Friday, December 21, 2018

Nadaness In Motion's Top Books of 2018



Every year I make a list of the "best of the best" books I've read. I'm glad I made my wished-for book count in 2018, where I've come across some beautiful and inspiring books.

There were several more books I had hoped to finish – and see if they would make it to this list – but starting October time was not on my side, followed by no reading in November for NaNoWriMo, which I won by the way, then December is just rolling by and I've also been unable to pick up where I left off.

The books in this list are not put in any order whatsoever. Most are indie books but some are with traditional publishers. Making it to this list does NOT mean that the other books weren't great but as I said this is the "best of the best". For all other reviews, check out the full Book Reviews page.


This year's list has poetry, short stories, and novels spanning horror to children's books, mysteries to becoming-of-age books. Just to name a few.

So, what were the best books I've read in 2018?

Here they come!

Breathe. Breathe. by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

A collection of dark, fantastical and realistic, beautifully-written, highly visual poems and short stories, where several pieces that reminded me of literature, such as "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "Great Expectation". Al-Mehairi later told me personally and in an interview that my connections were spot on.

Two main themes recur throughout Breathe. Breathe., namely abuse and violence against women, which I believe Al-Mehairi brings some of from past pains in her life, and the idea of breathing; the need to breathe and let go.

"Night Stalked", "The Heirloom", and "Clock of Doom" were among the 10-star poems in the collection. Here's an excerpt from the poem:

"Click-clock
Tick-tock.

There's no escape
From the claustrophobia
of monotonous chirps,
as the hands move without
empathy or pardon for the soul."


The Sea Was a Fair Master by Calvin Demmer
is a short story collection spanning realism to paranormal, including sad-and-heartbreaking family and romance to creepy tales that will have you hiding under your bed!
There is a tonne of creativity in this collection and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

“They were a little nosy like you officer,” a voice said. “I can’t have people coming and disturbing the dead.”




Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Disappearing Diva by Gemma Halliday and Kelly Rey

A highly humourous, fast-paced, exciting, and enjoyable cozy mystery. Loved every bit of it and couldn't put it down.

"Do you think we should knock on that door?"
"I think we should leave and never come back," Irene said. "Rebecca Lowery probably jumped out of her casket and ran off by herself when she got a look at this place."

The book has all the aspects Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes is popular for – but differently. Holmes "hardly a celebrity. Especially considering he didn't actually exist". The address for the now popular but elusive detective is in Baker Street, while Irene Adler is the narrator's best friend and main accomplice in creating the detective façade.


The Secret of the Lost Pharaoh by Carolyn Arnold
 
"The fate of the world could be at stake."
"Not to make too dramatic a statement, but yes, it could be."

Archaeologist and adventurer Matthew Connor receives a phone call from friend and former lover, Alex, to join her on what could be the discovery of a lifetime in Egypt. Alex claims to have uncovered a pharaoh's tomb AND the famed mythical Emerald Tablets, which may have the secrets of the universe. Anyone who acquires the tablets would have major wealth and power but if they fall into the wrong hands, well the world as we know it would be in great peril.

The lost pharaoh is believed to be son of Khufu, and I must applaud Arnold for the massive research she has done and put into the novel, making it realistic and plausible. There are a lot of historical tidbits in the book, which prompted me to do my own research after I finished reading.


The Tides Between by Elizabeth Jane Corbett

“We are all of us running, Tom, from poverty and disappointment, perhaps, some of us from cruel expectations. It takes courage to see ourselves truly, to take pleasure in our modest achievements. I’m not sure I have that courage. Or that I will ever now find it. Pray God, I am wrong. That like Elffin, I will one day find wealth where I least expect it.”

The book is an emotional story about family, hardship, a journey to something better, and how fairy tales can bring people together. Bridie, the protagonist, is a kind-hearted 15-year-old who is on the cusp of growing up. She wants to live in the world of fairy tales, while her mother and step-father seek to drag her to the real one. A Welsh couple on board the ship sailing to Australia help her realise that she can have both fairy tales and the real world.

There were so many beautiful quotes in this book. Lots of wisdom and the characters all develop on their journey to a new land with promised opportunities.

