Top Ten Tuesday – Books I Wish Had a Sequel

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 books that they wish had an epilogue.  This is a pretty fun topic, although I’m going to alter it slightly and change epilogue to sequel.  There are a ton of great books out there that really deserve a follow-up in some way shape or form and I can think of several awesome examples of the bat that I would really like to see more of.

To come up with this list I looked at some of my favourite standalone novels and series and had a think about which ones I thought deserved a sequel.  I made sure to avoid novels which already have a planned sequel coming out in the future (even if it has been promised for a very long time), and mostly focussed on books that have nothing currently planned or where the author has no real intention of ever doing a sequel for.  In most cases this is a real shame as I think that all the entries down below definitely deserve some more content in one shape or another.

Honourable Mentions

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra by Sara Kuhn

Doctor Aphra Audio Cover

I loved this audio adaptation of the various comics featuring standout Star Wars extended universe character Doctor Aphra, and I hope that they consider doing a sequel that covers some of her other adventures.

 

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde

The Constant Rabbit Cover

Jasper Fforde honestly tied up everything pretty perfectly in this awesome novel, although I would gladly read more books about these hilariously sentient rabbits.

 

Kal Jerico series

Kal Jerico - Sinner's Bounty Cover

It has been a couple of years since the last Warhammer 40,000 novel or comic featured the amazing character of Kal Jerico, bounty-hunter extraordinaire.  The last novel, Sinner’s Bounty, was really good, and I want to see more of this amazing and flamboyant protagonist.

 

Later by Stephen King

Later Cover

An awesome book from last year that really needs a sequel at some point.  Get onto it Stephen King!

Top Ten Tuesday:

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Into the Drowning Deep Cover

I would give anything to see more of the freaky and terrifying mermaid monsters featured in this impressive horror read by Mira Grant.  There is still so much story that could be continued here, and I hope that Grant fleshes out Into the Drowning Deep’s unique plot into a sequel or even a whole series.

 

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

A History of the Vampire Uprising Cover

A fun and clever novel about a vampire epidemic springing up around the world.  Villareal left a lot of potential storylines open and I would love to see this world explored more at some point.

 

The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini

Eragon Cover

Even after finishing more than 10 years ago, The Inheritance Cycle remains one of my favourite all-time fantasy series to this day, mainly due to its clever world-building and massive narrative.  As such, I would love to see more adventures set in this universe and there are a ton of unanswered questions that need to be explored.

 

Star Wars: Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber

deathtrooperscover

Ok, so technically Death Troopers, a fantastically fun novel about zombies in the Star Wars universe, did get a prequel with the Old-Republic novel Red Harvest, that explored the origins of the zombie virus.  However, I personally would love to see more zombie-related stories in the Star Wars universe and I think it would a fun addition to the current canon (although I can’t really see Disney doing that).  Still, never say never, especially for something this awesome.

 

The Coven trilogy by R. A. Salvatore

Reckoning of Fallen Gods Cover

Bestselling fantasy author R. A. Salvatore absolutely killed it between 2018 and 2020 with The Coven trilogy.  Set in his Corona universe and featuring the novels Child of a Mad God, Reckoning of Fallen Gods and Song of the Risen God, The Coven trilogy was extremely compelling and introduced some intriguing new characters while also bringing back some iconic figures from his Demon Wars Saga.  The final book left with several storylines wide open and I have yet to see any indication that Salvatore is coming back to this universe anytime soon.  Hopefully we’ll see a sequel trilogy in the next few years, I know I will have a great time with it.

 

The Holdout by Graham Moore

The Holdout Cover

The Holdout was a cool standalone legal thriller from a few years ago that I had a brilliant time reading.  While this initial story was wrapped up really well, I would love to see more jury-related storylines in the future, potentially with The Holdout’s protagonist involved in other controversial jury cases.

 

Nuking the Moon by Vince Houghton

Nuking the Moon Cover

Give me more fun stories about the most idiotic military plans and technology from history!

 

Star Wars: Dark Disciple by Christie Golden

Star Wars Dark Disciple Cover

Another great Star Wars book that deserves a sequel of some variety.  Dark Disciple followed two major characters from the Star Wars extended universe, including Quinlan Vos (recently mention in the Obi-Wan Kenobi series), and I would love to see what happened to him, and other characters, after the events of this book and Order 66.

 

Devolution by Max Brooks

Devolution Cover

Devolution was one of my favourite books of 2020 and contained an outstanding standalone read about sasquatches attacking a small community.  While this was a really awesome novel that came together extremely well in the end, I always felt that Brooks could have made his novel longer and expanded the story out a bit more.  As such, I think a Devolution sequel would be pretty awesome as there are so many more details that could be explored.

 

Redshirts by John Scalzi

Redshirts Cover

Could we get another one of these that parodies Star Trek: The Next Generation?  Wil Wheaton’s narration of the audiobook version would be even funnier that way.

 

 

 

Well, that’s the end of this latest list.  I hope you enjoy my somewhat unique choices above, and maybe if we’re lucky there might be some follow up novels to the in the future.  In the meantime, let me know what books you think deserve fun sequels in the comments below?

