demonic forces and bargaining are at the forefront of a breezy immersive read. Despoina was also kind enough to be the first ever Hall of Information Interviewee and for that we were ever so thankful. We are looking forward to seeing what’s next from this awesome author.

‘The Player Without Luck’ by Kristina Gallo

A thrilling page turning story that will keep you immersed from the start… – Quote from my review

The works of Kristina Gallo are always guaranteed to be entertaining and considering English isn’t her first language it’s incredible how much she has achieved in publishing. As a supporter of fellow authors you’ll find her across the many social media platforms reviewing books and being a positive part of the writing community. ‘The Player Without Luck’ stood out for me with the multiple themes such as mystery, crime and deception. Here’s a recent Hall of Information interview Kristina took part in.

‘The Silent Betrayal’ by Momus Najmi

Original, eloquently written and thrilling. A tale of deception that reads like a spy thriller but carries a much deeper meaning… – Quote from my review

The ‘Silent Betrayal’ is a thrilling journey that Momus Najmi tells with an eloquent writing style. The story sees the son of a multi millionaire businessman lift the lid on a sketchy past and fortune he is set to inherit. My review stands as one of the most viewed posts of the year on here which is impressive but justified because this one is a great read and somewhat of a gem that deserves way more recognition!

‘Senescence’ by Denver Scott

One giant leap into the future of humankind via the cosmos through the vessel of science that makes for a fascinating read! – quote from my review

You should know by now that here at the Hall of Information we love a good space sci fi and ‘Senescence’ by Denver Scott is a pure visionary look into the future of humankind through some wonderful real science merged with fiction. This is one you shouldn’t miss and was another wonderful Reedsy Discovery find!

‘Deceit of the Soul: Saving the World from COVID-19: Before the Pandemic’ By Henry Cox

A thrilling and interesting page turner that looks to seek out the truth… – Quote from my review

When any major world event happens there’s always someone looking to capture the imagination and after Henry Cox reached out for a review of this book I realised that’s exactly what he did. We have all been affected by the whole covid thing and ‘Deceit of the Soul’ goes into the origins of something still very relevant now. This one is definitely worth a look.

‘The Ballad of Ricky Risotto’ by Marc Cavella

An entertaining gem of a read celebrating the glory days of pro wrestling with a modern voice… – Quote from my review

Some of you may know that for years I have been a fan of American pro wrestling and so after Marc Cavella reached out for a review for his short but punchy book I felt very much obliged. It captures the very essence of the ‘business’ in what is an entertaining read. Set in the much adored territorial glory days of wrestling Marc does a great job in bringing history to life with sight and sounds of a bygone era. You can read a recent Hall of Information Interview with the Marc here.

‘A Diary in the Age of Water’ by Nina Munteanu

A truly important once in a generation read that flows like a wild river right through your imagination and heart – Quote from my review

I’m being 100% serious when I say ‘A Diary in the Age of Water’ is one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. For what it stands for is truly a statement towards our own damning of this beautiful planet and our most precious resource – water. Canadian Author Nina Munteanu has put together a masterful look at where we could possibly end up if we don’t act. This one was another Reedsy Discovery find and thus totally justified my joining of the platform well and truly!

‘Blachart’ by Christina Engela

Enjoyable action-packed original space sci-fi... – Quote from my review

South African Author Christina Engela was the very first person to reach out to this site for a book review and served as an important turning point for this blog. Since then her work has probably been one of the most featured here and for good reason – she writes great books! Even though it has been a while I eventually got to the next book in the space sci fi Galaxii Series ‘Blachart’ and was not disappointed by this futuristic action packed tale of space pirates. Highly recommended!

‘Biosphere: Hazard’ by B.W. Cole

Breezy, thrilling and gripping science fiction set in a visionary world… – Quote from my review

Keeping with the space sci-fi theme ‘Biosphere: Hazard’ was a book I discovered after Distant Shore Publishing reached out for a review. It turns out they publish some awesome stuff in the form of short stories and this novella which draws influence from the likes of Alien and Bladerunner. If you like atmospheric reads then this one is for you, and me!

And so that wraps up the best books I have read this year (2020). All mentioned will feature on my Indie Book reviews page for the next 12 months!

Thank you for reading and a shout out to every author who has provided me with a book this year. Even those not mentioned, you’ve shaped this blog to bigger and better heights which is all propped up by reviewing and embracing books!

