My Favourite Stand-Alone Books

I often prefer reading standalone books as opposed to book series purely because I hate having to wait for the next book to come out. With this in mind and with the current global pandemic, I thought I’d share a small list of some of my all-time favourite standalone books. I read a variety of books, so this list has no set theme.  Let me know if you have read any of these and whether or not you liked/disliked them!

If We Were Villains – M L Rio

SYNOPSIS 

Oliver Marks has just served ten years for the murder of one of his closest friends – a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the detective who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened ten years ago.

As a young actor studying Shakespeare at an elite arts conservatory, Oliver noticed that his talented classmates seem to play the same roles onstage and off – villain, hero, tyrant, temptress – though Oliver felt doomed to always be a secondary character in someone else’s story. But when the teachers change up the casting, a good-natured rivalry turns ugly, and the plays spill dangerously over into life.

When tragedy strikes, one of the seven friends is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper – Hallie Rubenhold

SYNOPSIS

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers.
What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888.
Their murderer was never identified, but the name created for him by the press has become far more famous than any of these five women.
Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, historian Hallie Rubenhold finally sets the record straight and gives these women back their stories.

Song for Night – Chris Abani

SYNOPSIS

Trained as a human mine detector, a boy soldier in West Africa witnesses and takes part in unspeakable brutality. At 12 his vocal cords are cut to prevent him from screaming and giving away his platoon’s presence, should he be blown up.

Awaking after an explosion to find that he’s lost his platoon, he traces his steps back through abandoned villages and rotting corpses and through his own memories in search of his comrades.

Song for Night is a lyrical, poignant journey through the nightmarish landscape of brutal war.

Childhood’s End – Arthur C Clarke 

SYNOPSIS 

Earth has become a Utopia, guided by a strange unseen people from outer space whose staggering powers have eradicated war, cruelty, poverty and racial inequality. When the ‘Overlords’ finally reveal themselves, their horrific form makes little impression.

Then comes the sign that the Overlords have been waiting for. A child begins to dream strangely – and develops remarkable powers. Soon this happens to every child – and the truth of the Overlords’ mission is finally revealed to the human race. . .

Swastika Night – Katherine Burdekin 

SYNOPSIS

SWASTIKA NIGHT takes place seven hundred years after Nazism achieved power, by which time Adolf Hitler is worshipped as a god. Elsewhere, the Japanese rule the Americas, Australia, and Asia. Though Japan is the only rival superpower to the Nazi West, their inevitable wars always end in stalemate. The fascist Germans and Japanese suffer many difficulties in maintaining their populations, because of the physical degeneration of their women.
The protagonist is an Englishman named Alfred on a German pilgrimage. In Europe, the English are loathed because they were the last opponents of Nazi Germany in the war. Per official history, Hitler is a tall, blond god who personally won the war. Alfred is astounded when shown a secret, historic photograph depicting Hitler and a girl before a crowd. He is shocked that Hitler was a small man with dark hair and a paunch. And his discovery may mean his death…

Educated – Tara Westover 

SYNOPSIS

Tara Westover and her family grew up preparing for the End of Days but, according to the government, she didn’t exist. She hadn’t been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in hospitals.

As she grew older, her father became more radical and her brother more violent. At sixteen, Tara knew she had to leave home. In doing so she discovered both the transformative power of education and the price she had to pay for it.

Only Ever Yours – Louise O’Neil

SYNOPSIS

eves are designed, not made.
The School trains them to be pretty
The School trains them to be good.
The School trains them to Always be Willing.

All their lives, the eves have been waiting. Now, they are ready for the outside world.
companion . . . concubine . . . or chastity
Only the best will be chosen.
And only the Men decide.

We Were Liars – E Lockhart

SYNOPSIS 

We are the Liars.
We are beautiful, privileged and live a life of carefree luxury.
We are cracked and broken.
A story of love and romance.
A tale of tragedy.
Which are lies?
Which is truth?

