Top Ten Tuesday – Books I Want to Read Before the End of 2020

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this latest Top Ten Tuesday participants are supposed to list the Top Ten Book Titles that Would Make Great Song Titles.  However, I am going to do something a little different today and I am instead going to list the Top Ten novels I want to read before the end of 2020.

This is a bit of a continuation of a list I did this time last year when I realised that there were only 50 days left in the year and I was freaking out about all the books I still wanted to read.  Well, as crazy as it sounds, this year has nearly come to an end and there are currently only just over 50 days left in it.  While I for one will not be sorry to see the backend of 2020, I am very mindful of the big pile of novels from this year currently sitting on my table (my editor/wife Alex wants to point out that it is actually tables, plural, plus a couple of bookshelves).  So with that in mind I thought I would do another version of this list to inspire me to read these books and knock them out before this year from hell comes to an end.

For this list I have had a decent look through my many book piles to work out which novels I really need to finish off before the year ends.  In order to focus this list on books that are cluttering up the house a little, I decided to exclude novels that I do not currently have copies of (such as Call of the Bone Ships by R. J. Barker, which is hopefully on its way).  I also decided to exclude novels that I am definitely going to read before the end of the year because I am planning to review them for a Canberra Weekly Christmas column (for example, Hollow Empire by Sam Hawke or The Emperor’s Exile by Simon Scarrow).  Using these parameters, I was able to come up with a list of 10 books (with some honourable mentions), that I would really like to read before the year ends.  This list includes an interesting range of novels, from some of the top releases of 2020 to some novels that came in a little under the radar.  However, all 10 sound really good and I cannot wait to try and read them all.

Honourable Mentions:

Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett

Shorefall Cover

TRUEL1F3 by Jay Kristoff

TRUEL1F3 Cover

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder Club Cover

Top Ten List:

The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso

The Obsidian Tower Cover
I am honestly surprised and a little ashamed that I have not made time to read this awesome-sounding novel yet.  The Obsidian Tower is the latest book from rising fantasy star Melissa Caruso and it is set in the same universe as her Swords and Fire trilogy.  I am a major fan of the Sword and Fire books (made up of The Tethered Mage, The Defiant Heir and The Unbound Empire) and this is the book I will try the hardest to make time for in the coming weeks.


The Devil and the Dark Water
by Stuart Turton

The Devil and the Dark Water Cover

Another book I am very much berating myself for not making time for.  The Devil and the Dark Water is the second novel from Stuart Turton, who wowed me so much in 2018 with his debut novel, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.  I have a lot of love for Turton’s previous release and I am sure that this new book is going to be just as awesome.


Either Side of Midnight
by Benjamin Stevenson

Either Side of Midnight Cover

Either Side of Midnight is an intriguing-sounding Australian crime fiction novel that I am really looking forward to reading.  The sequel to Stevenson’s debut novel, Greenlight, Either Side of Midnight follows a fascinating and complex murder scenario following an apparent suicide on live television.  This should make for a fun read, and I cannot wait to check out this awesome sounding book.


The Wolf of Oren-Yara
by K. S. Villoso

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro Cover

This exciting and action-packed fantasy novel caught my eye earlier in the year, and I have been curious to check it out ever since.  I have heard some good things about The Wolf of Oren-Yara, which serves as the first book in the fantastically titled Chronicles of the Bitch Queen series, and I think I am really going to enjoy this impressive sounding novel.


The Return
by Harry Sidebottom

The Return Cover

Acclaimed historical fiction author Harry Sidebottom has been on a real roll over the last couple of years, producing two unique and enjoyable Roman historical fiction novels (The Last Hour and The Lost Ten) that each had the characteristics of a particular genre of thriller/crime fiction.  The Return apparently contains some elements of Scandi-noir fiction, and I look forward to seeing how this distinctive murder mystery style blends with a classic Roman historical fiction story.


