Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Sequel Novels

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  The official topic for this week’s list required participants to list their favourite book-related online resource.  However, I once again went in a different direction and instead decided to focus on a different topic, sequels. 

The idea of sequels has been around for a very long time, however, recently it is becoming increasingly hard to avoid them.  From television shows to films, sequels are everywhere, and to be fair, there is something great about seeing how a fantastic story continues after a first beloved instalment.  Sequels in the novel world are also nothing new, and in fact, nearly every modern novelist has written some sort of sequel throughout their career.  So many great novels have featured intriguing sequels over the years, some of which led even more novels, or even massive series.  I’m sure we can all name some awesome sequels that we have read, and in some cases many sequel novels are just as good, if not better, than the books they followed.  I personally have enjoyed some incredible sequels over the years, and I thought that this would be a good opportunity to highlight them on a list, especially as I have read some particularly amazing sequels recently.

To complete this list, I pulled together some of the best sequels I have ever read, to see what I wanted to feature.  I primarily focused on second novels in series that I felt were outstanding follow ups to impressive first entries that set up overarching storylines.  In many cases, these books followed on from an author’s debut novel, and it is rather cool to see how an author improved on their initial work.  I ended up with quite a big collection of amazing sequel novels to work with, and it took me a little while to condense it down to a manageable list.  I was eventually able to cull it to my 10 absolute favourite books, as well as a decent Honourable Mentions section. 

Honourable Mentions:

Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 2: Samurai by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo Samurai Cover

A cool comic that improves upon the art style and story from the first volume, The Ronin, as well as featuring the backstory for the series’ titular character.

 

Dark Forge by Miles Cameron

Dark Forge Cover

One of the best books and audiobooks of 2019, Dark Forge followed up the first book in the Masters & Mages series, Cold Iron, perfectly, with an impressive focus on war and world building

 

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

Last Graduate Cover

An outstanding follow-up to last year’s fantastic book, A Deadly EducationThe Last Graduate is an outstanding novel and I hope to have a very complimentary review of it up soon.

 

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

Fool Moon Cover

With a great story about murderous werewolves in Chicago, I felt that this second novel from Jim Butcher was even better than his debut, Storm Front.

Top Ten List:

The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry

The Dragon Factory

I have a lot of love for Jonathan Maberry’s incredible Joe Ledger series, especially the first entry Patient Zero, which featured a great modern reimagining of zombies.  However, I don’t think that the series truly hit its stride until the second novel, The Dragon FactoryThe Dragon Factory, which featured two rival groups of antagonists experimenting with genetic engineering, was incredible and had an outstanding and captivating narrative.  I honestly think it was a stronger novel than Patient Zero, and it did a great job setting the tone for the later entries in the series.

 

The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell

The Two-Faced Queen Cover

Last year I was blown away by Nick Martell’s first fantasy novel, The Kingdom of Liars, which was easily one of the best debuts of 2020.  I deeply enjoyed the compelling and elaborate fantasy tale contained within, and I was eager to see how Martell would continue it this year.  I was in no way disappointed as Martell ended up producing a truly epic read, that perfectly added a vengeful queen, magical serial killers, and a range of competing immortals, to an already elaborate narrative.  This ended up being one of the best books (and audiobooks) I have so far read this year and it is a highly recommended sequel to read.

 

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

The Wise Mans Fear Cover

There was no way that I could exclude the The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss from this list.  The sequel to his iconic first book, The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear continued the complex tale of Rothfuss’s protagonist in incredible fashion, and this second novel goes in some deeply captivating directions.  It provides a really good continuation of the overarching storylines, while also introducing some intriguing new additions.  Unfortunately, it also opens a lot of questions, that readers have been waiting to see answered for quite some time.

 

Streams of Silver by R. A. Salvatore

Streams of Silver Cover

The next sequel takes us back to 1989, with the second book in The Icewind Dale trilogy by fantasy icon R. A. Salvatore, Streams of SilverStreams of Silver serves as the sequel to Salvatore’s debut novel, The Crystal Shard, and contains an impressive story.  While I enjoyed The Crystal Shard, especially as it does a great job introducing Salvatore’s best characters, I think that Streams of Silver had the stronger story.  Featuring an epic fantasy quest, Salvatore subtlety moves the focus more towards the overarching series’ more distinctive protagonist, while also featuring some excellent storylines, epic scenes, and an outstanding new antagonist.  I deeply enjoyed this novel, and it was a fantastic continuation of a fun first book.

 

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson

Starsight Cover 2

Sanderson has written quite a few impressive sequels throughout his career, however, my favourite so far is StarsightStarsight follows on from Skyward, a brilliant young adult science fiction novel that follows a class of starship fighter pilots, forced to defend their planet from aliens.  This sequel does a beautiful job of continuing this story by massively expanding the universe and taking the protagonist on an epic journey to a whole new world.  I loved this outstanding second series, and I cannot wait to see what happens in the third book, Cytonic, later this year.

 

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It by K. J. Parker

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It

Back in 2019 I had the great pleasure of reading the fantasy comedy, Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K. J. Parker that told an amusing story about a conman engineer using all his tricks to win a siege.  While this was an outstanding standalone read, Parker followed it up the next year with the wildly entertaining How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It.  Set in the same city as the first book, this outrageous sequel followed a new protagonist, a professional impersonator, who manages to become emperor.  Bold, funny, and very clever (especially the meta jokes about the first book), this was an amazing sequel, which ended up being one of the best reads of 2020.

 

Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio

Howling Dark Cover

Back in 2018, debuting author Christopher Ruocchio had one of the best books of the year with the outstanding Empire of Silence, an ambitious and inventive gothic science fiction epic.  After setting up his massive universe in Empire of Silence, Ruocchio than proceeded to continue the narrative in the second book, Howling Dark.  This sequel had an amazing story, as Ruocchio expanded out his series in some very bold ways.  This sequel was a truly captivating and powerful piece of science fiction, especially the last epic extended sequence, and I had a fantastic time reading it.

 

Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett

Men At Arms Cover

What’s a list on the Unseen Library without at least one Discworld book by Terry Pratchett, in this case, Men at Arms, the second book in the City Watch sub-series.  Men at Arms is a very clever and hilarious fantasy murder mystery novel that serves as a sequel to Guards! Guards!Guards! Guards! was an outstanding read that followed a small group of city watchmen as they attempted to solve a murder committed using a dragon.  This was one of the best books in entire Discworld collection, and it was a truly impressive feat that Pratchett was able to one-up-it with Men at Arms.  This sequel contained an amazing story that sees the invention of the Discworld’s first gun, which immediately leads to chaos and bloodshed.  Featuring an extremely clever mystery, as well as some great and iconic new characters, Men at Arms is one of Pratchett’s best books, and it helped to really elevate the City Watch novels in the Discworld hierarchy.

 

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

Red Seas Under Red Skies

Back in 2006, author Scott Lynch blew away fantasy fans with his outstanding debut, The Lies of Locke Lamora, a complex and powerful fantasy heist novel that was a lot of fun to read.  Lynch soon followed this amazing debut with an excellent second book, Red Seas Under Red Skies.  This served as a very clever continuation of the original story and contained another elaborate heist, as well as a fascinating focus on the nautical arts and piracy.  I deeply enjoyed this second novel, especially with the great twist at the end, and it was a very worthy follow up to Lynch’s incredible debut.

 

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Harrow the Ninth Cover

The final book on this list is Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, an exceptional novel I had the great pleasure of enjoying on audiobook last year.  Harrow the Ninth served as the very clever sequel to Muir’s debut, Gideon the Ninth, which followed a group of space-faring necromancers.  While the first book was really fun, I think that Muir greatly surpassed it with the sequel.  Focusing on a different protagonist, Harrow the Ninth has a very elaborate narrative to it, including a reimagined version of the first book that excludes the original protagonist for very clever reasons.  One of the most unique books I have ever read, I have a great appreciation for what Muir did with this sequel, and it is a fantastic and brilliant follow-up to Gideon the Ninth.

