WWW Wednesday – 30 November 2022

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?

Silver Queendom by Dan Kobolt (Trade Paperback)

Silver Queendom Cover

I just started reading the awesome fantasy book, Silver Queendom by Dan Koboldt.  This compelling novel follows a mismatched group of rogues who decide to pull off a dangerous heist in a very flashy way. I am only about 50 pages into Silver Queendom at the moment, but I am having a pretty good time with it, and I cannot wait to see what other cool shenanigans the author will unleash in the future.

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Warhammer 40,000: Kasrkin by Edoardo Albert (Audiobook)

Warhammer 40,000 - Kasrkin Cover

I also just started another intense Warhammer 40,000 novel with Kasrkin by Edoardo Albert.  This book follows an elite group of soldiers as they journey into an enemy controlled desert to find a missing general.  However, the alien forces waiting for them are the least of their problems as they are forced to contend with the many mysteries hidden under the sands of the planet.  I have made a fair bit of progress on this audiobook already, and I am deeply enjoying Kasrkin, which isn’t really a surprise considering how strong the Warhammer 40,000 books have been in 2022.  I am hoping to knock Kasrkin off in the next few days, and I cannot wait to see just how crazy this story is going to get.

Amazon

What did you recently finish reading?

Retribution by Sarah Barrie (Trade Paperback)

Retribution Cover

A dark and powerful Australian thriller that I had an outstanding time reading.

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Dragon Mage by M. L. Spencer (Audiobook)

Dragon Mage Cover

I was very pleased with myself for finishing off the massive fantasy audiobook, Dragon Mage this week.  Dragon Mage proved to be quite an elaborate and compelling read, and I really got caught up in its classic fantasy narrative, which was pretty damn awesome.

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What do you think you’ll read next?

Dead Man’s Hand by James J. Butcher

Dead Man's Hand Cover

I am hoping to read the cool fantasy debut novel, Dead Man’s Hand next by new author James J. Butcher.  The son of legendary fantasy author, Jim Butcher, James Butcher comes from a great writing pedigree and I am quite intrigued to see how his first book turns out.  Dead Man’s Hand is a compelling sounding urban fantasy book, and I look forward to diving into its intense and captivating narrative.

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Star Wars: The High Republic: Convergence by Zoraida Cordova

Star Wars - Convergence Cover

The next audiobook on my list to listen to is Convergence by Zoraida Cordova.  The first adult book in the second phase of the Star Wars: The High Republic series, Convergence will set the stage for much of 2023’s Star Wars fiction, and I am pretty excited for that.  Set to follow a new batch of characters as they explore a whole new period of Star Wars history, Convergence is sure to be an exciting and central read, and I can’t wait to see how the next Phase of High Republic fiction will unfold, especially after how good Path of Deceit was.

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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.

WWW Wednesday – 23 November 2022

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?

Retribution by Sarah Barrie (Trade Paperback)

Retribution Cover

I recently started reading the cool Australian crime thriller, Retribution by Sarah Barrie.  The sequel to Barrie’s 2021 novel, Unforgiven, Retribution is another excellent and powerful Australian thriller that follows a maverick protagonist as she seeks justice and revenge.  I am having an outstanding time with this book and I can’t wait to see how the clever mysteries unfold.  I will probably knock this book off in the next day or so, and it is proving to be quite an amazing read.

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Dragon Mage by M. L. Spencer (Audiobook)

Dragon Mage Cover

I am still slowly getting through the lengthy by captivating fantasy novel Dragon Mage by M. L. Spencer. A massive and complex fantasy novel from a couple of years ago, Dragon Mage follows two teenagers who are dragged into an interdimensional war and must learn to harness their respective abilities to save the world.  Dragon Mage has a very elaborate and captivating story to it, which does get a little slow at times, so I have been struggling to make a lot of headway with this book.  However, the story is starting to speed up a bit now that I’m the second half and I am hoping to finish this off in the next week.  This is a very impressive fantasy read however, and I am really enjoying getting through it.

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What did you recently finish reading?

