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 – Books I was SO EXCITED to Get, but Still Haven’t Read (Waiting on Wednesday list)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this latest Top Ten Tuesday, participants are required to list their favourite books that the were excited to get but still haven’t had a chance to read.  There is also a side requirement to list the length of time since you’ve received or heard about the book, which adds some interesting complexity to the list.

Now, one of the saddest things about being a reviewer is that there are always far too many books coming out every year to keep up with.  Despite my best efforts, at the end of each year there are always multiple books that I am extremely sad that I never got the chance to read.  These books have built up over the years, and I currently have an extended list of awesome sounding novels sitting around waiting to be read.  Many of these have been captured in my weekly Waiting on Wednesday posts, and I am quite ashamed to say that quite a substantial number of novels I previously highlighted in these posts haven’t been read.  As such, I thought I might slightly alter the underlying basis of this list slightly by looking at the ten oldest Waiting on Wednesday posts I have where I never actually got around to reading the book.

This ended up being a rather interesting list to pull together as I have highlighted quite a few great novels over the years.  However, it was fairly easy to find the ten oldest Waiting on Wednesday posts on my blog where I haven’t read the book, and I added them to this list in descending order.  I did have to make a few exclusions for a couple of books which still haven’t been released yet, and I also had to filter out some posts where I failed to review a book after reading it.  Still, this left me with a rather interesting top ten list of cool books that I really need to check out.  So let us see which are the ten books I have been waiting the longest to check out.

Top Ten List (Descending by Date of Waiting on Wednesday Article)

10. The Shadow Saint by Gareth Ryder – Hanrahan -6 November 2019

The Shadow Saint Cover

The sequel to one of the more intriguing debuts of 2019, The Gutter Prayer, The Shadow Saint is a fantastic sounding grimdark fantasy novel that I really need to take off the shelf and read.

 

9. Anyone by Charles Soule – 31 October 2019

Anyone Cover

An awesome sounding standalone science fiction novels from one of my favourite Star Wars authors, Charles Soule (author of Light of the Jedi, and several awesome comic series).  Anyone is an interesting thriller set around a future where people can transfer their consciousness into other bodies.  I love the sound of this concept and I hope I can make time to read it at some point.

 

8. The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso – 15 August 2019

The Obsidian Tower Cover

Easily one of the books I most regret not reading is The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso.  The first book in the Rooks and Ruins series, which serves as a sequel to her impressive debut Swords and Fire trilogy (made up of The Tethered Mage, The Defiant Heir and The Unbound Empire), this book has been high on my to-read list for ages, but I can never seem to find the time to read it.  This is a real shame, as I have heard that this is an exceptional novel, and I am sure the following books in the Rooks and Ruins series are going to be really incredible as well.

 

7. #Murderfunding by Gretchen McNeil – 3 July 2019

#MurderFunding Cover

A fun and deadly young adult thriller, #MurderFunding is the sequel to the great 2018 read, #MurderTrending, and it is one I have been hoping to read for a while.  This delay is because I unfortunately didn’t get a copy of this when it first came out.  While I did eventually grab a copy a few months ago, I still haven’t had the chance to read it, even after reading the great prequel novel #NoEscape.  I honestly need to sit down and try to read this at some point, as I will probably just power through it and finish it off in a day.

 

6. Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw – 19 June 2019

Grave Importance Cover

The third book in the Dr. Greta Helsing series, Grave Importance is an excellent book about a doctor who specialises in helping the undead, and who finds herself wrapped up in a mystery involving mummies.  I loved the first two books in this series, Strange Practice and Dreadful Company, and I really regret having not seen how the series continued.  This is another mistake I really should try to rectify, especially as my copy of Grave Importance is constantly judging me from a nearby bookshelf.