Between Shades of Grey – Ruta Sepetys 

SYNOPSIS

One night fifteen-year-old Lina, her mother and young brother are hauled from their home by Soviet guards, thrown into cattle cars and sent away. They are being deported to Siberia.

An unimaginable and harrowing journey has begun. Lina doesn’t know if she’ll ever see her father or her friends again. But she refuses to give up hope.

Lina hopes for her family.
For her country.
For her future.
For love – first love, with the boy she barely knows but knows she does not want to lose…

Will hope keep Lina alive?

Set in 1941, Between Shades of Gray, is an extraordinary and haunting story based on first-hand family accounts and memories from survivors.

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini  

SYNOPSIS

Afghanistan, 1975: Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can foresee what will happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that is to shatter their lives. After the Russians invade and the family is forced to flee to America, Amir realises that one day he must return to Afghanistan under Taliban rule to find the one thing that his new world cannot grant him: redemption.

 

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GOODREADS – KATERINA TURNER

The Complete Maus – Art Spiegleman

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SYNOPSIS 

Combined for the first time here are Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale and Maus II – the complete story of Vladek Spiegelman and his wife, living and surviving in Hitler’s Europe. By addressing the horror of the Holocaust through cartoons, the author captures the everyday reality of fear and is able to explore the guilt, relief and extraordinary sensation of survival – and how the children of survivors are in their own way affected by the trials of their parents. A contemporary classic of immeasurable significance.

GOODREADS RATING – 4.55/5 STARS 

REVIEW 

This is a must-read for everyone! Spiegelman approaches themes of memory, genocide, war, relationships, ethics and identity with a lot of respect and in a truly beautiful way. 

Individuals are represented as either mice or cats (or dogs and pigs) through the masks they wear. By representing humans as animals, it strips everyone’s humanity to a certain degree and reminds us as readers that people’s actions were not always their own choice due to the inherent need to survive. Identity is a construct and can be manipulated. The concept is brilliant, but in terms of the graphics, it sometimes became confusing or fuzzy because of the number of graphics on each page.  

Spiegelman’s graphic novel depicts both the hardships of the Holocaust that his father (Vladek) has experience alongside his own guilt as a second-generation survivor. Art tries to understand his father and respect his past. This is shown through a few real photographs. This hit me hard as it reminded me that although the graphics are beautiful, this story tells the life of real people and a real family. 

RATING – 5/5 STARS!

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GOODREADS -KATERINA TURNER 

Romanov – Nadine Brandes

SYNOPSIS

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it. 

Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them, and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of saving herself and her family are to either release the spell and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya has only dabbled in magic, but it doesn’t frighten her half as much as her growing attraction to Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her.

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other.

REVIEW

This is my first Nadine Brandes novel and I’d seen it a lot on bookstagram so I thought I’d pick it up. I enjoyed reading this book and I found the plot interesting and I loved both the historical side and the spell casting side. This was a really interesting interpretation of the events that occurred!

In terms of characters, Anastasia is a strong willed protagonist who tried to protect her family and remain strong throughout her exile. Her relationship with her brother and father was portrayed really well and it keep me wanting to read more. Alexei’s character annoyed me because he did not resemble a thirteen year old boy. I understand that with the pressure of his royal status and his health condition, it was expected for him to be a strong character, however, he did not come across as a child at all, therefore it made the writing confusing at times.

I personally like that the author used Russian words throughout the book as it really hit home for me and added a sense of authenticity, however, I can also understand that sometimes it was too much and for people with little to no knowledge of Slavic languages, it may be confusing.

One thing that I really did not like was the romance. It seemed forced and both Anastasia and Zash did not click. I felt like the romance was unnecessary because the characters would have been better off as friends. That being said, I loved Maria’s romance with Ivan!

I would say that for the first 200 pages the book primarily focuses on portraying the Romanov’s hardships and their day to day lives in exile, however, as the book progresses, we encounter the magical side and a bit of a chase. The history of the Bolsheviks, The White Army and the Romanov’s was not described much, which I think was a bit of a let down, however the plot was exciting and I enjoyed the book overall.