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Book Covers of 2021

Welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday, where I am going to list my absolute favourite book covers of the last year.  This is actually the second Top Ten Tuesday post I am putting up today, mainly because I wanted to finish off all my best-of-2021 lists before we got too far into the new year.  I have previously highlighted several other amazing books from last year in a range of lists, including My Favourite Books of 2021, Favourite Audiobooks, Favourite Debuts and Favourite Australian Fiction lists, and I think looking at awesome covers is a good way to wrap this all up.

Now, I know you aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I think we can all agree that an awesome piece of cover art can really raise some interest in a novel.  I can personally think of several examples where an epic cover absolutely grabbed me and convinced me to check out a novel that I ended up really loving.  2021 was a great example of this as there were some extremely cool and impressive covers that I thought were visually stunning.  Most of these outstanding covers complemented and emphasised the amazing stories within, and in some places the cover artists really went all out to produce some truly epic statement pieces.  As such, I thought I would quickly highlight some of the best covers here by producing a visually awesome list.  To appear on this list, the book had to be released in 2021 and had to be generally impressive and amazing.  I think I ended up choosing a great range of excellent covers, and I hope you enjoy all the pretty pictures below.  I have tried to find out who did the cover art where possible, although for a couple of books (ones I got on audiobook and don’t have a physical copy of), I couldn’t find out who drew it.  Apologies in advance for any artist I overlooked.

Honourable Mentions:

Lies Like Wildfire written by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, cover by MISHKO

Lies Like Wildfire Cover

 

The Dark written by Jeremy Robinson

The Dark Cover

 

Breakout written by Paul Herron, cover by Patrick Insole

Breakout Cover

 

The Mask of Mirrors written by M. A. Carrick, cover by Nekro and Lauren Panepinto

The Mask of Mirrors Cover

Top Ten Tuesday:

The Shadow of the Gods written by John Gwynne, cover by Marcus Whinney

The Shadow of the Gods Cover

My absolute favourite cover of 2021, this epic piece of art really grabbed my attention and forced me to read this impressive piece of fantasy fiction.  I had a wonderful time with The Shadow of the Gods and the upcoming sequel, The Hunger of the Gods, also has an extremely awesome cover (easily going to be one of the best covers of 2022).

 

Star Wars: Visions: Ronin written by Emma Mieko Candon, cover by Ella Laytham and Kotaro Chiba

Star Wars Visions - Ronin Cover

There were some cool pieces of Star Wars cover art out this year, but nothing could top the artistic masterpiece that appeared on Ronin.  A tie-in to the Star Wars: Visions anime series, the cover of Ronin made perfect use of traditional Japanese artforms to create something exceptional.  I loved the blend of Star Wars iconography and the classic Japanese wave form, and this was an absolute joy to behold.

 

The Pariah written by Anthony Ryan, cover by Lauren Panepinto and Jaime Jones

The Pariah Cover

A clever and subtle bit of art that showcases the roguish protagonist of this fun fantasy novel.  I think the artist did a great job of highlighting what was to come in The Pariah, and the cool detail around the character was very impressive.  While I loved the art for The Pariah, I think that the cover on the upcoming sequel, The Martyr, is even better, and I can’t wait to grab it.

 

The Twice-Dead King: Ruin, written by Nate Crowley

The Twice-Dead King - Ruin Cover

Gosh artists must have so much fun coming up with art for Warhammer covers, as there are some amazing and fantastic elements contained in this extended universe.  I particularly loved this cover from last year, which showcases the ancient and mysterious Necron race in all their glory.  A great cover for a very entertaining tie-in novel.

 

The Warsaw Orphan written by Kelly Rimmer, cover by Christabella Designs

The Warsaw Orphan Cover

A simple and understated cover that does a wonderful job highlighting the upcoming dread and tragedy contained in this moving historical drama novel.

 

Colonyside, written by Michael Mammay, cover by Sebastien Hue

Colonyside Cover

There have been some really great covers for the previous books in Michael Mammay’s Planetside series (Planetside and Spaceside), but I think that the one for Colonyside was the best.  I love the above shot, especially as it perfectly captures the insane jungle planet that was such a distinctive setting of this book.  A very fun cover!

 

Star Wars: The High Republic: Tempest Runner, written by Cavan Scott, cover by Katerina Balikova

Star Wars - Tempest Runner Cover

While I also deeply enjoyed one of the covers for Cavan Scott’s other 2021 Star Wars release, The Rising Storm, I think that the cool art that adorned the front of Tempest Runner was even better.  Tempest Runner, which was released as both a full-cast audio drama and a paperback, was a great read, and I loved how this cover did a fantastic job of capturing it’s entertaining and deadly central character.

 

Later, written by Stephen King, cover by Paul Mann

Later Cover

I loved the classic mystery novel feel that the artists choose to utilise for Stephen King’s early 2021 release, Later.  This cover does a fantastic job capturing the unique tone of this cool horror/coming-of-age story and gives it a fun, crime fiction-tinged edge.  This cover, as well as another couple of covers done by Gregory Manchess for the hardcover version, also fit the story really well, especially as they connect to the cheesy adventure novels that the protagonist and his mother produce.

