Book Haul – 15 November 2020

I have had a pretty awesome week book-wise, having been lucky enough to receive several amazing novels that I am quite excited to read.  I have been waiting for most of these novels for some time now and I have very high hopes for all of them.

Hollow Empire by Sam Hawke

Hollow Empire Cover 2

The first entry in this Book Haul post is Hollow Empire by Canberra author Sam Hawke.  Hawke’s first novel, City of Lies, was one of my favourite novels of 2018 and I am really looking forward to seeing how she follows up her epic debut fantasy novel.

The Emperor’s Exile by Simon Scarrow

The Emperor's Exile Cover

The Emperor’s Exile is the latest novel in the captivating Eagles of the Empire historical fiction series (check out my reviews for the last two entries in the series, The Blood of Rome and Traitors of Rome).  Scarrow is an extremely talented author and I cannot wait to see how the latest entry in this action-packed historical fiction series continues.

Nophek Gloss by Essa Hansen

Nophek Gloss Cover

This book is an intriguing debut from new author Essa Hansen.  Containing an exciting sounding science fiction story, Nophek Gloss is quite an interesting novel and I am curious to see how it turns out.

Hideout by Jack Heath

Hideout Cover

Another entry from a Canberran author, Hideout is the latest book from Australian crime writer Jack Heath and the third book in the Timothy Blake series.  These books follow the adventures of a cannibal who serves as a consultant to the FBI, and Hideout features a cracker of a story idea, with the protagonist trapped in a house with several other psychopaths, one of whom is murdering everyone else, one by one.  Hideout sounds incredibly fun and I cannot wait to check it out.

Firefly: Generations by Tim Lebbon

Firefly Generations

Generations is the fourth entry in a series of Firefly tie-in novels that have been released over the last couple of years.  I am a major fan of the Firefly franchise, and all three prior novels (Big Damn Hero, The Magnificent Nine and The Ghost Machine), have been extremely enjoyable reads.  I have been waiting for this latest novel for a very long time and I am planning on reading it next.

The Return by Harry Sidebottom

The Return Cover

The final entry on this list is The Return by Harry Sidebottom.  Sidebottom is an impressive historical fiction author who has been doing some intriguing things over the last couple of years.  His prior two novels, The Last Hour and The Lost Ten have all combined Roman historical fiction storylines with various thriller/crime fiction sub-genres.  This new novel looks set to be an intense and gripping historical murder mystery story and it will be interesting to see what unique story Sidebottom comes up with this time.

Well that is it for this latest Book Haul post.  I certainly have a lot of great books to read at the moment and I better get to it.  Let me know which of these books you are most excited for and I will try to get to them as soon as possible.  Until then, happy reading.

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.

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Debut Books

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 instalment of Top Ten Tuesday, it is actually something of a special occasion as we celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Top Ten Tuesday, as this fun, weekly adventure was first started back in June 2010. As a result of this celebration, the topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a little different, as readers have two options: either redo a Top Ten Tuesday topic they have previously done, or pick a past topic that they wish they had done. In order to meet this challenge, I decided to try and do a topic that was featured well back in the day. For this Top Ten Tuesday, I will be doing the 33rd topic, which ran in February 2011 on Top Ten Tuesday’s original blog, The Broke and the Bookish, listing my favourite debut books.

Over the years I have had the great pleasure of reading a number of impressive and captivating debut novels, many of which formed the start of an amazing series or which helped launch the writing career of some of the best authors of a variety of different genres. Some of these debuts have been so good that they have stuck with me for life, and I look forward to listing my absolute favourites. I am taking a rather broad stroke approach with this list, and I am going to make any debut that I have read eligible to be included. It does not matter if I read this book out of order, whether I enjoyed later entries from the author first, or whether I have gone back and read this book years after it came out; as long as it is the first full-length novel from an author, it can appear on this list.

This proved to be a rather intriguing list to pull together, as I actually had a rather large collection of debut novels to sort through, and I ended up discarding several really good books that I was sure were going to make the cut. I think that my eventual Top Ten list (with a generous Honourable Mentions section), features a rather interesting and diverse collection of debut books, and I quite like how it turned out. Unsurprisingly, as many of these books are written by my favourite authors, I have mentioned some of these entries and their authors before in prior lists, such as my Top Ten Auto-Buy Author list, and for many of these authors, I am still reading a number of their current novels. So let us see what I was able to come up with.

Honourable Mentions:


The Crystal Shard
by R. A. Salvatore (1988)

The Crystal Shard Cover

The Crystal Shard is the very first book from one of my favourite authors, R. A. Salvatore, and it was the first book in The Icewind Dale trilogy. I really loved this book, and it served as a fantastic start to a massive fantasy series that is still going to this day. The characters introduced in The Crystal Shard have all recently appeared in a brand-new trilogy, made up of Timeless, Boundless and the upcoming Relentless, which I have had an amazing time reading and reviewing.