3/5 stars ⭐️

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GOODREADS – KATERINA TURNER

If We Were Villains – M L Rio

SYNOPSIS

Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail – for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.

As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingenue, extra. But when the casting changes, and the secondary characters usurp the stars, the plays spill dangerously over into life, and one of them is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.

REVIEW

INCREDIBLE!

That’s only one word to describe this book. Some more would be: brilliant, spectacular, amazing, beautiful, etc; I could go on for a while! This book made me laugh and cry. It made my heart skip a beat and it made me want to throw the book to the other side of my room. But most importantly, it made me really think!

“Do you blame Shakespeare for any of it?”

The question is so unlikely, so nonsensical coming from such a sensible man that I can’t suppress a smile.

“ I blame him for all of it,” I say.

Our protagonist, Oliver, is an interesting character who initially comes across as the quiet and plain one of the group. However as time progresses and he explains the tragic events that led to his incarceration we learn that he is an absolute saint simply disguised as a wallflower. Although he doesn’t realise this himself either. Oliver is unlike anyone I’ve ever met or read about, yet I can relate to him. I felt every bit of his pain and frustration. I understood his confusion and his anger.

I loved that all of the characters were actors. The mentality that actors lose themselves as individuals is interesting. I ca understand how a playing a character or persona can hinder one’s own personality. It’s such an important thing to talk about because in modern day society individuals change to fit standards, sometimes forgetting themselves as individuals.

All of the characters were very different, therefore they all played a huge role in the book. Some very important and heavy topics are discussed within this book and all though there is a lot of romance… it is not a major part of the plot which I was pleased about.

If you love Shakespeare, Mystery, Crime and LGBTQA+ undertones then you will ravish this book! Even if all of that doesn’t sound like your usual cup of tea, give it a go because it’s such a relatable book and it really draws on human emotion. I can easily say without a doubt in my mind that this is possibly one of the best books I have ever read!

5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️!!!

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Goodreads – Katerina Turner

Eliza and her Monsters – Francesca Zappia’s

SYNOPSIS

Her story is a phenomenon. Her life is a disaster.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.

But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

REVIEW

I fell in with love Francesca Zappia’s writing when I read ‘Made you up’ so when I saw ‘Eliza and her monsters’ it was immediately added to my TBR.

I will say straight away that I made a mistake by listening to this as an audiobook as opposed to reading it as a physical book. The book has a lot of drawings and online text with usernames so as an audiobook it can get confusing.

Moving onto the actual plot itself… wow! It’s a powerful and very realistic book. Eliza is a very cool character and I would love to have her as a friend. If I read this a few years ago I would have been able to fully relate to Eliza because I was nerdy and also fought with my family and those around me who thought I was just lazy as opposed to realising there was more going on.

The writing is beautiful and I really enjoyed the plot. In a world where everyone has different personas online nowadays, I think that this book is so relevant and interesting! I’m glad that it portrayed ‘online friendships’ as being realistic whilst also pouting out the life is great in the physical world too. The family relationships that go up and down are stereotypical of a household with teenagers. Sensitive subjects are discussed with the right amount of information that allows readers to understand what is going on but without glorifying mental illness. There is an element of romance within this novel however it isn’t discussed in great detail which I enjoyed as I didn’t think it was important.

Overall an amazing book that I would highly recommend!

4,5/5 Stars ⭐️

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Goodreads – Katerina Turner

An Ember in the Ashes – Sabaa Tahir

SYNOPSIS

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
 
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
 
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
 
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
 
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

REVIEW

This book sat on my TBR shelf for ages and for some reason I kept putting it off. I’m so glad I’ve finally read it because I truly enjoyed it and cannot wait to read the next book in the series!

