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

Song for Night – Chris Abani

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SYNOPSIS 

“Not since Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird or Agota Kristof’s Notebook Trilogy has there been such a harrowing novel about what it’s like to be a young person in a war. That Chris Abani is able to find humanity, mercy, and even, yes, forgiveness, amid such devastation is something of a miracle.”—Rebecca Brown, author of The End of Youth

“The moment you enter these pages, you step into a beautiful and terrifying dream. You are in the hands of a master, a literary shaman. Abani casts his spell so completely—so devastatingly—you emerge cleansed, redeemed, and utterly haunted.”—Brad Kessler, author of Birds in Fall

Part Inferno, part Paradise Lost, and part Sunjiata epic, Song for Night is the story of a West African boy soldier’s lyrical, terrifying, yet beautiful journey through the nightmare landscape of a brutal war in search of his lost platoon. The reader is led by the voiceless protagonist who, as part of a land mine-clearing platoon, had his vocal chords cut, a move to keep these children from screaming when blown up and thereby distracting the other minesweepers. The book is written in a ghostly voice, with each chapter headed by a line of the unique sign language these children invented. This book is unlike anything else ever written about an African war.

Chris Abani is a Nigerian poet and novelist and the author of The Virgin of FlamesBecoming Abigail (a New York Times Editor’s Choice), and GraceLand (a selection of the Today Show Book Club and winner of the 2005 PEN/Hemingway Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award). His other prizes include a PEN Freedom to Write Award, a Prince Claus Award, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship. He lives and teaches in California.

GOODREADS RATING – 3.98/5 STARS

REVIEW 

This book broke me! Abani’s writing is so beautiful and haunting that once you pick this book up you won’t be able to put it back down. Chris Abani presents a very realistic depiction of a young man named My Luck, who is a mine diffuser and a child soldier. Straight off the bat, Abani describes the physical mutilation that child soldiers experienced wherein their vocal cords were cut so that they could not scream and alert the enemy of their presence. The rest of the book follows My Luck as he tracks down his platoon and remembers how he got to where he is now. The horrors Abani describes are hard to read about and yet, you can’t help but read them. I would recommend this to everyone but perhaps aged 18+. This book covers a lot of heavy and adult themes that may be unsuitable for a younger audience.

Rating 5/5 STARS!

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GOODREADS – KATERINA TURNER