The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso (2017)

The Tethered Mage Cover

This was a fantastic debut from a couple of years ago that I instantly fell in love with, especially as it led to two awesome sequels, The Defiant Heir and The Unbound Empire.

City of Lies by Sam Hawke (2018)

City of Lies Cover


Empire of Silence
by Christopher Ruocchio (2018)

Empire of Silence Cover

An outstanding science fiction debut with a lot of impressive elements. This was one of my favourite books of 2018, and it led to an amazing sequel last year, Howling Dark, as well as the intriguing upcoming novel, Demon in White.

Top Ten Tuesday (By Release Date):


Magician
by Raymond E. Feist (1982)

Magician Cover

Right off the bat we have Magician by Raymond E. Feist, which may be one of my favourite fantasy novels of all time. I first read this book years ago, and its clever story and substantial universe building has helped make me a lifelong fan of both the author and the fantasy genre. This was the first book in the epic and long-running Riftwar Cycle, which included the fantastic spinoff series, The Empire trilogy. I am still enjoying Feist’s books to this day, as his latest novel, King of Ashes, was a lot of fun, while his upcoming book, Queen of Storms, is one of my most anticipated releases for the next couple of months.

Legend by David Gemmell (1984)

Legend


Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
by J. K. Rowling (1997)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Cover

No list about top debuts can be complete without the first book in the world-changing Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. This was an impressive novel, filled with immense amount of world building, that I absolutely loved while growing up. While you kind of have to ignore anything that the author says outside of the books, this is still an outstanding novel, that holds a special place in my heart.

Under the Eagle by Simon Scarrow (2000)

Under the Eagle Cover

Under the Eagle was one of the very first historical fiction novels that I ever read, and it really helped me get into the genre (something that would eventually lead to me reviewing books professionally). Under the Eagle is an impressive and compelling Roman history novel that follows two Roman soldiers during the invasion of Britain. Filled with a lot of great action and historical detail, this was the first book in the Eagles of the Empire series, which is still running to this day (make sure to check out my reviews for the last couple of books in the series, The Blood of Rome and Traitors of Rome).

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (2006)

The Lies of Locke Lamora Cover

This was an exceedingly entertaining and wildly impressive fantasy novel which followed a group of conmen in a dangerous, magical city. The Lies of Locke Lamora was a really good book, and I think it would be impossible for someone to read it and not instantly fall in love with it. This book also served as the first entry in the outstanding Gentleman Bastards series, which currently contains three amazing books, with the fourth novel, The Thorn of Emberlain, hopefully coming out at some point in the future.

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie (2006)

The Blade Itself

The Blade Itself is an intriguing and inventive dark fantasy novel that follows a complex and damaged group of protagonists in a world full of blood, betrayal and war. This book was the first entry in The First Law series of novels, all of which have been a real treat to read. It has also led to an awesome sequel series The Age of Madness trilogy, the first book of which, A Little Hatred, was one of my favourite releases of 2019.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (2007)

The Name of the Wind Cover

This was an extremely epic and captivating read, which may be one of the absolute best fantasy debuts of all time. The Name of the Wind contains an amazing, character driven story that follows the early days of a man destined to become an infamous hero. I cannot emphasise how much I loved this book, and its sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear, was just as good, if not better. I cannot wait for the third novel in the series, currently titled The Doors of Stone, to come out, and it is probably my most anticipated upcoming release (my kingdom for an early copy of this book).

Fire in the East by Harry Sidebottom (2008)

Fire in the East Cover

Fire in the East is an excellent historical fiction novel that I had an amazing time reading some years ago. The very first novel from Harry Sidebottom, who would go on to write some amazing books like The Last Hour and The Lost Ten, Fire in the East had a very impressive Roman siege storyline, that few other historical fiction authors have come close to matching.

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan (2013)

promise of blood cover


Planetside
by Michael Mammay (2018)

Planetside Cover 2

The final book in my list is Planetside, the addictive and exciting science fiction/thriller hybrid whose sudden and destructive conclusion absolutely blew me away. Mammay did an outstanding job with his first book, and last year’s sequel, Spaceside, is also really worth checking out.

Well that’s my Top Ten List for this week. I rather like the list that I came up with, and there is a good collection of novels there, although it is slightly more fantasy-heavy than I intended. For some of these books I really need to go back and reread them at some point so that I can do a Throwback Thursday review of them. This is probably a list that I will come back to in the future as well, as there are always impressive new debuts coming out. For example, this year I have already read a fantastic debut, The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold, and I am also looking forward to several great sounding upcoming debuts like Assault by Fire by Hunter Ripley Rawlins and The Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell. In the meantime, be sure to me know which of the books above are your favourites, as well as which debut novels you would add to your Top Ten list.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books on My Winter 2020 TBR

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 the top ten books on their Winter 2020 (or Summer 2020 for those up in the Northern Hemisphere) to be read (TBR) list.