 

Well, that is the end of this latest list.  As you can see, there are some impressive sequels out there, and I have had a lot of fun with some of them.  Each of the above entries on this list are exceptional reads, and all come highly recommended, although in most cases you will also need to check out their preceding novels first.  This might be a list I come back to I the future, especially with some great sequels coming out in the next couple of years, and I look forward to seeing what second book could potentially make the cut in the future.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books with Numbers 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 are required to list the favourite books with numbers in the titles.  This was an interesting endeavour, and it was one that I have done in a previous Top Ten Tuesday, except then the challenge was to try and come up with a list of 10 books, each of which had a number between one to ten in the title.  However, for this list I will instead open my list to any book that has a number in the title, which should widen the various novels I could potentially include.  It has also been nearly two years since I produced that previous list, and I will easily have a few more awesome books to add to this list.

I had a bit of fun coming up with this list.  It was easy to run through all the novels I have checked out over the years and finding the ones with numbers in their titles.  I did have to do a little culling to narrow it to down to my top ten choices, but I was eventually able to do it with a generous honourable mentions section.  Also, to make this fit better I choice to exclude those books with ordinal numbers in their titles (for example, third, sixth and ninth), and instead just focus on those novels with basic numbers in the title.  While this did mean I lost a few great books, such as The Third Day, the Frost by James Marsden or Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, I think it made for a tidier list.  I ended up coming up with a pretty interesting list in the end and I got a rather interesting spread of titles.  So, let us see what I was able to come up with.

Honourable mentions:

Batman: Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli

Batman_Year_One

 

The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien

Two Towers Cover

 

Firefly: The Magnificent Nine by James Lovegrove

Firefly The Magnificent Nine Cover

 

The Lost Ten by Harry Sidebottom

The Lost Ten Cover

Top Ten List:

Patient Zero and Code Zero by Jonathan Maberry

Patient Zero and Code Zero

For this first entry I had a hard time deciding which one of Jonathan Maberry’s excellent novels that contain Zero in the title I should include, so in the end I chose to put both Patient Zero and Code Zero in.  Both are these books are key entries in the Joe Ledger series, and while I think Code Zero had the better story, Patient Zero was the introductory novel and set up most of the universe.  Both books are really worth checking out and their respective titles refer to something really bad in the context of the story.

 

One Minute Out by Mark Greaney

One Minute Out Cover

One Minute Out was an excellent novel (one of the best books and audiobooks I read in 2020), and it is probably my favourite novel from Greaney that I have so far read (although, that could change as I am currently in the middle of listening to his debut, Gray Man).

 

Predator One by Jonathan Maberry

Predator One Cover

The second novel from Maberry on this list (he sure likes putting numbers in his title), this is another particularly good entry in the Joe Ledger series.  The title is a reference to Air Force One, which gets electronically taken over during the book (with the President on board) so it can be used as a destructive drone.

 

The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell

The Two-Faced Queen Cover

The stunning sequel to last years top debut, The Kingdom of Liars, The Two-Faced Queen was an exceptional read that was one of my favourite books (and audiobooks) for the first half of 2021.

 

The Three Paradises by Robert Fabbri

The Three Paradises Cover

The fun and wildly entertaining sequel to last years awesome historical fiction read, To the Strongest, The Three Paradises continues to highlight the incredible chaos that followed in the wake of Alexander the Great’s death, such as the legendary conference held at the location known as Three Paradises.

 

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

All New Wolverine Cover

The first volume of an extremely fun comic series, The Four Sisters did a wonderful job introducing the world to a new Wolverine, when the original’s female clone, X-23, takes on the mantle.

 

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle Cover

A particularly good science fiction murder mystery, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (sometimes titled The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle), was an awesome read that makes use of a very clever concept.

 

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

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City Cover

One of the funniest and most entertaining reads of 2019, this outstanding novel follows a brilliant fantasy siege storyline where a conman engineer makes use of the secret, 16th way to defend a city, bluff and BS.

 

The 22 Murders of Madison May by Max Barry

The 22 Murders of Madison May Cover

One of the more recent books on my list, this fantastic read from Max Berry follows an attempt to stop a parallel universe jumping stalker from killing his victim multiple times.

 

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

Veronica Mars - The Thousand Dollar Tan Line Cover

The final entry on this list is the book with the biggest number in the title, the Veronica Mars tie-in novel, The Thousand Dollar Tan Line.  This is an awesome read, especially for fans of the show, and I loved its clever story.  Best checked out in its audiobook format, which is narrated by Veronica Mars herself, Kristen Bell.

 

 

That’s the end of this latest list.  I think it turned out pretty well, and I liked the cool selection of novels it featured.  All the above novels come highly recommended, and there are some outstanding reads there.  Let me know which of the above books you like the most, as well as what your favourite novels with numbers in the title are in the comments below.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books I Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time

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 encouraged to list the top ten books that they wish they could read again for the first time.  This was a very interesting choice of topic and it is one that really resonated with me.

Like many readers and reviewers, I have enjoyed some absolutely cracking novels over the years and there are many that I really wish I could forget having read just so I could have the pleasure of checking them out once again in order to have the same amazing reactions.  As a result, the moment that I saw this week’s topic I immediately started gathering a mental list of some great books I would love to enjoy for the very first time once again.  There are several reasons why I would like to read a book for the first time again, whether it is to be blown away by a crazy twist, be once again embroiled in the great action, or because some of the outstanding jokes have lost a little bit of impact as I have heard them multiple times.  Whatever the reason, I ended up pulling together a decent list containing some pretty fantastic reads, many of which I have praised in prior Top Ten Tuesday articles or in detailed reviews.  So let us see what made the top ten.

Honourable Mentions:

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself

 

The Bone Ships by R. J. Barker

The Bone Ships Cover

 

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

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City Cover

 

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

promise of blood cover

Top Ten List:

Legend by David Gemmell

Legend

For the first entry on this list, I am going to include the fantasy classic, Legend by David Gemmell.  Legend was an outstanding and impressive fantasy debut that I had been meaning to read for years, but which I only got a chance to finally do in 2019.  However, the moment I finished it, I felt a strong desire to forget everything I knew about it and instantly reread it once again.  Legend is a fantastic novel that contains an intense and compelling story about a massive siege where an invincible army attacks a great fortress garrisoned by a severely outnumbered force of defenders and a few legendary heroes.  This is easily one of the best siege novels I have ever read, and readers are in for an incredible and deeply exciting time as they get through it.  This was an exceptional read, and I really wish I could experience every emotion I felt when I first read this book once again.

 

Planetside by Michael Mammay

Planetside Cover 2

There was no way I could do this list without mentioning the fantastic science fiction debut, Planetside by Michael Mammay.  Planetside was an amazing read, but the main reason it makes this list is because it has an outstanding and explosive ending that I absolutely loved.  This was a perfect and memorable finale to an already great novel, and it be fun to once again experience all the shock and surprise I first felt when I originally read this book. 

 

Any Discworld Novel by Terry Pratchett

The Last Continent Cover

I’m cheating a little here by including a 40+ series of novels in a single post, but I’m going to do it anyway.  This is because the Discworld novels are some of my absolute favourite novels and I have so much love for them.  Written by the legendary Terry Pratchett, these novels are a unique and exceptional collection of fantasy comedies that contains some extremely clever and inventive humour and jokes.  I have read every book in this series, such as Moving Pictures or The Last Continent, multiple times, and I still laugh out loud every time I do.  However, no matter how clever of funny a joke is, if you hear it too many times it starts to lose its impact just a little.  For that reason, I would love to have the opportunity to read the entire Discworld series for the first time once more, although I imagine I would probably die from laughing too much (totally worth it).

