Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Australian Books 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 week’s Top Ten Tuesday, participants were supposed to list their top new-to-me authors that they read in 2021, however, I am going to do something differently here at The Unseen Library.  I already completed and published this list last week as I knew in advance that I would be doing an alternate list today.  The reason for this is because tomorrow, 26 January, is Australia Day, so I thought I would take this opportunity to highlight some of the top pieces of fiction written by Australian authors that I read in 2021.

Each year talented Australian authors produce an impressive and exciting range of fiction from across the various genres, many of which I am lucky enough to get copies of from the local publishers.  I tend to read and review a ton of novels by Australian authors, most of which turn out to be some outstanding reads that I deeply enjoy.  As such, for the last few years on Australia Day I have taken to highlighting my favourite pieces of Australian fiction for the last few years (check out my 2019 and 2020 lists).  I really love how much awesome Australian fiction there is out in the world, and this list is the perfect way to highlight some of the best recent Australian authors.

Now I tend to take a bit of a different approach to Australian fiction than some other bloggers, as I focus on Australian authors rather than those purely set in Australia or featuring Australian casts.  To qualify for this list, a novel had to be released in 2021 and written by an Australian author, which I am defining as anyone born in Australia or who currently lives here (Australia is very good at adopting talented people as our own).  This resulted in a long list, including several novels that I considered to be some of the best reads of last year.  I was eventually able to whittle this novel down to the absolute cream of the crop and came up with a fantastic top ten list (with my typical generous honourable mentions).  I really enjoyed how this list turned out, especially as it features novels from a range of different genres, all of which were very awesome Australian books.

Honourable Mentions:

The Colonial’s Son by Peter Watt

The Colonial's Son Cover

One of the best Australian historical fiction authors, Peter Watt, started a great new series last year with The Colonial’s Son.  The sequel to his amazing Colonial series (made up of The Queen’s Colonial, The Queen’s Tiger and The Queen’s Captain), this was a fun and action packed novel that continued some great storylines from the first series.

 

Prisoner by S. R. White

The Prisoner Cover

A taut and clever bushland murder mystery that saw a determined investigator methodically solve a murder through smart police work and multiple interviews with the suspects.

 

The 22 Murders of Madison May by Max Barry

The 22 Murders of Madison May Cover

An extremely exciting novel from awesome author Max Barry that sees a resourceful journalist follow a serial killer throughout the multiverse as he attempts to kill every version of his crush.

 

The Paris Collaborator by A. W. Hammond

The Paris Collaborator Cover

An intense and compelling historical thriller set in occupied Paris; The Paris Collaborator was a great read with a fantastic story to it.

Top Ten List:

Kill Your Brother by Jack Heath

Kill Your Brother Cover

Let us start this list off with the incredibly cool Kill Your Brother by amazing author Jack Heath.  Kill Your Brother is a dark and very clever read that follows an infamously damaged protagonist as they are given a choice to either kill their brother or be killed themself.  Set in rural Australia and loaded with great twists, this was an outstanding and awesome novel that was one of the most entertaining and addictive books I read all last year.

 

The Councillor by E. J. Beaton

The Councillor Cover

Australian author E. J. Beaton had one of the best debuts of 2021 with her excellent fantasy read, The Councillor.  Set in a divided and besieged fantasy realm, The Councillor follows a palace scholar who is given ultimate power and must decide the fate of her kingdom through politics, treachery and deceit.  An impressive first book that is really worth checking out.

 

The Housemate by Sarah Bailey

The Housemate Cover

One of the most incredible reads of 2021 was the intense and captivating murder mystery novel The Housemate by Sarah Bailey.  Set in Melbourne, this book sees an infamous murder case reopened after one of the supposed victims reappears and then dies again.  Following a conflicted journalist whose past connections to the crime is slowly driving her crazy, this was an awesome read that I honestly could not put down.