 

5. The Institute by Stephen King – 9 May 2019

The Institute Cover 1

I loved the sound of this unique and interesting Stephen King novel when I heard about it in 2019, however, I didn’t get a chance to read The Institute when it first came out.  Despite hearing some amazing things about it, I have never gone back to check it out, even after having a blast with King’s two 2021 novels, Later and Billy Summers.  I will have to carve some time out for The Institute at some point, although there are also many, many other Stephen King books I also want to read.

 

4. Salvation Lost by Peter F. Hamilton – 1 May 2019

Salvation Lost Cover

Another book that I deeply regret not reading, Salvation Lost is the fantastic sounding sequel to the great 2018 read, Salvation by science fiction master Peter F. Hamilton.  I absolutely loved Salvation when it came out, and I honestly cannot fathom why I keep failing to read Salvation Lost, it is completely mind boggling.

 

3. The Andromeda Evolution by Daniel H. Wilson – 13 March 2019

The Andromeda Evolution Cover

The recently released sequel to Michael Chrichton’s iconic technothriller, The Andromeda Strain.  I was very interested to see what they did in this sequel, written 50 years after the release of the first book, however, I was never able to fit it into my reading schedule.

 

2. The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling – 16 January 2019

the luminous dead cover

An interesting and compelling sounding science fiction horror novel that caught my eye a few years ago.  I failed to even get a copy of this book when it came out, although it is still on my radar to read.  Hopefully I will get a chance at some point, but it may be a while.

 

1. Alien: Echo by Mira Grant – 19 December 2019

Alien Echo Cover

The final entry (and oldest post) on this list is Alien: Echo, which I have so many regrets about not reading.  An amazing Alien tie-in novel from one of the best authors of horror fiction, the talented Mira Grant (Into the Drowning Deep is still one of my favourite horror novels), I have no idea why I never tried to read this, but I am constantly berating myself for not checking it out, especially as I know I am going to love it.  Hopefully I pull myself together at some point to read it, so we’ll see how that goes.

 

 

Well, that’s the end of this latest list.  As you can see, there are several awesome novels that I really need to try and read at some point, especially as I have been thinking about most of them for multiple years now.  All 10 books above sound extremely cool, and I desperately need to carve some time out to read them.  In the meantime, let me know which books you most regret not reading, and if you’ve enjoyed any of the entries on this list, I would love to hear what you thought about them.

Book Haul – 3 April 2022

I have been having an absolutely fantastic couple of week for books, 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, several of which I have been eagerly awaiting for some time.  I am extremely keen to check out all of the books below (indeed, I have already gotten through a couple), and they should make for some amazing reads.

Usagi Yojimbo: Tengu War by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo - Tengu War!

I was extremely happy to get my copy of the latest Usagi Yojimbo volume, Tengu War!.  The Usagi Yojimbo series by Stan Sakai is one of my favourite comic series and I have been eagerly waiting for this comic for some time (it was one of my most anticipated reads of 2022).  I actually read Tengu War! the day I received it and it was pretty damn amazing.  I am hoping to get the review for it up soon and needless to say it will get a five-star rating from me.

 

An Empty Throne by Robert Fabbri 

An Empty Throne Cover

Another recent acquisition that I have been looking forward to for a while was the third book in Robert Fabbri’s Alexander’s Legacy series, An Empty Throne.  Following on from the previous books in the series, To the Strongest and The Three Paradises, An Empty Throne will continue to follow the chaos that emerged in the aftermath of Alexander the Great’s death as his former advisors, relatives and friends, fought for his empire.  I have been really enjoying this series over the last few years and I cannot wait to see what wacky events from history are contained in this next book.

 

Everyone in my Family has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson

Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone Cover

I was very happy to receive this very fun book from Australian author Benjamin Stevenson, Everyone in my Family has Killed Someone.  Stevenson, who previously wrote the murder mystery novels Greenlight and Either Side of Midnight, has come up with something pretty spectacular here with Everyone in my Family has Killed Someone, which I have already finished.  This awesome novel, which brilliantly mixes comedy, mystery and multiple homages to classic whodunits, places a troubled Australian family in the midst of several suspicious deaths at a remote location, and forces them to solve it.  Utterly hilarious and extremely clever, I had an absolute blast from this book and I will be putting up an extremely positive review for it soon.