 

The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini

Eragon Cover

Another multi-book entry, The Inheritance Cycle was the debut series of bestselling author Christopher Paolini and featured four great books following a teenage dragon rider, Eragon, as he battles the forces of darkness.  I have a lot of love for this series, and I deeply enjoyed it when I was younger, especially due to the fantastic narrative and impressive world building.  However, after a few rereads of the series, I have noticed some issues that I now can’t ignore whenever I read these books (for example, a winy protagonist and several plot points that bear striking similarities to a certain series of space opera films).  While I still really enjoy these novels, it would be good to reread them for the first time and not have some of these flaws already sitting in my head.

 

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora Cover

An epic fantasy classic that features a group of brilliant conmen as they go up against some extremely dangerous opponents, The Lies of Locke Lamora is one of the best fantasy novels I have ever read.  Containing a lot of fun betrayals, twists and clever ploys that are still stuck in my head years after reading it, this would be an exceptional novel to read for the first time once again, and I think I might have to do a reread of it soon.

 

Battle Ground by Jim Butcher

Battle Ground Cover

The next entry on this list is Battle Ground, the 17th entry in the amazing Dresden Files series.  Featuring an all-out fantasy war in the middle of Chicago, this was an incredible and thrilling read, and it was one of the best books and audiobooks I enjoyed in 2020.  While I had an outstanding time with Battle Ground, it was the first Dresden Files novel I ever read, and I kind of wish I had read the proceeding 16 novels first to give me a little more context and make some of the reveals a little more shocking to me.  This feeling has only grown after I started reading some of the earlier books in the series, such as Storm Front, Fool Moon and Grave Peril, as information from Battle Ground ruins some surprises from the earlier books.  As a result, I wish I had read this series in order and that the first time I enjoyed Battle Ground was after getting through the rest of the series first.  Still, this was a great read, and I have only minimal regrets in jumping the gun on this one.

 

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Into the Drowning Deep Cover

One of the best modern icons of horror fiction, Mira Grant, did the impossible in the outstanding Into the Drowning Deep (one of my favourite books of 2018), but making mermaids scary.  I had an exceptional time reading this fantastic novel the first time, and it would be cool if I could forget all the fun details in it and reread every year on Halloween for the first time.

 

Green Arrow: The Archer’s Quest by Brad Meltzer, Phil Hester, and Ande Parks

Green Arrow Archer's Quest

As one of my all-time favourite comics, The Archer’s Quest storyline from Green Arrow is an amazing and complex comic that I deeply enjoy every time I read.  Author Brad Meltzer really gets to grips with the complex character of a recently resurrected Green Arrow as he travels the country with his old sidekick, collecting important items from his life.  This comic has a powerful focus on Green Arrow’s relationships and shows just how complicated and damaged he truly is.  An essential read for all Green Arrow fans, I know that reading it again for the first time would really blow me away.

 

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

Skyward Cover

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Skyward, Brandon Sanderson’s clever and dramatic young adult science fiction epic, when it first came out, and I quickly became a pretty major fan of it.  This was an amazing read, which followed the reviled daughter of a coward as she attempts to prove herself by becoming a pilot to defend her planet from invading aliens.  I really became invested in the powerful story of the central protagonist, and it would be so cool to revisit these emotions for the first time all over again.

 

The Name of the Wind/The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind Cover

The final entry on this list is the exceptional first two books in the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss.  Generally considered to be some of the best fantasy novels of all time, I read these novels a couple of years ago and deeply enjoyed them.  There is so much detail, character development and world building contained within, and I know that reading them for the first time would be an amazing experience, and one that would make me fall in love with these novels once more.  The one downside of this would be once again experiencing disappointment about the seemingly unlikely upcoming third novel.  Still, it would probably be worth it, as these are some outstanding books.

 

 

That’s the end of this list and I think it turned out pretty good.  Each of the above entries are really good reads, and I think that if I was to read them again for the first time, I would have an incredible time.  Let me know which books you would love to read again for the first time in the comments below and make sure to check out some of the above fantastic reads.

Top Ten Tuesday – Titles or Covers that Made Me Want to Read/Buy a Book

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 are tasked with listing the top titles or covers that made them want to read or buy a book.  This is a pretty cool topic and it gives me an excuse to highlight some of my favourite covers and titles. 

I have a somewhat eclectic method of choosing what books I want to read.  While I mostly tend to read novels due to the author, plot description, recommendations from other reviewers, or because it is an entry in a series or franchise I like, quite a few first catch my eye due to colourful or crazy covers, or titles that really stand out (or a combination of the two).  I have a lot of love for authors who invest in beautiful covers to highlight their novel’s style or plot features, and I also really enjoy cool and catchy titles.  It honestly did not take me long to come up with a list of fun covers and titles, and I was eventually able to whittle it down into a Top Ten List.  I tried to avoid using any novel where something else drove me to check the novel out, although there are a couple of cool Star Wars examples I had to include.  I really enjoyed all the cool covers/titles below, especially as there are usually some great stories contained within them.

 

Honourable Mentions:

Star Wars: Vader – Dark Visions by Dennis Hallum

Vader-DarkVisions-TPB

It has Darth Vader decked out as a black knight, how could I possibly resist this comic?

 

Child of a Mad God by R. A. Salvatore

Child of a Mad God Cover

 

A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising by Raymond A. Villareal

A History of the Vampire Uprising Cover

 

Black Leviathan by Bend Perplies

Black Leviathan Cover

 

Top Ten Tuesday:

Mecha Samurai Empire by Peter Tieryas

Mecha Samurai Empire Cover

Let us start with an extremely cool cover and a very fun name, Mecha Samurai Empire.  I still remember the first time that I saw this book, as I was instantly drawn to the samurai mecha standing in front of a Japanese flag.  I also was very intrigued by the name, Mecha Samurai Empire, and I had to know more about it.  While the plot details did sway my decision, I already knew I was going to buy this book the moment I saw it.  It really did not disappoint either, with an exciting and clever story about mechas in an alternate United States that lost World War II.  This is such a great book, and the sequel, Cyber Shogun Revolution, follows the trend by having a fantastic cover a catchy title.

 

The Traitor God by Cameron Johnston

The Traitor God Cover

With a sleek, compelling name and a very well-crafted cover, The Traitor God quickly drew my attention before I even read the plot synopsis.  This cover perfectly captures the dark feel of the novel, and the mysterious title is a fantastic part of the plot.  This was a fantastic book, and led to a great sequel, God of Broken Things, which also featured an outstanding cover.

 

#Murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil

#MurderTrending Cover

I don’t know what drew me to #Murdertrending more, the unique, twitter-handled title, or the fun cover where a group of stick figures are in danger.  It probably was the title, and I liked the way in which McNeil was building up the novels critique of the social media obsessed world.  Overall, this cover/title combo really grabbed my attention and forced me to buy this book.

 

The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne

The Shadow of the Gods Cover

I have mentioned a few times that one of the reasons I checked out The Shadow of the Gods was because of positive reviews from other fantasy fans.  However, long before I heard about how good the story was, I found myself rather drawn to The Shadow of the Gods’ incredible cover.  The giant dragon facing off against a lone hero is exceptionally drawn, and I loved how the artist brings this scene to life in its own distinctive and unique way.  Suffice to say, this cool cover had The Shadow of the Gods well on my radar before it came out, and I probably would have read this novel, even if I had heard nothing from other reviewers.