 

The Warsaw Orphan by Kelly Rimmer

The Warsaw Orphan Cover

Impressive author Kelly Rimmer produced one of the absolute best historical dramas last year with her moving book, The Warsaw Orphan.  Set in occupied Warsaw, this novel followed two very damaged protagonists as they attempt to save as many Jewish babies as possible from the Nazis.  Grim, intense, and loaded with tragedy, this is an excellent historical drama that comes very highly recommended.

 

The Enemy Within by Tim Ayliffe

The Enemy Within Cover

Australian journalist turned crime fiction author Tim Ayliffe had an excellent release in 2021 with The Enemy Within, the third book in his John Bailey series.  Following on from the great stories told in The Greater Good and State of Fear, The Enemy Within had a brilliant story that perfectly utilised recent, controversial Australian events and places Ayliffe’s nosy reporter protagonist right in the middle of them.

 

Unforgiven by Sarah Barrie

Unforgiven Cover

One of the latest Australian books of 2021 that I have read, Unforgiven is an exceptionally dark and powerful novel that follows a former victim of child abuse who has grown up and now hunts the monsters who ruined her childhood.  Containing an exceptional mystery and some brilliant characters, this is an impressive, if grim, thriller that I deeply enjoyed reading.

 

Aurora’s End by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Aurora's End Cover

The Australian dream team of Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff finished off their amazing young adult science fiction Aurora Cycle series last year with the impressive Aurora’s End.  This awesome and extremely fast paced novel featured a very clever multi-time period storyline that did a fantastic job of wrapping up the compelling story of the previous two novels (Aurora Rising and Aurora Burning).  One of the better young adult series of the last few years, I am really glad that Kaufman and Kristoff saw it off in amazing fashion.

 

2 Sisters Detective Agency by James Patterson and Candice Fox

2 Sisters Detective Agency Cover

Ok, so I know that James Patterson isn’t Australian, but his cowriter for this novel, Candice Fox, is one of the best Australian crime fiction authors out there at the moment, and I loved her work on this entertaining and fun book.  Following two very different sisters as they attempt to solve crimes in Los Angeles, this was an extremely exciting and hilarious book that features a really good story.  I had an amazing time reading 2 Sisters Detective Agency and I really hope that this collaboration between Patterson and this rising Australian author continues in the future.  Make sure to also check out Candice Fox’s other 2021 release, The Chase, which had a great prison-break storyline.

 

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

She Who Became the Sun Cover

Another epic debut by an Australian author last year was the highly regarded She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan.  This bold and addictive read follows a young girl from rural China who takes her dead brother’s destined greatness and starts a journey to take back China from the Mongolian dynasty and become Emperor.  Featuring a unique and clever story that utilises historical fiction and fantasy elements, this was an amazing read from an impressive new Australian author.

 

Blood Trail by Tony Park

Blood Trail Cover

The final book on this list is the latest novel from one of Australia’s premier thriller authors, Tony Park.  Park’s new novel, Blood Trail, once again journeys to Africa and follows several great characters as they attempt to capture near-magical poachers and kidnappers in a game preserve.  An amazing adrenalin ride from start to finish, Blood Trail was an outstanding read, and I cannot wait to see what Park will release in 2022.

 

 

Well, that is the end of this latest list and I am really happy that I got a chance to highlight some of the cool Australian releases of 2021.  The above books represent an outstanding collection of fiction from talented Australian authors, and each of them comes highly recommended by me.  I had a lot of fun coming up with this list and I cannot wait to find out what the best Australian books of 2022 are going to be.  Until then, stay tuned for more epic reviews and lists, and make sure you let me know who your favourite Australian authors are in the comments below.

Kill Your Brother by Jack Heath

Kill Your Brother Cover

Publisher: Allen & Unwin Australia (Trade Paperback – 30 November 2021)

Series: Standalone

Length: 339 pages

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One of Australia’s most brilliant and potentially psychotic crime fiction authors, Jack Heath, returns with a powerful and captivating thriller, Kill Your Brother, which was one of the best pieces of Australian fiction I read all year.

Would you kill your brother to save your own life?