 

Three Assassins by Kotaro Isaka

Three Assassins Cover

I was also extremely fortunate to receive a copy of the English translation of Three Assassins by Japanese author Kotaro Isaka, which I am extremely excited to read.  I had an amazing time reading Isaka’s previous novel, Bullet Train, last year and Three Assassins sounds like it is in a similar vein to it, setting someone against three outrageous assassins.  Sure to be filled with laughs, odd characters and brutal action, I cannot wait to check this book out and will probably dive into next.

 

Esther’s Children by Caroline Beecham

Esther's Children Cover

I just received an electronic advanced proof of the intriguing upcoming historical drama, Esther’s Children by Caroline Beecham.  Set around World War II, this novel follows a young woman who works at an organisation that tried to rescue Jewish academics and scholars from Europe.  Sure to be powerful, romantic and moving, I am curious to check this book out, especially after enjoyed Beecham’s last novel, Finding Eadie.  I was very happy to see that they have used my Canberra Weekly review for Finding Eadie inside this new book, and I hope to read this latest novel soon.

Esther's Children Front Page

 

Amongst Our Weapons by Ben Aaronovitch

Amongst our Weapons Cover

I was naturally extremely happy to receive the latest Rivers of London novel by Ben Aaronovitch, Amongst our Weapons.  The latest book in one of the best urban fantasy series out there, Amongst our Weapons is one of the most anticipated fantasy novels of 2022 and I am extremely keen to read it.  I had a great time with Aaronovitch’s previous two novels, Lies Sleeping and False Value, and Amongst our Weapons has a great plot to it involving someone using magic to rob the London Silver Vaults.  I already know this is going to be a top read and I look forward to seeing how it all comes together.

 

Death of the Black Widow by James Patterson and J. D. Barker

Death of the Black Widow Cover

Superstar crime fiction author, James Patterson, returns with another collaboration, this time with acclaimed writer J. D. Barker, for their new book Death of the Black Widow.  This cool new is a gripping and intriguing crime fiction read that sets a rookie police officer chasing after a mysterious, alluring and very dangerous woman.  I really like the sound of this awesome book and I am hoping to read it in the next few weeks.

 

Nobody But Us by Laure Van Rensburg

Nobody But Us Cover

One of the more intriguing novels I  recently received was Nobody But Us by new author Laure Van Rensburg.  This dark and compelling thriller sees a mismatched couple take an unusual trip to the remote countryside, with both lying about their intentions for being there.  I am very taken by this mysterious and awesome novel, and I look forward to seeing what sort of devious tale Van Rensburg has come up with.

 

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn

The Diamond Eye Cover

Another fantastic historical drama I was lucky enough to receive is The Diamond Eye by the extremely talented Kate Quinn.  The Diamond Eye follows a young woman from Kiev who becomes a notorious and deadly sniper during the Nazi invasion in World War II.  I love the sound of this awesome book, especially as it is particularly topical at the moment, and I am extremely confident that Quinn has come up with a compelling and powerful tale here.

 

Ordinary Monsters by J. M. Miro

Ordinary Monsters Cover

I was also extremely fortunate to receive a copy of Ordinary Monsters by J. M. Miro, an intriguing and comprehensive young adult fantasy novel set in 19th century London and Edinburgh.  This fascinating novel will follow individuals with unique abilities who have been gathered together in a mysterious institute.  I have been hearing some good things about this book and it sounds like this could be the start of the next big young adult series.  As such, I should probably clear some room in my reading schedule soon in order to get through this fantastic novel.