 

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Gideon the Ninth Cover

Gideon the Ninth was another book where the cover dragged me in, although in all fairness, it is a pretty damn impressive cover.  The beautifully drawn artwork features a red-haired swordswoman with skull-themed face paint walking through a mass of exploding skeletons.  I mean, if that does not draw your interest and attention, nothing will.  In addition, when I received the book, it was a fantastic hardcover with black edging to the pages, which really gave of a mysterious and powerful theme to it.  I was so hooked even before I found out it was a novel about lesbian, space-faring necromancers, and seeing the plot only convinced me to read it quicker.  This was an outstanding novel, which Muir followed up last year with Harrow the Ninth, another novel with an extremely epic cover.

 

Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw

Strange Practice Cover

Strange Practice features a great cover with a doctor standing above a vampire filled coffin.  That outstanding cover contained so much detail, and I loved the combination of classic vampire aesthetics with a modern London backdrop to it.  The combination of black and white walls and characters against blood red floors, coverings and cityscape works surprisingly well, and it helps to deliver a very striking cover.  This awesome art really dragged me towards this book, and I had a wonderful time reading this and its fun sequel, Dreadful Company, which also featured an amazing cover.

 

City of Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

City of Bastards Cover

Ok, for this one, it was all about the name.  City of Bastards is such an evocative title, and it definitely caught my attention when I first saw it as it opens up so many different story and tonal possibilities.  Couple that with the pretty neat cover, which makes amazing use of colour (the purple and the blood red really work well together), and I was rather hooked on this book before I even picked it up and read what it was about.   

 

Star Wars: Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber

deathtrooperscover

A few years ago, while randomly skimming online, I saw the cover for Star Wars: Death Troopers, which really had me hooked (hah).  Something about that visual of a bloodied Storm Trooper helmet suspended by a meat hook really struck me, and it drove me to grab an audiobook version of that book that very night.  Thank goodness I did, as this was a really fun novel, that features zombies on a Star Destroyer attempting to eat Han and Chewie.  An outstanding book that is one of my favourite horror novels, thank goodness I saw this cover.

 

The Bone Ships by R. J. Barker

The Bone Ships Cover

Now, I must admit that I probably would have read this book even without seeing the name or cover.  I had already enjoyed Barker’s excellent Wounded Kingdom series (made up of Age of Assassins, Blood of Assassins and King of Assassins), so I would have been curious about his next series.  However, the moment I saw the cover for The Bone Ships, I knew that this book would be something special that I would need to read.  The incredible cover featuring a beautifully rendered dragon, is just amazing, and the title The Bone Ships, really fires up the imagination.  The combination of these features made The Bone Ships a must read from me well before I’d seen the plot, and it fully convinced me to get The Bone Ships, which ended up being one of the best books (and audiobooks of 2019). 

 

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

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City Cover

When I first saw Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, I initially wasn’t to impressed by the cover.  However, there was something about the unique name that got me curious enough to check out some more details and that’s when I found out that this was a fun sounding fantasy novel.  I had an absolute blast reading this novel, which was one of the best books of 2019, and it also led me to the sequel, How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It, one of the most hilarious books I read last year.  I honestly might have missed this series if that catchy name and cover didn’t grab my attention, which would have been a real shame.

 

 

Well that brings another Top Ten Tuesday to a close.  As you can see from the above, there are some truly awesome and fun covers and titles in my reading history.  Each of these featured novels come highly recommended, and I hope you also like the titles and cover art.  I hope you enjoyed my latest list and let me know what covers or titles drew you to a book in the comments below.

Top Ten Tuesday – Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2021

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 need to list their top anticipated releases for the second half of 2021.

2021 has so far been a pretty amazing year for books, with some outstanding and impressive novels coming out and blowing me away.  However, the year is far from over and there are a number of incredible and epic-sounding novels set for release in the second half of 2021.  To fill out this list I have scoured my list of anticipated upcoming releases and tried to work out which of the books coming out between the start of July and the end of December I am most looking forward to.

This proved to be a rather hard list to finalise, mainly because of how many awesome novels are coming out in the next six months.  I honestly had enough awesome upcoming novels on my radar to turn this into a Top 20, but I decided instead to make some hard decisions, and I ended up cutting out several impressive upcoming releases, leaving me with a list mostly featuring books from some of my favourite authors.  Despite this, I am rather happy with the eventual choices that I made, and I think that this list reflects which upcoming novels I am going to have the most fun reading.  Due to how much potential that I think the entries on this list have, several have previously appeared in my weekly Waiting on Wednesday articles, as well as on my recent Winter TBR list.  However, there are also some interesting new books that I am discussing for the first time here, which gives this list a bit of variety.  So let us get to my selections and find out which upcoming novels are my most anticipated releases for the second half of 2021.

Honourable Mentions:

Billy Summers by Stephen King – 3 August 2021

Billy Summer Cover

The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston – 10 August 2021

The Maleficent Seven Cover 2

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik – 28 September 2021

The Last Graduate Cover

The Honour of Rome by Simon Scarrow – 11 November 2021

The Honour of Rome Cover

Top Ten List (by release date):

Relentless by Jonathan Maberry – 13 July 2021

Relentless Cover

This list is off to an extraordinarily strong start as it features the second awesome entry in the Rogue Team International series by the always impressive Jonathan Maberry, Relentless.  Spinning off from Maberry’s outstanding Joe Ledger series (which features such epic reads as Patient Zero, Code Zero and Deep Silence), the Rogue Team International series continues to follow action hero Joe Ledger as he goes up against crazy opponents wielding the weirdest science and technology.  The first novel in this thrilling series, Rage, was an amazing read that was one of my favourite books (and audiobooks) of 2019, and which ended on a fantastic, if tragic, note.  This sets up Relentless to be a gripping and bloody novel filled with revenge as an emotionally compromised Ledger goes up against a new breed of dangerous enemies.

Starlight Enclave by R. A. Salvatore – 3 August 2021

Starlight Enclave Cover

One of my absolute favourite fantasy authors of all times, R. A. Salvatore, returns with the first book in a brand-new series that sets his iconic and long-running protagonists on a whole new adventure.  This first book, Starlight Enclave, will follow on from the events of the previous trilogy (made up of Timeless, Boundless and Relentless), and should result in a very impressive and exciting fantasy read.

The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie – 16 September 2021

The Wisdom of Crowds Cover

The master of dark fantasy, Joe Abercrombie, returns with the third and final entry in his intense and addictive Age of Madness trilogy.  Both previous novels in the series, A Little Hatred and The Trouble with Peace, have been incredible masterpieces with some deeply impressive stories to them and I am expecting great things for this final novel.  The Wisdom of Crowds will focus on the aftermath of the revolution that occurred at the end of The Trouble with Peace and should result in an epic and captivating tale.

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman – 16 September 2021

The Man Who Died Twice Cover

Following his incredible debut novel, The Thursday Murder Club, comedian Richard Osman returns with a much-anticipated sequel novel, The Man Who Died Twice, which will present his retired protagonists with another intriguing case.  The Thursday Murder Club was one of the runaway hits of last year, and it was easily one of the best novels, audiobooks, and debuts, I had the pleasure of reading in 2020.  As a result, I have extremely high hopes for The Man Who Died Twice, and I cannot wait to see what hilarious and clever things are featured in this new novel.

The Bone Ship’s Wake by R. J. Barker – 28 September 2021

Over the last two years, the deeply impressive R. J. Barker has been wowing me, and the rest of the fantasy community, with his epic and captivating novels about the notorious crew of the Tide ChildThe Tide Child trilogy, which has so far consisted of The Bone Ships and Call of the Bone Ships, is an outstanding and compelling series, which places a great group of characters in a dark and bloody fantasy world, where crews of condemned men fight aboard ships made from dragon bone.  The final entry in this trilogy, The Bone Ship’s Wake, looks set to provide an epic and memorable conclusion to this incredible series, especially after Barker ended Call of the Bone Ships on such a fantastic and moving cliff-hanger.  Unfortunately, there has been no preview of The Bone Ship’s Wake’s cover yet but based on how cool the covers for the other entries in The Tide Child trilogy have been, I am sure it is going to be something extremely awesome.