There are some rather fantastic-sounding novels coming out in the next couple of months, and I am quite excited for a number of them. Surprisingly, producing this list did not go as smoothly as some previous TBR lists that I have done. This is because several books I was hoping to include have been delayed since the last time I looked them up, presumably due to the coronavirus outbreak. While this is a little disappointing, I was still able to come up with a good list of Winter TBR books, and the entries below are some of my most anticipated releases coming out in June, July and August 2020. I have previously addressed several of these books before in my weekly Waiting on Wednesday posts, and there is also likely to be some crossover between this list and some of my previous Top Ten Tuesday lists, such as my Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2020 list and my Predicted Five Star Reads list. I have also chosen to exclude any books that I have already read or have started reading (such as Stormblood by Jeremy Szal). Overall, I think I came up with quite a diverse list of books.

Honourable Mentions:

Devolution by Max Brooks – 16 June 2020

Devolution Cover


Star Wars: Shadow Fall
by Alexander Freed – 2 July 2020

Star Wars - Shadow Fall Cover


Out of Time
by David Klass – 21 July 2020

Out of Time Cover

Top Ten List (By Release Date):


The Obsidian Tower
by Melissa Caruso – 9 June 2020

The Obsidian Tower Cover


The Return
by Harry Sidebottom – 11 June 2020

The Return Cover


The Constant Rabbit
by Jasper Fforde – 30 June 2020

The Constant Rabbit Cover

This is a really quirky and entertaining novel that I received earlier this week, which I think could be a lot of fun to read. Jasper Fforde is an author who I have enjoyed for years, and I had a great time reading his last book, Early Riser. His latest book, The Constant Rabbit, sounds absolutely bonkers as it features anthropomorphic rabbits moving into a human town and facing prejudice in a satire of racism in the UK. I am sure I am going to laugh myself silly with this book, and it should be a really unique read.

Queen of Storms by Raymond E. Feist – 14 July 2020

Queen of Storms Cover


World of Warcraft: Shadows Rising
by Madeleine Roux – 14 July 2020

Shadows Rising Cover


Demon in White
by Christopher Ruocchio – 28 July 2020

Demon in White Cover 1


The Gates of Athens
by Conn Iggulden – 4 August 2020

The Gates of Athens Cover

Conn Iggulden is an extremely talented historical fiction author who has produced some amazing novels throughout his career, including his last book, The Falcon of Sparta. His upcoming novel, The Gate of Athens, is the first entry in his new Athenian series, which will take a look at the major wars of ancient Athens. This is probably going to be one of the best historical fiction books that I am going to read in the next few months, and I cannot wait to check it out.

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – 4 August 2020

Harrow the Ninth Cover

Last year I was blown away by the incredible Gideon the Ninth, which was part fantasy, part science fiction, part murder mystery and 100% non-stop fun. Gideon the Ninth was easily one of my favourite debuts of 2019, and I am extremely excited to read the sequel, Harrow the Ninth. This upcoming novel seems set to continue the crazy adventures of the first book, and I am really looking forward to seeing where the story goes after Gideon the Ninth’s shocking conclusion.

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin – 4 August 2020

The Night Swim Cover

The Night Swim is the next intriguing release from Australian author Megan Goldin, and it looks set to be one of the most compelling mystery novels of 2020. I really enjoyed Goldin’s previous book, 2018’s The Escape Room, which I ended up reading in a single night, and I am looking forward to getting through the author’s next compelling story.

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It by K. J. Parker – 25 August 2020

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It

The final book on my list is How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It by bestselling fantasy author K. J. Parker. Parker is a really clever writer who has produced a huge number of impressive fantasy novels over the year. His previous book, Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, was an incredible read and it was one of my favourite books of 2019. Due to how much I enjoyed his last book, and because How to Rule and Empire and Get Away with It might have some intriguing connections to Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, I have extremely high hopes for this upcoming novel, and I think it is going to be absolutely amazing.

 

Well that’s my latest top ten list. I am very happy with the final list that I pulled together, especially as this is a great mixture of impressive-sounding novels. I think each of the books listed above have incredible potential, and I cannot wait to read each and every one of them. Let me know which of these books interests you the most in the comments below.

Waiting on Wednesday – The Grove of the Caesars and The Return

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 Waiting on Wednesday article I take a look at two upcoming historical murder mysteries which I believe are going to be really incredible. Both of these historical mysteries have amazing-sounding plots set in the ancient Roman Empire, and they have been written by two of my current favourite historical fiction authors, Lindsey Davis and Harry Sidebottom.