 

Cytonic written by Brandon Sanderson, cover by Sam Green and Tomas Almeida

Cytonic Cover

I have a lot of love for the cool covers that get used in the Gollancz versions of Brandon Sanderson’s Skyward series (so far consisting of Skyward and Starlight).  The cover for the third book, Cytonic, was particularly awesome, and I loved how it showcased parts of the very unique new setting of the third novel.

 

The Art of Death written by David Fennell, cover by Nick Stearn

The Art of Death Cover

A creepy and eye-catching piece of artwork that hints at the disturbing crimes contained in this fantastic 2021 crime fiction debut.

 

Well, that’s the end of this second list, I hope you enjoyed all the cool covers above.  Make sure to me know what your favourite book covers of 2021 was in the comments below and I cannot wait to see what awesome and epic pieces of art will grace the front of 2022’s best reads.

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Horror Novels (Updated – 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.  In this latest edition of Top Ten Tuesday, readers get a Halloween Freebie, meaning that they can list whatever topic they want, although a horror or Halloween theme is encouraged.  So, with that in mind, I thought I would take this opportunity to update a previous list where I highlighted my favourite horror novels of all time.

Last year for Halloween I did a list where I looked at my top ten favourite horror novels.  While horror is not my favourite genre, I ended up producing a rather interesting list with some unique entries that I was pretty happy with.  I decided last year that I would come back and update this list every Halloween, especially if I had some new horror novels to add to it.  Well, in the last year, I had the opportunity to check out some excellent and intense horror reads, and I intend to try and find out if they can fit into my list.

To sort out this update, I took a critical look at the previous version of the list and made some hard decisions about whether any of the horror novels I read in the last year might fit in better.  I ended up making some changes to list, with new entries replacing some of the existing books.  While I was sad to see some of the previously featured novels removed, I honestly felt that the new entries are better horror novels.  This resulted in a fun new version of this list, and I am pretty happy with how it turned out.

Honourable Mentions:

Nights of the Living Dead edited by George A. Romero and Jonathan Maberry

Nights of the Living Dead Cover

 

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

The Final Girl Support Group Cover

An interesting read from earlier this year that got a lot of attention, The Final Girl Support Group focused on a group of final girls from alternate versions of classic slasher films who are targeted by a brand-new killer.  While this book is more of a thriller than a horror read, it serves as a clever homage to the slasher genre, and fans of horror fiction will love it’s compelling and reference laden story.

 

Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw

Dreadful Company Cover

 

Awakened by James S. Murray and Darren Wearmouth

Awakened Cover

Top Ten List (unranked):

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Into the Drowning Deep Cover

 

Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry

Patient Zero Cover

 

The Dark by Jeremy Robinson

The Dark Cover

I had to add this brilliant and compelling horror/science fiction read onto this list.  The Dark is the latest novel from author Jeremy Robinson that focuses on an apparent demonic invasion of Earth.  Filled with gore, monsters and body mutations, The Dark gets pretty gruesome and scary in places, which blends perfectly with the intense action and Robinson’s quirky humour.  An outstanding read, this fantastic horror novel comes highly recommended.

 

The Anomaly by Michael Rutger

The Anomaly Cover

 

Code Zero by Jonathan Maberry

Code Zero Cover

 

Later by Stephen King

Later Cover

Earlier this year I had the chance to read the latest novel from the modern master of horror fiction, the great Stephen King, the utterly compelling Later, which focuses on a young boy who can talk to the recently deceased.  While Later is primarily a character-driven story about a complicated youth’s life, it can get pretty scary in places, especially once the protagonist encounters true evil.  A deeply compelling read with some interesting connections to one of King’s most iconic horror novels, this is an excellent and unique book that is worth reading.

 

Star Wars: Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber

deathtrooperscover

 

Devolution by Max Brooks

Devolution Cover

 

Ink by Jonathan Maberry

Ink Cover

I have already featured several great books from Jonathan Maberry on this list, but there was no way I could exclude one of his latest horror reads, Ink.  While most of the other Maberry novels with horror elements focus either on zombies or Lovecraftian monsters, Ink features a particularly horrendous tale of a depraved being who steals a person’s tattoos and the precious memories associated with them.  Set in one of Maberry’s most iconic settings, Ink had a very disturbing narrative, and I deeply appreciated this unique and book that the author came up with.

 

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

A History of the Vampire Uprising Cover

 

 

That’s the end of this latest Top Ten Tuesday list.  I think that the new horror novels were great additions to the list, and I like how this latest version turned out.  Each of the above novels, both new inclusions and existing ones, are outstanding reads that come highly recommended to all horror fans.  I look forward to seeing how this list evolves once again this time next year, especially as there are some awesome sounding horror novels, such as Road of Bones by Christopher Golden and Dead Silence by S. A. Barnes, set for release in the next few months.