Death to the Emperor by Simon Scarrow (Trade Paperback)

Death to the Emperor Cover

Another fast-paced and well-written historical fiction novel from one of my favourite authors.  Death to the Emperor takes the readers right into the middle of Boudica’s rebellion, and you will not be able to turn away from the resulting battles.

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Friends Like These by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez (Trade Paperback)

Friends Like These Cover 2

An excellent and extremely captivating young adult thriller.  Friends Like These is a very powerful read from Jennifer Lynn Alvarez that places the reader in the middle of a very realistic teenage situation that gets far too out of hand in some compelling and exciting ways.

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Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 37: Crossroads by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo - Crossroads Cover

Another outstanding volume in the always fun Usagi Yojimbo comic series.  Crossroads was another instant classic from Sakai and I had such an incredible time reading it.  Review to follow soon.

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What do you think you’ll read next?

Silver Queendom by Dan Kobolt

Silver Queendom Cover

After finishing off Retribution, my plan is to start reading the awesome sounding fantasy book, Silver Queendom by Dan Koboldt.  Following a group of rogues who decide to pull off a dangerous heist, Silver Queendom sounds like a very fun and enjoyable read and I can’t wait to see all the resultant betrayals, elaborate plans and fantasy shenanigans.

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Star Wars: The High Republic: Convergence by Zoraida Cordova

Star Wars - Convergence Cover

If I manage to finish off Dragon Mage in the next week, then the next audiobook on my list to listen to is Convergence by Zoraida Cordova.  The first adult book in the second phase of the Star Wars: The High Republic series, Convergence will set the stage for much of 2023’s Star Wars fiction, and I am pretty excited for that.  Set to follow a new batch of characters as they explore a whole new period of Star Wars history, Convergence is sure to be an exciting and central read, and I can’t wait to see how the next Phase of High Republic fiction will unfold, especially after how good Path of Deceit was.

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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.

Book Haul – 22 November 2022

I have been having an absolutely fantastic week for book, as I have been lucky enough to receive several incredible and amazing new novels from some of my local publishers.  These novels include some truly awesome new releases, some of which rank amongst my top books of 2022.  I am extremely keen to check out all of the books below and they should make for some amazing reads.

Death to the Emperor by Simon Scarrow

Death to the Emperor Cover

The first book I recently received was the latest historical epic from the master of Roman historical fiction, Simon Scarrow, with Death to the Emperor.  The 21st book in his amazing Eagles of the Emperor series (which has previously featured such awesome reads like The Blood of Rome, Traitors of Rome, The Emperor’s Exile and The Honour of Rome), Death to the Emperor puts Scarrow’s long-running protagonists in the middle of Boudica’s rebellion in Britannia.  I have actually already read this amazing book and it proved to be particularly captivating and action-packed.  Review to follow soon.

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Retribution by Sarah Barrie

Retribution Cover

Next up is the outstanding Australian thriller Retribution by Sarah Barrie.  A sequel to Barrie’s dark 2021 read, Unforgiven, Retribution presents several intriguing, interlocked cases that tie into the events of the last book and sees her maverick protagonist once again try to take down the deadly antagonist from Unforgiven. I have already started reading this fantastic novel and I can’t wait to see how the various cases unfold.

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Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 37: Crossroads by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo - Crossroads Cover

I was exceedingly happy to receive a copy of the new Usagi Yojimbo volume, Crossroads, this week.  As most readers will know, I am a massive fan of Stan Sakai’s outstanding Usagi Yojimbo comic series, and I was extremely happy that Sakai released a second volume this year.  Crossroads, which I read the second it was delivered, is another amazing read with two epic stories to them.  Loaded with action, incredible artwork and fantastic characters, this was another impressive outing from Sakai that I had a wonderful time reading.

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Silver Queendom by Dan Koboldt

Silver Queendom Cover

The next book I was lucky enough to receive is the fantastic and fun fantasy novel, Silver Queendom by Dan Koboldt.  I absolutely love the sound of Silver Queendom which sees a scrappy group of conman attempt to pull off an impossible heist to save their skins.  There is nothing about this book’s plot that I do not love, and I am very excited to see how this fantasy heist novel pays off.  I already know I am going to have an awesome time with this book, and I am hoping to check it out next.