The Grove of the Caesars Cover

The first of the books I will be looking at is The Grove of the Caesars by legendary Roman historical fiction author Lindsey Davis. The Grove of the Caesars is set for release in early April 2020 and will be the eighth book in Davis’s Flavia Albia series, which is itself a sequel to Davis’s long-running Marcus Didius Falco series. The Flavia Albia series follows its titular protagonist as she investigates a series of murders and other crimes in ancient Rome, and is distinctive thanks to its intriguing mysteries, fantastic depictions of the city and its often humorous tone. I have long been a fan of the Flavia Albia series, having been lucky enough to receive a copy of the first entry, The Ides of April, back when it was first released. I have since gone on and read the rest of the books in this series, and I currently have reviews for the last three books in the series, The Third Nero, Pandora’s Boy and A Capitol Death, on my blog. For this upcoming book in the series, Davis has come up with another amazing sounding plot premise, which is sure to result in an excellent and enjoyable read.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Too many people tell Flavia Albia, ‘Don’t go to the Grove’. Such warnings will only lure her to the place she is warned away from, Julius Caesar’s Gardens, where she finds more than one intriguing mystery.

Someone has buried tattered scrolls here, by unreadable ancient philosophers. Hardly has she taken an interest in what looks like book collecting fraud, when far worse happens. A present evil stirs in the undergrowth. A man holds a birthday party that goes terribly wrong, exposing a long series of neglected crimes.

Albia learns that a serial killer has haunted the gardens and grove for years targeting women. It isn’t her place to investigate; that’s the job of a dubious vigiles cohort, beefed up by the sinister imperial agent, Julius Karus who she thinks is vile. But sympathy for the dead women and their grieving relatives resonates with Albia. Even if she has to work with Karus, nothing will stop her until the serial killer in the sacred grove is at last caught and brought to justice.

I really like the sound of this great book and cannot wait to get my hands on it. Not only has Davis apparently come up with an intriguing story which sets its fun protagonist against a deadly serial killer, but it looks like she will weaving some interesting historical details about Ancient Rome throughout the book. Davis has featured a number of fascinating and unique aspects about parts of ancient Rome into her books before, and I look forward to learning more about Caesar’s gardens, as well as how ancient book collecting fraud would apparently look.

Based on my previous experiences with Davis’s work, the moment I heard that there was going to be another Flavia Albia novel coming out I knew that I was going to enjoy it. This series is extremely entertaining, and I always have a great time unravelling the clever mysteries that Davis comes up with, especially as they often result in large-scale farcical fights. This new story sounds particularly fascinating, and cannot wait to see how it unfolds.

The Return Cover

The second book is The Return, the latest novel from the innovative author Harry Sidebottom, who has been doing some cool things with the Roman historical fiction genre in the last couple of years. Sidebottom is an excellent historical fiction author who has primarily written Roman historical fiction since his debut in 2008. While I am a big fan of his original Warrior of Rome series, his most recent work has been particularly interesting to me, as he has been mixing in distinctive thriller elements to his books. This started with his 2018 release, The Last Hour, which was essentially 24 in ancient Rome as his main protagonist races against the clock to stop the assassination of his Emperor. He followed this up last year with The Lost Ten, which utilised military thriller elements to create quite a compelling story about a group of Roman soldiers infiltrating an impregnable Persian fortress. Both of these books were amazing pieces of fiction and I really enjoyed reading them. His upcoming book, The Return, sounds like it is going to be an intense and compelling read, as Sidebottom is apparently attempting to work elements usually associated with Scandi-noir fiction into this historical fiction tale.

Goodreads Synopsis:

145BC – CALABRIA, ANCIENT ROME. Gaius Furius Paullus has returned home after years of spilling blood for Rome. One of the lucky few to survive a lifetime of brutal battle, he intends to spend his remaining days working quietly on the family farm.

But it seems death has stalked Paullus from the battlefield. Just days after his arrival, bodies start appearing – murdered and mutilated. And as the deaths stack up, and panic spreads, the war hero becomes the prime suspect. After all, Paullus has killed countless enemies on the battlefield – could he have brought his habit home with him?

With the psychological effects of combat clouding every thought, Paullus must use all his soldier’s instincts to hunt the real killer. Because if they are not brought to justice soon, he may become the next victim.

The Return is set to be another amazing and intriguing read from Sidebottom, and I am looking forward to seeing how he combines historical fiction with a dark murder mystery. The whole idea of a troubled and traumatised Roman solider returning home and being forced to try and investigate a crime is pretty darn cool, especially as the after-effects of war start to have an impact on his psyche. I have to say that I am very curious about this one, and I am expecting The Return to be one of the most unique novels of 2020. The Return is due to be released in early June 2020, and I will have to make sure I get it as soon as I can.

Both of these amazing sounding upcoming books should prove to be real highlights of my early 2020 reading year. The Grove of the Caesars and The Return have some extremely awesome plot concepts behind them, and I am really excited to read the latest books from two of top historical fiction authors in the world today.