That is the question that Elise Glyk is forced to ask herself after being placed in an impossible situation.  Elise, a disgraced athlete hated by the entire country, is a woman on a mission.  Her brother, Callum, a popular local teacher, has been missing for a month, and the police have been unable and unwilling to find him.  Determined to locate Callum, Elise’s investigation eventually leads her to a dilapidated local farm, where she is shocked to discover her brother being held prisoner in a modified septic tank.  However, before she can rescue him, Elise is captured and thrown into the same hole as her brother.

Their captor is heartbroken former sheep farmer Stephanie Hartnell, who believes that Callum is responsible for her daughter’s death and has been attempting to force him to confess to his supposed crimes.  However, Stephanie doesn’t have room for two prisoners, and while she doesn’t want to hurt the innocent Elise, she needs to make sure that she won’t immediately go to the police.  To that end, she offers Elise a deal: kill your brother and you’re free to go.

Not even considering the deal, Elise attempts to find another way to gain their freedom.  Trying to find a way to escape while also working to prove Callum’s innocence to Stephanie, Elise hopes that someone will eventually be able to find them before time runs out.  However, the more Elise digs into her brother’s story, the more inconsistencies she discovers.  What is her brother really hiding, and how will either sibling react when the truth comes out?

Kill Your Brother was an awesome and impressive novel that I powered through in a couple of days due to its incredible narrative and amazing twists.  This was a great standalone book from Jack Heath, an author from my home city of Canberra, who has written some fantastic thrillers over the years.  This includes his bestselling Timothy Blake series, the third book of which, Hideout, was one of my favourite pieces of Australian fiction in 2020Kill Your Brother was originally released as an Audible original audiobook, with the paperback version I read subsequently rewritten and adapted into a novel format.  I had an outstanding time reading this book, and it was an excellent and impressive Australian thriller.

This book has an incredible story that takes the reader on a powerful thrill ride that they cannot get off if they tried.  Told using several character perspectives, Kill Your Brother quickly launches into the book’s deadly and compelling scenario, with Elise, a universally hated woman, attempting to find her brother.  Her hunt, which has been going on for months, has been largely unsuccessful, and the evidence found at her brother house’s, combined with her own reputation, means that everyone in her life constantly brushes her off.  However, Elise’s perseverance pays off when she finds Callum being held in a septic tank in Stephanie Hartnell’s backyard.  Posing as a private investigator, Elise tries to reason with Stephanie while plotting an escape, but she is soon forced into the ultimate no-win situation when given the option to kill her brother.  From there, the story devolves even further, with several escape attempts and mounting danger from their captor, and the two siblings turning against each other as their situation gets more desperate.  As the story progresses, several viewpoints on the situation and the events leading up to it are presented.  As the protagonist attempts to survive you get an interesting view of what Callum is accused of, and the eventual reveal of the full picture really influences the rest of the narrative.  This all leads up to the gripping and deadly finale in which every secret comes out and no-one is left untouched by the revelations and accompanying violence.

I really cannot exaggerate how awesome this cool narrative is.  Heath has gone out of his way to make Kill Your Brother’s story as clever and thrilling as possible, and I loved every single second that I spent reading it.  This book is filled with some brilliant twists and reveals, and Heath does a wonderful job of setting each of them up and slowly revealing them as the book progresses.  I honestly did not see half the twists coming and I loved how several small and seemingly inconsequential details eventually come back with amazing significance towards the end.  Heath also perfectly utilises a series of flashbacks that examine Elise’s past, showing why she is so disliked, while also revealing several clues about her family and the circumstances that lead to her brother’s imprisonment.  This was a really good standalone read, and potential readers are guaranteed a satisfying ending after getting stuck into the unique mystery and scenario.  I deeply enjoyed how this novel flowed, and there were no obvious issues with this being an adaption of an audiobook novella.  The impressive combination of character history, twisty writing and fast-paced storytelling ensured that I was deeply addicted within a few pages of starting.