The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly – 9 November 2021

The Dark Hours Cover

After a bumper 2020 where he released two fantastic crime novels, Fair Warning and The Law of Innocence, bestselling crime fiction author Michael Connelly returns with another intriguing and exciting novel, The Dark Hours.  The third entry in the Ballard and Bosch sub-series, which has so far consisted of Dark Sacred Night and The Night Fire, The Dark Hours will set its protagonists on the trail of a clever and conniving killer.  This has the potential to be one of the best crime novels of 2021 and I cannot wait to see what unique case Connelly has come up with this time.

Never by Ken Follett – 9 November 2021

Never Cover

I was a little surprised earlier this year when I saw that highly acclaimed author, Ken Follett, was releasing a novel this year, especially after The Evening and the Morning, came out last year.  However, I am not one to complain when another awesome Follett novel drops into my lap, especially as his new upcoming book, Never, looks set to be an intriguing world-spanning thriller novel.  With an intense and captivating sounding narrative, Never, should be an incredible read and I am exceedingly keen to check it out.

Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters by Charles Soule, Luke Ross and Neeraj Menon – 23 November 2021

Star Wars - War of the Bounty Hunters #! Cover

While I was very tempted to include the new upcoming Thrawn Ascendancy novel, Lesser Evil, on this list, it quickly became apparent that the piece of Star Wars fiction I am most looking forward to in the second half of 2021 is the major crossover comic, Star Wars: War of the Bounty HuntersWar of the Bounty Hunters, which is set between the events of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, details a brutal fight to claim Han Solo’s frozen body after a major returning character steals it from Boba Fett.  Serving as a crossover between the four current Star Wars ongoing series, Star Wars (2020), Darth Vader (2020), Doctor Aphra (2020), and Bounty Hunters, this crossover series sounds like awesomeness personified, and there have already been some major twists and reveals.  I cannot wait to check this comic out, although I probably will wait until the collected edition comes out in November.  This will be one of the biggest Star Wars events of the year, and as a Star Wars mega-fan, I am deeply, deeply excited for it.

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson – 25 November 2021

Cytonic Cover

Perhaps the greatest authors of fantasy and science fiction in the world today, the legendary Brandon Sanderson, has a new novel coming out in November, and it is one that I am particularly eager to get my hands on.  This new book, Cytonic, is the third entry in the gripping and clever Skyward series of young adult science fiction novels, which has so far featured two exceptional novels, Skyward and Starsight.  Featuring an intriguing and complex narrative around humans fighting aliens in a deadly war for survival, the Skyward series has been deeply impressive and thrilling, and I have had so much fun with the first two novels.  This next book in the series, Cytonic, looks set to take its likeable protagonist on another unique adventure, this time into a whole new dimension.  This novel has an immense amount of potential, and I already now it is going to be epic beyond belief.

A Practical Guide to Conquering the World by K. J. Parker – 25 November 2021

A Practical Guide to Conquering the World Cover

The final entry on this list is A Practical Guide to Conquering the World by K. J. Parker, which is probably going to be the funniest books I read all year.  Over the last two years, Parker has released two outstanding and hilarious fantasy novels as part of The Siege series, which takes place during an insane and long-lasting siege of a fantasy city.  Featuring two very clever and loosely connected novels, Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City and How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It, this series featured two fantastic narratives around unqualified, but devious men, taking control of the siege and attempting to win it through unconventional means.  I have absolutely loved the first two novels in this series, and I was very excited to see that a third entry, A Practical Guide to Conquering the World, is set for release in November.  While no plot details are currently available, I am extremely confident that this will be a fantastic tale political intrigue, treachery, and humorous ambition, as a new non-hero rises to the challenge of ruling the world.

That is the end of this list.  I am extremely happy with how my latest Top Ten Tuesday article turned out, and this list contains an intriguing collection of upcoming books that should prove to be incredible reads.  I think that every one of the books I mentioned above has some amazing potential, and most, if not all, will probably end up with a full five-star rating from me.  I cannot wait to see what awesome and exciting stories the entries on this list contain, and I think that I am going to have an incredible time in the second half of 2021.  While I am waiting to get my hands on these books, why not let me know if any of the above interest you, and let me know what your most anticipated releases for the next six months are in the comments below.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud

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 have the fun task of listing their favourite books that made them laugh out loud.

While coming up with list was an enjoyable and entertaining task, this was a topic that I slightly struggled with as I don’t tend to read purely comedic novels.  Instead, I usually get my comedic fix through somewhat more serious books that have funny protagonists or are filled with jokes or excellent humour.  Nonetheless, I was able to pull together a good list in the end filled with some amazing reads that always leave me laughing.  I did end up having to feature multiple books from the same authors to fill this list up, but these guys are just so funny it was hard not to.  So, with that, let us get on to the funny stuff.

 

Honourable Mentions:

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra by Sarah Kuhn

Doctor Aphra Audio Cover

 

Nuking the Moon: And Other Intelligence Schemes and Military Plots Best Left on the Drawing Board by Vince Houghton

Nuking the Moon Cover

With luminous foxes and exploding bats, this fun non-fiction book is proof that reality is sometimes stranger, and more hilarious, than fiction.

 

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

Early Riser Cover

 

Footrot Flats by Murray Ball

Footrot Flats Cover

An amazing comic strip I loved in my childhood thanks to my fun grandfather.  This cool New Zealand comic still holds up even after all these years and makes me laugh like crazy every time I read it.

 

Top Ten List:

Jingo by Terry Pratchett

Jingo Cover

I do not think that anyone is going to be too surprised that I have featured several books from the utterly hilarious and indefinably clever Terry Pratchett.  Pratchett is easily my favourite author of all time, and I have so much love for his amazing Discworld series, the novels of which I have read and re-read time and time again, and each of them always makes me laugh.  I ended up including five Discworld books on this list, which I honestly think is me showing restraint, as I could have filled up three separate lists purely with Discworld novels.  The first of these books is one I am particularly fond of, Jingo, which sees the Ankh-Morpork City Watch attempt to stop a war.  Filled with all manner of jokes about war, political assassinations and jingoism, while also featuring an hilarious boat chase in unusual weather, Captain Carrot turning into Lawrence of Arabia and an entire battlefield arrested for causing an affray, this book never fails to amuse me, and I always laugh while reading it.

 

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde

The Constant Rabbit Cover

The second entry on this list was last years awesome and captivating release from Jasper Fforde, The Constant Rabbit.  Set in an alternate version of England filled with anthropomorphic rabbits, Fforde has come up with an outrageous narrative that is both fantastically funny while also serving as a clever send up of current British politics.  I laughed at so many scenes during this book, including a great court sequence, that The Constant Rabbit easily made this list and is really worth checking out.

 

The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett

The Last Continent Cover

The next Discworld novel to appear on this list is The Last Continent, a very amusing novel that pits Pratchett’s main protagonist, the cowardly wizard Rincewind, against the terrors and horrors of that most dangerous of places, Australia (although the author is very clear to state that this is not a book about Australia, it just seems, in some places, very Australian, so no worries, right?).  Naturally, Rincewind manages to run into every single dangerous Australian stereotype you can think of, including road gangs trying to steal a mad dwarf’s hay, talking kangaroos, drop bears, a chronic lack of rain and, worst of all, a local delicacy (a pea soup pie floater, shudder!).  The Australian jokes and references come thick and fast throughout this book, which become even more entertaining when viewed from the point-of-view of someone born and raised in Australia.  At the same time, the wizards of Unseen University engage in their own separate adventure, which sees them lost in the past (potentially killing their own grandparents) and forced to contend with a sex-obsessed god of evolution (once someone explains what sex is to him).  All of this makes for a hilarious and captivating read that is easily one of my favourite Discworld books, and one which I will always have a good laugh at.