Cyber Shogun Revolution
by Peter Tieryas

Cyber Shogun Revolution

I had an absolute blast reading Tieryas’s previous novel in the United States of Japan series, Mecha Samurai Empire, and have been really looking forward to reading Cyber Shogun Revolution ever since it was announced.  This new United States of Japan novel should be another incredible and distinctive novel and I need to make a real effort to check it out soon.


The Bluffs
by Kyle Perry

The Bluffs Cover

The Bluffs is another Australian crime fiction novel that I am quite keen to read before the end of the year.  The Bluffs is the debut novel of Kyle Perry and it sounds like quite an intriguing novel set deep within the wilds of the Tasmanian bush.  I have heard some good things about The Bluffs from some fellow reviewers and I am quite keen to read it in the next few weeks.


The Sandman
by Neil Gaiman and Dirk Maggs

The Sandman

I am a major comic book fan, but I have to admit that I have never had the opportunity to read Neil Gaiman’s iconic The Sandman comics.  Luckily, an audio drama adaptation of this classic comic was released earlier this year featuring a first-rate voice cast and helmed by radio production stalwart Dirk Maggs, and I am looking forward to seeing how this audio depiction of the comic turns out.

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

The Bone Shard Daughter Cover

The Bone Shard Daughter is an impressive-sounding fantasy debut that came out a little while ago.  This is another novel that I have heard some really good things about and it should hopefully turn out to be a first-rate book.

War Lord by Bernard Cornwell

War_Lord_cover.PNG

The last entry on this list is War Lord by Bernard Cornwell.  War Lord is the final book in Cornwell’s long-running The Last Kingdom series.  I am a major fan of The Last Kingdom novels and I am extremely curious to see how this outstanding historical fiction series finally comes to an end.

That’s the end of this week’s Top Ten list.  I am extremely happy with how this list turned out as I am really keen to read each and every one of the novels listed above.  All of them have an amazing amount of potential and I think several could end up being some of my favourite books of 2020.  Make sure to check back in a few weeks to see if I have managed to get around to reading any of them yet.  In the meantime, let me know which books you really want to read before the end of 2020 and best of luck getting through them.

Book Haul – 4 November 2020

It has been a few weeks since I have done a Book Haul post so I thought it would be good to mention a few of the awesome books I have been lucky enough to receive since my last post.  I have recently been sent a great collection of intriguing books and I am really looking forward to checking them all out.

The Queen’s Captain by Peter Watt

The Queen's Captain Cover

I was pretty happy to receive my copy of The Queen’s Captain last week.  Not only is this the exciting third novel in a great series from Australian author Peter Watt (check out my reviews for the first two novels in the series, The Queen’s Colonial and The Queen’s Tiger), but I was also very chuffed to find out that they quoted my Canberra Weekly review for The Queen’s Tiger on the back cover (see below).  I am hoping to check this one out soon and I am expecting another action packed historical read.

The Queen's Captain - Back Cover

Map’s Edge by David Hair

Map's Edge Cover 2

The next book in this post is Map’s Edge by bestselling fantasy author David Hair.  Map’s Edge is the first entry in a cool new fantasy series that follows a group of treasure hunters as they enter a wild new land to claim a vast fortune.  I have actually already read this book (I am hoping to get a review up soon), and it was an awesome and compelling novel.

The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly

The Law of Innocence Cover

The latest novel from the master of crime fiction, Michael Connelly, The Law of Innocence is a cool sounding book that sees the Lincoln Lawyer, Mickey Haller, forced to defend himself in court when he is framed for murder.  I have really enjoyed Connelly’s recent novels (including Dark Sacred Night, The Night Fire and Fair Warning) and this is one of my most anticipated books for the second half of 2020.  I am planning to read The Law of Innocence next and I have high hopes that will turn out to be one of the best novels of the year.

Either Side of Midnight by Benjamin Stevenson

Either Side of Midnight Cover

This is an intriguing murder mystery novel from Australian author Benjamin Stevenson that serves as a sequel to his 2018 debut, Greenlight.  I really like the sound of this book’s plot as the protagonist investigates an impossible murder.

Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Cover

Rhythm of War is the latest novel from Brandon Sanderson, who may be the best fantasy author in the world today.  This is the fourth book in his major series, The Stormlight Archive, and it is one of the most anticipated books of 2020.  This should prove to be an absolutely amazing novel, although I might not get around to reading it for a while.  I have still only read the first book in the series, The Way of Kings, and I would really prefer to read the books two and three first before I attempt to get through Rhythm of War.  I will read this book one day and I have no doubt it will be another five-star read from Sanderson.

Excavation by James Rollins

9780380810932

This is an older novel that was recently lent to me by my colleague Jeffery at Murder, Mayhem and Long Dogs after I mentioned wanting to read some of  James Rollins’ books in my review for Dogs of War by Jonathan Maberry.  This sounds like a really cool read that see’s a group of archaeologists attacked by a creature deep within an ancient tomb and I have no doubt I will enjoy this compelling horror thriller.

Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer

Instant Karma Cover

The final book on my list is Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer, a young adult novel about opposites literally attracting.  Now I have to admit this is not a book I would usually go for, but I am willing to give this one a go due to how much I enjoyed Meyer’s Renegades series (check out my reviews for Archenemies and Supernova).  I am planning to read this book in the next month or so and I am curious to see how much I enjoy it.

That’s all the books I have received recently.  As you can see it is an interesting assortment of novels from across a variety of genres.  Each of these books are rather enticing and I am rather looking forward to seeing how each of them turn out.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books with Colours in the Title

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, participants need to list their top ten favourite books that feature a colour in their title.  This proved to be a particularly interesting topic to do, and I was rather curious to see just how many of the books that I have read had a colour in the title.

While I had a few titles in the top of my mind when I first saw what this topic was, I had to dive through the bibliographies of some of my favourite authors and through my blog archives to see what I could find.  This worked out well, and I was able to come up with a final list that I am rather happy with.  This list is filled with a great range of different books which includes a combination of recent novels I have read and reviewed, as well as some old favourites.  I managed to eventually cull this down to my absolute favourites, as well as including a few special honourable mentions.

Honourable Mentions:


The Colour of Magic
by Terry Pratchett

The Colour of Magic Cover

When I first heard about this week’s topic this was the book that I initially thought of, even though technically it does not have a true colour in the title.  Because of this technicality, I decided to include it as an honourable mention, rather than on the main list, but there was no way I could not mention this amazing first entry in Pratchett’s iconic Discworld series.


Gray Man
books by Mark Greaney

Gray Man Covers

This is another one that is technically ineligible for this list, as it is the series name which has the colour in it rather than the individual book titles.  However, I have really enjoyed the two Gray Man novels that I have read (Mission Critical and One Minute Out), so I thought I would include it as an honourable mention.


The Red Ribbon
by H. B. Lyle

The Red Ribbon Cover


Greenlight
by Benjamin Stevenson

Greenlight by Benjamin Stevenson Cover

 

Top Ten List (no particular order):


Demon in White
by Christopher Ruocchio

Demon in White Cover 2

The first book that I am featuring in this list is the Demon in White, which I only just finished reading today.  This was a fantastic and epic read which serves as the third book in Ruocchio’s amazing Sun Eater series of science fiction novels.  This book has a couple of different cover designs, but I decided to go with the one above, as not only is it really striking but it features so much of the titular colour in it.


Red
Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

Red Seas Under Red Skies

There was no way that I could create a list about books with colours in their title without featuring this incredible book.  I absolutely loved Red Seas Under Red Skies, which is the second book in Lynch’s iconic Gentleman Bastards fantasy series, especially as, in some ways, it is a better novel than the incredible first entry in the series, The Lies of Locke Lamora.