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The Resemblance by Lauren Nossett

The Resemblance Cover

I was also lucky enough to receive a copy of a fantastic new debut novel with The Resemblance by Lauren Nossett.  Set in a college town, this book will see a police detective dive into the corrupt world of fraternities and sororities as she attempts to solve a curious murder of a college student run over by someone who looks exactly like him.  This sounds like quite an intriguing read, and I look forward to diving into this elaborate case, which will no doubt provide some interesting insights into the crazy world of elite university students.

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Private Beijing by James Patterson and Adam Hamdy

Private Beijing Cover

I have been getting a few James Patterson books recently, and the latest is the compelling Private Beijing, which Patterson cowrote with Adam Hamdy.  This is the 17th book in Patterson’s The Private series which follows a group of private investigators, and his latest book will see the Beijing office of the agency come under attack, forcing Private’s leader, Jack Morgan, into action.  I haven’t had a chance to check out this series before, but I am very keen to try now, especially as this sounds like quite a fun spy thriller.  I look forward to getting through more of Patterson’s books this year and I am sure I am in for an excellent time with Private Beijing.

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Judgement Day by Mali Waugh

Judgement Day Cover

The final book I received a copy of is the awesome 2023 Australian thriller, Judgement Day, by new author Mali Waugh. The debut novel from Waugh, Judgement Day will see a detective investigate the murder of judge, which will bring her to the dark heart of the local legal system.  I am already quite intrigued by this upcoming novel, and I am very excited to already have a copy of this Australian crime fiction debut.

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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.

Waiting on Wednesday – Retribution and Headcase

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.  For my latest Waiting on Wednesday I check out two fantastic upcoming crime fiction novels from some of the very best authors Australia has to offer.

Due to my location I tend to receive a lot of fiction written by Australian authors and I have really grown to appreciate the talent that my countrymen have for writing brilliant crime fiction reads.  I have already had the pleasure of reading some truly impressive Australian murder mysteries and thrillers this year, including several great debuts.  However, for this post I want to highlight two outstanding sequels coming out later this year that I am very excited for.  Both books are written by exceptional writers, and I can’t wait to see how their respective series continue.

Retribution Cover

The first book I want to look is Retribution by Sarah Barrie.  Last year Barrie presented an incredible and deeply powerful book in Unforgiven, a gripping Australian thriller that ended up being one of the best Australian fiction releases of 2021Unforgiven followed former child abuse victim turned vigilante, Lexi Winter, who spends her days hunting down and destroying paedophiles around Sydney.  However, Lexi is forced to work with the detective who failed her years ago when evidence emerges that suggests that the monster from her past is still out there.  This resulted in an impressive and deeply captivating read that saw Lexi and the police dive into a particularly dark part of Sydney’s criminal underbelly only to be thwarted at every turn by a master manipulator.  I had an outstanding time with this book, and I was utterly enthralled all the way to the final epic twist, especially as Barrie left the story open for a potential sequel.

This sequel is set for release in a few months’ time with the intriguing follow-up RetributionRetribution, which has a release date of 30 November 2022, will bring back the main characters from the first book and set them on a new thrilling case, as threads from the previous investigation continue to haunt them.  I am quite excited for this new book, especially as it will feature an evolution for the compelling main protagonist, while also continuing the dark crime fiction elements that Barrie set up so well in the first book.  I have no doubt that this is going to be one of the most intense Australian reads of 2022 and I can’t wait to see how this latest mystery unfolds.

Plot Synopsis:

Once a vigilante, she’s now a cop … but she still plays by her own rules. A fast-paced, suspenseful thriller for readers of Candice Fox and Sarah Bailey.

Ace hacker, ex-prostitute, Jack Daniels drinker and part-time vigilante Lexi Winter returns, now working with the police – mostly – with a new enemy in the target and an old foe at the back of her mind.