 

Mr Mercedes by Stephen King

Mr Mercedes Cover 1

I also recently had a successful visit to a second-hand book shop and picked up a couple of older books from author’s I have been enjoying recently.  The first of these is the classic Mr Mercedes by legendary author Stephen King.  I had an amazing time reading King’s 2021 novels, Later and Billy Summers, and I thought it was time I expand my King knowledge.  Mr Mercedes seemed liked a great place to start, especially as one of the protagonists from it is apparently set to appear in some of King’s upcoming books, and I cannot wait to see how this gritty thriller comes together.

 

The Late Show by Michael Connelly

The Late Show Cover

The other second-hand book I got was The Late Show by Michael Connelly, which serves as the very first Renee Ballard book.  I have had a great time reading all of Connelly’s other books featuring Ballard, including Dark Sacred Night, The Night Fire, and The Dark Hours, so I thought it would be worth my time going back and seeing the first book she appeared in.  The Late Show has a really intriguing sounding mystery to it and I can’t wait to see the earlier adventure of this tenacious protagonist.  I will hopefully feature The Late Show in a Throwback Thursday article soon, I just need to find sometime to read this book in between all the fun new releases.

 

 

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 – Fairy Tale by Stephen King

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.  In my latest Waiting on Wednesday, I check out the next upcoming novel from legendary author Stephen King, Fairy Tale, a twisted and inventive dark fantasy novel that I am extremely excited for.

Fairy Tale Cover

After a reading career spent mostly devoid of the works of iconic author Stephen King, 2021 was the year that I started getting into this talented and twisted writer.  This was made easy by the fact that King released two particularly awesome novels, both of which were extremely cool and fun to read.  The first was the horror thriller, Later, a unique coming-of-age story that followed a young boy who can see the dead, and who finds himself thrust into dangerous and terrifying situations as a result.  Kings second book was the incredible Billy Summers, a powerful thriller that followed a titular assassin whose entire life is changed by his final job and a fateful encounter that followed.  I deeply enjoyed the captivating and deep Billy Summers and it ended up being one of my favourite books of 2022.  As such, I am extremely keen to read more of King’s work, and while I am considering diving into previous impressive books, I have also been keeping an eye out for his next upcoming book.

Well, I just found out some details about King’s next book and boy does it sound like it is going to be one heck of a unique read.  This new book, which is currently set for release in September 2022, is Fairy Tale, which will take another teenage protagonist on a powerful and intense journey to the dark side of reality where he comes face to face with an ancient evil.

Synopsis:

Legendary storyteller Stephen King goes into the deepest well of his imagination in this spellbinding novel about a seventeen-year-old boy who inherits the keys to a parallel world where good and evil are at war, and the stakes could not be higher—for their world or ours.

Charlie Reade looks like a regular high school kid, great at baseball and football, a decent student. But he carries a heavy load. His mom was killed in a hit-and-run accident when he was ten, and grief drove his dad to drink. Charlie learned how to take care of himself—and his dad. Then, when Charlie is seventeen, he meets a dog named Radar and his aging master, Howard Bowditch, a recluse in a big house at the top of a big hill, with a locked shed in the backyard. Sometimes strange sounds emerge from it.

Charlie starts doing jobs for Mr. Bowditch and loses his heart to Radar. Then, when Bowditch dies, he leaves Charlie a cassette tape telling a story no one would believe. What Bowditch knows, and has kept secret all his long life, is that inside the shed is a portal to another world.

King’s storytelling in Fairy Tale soars. This is a magnificent and terrifying tale about another world than ours, in which good is pitted against overwhelming evil, and a heroic boy—and his dog—must lead the battle.

Ok, now this sounds like it is going to be something special.  I love the various intriguing elements that Fairy Tale’s synopsis hints at, especially as it will pit King’s typical young adult protagonist against a mysterious evil from another realm.  The idea of a young man being thrust into a struggle between good and evil in an alternate, dark fantasy dimension has a lot of potential, especially when combined with King’s extremely well proven writing style and ability to craft great characters.  I am really intrigued by this idea of another realm, and from the sound of some of the quotes from King that are being released as marketing for this book, it looks like the author really went out of his way to make it as inventive and crazy as possible.