Top Ten Tuesday – My Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half 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. In this first Top Ten Tuesday for the year, participants need to list their most anticipated book releases for the first half of 2020. The upcoming year is full of some very impressive sounding novels, and there are quite a few out there that I am really looking forward to getting my hands on.

I actually managed to pull together a substantial list of books that are coming out between January and June 2020. I was eventually able to narrow it down to my top ten absolute favourite upcoming releases (that have been announced), with a few honourable mentions included. I have already featured the vast majority of these books in some of my Waiting on Wednesday posts, but there are a couple of inclusions I have not had the chance to talk about yet. I like how the list below turned out and I hope you enjoy it.

Honourable Mention:


Song of the Risen God
by R. A. Salvatore – 28 January 2020

Song of the Risen God Cover


The Warsaw Protocol
by Steve Berry – 25 February 2020

The Warsaw Protocol Cover


The Kingdom of Liars
by Nick Martell – 5 May 2020

The Kingdom of Liars Cover


The Return
by Harry Sidebottom – 11 June 2020

The Return Cover.jpg

Harry Sidebottom has been on a fantastic roll over the last couple of years, producing some amazing Roman historical fiction novels which take inspiration from various modern thriller sub-genres. His previous two books, The Last Hour and The Lost Ten have been very impressive, and his new upcoming novel, The Return, is set to mix Scandi-noir elements with the ancient Italian countryside. This sounds like quite an exciting and enjoyable novel, and I am really looking forward to it.

Top Ten List (by release date):


To the Strongest
by Robert Fabbri – 2 January 2020

To the Strongest Cover


Highfire
by Eoin Colfer – 28 January 2020

Highfire Cover 3


False Value
by Ben Aaronovitch – 25 February 2020

False Value Cover

While I was really hoping to read this book last year, its release date was knocked back to February 2020. Still, it is only a short while until this book comes out and I have no doubt it is going to be another five-star novel from Aaronovitch.

Cyber Shogun Revolution by Peter Tieryas – 3 March 2020

Cyber Shogun Revolution


Shorefall
by Robert Jackson Bennett – 21 April 2020

Shorefall Cover


Firefly: The Ghost Machine
by James Lovegrove – 28 April 2020

Firefly The Ghost Machine Cover.jpg

Lovegrove has already produced two amazing Firefly novels in the last year or so, with Big Damn Heroes and The Magnificent Nine both proving to be outstanding reads. This new upcoming Firefly book, The Ghost Machine, sounds extremely compelling, and I look forward to seeing what interesting adventures Lovegrove takes the crew of Serenity on next.

Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising by Timothy Zahn – 5 May 2020

Thrawn Ascendancy - Chaos Rising Cover


The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
by Suzanne Collins – 19 May 2020

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Cover


Eagle Station
by Dale Brown – 26 May 2020

Eagle Station Cover


The Obsidian Tower
by Melissa Caruso – 2 June 2020

The Obsidian Tower Cover
I think that the above list is a nicely varied and intriguing collection of novels, and I like how I am interested in such a wide variety of different genres and authors. All 10 of the featured books (as well as the honourable mentions) are sure to be excellent, first-rate reads, and I have high hopes for all of them. Let me know which of the books above you are most interested in, as well as which upcoming novels are your most anticipated for the first half of 2020.

Top Ten Tuesday – Book Titles with Numbers in Them

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. While the proposed topic for the October 15 Top Ten Tuesday is actually Books I’d Give Different Titles To, I have decided to mix things up a little and instead, I will be doing a topic from a few weeks ago. The topic I have chosen to do instead is Book Titles with Numbers in Them, where the challenge is to try and come up with a list of 10 books, each of which has a number between one to ten in the title.

Unfortunately, I was away overseas on the Tuesday that this topic ran for everyone else, so I was unable to participate (poor me, forced to relax on a beach in Fiji). While I was just going to miss this topic, after seeing some of my fellow bloggers come up with some pretty cool lists, it got me thinking about the names of books I have read, and whether I could come up with a list like this. I had to scour my library of books pretty darn carefully, but I was eventually able to come up with a list. I do admit that in order to complete this list I had to be a tad liberal with what constituted a number, and I may have included a third and a fifth in place of a three and a five, although I personally think that they should count. This turned into a pretty varied and intriguing list in the end, and I was pretty happy that I was able to complete this challenge.

Honourable Mentions:

Let us start things off with a couple of my favourite books that have numbers in their title outside of the numbers one to ten.

0 – Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry

Patient Zero Cover

My first honourable mention is Patient Zero, the first book in the wildly exciting Joe Ledger series, which I have been slowly powering through in the last year and is probably one of my favourite series at the moment. Patient Zero is a very fun novel that not only sets up an outstanding series but also contains some amazing horror elements in the form of a modern zombie plague. Special mention should also go to the sixth book in the Joe Ledger series, Code Zero, which I just finished and will hopefully review soon.

