Ross Jeffery’s Best Books Read in 2019

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It’s been a busy year again here at STORGY and I’ve been reading everything and everything yet again – from the big hitting publishers to the brave publishing of Independent Presses (which are putting out some astonishing works of late) to some self published works.

Not to mention the hundreds of short stories I’ve read this year too. I’ve also been able to read and help proof some fabulous works which are being released now (since I wrote this piece) or shortly – and boy are they good!

What I’ve compiled below are some of the books out of the what seemed like hundreds I’ve read this year that left their mark – and deserve a mention in my end of year round-up!

So, without further delay…

Chain Linked Stories

If you know me and you know STORGY Magazine we have a penchant for short stories and I started off my year by reading this striking collection of short stories by Michelle Blair Wilker called ‘Chain Linked’.

If you want a collection of short stories which fully explores the human condition in all its chaos and beauty and rawness, then look no further than Michelle Blair Wilker’s stunning collection Chain Linked.

Read the full review here.

The Loosening Skin

This is the first of two Aliya Whiteley books that I read this year and which make it onto my best books of 2019 list – both of them are uniquely different but both are told with that masters touch one expects from Aliya. ‘The Loosening Skin’ was a broiling sci-fi / body horror book which packed a punch – like a cocktail consisting of Philip K Dick and William S Burroughs.

Aliya Whiteley’s work is bold, daring, unique and like nothing you’ve ever read before – if you read one book this year, let it be this! An enthralling story which redefines the science fiction genre and gives birth to a storyteller that will, I’m sure, define a generation!

Read the full review here.

Business As Usual

This year I have been reading and writing a lot of Flash Fiction – partly due to writing a Novella-In-Flash (which is still ongoing). But I’ve wanted to immerse myself with some of the best flash writers around, so I was delighted to find out that Gaynor Jones had self published ‘Business As Usual’ a limited edition chap book – and I was lucky enough to get my chubby little mitts on one!

Business As Usual is a smorgasbord of intrinsically crafted and deftly executed flash fiction – which needs to be read to fully grasp its enrapturing brilliance and the sheer mastery of the genre Jones has.

Read the full review here.

Bones

Andrew Cull is another writer to have two books in my Best Books of 2019 and first up is his horrifically beautiful short story collection Bones.

A slow burner that builds to a raging fire, engulfing everything in its path in a fireball of mass destruction… there is something oh so very special about this collection.

Read the full review here.

Ubik

Ubik by Philip K Dick is one of my favourite books by this author, it’s just a masterpiece of science fiction writing and a book that just keeps on giving. So, for any PKD fans out there, this edition published by Folio Society is a must – it’s beautifully constructed work of art.

A masterful work by the genres leading figure and the author anyone and everyone writing science fiction wants to emulate. Ubik is a thing of legends and this edition does it justice. The internal artwork by La Boca is eye-wateringly spectacular and works so well with the words on the page, it’s as if it were one living, breathing organism. The illustrations work in tandem with the prose in projecting this already phenomenal book into a masterpiece, not only of art, but also literature – and this edition is a great way to honour Philip K Dick.

Read the full review here.

Jutland

‘Jutland’ by Lucie McKnight Hardy is a stunning meditation on grief and showcases a storyteller at the top of her game – again this is another writer who features a couple of times in my Best Books Read of 2019, and there is a reason for that.

Lucie’s work is bold, daring, shockingly majestic and it’s great to see her being published widely in the independent scene – but I’m sure as she stretches her wings and keeps churning out these masterpieces the big boys will come calling shortly.

Jutland is absolutely brilliant – Lucie McKnight Hardy’s work is arrestingly pure, full of rich, deep prose and told with a beguiling innocence. A masterful work from a brilliantly vibrant voice, telling a tale that many would be able to relate – fabulously paced with a barbed twist in the tale. Exceptional work in the short story form!

Read the full review here.

Water Shall Refuse Them

Wow. What a book, I loved this book and it would also appear many other people fell under its spell too. Dead Ink published this and gave it the largest print run of all their books, but still couldn’t keep up with the demand, so had to crowd fund to raise the funds to do a second print run. I was thrilled at hearing this as this book is one of the best I’ve read this year, if not the best!

Water Shall Refuse Them is everything I wanted and more. Lucie McKnight Hardy truly announces herself with a tale that the Grimm Brothers would be proud to have in their cannon or cauldron. If you do one thing this summer, make sure you buy this book…

Read the full review here.

Unthology 11

Unthology 11 is another anthology I had the pleasure of reading and which really blew me away – this anthology contains the best short story I read this year which is Rachael Smart’s ‘Various Cuts of Holstein’ – it’s a masterpiece of short fiction writing – big things are to come from Rachael Smart, you heard it here first!