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Audiobooks from the First 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.  The official topic for this week is Books I’d Want With Me While Stranded on a Deserted Island, but I am going to do something a little different and instead look at my favourite audiobooks from the first half of 2021.  This is a continuation of my Top Ten list from a few weeks ago that featured my favourite overall novels from the first half of 2021.

People familiar with my blog will know that I have a great deal of love for the audiobook format, and it is one of the main ways that I tend to check out books.  Each year I enjoy a great number of different audiobooks and use the format to check out recent releases and older novels.  I have been enjoying audiobooks for years, and it is amazing the various ways in which listening to a book can enhance your enjoyment.  A great narrator can really bring you into the story, and I find that listening to a book enhances the amount of detail that you can take in.  In addition, other features, such as great voices, music and sound effects can really make an audiobook something special, and there some great examples of that out there.  This year alone I have listened to several outstanding audiobooks, includes some of my favourite books from early 2021.  Because I love this format so much, I thought I would take this opportunity to highlight my favourite audiobooks from the first half of the year.

To pull this list off I had a look at all the 2021 releases that I listened to on audiobook to figure out my favourites.  It turns out that I have already gone through quite a few this year so there was a very large collection of potential additions to this list.  I was eventually able to whittle it down to the ten audiobooks I consider to be the best, as well as a generous honourable mention section.  There is a bit of a crossover with my previous Favourite Books from the First Half of 2021 list, but I think there are enough new additions to make this list worthwhile.  I did prioritise audiobook production and narration over story in a few places, as outstanding narration or use of music and sound effects can enhance the plot.  That is why so many Star Wars novels made this list, because they are awesome productions, which are really worth checking out.  I am pretty happy with how the overall list turned out and I think that the below entries really highlight what my favourite audiobooks are.

 

Honourable Mentions:

The Coward, written by Stephen Aryan and narrated by Matt Wycliffe

The Coward Cover

 

Serpentine, written by Jonathan Kellerman and narrated by John Rubinstein

Serpentine Cover

 

Prodigal Son, written by Gregg Hurwitz and narrated by Scott Brick

Prodigal Son Cover

 

The Girl and the Mountain, written by Mark Lawrence and narrated by Helen Duff

The Girl and the Mountain Cover 2

 

Top Ten List (No Particular Order):

The Two-Faced Queen, written by Nick Martell and narrated by Joe Jameson

The Two-Faced Queen Cover

One of my favourite books of the year, The Two-Faced Queen, is easily one of the best audiobooks as well.  There were actually two separate audiobook versions of this book, and I chose to go with the Joe Jameson version, since he previously narrated Martell’s debut novel, The Kingdom of Liars.  I am a big fan of Jameson, especially after his work on books such as King of Assassins by R. J. Barker, and he did another amazing job on this book.  The Two-Faced Queen audiobook is an excellent and addictive listen, and I would wholeheartedly recommend this format to anyone wanting to enjoy this awesome five-star novel.

 

Star Wars: Victory’s Price, written by Alexander Freed and narrated by January LaVoy

Star Wars - Victory's Price Cover

Earlier this year, impressive author Alexander Freed finished off his Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron series with Victory’s Price, and in the process created one of the best books of 2021.  This audiobook massively enhances the already incredible and moving narrative within this exceptional novel, utilising outstanding voice work from January LaVoy, as well as the iconic Star Wars score and sound effects.  Easily one of best audiobooks of the year.

 

Relentless, written by Mark Greaney and narrated by Jay Snyder

Relentless by Mark Greaney Cover

One of the leading authors of spy thrillers, Mark Greaney, produced another intense and exciting novel this year with Relentless.  Thanks to some excellent voice work from Jay Snyder, the Relentless audiobook was pretty damn impressive, and you are in for a real treat with this exhilarating novel.

 

Star Wars: Light of the Jedi, written by Charles Soule and narrated by Marc Thompson

Star Wars - Light of the Jedi Cover

Another outstanding Star Wars audiobook was Light of the Jedi, the introductory novel in the new High Republic range.  Just like Victory’s Price, Light of the Jedi makes full use of the Star Wars music and effects to produce a fantastic listen.  However, Light of the Jedi also features the incredible voice work of Marc Thompson, one of the best narrators utilised by the Star Wars franchise.  Thompson produces a raft of great voices to highlight the new characters featured within this novel and it was really fun to hear him tell this story.  Thompson is lending his vocal talents to several other outstanding Star Wars audiobooks this year, including the latest High Republic novel, The Rising Storm, which is another great audiobook to check out.

 

The Shadow of the Gods, written by John Gwynne and narrated by Colin Mace

The Shadow of the Gods Cover

After hearing some incredible things about the latest John Gwynne novel, I ended up checking out The Shadow of the Gods on audiobook.  Not only was this book one of the absolute best fantasy releases of 2021 but the audiobook format was pretty damn exceptional.  Colin Mace’s voice really fit the dark fantasy setting and he really dives into the complex characters to highlight their deeper feelings and hidden rages.  An impressive and captivating listen.