Look let us be honest here, we already know that Fairy Tale is going to be a great book.  King has been on a role lately, and after 40 years of writing some of the best books out there, he really knows how to create an exceptional read.  I am particularly drawn to the synopsis above and I think that a cool, alternate fantasy realm storyline helmed by this great author has an unbelievable amount of potential.  This is easily going to be one of the best books of 2022 and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

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 – Books with Character Names in the Titles

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday participants are required to list their favourite books that have character names in the title.  I rather liked the idea of this topic, especially as I was unsure if I would be able to really complete a full list about it as only a few book titles really came to mind when I initially thought about it.  However, after a bit of research I was able to come up with pretty substantial list of potential entries, which included some amazing releases.

To make this list a bit of a challenge I tried to avoid books or comics that had series names included in the title (for example, all the Harry Potter books).  I also tried to avoid entries where they added on a name to the main title to designate that a book is going to be about a specific character in a franchise, such as Maul: Lockdown from Star Wars or Kal Jerico: Sinner’s Bounty from Warhammer 40K.  I did, however, include a few books from these franchises where the primary version of its title had a character name in it.  Despite these limitations, I still had a massive list of awesome books, which I then had to cull down.  I ended up having to remove several fantastic reads, but I think the below list really captures the absolute best books I have read with character names in the titles.  So, let us see what made the cut.

Honourable Mentions:

Tarkin by James Luceno

Star Wars Tarkin Cover

A compelling Star Wars novel that does exactly what it says on the packet, tell the story of Grand Moth Tarkin, one of the most distinctive villains from the original film.

 

Steel Tread by Andy Clark

Steel Tread Cover

I am being slightly cute with this Warhammer 40K novel, as Steel Tread is the name of a tank, rather than a human or alien.  However, I would argue that Steel Tread was a proper character, due its presence, impact on the protagonists, and because machines are partially sentient in this universe.

 

Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames

Bloody Rose Cover

The second book in Nicholas Eames’ The Band series, Bloody Rose is a fantastic fantasy read that centred around a group of mercenary monster fighters.  The title of this book refers to the infamous leader of this mercenary group, Bloody Rose, who serves as quite the distinctive figure.  A fun and captivating book that is really worth checking out.

 

Vader by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca

Star Wars - Darth Vader Volume 1 Cover

The first volume of the epic 2015 Darth Vader series was simply named Vader.  While this was an unimaginative title, the volume itself is extremely epic as it followed Vader in the aftermath of A New Hope.  Perfectly written and filled with some amazing artwork, this was a major volume that not only introduced the amazing character of Doctor Aphra, but also contained an exceptional ending where Vader discovers that the pilot who destroyed the Death Star was named Skywalker.

Top Ten List:

Mort/Eric by Terry Pratchett

Mort and Eric Cover

I have a hard time not including as many of Terry Pratchett’s masterful Discworld novels as possible on lists like these, and luckily for me there were only two Discworld books with character names in the titles, so I figured I would include both.  The first is the excellent novel Mort, which sees Death decided to recruit an apprentice, the titular Mort, who almost immediately starts messing with reality by trying to save the life of a doomed princess.  This was a hilarious novel, especially the bits following Death’s midlife crisis, and it sets up a bunch of other interesting Death-led Discworld novels.  The other book is Eric, one of Pratchett’s shorter books, that follows a teenage demonologist, Eric, who attempts a Faustian demon-summoning for absolute power.  Unfortunately, rather than summoning a demon, Eric instead gets the incompetent wizard Rincewind, who naturally stuff everything up.  This was another funny Discworld book, and I love how the cover of this book crosses out Faust and replaces it with a pen-drawn Eric, just to hammer home what this novel is satirising.