Most probationary constables would baulk at chasing a drug dealer into a train tunnel in the dead of night. Not Lexi Winter. She emerges injured but alive, to face the wrath of her boss. Lexi may now be in uniform, but she has as much trouble with authority as ever, and is quietly using her hacking skills to investigate a notorious drug-dealing Sydney crime family with links to her old prey, the paedophile Damon Vaughn.

Meanwhile, Detective Sergeant Finn Carson investigates a death on a Sydney building site … which oddly enough, leads him to the picturesque Wondabyne station on the Hawkesbury River, and Inspector Rachael Langley oversees an investigation that could tie it all together. Lexi holds the key … if only she’ll toe the line …

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The next upcoming book I want to highlight is Headcase, written by fellow Canberran Jack Heath.  Heath is swiftly working his way up the list of Australia’s best crime fiction authors, especially as he has delivered some absolutely cracking reads in the last couple of years.  While he has written some great young adult thrillers, Heath is probably best known for his ongoing Timothy Blake series, which follows a deranged cannibalistic serial killer as he investigates impossible crimes throughout America.  The Timothy Blake books are thrilling, gory and utterly entertaining reads, and I had a lot of fun with the last book, Hideout (one of my favourite Australian releases of 2020), which saw Blake trapped in a house with a group of other serial killers, which predictably resulted in a massive bloodbath.  I also deeply enjoyed Heath’s last book, Kill Your Brother, a five-star read that saw a woman caught in a terrible situation where the only way to survive is to kill a fellow captive, her beloved brother.  Loaded with clever twists and with some amazing characters, Kill Your Brother was an exceptional read that has made extremely keen in checking out anything else Heath releases.

Headcase Cover

Luckily for me, Heath has a new book coming out in a few months’ time, and I am very happy to see that it is another Timothy Blake thriller.  This new Timothy Blake entry, which is set for release around the same time as Retribution, has the very intriguing title of Headcase, and it sounds like it is going to be quite the awesome read.  Following the psychotic Blake as he investigates a mysterious murder of a Chinese astronaut in a highly secure NASA base, Headcase sounds pretty damn epic book that will blend together a spy thriller narrative, with the dark psychological aspects of Heath’s amazing protagonist.  I have a feeling that Headcase is going to be one of the craziest books of 2022 and I will love every single second I spend reading it.

Plot Synopsis:

Timothy Blake returns in a tense, unputdownable thriller from the author of Hangman.

A Chinese astronaut is found dead in a NASA training environment in Houston, Texas. No one can explain how he got there. Amid fears of a diplomatic catastrophe, the CIA dispatches Timothy ‘Hangman’ Blake to investigate, because a convicted kidnapper works in the facility – someone Blake put away a long time ago.

Blake is deeply insane, afflicted by terrible urges he can barely control – but he’s also brilliant. Zara, his beautiful and deadly CIA handler, suspects a secret Chinese spacecraft is surveilling the United States, but Blake can see something much more sinister is going on. Something connected to the kidnapping seven years ago, to the technologies being developed at NASA, and to the serial killer known as the Texas Reaper.

Will Blake survive long enough to uncover the truth? And if he does, will anyone even believe him?

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WWW Wednesday – 26 January 2022

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 Burning Road by Harry Sidebottom (Trade Paperback)

The Burning Road Cover

I just started reading this cool new novel from one of my favourite Roman historical fiction authors, Harry Sidebottom.  The Burning Road brings back Sidebottom’s main protagonist and places him in the middle of a brutal slave rebellion on Sicily.  I am only a little bit in this book at the moment but I having fun with it so far.

 

The Twice-Dead King: Reign by Nate Crowley (Audiobook)

The Twice-Dead King - Reign Cover

I also started listening to another awesome Warhammer 40,000 novel this week with the second book in The Twice-Dead King series, Reign, by Nate Crowley.  Serving as a sequel to his great 2021 novel, Ruin, this is a brilliant and compelling tie-in novel that follows the ancient Necron race as they attempt to survive both external and internal attacks.  I am making some major progress on this novel and at the pace I’m going, I should finish it off in the next few days.

What did you recently finish reading?