See you in the next one!

Hall of Information Interviews: Paul Jameson

The venture of discovery continues and so does the celebration of unique voices with another Hall of Information Interview.  

Paul Jameson has generously taken the time away from penning his immersive, sometimes dark and truly unique tales to answer 10 questions. This has been an honor and a journey to learn the story behind the story teller whose works I urge all of you to consider next in your reading endeavors. Some may remember earlier this year I read and reviewed his fantasy folklore-horror book and so that is where we shall begin…

NightJar_Cover_Banner_Twitter_ZOOM

Q1. I want to start by talking about your novel ‘Nightjar’ which stands out as quite a unique read. The blend of descriptive style and language you used to build a ‘feudal future’ world makes for an experience that felt like turning the pages of a classic while being new at the same time. For a modern book and a modern author like yourself, how did you find the voice and inspiration to tell a story like ‘Nightjar’?

“This is a really good question, one I’ve had to think about;
I think the voice found me…”

“I’d experimented with a number of pieces, short stories and historical pieces over the years, never quite finding my voice. Then I wrote a short story called ‘Magpie’. I think I discovered how to show rather than tell in that piece. Anyway, I was really pleased with it. I liked the voice, and it was a world I could expand on. I fully intended to work on and edit ’76 and the Odd 93’, but started on a new short story instead just to test the voice…”

“And so Nightjar was born.”

“Everything was in place around where I live. On the Greensand Ridge, a Roman Road runs as a footpath between Everton and Sandy, there is an Iron Age hillfort, and a glacial landscape that had once been shallow sea. I looked back in time to define a feudal future, had a physical and geographic anchor in the landscape, and saw two boys run down a hill.”

“Then I heard Nightjar play his flute.
I simply followed.
It really was a case of the characters wrote the story. And it turned into a novel.”

*Weird Fact*

“I chose Nightjar as a character as the bird is at once a strange and ugly thing, fascinating to look at. Anyway, upon publishing the novel – two months later – a pair of nightjars nested on the Greensand Ridge locally after a fifty-year absence. That made me shiver.”

This is both fascinating and relatable, it sounds like everything aligned and came together while you also found that voice. Having the path reveal itself like it did for you is the moment of clarity where writers know they’ve got something.

Q2. There is a slight sinister and dark edge to ‘Nightjar’, can readers expect that in your other works?  And please tell us more about them.

“All my stories – short and long – tend to have a dark and sinister side to them. This, I think, stems from a physically and emotionally abusive childhood, so I tend never to trust the good in things; being ever wary of the dark and nasty that hides behind a veneer of nice. But also, I’ve learned as an adult that nothing is quite so simple as ‘good’ and ‘bad’, so I enjoy creating characters with a foot in both camps.”

“Conflicted – so to speak.”

“Even my other novel – ‘76 and the Odd 93’ – a contemporary, modern psychological piece I’m nervous of because it is so dark. A cathartic exercise I needed to write to exorcise childhood demons. It took me 25 years to write and publish, features a split timeline, strawberry ice cream, a glass eye and the making of a serial killer. It’s something I hope puts the reader in a conflicted place, seeing evil grow out of innocence.” 

7693_Advert01

“My other available pieces are all short stories. All dark, bordering on horror and the weird. Early experiments before writing Nightjar.”

Magpie by [Paul Jameson]Dark Tales by [Paul Jameson]

Q3. You’ve mentioned on twitter a few times about being in your shed. Is this your main writing place? Please describe for us what that space looks like?

“I live in social housing with my wife, two adult children, three dogs, five cats and a hedgehog, so the shed is my safe space. My wife and her mum’s idea, and I love it. Bilbo (black cat) and I retreat to it, and it’s the only place I write.”

“It’s bijous.”

“Blue.”

Shed01
“With pictures on the walls, a decoupaged roof of the twentieth century – up until the ‘60s – a clock that doesn’t work and lots of weird knick-knacks. Books on shelves, Zippo lighters – I love Zippo lighters – my computers, music, a telly, electric fire for winter and fan for summer, hourglasses, lots of candles and a telescope. Hourglasses are always handy, and you never know when you might need a telescope. My daughter thinks it’s weird, so I reckon I’m doing the ‘dad-thing’ right.”

Shed02

Fantastic and the definition of a perfect writers escape.