 

The Aurora Cycle by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Aurora Rising Cover

I had to mention one of the best trilogies of recent years with The Aurora Cycle by Australian authors Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, especially when all three entries contain a character name in their titles.  Made up of Aurora Rising, Aurora Burning and Aurora’s End, these titles all refer to the titular character Aurora (also known as Auri) a time-displaced psychic who ends up being the key to saving the entire universe.

 

Billy Summers by Stephen King

Billy Summer Cover

One of the more recent releases on this list was Stephen King’s Billy Summers.  An interesting and intense thriller, Billy Summers follows the titular character, an honourable assassin, as he embarks on his final job, only to encounter betrayal, introspection and a girl who changes everything.  This was one of the best books of 2021, and I really loved finding out all about Billy Summers.

 

Thrawn by Timothy Zahn

Thrawn Cover

Easily the best Star Wars book that focuses on a specific character is the epic Thrawn by legendary author Timothy Zahn.  This novel perfectly reintroduced Zahn’s greatest character, Grand Admiral Thrawn, into the new canon and is one of my absolute favourite Star Wars novels.  Eventually leading to another five connected books (Alliances, Treason, Chaos Rising, Greater Good and Lesser Evil), this was an exceptional read, and I like how the simple title Thrawn tells you everything you need to know about this book.

 

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Eragon Cover

Years ago, when I was first getting into fantasy I received a cool novel I knew nothing about apart from the title, Eragon.  Intrigued by its closeness to dragon, I dove into this great book and quickly became utterly engrossed by the story of teenager Eragon who finds a dragon egg and becomes a legendary hero.  I have a lot of love for this book and the Inheritance Cycle series that followed, so I just had to feature this novel on this list.

 

Usagi Yojimbo: Gen’s Story by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo Gen's Story

I really do tend to hit my classics when it comes to lists like this, so naturally I had to see if there was an entry from one of my favourite comic series, Usagi Yojimbo, that I could feature.  There were actually several Usagi Yojimbo volumes that contained character names in the title, including Lone Goat and Kid, Travels with Jotaro, and Tomoe’s Story.  However, the one I went with was the volume Gen’s Story.  This great volume contains a brilliant story that showcases the childhood of fantastic supporting character Murakami Gennosuke, better known as Gen.  This comic examines why the often disrespectful and uncouth bounty hunter has such dislike for samurai honour and discipline and served as a brilliant bit of backstory for one of the best characters in this series.

 

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Harrow the Ninth Cover

I was spoiled for choice for this list when it came to the works of Tamsyn Muir, as several of her books feature character names in the title.  While I was very tempted to feature her first novel, Gideon the Ninth (one of the best debuts of 2019), I instead went with her second book, Harrow the NinthHarrow the Ninth was an incredible read that ended up being one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2020.  Containing a trippy and exceedingly clever narrative, this book follows Harrow, a spacefaring necromancer who is going through some major identity issues.  An exceptional read, I am really looking forward to Muir’s next book, the 2022 release Nona the Ninth.

 

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle Cover

I had to include the extremely compelling The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton.  Another brilliant debut and one of the best books of 2018, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle follows a mysterious time-displaced man who awakens in several different bodies during a fancy party at an old British estate.  Forced to experience the entire party again and again, the protagonist only has seven chances to discover who murdered the party’s host, Evelyn Hardcastle.  Compelling, unique and with a title that immediately grabs your attention, I deeply enjoyed this cool book.

 

Talon of the Silver Hawk by Raymond E. Feist

Talon of the Silver Hawk Cover

Another excellent book I had to feature on this list was the impressive Talon of the Silver Hawk by Raymond E. Feist.  While on the surface this title doesn’t appear to contain a character name, Talon of the Silver Hawk is the main character, as it was the name he chose during a tribal vision quest.  While he goes by other identities and names throughout the novel, this is the one closest to his heart and it makes for quite a catchy book title.  I have a lot of love for this novel, especially as it introduced me to Feist’s excellent and extended Riftwar Cycle, and it is really worth checking out.