 

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

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City Cover

There was no way that I could not include the impressive and captivating Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City on this list.  Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, which was one of my favourite books of 2019, tells the story of a desperate and comical siege of a major fantasy city.  Told from the perspective of a very unreliable narrator, this book sees the protagonist defend his city with the most effective weapon he has, bluffs and lies.  This is an outstanding book, and readers are guaranteed to giggle at every single manipulation, con and elaborate subterfuge that is deployed to save the city.

 

Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett

Moving Pictures Cover

A Discworld book that is perfect for movie buffs, Moving Pictures examines what happens when a new form of entertainment comes to this crazy world, giving a whole new meaning to the term “movie magic”.  There are so many great jokes and references in this compelling and exceptional book, that multiple re-reads are a must to see just how clever Pratchett really was.  Highlights include the introduction of multiple amazing characters, a reverse King Kong moment and a very entertaining Gone With The Wind parody (to this day I cannot hear the words “Blown Away” without thinking about this book and sniggering).  An impressive comedic treat.

 

Redshirts by John Scalzi

Redshirts Cover

A Star Trek parody written by science fiction genius John Scalzi was always going to be an amazing read, and it proves to be utterly hilarious.  I loved all the fantastic jokes made about Star Trek in this book, and it was extremely funny to see the adventures of an Enterprise equivalent ship told from the perspective of the doomed redshirts.  I had some good laughs as I powered through this book and it is an incredible comedy read to check out.

 

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

Pyramids Cover

Another long-time favourite Discworld novel of mine is the outstanding Pyramids, which serves as a comedic adventure in an ancient Egyptian facsimile.  Pratchett came up with some fantastic sequences for this book, and I always chuckle at the scene with the various sun gods fighting for their prize like a football while a priest does commentary: “It’s noon! It’s noon!”.  An utterly hilarious novel.

 

A Shot in the Dark by Lynne Truss

A Shot in the Dark Cover

This next excellent entry on this list is A Shot in the Dark, Lyne Truss’s novelisation of her genius Inspector Steine radio show.  This serves as an amazing take on this fantastic radio show and I loved the comical premise which sees a new police constable be reassigned to the seemingly crime free Brighton, only to discover something very sinister is lurking just around the corner, ready to offer him a cup of tea.  A very funny and entertaining read that got a lot of laughs out of me.

 

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

Guards! Guards! Cover

The fifth Discworld novel on this list is the exceptional Guards! Guards!, which serves as the introductory book in the City Watch subseries.  This is an outstanding read that presents a fantasy parody of classic crime fiction novels, by having a severely understaffed police force attempt to arrest a summoned dragon.  There are so many clever comedic scenes in this book, but I personally laughed the hardest as the descriptions of the heroic and naïve Captain Carrot arresting the head of the Thieves Guild.  One of Pratchett’s best and funniest books, this is a great one to check out if you want to laugh out loud.

 

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It by K. J. Parker

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It

My final entry is How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It, the sequel to Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City that I featured above.  This excellent and amazing read (which was one of my favourite books of 2020) continues the story started in the first novel, although this time it follows an actor who manages to con his way to the top of the besieged city using stage techniques.  This was another hilarious and exceptional read that really made me chuckle multiple times.



That is the end of this list.  I think it came together really well and I liked the different novels I decided to feature, even if it was a tad Pratchett heavy (not that there is anything wrong with that).  All the above novels come highly recommended and are definitely worth reading if you are in the mood for a funny and laugh provoking read.

Top Ten Tuesday – Favourite Books 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 the final Top Ten Tuesday for the year, participants needed to list their favourite books of 2020.  This is a bit of a continuation of a series of lists I have been doing over the last month which highlighted some of the authors and books I have been most impressed with this year, including my favourite audiobooks and my top pre-2020 books I read this year.  However, I am extremely excited to showcase my absolute favourite releases of the year, of which there are quite a few.

While most of 2020 has been absolutely shitty, I think we all got a little bit of solace out of the fact that it was a pretty amazing year for books, with a huge range of incredible releases coming out across the genres.  I have had the great pleasure of reading or listening to so many outstanding books this year, and quite a few of this year’s releases have become instant favourites of mine.  I must admit that I somewhat struggled to pull this list together, as there were so many books that deserved to be mentioned.  Therefore, because I am a soft touch, and because the quality of the books I read this year is so impressive, I have decided to expand this list out to 20 entries.  These 20 books are my absolute favourites from 2020, and I would strongly recommend every one of them to anyone who is interested.

Now, I should mention that there is going to be a bit of a crossover between the below entries and some other previous lists I have done before.  In particular, several of these novels appeared on my Top Ten Favourite Audiobooks of 2020 list and my Top Ten Favourite Books from the First Half of 2020 list which I ran back in July.  To make it onto this list, a book needed to be released here in Australia during 2020 and had to be a top quality read.  I have not included any novels that I have not read this year, even they sounded awesome, and I am sure that several, such as The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso, would have made the cut.  I have also excluded Call of the Bone Ships by R. J. Barker, as I am only partway through it at the moment.  I decided to leave off my usual Honourable Mentions section, as the extra 10 entries kind of make it unnecessary.  Overall, though, I have fairly happy with how this Top 20 list turned out and I think it contains a pretty good range of novels that really showcases the different types of books I chose to read this year.  So without further ado, here is the list:

Top 20 List (no particular order):

 

The Trouble With Peace by Joe Abercrombie

The Trouble with Peace Cover

Let us start of this list with the masterclass in dark fantasy fiction that was The Trouble With Peace by the always awesome Joe Abercrombie.  The sequel to last year’s A Little Hatred (which also made last year’s Top 20 Favourites list), The Trouble With Peace presents the reader with another exceptional and deeply entertaining read that places its damaged protagonists onto a whole new battlefield.  Easily one of the best books I read all year, I have no doubt that the final book in this trilogy is going to top all my 2021 favourites lists.

 

The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett

The Evening and the Morning Cover

The moment I heard that a new Ken Follett book was coming out in 2020 I knew that it was going to be one of the best historical fiction reads of the year, and boy was I right.  The Evening and the Morning is an addictive and deeply compelling read that serves as a clever prequel to Follet’s iconic The Pillars of the Earth.  Featuring an impressive historical backdrop and some great point-of-view characters, The Evening and the Morning was an exceptional novel that is really worth checking out.

 

Usagi Yojimbo: Bunraku and Other Stories by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo Bunraku and Other Stories Cover

There was no way that I could exclude the latest Usagi Yojimbo from this list.  Readers of this blog know I am a major fan of the awesome and criminally under-read Usagi Yojimbo comic series by the masterful Stan Sakai, which follows a rabbit samurai in an alternate version of Feudal Japan.  2020’s entry, Bunraku and Other Stories, was another impressive entry in the series which easily made it onto this list due to its fun collection of stories, including one great entry that re-imagines the original Usagi Yojimbo comic (as seen in Volume One: The Ronin).  This was a great read, and I cannot wait to get my next fix of Usagi Yojimbo.

 

Battle Ground by Jim Butcher

Battle Ground Cover

I have long meant to check out the highly acclaimed Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, and 2020 was the year that I finally did, with the action-packed Battle GroundBattle Ground was an exceptionally fun and exciting read that puts the protagonist in the middle of a massive supernatural war to decide the fate of Chicago.  Epic in every sense of the word, I powered through Battle Ground in extremely short order and had an outstanding time listening to it.  I am now a mega fan of this series and I plan to go back and listen to some of the older novels in the series next year.

 

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder Club Cover

Next we have one of the best debuts of 2020, The Thursday Murder Club by comedian Richard Osman.  The Thursday Murder Club was a captivating and awesome murder mystery novel with strong comedic elements that sees a group of retirees attempt to solve a series of murders taking place around their retirement village.  Funny, sweet, and containing an impressive mystery, this was a fantastic book from a great new author.