Red Metal
by Mark Greaney and Hunter Ripley Rawlings IV

Red Metal Cover 2


Talon of the Silver Hawk
by Raymond E. Feist

Talon of the Silver Hawk Cover

I had to include at least one book from one of my favourite authors, Raymond E. Feist, and I actually found a couple of good options here.  While I was tempted to use Feist’s second book, Silverthorn, I ended up going with Talon of the Silver Hawk.  This is mainly because Talon of the Silver Hawk was the first of Feist’s books that I ever read and it started my life-long love for the author’s novels, as I immediately went back and checked out the rest of the books in the epic Riftwar Cycle after I finished reading it.


Black Leviathan
by Bernd Perplies

Black Leviathan Cover


Usagi Yojimbo
: Volume 24: Return of the Black Soul by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo - Return of the Black Soul

Readers of this blog will know that I am a major fan of the Usagi Yojimbo series of comics, so when I started working out what to include in this list I made sure to check out which collected edition had colours in their titles.  I ended up being spoiled for choice here as three full volumes had titles that could be featured on this list, and while I could have included Grey Shadows or Red Scorpion, both of which are truly outstanding comics, I decided to use the 24th volume of the series, Return of the Black Soul, for this list.  Return of the Black Soul contains an amazing story that reveals the origins of the compelling and terrifying antagonists, Jei, and it is a major and impressive volume in the Usagi Yojimbo saga.


Star Wars: Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson

Galaxy's Edge - Black Spire Cover


Streams of Silver
by R. A. Salvatore

Streams of Silver Cover

R. A. Salvatore has written a phenomenal number of fantasy novels in his 30+ year career but only one of them has had a colour in the title, his second novel, Streams of Silver. This was a particularly good book from Salvatore, which served as a really strong sequel to his awesome first novel, The Crystal Shard, and it is a wonderful example of classic fantasy fiction.


Red War
by Kyle Mills (based on the series by Vince Flynn)

Red War Cover


The Priory of the Orange Tree
by Samantha Shannon

The Priory of the Orange Tree Cover

 

Well that’s my Top Ten List for this week.  I think it turned out rather well, and I liked the intriguing collection of different novels that I ended up featuring.  Not only are all the above books really amazing reads, but each of them have impressive covers and there are some great colour centric titles in there.  It looks like the colour red is very popular for book titles, although black and silver are both also used a lot.  Make sure to let me know which of the above books you enjoyed, as well as which are your favourite books with colours in their titles.

Waiting on Wednesday – Either Side of Midnight and Inside Out

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.  For my latest edition of Waiting on Wednesday, I have a hankering for some compelling mysteries, so I am going to have a look at two upcoming novels featuring some very unique murders.

Either Side of Midnight Cover

The first of these books is the intriguing-sounding Either Side of Midnight by Australian author Benjamin Stevenson.  This upcoming book, which is currently set for release on 1 September 2020, has the compelling story hook of a disgraced journalist attempting to prove that a very public suicide was actually murder.  Either Side of Midnight will serve as a sequel to Stevenson’s debut novel, Greenlight, which was released back in 2018.  Greenlight was a fantastic and enjoyable Australian murder mystery novel that made amazing use of the true-crime documentary trope to produce an enjoyable and thought-provoking narrative, featuring a complex protagonist, Jack Quick, who had to deal with the consequences of manipulating evidence for television ratings.  This upcoming sequel will focus on Quick after he is released from jail, and it will be interesting to see how much this character has evolved from the first book.  I am really looking forward to this upcoming novel, and I am curious to see how Either Side of Midnight will measure up compared to Stevenson’s fantastic debut.  There is a lot to be excited for when it comes to this second novel, and I am rather keen to see how its extremely fascinating plot premise turns out.

Goodreads Synopsis:

An electrifying thriller with a mind-bending premise: One million viewers witness a popular TV presenter commit suicide live on air – yet his twin brother is convinced it was murder.

How can it be murder when the victim pulled the trigger?

At 9.01 pm, TV presenter Sam Midford delivers the monologue for his popular current affairs show Mr Midnight. He seems nervous and the crew are convinced he’s about to propose to his girlfriend live on air.

Instead, he pulls out a gun and shoots himself in the head.