 

Later, written by Stephen King and narrated by Seth Numrich

Later Cover

I was deeply impressed earlier this year when I checked out the audiobook format of the latest Stephen King novel, Later.  Outstanding new narrator Seth Numrich really dives into this excellent novel, and I had a wonderful and freaky time getting through this fantastic audiobook.

 

The Bone Maker, written by Sarah Beth Durst and narrated by Soneela Nankani

The Bone Maker Cover

I had an absolute blast listening to the latest great fantasy novel from Sarah Beth Durst, The Bone Maker, especially as narrator Soneela Nankani does a great job bringing the novel’s damaged protagonists to life.

 

Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: The Greater Good, written by Timothy Zahn and narrated by Marc Thompson

Star Wars - Thrawn Ascendancy - Greater Good Cover

The final Star Wars audiobook on this list is the second Thrawn Ascendancy entry, The Greater Good.  Thompson once again lends his incredible voice to this great book, bringing the unique characters to life.  However, his best work is reserved for main character Grand Admiral Thrawn, as Thompson perfectly replicates the character’s voice from the Star Wars Rebels animated series.  This makes for a complex and powerful audiobook, and I loved every second I spent listening to it.

 

Colonyside, written by Michael Mammay and narrated by R. C. Bray

Colonyside Cover

One of the fastest rising science fiction authors, Michael Mammay, continued to impress earlier this year with Colonyside, the third entry in the Planetside series, which was another awesome read.  You really need to listen to this novel’s audiobook format, as narrator R. C. Bray brings a certain necessary gruffness and fun to the central character.  An amazing book to listen to!

 

The Mask of Mirrors, written by M. A. Carrick and narrated by Nikki Massoud

The Mask of Mirrors Cover

The final entry on this list is the great fantasy novel, The Mask of Mirrors by M. A. Carrick.  The Mask of Mirrors is a particularly fun and intriguing read, and I found myself really drawn to its audiobook format.  This is mainly because of narrator Nikki Massoud, who strategically utilises a fantastic range of voices and accents to turn this amazing book into an incredible listening experience.

 

That is the end of my latest list.  As you can see, I have a pretty typical Unseen Library Top Ten List (I’ve got to fit in as many Star Wars novels as possible), but I really do think this represents all of my absolute favourite audiobooks from the first part of 2021.  All of the above audiobooks come highly recommended, and in my opinion, the audiobook format really enhances all of these great reads.  Let me know what your favourite 2021 audiobooks are in the comments below, and I look forward to seeing which of the above make my Top Audiobooks of 2021 list later this year.

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Books from the First 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.  The task for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday was originally to list the reasons why I love reading, however I am going to go off topic and instead look at something else.  We have just crossed into the second half of 2021, which has already proven to be a pretty fantastic year for books.  I have read some incredible novels so far this year, including impressive standalone books, amazing new entries in established series and fantastic debuts.  Because of this, I thought that I would take the time to work out what my top ten favourite books from the first half of 2021 were.

Once I knew what I wanted to pull together for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, I started taking a hard look at all the different novels that I have read this year.  To be eligible, a book had to be released in (or extremely close to) the first half of this year.  I have also excluded any books released during this period that I have not so far read, although a couple of releases I have my eye on might have appeared on this list if I had had the chance to read them before now.

Coming up with this list proved to be a rather bigger task than I originally intended, as I ended up amassing nearly 20 different releases, all of which I consider to be some pretty outstanding reads.  I ended up being able to eventually whittle this down to an acceptable Top Ten list, although I did include my typical generous honourable mentions section.  I am rather happy with how this list turned out, although I am surprised at some of the great releases that ended up being excluded.  Still, the books below represent what I considered to be some of the best books from the first half of 2021, and I would strongly recommend each and every one of them.  So let us see what made the cut.

 

Honourable Mentions:

Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz

Prodigal Son Cover

 

The Warsaw Orphan by Kelly Rimmer

The Warsaw Orphan Cover

 

Later by Stephen King

Later Cover

 

The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe

The Girls I've Been Cover

 

Top Ten List (no particular order):

The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell

The Two-Faced Queen Cover

The first book on this list is the incredible and wildly addictive fantasy masterpiece, The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell.  Serving as the sequel to last year’s amazing The Kingdom of Liars (which was one of my favourite books, audiobooks, and debuts of 2020), The Two-Faced Queen continues the compelling adventures of its angsty and relatable protagonist, Michael Kingman, as he attempts to uncover the mysteries and conspiracies of his home city.  Containing a wild mass of unique opponents, plots and hidden secrets, this book holds your attention from beginning to end and is one of the best sequels I have ever read.

 

Star Wars: Victory’s Price by Alexander Freed

Star Wars - Victory's Price Cover

Next up we have the obligatory Star Wars entry on this list, Victory’s Price by Alexander Freed.  While there have been several other great Star Wars releases this year (Light of the Jedi and Greater Good were both fantastic), none of them were as impressive as Victory’s Price.  Serving as the third and final entry in the Alphabet Squadron series (which previously featured Alphabet Squadron and Shadow Fall), this incredible book features a powerful, character driven narrative that provides readers with tragedy, amazing character development and a full-on war story amid the Star Wars universe.  Beautifully written and incredibly moving, Victory’s Price perfectly wraps up the Alphabet Squadron trilogy and is one of the best Star Wars novels out there.