One of the things that I must highlight is the fantastic central protagonist, Elise.  Elise is a brilliantly complex and sympathetic figure due to her complicated and tragic past, which has led to her current ostracism from her community and the hatred of the entirety of Australia.  I really enjoyed the impressive and complex backstory that surrounds this interesting and unique protagonist, especially as Heath did a great job of gradually introducing the full character history as the book progressed.  The whole angle is perfectly portrayed, including her motivations and the distinctly unfortunate events surrounding her disgrace, as well as the predicted reaction of the ordinary Australian sports fans.  This compelling and damaging backstory gives her quite an interesting insight and set of emotions regarding the events around her, as well as some intense determination to survive no matter the odds.  This helps produce a really fascinating character driven narrative, and I deeply enjoyed seeing the captivating and emotionally rich development that surrounded this brilliant protagonist.

I also deeply appreciated the way that Heath captured the feel of small-town Australia in his writing.  Most of the story is set in the fictional town of Warrigal, which draws a lot of inspiration from the small rural settlements throughout Australia, such as Braidwood, where Heath apparently wrote a good portion of this novel.  I really think that Heath did an amazing job of portraying the attitudes and mindsets of people in these sorts of locations, and you get an impressive sense of the location.  Watching the protagonist attempt to deal with the challenges of being the biggest pariah in her small town is pretty fascinating, and it was also compelling to see some of the limitations of a police investigation in this location, especially when it comes to locating a missing teacher.  The impacts of growing up in such a location also become a major part of the protagonist’s backstory, especially as the pressures of succeeding and representing her family and town drive her to make some mistakes.  I also must highlight the tiny pit that the protagonist and her brother find themselves held captive in.  Heath ensures that the reader gets the full sense of claustrophobia and the feeling of being trapped as the book progresses, especially once the characters become weaker and start turning on each other.  This intense and claustrophobic setting really helps to amp up the tension, and you will feel very uncomfortable during the scenes set down there.  Finally, I had a lot of fun with the author’s occasional visits to Canberra throughout the book, mainly because it was interesting to see the author’s take on my home city.  Overall, these settings are perfectly portrayed and the reader gets a real sense of them, especially the small-town lifestyles.  These work in the narrative extremely well, and it was a lot of fun to see the various characters’ experiences and impressions of them.

Kill Your Brother was an exceptional read from Jack Heath, who is quickly becoming one of Australia’s most impressive thriller writers.  This brilliant, dark and exceedingly clever thriller takes the reader on an incredible ride, and I loved seeing all the unique and captivating twists and turns that Heath came up with.  Focused around an amazingly complex protagonist and making full use of the rural Australian landscape, Kill Your Brother’s story is just incredible, and I am still reeling about some of the twists it contains.  This is a highly recommended read that gets a well-deserved five-star rating from me.  I am extremely excited to see what Heath writes next.

WWW Wednesday – 24 November 2021

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?

It Ends in Fire by Andrew Shvarts (Hardcover)

It Ends in Fire Cover 2

I just started reading It Ends in Fire by Andrew Shvarts, a fantastic and compelling young adult fantasy novel that serves as a fun deconstruction of the classic magical school narrative.  I have been looking forward to this book for a while, mainly because Shvarts’ last series, the Royal Bastards trilogy was pretty damn amazing (check out my reviews of City of Bastards and War of the Bastards).  I am about 100 pages in It Ends in Fire at the moment, and the plot so far features a young rebel who infiltrates a fantasy nation’s premier magic school (essentially an evil Hogwarts) to kill everyone.  I look forward to seeing how it turns out and I am expecting a fun and thrilling story.