“Fairy tales are nonsense.”
“We all need stories, Mr. Bustle. They help us understand our lives.”

The Tides Between also inspired my poem The Stone.


Academia of the Beast by K. N. Lee
A fast-paced fairytale retelling of the Beauty and the Beast with a dark twist and lots of beautifully-flawed characters, Academia of the Beast is a must-read on all levels.

"She saw within him a soul just as lost as she was. When he held her hand, she was at peace."

Allyn is a witch, a breed that's being hunted down, who meets the princes of Elastria at a party. One of the princes is Conall, whom Allyn had met previously. A brief encounter rekindles their love but there are darker forces at bay.

"We found her."
Conall froze. "What?"
"You heard right…. Not just any witch. We found the one that Lennox told your father about. She sounds incredible. None of the others were able to do the things she did that night in the woods. And no one escapes Lennox."
"Whatever you do, don't let Lennox find out."


The Writer's Lexicon by Kathy Steinemann

This book is an encyclopedia of writing tips and help. To say that it is a wealth of information is understatement. It's a five-star must-read for newbie and seasoned writers alike.

“Although you’ll encounter a few “rules” in this book, writing is not rules. It is a fusion of emotions, senses, and conflict. Whatever engages your readers should be the rule.”

"Clear the throat. Irritating in real life. Ditto in fiction."



Madam Tulip by David Ahern
In the first instalment in a fast-paced, exciting, Ireland-set paranormal mystery series, we meet unemployed actress Derry O'Donnell with a possible ability to see into the future through tarot readings. She poses as fortune teller Madam Tulip at a celebrity charity event where she encounters a dead body.

"Derry O'Donnell was fully qualified for unemployment in three different dialects."

The book is full of lots of laugh-out-loud situations, sleuthing, and excellent imagery and similes. Five stars to this ride. Plus, Ahern creates Madam Tulip from his previous work in the art and acting industry, giving depth and experience to the novel and characters, and how they act and react.

"Next to Marlene, Derry felt like a hobbit - a hobbit overweight and round even by the famously relaxed standards of hobbits."



BackStabbers by Julie K. Mulhern

Ellison Russell has a knack for finding dead bodies and by that I mean if there was ever a Guinness World Record for the number of dead bodies found, Ellison Russell would break the record several times over.

"Of the three partners at Bisby, Marshall, & Wallace, one was hospitalised, one was murdered, and one was a murder suspect."

There were a lot of angles to the mystery, allowing Mulhern to keep the reader off-track most of the time. There's also a lot of "show-don't-tell". Used expertly throughout the book.

"You have that sound in your voice."
"What sound?"
"The I've-found-another-body sound."



Ronaldo, the Reindeer Flying Academy by Maxine Sylvester

A fast-paced, enjoyable, and humourous children's novella that parents will love reading to their children over and over.

"Don't just think it. IMAGINE! See it, feel it, believe it. You can do anything, if you truly believe in yourself."

Every page and chapter in Ronaldo, the Reindeer Flying Academy features a black and white picture of one or more of the characters, helping readers, especially children, visualise the story.


Silent Lips, Speaking Hearts by Tarek Refaat
This Arabic collection of short tales of women is both inspiring and highlights many social problems. Some of the stories are funny and some are serious; but all are nicely-handled.
The review is still in Arabic but I still plan to translate it to English and update the link here later.




Hardened Hearts anthology

Last but certainly not least is the Hardened Hearts anthology published by Unnerving and featuring 17 short stories of heartache, heart-breaks, and as the title suggests, hearts that have turned to stone or worse. While the book, for me, opened with a not-so-impressive tale, the rest just blew me away, wrenching my heart deep within.  

Some of the stories in this collection will move you deeply, others will keep you guessing, and some will have you putting your hand on your heart as you try to separate fiction from reality.

The anthology features authors like Calvin Demmer (yes, you've met him in The Sea Was a Fair Master above), Theresa Braun (interviewed by Nadaness In Motion), Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi (also above and interviewed on this blog), Somer Canon, Tom Deady, and many more amazing authors and wordsmiths.

Full book review of the Hardened Hearts anthology. 

And here's the full list in an a stunning image by my friend and designer Sara Ahmed <3 o:p="">