 

Relentless by Mark Greaney

Relentless by Mark Greaney Cover

Epic spy thriller author Mark Greaney returns with the 10th book in his outstanding Gray Man series, Relentless.  I have been deeply enjoying the Gray Man novels over the last couple of years (check out my reviews for Mission Critical and One Minute Out), so I knew I was going to be in for a good time with Relentless.  This was another particularly thrilling tale of international espionage and plots, as Court Gentry and his comrades go up against a sinister, world-changing conspiracy.  A fantastic and action-packed read that comes highly recommended.

 

The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne

The Shadow of the Gods Cover

Next of this list we have the fantasy novel that everyone was talking about this year, The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne.  Set in a Norse inspired dark fantasy world shattered by warring gods, The Shadow of the Gods contains a powerful and addictive narrative which sets three amazing protagonists on quests for redemption, honour, and family.  Containing some extraordinary world building, great characters, and a really impressive story, this was one of the best fantasy books of the year, and I loved every second I spent reading it.

 

Artifact Space by Miles Cameron

Artifact Space Cover

Superstar author Miles Cameron made his science fiction debut earlier this year with the captivating Artifact Space.  Containing an epic voyage throughout the stars, Artifact Space was an awesome read, that takes its damaged protagonist to some amazing places as they try to save their ship from a dangerous alien conspiracy.

 

Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 35: Homecoming by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo - Homecoming

I doubt anyone is too surprised that the latest Usagi Yojimbo volume has appeared on this list.  Written by one of my favourite authors, Stan Sakai, this latest volume of the long running series was extremely moving and deeply compelling, as Usagi goes through some harsh adventures near his long-avoided home province.  With incredible art, powerful character work and some very elaborate stories, this was another excellent addition to one of the best comic series out there.

 

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Project Hail Mary Cover

Another new to me author who blew me away this year was the outstanding Andy Weir, who produced one of the best science fiction novels of 2021.  Project Hail Mary contains an extraordinary tale of an amnesiac scientist sent out into space to find out how to save the sun from burning out.  Containing a deeply enjoyable and addictive story, I powered through Project Hail Mary in no time at all and loved every second of it.  One of the easiest books of 2021 to recommend, you must check Project Hail Mary out.

 

The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst

The Bone Maker Cover

After deeply enjoying her 2020 novel, Race the Sands, I was eager to explore another fun standalone fantasy novel from bestselling author Sarah Beth Durst, and boy was I in for a treat with The Bone Maker.  This clever novel follows five former heroes who are once again drawn into a deadly battle for their nation.  Readers will fall in love with the novels damaged heroes, especially after they once head the call to battle, even after all the loss and trauma they have suffered.

 

Colonyside by Michael Mammay

Colonyside Cover

Now, technically this novel was released in 2020, however, considering it only came out 31 December (which was technically 1 January 2021 in Australia), I am choosing to count this as a 2021 release instead.  Colonyside is the third novel in the fantastic and impressive Planetside science fiction thriller series.  Following on from the amazing Planetside (one of the best books of 2018) and Spaceside (one of the best books of 2019), Colonyside places its infamous protagonist in the middle of another dangerous conspiracy, as he searches for a missing person on a hostile alien planet.  A masterful and thrilling novel, I deeply enjoyed this amazing book.

 

Protector by Conn Iggulden

Protector Cover Final

The final entry on this list is the outstanding Protector from Conn Iggulden, which follows on the from the great 2020 novel, The Gates of Athens.  Featuring an awesome story about some of the key battles between the Greeks and the Persians, this was a fantastic piece of historical fiction that is really worth reading.

 

 

That is the end of this list.  As you can see, I have already read some amazing and epic books so far in 2021 and we are only halfway through the year.  I am pretty happy with how this list turned out, especially as it features some extraordinary reads.  It will be interesting to see which of these books ends up being amongst my top reads of 2020, and while I would assume all the above will make the cut, there is some pretty hefty competition coming up in the second half of 2021.  Let me know what you think about the books that made my Top Ten list, and also let me know what your favourite releases from the first half of 2020 are.

Later by Stephen King

Later Cover

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Audio (Audiobook – 2 March 2021)

Series: Standalone

Length: 6 hours and 32 minutes

My Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars

Since I started this blog, one major author that I have neglected is the master of horror fiction, Stephen King.  King needs absolutely no introduction, with a decades-long career of amazing horror novels, thrillers and heartfelt pieces of fiction, most of which have been turned into iconic films and television shows.  Despite this, I haven’t read many of King’s novels before, aside from Cell and the novel he co-wrote with his son, Owen King, Sleeping Beauties.  Honestly, I have only started getting into horror novels in the last couple of years (it is still not my favourite genre TBH) and I have completely failed to make time to check out some of King’s more recent releases.  However, his latest novel, Later, caught my eye and I decided that it would be a good opportunity to expand my Stephen King knowledge.