Unforgiven by Sarah Barrie (Trade Paperback)

Unforgiven Cover

 

Star Wars: The High Republic: The Fallen Star by Claudia Gray (Audiobook)

Star Wars - The Fallen Star

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Noise by James Patterson and J. D. Barker

The Noise 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.

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.

Unforgiven by Sarah Barrie

Unforgiven Cover

Publisher: HQ (Trade Paperback – 1 December 2021)

Series: Standalone/Book One

Length: 480 pages

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Amazon     Book Depository

Talented Australian author Sarah Barrie presents one of the darkest and best Australian thriller novels of 2021 with Unforgiven, a powerful and captivating read that sets determined protagonists against the very worst of human monsters.

Years ago, the city of Sydney was haunted by a terrible paedophile and murderer known as the Spider, who kidnapped, molested and killed young girls, all on camera.  His reign of terror was ended suddenly one violent night thanks to two women, a determined rookie police officer, Rachael Langley, and one of the Spider’s young victims, Lexi Winter, who disappeared never to be seen again.

Now, after years of living on the street, Lexi has grown up tough and hard, determined to escape the tortures of her childhood through alcohol while trying to reconnect with the sister she was forced to leave behind.  However, Lexi is still obsessed with taking down monsters, and with her impressive hacking skills she spends her days tracking paedophiles, entrapping them, and ensuring they are captured by the police.  However, when her latest target proves to be particularly illusive online, she makes a fateful decision to break into his house, only to witness him being murdered.

At the same time, Rachael Langley is now a successful detective inspector, solving some of the toughest crimes in Sydney.  Still lauded for her role in stopping the Spider, Rachael lives in regret for being unable to save Lexi all those years before.  However, everything changes when a man calls her, claiming to be the real Spider and providing proof by horrifically murdering another child on camera.  Quickly establishing a police taskforce, Rachael and her team must determine if the killer is a copycat or whether Rachael captured the wrong man all those years ago.  To solve this case Rachael is going to need help from the last person who wants to see her, Lexi, but can these women work together after everything they have been through?  And what happens when their killer learns that Lexi is still alive and hunting for him?

This was an intense, grim and deeply compelling Australian crime fiction read from Barrie, who has written an amazing and powerful story that proves very hard to put down.  Unforgiven was the first of Barrie’s books that I have read, although several of her other Australian crime fiction novels are quite intriguing and I might try and read them at some point after being so captivated by this epic and moving read.  This was such an addictive novel that it gets a full five-star rating from me.

Barrie has come up with a very impressive and intense narrative for Unforgiven that sees several damaged characters dragged into the web of a dangerous and clever criminal.  The story has a great start that showcases the lives of the main protagonists, Lexi, Rachael and Rachael’s nephew and fellow police officer Finn, as well as giving some hints at the events of the original Spider case that so deeply impacted the female main characters.  After this quick set-up, the story advances in all its dark and powerful glory, as two fascinating plot lines develop.  Lexi, who has become an online vigilante hunting paedophiles on the dark web, finds herself caught up in a brutal murder when one of her targets is murdered by a mysterious figure while she is sneaking into his house.  Most of her early story involves her continued attempt to hunt paedophiles while also trying to find a way to hide the body of the murdered man, for which she gains some help from an interesting source.  At the same time, Rachael and Finn become involved in a brutal case when the man claiming to be the real Spider calls Rachael and leads them to murdered young girl, forcing them to once again dive into the unsettling world of paedophiles.

Both storylines advance at a quick and compelling pace, with each of the main protagonists facing massive challenges as they attempt to achieve their objectives.  I liked this initial separation of the storyline, and the two plotlines work well together in tandem, with the reader getting pretty caught up in both narrative threads.  At the same time, the author drip-feeds in bits and pieces of Lexi and Rachael’s pasts, especially the events that led up to the arrest of the Spider and the disappearance of Lexi.  This deepens the audiences’ connections to the two protagonists so that when their storylines inevitably connect it really enhances the impact of the scene.  Unforgiven shifts into high gear once these plotlines are joined, with all three protagonists working towards the same goals, although Lexi maintains her secrets.  Barrie starts throwing in some real curveballs here, providing a complex and intriguing case that throws the protagonists through the emotional wringer as they get closer to the big and powerful conclusion of the novel.  There are some great twists in the last half of the book and while I saw a couple of things coming, there were some fantastic surprises that really threw me.  This ends up being an outstanding and complex story, and the readers will be left wanting more, especially as Barrie leaves it open for a sequel, which I really hope she does.