16 – Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K. J. Parker

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City Cover
One of my favourite books of 2019 so far, this is a hilarious piece of fantasy fiction that I just could not put down.

1000 – Veronica Mars: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line Cover
My final honourable mention is this clever and enjoyable tie-in novel to the popular Veronica Mars television show. Written by the show’s creator and containing an excellent mystery and interesting additions to the canon, this is a must read for Veronica Mars fans, especially in its audiobook format, which is narrated by Kristen Bell.

Top Ten List:

One – Batman: Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli

Batman Year One Cover.jpg

I was initially planning to use either DEV1AT3 by Jay Kristoff (which would have been kind of cheating) or First Watch by Dale Lucas, but then I remembered Batman: Year One. This is one of the most iconic Batman comics of all times, which completely reinvented the origins of Batman for an entire generation and served as the main inspiration for the Batman Begins film. Special callout also to Batgirl/Robin: Year One as well, which are both pretty awesome comics.

Two – The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Two Towers Cover.jpg
This caused me a bit of trouble, mainly because I had two great options to choose from. I was sorely tempted to use The Two Swords by R. A. Salvatore, mainly because Salvatore is one of my favourite authors, but in the end, I decided I could not pass up on the fantasy classic that is The Two Towers, even if it has been a rather long time since I last read it.

Three – The Third Day, the Frost by John Marsden

The Third Day, The Frost Cover

The Third Day, the Frost is the third book in Marsden’s Tomorrow series, which is an absolute classic Australian series and one of my personal favourite sets of books to read and re-read. I was very glad that I was able to include this book on this list, although I was also tempted to use The Third Nero by Lindsey Davis. The Third Day, the Frost is an amazing part of the overall series, not only because it contains some major plot developments, but because it puts all of its characters, and by extension the reader, through an extreme emotional wringer. All of the books in the Tomorrow series come highly recommended, and The Third Day, the Frost has some extremely well-written and harrowing moments in it.

Four – All New Wolverine – Volume One: The Four Sisters by Tom Taylor and David Lopez

All-New Wolverine Volume 1 Cover

The first volume in an extremely fun comic book run of Wolverine, The Four Sisters introduced Marvel Comics fans to the female version of the character, as X-23 took on her father’s mantle following his death. This first volume does a wonderful job setting up the entire series, and it has a special place in my heart for introducing one of my favourite recent Marvel characters with Gabby, aka Honey Badger, X-23’s juvenile clone who is responsible for much of the series’ comedy.

Five – The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett

The Fifth Elephant Cover.jpg

You know a book list is good when it includes a Terry Pratchett novel. Pratchett is probably my favourite author ever, and I am always glad when I can mention one of his books on this blog. The Fifth Elephant is unfortunately the only Discworld book that has a number in its title; however, it is a great addition to this list, especially as it is a key addition to the excellent City Watch subseries and features a comedic murder mystery in a Transylvanian inspired wilderness.

Six – Secret Six (2008) by Gail Simone

Secret Six Cover.jpg

Secret Six was a severely underrated comic book series back in 2008 that followed a small team of villains in the DC universe. Spinning off from the Infinite Crisis connected limited series, Villains United, the Secret Six featured a great roster of characters including the surprisingly badass Catman, Deadshot, Bane, Rag Doll, Scandal Savage and the banshee Jeannette. Lasting for 36 issues, this was an extremely well written series that had some real heart and lot of fun. I decided to include the entire series rather than any specific volume, as you need to read the whole run to really appreciate it.

Seven – The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle Cover

Known as either The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle or The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, this was probably one of the first books I considered when I came up with this list. A unique and clever murder mystery, this was one of my favourite books from 2018 and is a heck of a good read.

Eight – Pieces of Eight by John Drake

Pieces of Eight Cover

It took me a while to come up with number eight on this list, but luckily, I was able to dig up this novel from the bottom of my bookshelf. Piece of Eight is a fun reimagining of Treasure Island that was actually one of the first books I ever reviewed professionally as it featured in my debuting article with The Canberra Times.

Nine – Firefly: The Magnificent Nine by James Lovegrove

Firefly The Magnificent Nine Cover

The second in a new line of Firefly books, The Magnificent Nine is a fun tie-in to one of my favourite television series of all time, Firefly, that also draws inspiration from the classic western The Magnificent Seven (or Seven Samurai for film purists). I was also strongly considering using the recent novel, Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, but I think The Magnificent Nine fits in a lot better.

Ten – The Lost Ten by Harry Sidebottom

The Lost Ten Cover

The final book on my list is the latest novel from one of my favourite historical fiction authors, Harry Sidebottom. The Lost Ten is a cool and enjoyable read that combines an ancient history setting with a modern special forces storyline to create an excellent book that comes highly recommended.