Jamie Conklin is a young boy with a very unusual problem: he can see and talk to the spirits of the recently deceased.  The son of a struggling single mother, Tia, Jamie just wants to have a normal childhood.  However, as his ability becomes more apparent, his mother cautions him to hide his strange gift, worried that people will abuse his talents, especially as the dead have no choice but to truthfully answer any questions that Jamie asks of them.

Content to keep his secret to himself, Jamie attempts to live like a normal New York City kid during the late 2000s.  However, when his mother pressures him to use his abilities to help save her failing publishing business, it places him in the crosshairs of his mother’s lover, corrupt police detective Liz Dutton.  Liz, desperate for recognition from her bosses, draws Jamie into the hunt for a killer’s final surprise, which only his dead spirit can reveal.  However, not all secrets are easily taken from the dead, and soon Jamie must contend with a terrible force determined to torment him from beyond.  Can Jamie survive what is coming for him, or will it drag him into insanity?

This was an extremely cool novel that makes we really want to go out and read some more Stephen King books.  Later is a fantastic read which combines multiple genres together to create an exciting and fast-paced narrative loaded up with some real heart and memorable characters.  I had an absolute blast reading this clever novel, and thanks to its shorter length and captivating narrative, I powered through it in a very quickly.

I deeply enjoyed the cool and complex story that King came up with for Later, which proved to be a powerful and intriguing character-driven tale that moved across the genres.  Told in a first-person chronicle format by an older version of the main protagonist, Later details the childhood of Jamie Conklin and his early experiences of talking to the dead.  Weaving in anecdotes of his childhood and depictions of his early life with his mother, the story quickly and effectively sets up how Jamie discovered he had his powers, and some of the most significant times that he saw and talked to the spirits of the departed.  This proves to be a fascinating coming-of-age story that showcases how this unique talent twisted and altered the course of Jamie’s life and took him into some dark places.  The author does a fantastic job capturing the style of a young man recounting major events from his childhood, and I very much appreciated the mixture of childlike innocence with cynical reflections.

While this chronicle of a child’s life forms an effective and powerful centre to this entire narrative, this is also a horror story, as Jamie is traumatised by several of the spirits he encounters, especially as King provides some harrowing descriptions of mutilated ghosts and bodies.  These horror elements get even stronger and spookier when Jamie encounters a truly evil spirit who starts to haunt him.  Several of the scenes featuring this being are pretty terrifying, and I liked how King strongly highlights the dark side of Jamie’s power.

The author also works in some intriguing crime fiction elements as well, as the protagonist get wrapped up in a murder investigation and the dangerous schemes of a police officer.  The crime fiction features are pretty thrilling, and l appreciated the consideration of how Jamie’s powers could be abused.  I liked this unique blend of genres, and it ended up creating a very compelling and powerful story, which King sets out at an incredibly fast rate.  King sets the story up perfectly, and I found myself really getting pulled in as the narrative set off, thanks to its unique tone and intriguing selection of supporting characters.  The entire narrative goes in some very interesting directions and I liked how interconnected all the events that the narrator is recounting fit together into a clever and moving tale of discovery and redemption.  All of this comes together into an exciting and scary finale as the narrator comes face-to-face with several of the monsters in his life, and I think that King came up with a very satisfying and clever ending for the book, which has potential for a sequel.  I did think that the final big reveal of the book was extremely unnecessary, but it was a particularly typical Stephen King twist, so I should not have been so surprised.  Overall, this was an exceptional narrative that I cannot hype up enough.

Later is a standalone novel from King which features a whole new group of characters.  As a result, it is very accessible to a wide range of readers, even for those people who have not previously enjoyed any of King’s novels.  I personally found it really easy to get into this cool story, even with my limited knowledge of the author’s prior works, and it honestly does not take long to get hooked on his clever and unique story.  This is also quite a good book for established fans.  Not only does it contain a lot of elements of a classic Stephen King novel, such as a young protagonist on a journey of self-discovery who ends up losing their innocence, but there are also some intriguing connections to some of King’s most iconic works.  One horror inclusion in the novel appeared to be a version of a creature from a previous book, and I think that King readers will really appreciate the clever references he chucks in.  Due to all this, I feel that Later is a perfect book for any curious readers, no matter their experiences with King’s works, and this may end up being the novel that draws new readers into this compelling master author’s web.  I personally will make a bit more of an effort to read more of King’s works in the future, and I already have my eye on his next novel, which is coming out later this year.  I also kind of hope that we see more of the characters at some point, especially as King did such a great job setting them up in this novel, while also leaving their overall story very open-ended.