I love the characters and the plot itself. The only thing that I did find a little irritating was the odd love triangles going on. One of them was understandable, but the other made no sense to me. It seemed awkward and forced.

The novel starts off straight by jumping into a really extreme and scary scenario which sets the pace of the book and the descriptions were great. The world building could have been a bit better but overall it was unique and interesting. I hope that throughout the series the authors goes into some of the characters backstories as it would be interesting to understand how certain characters became how they are in the book.

RATING – 4,5/5 STARS

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Goodreads – Katerina Turner

The Hospital – Barbara O’Hare

Synopsis

The Sunday Times top ten bestseller…

‘Nobody knew what was going on behind those doors. We were human toys. Just a piece of meat for someone to play with.’

Barbara O’Hare was just 12 when she was admitted to the psychiatric hospital, Aston Hall, in 1971. From a troubled home, she’d hoped she would find sanctuary there. But within hours, Barbara was tied down, drugged with sodium amytal – a truth-telling drug – and then abused by its head physician, Dr Kenneth Milner.

The terrifying drug experimentation and relentless abuse that lasted throughout her stay damaged her for life. But somehow, Barbara clung on to her inner strength and eventually found herself leading a campaign to demand answers for potentially hundreds of victims.

A shocking account of how vulnerable children were preyed upon by the doctor entrusted with their care, and why it must never happen again. 

Review

It’s not often that a book has made me cry, but the last few pages of this made me bawl my eyes out.

I have an enormous amount of respect for Barbara O’Hare for being strong enough not only to survive the horrific events that she did, but too also have the courage to share it with the world and stand up for all the others at Aston Hall that may have never been given a chance.

It makes me physically sick that the people responsible for such horrific abuse will never be brought to justice but I hope that everyone and anyone who suffered at Aston Hall can seek comfort in knowing that the world knows what happened. They were just children. They were innocent. They weren’t liars.

Everyone should read this book because it will open their eyes to a very real and very terrible crime that still occurs to this day, on a global scale. We see shocking news everyday and we’ve become desensitised to it but too read something that is so real, so raw and affected so many people… children, is well and truly eye opening.

5/5 STARS ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Goodreads – Katerina Turner

Asking For It – Louise O’Neill

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Synopsis 

It’s the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O’Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident. One night, there’s a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma.

The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can’t remember what happened, she doesn’t know how she got there. She doesn’t know why she’s in pain. But everyone else does.

Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don’t want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town’s heroes…

Goodreads Rating –   4.09/5 stars

Review 

I reviewed Louise O’Neill’s Only Ever Yours in August and put Asking For It straight on the top of my TBR. I knew it was going to be difficult, powerful and much-needed even before I started. It’s the perfect choice for my book club because we’re all sure to have a lot to say.

Asking For It is about what happens to eighteen-year-old student Emma O’Donovan after she is raped at a party by a group of boys on the school football team. She doesn’t understand what’s happened to her, until photos of that night are shared on Facebook. I thought Asking For It was going to be straightforward, but Louise O’Neill makes Emma an unlikeable character. She’s vain, self-centred, hurtful and judgemental. She’s not someone you would want to know, let alone be friends with. Most – sadly, not all – people would be outraged to discover that a boy had attacked an ‘innocent’ young girl on her way home, especially if she was in a private school uniform; if she was covered up. But what if she was wearing a short dress? What if she was drunk? What if she was over 18? What if she made a move first? Would we say she was asking for it? This is what Louise O’Neill wants to fight against.

I knew Asking For It was going to be a difficult read, but I also knew that it was extremely important that I read it. Asking For It addresses so many aspects of our lives that are often left unquestioned. It tackles how awful and judgemental people can be towards each other, even when we as readers can see who’s in the right and feel it should be evident. How people struggle to understand consent and what exactly constitutes rape, especially as Emma herself doesn’t realise she’s been raped until the teacher suggests it. I thought it was interesting to see the portrayal of social media and traditional media, both shown as a tool for abuse and as a tool to give people a voice. Support for rape victims on social media seems wonderful and essential. But if you’re the victim, it can be intrusive having people tell your story for you, and this isn’t something that had ever occurred to me. Would Iwant everyone talking about me, even if what they were saying was supportive?

