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: Marc Cavella

The exploration of unique voices in story telling has returned with another Hall of Information Interview. Fellow author and story-teller Marc Cavella shares an insight into his world, from writing all the way to the niche but ever so interesting subject of politics in pro wrestling.

Q1. Let’s jump right in and start with writing. Where did story telling begin for Marc Cavella?

The first thing I really remember sharing with a bigger group was a class assignment that I wrote in sixth grade. We had to write a fake advertisement for a product we’d created. I ended up writing an ad about a machine that administered corporal punishment to children so parents wouldn’t feel guilty about doing it themselves, and it got a huge laugh from the class. (Bear in mind that we were sixth graders.) I remember that even our teacher was crying with laughter (and yet she still only gave it a B+). That’s probably when I first learned that something I wrote could have a cool effect on people.

Q2. Your latest book draws influence from an interesting subject– the politics of professional wrestling. This is a unique basis for a story and one I found highly enjoyable as fan of wrestling and reader. Please tell us more about ‘The Ballad of Ricky Risotto’ and what influenced the story?

“I’ve always been a huge fan of pro wrestling. I used to watch every show I could find when I was a kid—WCCW on ESPN when I would come home from school in the afternoons, WCW and NWA on the weekends, and all the old WWF shows like Superstars, Main Event, and Shotgun Saturday Night. So I’ve pretty much been watching wrestling for as long as I can remember—and I was an especially big mark for guys like Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, The Four Horseman, and the von Erichs.

At the same time, I’ve always been the kind of person who wanted to learn about the history of the things I liked. So as I got older and the “business” became more exposed via the internet, and later, social media, I started to dig a little deeper into wrestling’s past: The people who ran those old regional promotions like Jim Crockett and Verne Gagne, how the old territories worked and competed with each other, and how the business itself had evolved from the carnival circuits that ran shows around the country at the turn of the century.

So all of that together really served to influence the story and let me combine a bunch of different aspects into one piece. I enjoyed the opportunity to write it.”

Interesting, as a kid and teen I was drawn to watching wrestling, it made for great entertainment and escapism. Today much like you I enjoy the political element just as much.

Q3. I think we can agree the more prolific days of pro wrestling are behind us but that won’t stop us from looking back. Are there any moments or stand out personas that you have been drawn to over the years? What names would consider to be all-time greats that would perhaps make up a ‘Mount Rushmore’ of the industry?

Man, that’s a great question. I was always a big fan of tag-team wrestling. The Hart Foundation was definitely my favorite, even though I couldn’t stand Jimmy Hart when I was a kid. (I have a great appreciation for him now, though.) I also loved teams like Legion of Doom and Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard.

Stand-out moments for me will always include The Ultimate Warrior vs. The Honky Tonk Man at SummerSlam in 1988. I loved The Ultimate Warrior as a kid and when I heard that music and Gorilla Monsoon’s famous call of the match, I yelled so loud that my mother came in to the living room to see if I was okay. Watching The Undertaker toss Mick Foley off the top of the cage at Hell in a Cell is something I’ll always remember, too. I was watching that show with some friends, and I remember looking around the room and seeing everyone’s faces just absolutely frozen in shock and surprise. I didn’t think he’d survived that fall, and then he goes on to get thrown through the top of the cage and down onto the mat. Insane.

As far as my wrestling Mt. Rushmore goes, the first name that comes to mind is Ric Flair, obviously, seeing as he was the biggest draw of an entire era and he was the total prototype for what a modern wrestler should be—fantastic at all aspects of technical wrestling, but one of the best promos of all time and a masterful storyteller. Bret Hart is always going to be up there for me, too. I read something recently that said he’d never injured an opponent in the ring, and yet his offense still looked stiff and believable. I think you’d have to put Hulk Hogan on there, as unpopular as he is with a large segment of the wrestling community, simply because of how big a star he was and how he helped to raise the industry’s profile so much during the 80’s boom. And as much as I want to say Andre the Giant or The Fabulous Moolah (as controversial as she is), I think you can make a case that Chris Jericho belongs up there as well, given that he’s had long runs as the top guy in multiple promotions working a variety of different styles for about twenty-five years now.

Great memories and moments. Of course I agree with all the names mentioned, that hell in a cell match is something I always use introduce those who have never watched wrestling before, it normally hooks them in…

Q4. And just briefly what’s your take on the current wrestling industry?

“The current generation is probably the most athletically talented, but I just can’t get into it like I used to. I think it’s gotten too bland for my tastes, to be honest. I don’t need a steady diet of chair shots and barbed wire, but once WWF became a publicly traded company, the corporatization really kicked in and it became very milquetoast to me as a whole. There are still some wrestlers who do great work both in the ring and on the mic, though.

Q5. Let’s talk books. Do you have any other works currently available and what can we expect next in terms of writing from Marc Cavella?