While I deeply enjoyed the captivating and intense story contained within Unforgiven, this was a bit of a hard novel to read at times due to its very, very dark content.  Unforgiven focuses on the hunt for a murderous paedophile and his child exploiting friends, which inevitably leads to some depictions of the terrible acts they commit, not only to children in the current storyline, but to the protagonist Lexi back in her childhood.  Barrie really does not pull any punches here, and the book contains some very dark and grim moments that really stick in the mind.  These powerful and shocking scenes really raised the stakes of the book and ensured that the reader becomes extremely invested in seeing the protagonists achieve justice through their actions.  While I really appreciated that Barrie was trying to raise awareness and showcase just how evil some people can be, I will admit that some of these scenes did get to be a bit much at times, forcing me to stop and put the book down.  Readers are warned that Unforgiven has very strong themes of violence and abuse against children and young people.  However, if you can get past that, it is worth it, as Barrie does an excellent job telling this rough story about true human evil.

Unforgiven’s already brilliant and powerful narrative is enhanced by the impressively written and complex central characters contained within.  Barrie has gone out of her way to introduce several very damaged and compelling protagonists, each of whom add so much to the overall plot thanks to their excellent backstories and substantial development.  The most prominent and interesting of these characters are the two female leads of the book, Lexi Winter and Detective Inspector Rachael Langley, whose lives became irreparably entangled all those years ago.  These two characters serve as two of the three main point-of-view characters, with most of the story told from their perspectives.

Lexi was a great character, and I was deeply impressed with the amount of work that Barrie put into her complex and damaging past, as well as her distinctive current personality.  There were so many interesting aspects to Lexi, who immediately stands out as a protagonist thanks to her damaged personality, strong sense of deduction and observation, her badass ability with a computer and the fact that she is the only character whose chapters are told in the first person.  I loved the intriguing contradictions in her life as Lexi makes a living as an escort while devoting most of her personal life to being an online vigilante/hacker extraordinaire who specialises in taking paedophiles down.  This makes for such a distinctive character, especially once you figure in all the major impacts of her childhood that has left her such an emotional mess.  Barrie does a good job of slowly revealing all the horrors of her early life, and while some of the scenes are pretty brutal, it is amazing to see everything that the character has risen above to still be such a strong figure.  The reader swiftly gets attached to Lexi as a protagonist and it will be fascinating to see what happens to her next if Barrie decides to turn this into a series.

The other central character that I must talk about is Rachael, the veteran detective inspector whose career was built off the success of the Spider case.  Rachael is a great police protagonist, a confident, intelligent and strong figure who is able to keep most of her people in line and pursue a vigorous investigation.  However, Barrie builds in several great aspects to her character that really impact this protagonist throughout the course of Unforgiven.  Firstly, there is the guilt that Rachael still feels over her past with Lexi, especially as Rachael failed her in a way which is slowly revealed over the course of the book, especially once the two reunite and have an awkward relationship.  The other aspect is the doubt that slowly creeps into Rachael as the case proceeds, especially as the possibility that the original person convicted in the Spider case might be innocent.  This doubt, coupled with the guilt over the fact that she could be responsible for the latest deaths by not actually catching the real Spider, starts to impact her throughout the book and proves to be an intriguing motivator for some of her decisions.  These complex aspects really helped enhance the emotional power of Unforgiven and I really appreciated the intense storyline that Barrie wrote about people living in the past and accepting one’s mistakes.  I really enjoyed seeing both Lexi and Rachael in this novel, and they had some great storylines in this book.

