The Annual Bookend: Volume 1 (2018)
2018 was my first year contributing book reviews to the book industry, which I started rather cautiously in January 2018. I had no concept of how it would all play out, whether readers and authors would see value in the content I provided, and how they would use that content. As part of my progression, I joined Goodreads and built a personal network of like-minded people, many recognised as being in the top 100 global reviewers, and across 80 different countries. I worked hard at developing my reviewing style and this highly talented network has taught me so much in reading, reviewing and writing, that I am forever indebted to them. I am extremely pleased and grateful to have my reviews endorsed by many fellow reviewers worldwide and been voted as the top reviewer in Ireland on a regular weekly and monthly basis, and often in the top 100 globally. I can see and feel the impact literature has on so many people and it reminds me that its ultimate power is one of sharing.
One area that has astounded me, is the number of Indie Authors writing the most accomplished, entertaining and captivating books. We need to support them because they need our help, and deserve it. Writing is a creative endeavour but selling books is a business. Understanding business elements such as design, supply chain, logistics, marketing, and strategy is a daunting task and not well enough understood by many authors. Published authors at least have the comfort that their publishing houses manage these factors but for Indie authors this is a particular challenge and we want to help.
As a serial entrepreneur in the medical device industry for over 30 years, I understand how difficult it is to master these roles but I realise how we can provide support. As a first step, I and three colleagues founded The Reading Desk, with the ambition to assist with a business capability, and facilitate collaboration and partnerships throughout the book industry to achieve mutual benefit and reward. Every great journey starts with the first step, and I believe we made an important first step. At the end of 2018 (6 months after launch), we had over 16,000 followers on Twitter and growing followers on other digital media platforms. Starting initially with NetGalley we eventually developed personal relationships with many publishing houses and direct links with over 10,000 authors, published and Indie, debut and best sellers, and from every conceivable background. We started conducting interviews and obtained some invaluable insights and thoughts from very generous authors. We also interviewed an audiobook narrator, Marnye Young, who was a delight and again provided a unique perspective in a growing area of this industry.
I decided it would be important to establish a benchmark statement, and to look back many years from now and evaluate how we operated, whether we achieved our long-term goals, my motivation for doing this, and how I would probably rewrite many of the reviews I submitted. ?
I read and reviewed 143 books in 2018 and rather than list them all, you can find them on our website. I selected my top 12 books of 2018, which is not in any order – it was already difficult enough. If I’ve read more than 1 book in a series I only entered one book for that author.
- Infants of the Brush by A.M. Watson was just so beautifully written with a wonderful connection to London in the 1720s and the harsh life for those in poverty. A story that is true, harsh and heartbreaking. Some of those characters are still with me.
- A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne is a literary marvel and was just a fantastic experience to read. I met John at the launch of this book in Dublin and he is a true gentleman and a pleasure to have engaged with and listened to.
- The Glass Mask by E.L. Dubois is a memoir. I have never been a lover of memoirs, probably because, as mentioned above, books are my escape from the real world. However, Erica asked me to read her memoir called The Glass Mask and it completely broke my heart. She is a wonderful inspiring woman and we have developed a great friendship. Fingers crossed for her Young Adult fantasy series Ransom TX.
- The Monastery Murders by E.M. Powell, is the second book in her series. Again my love for historical fiction was truly satisfied with this story of 12th Century England. Her writing, plots, characters and historical backdrop are so amazing. And she’s from Cork in Ireland. ?
- A Gathering of Ghosts by Karen Maitland, who has been one of my favourite authors for many years. This is another historical fiction novel based in 14th Century England at Dartmoor and portrays the conflict between religious and supernatural beliefs. Her ability to bring life to the landscape is remarkable.
- No Way Out by Cara Hunter is the third book of her series. I read all 3 in 2018 and it reinforces her as the new shining light in the Crime, Murder Mystery genre. She brings modern references such as Twitter into a police procedural novel, and her plotting and characters are so so good that you can’t put her books down.
- The Weight of Shadows by Karl Holton just blew my mind. This is an Indie Author that writes wonderfully compelling and intriguing thrillers better than many published authors. He certainly wrote the best epilogue I read in 2018, and maybe ever.
- Dracul by D. Stoker and J.D. Barker. It could have gone wrong in so many different ways but it was truly a brilliant horror novel. It just totally weaved the original Bram Stoker background into a new thrilling horror story that I can’t recommend highly enough. It also created the opportunity to work with another fantastic book reviewer Mrs Y.
- New York 1609 by Harald Johnson was an epic production and just appealed to my interest in how places were in the beginning and how we got to where we are today. In this case New York in 1609 when Henry Hudson first arrived, to the removal of the Native Americans from Manhattan by 1645. It’s not a history book but a captivating fictional story told through the eyes of Dancing Fish.
- In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt, is a fictional story of families and relationships set in Rwanda after the genocide of 1994. My company has worked in Uganda for many years and perhaps the history and connection I have to the place made me feel the real pain and unnecessary horror of those moments in history. I was so honoured to have been asked to read this book.
- Skin Deep by Liz Nugent was a wonderful story of a narcissistic woman that just crushed and used people to give her the life she wanted. There are consequences however and this novel is so cleverly structured that it really stirred the emotions. My first Liz Nugent novel and looking forward to the others.
- Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor was an amazing journey through her fantasy trilogy of an age-old conflict of angels and chimaera. Laini throws in little gems throughout her books, either quotes from others or herself. One of my favourites was “There is the past and there is the future. The present is never more than the single second dividing one from the other.”
I developed a new love for short stories brought initially to me by Susan Mary Malone in Over the Pass and went on to read quite a number of short story books. I was reintroduced to poetry which I hadn’t read in decades, a great concept was introduced by Michelle Halket with [Dis]Connected, which combined poetry and short stories. There are other authors such as Liz Huntley, Michael Dineen, D. Ray Thomas, Mike Wells, Eric Gates, Aimee Nikolov, Robert Raker, and Eeva Lancaster, that deserve a mention. There are so many other books that I’d like to list as it has been difficult to narrow down. In fact, my top 10 became my top dozen and I could go to 20. ?
This is my passion and I thank you all for the wonderful opportunity to get to know you and share whatever possible. We plan to achieve many targets this year and engage further and deeper with this industry to support wherever we can. Best wishes to all my friends for 2019. ?