My first novel, “Tabernacle”, is available on Amazon and all other major outlets. “Tabernacle” tells the story of Edward Jones, an incredibly successful salesman who sells a product that none of his clients actually wants. I like to describe it as sort of a genre mash-up—it’s a dark comedy, but it’s also literary fiction with some suspense, noir, and neo-Western elements to it as well. It’s gotten some very nice reviews so far and I’m always glad when people tell me they enjoyed it. John Cena and Alexa Bliss make very brief cameos in it, so it has some ties to the wrestling world as well.

I’m currently working on some sequels. “Place the Flowers” follows Edward Jones as he eases into family life (sort of), but not without his own gritty twist to it. And I’m working “The Man from Coronado,” which focuses on Lance Sacramento, one of the wrestlers who appears in “The Ballad of Ricky Risotto.” I’m hoping to make a trilogy out of those wrestling-based novellas and release them as a paperback anthology in the summer of 2021.

Sounds like you have some awesome projects lined up for next year.

Here’s my recent review of ‘The Ballad of Ricky Risotto’

Check out Marc’s Amazon page here

Q6. What interests do you have outside of writing?

I love reading, certainly. I’m also a huge history buff, as mentioned previously, and that extends to lots of different topics beyond wrestling and sports. I’m very interested in military history—I love going to the national battlefield parks we have here in America, especially the ones dedicated to the U.S. Civil War—and I’m lucky enough to live in an area that has a lot of Revolutionary War battlefields and museums, too, so I try to go to those whenever I can. I also enjoy poker and other card games as well and spent way too much time in casinos when I was in my mid-twenties.

Q7. Tea, Coffee, beer or wine?

Coffee, personally. But even that’s a rarity. I tried to get into wine for a while but I don’t think my palate is sophisticated enough.

Excellent choice, my problem is I like all 4…

Q8. Do you have a favourite movie or go-to television series? Feel free to name a few and why?

My favorite movies are Goodfellas and Rocky. (I’ll argue to this day that the original Rocky is completely underrated, even though it won Best Picture.) They’re just very well-written stories about people who are on the edges of society, and I’m always a sucker for stories like that. Back to School starring Rodney Dangerfield is one of my favorite movies of all time as well and one that I quote way too often, as is Back to the Future. I also think Predator is a fantastic movie. People look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them that, but it’s actually an excellent sci-fi/suspense movie. As far as TV shows, I’ll go with my staples: Seinfeld and Frasier.

Great movies! Especially Goodfellas and Back to the Future although all you have mentioned are from an awesome era in cinema. I find myself quoting Predator a lot these days and Frasier of course is my go-to sitcom!

Q9. A hot topic over on Twitter these days, do you have any must read book recommendations?

I’ll always recommend “The Sun Also Rises”—Hemingway at his best. And Robert Graysmith’s “Zodiac” is one of the scariest nonfiction books of all time. If you dislike either sleeping or feeling safe, you should definitely read it.

Both excellent choices – the Zodiac film is a hidden gem also!

Q10. And lastly, a question I ask all interviewees. If there is one sentence of advice you give to someone with dreams of becoming a writer, what would you say?

“It’s going to be an incredibly challenging, difficult, and unpredictable road, but you can definitely succeed at it if you never give up.”

Wonderful advice and a great interview. Thank you Marc Cavella for taking the time to give us an insight into your world.

You can find Marc over on the Tweet machine and check out his awesome site where you can find out more.

And so the bell rings on another Hall of Information Interview. Thank you for joining us. See you in the next one!

‘The Ballad of Ricky Risotto’ by Marc Cavella – Review

An entertaining gem of a read celebrating the glory days of pro wrestling with a modern voice…

Marc Cavella has flawlessly captured the glory days of American pro wrestling by way of a story that’s both fun and unpredictable. From anyone that’s ever followed the industry casually to the die hard fans or even those who are entirely new to it will appreciate the journey in this book.

We are introduced to the closed doors world of an industry that’s seen less as entertainment and more as a reality where ‘Ricky Risotto’ plays an integral role in keeping pretty much all aspects of the ‘Ozark Championship Wrestling’ promotion together along with the struggle of having an aging ‘gimmick’ or act. Known as ‘Waylon’ behind the curtain he’s part producer, coach, negotiator, matchmaker and booker, that is while trying to maintain a presence in front of the curtain among the fans where he aspires to be. The conflicts he faces are both personal and professional, from dealing with his sexuality in a not so progressive era to getting the current champion and friend to drop the belt at the upcoming event; we are presented with this story of a man who’s probably too good for the industry he’s in.

Wrestling in the by gone age conveyed in this story was big business and governed by the political players both inside and out of the ring, you see plenty of that along with some larger than life characters who may or may not be inspired by reality. The big rival promotion is simply named ‘New York’ and most of us can work out that cool reference and overall this is a cool story with a great twisting end. With money, pride and everything else at stake, the Ballad of Ricky Risotto makes for a great read with a modern voice!

5 Stars – A great read about one of my favourite subjects. Thanks to the author for reaching out and providing a copy of the book in exchange for a review.

The Ballad of Ricky Risotto is released today, grab yourself a copy here and remember to support an author by leaving a review!