Aside from Lexi and Rachael, there are several other great characters in Unforgiven I should mention.  The most prominent of these must be Detective Senior Sergeant Finn Carson, Rachael’s nephew and second-in-command of the investigation, who ends up being the third major point-of-view character.  Finn was an excellent male police character who serves as an interesting counterpoint to the two female protagonists.  While not as damaged as the other two, Finn has his own issues, and his viewpoint really added to the overall quality of the book.  I was also a big fan of Lexi’s neighbour Dawny, an eccentric older woman who assists Lexi in several matters, including disposing of a body (what are good neighbours for?).  Dawny was one of the funniest characters in the book and it was great to see the protagonists be completely baffled by her knowledge and ability to come up with effective solutions to problems while maintaining the batty old lady routine.  I quite liked the eventual reveal of who Dawny really was, as it fit in well with the other characters in the book, and it will be fun to see if Barrie brings her back at some point in the future.  Finally, I definitely need to highlight the villain of the book, the Spider, who is one of the most despicable fictional antagonists I have seen: a sordid child abuser and murderer who films their grisly crimes.  You quickly feel a lot of hate towards this character, even if you don’t know who they are for most of the story.  The eventual reveal and the various twists around them were quite clever and I had an amazing, if disturbing, time finding out who this monster was.  An overall exceptional character driven novel, you will quickly find yourself getting stuck following all these fascinating and compelling figures.

Unforgiven by Sarah Barrie is an outstanding and impressive read that takes the reader of a gritty and vicious ride.  Filled with a disturbing narrative and some brilliantly damaged central characters, Unforgiven is an utterly captivating read that is near impossible to put down or forget about.  Easily one of the best Australian thrillers of 2021, Unforgiven comes highly recommended and I am extremely excited to see what other incredible novels Barrie comes up with in the future.

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WWW Wednesday – 19 January 2022

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?

Unforgiven by Sarah Barrie (Trade Paperback)

Unforgiven Cover

I started the awesome Australian thriller Unforgiven by Sarah Barrie this week.  This is a dark and shocking novel that follows a former child molestation victim turned vigilante as she is forced to once again confront the serial killer that tormented her as a child.  A grim but captivating novel, I cannot wait to see where this novel goes next.

Star Wars: The High Republic: The Fallen Star by Claudia Gray (Audiobook)

Star Wars - The Fallen Star

I am still going with The Fallen Star by Claudia Gray.  It is a pretty awesome Star Wars story, I just haven’t had as much time to listen to it.  I should hopefully finish it off in the next week or so.

Never by Ken Follett (Audiobook)

Never Cover

I still haven’t made any progress with Never yet, but I am hoping to get to it this week.

What did you recently finish reading?

Beastslayer by William King (Paperback)

Beastslayer Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Burning Road by Harry Sidebottom

The Burning Road 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.

WWW Wednesday – 12 January 2022

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?

Beastslayer by William King (Paperback)

Beastslayer Cover

I was in the mood for something fun so I decided to check out another awesome entry in the Gotrek and Felix series of Warhammer Fantasy novels with Beastslayer.  Following on from the first four books in the series, Trollslayer, Skavenslayer, Daemonslayer and Dragonslayer, this fifth entry follows the series’ protagonists to a besieged city as they attempt to throw back the forces of Chaos.  I have already made a fair bit of progress on this novel and I should finish it off really soon.  I love the thrilling and action-packed narrative contained in Beastslayer and this is proving to be quite an entertaining read.

Star Wars: The High Republic: The Fallen Star by Claudia Gray (Audiobook)

Star Wars - The Fallen Star

I also recently started the latest book in the Star Wars: The High Republic range with The Fallen Star.  Following on from the main High Republic novels, Light of the Jedi and The Rising Storm, this intense entry sees the Jedi bastion, Starlight Beacon, under threat from a ruthless and dangerous monster.  I am really enjoying the cool story contained in this book and I cannot wait to see what happens with it, especially as it is likely to be one of the defining moments of this period of High Republic fiction.

Never by Ken Follett (Audiobook)

Never Cover

I have made no progress on this audiobook since last week as I dived into the new Star Wars book.  I am planning to really get into Never next and I want to finish it off soon.

What did you recently finish reading?

The Maid by Nita Prose (Trade Paperback)

The Maid Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Unforgiven by Sarah Barrie

Unforgiven Cover