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Gnome Appreciation Society’s Review of 2022

Hello to all of my millions of readers, well, all 17 of yous that reads this here blog. I can’t believe we have survived 2022, there have been so many cock ups by those in charge that I’m shocked that we still have an existing civilisation. In previous years I’ve tried to get a famous person in to hand over awards to the best books I read that year, but I kept getting let down by them, they were frigging useless, so this year I thought I’d get all artsy and meta and get in an inanimate object to hand over the awards, great idea eh? There is a new fangled juice out on the streets and it agreed to participate…all I had to do was pick it up from Aldi…I got to the store waaaay before opening and there was a huge queue and much fighting, looks like Prime had agreed to help out with literally hundreds of end of year book reviews, so sod it, I’m doing it again myself….In years to come I’ll re-read this and wonder what the hell I was on…not Prime juice that’s fer sure.

This year I read 93 books (there may have been more but Goodreads has become awful and very slow to get new books on the site) It was a fairly even mix of fiction and not-fiction, with a few books of poetry added in to make me look clever. I have not shied away from giving any book a go and because of that I have been able to read some proper interesting books. As per usual I have avoided main stream books as much as possible, in fact this year I only read 3 popular books of which I was only able to complete the one (and that was only just). I also set myself a mini reading challenge, one of my favourite authors is Anthony E. Thorogood and he has a series of 11 books featuring Jack Hama and I read all of these in 2022, I’ll forever be recommending these books so have a read and let me know. So which were the best books for 2022? Read on to find out.

Just think all you businesses out there, this would be the ideal spot to sponsor me and have an advert for your product here in the middle of this blog….yes I am looking at you drink making YouTubers!!!!

FICTION

Below are some of my favourite novels of this year with the overall winner at the end.

  • Mestiza Blood by V. Castro. A Collection of short stories by one of my favourite female horror writers, doesn’t disappoint.
  • Red Mountain Man: Or, The Mighty Lessons in Hasty Exaltation by Jack CJ Stark. Never has there ever been such an underrated writer as Stark, so many people are missing out on his mighty wordings.
  • Homesick by Jennifer Croft. For a while this was a book of the year for me and I thought this beautiful piece of writing would win but it was just pipped at the post.
  • Shoot The Horses First by Leah Angstman. One of the best writers out there, this is a remarkable collection of stories and I was almost worn out falling for character after character.
  • WINNER!!!!!!!! Broken Rhodes by Kimber Silver. I cannot stress enough how impressive this was, a whodunnit novel picked as my favourite and I am incredibly fussy over this genre, Silver has managed to carve out a proper classic series in the making here, great story, great characters….it really was great!

NOT-FICTION

Below are some of my favourite Non-fiction books of this year with the overall winner at the end.

  • The Restless Republic: Britain without a Crown by Anna Keay. One of those get out of your comfort zone books, a short period of history based around a few characters, interesting read with loads to learn…I have managed to use what I learnt in real life.
  • Fledgling by Hannah Bourne-Taylor. Favourite nature book of the year, very well written and the love for this bird blazes from the pages.
  • On The Scent by Paola Totaro. All about scent and the affect the loss of this sense had on people during COVID. So much info here and written in a way that makes it accessible to a non-sciency guy like me.
  • Ghost Signs by Stu Hennigan. One of the most important books written in my lifetime and somehow it still got beat, I’m so shocked this didn’t win. You should give this book a read, especially if you are a politician, it might help you locate one of those Souls ya all seem to be lacking.
  • WINNER!!!!!!!! brother. do. you. love. me. by Manni Coe & Reuben Coe. Absolutely ridiculous! How can a book be this good? How can it make robots cry? An absolute masterpiece, words by Manni and artwork by his brother Reuben. Read this book please!

MY THANKS

To the publishers, writers and book pushers out there, I’ve no idea how much longer this world of small independent book publishing/shops is going to last but everything I’ve read by you guys this year has been fabulous. Here is a list of my favourites, please shout if I’ve missed you off, there are so many and my brains is so few.

Bluemoose books

Storgy books

Elliot & Thompson

Sandstone Press

Eland Publishing

Sagging Meniscus Press

Dead Ink Books

Alternating Current Press

Flame Tree Press

Summersdale

Horror Sleaze Trash

Charco Press

Anne Cater @ Random Things Tours

And all the authors that sent me copies of their books to read and review.

Finally a massive thanks to Litalist, without this site I don’t think I would have found so many interesting books to add to my out-of-control reading pile, I have spent many an hour browsing users bookshelves and adding and adding to my wishlist and it is all set up to support local independent bookshops, this reader hasn’t purchased a book from Amazon for at least 6 months now. Click on my Best of 2022 shelf below to see the full list of the best books I read in 2022.