Sam’s grief-stricken brother Harry is convinced his brother was murdered. But how can that be, when one million viewers witnessed Sam pull the trigger?

Only Jack Quick, a disgraced television producer in the last days of a prison sentence, is desperate enough to take Harry’s money to investigate.

But as Jack starts digging, he finds a mystery more complex than he first assumed. And if he’s not careful, he’ll find out first-hand that there’s more than one way to kill someone . . .

Inside Out Cover

The other complex murder mystery novel that has caught my attention is Inside Out by Chris McGeorge, which is set for release towards the end of the year.  McGeorge came onto the scene a few years ago and has been producing some amazing murder mystery novels that are twists on the classic locked room mystery novels.  His new upcoming novel, Inside Out, looks to be another captivating standalone book that contains an excellent sounding new mystery.  This novel has another fascinating story premise, and I cannot wait to see what the solution to this fantastic scenario is.

Hachette Australia Synopsis:

Cara Lockhart has just commenced a life sentence in HMP New Fern – the newest maximum security woman’s prison in the country. She was convicted of a murder she is adamant she didn’t commit.

One morning she wakes up to find her cellmate murdered – shot in the head with a gun that is missing. The door was locked all night, which makes Cara the only suspect. There is only one problem – Cara knows she didn’t do it and she has no idea who did.

Being the only one who knows the truth, Cara sets about trying to clear her name, unravelling an impossible case, with an investigation governed by a prison timetable. Cara starts to learn more about her fellow prisoners, finding connections between them and herself that she would never have imagined.

Indeed it seems that her conviction and her current situation might be linked in strange ways…

I think that both of these upcoming novels sound really incredible and loaded with potential.  Either Side of Midnight and Inside Out should prove to be fantastic reads, and I cannot wait to see what dastardly and complex mysteries these two talented authors have produced.

Greenlight by Benjamin Stevenson

Greenlight by Benjamin Stevenson Cover.jpg

Publisher: Michael Joseph

Publication Date – 3 September 2018

 

From debuting Australian author Benjamin Stevenson comes this chilling and intelligent murder mystery that builds a thrilling case with some sensational twists around an intriguing true crime documentary plot device.

Four years ago, in the small Australian country town of Birravale, Curtis Wade was arrested and tried for the murder of young woman Eliza Dacey.  Hated by the entire town and viewed as an outsider, Curtis was quickly found guilty of the crime with very little evidence presented at the trial.  Everyone was convinced of Curtis’ guilt until podcaster and documentarian Jack Quick decided to get involved.

Noting some inconsistencies in the case and sensing an opportunity for fame, Jack decided to make a true crime documentary series, presenting the local police as incompetent and biased.  His series becomes an overnight hit across Australia, and his edited footage convinces many in the country of Curtis’s innocence.  But the night before the finale is due to air, Jack notices a piece of crucial evidence near the murder scene that could prove that Curtis is guilty after all.  Determined not to ruin his series, and convinced that no matter what happens Curtis will never see the light of day again, he disposes of the evidence.  However, thanks to his series, Curtis is released on retrial, and then a second murder is committed, with several grisly details of the first case replicated.  Has Jack just let a murderer go free?

Returning to Birravale, Jack must once again dive into the secrets of a town that hates him for the way his show portrayed them.  As Jack attempts to solve this crime, he must overcome his own past while also dealing with the guilt of the situation.  But did Curtis commit this new crime, or is he being framed by the real killer?  Whoever the murderer is, Jack is wrapped up in their game and for once he needs to reveal the whole truth.