As a whole Unthology 11 is a sparkling little gem of a book – there is a freshness and truthfulness in the authors combined works, which shows the overwhelming forces of beauty, mortality and violence working within its pages – it’s literally gold dust, fiercely inventive and unforgettably challenging.

Read the full review here.

Dinosaur

Adam Lock is a writer that we know well here at STORGY Magazine – we published Adam’s first ever short story and have watched him develop as a writer over the last few years and he has turned into an exceptional writer and someone who is going to be making huge strides forwards this year.

So, I was thrilled to find out that Ellipsis Zine were publishing his Novella-in-Flash ‘Dinosaur’ which features stories detailing a relationship from inception to end – a perfect example of what makes flash fiction so popular and an art form that is on the rise!

Dinosaur is arrestingly brilliant, endlessly beguiling, passionate,  heart-breakingly pure and a sheer masterpiece – an astonishing debut from a writer whom I have now dubbed Grand Master Flash!

Read the full review here.

The Offing

Benjamin Myers has of course been snapped up by Bloomsbury Books and The Offing is his first book to be released from them. And boy does Myers give us and Bloomsbury a book to be proud of – The Offing is stunningly pure and shows that a good story is hard to beat, a stripped back novel that focuses on the lives of a few people. Immersive and challenging – a brilliant book that I highly recommend.

The Offing is therapy for the soul, a rich and delicious tonic, refreshing and unforgettable – a book that is full of joy and boy do we need that. A book that enables the reader to escape to a simpler time, and quite possibly a better time – and in these current climes…a bit of escapism is all we really need.

Read the full review here.

Remains

So, the second offering from Andrew Cull is his novel ‘Remains’ – a masterful study on horror and grief which causes the reader to suffer emotionally and fearfully at Cull’s hand.

Remains‘ will remain the benchmark for any horror fiction I stumble upon this year, and in years to come with regards to reviewing in the digital pages of STORGY. Cull has single-handedly and exquisitely lifted the bar when it comes to writing horror – and it will be a hard task for many of the emerging and established horror writers to reach that bar now, blowing many of his contemporaries out of the water with his raw and unflinching style and his dramatic, disturbing and eerily poignant prose.

Remains is a gripping tale of grief, a grief that pulls at a person like an undercurrent, pulling them down into a dark abyss. It’s a book full of the monstrosities of the mind, of a darkness lurking in the shadows waiting to smother you in its cold embrace and drown you within its grief.

Miss this book and this author at your peril – Remains will become a cult hit.

Read the full review here.

Ormeshadow

I love Priya Sharma and this latest offering ‘Ormeshadow’ takes her level of brilliance to a whole different level.

Sharma has created what I can only imagine will be one of the books of the year, it’s a tale that delves into folklore but is grounded in drama, of family circumstance, of loss and love and hope. It is in essence a coming of age tale, masterfully told with a beguiling style and execution that is is priceless. It will bring Sharma to a whole new audience, whilst still enrapturing her existing followers – but Ormeshadow in my opinion showcases a writer at their very best, and I firmly believe that it is Sharma’s magnum opus.

An enchanting magic lives in the pages of Ormeshadow and I urge you to discover this treasure of a book for yourselves – a resonant novella that is unforgettably brilliant and deeply moving.

Read the full review here.

Lot

‘Lot’ by Bryan Washington was a collection that just blew me away – it’s probably the collection of the year, if not the last few years – such is the brilliance on show and the way in which these stories interlink to build a study on life that you can’t look away from.

Bryan Washington has assembled a collection of stories that give a voice to the voiceless, they are stories about finding belonging and acceptance, about discovering your place in a world that is full of social stigmas – with Washington shining a light on the plight of the under-privileged and forgotten people that make up Houston.

Washington’s writing is brilliantly ambitious, tender and unforgivingly visceral, no matter where you grew up, or where you come from, reading these stories, living these lives for the briefest of moments, you’ll have found yourself in Houston.

Read the full review here.

The Best British Short Stories 2019

In my opinion the best anthology of the year has to be Salt Publishing’s 2019 Best British Short Stories edited by Nicholas Royle – featuring some amazing voices and astonishingly brilliant work.

Best British Short Stories 2019 is a dazzling and captivating collection that needs to be read. There are stories that are moving, real, bold and brilliantly ambitious, it is a collection of writers that need to be savoured and celebrated!

Read the full review here.

The Institute

The King is back… long live the King! Well, I was very excited about this release from King as I had heard it was a return to his horror roots and having a young protagonist – it was just ticking all the boxes, and him coming away from his crime writing was another bonus (although let me say I’ve loved his crime work too – I know some of you will be cussing me now, but hey, this is my review and quite frankly I don’t care!). But we all know that King writes horror best when it’s from the young protagonists point of view – and this for me, was a terrific ride!