Q4. Of course Roald Dahl comes to mind here and he is mentioned in your Amazon profile bio, what does Roald Dahl and his works mean to Paul Jameson?

“As a child I loved his work. I think it connected with me because of the type of childhood I enjoyed – or endured – as many of his characters faced similar adversity and challenges. And yet even with all the horrible stuff going on, Roald Dahl understood a child never lets go of a belief in magic and hope.”

“There is always magic.
And there is always hope.”   

I can only agree. His works make up some of my first reading memories back in the 90’s – there were a few film adaptations that weren’t too bad either.

Q5. Moving away from books and writing; what interests do you have outside of being an author?

“My family and other animals are very important to me. I love folklore and history, telly and films, books – though I struggle with reading since my brain went weird – and I love exploring woodland and ancient places; although I rarely do that these days, being a recluse and all. An old habit I need to reignite.”   

Q6. Tea, coffee, beer or wine?

“Tea in the morning, coffee in the eve;
And Guinness if I can get it.”

“Although – to be honest – I rarely drink alcohol these days;
Not for a lack of wanting, more that being a recluse I prefer to stay in and write.”

Q7. Can you name three television shows or films that have inspired you?

“Tales of the Unexpected
Twilight Zone
Westworld (film)”

“They’re if I’m looking at what inspired the weird in the child that became the adult. Lots of other films too, like the Wickerman, and television programmes like the Magic Roundabout, Pipkins and Roobarb. But I think reading inspired me the most. Authors like Du Maurier and Iain Banks, Tolkien, Martin Amis, classics mixed in with historical fiction and SFF.”

“So many inputs.”

“I also love television shows coming out of HBO, like Game of Thrones and the Sopranos, my favourite being the Westworld series, and I often have them on in the background whilst writing.”

Westworld TV Show Air Dates & Track Episodes - Next Episode

Great recommendations, Westworld accompanied by a Guiness makes for an awesome evening… 

Q8. Let’s talk social media; the place where I mainly procrastinate… You have quite an impressive Twitter following of 16,000+, what’s your strategy when it comes to social media? And do you think it plays an important part in modern book marketing?

“I never really had a ‘strategy’ other than to follow and follow back other writers and artists, and to help them if I can, or if they ask. I also don’t entertain anyone with RW, bigoted, or racist beliefs. I didn’t understand Twitter as a platform at first. Then I discovered it was a great place to share my main interests:”

“Folklore and History
Faerie Tales and Magic
Writing
Current affairs”

“And connect with like-minded people.”

“Marketing falls below all of that, but I recognise it is something I have to do. I don’t like doing it – I’m not sure anyone does – but Twitter is the only place I market, and then I try to keep it low-key. It does have to go hand in hand with being a self-published author with no budget, but I see it as a marathon, not a sprint, and personally value good reviews far more than high sales. One day the sales will come.”

Sound advice and proven with such an impressive following.

Q9. Are you currently working on any writing projects? And what can we expect to see in the near future?

“I am.
And I’m struggling.”

“I have this huge WIP (140,000 words) – set in the same world as Nightjar – but I’m worried I’ve strayed too far out of this world and into the Otherworld. I like the concept, but I think it may have become too complex and too much like fantasy. That said, there are also characters and story arcs in it that I love – as would anyone who enjoyed Nightjar; characters really on the edge of things.”

“I also have two historical novels I wrote when I was very ill a few years ago (2014) – first drafts – and I’ve never read them back. Or edited them. Maybe I should. At the end of the day though, it’s the Muse and characters as decide when something’s right. Me, I’m just a helpless scribe…”

Well some of the best things are born through struggle and if your current project is anything like Nightjar then I imagine it will be pretty damn good!

Q10. Finally, a question that I plan on asking all interviewees.

If there is one sentence of advice you would give someone with dreams of becoming a writer, what would you say?

“Start;
And then finish.”

*And that shows, like all authors, that I need to listen to my own advice *

Let me take this opportunity to thank you sharing such a great insight into the world behind your words and beyond.

We can all agree that Paul Jameson is an author and a creative with a unique voice.

You can find him on Twitter and that’s not all folks, because for a limited time you can grab his short story ‘Magpie’ for FREE ! 

‘Inspired by real places and echoes of the past, the present and the future…’ 

Magpie by [Paul Jameson]

Readers old and new, I appreciate you taking the time to read this Hall of Information Interview, hopefully see you in the next one!