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2021 top 11 books

Ey up! New format this year, gonna do my top eleven (everybody does 10 but I’m that much more awesome than them) instead of the usual award ceremony, nobody ever turned up to collect the awards and handsome cheque so I’ve decided to do what others do and pick my favourite 11 books I’ve read this year and laugh maniacally at those that didn’t make the cut. I managed to read 71 books this year…pretty sure I had double that number arrive in the post 🙂 overall most of them were spectacular, with a couple of lame books I managed to find. So here it is the top 11……..

11: Marram by Leonie Charlton

I loved this journey up the Hebrides on a Highland pony, Ross was a lovely pony and I still keep an eye out for Leonie’s tweets for more photos.

10: OOF by Strobe Witherspoon

Such a clever book, using different styles of writing to weave an absurd plot that seems to be getting closer to reality every day. Laughed loads at this one.

9: Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession

A wonderful feel good story with some fabulous characters, the last book of the year and one I left way too long to get around to reading.

8: Your Dark Meaning, Mouse by Stephen Moles

Pure madness was this one, I really enjoyed the journey this book took me on and it is still affecting me today, I find myself getting confused over the title of a certain Beatles song.

7: Transit of Venus by Julian Evans

I read 4 books that were published by Eland and this was the pick of them, I enjoyed reading as Evans explored an area I knew so little about.

6: The Hierarchies by Ros Anderson

One of the books I’ve recommended the most this year, brilliant story, ya really need to check it out.

Things are getting tough now. Some books I loved aren’t gonna make the cut. Gonna make a cup of tea whilst I think….

5: The Lip by Charlie Carroll

I’ve been a fan of Charlie Carroll’s books for a few years now and his first fiction novel was a huge success in my opinion.

4: Out Front the Following Sea by Leah Angstman

Biggest surprise of the year for me, I don’t tend to give this sort of book a chance but am so please I did. Great fun to read with some impeccable research carried out to make it authentic…and if like me you are a fan of maps in books then check this one out for some beautiful additions.

Here we go, the top 3!!!

3: The Heeding by Rob Cowen, Nick Hayes (Illustrator)

This was the book we all needed after a crazy couple of years, wonderful poetry blended with some stunning illustrations. Some heart-breaking moments followed by a poem that truly lifts you up. A book that shall be read again and again.

2: In the Shadow of Time by Kevin Ansbro

If you’ve read this book then you’ll understand why this rates so high. A time travel book full of the nicest people ever, it is so uplifting that you are left with a smile on your face until the next time you watch the news.

1: Queen of the Cicadas by V. Castro

I don’t read many books in the horror genre because it feels very samey these days, not easy to shock me or keep me interested, but Queen of the Cicadas was a HUGE success. It was like going back in time to when I first fell in love with reading, I got a real buzz from the tense scenes as they gradually built up to that moment of horror. A wonderful book and my top read of 2021.

Thats it, sorry to those I couldn’t add, next year I’m only going to read 11 books to make this much easier to do.

Thanks to:

Bluemoose books

Storgy books

Elliot & Thompson

Sandstone Press

Eland Publishing

Sagging Meniscus Press

Dead Ink Books

Alternating Current Press

Galley Beggar Press

Flame Tree Press

Summersdale

Horror Sleaze Trash

Haus Publishing

Anne Cater @ Random Things Tours

And all the other authors that sent me copies of their books to read and review, I’ll always find it amazing that an author can be happy with my random babbling. Here’s to the books of 2022

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Rocky Vs 2020

Aaaah! 2020 the year of dressing like a bank robber, the year where we all realised our political leaders were a bunch of muppets and we wished we could clone Jacinda Ardern and let her rule the world….it was also the year that Twitter moved into reality and everybody showed just what arseholes they could be. I am reviewing my year from my throne of toilet paper, who’d have guessed that when I grabbed 700 rolls back in March that I’d still have enough left over to make my own furniture, in 2021 I vow to only panic buy 600 rolls. Each year I’ve tried to get somebody famous to hand out the awards to my favourite books of the year and for 2020 I had President Trump lined up, all was going to plan until he dropped out to play his 320th game of golf this year, so you’ve got me instead.

This year I managed to read 85 books, 41 fiction, 38 non-fiction and 6 poetry books. I have been impressed with what I’ve read, publishers like Bluemoose Books, Eland Publishing, Little Toller, Storgy and Elliot & Thompson have produced some amazing books. I do find it quite incredible that small indie publishers can publish so many fantastic books and yet the big publishers can throw out all kinds of garbage and expect everybody to love it. Of course those Indie publishers producing so many good books makes it harder to pick my favourites….gah! they are sooooo evil! There is no winner this year for The Lighthouse Award (Worst book of the year), whilst I may have read a few weak books they are too good to deserve this award. Well here goes!