King’s most terrifying book in years – further cementing him as the godfather of horror!

Read the full review here.

Full Throttle

I’d been a bit disappointed of Joe Hill of late, his recent collection Strange Weather was a bit of a let down. So I was a bit apprehensive at what I was going to be getting from his latest offering another collection in the form of ‘Full Throttle’ – would I be getting the Joe Hill that scared the hell out of me or would I be getting the Joe Hill that was just ticking the boxes. Also I was delighted to see the book contained two co-authored stories with his father Stephen King.

The waters are dark with Full Throttle and something pulls at you from beneath the surface, dragging you into the depths of depravity and fear – of which there is no escape. Making this collection a full throttled road trip into the depths of personal hell’s – a remarkable collection where each story seals a nail on your coffin, leaving you trapped and shaking with fear within.

Read the full review here.

The Dressing-Up Box

‘The Dressing-Up Box’ was a gem of a book, for me it had everything – and a little bit more, it was a therapy of sorts for me (read the full review to find out why). But along with Bryan Washington’s ‘Lot’ these are the two collections I would recommend for all short story fans – these are some of the most accomplished works by single authors that I’ve seen in a while and they will be hard to beat!

The Dressing-Up Box is masterful storytelling from a true colossus of the art form. Constantine’s collection at its heart is about people. What shapes them, what moulds them , what transforms them into what they’ve now become – some are searching, some are hoping and some are trying to escape, figuring out what they must face, to eventually break free.

The Dressing-Up Box is one of the most accomplished short story collections in years. Pick up a copy and discover the brilliance that resides within for yourself.

Read the full review here.

Skein Island

The second book from Aliya Whiteley in my Best Books Read in 2019 and Skein Island was a cracking book, it had everything and further showcases the brilliance that is Aliya Whiteley to the world. Skein Island was originally published by a small press a few years ago, but as Aliya’s star has shone brighter these last few years, it has been re-released by Titan Books – and I for one was thrilled by that news, as I got to discover a brilliant book I never knew existed!

Aliya Whiteley has conjured a story that is steeped in mystery and mythology – a darkly disturbing and challenging read. Skein Island is savagely honest and sharply attuned to the perils and unspoken agony of our times. Whiteley writes like a force of nature and there is no stopping this coming storm!

Read the full review here.

Save Game

Joseph Sale has released the book that ‘Ready Player One’ should have been and his cinematic scope, masterful storytelling and intrinsic world building is showcased with a masterful touch.

Save Game is triumph! One of the most richly woven pieces of fantasy that I’ve ever read. Sale’s mastery of the genre in Save Game is startling, his characters both fresh and unique, his plot sharply woven, intricate and beguiling in equal measure. All of these things contribute to making Save Game an arrestingly earth shattering experience – true unadulterated brilliance on every page!

Read the full review here.

Piece of Me

Steve Stred is a new voice in horror fiction for me, but after this year and discovering his many horrific offerings he is a name I’ll be checking out with urgency in the future. Piece of Me is a brilliant broiling genre blend of fantasy and dark horror.

Piece of Me is like The Lord of the Rings but fused brilliantly with the darkness of say Clive Barker’s Hellraiser – Epic Dark Horror Fantasy, if that’s a thing? If not, Stred has created a genre all by himself.

Piece of Me is an astonishing piece of storytelling from a writer who has left his heart a bleeding mess upon the page, a rich and compelling tale that is both visceral and visionary and truly unforgettable. It will maim you and leave you scarred – you’ll never forget this encounter!

Read the full review here.

Neolithica

Neolithica is the debut novel from Dan Soule, a writer who continues to create horror the way it should be made. A terrifying book in the tone of James Herbert and Shaun Hutson – British Horror has never had it so good with Soule’s new and vibrant voice.

I was lucky enough to read an early proof version of Neolithica and it did not disappoint, scares on every page, wrapped in a terrifically beguiling story that never lets up from the opening chapter! If you want to be scared, if you want to experience horror and a uniquely British horror – look no further.

Read the full review here.

The Warm Machine

An honourable mention for Seth Rain’s debut ‘The Warm Machine’ a dystopian masterclass which is now released and wowing readers – our review of this book will be coming out in the New Year. The visuals of this book are so deftly crafted that you’d be forgiven in thinking you’re reading something that could be from the mind of Isaac Asimov and Philip K Dick but with a true beating heart and dealing with issues of the here and now (population control, religion, corporate domination, Artificial Intelligence) in the vein of Margaret Atwood’s ‘Handmaids’ this is a book that has it all and offers a unique take on the genre, an urgent book for a generation that needs a new hard hitting series – so you’re guaranteed something fresh and oh so very different.

Available here.

Cover Image by Free-Photos

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Finalists will be published in ANNIHILATION RADIATION

£10 Entry Fee

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