Books With Unique Voices

If we don’t talk about books, then how is the world going to know they exist? 

In the past few years and even recently I’ve delved into some truly unique stories that deserve a little more than a review. And a little more than a review is simply talking about them. 

With that in mind let’s dive in and look at some books with unique voices…
good audit.JPG

The Good Audit by C.P Aiden (cool pen name) tackles the subject matter of accounting in a funny but very accessible way where pretty much anyone can enjoy it. This book is unique because the delivery style intertwines with a sense of humor that captures every essence of the pressures, the laments and even the eating habits of those who work in accounts. Characters are simply named by their job title which is an original concept as well as a potential protective measure for any type of libel. You don’t need to know about auditing or accounts to enjoy this one!

the 4

The Four Before Me by E.H Night is an 80’s slasher that brings a whole new dimension of intelligence to the genre. It’s unique because of that and over the years literature and cinema have churned out so many stories that follow the same slash, character makes a stupid decision, kill, repeat formula without any depth. This one breaks that mold with a twisting story of suspense and an array of realistic primary and secondary characters that make up the small town vibe where four women have previously gone missing, women who share similarities to the main character. By the end this book becomes more than a slasher trust me…

fated to mee you

Fated to Meet You by Despoina Kemeridou is a modern fairy tale that serves for some unique escapism much like the M.C ‘Nora’ who literally escapes to another world of Kings, Queens and Castles. It’s a quick read that brings a modern twist the the genre that might possibly be as old as time…

39991159. sy475

Nightjar by Paul Jameson is truly unique for it’s writing style that reads much like a classic. It’s no easy feat to achieve that and keep it going for the entirety of a book which sits somewhere between fantasy and folklore. Set in a ‘Feudal Future’ two boys stray from the confines of home and embark on a unique journey and come face to face with Nightjar – just who or what that is, read the book and find out…

53551587. sy475

American Blasphemer by John Gillen is unique literary fiction like you’ve never seen before and I say fiction but from this book you’ll get biographical vibes from the very beginning. You can probably guess what unfolds by the title and yes to some it might appear Blasphemic or even the anti bible, but to me it serves as a companion to life in the United states while everyone can relate to it. From sex and drugs to family and religion or even Bob Dylan this one is incredibly unique.

LJ and Rom

How LJ and Rom Saved Heavy Metal by S.D. McKinley is the reason I put this list together and it’s not only unique but fun, sometimes random but always enjoyable. To quote my very recent review  ‘Main characters LJ and Rom decide that they are done with rally car racing and decide to make a pilgrimage of sorts across country along the open road to save their close friend. The action picks up quickly and doesn’t let off the gas near enough all the way through page turning chapters where our heroes come across a multitude of ‘out there’ experiences from trashing motel rooms rock and roll style, fixing their vehicle, high speed racing to even the supernatural and everything else in between...’

Is there a unique tale you want to share with the world? 

 

Nightjar by Paul Jameson – Review

Pure immersive and original literature that reads much like a classic…

39991159. sy475

This is a truly unique read that will whisk you away to a world that sits somewhere between fantasy and folklore. Paul Jameson has crafted and constructed a story that is written in the style of a classic while being highly readable and enjoyable.

Set in a ‘Feudal Future’ where not many will stray from home because of superstition or perhaps because their clan elders say so; two boys ‘Cord’ and ‘Tuppance’ do just that and embark on a journey of adventure. Early in their travels meet a figure of mystery known as ‘Nightjar’. This somewhat magical character goes by many different descriptions, just who he really is will keep readers turning pages but this ‘man in motley’ carries a magical type of presence letting the imagination run wild. He acts as their guide through a world they have never seen, from crossing ford’s to huge old oak trees all the way to abandoned settlements sunken in time. Those back at home whether they are common types and later on the somewhat sinister ‘Brotherhood’ eventually embark on a search for the missing boys which makes for the story. While some believe he is of ‘Daemon’ origin or even a pagan God, the chase is on for what they perceive to be a rescue effort full of page turning drama.

Although the author describes ‘Nightjar’ as a simple tale it has everything from surprises, drama, mystery and even some tragedy all of which is enveloped in a wonderful writing style I haven’t seen in a modern book before. The use of language and description stirs readers imaginations while also giving it room to flow freely much like the story. This is a book I would highly recommend.

5 Stars –  A fantastic read and entirely unique! Glad to have read it!