 

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Harrow the Ninth Cover

After writing one of my favourite debuts of 2019, Gideon the Ninth, up and coming author Tamsyn Muir, rockets her way onto my favourite reads of 2020 list with Harrow the NinthHarrow the Ninth is an exceptional read that follows a group of half-insane necromancers deep in space.  Containing an extremely complex but ultimately exceptional narrative, this second book in the series proves to be an amazing read that I deeply enjoyed.

 

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It by K. J. Parker

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It

You have no idea how excited I was when I heard that bestselling author K. J. Parker was releasing a sequel to Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, which was one of my favourite books of 2019.  This sequel is an awesome and entertaining continuation of the first book’s story, and this time it follows an actor who attempts to con everyone to save his city.  Easily one of the funniest books I read all year, How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It was an automatic inclusion on this list, and I cannot wait to see if Parker is going to continue this fantastic series in the future.

 

The Grove of the Caesars by Lindsey Davis

The Grove of the Caesars Cover

Another great read from one of my favourite historical fiction authors, Lindsey Davis, The Grove of the Caesars was a compelling historical murder mystery which sees a sassy private investigator hunt a serial killer in ancient Rome.  Highly recommended.

 

Demon in White by Christopher Ruocchio

Demon in White Cover 1

For the third year in a row, science fiction supernova Christopher Ruocchio makes his way onto my favourite books of the year list with the epic and impressive Demon in White.  Serving as the third entry in his Sun Eater Sequence (which has also featured Empire of Silence and Howling Dark), this was an expansive and powerful science fiction novel that follows a doomed protagonist across a dark gothic universe.  An absolute masterpiece, I guarantee that the next book in the series will be one of my top books of 2021.

 

Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst

Race the Sands Cover

Another new author I decided to check out this year was Sarah Beth Durst and her standalone fantasy novel, Race the Sands.  This was an incredibly fun and intriguing read that sees the future of a distinctive fantasy realm decided with monster racing.  I had a great time reading this fast-paced and exceptional book and I cannot wait to see how Durst’s next novel, The Bone Maker, turns out.

 

Ink by Jonathan Maberry

Ink Cover

I do not think anyone is surprised that I included the latest Jonathan Maberry novel on this list.  Ink was another captivating, if disturbing, novel from Maberry, who provides a more horror based read about a memory-stealing, tattoo-absorbing vampire who is hunting the haunted town of Pine Deep.  I really enjoyed this book, and it proved to be another exceptional release from this clever author.  Make sure to keep an eye out for Maberry’s next novel, Relentless, which will serve as the second entry in the Rogue Team International series (the first entry, Rage, was one of the best books of 2019), which will no doubt appear on this list next year.

 

Star Wars: Darth Vader (2020): Volume One: Dark Heart of the Sith

Darth Vader - Dark Heart of the Sith

What is an Unseen Library Top Ten list without a piece of Star Wars tie-in fiction on it?  While there were some great Star Wars novels and comics this year (Doctor Aphra and Shadow Fall come to mind), this first volume of the new Darth Vader comic book series was easily the best piece of Star Wars fiction I read all year.  Diving into the psyche of Darth Vader right after he reveals his identity to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, Dark Heart of the Sith is a deep and rich Star Wars tale that was one of the best comics of 2020.

 

The Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell

The Kingdom of Liars Cover

Another great debut from 2020, The Kingdom of Liars was an impressive and inventive fantasy novel that sets a traitor’s son on a journey of redemption.  Loaded with a compelling story and set in a great new fantasy setting, The Kingdom of Liars was an addictive read, and I think Nick Martell has a very bright future indeed.

 

Fair Warning by Michael Connelly

Fair Warning Cover

I read quite a few good murder mysteries this year, but one of my favourites was Fair Warning by the always amazing Michael Connelly.  Featuring his journalist protagonist Jack McEvoy, Fair Warning features a superb mystery that I had a wonderful time unravelling.  While I did also enjoy Connelly’s other novel of 2020, The Law of Innocence, I think Fair Warning had the stronger story and it was another classic from Connelly.

 

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde

The Constant Rabbit Cover

If you are need of a laugh after 2020, do yourself a favour and check out this wacky and weird new novel from Jasper Fforde.  Set in an alternate Britain where rabbits have become anthropomorphised and are now demanding equal rights, The Constant Rabbit is a wildly entertaining and amazingly clever read that contains some comedy gold.  While I am a big fan of Fforde’s unusual novels (such as his last book, Early Riser), I was surprised by how funny I found The Constant Rabbit to be, and I honestly could not stop laughing as I read my way through it. 

 

One Minute Out by Mark Greaney

One Minute Out Cover

One of my favourite thrillers of the year was this latest entry in the Gray Man series by veteran author Mark Greaney (who made last year’s list with his military thriller Red Metal).  One Minute Out sees Greaney’s assassin protagonist hunt down a group of human traffickers and engage them in all out war.  An enjoyable, action-packed read, One Minute Out is an amazing novel and I cannot wait to read Greaney’s next book, Relentless.

 

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

A Deadly Education Cover

An extremely fun fantasy novel set in a deadly magical school where everything tries to kill the students, need I say more?  This was an epic and captivating novel that I ended up reading in a single night.

 

The Gates of Athens by Conn Iggulden

The Gates of Athens Cover

One of the top authors of historical fiction, Conn Iggulden, returned in 2020 with a brand-new series that chronicles the various wars the plagued ancient Athens.  The first book in this series, The Gates of Athens, was an exceptional read that showed a whole angle to war against the Persians and which was an absolute treat to read.  Highly recommended.

 

Hollow Empire by Sam Hawke

Hollow Empire Cover 2

While I still have to pull a review together for this book, I had to include Hollow Empire by Sam Hawke on my favourites list.  The sequel to one of my favourite books of 2018, City of Lies, Hollow Empire is loaded with intrigue, assassinations, and poison eaters in this great fantasy thriller.

 

Devolution by Max Brooks

Devolution Cover

The final entry on this list is the deeply thrilling horror novel, Devolution, which sees a small community cut-off from the rest of America attempt to survive an ancient terror, Sasquatches.  Devolution was a fantastic novel from Max Brooks, author of World War Z, and it was another fun book that I smashed out in a day.  I loved the action-packed and extremely clever narrative that Brooks cooked up for this novel and it was one of the most exciting and enjoyable books of the year.

 

Well, those are my 20 favourite books of 2020. It turned out to be quite a good list in the end, and I am very glad that I was able to highlight so many fantastic books.  2021 is set to be another excellent year for amazing reads (and let us face it, we all want out of 2020), and I will be examining some of my most anticipated books for the first half of the year next week.  In the meantime, let me know what your favourite books of 2020 were in the comments below, and make sure you all have a happy and safe New Years.

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It by K. J. Parker

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It

Publisher: Orbit (Trade Paperback – 18 August 2020)

Series: The Siege – Book Two

Length: 357 pages

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Prepare to laugh like crazy with How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It by K. J. Parker, an intensely funny and clever fantasy read that was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020.

Several years after their home fell under a brutal and prolonged siege, the inhabitants of the City have settled into a new way of life.  There may be a vast army camped on the plains outside and the occasional catapult shot may demolish a house or two, but that does not mean that people cannot make some money and get on with their lives.  This includes Notker, an acclaimed actor, skilled lookalike and mediocre playwright, who scrapes a living by impersonating the rich and powerful of the City at parties while trying to get someone to pay him money for his latest play.  However, what Notker does not know is that fame, opportunity, and a rather large boulder are about to land in his lap.