 

Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: Lesser Evil by Timothy Zahn (Audiobook)

Star Wars - Thrawn Ascendancy - Lesser Evil Cover

I was also extremely excited to start listening to the third and final book in the Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy, Lesser Evil, by Timothy Zahn.  Serving as a prequel to the author’s outstanding Thrawn trilogy (Thrawn, Alliances and Treason), Lesser Evil follows on from the great Thrawn Ascendancy novels Chaos Rising and Greater Good and seeks to wrap up this complex tale. I have been powering through this novel in the last few days and I am hoping to knock it off very soon.  I am having a blast with this final book, especially as a lot of the overarching series storylines are starting to come together in some amazing ways.  I am extremely excited to see how this trilogy ends and Lesser Evil looks set to be the best book in this fantastic trilogy.

What did you recently finish reading?

Among Thieves by M. J. Kuhn (Trade Paperback)

Among Thieves Cover

 

The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield (Audiobook)

The Apollo Murders Cover

 

Kill Your Brother by Jack Heath (Trade Paperback)

Kill Your Brother Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

Cytonic 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.

Book Haul 29 October 2021

It has been a while since I have done a Book Haul post, but seeing that I received several interesting books recently, I thought I would quickly do one to highlight some of the best books I have gotten in the last few weeks.  Each of the below books sound extremely cool and captivating, and I cannot wait to see how they all turn out.

Aurora’s End by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Aurora's End Cover

I was very happy to receive a copy of Aurora’s End by Australian authors Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.  This awesome novel is the third and final book in the impressive Aurora Cycle trilogy, which has so far consisted of Aurora Rising and Aurora Burning.  This has been an excellent young adult science fiction series and I am really eager to see how it all comes to a close. I am actually about halfway through it at the moment, and I am enjoying it’s intense story, especially as it utilising some cool and complex time-travel antics.

Star Wars: Ronin by Emma Mieko Candon

Star Wars Visions - Ronin Cover

I was also very excited to received a copy of Star Wars: Ronin by Emma Mieko Candon, which ties into an episode from the recent Star Wars: Visions anime series, The Duel. Ronin serves as a prequel to The Duel and tells the full story of the wandering protagonist in this alternate universe story.  I am deeply curious about this novel and I cannot wait to see what crazy story it contains.  I loved The Duel and I look forward to seeing more of the unique alternate universe, especially with its blend of Star Wars and feudal Japanese imagery.  If this incredible cover is anything to go by, this is going to be an outstanding read.

Kill Your Brother by Jack Heath

Kill Your Brother Cover

One of the more intriguing novels I recently received was Kill Your Brother by Australian author Jack Heath, author of the gruesome Timothy Blake series, which follows a cannibal turned FBI consultant.  I had a lot of fun last year reading the last book in this series, Hideout, and I am looking forward to reading more from this talented thriller author, especially as Kill Your Brother sounds like a fantastic and intense read.  An adaptation of the Audible Original of the same name, this novel asks the simple, if distressing, question, would you kill your brother to save your own life?

The Spy’s Wife by Fiona McIntosh

The Spy's Wife Cover

Australian author Fiona McIntosh is at it again with another historical drama, The Spy’s Wife.  I have rather enjoyed some of McIntosh’s latest novels, including The Pearl Thief, The Diamond Hunter and The Champagne War, and I look forward to reading this next book, especially as it focuses on espionage during World War II.

State of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny

State of Terror Cover

The next book I have received is the exciting thriller novel, State of Terror.  Written by the curious team of experienced author Louise Penny and the Hillary Clinton, State of Terror follows a Secretary of State who attempts to stop an international terrorist attack while also trying to revitalise America’s diplomatic reputation after a controversial President.  As you can imagine, this book is considered a little divisive and controversial in America, and I am kind of curious to find out what sort of story it contains.

The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker

The Keeper of Night Cover

The final book I have received is the rather interesting sounding young adult fantasy novel, The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker. This awesome sounding novel combines Western and Japanese mythologies and religions to tell the story of a half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami girl who is given a task to kill three demons. I really love the sound of this amazing novel, and I cannot wait to see what unique story it contains.

Well that’s the end of this latest Book Haul post.  As you can see I have quite a bit of reading to do at the moment thanks to all these awesome books that have come in.  Let me know which of the above you are most interested in and make sure to check back in a few weeks to see my reviews of them.