I quite enjoyed the relatively modern setting that King utilised as a backdrop to his plot.  With the protagonist chronicling his tale in his 20s, presumably in the present day, most of his childhood took place in the late 2000s and early 2010s.  This is a pretty interesting departure from some of King’s more recognisable novels that explore the childhoods of their protagonists, such as It and Stand by Me, all of which make excellent use of their 1950s or 1980s settings (I liked the awesome 1980s nostalgia you got in the latest It film, for example).  Instead, King loads up Later with a ton of references to 2000s culture and movies, and I had a fun time remembering some of the things that the protagonist experienced as a child.  King, through the medium of his protagonist, also cleverly mentions The Sixth Sense right off the bat, ensuring readers that this story is “not like that movie with Bruce Willis”, which I thought was very entertaining, and also quite true.  The Great Recession also becomes a key plot point of the novel, and it was interesting to see how King was able to utilise it as a major motivator for various character actions.  I also liked how the story was set in New York City, rather than the small-town American locations King’s books are known for.  The author uses this city-based location to great effect throughout the novel, painting a fantastic picture of New York life, especially through the eyes of his young protagonist.  Jamie ends up visiting various parts of the city throughout the events of Later, including several communities on the outskirts of New York, and I enjoyed this great use of location.

I also have to highlight the multiple jokes about novelists and publishers that King features throughout Later, mainly due to Jamie being born into a publishing family.  You have to imagine that King had a lot of fun coming up with all the great jokes and comedic insights into Jamie and his mother’s experiences with writers, and it ended up being a really fun addition to the plot.  I had a particularly good laugh about the descriptions of a certain series of trashy historical romance/adventure novels that Tia’s struggling publishing company relies on, and I loved how King explored it throughout this entertaining narrative, as well as cleverly featuring a mock-up cover of one of these fictional novels released as a bonus dust jacket for Later.  This extra dust jacket (see below), was drawn by the same cover artist who did Later’s hardcover, and I enjoyed the similar styles and the excellent tongue-in-cheek testimonial from King, praising this book within a book.  Fun little inclusions like this really helped to push Later up to another level, and I liked how the humour from the publishing jokes contrasted nicely with the dark horror and crime fiction elements.

The Secret of Roanoke Cover

While I probably would have enjoyed reading a physical copy of Later, I instead chose to enjoy this fun novel in its audiobook format, which ended up being a fantastic choice.  This audiobook has an extremely quick run time of just over six and a half hours.  This shorter length was one of the main reasons I decided to listen to Later, and I was able to get through it in a day or two, although a lot of that was down to how awesome the story was.  This was an impressively fast-paced audiobook, and I really felt that this format worked well with the first-person chronicle style the author utilised, as it felt like the protagonist was the one vocalising the story to you.  Later was narrated by actor Seth Numrich, and it is one of the first audiobooks he has lent his voice to.  I really enjoyed Numrich’s work on this audiobook; not only did he do an amazing top capturing Later’s unique tone, but he also provided a range of great voices for the characters featured within the novel.  His main voice, which represented the narrating protagonist, really encapsulated the innocence and pain of the character as he tells the story of his strange childhood, and it helped draw me to the protagonist.  The rest of his voices were pretty good, although I thought the voice he used for female detective Liz Dutton sounded a little like John Leguizamo, which is probably not what he was going for.  Overall, though, this was an exceptional audiobook, and I would strongly recommend it to those who want to check out Later.  I also hope that Numrich considers narrating more audiobooks in the future as he displayed some real talent here and was an absolute treat to listen to.

Later is an outstanding and impressive novel from the legendary Stephen King, who creates a unique and powerful tale of life, death and coming to terms with both.  Featuring an intriguing narrative that blends together clever horror and crime inclusions with a powerful coming of age story, Later is a truly memorable novel that is extremely easy to fall in love with.  I had an exceptional time reading this book and it is a must read for all fans of King’s work and anyone who has ever been curious about his writing.

Later Cover 2

WWW Wednesday – 7 April 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?

Turn a Blind Eye by Jeffrey Archer (Hardcover)

Turn a Blind Eye Cover

I just started reading the latest book in Jeffrey Archer’s William Warwick series, Turn a Blind Eye, which follows on from Nothing Ventured and Hidden in Plain Sight.  This is a great crime fiction series with some fun historical fiction elements to it and I am really enjoying this latest entry in the series.  I am hoping to finish it off in the next few days and I am looking forward to seeing how it ends up.

The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell (Audiobook)

The Two-Faced Queen Cover

I wasted no time in listening to The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell when it came out and I am deeply enjoying it so far. The Two-Faced Queen is the sequel to Martell’s outstanding 2020 debut, The Kingdom of Liars, which was easily one of my favourite books, audiobook and debut novel of 2020, and continues the epic and captivating story started in the first novel.  I am just over halfway through The Two-Faced Queen at the moment and so far it is just as awesome, if not better than The Kingdom of Liars.  I cannot wait to see how all the intricate storylines unfold and this is definitely one of the better books I have read so far this year.

What did you recently finish reading?

The Chase by Candice Fox (Trade Paperback)

The Chase Cover

The Three Paradises by Robert Fabbri (Trade Paperback)

The Three Paradises Cover

Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron: Victory’s Price by Alexander Freed (Audiobook)

Star Wars - Victory's Price Cover

Later by Stephen King (Audiobook)

Later Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

A Prince and a Spy by Rory Clements (Trade Paperback)

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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.