When the City’s greatest hero and nominal leader, Lysimachus, secretly dies, his followers/handlers, desperate to stay in power, recruit Notker to play the role of a lifetime.  Impersonating Lysimachus, Notker continues to act as the city’s figurehead, allowing life to go on, and he even begins to think he has a handle on this simple job, until someone tries to murder him.  Now he finds himself in the midst of a brutal and ongoing power struggle as the various power players in the city attempt to manipulate him for their own ends resulting in him being crowned as Emperor of the entire Robur Empire (or what is left of it).

As Notker attempts to find some sanity within his home, he begins to understand what a fragile position the City is in.  With enemies surrounding them and the besiegers slowly overcoming the City’s defences, Notker needs to choose between making a run for it or trying to save the City.  But what difference can one very good actor make in a war?  If Notker has anything to do with it, everything!

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It is another spectacular and extremely entertaining fantasy novel from legendary fantasy writer, K. J. Parker.  Parker, a pseudonym of bestselling author Tom Holt, has written a vast catalogue of books over the years, including a substantial collection of humorous and satirical fantasy novels.  I first really got into Parker’s work last year when I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the awesome Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, a very funny novel that focused on a conniving engineer as he thwarted a massive army through guile, tricky and a substantial amount of BS.  Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City was an amazing read and it was easily one of my favourite books of 2019.  As a result, I have been eagerly keeping an eye out for any additional releases from Parker and was very excited when I saw that How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It was coming out.  I was especially intrigued when I learnt that this latest Parker novel was some form of sequel to Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, and I was very, very happy when I got my copy of this latest book.

This new novel from Parker proved to be an extraordinary read and it was easily one of the funniest novels of 2020.  The author writes a clever, fast-paced and addictive story that utilises the author’s unique sense of humour to create a very entertaining piece of literature.  This is a very enjoyable read, and fans of Parker’s work will love that How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It is a sequel to Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, continuing some of the great storylines from the prior book.  I had an outstanding time reading this book and it gets an easy five-star review from me.

Parker presents another brilliant and witty story for How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It that follows the adventures of another unlucky and jaded protagonist as he tries to survive the chaotic events unfolding around him.  Just like with Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, this novel is written purely from the perspective of the protagonist as he chronicles his actions and personal history into a historical text.  This results in a very fast-paced and hilarious story, as the main character bounces from one bad situation to another, encountering plotters, ambitious politicians, angry crime bosses, dangerous invaders and one particular fierce actress who serves as Notker’s leading lady.  I absolutely loved the various outrageous and challenging situations that the protagonist finds himself in, and Parker does a fantastic job presenting them in a humorous way, showing how silly everything is and the various, clever and well-written solutions to these problems.  The entire story goes in some very fun and compelling directions and this ends up being an overall excellent narrative that is extremely well written.  I was able to predict the overall conclusion of the story somewhat in advance, but Parker did an amazing job setting it up and it resulted in a very entertaining and satisfying conclusion.  This was such an amazing story and I had an absolute blast getting through it, laughing my head off the entire time.

As part of this awesome and entertaining story, Parker sets up a whole new protagonist for this novel, Notker the liar.  Notker is another fun protagonist in a similar vein to the main character of Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, in that he is a self-serving and opportunistic individual who is mostly looking out for his own wellbeing.  This changes once he takes on the assignment of impersonating the dim-witted but charismatic Lysimachus and soon finds himself responsible for the safety of the city.  While at first he is mostly trying to survive and find a way to escape from all the insanity and backstabbing that is his life, once he becomes more aware of the situation facing the City and the danger it is really in he begins to take on more responsibility, manipulating everyone so that they can start fighting a more effective war.  I really liked seeing this protagonist attempt to take control of the situation surrounding the City, especially as he appears to be one of the only sane people around.  Watching his various incredulous reactions to the problems presented to him and his various solutions, which are a combination of common-sense responses and brilliant but out-there tactics, is really entertaining.  I especially loved how Parker played up the actor/screenwriter aspect of the character as many of his greatest tricks are derived from theatre techniques, such as selling something to a crowd, misdirection or the value of good lighting.  There is also a great underlying aspect to the character as he pretends to be Lysimachus and he needs to strike a balance between responses that Lysimachus would have done and his own common sense and craftiness.  This compulsion to act like Lysimachus actually becomes a major problem for Notker as he enjoys being the heroic former gladiator and soon begins emulating him instead of acting in his usual manner of self-preservation.  All of this results in another complex and likeable central character who the reader cannot help but root for as he attempts to survive.  I really liked how Notker’s story progressed and it was a real joy to read about him from start to finish.

Another thing that I really enjoyed about this book was the way in which it acts as a fantastic and humorous follow-up to Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled CityHow to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It is set in the same city as the author’s 2019 release, and the story begins a few years after the events of this proceeding novel.  This new novel mostly presents a new story, told from the perspective of a different protagonist, but it does have a lot of connections to the previous novel.  The individual Notker is impersonating, Lysimachus, was a side character in the first novel, serving as a bodyguard to the original protagonist.  In this book it is revealed that following Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, Lysimachus, a champion gladiator and a revered public figure, was given all the credit for the original protagonist’s efforts following his death.  Parker does a fantastic job revealing this to the reader, and it is extremely fitting in the scope of the first novel as this original protagonist was always getting overshadowed and overestimated.  The author makes sure to really drive this point home by completely excluding the name of the previous protagonist throughout How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It, just to emphasise how no one in the city truly remembers who he was or what he did, which is pretty darn hilarious.  The novel contains a number of fantastic references to the events that occurred with the previous book, including giving Notker a copy of the previous protagonist’s memoirs (which formed the basis of Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City).  Notker of course then provides his own witty two cents to this memoir, providing a writer’s critical analysis, including doubting some of the events that occurred, such as the coincidence around the protagonist being the childhood friend of the mastermind of the siege.  All of this definitely adds a lot to the book’s overall humour, and it is always entertaining to see an author make fun of his own work.

Despite these fun references and the continuation of some story elements from Parker’s previous book, How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It is very much its own novel, taking the reader on a whole new fun adventure.  As a result, you really do not need to have read Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City first, although it is a lot of fun to see the previous book’s events lampooned in this novel.  Indeed, due to the fact that the protagonist and point-of-view character has no idea of the full events of the previous book, you get a good overview as everything is explained to him, which is fun.  Overall, this serves as a very entertaining sequel to this amazing previous book and I will be interested to see if Parker decides to continue the story in some way, which I have no doubt will be another incredible read.

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It is a truly awesome and enjoyable read, and author K. J. Parker lived up to all my expectations with this book.  Not only does it contain a captivating and addictive narrative anchored by a likeable and complex main character, but it is also intensely funny.  I loved every second that I spent reading How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It, and this was without a doubt one of the best books that I have read this year.

WWW Wednesday – 12 August 2020

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?

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin (Trade Paperback)

The Night Swim Cover

I was in the mood for a good mystery novel so I thought I would check out The Night Swim by Australian author Megan Goldin. I previously enjoyed Goldin’s second novel, The Escape Room, so I thought that this would be an interesting new book to check out.  I am about 100 pages in at this point and so far it is turning out to be a great book with a compelling plot.


Harrow the Ninth
by Tamsyn Muir (Audiobook)

Harrow the Ninth Cover

I also just started listening to the audiobook of Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir.  Harrow the Ninth is the sequel to one of the best debuts of 2019, Gideon the Ninth, which contained a fun and distinctive blend of science fiction, necromancy and murder mystery, all wrapped up with some fantastic characters.  I have not made too much progress into this new book yet, but what I have gotten through is pretty good and I am curious to see where Muir takes her unique story next.

What did you recently finish reading?

The Bear Pit by S. G. MacLean (Trade Paperback)

The Bear Pit Cover

 

World of WarcraftShadows Rising by Madeleine Roux (Audiobook)

Shadows Rising Cover

 

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It by K. J. Parker (Trade Paperback)

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It

What do you think you’ll read next?

Execution by S. J. Parris (Trade Paperback)

Execution Cover

 

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.