 

Vader Down by Jason Aaron, Kieron Gillen, Mike Deodato and Salvador Larroca

Vader Down Cover

The final entry on this list was the cool comic Vader Down.  Written and drawn by the join teams behind the 2015 Star Wars and Darth Vader comic book series, this comic follows Darth Vader who is shot down above a Rebel-controlled planet, and must contend with a Rebel army, traitors, the original trilogy protagonists, and all manner of other dangers.  An exceedingly epic and exceptional limited crossover series, this is one of my favourite Star Wars comics of all time and it is guaranteed to make you a fan of the current Star Wars extended universe.

 

That’s the end of this list.  As you can see, there are some really cool books and comic volumes out there that make good use of character names in their titles.  I am very happy with how this list turned out and I think it captures my absolute favourite books that make use of this naming convention.  This might be a list I revisit in the future, especially as there are several other excellent books that I am planning to read soon featuring character names in the titles (for example, the upcoming fantasy book Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry).  Until then, let me know what your favourite book was a character name in the title is in the comments below.

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite 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.  In this final Top Ten Tuesday for the year, participants are tasked with listing their top books of 2021, which is something I look forward to every year.  This is a bit of a continuation of a series of lists I have been doing over the last month which have highlighted some of the authors and books I have been most impressed with this year, including my favourite audiobook, favourite debuts and my top pre-2021 books I read this year.  However, this list here is the big one as it covers my absolute favourite releases of the year, of which there are quite a few.

Just like with 2020, 2021 has been pretty shitty in places, but thankfully readers got a bit of solace from the fact that this was an amazing year for books, with a huge range of incredible releases coming out across the genres.  Not only did several outstanding new series start but we had some exceptional debuts and several incredible trilogies conclude in a big way.  I have had an amazing time reading or listening to so many outstanding books this year and quite a few releases have become instant favourites.  I must admit that I somewhat struggled to pull this list together, as there were so many books that deserved to be mentioned.  Therefore, because I am a very soft touch, and because the quality of the books I read this year was so impressive, I have decided to expand this list out to 20 entries (just like I have the last two years).  These 20 books are my absolute favourites from 2021, and I would strongly recommend every one of them to anyone interested in a great read.

To make it onto this list a book needed to be released here in Australia during 2021 (one minor exception) and I had to have read it.  I have excluded Never by Ken Follett, as I am only partway through it, and there are many awesome-sounding books I sadly didn’t squeeze into my reading schedule for this year, although I am sure that several of those would have made the cut.  I decided to leave off my usual Honourable Mentions section as the extra 10 entries kind of make it unnecessary.  There will be a bit of crossover between the below entries and some of my previous lists.  Several novels also appeared on my Top Ten Favourite Audiobooks of 2021 list and my Top Ten Favourite Books from the First Half of 2021 list which I ran back into July.  Overall, I am fairly happy with how this Top 20 list turned out and I think it contains a pretty good range of novels that really showcases the different types of books that I chose to read this year.  So without further ado, here is the list.

Top 20 List (no particular order):

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

Last Graduate Cover

Let us start this list off strong with the awesome fantasy novel that I still haven’t gotten over, The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik.  The sequel to her 2020 hit, A Deadly Education, The Last Graduate continues the impressive Scholomance series in a big way , making full use of its cool characters and uniquely dangerous magical school setting.  There were some major developments in this second novel, including an epic and heartbreaking cliff-hanger that is guaranteed to make me pick up the final book next year.

 

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Project Hail Mary Cover

Next we have one of the best science fiction reads of the year.  Written by the exceedingly talented Andy Weir (of The Martian fame), Project Hail Mary is a very clever, entertaining and science heavy novel that sees a man travel to a distant star to find a way to save Earth when the sun starts to lose energy.  A brilliantly written and deeply captivating read that features a great, surprise supporting character and an awesome twist around the protagonist.  Highly recommended!