That is my Top Ten List of Books with Numbers in the Title. I was pretty happy that I was actually able to come up with titles for each of the numbers, as it is surprisingly harder than you would imagine. Let me know what you think in the comments below and I hope you’ll check out my future Top Ten Tuesday lists.

The Lost Ten by Harry Sidebottom

The Lost Ten Cover

Publisher: Zaffre (Hardcover – 18 April 2019)

Series: Standalone

Length: 351 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

One of my favourite authors, Harry Sidebottom, returns with another excellent piece of Roman historical fiction, The Lost Ten.

Sidebottom is a particularly skilled historical fiction author who has written some amazing novels in the last 10 years, all of which have focused on the Roman Empire in the turbulent 3rd century AD. His works have included his excellent Warrior of Rome series, which features one of the first books I ever reviewed, King of Kings, and his well-researched Throne of the Caesars series. Sidebottom also wrote a fantastic historical fiction/thriller hybrid last year, The Last Hour, a truly awesome book that featured the protagonist of his Warrior of Rome series. The author has continued his intriguing experiment of combining historical fiction with other thriller sub-genres in his latest book, The Lost Ten, which I have been looking forward to for a while.

Rome, 265 AD. Junior Roman officer Marcus Aelius Valens is instructed to join a small squad of soldiers on a daring raid into Persia. Their objective is to infiltrate the country and make their way to the dreaded Castle of Silence, an impregnable prison high up in the mountains. Once there, they are to free young Prince Sasan, the King of Persia’s disgraced nephew, and bring him back to Rome.

Journeying to the Roman border, Valens joins up with an eclectic group of soldiers recruited from the frumentarii, Rome’s infamous secret agents. An outsider amongst these hard-bitten soldiers, Valens suddenly finds himself in command when an ambush kills their commanding officer. Aware of the consequences of abandoning their mission, Valens leads his troops onwards to Persia.

However, the closer they get to the Castle of Silence, the more misfortune seems to befall the small unit. As his soldiers die one at a time, Valens begins to believe that there is a traitor among them who does not wish for their mission to succeed. Can Valens unmask the saboteur before it is too late, or will the squad die trying to achieve their impossible mission?

This was another spectacular read from Sidebottom, who has once again done a fantastic job bringing modern thriller vibes to an ancient Roman historical setting. The Lost Ten is a fast-paced action adventure, with a clever plot hook and an excellent band of new characters that I had a lot of fun reading and which lived up to my high expectations for this novel.

While his Warrior of Rome books always had a bit of a thriller feel to them, as Ballista was usually hunting down some form of traitor or spy, Sidebottom has recently started to push the envelope even further by combining together Roman historical fiction with a variety of different thriller sub-genres. His previous novel, The Last Hour, was essentially 24 set in ancient Rome, and his next novel is apparently going to emulate a Scandi noir novel in the hills of Calabria. In The Lost Ten, Sidebottom utilises a special forces thriller storyline which sees Roman troops attempt an impossible infiltration deep into enemy territory. As a result, this novel reads a lot like an episode of Seal Team or The Unit if the team had to infiltrate antique Persia. In order to complete their objective, the team has to arrive at the border incognito, set up a cover story as traders, and then pass into Persian territory, fooling the locals and military as they near their goal. Once there, they have to find a way into the impenetrable fortress and then get their hostage out of Persia alive while being pursued by a massive army. This results in an extremely exciting and action-packed novel that was an absolute blast to read. I loved seeing all these classic spy scenarios play out in this classic Persian setting, and the special forces storylines work exceedingly well with the historical fiction background. Sidebottom has really hit onto a winning formula by mashing these genres together, and I am very excited to see how his next book turns out.

One of the aspects of The Lost Ten that I really enjoyed was the great characters who made up the Roman unit heading into Persia. Sidebottom has written a great group of protagonists with some rather interesting character traits and individual stories. The main character, Valens, who serves as the principle point-of-view character, has an intriguing arc that sees him go from being a naïve and disheartened young solider, to canny veteran troop leader throughout the course of the book. The rest of the Ten are a fantastic mixture of distinctive and rough killers who really don’t want to be going along on this mission. These troops help give the story a real Dirty Dozen vibe which I quite enjoyed, and it was also fantastic to see the group come together as they faced adversity.

In addition, it is revealed early on in the book that one of the squad characters is a traitor who is actively working to sabotage the mission. However, the identity of this double agent is not revealed until much later in the story. Instead, several chapters are shown from the perspective of the traitor, showing what actions he is taking to betray the team, such as killing the original commander or organising ambushes from bandits. As more and more misfortunes befall the group, Valens becomes suspicious and starts trying to identify the saboteur in the ranks, resulting in a wonderful storyline that plays into the thriller aspect of the book exceedingly well. Sidebottom does a clever job of hiding the identity of the traitor for the majority of the story, and the reader is fed a series of clues to slowly work out who it is. The reader is also shown the hidden character’s motivations for betraying the others, and the political and personal realities that are driving him. All of this comes to a fantastic conclusion, and this was an excellent part of the story that Sidebottom handles exceedingly well.