Best Fiction

The Nominations this year are.

East Coast Road by Anna Chilvers. One of the books published by Bluemoose books, a real gem of a book, an amazing journey and a book that almost made me cry….ALMOST!

Shallow Creek edited by Tomek Dzido. A unique book which is the end result of a competition, the stories in this collection are based around a single town and it’s inhabitants, the writers were given give a person, place and totem to focus their stories on. This book is the end result and a million times better than you’d expect. Everybody involved should be classed as geniuses.

This Ragged, Wastrel Thing by Tomas Marcantonio. The first full length novel released by Storgy and it doesn’t disappoint. Tomas has created a fantastic world here that leaves you wanting more, seriously hoping there will be a sequel one day soon.

WINNER: EAST COAST ROAD

Best Non-Fiction

The Nominations this year are.

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty. Dara is a legend, so young to create one of my favourite books of the year, he reminds me of the writing of Roger Deakin and it has been great to see this win so many awards.

Time Among the Maya: Travels in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico by Ronald Wright. An epic book about the Maya and one I’ll be reading again because there is so much info here that I’m bound to have missed out facts. I’ve read 7 books this year by Eland Publishing and this has been the pick of the bunch.

Under the Stars: A Journey Into Light by Matt Gaw. Elliot & Thompson have released a lot of good books this year and for me this was fantastic, reading this brought back so many memories of time spent as a scout, camping under the stars and getting freaked out by noises in the night. This book left me craving a sight of millions of stars…not the 8 I usually see in Basingstoke.

WINNER: UNDER THE STARS: A JOURNEY INTO LIGHT

Best Poem

I’ve read far less books of poetry than I did last year, that doesn’t mean I’ve read less, I’ve spent a lot of time reading blogs, one of my favourites is Daydreaming as a profession by D. R. Bogdan and one of the best he has put up this year is sometimes you don’t have to lead the insane to happiness, but to follow Wonderful little poem.

Music award

I only buy a few albums each year as I spend most of my time listening to music from the past, this year the kids and me have been obsessed with Flight of the Conchords and their amazing songs, but in between that always being played I’ve managed to find some awesome music, the best of which is Kitchen Sink by Nadine Shah. My favourite track is Buckfast, well worth checking out, love her voice and those instruments are creating some great sounds.

That’s it, no more awards and no more 2020. As usual the winners can meet me at any Asda carpark at midnight and fight me for a prize….at the correct social distance of course….this years battles will be in the style of that classic TV show Gladiators.

Thanks to everybody who write books and thanks to everybody who has sent me some incredible stuff to review. Here’s to 2021 being mildly better.

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Rocky Vs 2019

RockyV2019

Well that’s another year over, another year closer to retirement.  2019 was a bit shit….if you have a soul that is….no soul? then yay the Tories won and we are all fucked.  With regards book it has been an epic year, I’ve discovered so many amazing books, new authors and I’ve managed to increase my penguin clothbound collection to 22…a fine collection to read as the apocalypse kicks off.  Usually I try and get a celebrity to hand out awards, but my track record of killing off their careers means I’ve been blacklisted from A to Z, I can’t even get somebody from Geordie Shores, whatever that is.  So I’ll be handing them out as well as picking the winners, an almost impossible task.

Best Fiction

Best fiction

The Nominations this year are.

The Hierophant’s Daughter by M. F. Sullivan.  Book one of probably the greatest trilogy I’ve ever read, I am not a fan of series of books but this was so good I read all three books in one year AND got the t-shirt.

The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas by Daniel James.  Difficult one to categorise as it potentially spans fiction and non-fiction depending on whether you believe the many conspiracy theories out there.  I am 100% certain that I’ve never read anything quite like this and loved how it is sparking reader’s imaginations.

The Fish That Climbed a Tree by Kevin Ansbro.  Kevin is one of the stars of the year for me, a new author and I’ve already consumed 3 of his books, each one has entertained, made me laugh and left me on the edge of my seat at times.  He is the master at creating characters that you care for and like a cat he likes to toy with their lives.  This book gets the nomination though as it was the first one I picked up and started my Ansbro addiction.

WINNER:  THE UNAUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY OF EZRA MAAS

Best Non-Fiction

Best non Fiction

The nominations are:

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn.  Top notch writing about homelessness and walking the South West Coastal Path.  Opening scenes made me incredibly angry, which only made me care more for Raynor and her husband.  I ended up having to research them after the end of the book to see how they are doing.  I have recommended this book to so many people.

Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell.  Yes I know it isn’t a new book but this year was the first time reading it for me.  I’ve no idea why I’ve waited so long because I loved it.  The otter is a wonderful creature and reading about Gavin’s relationship with one was lovely.

Curlew Moon by Mary Colwell. Another one about animals makes the list, this time the Curlew,  an animal I knew very little about.  This book is crammed full of information and Mary’s obsession with the Curlew is contagious.

WINNER:  THE SALT PATH

Best Poem

Best Poem

I read 22 books of poetry this year, I think I might be getting addicted.  After looking through all those books the poem that has stuck with me is:

‘I Slit My Wrists and He Said ‘Yo” from the book, Snail Vixen and The Crystal Garden by Casey Renee Kiser.  You can listen to her reading it HERE.

The Lighthouse Award (Worst book of the year)

Worst Book

WINNER:  Yet again the worst book of 2019 that I read was an “award winner”, the only 1 star book luckily for me.  May we be forgiven by A. M. Holmes is 480 pages of nothing, an opening tragedy, 400 pages of a dark void of words and then an interesting ending, maybe it was interesting because the end was in sight?  This book had nothing going for it, I truly have no idea how it got the award, I always try and find a positive when doing a review of a book but for this one I came up empty handed.

And that’s yer lot, out of the 104 books I read in 2019 those were the cream of the crop…except for the last one of course.  Many thanks to all the lovely people who sent me books this year, it does feel great to come home from work to book post.  Here’s to another fantastic year of reading in 2020.

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Book Release: The Minotaur’s Son & other wild tales by Kevin Ansbro

One of my favourite writers, easily top 3450….just joking, top 3…Kevin Ansbro has a new book out, released today:

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“Once the evening’s entertainment was over the Minotaur, as naked as Nature intended, clumped into Pablo Zapata’s bar…”

A baby with a passion for theoretical physics…

A winged nymph who exacts terrible revenge…

A stolen coin that releases a wish-granting genie…

And where else would you see Ginger Rogers learning the Ali shuffle, or a humble fisherman making friends with Poseidon?

Charlatans and shapeshifters, lovers and leprechauns, ghosts and office creeps are just some of the characters that Kevin Ansbro brings to life in this volume of short stories. His tales span the globe and range from the wickedly funny to the sad and deeply unnerving. With his perceptive take on human failings, his vivid imagination and his glorious grasp of language, Ansbro’s thought-provoking stories will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

I have read two of his books so far and both easily earn the 5 stars I gave them,

Kinnara

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My Review is HERE:

The Fish That Climbed A Tree

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My Review is HERE:

I also did a fake interview with Kevin if you want a sample of just how talented and hilarious he can be.  Check it out HERE:

So please give this guy a go, you won’t be disappointed.

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B R O K E–New Novel About Life Under Tory Britain– OUT NOW! (Plus an Update on Me) — Rupert Dreyfus

My new novel about inequality in present day, miserable Tory Britain is now available here. Here’s the lowdown: After years of austerity, life for many people in the UK has been reduced to a treadmill of zero-hour contracts, mounting debts and a crippling anxiety as to where the money is going to come from to […]

via B R O K E–New Novel About Life Under Tory Britain– OUT NOW! (Plus an Update on Me) — Rupert Dreyfus

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THE HIEROPHANT’S DAUGHTER: Check out the cover, pre-order the book, or read a digital ARC available to NetGalley reviewers. — Painted Blind Publishing

Happy Black Friday. We’re pleased to announce that within its first 48 hours on NetGalley, The Hierophant’s Daughter has received 48 requests from potential reviewers, educators, media pros and other NG readers. If you want to see what the fuss is about, click the smaller version of the cover at the bottom of this post. […]

via THE HIEROPHANT’S DAUGHTER: Check out the cover, pre-order the book, or read a digital ARC available to NetGalley reviewers. — Painted Blind Publishing

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AMERICAN INC — Horror Sleaze Trash

“The Battle Hymn of the Revolution” Music by AMERICAN INC Lyrics/Guitar/Vocals: Scott Laudati Guitar/Trumpet: Myles Vlachos Bass: Brain Weakly Drums: Travis Scelia Starring: Sebastien Giles D’Stair and Carlyle Edwards Director-of-Photography: Paul VanBrocklin Edited by Emanuella Scott Produced by Denver Gregories and Lisette Goines Written and Directed by Pablo D’Stair http://americanincmusic.bandcamp.com http://www.facebook.com/americanincmusic http://www.instagram.com/scottlaudati

via AMERICAN INC — Horror Sleaze Trash