Reading is a healthy way to exercise one’s imagination and widen our vocabulary. Let’s make it part of our life’s journey in 2019.

In 2018, I was privileged to review some books of varied genres. Many of which are worth recommending, and there were also those that need improvement. Here are at least five books that I recommend to you. But don’t get me wrong. I don’t earn any commission from the publishers or authors of these books. This selection is my personal choice and I voluntarily make this recommendation.

Pancake Money

Written by Finn Bell, Pancake Money is a thriller. But unlike other serial killer books, the author tries to veer away from the conventional way of presenting a thriller plot.

Pancake Money follows the story of the multiple murder case assignment to two detectives. Partners Pollo Latu and Bobby Ress were initially assigned to investigate the death of a retired priest in Dunedin, New Zealand, only to realize that it was just the beginning of a series of cases that they needed to resolve. The title of the book is a paradox. Pancake Money talks about how pain motivates a person’s behavior which can potentially lead the victim to inflict harm against another. Bobby Ress has to tread carefully between shielding his mentally-challenged daughter from the harsh reality of the world and protecting the community he vows to serve.

Finn Bell is such a creative author, skillfully sustaining the suspense element of the story to the end. The plot is fast-paced that it leaves the readers breathless as if they are thrust right into the scene. The turning point of the plot is when Bobby Ress has to team up with the most unlikely figure in town. Will he or will he not trust the new guy?

I give Pancake Money a rating of 5 out of 5 stars, and recommend it to readers 18 years old and above. This book is not suitable for younger readers because of its graphic content.

Twisted Threads

Twisted Threads is the fourth volume of a series, although this installment can stand alone. Written by Kaylin McFarren, the book follows the story of Akira, a geisha-turned assassin. She is hired to avenge the death of a comrade in the yakuza-type organization. To carry out her mission, Akira has to embark on a cruise aboard the ship where the suspected murderers are in. Her master plan includes befriending the nephew of the suspect, making him an unwitting accomplish.

As the title suggests, the story is full of twists and turns. Just when the reader surmises the culprit, a new revelation or incident occurs, pointing to other directions. McFarren skillfully intertwines the plot that makes the story stimulating. I’m sure, you will find it difficult putting down the book once you start reading it. I recommend Twisted Threads to readers 18 years old and above. This book, however, may not be suitable for younger readers because it contains some graphic scenes and sensitive issues.

The Warramunga’s War

Written by Greg Kater, The Warramunga’s War follows the story of two military personnel who first met during a military operation in the Desert War. Lieutenant James “Jamie” Munro and Corporal Jack “Jacko” O’Brien were given a new assignment together which brought them to Egypt. They teamed up with other military personnel, who were already stationed in the country, to conduct a counter-espionage work for the Allied Forces during the Second World War.

Despite the author’s claim that The Warramunga’s War is his first work of fiction, I see an experienced story-teller in Greg Kater. He has done thorough research on History and has skillfully incorporated fictitious characters into real-life events and people. Even if the book is about World War II, the plot is not much about the actual fighting. It rather focuses on the activities behind the front line. Another interesting part of the story is when Kater gives its readers a glimpse of the Aborigine culture.

The Warramunga’s War is the first installment of a trilogy. I give this book a rating of 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to readers 14 years old and above. It’s also safe for young readers, although they may find it difficult to picture life in the 1940s.

The Warramunga’s Aftermath of War

This is the second installment of Greg Kater’s trilogy. The story of The Warramunga’s Aftermath of War starts where the first volume ends. Again, the lead characters here are still the partners James “Jamie” Munro and Jack “Jacko” O’Brien. They now head the office of the Commonwealth Investigation Service (CIS), an organization that takes charge of the intelligence and counter-espionage and investigation of criminal activities in Northern Australia and its surrounding regions.

On Christmas Day of 1945 in Australia, Jamie and Jacko received a distress call from a fishing boat battered by bad weather. As they set out in search of the vessel, the detectives discovered that there was something off in the fishing boat. Instead of fishing equipment, they found a dead boy floating in the water and another frightened one hiding inside the boat. It turned out that the detectives’ discovery is just a part of a huge pedophile ring.

Again, The Warramunga’s Aftermath of War shows the creativity and genius of the author. Just as he did in his first book, Kater interweaves his fictitious characters into real events and people. He’s also adept in geography, carefully describing the actual places where the scenes happen.

The only flaw I noticed in this book is the author’s incorrect use of the local Filipino languages in the dialogues. A Filipino reader would find the lines confusing and awkward. Kater should have consulted a native Filipino speaker to supply the local dialogues in his story. Only for this reason, though, that I give The Warramunga’s Aftermath of War a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. I recommend this book to readers 14 years old and above.

The Buried Secrets of Peonies

The Buried Secrets of Peonies is a collection of eight short stories. Written by Mernegar Dorgoly, the plot is set in Iran during the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s rule. Each story depicts the typical life of an ordinary Iranian citizen under the country’s theocratic government Had the author not classified her book under fiction, readers who are familiar of the Iranian situation during the period would have thought this is non-fiction.

I surmise her reason for telling the stories is to provide a memoir of a generation, who sacrificed themselves for the sake of Iran’s freedom. Dorgoly is an Iranian herself, so this book must be written from personal experience or she must have been a witness to the suffering of her countrymen then. The Buried Secrets of Peonies is her first collection of stories and she’s able to put her message across well. My only comment is that she should have given proper names to the characters instead of referring to them in pronouns. And only for this reason that I give the book a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. I recommend The Buried Secrets of Peonies to readers 15 years old and above.

That’s all for now! Let’s keep the habit of reading alive.