Sidebottom once again makes great use of the 3rd century Roman setting that has been a defining feature of all his previous novels. The Lost Ten is set in the same universe as all of Sidebottom’s other books and occurs in the same year as The Last Hour. There are actually several mentions of Sidebottom’s recurring protagonist, Ballista, and it sounds like he is getting into trouble campaigning in Gaul. The author does an amazing job showcasing the rough lands that lie between the Roman Empire and Persia and all the difficulties that would have occurred travelling to the Persian Empire. As the protagonists enter Persia, the readers get an interesting look at the landscape and Persian customs, many of which seem strange to the Romans and result in much contemplation and discussion. Sidebottom shows off several interesting areas of Persia, and it is clear that he has done his research into this location. The author also heads back to the familiar setting of ancient Rome, allowing the reader to get a good sense of the political situation in 265 AD. Sidebottom also examines the role of the frumentarii, Rome’s secret police/agents, who have appeared in several of his novels before. The various actions of this organisation are really intriguing, and it was cool to see modern spy tactics at work in this historical setting. There were some absolutely fascinating historical inclusions in this book that I had a lot of fun reading, and they proved to be an excellent backdrop to The Lost Ten’s thrilling storylines.

The Lost Ten is an outstanding book from Sidebottom that shows why he is one of the most captivating authors of Roman historical fiction in the world today. The author’s decision to combine a contemporary special forces thriller storyline with a well-researched historical setting payed dividends and resulted in a compelling and exciting read.   As a result, this book comes highly recommended and is a must-read for those people looking for an exciting historical thriller. I am looking forward to Sidebottom’s next book and cannot wait to see what he produces next.

WWW Wednesday – 31 July 2019

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Ghosts and Howling Dark Cover.png

Ghosts of the Past by Tony Park (Trade Paperback)

I am about half way through this book at the moment and I am really enjoying this complex and multi-layered tale from history.  Make sure to check out my review for Park’s previous book, Scent of Fear.

Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio (Audiobook)

I am only a few hours into Howling Dark, but already it is shaping up to be a pretty epic piece of science fiction.  I really loved the previous book in the series, Empire of Silence, and have been looking forward to getting Howling Dark for some time.  I did get a physical copy of this book a couple of weeks ago (with my blog mentioned in the acknowledgements!!!), but decided to try out the audiobook version instead, as it was honestly the only way I could read this book any time soon with my current reading schedule.

What did you recently finish reading?


The Lost Ten
by Harry Sidebottom (Hardcover)

The Lost Ten Cover


Star Trek: The Captain’s Oath
by Christopher L. Bennett (Audiobook)

Star Trek - The Captain's Oath Cover


Graveyard Shift in Ghost Town
by Michael Pryor (Trade Paperback)

Graveyard Shift in Ghost Town Cover


Dark Blade
by Steve Feasey (Trade Paperback)

Dark Blade Cover
Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden by Stan Sakai (Trade Paperback)

Usagi Yojimbo The Hidden Cover.jpg


What do you think you’ll read next?

Collaborator, Blue Rose Cover.png

The Collaborator by Diane Armstrong (Trade Paperback)

The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth (Trade Paperback)

I am currently planning to pull together a historical fiction column for the Canberra Weekly, featuring the above two novels and Ghosts of the Past.  All three books sound really interesting, and they are all from talented Australian authors.  This column should published in two weeks and I will post it up when it comes out.

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

WWW Wednesday – 24 July 2019

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Sidebottom, Star Trek Cover.png

The Lost Ten by Harry Sidebottom (Hardcover)

I’m currently halfway through this book and hoping to finish it off in the next day or so.  I have been really looking forward to this book for a while, especially after Sidebottom’s previous book, The Last Hour.  So far it has not disappointed and I am really enjoying it.

Star Trek: The Captain’s Oath by Christopher L. Bennett (Audiobook)

I am only a couple of hours into this but it is quite an interesting Star Trek book so far.

What did you recently finish reading?

Treason, Knight of Stars, Assassins.png

Star Wars: Thrawn: Treason by Timothy Zahn (Trade Paperback)

Knight of Stars by Tom Lloyd (Hardcover)

King of Assassins by R. J. Barker (Audiobook)

What do you think you’ll read next?

Graveyard, Dark Blade Cover.png

Graveyard Shift in Ghost Town by Michael Pryor (Trade Paperback)

Dark Blade by Steve Feasey (Trade Paperback)

I am currently working on a young adult column for the Canberra Weekly, and I am planning to feature the two books above as well as War of the Bastards by Andrew Shvarts.  It should make for a good column, which will be published in two weeks.

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.