Greenlight is the first novel from Australian comedian and author Benjamin Stevenson and represents a brilliant and exhilarating debut.  This book has an amazing central storyline with a massively intriguing mystery that focuses on the innocence or guilt of the man who has already been both convicted and found innocent of the same murder.  The protagonist must look at whether the person he released from jail committed the murder he was originally convicted of, as well as a second, similar murder that occurred after the suspect has been released.  The reader is constantly left guessing about whether the prime suspect, Curtis, has committed either or both of the crimes, or whether he is actually innocent.  At the same time, the reader is presented with a series of plausible alternative suspects who have motive for either of the murders or, in some cases, the same motive for both of the killings, and this creates some exciting doubt about the original suspect’s guilt.  The final reveals and twists of this case are rather shocking and will definitely provide the readers with some excellent surprises.  Stevenson does a good job providing a lot of hints and foreshadowing in his text, and readers will enjoy seeing how these cleverly scattered clues are brought together in the end.  Overall, this is a hell of a mystery and the author does a fantastic job tying the investigation into the book’s other elements.

One of the most noticeable and outstanding parts of Greenlight is its true crime elements and how this affects both the story and the way that the book is written.  Ever since the dramatic popularity of the 2015 Netflix true crime show, Making a Murderer, various books and shows have attempted to emulate the documentary setting in their works.  What I liked about Stevenson’s book was that, rather than dealing with the creation of the documentary, it is mostly set some months after the television series was released and instead takes a look at the consequences that the show has had.  Not only is a potential murderer released, but various lives and careers have been ruined as a result of the protagonist’s actions.  It is absolutely fascinating to see the various ways that the reaction and follow-up of the true crime television series comes into play through the story.  The protagonist has to deal with a series of characters who are annoyed or angry about their portrayal in the series, which informs the help, assistance or compassion that these characters give.  The success of the series also affects the police response, leaving the protagonist much more open to investigate the crime.  It is also intriguing to see a television show being used as a motive for murder throughout the book, as the second murder could potentially be tied into righting the wrongs that the show caused.  Stevenson covers all these elements incredibly well, and the examination of the consequences and damages of a successful true crime documentary series turns out to be the perfect backdrop for this captivating murder story.

On top of the powerful mystery and the terrific plot focus, Stevenson has also created an interesting central protagonist who serves as the point of view character for most of the book.  The main character, Jack, is the documentarian who makes the show that gets the mystery’s main suspect freed from jail.  Watching the guilt and shame that this character experiences as a result of his various actions, such as the creation of the show, tampering with evidence and editing the videos to tell a specific story, is a great part of this story, and it serves as a perfect motivation for this character’s continued and at times frantic investigation.  Watching the character understand the full extent of his questionable actions, especially after the second murder, is an outstanding part of this book that highlights Stevenson’s strong writing ability.  It is also interesting to see how his experiences creating a documentary have affected his judgement and the way he perceives the world.  The protagonist now sees the slanted way many of the characters talk when it comes to case, and he is constantly trying to determine what role the people who are involved in the case would have in a television show, such as a main character or a supporting cast member.  The author also creates some interesting character background for Jack that works well with this story, as guilt and trauma from his childhood combines with the current extreme blame and he is currently feeling.  Stevenson also produces an accurate and powerful description of an eating disorder that Jack is suffering from, and not only is this description respectful done and informative, but it adds another level to this excellent main character.

A large amount of Greenlight’s plot is set in the fictional small, winegrowing country town of Birravale in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales.  This serves as a great background setting for the murder investigation as the small town secrets and attitudes play a huge role in the overall mystery.  Stevenson does an amazing job portraying a winegrowing community, and provides some interesting details that come into play in a number of ways and often result in a number of potential murder motives.  The small-town setting also works well with the post true crime series plot element, as the protagonist encounters an entire town that has been portrayed in a negative light throughout this series and is viewed in a different way by the rest of the country.  Seeing these resultant attitudes and the impacts his series has had on the town works wonders for the main character and is a great part of this book.

In his debuting novel, Australian author Benjamin Stevenson has created an incredibly captivating mystery storyline.  Greenlight contains a number of outstanding elements, from shocking plot twists and reveals, an excellent central character and an utterly fascinating central plot device, all of which come together into one amazing novel.  This is an exceptional first book from Stevenson which highlights both his fantastic ability and his huge potential as a crime writer.

My Rating:

Four and a half stars