Asking For It will make you angry, and rightly so. Louise O’Neill doesn’t shy away from reality and, as with Only Ever Yours, doesn’t tie up Asking For Itwith a happily ever after. Perhaps, instead of arguing about which classics should be taught in schools, we should be arguing that Asking For It should be taught alongside them. Even after so many years of education – from school to college to university – I have never within education participated in a conversation about rape. This must change. Let’s talk.

Rating –  5/5 Stars 

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Popular books I am yet to read…

1. Carry On – Rainbow Rowell

Everyone has been going on about how amazing this book is but I’ve put off reading because I didn’t enjoy Fangirl. That being said I did enjoy Elenor and Park. I don’t think I like her writing style but perhaps I’ll give it a go sometime.

2. An Ember In The Ashes – Sabaa Tahir

I honestly don’t know why I haven’t read this yet because it sounds amazing and everyone has told me to read it! It’s just always been put to the back of my bookshelf and forgotten about as new books have come out.

3. A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J. Maas

If any of you have read my reviews for the Throne of Glass series ( albeit I’ve only read the first 3), then you’ll know how much I loved the series! So I truly cannot answer or understand why I have not read this book yet… but hopefully I’ll get round to it soon enough!

Do any of you struggle with this? Do you buy books and then never get round to reading them even though they seem incredibly good!

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Goodreads – Katerina Turner

Hopeless – Colleen Hoover

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Synopsis – 

Sometimes discovering the truth can leave you more hopeless than believing the lies…

That’s what seventeen-year-old Sky realizes after she meets Dean Holder. A guy with a reputation that rivals her own and an uncanny ability to invoke feelings in her she’s never had before. He terrifies her and captivates her all in the span of just one encounter, and something about the way he makes her feel sparks buried memories from a past that she wishes could just stay buried.

Sky struggles to keep him at a distance knowing he’s nothing but trouble, but Holder insists on learning everything about her. After finally caving to his unwavering pursuit, Sky soon finds that Holder isn’t at all who he’s been claiming to be. When the secrets he’s been keeping are finally revealed, every single facet of Sky’s life will change forever.

Goodreads Rating – 4,36/5 stars

My Review – * Contains Spoilers*

This is my third Colleen Hoover book and I must say that I am yet too be disappointed because each book seems to be better than the last. I known that many people believe that Colleen Hoover’s books are just cheesy, over dramatised romance novels and I must admit that that too was my initial reaction, however now I can honestly say that each novel has taken me by surprise. 

Yes, they are cheesy in terms of the romances and Hoover likes to go to extreme lengths to describe any sexual moments between the characters, in fact her writing reminds me a little of Jennifer L. Armentrout’s in that sense, however she builds incredible stories surrounding those characters and is able to make her audience see past the stereotypically attractive teens and their mundane lives. 

As some of you may know if you’ve read my previous reviews, I recently read ‘All the Rage’ by Courtney Summers and loved it because it was raw and real. I was not expecting this book to have a similar topic when I started it, I was simply expecting some romance between the broody mysterious guy and the ‘perfect’ girl. 

Sky and Holder were very real and perhaps some may think that they were over dramatised but unless someone has gone through something that traumatic how are we too know what is classed as being overdramatic snd what isn’t… This book was refreshing because it wasn’t simply about the teen romance but the long lost friendship, the harsh reality of ones past, the secrets, the lies and most importantly the fact that whether you are an adult or child, you are still responsible for your actions and it takes great courage to face the people you have wronged and yourself. 

I am excited to read more of Colleen Hoover’s work and see if there are any novels that of hers that I don’t like or whether she is guaranteed a spot on my list of top 10 Authors. 

My Rating – 5/5 Stars

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Goodreads – Katerina Turner