 

The Pariah by Anthony Ryan

The Pariah Cover

I had a great time this year checking out new authors, and one of the best was fantasy author Anthony Ryan, who started his Covenant of Steel series with The Pariah.  Featuring an epic and captivating tale that follows a young protagonist as he explores a war-torn, religiously ruled landscape, The Pariah was an impressive fantasy read that I could not put down, no matter how hard I tried.  I deeply enjoyed this cool book and I cannot wait to grab the sequel, The Martyr, next year.

 

Relentless by Jonathan Maberry

Relentless Cover

For the fourth year in a row, one of Jonathan Maberry’s amazing books has achieved a spot on this list (Deep Silence was one of the best books of 2018, Rage was one of the best books of 2019 and Ink was one of the best books of 2020).  Relentless, was one of his best, sending his legendary protagonist on deadly revenge mission against his worst enemies as they attempt a new world-ending master plan.  I loved this latest science fiction/thriller hybrid from Maberry, especially due to the exceptional character work, and this was a captivating and exceedingly exciting read.

 

The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie

The Wisdom of Crowds Cover

There was no way that I could exclude the incredible latest book from the legendary Joe Abercrombie, The Wisdom of Crowds, from this list.  This exceptional fantasy read perfectly wrapped up the brilliantly dark Age of Madness series (which previously featured the excellent A Little Hatred and The Trouble With Peace).  Featuring some of the best and most complex characters you are likely to see in fiction, and an intensely dark tale of revenge, betrayal and revolution, The Wisdom of Crowds is relentlessly entertaining without a single dull moment.  I had an incredible time with this book and I cannot wait to see what Abercrombie comes up with next.

 

Usagi Yojimbo: Homecoming by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo - Homecoming

Even after 35 volumes, Stan Sakai’s bestselling Usagi Yojimbo comic (which is one of my favourite all-time comic series) continues to shine with the exceptional HomecomingHomecoming was another beautifully drawn and narratively rich volume that takes the protagonist on a dramatic journey back to his home village and the many pains that reside there.  An exceptional and fun read; I cannot wait to get my hands of Sakai’s next volume, Tengu War, in a few short months.

 

The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell

The Two-Faced Queen Cover

After producing one of the absolute best debuts of 2020 with The Kingdom of Liars, talented rising author Nick Martell continued his impressive Legacy of the Mercenary King series with The Two-Faced Queen.  Featuring deadly assassins, a vengeful queen and even a couple of murderous dragons, The Two-Faced Queen was even more exceptional than his first novel, deeply expanding the cool overarching narrative and adding in even more twists, reveals and surprises.  This was one of the best sequels I have ever read, and readers will be quickly drawn into the book’s many mysteries, unique magic and deeply captivating storylines.

 

Star Wars: Victory’s Price by Alexander Freed

Star Wars - Victory's Price Cover

2021 was an amazing year for Star Wars novels, especially with the launch of the High Republic sub-series (Light of the Jedi and The Rising Storm were particularly good).  However, one of the absolute best Star Wars books had to be the amazing Victory’s Price by Alexander Freed, which brought the compelling, star fighter focused Alphabet Squadron series to a beautiful end.  Perfectly wrapping up the story contained in the first two novels, Alphabet Squadron and Shadow Fall, Victory’s Price was a powerful and intense character-driven war story that focused on five damaged Rebel pilots fighting in the war after the end of Return of the Jedi.  This was easily one of the most exciting and moving Star Wars novels I have had the pleasure of reading and it is a must read for fans of the franchise.

 

The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly

The Dark Hours Cover 2

After producing two brilliant reads last year (Fair Warning and The Law of Innocence), bestselling crime fiction author Michael Connelly continues his outstanding Ballard and Bosch sub-series with The Dark Hours.  This amazing novel contained another fantastic murder mystery combined with several other great police procedural story lines to create an outstanding overall narrative, expanding the fun partnership established in Dark Sacred Night and The Night Fire.  I deeply enjoyed this latest Connelly book and I powered through extremely quickly.

 

The Bone Ship’s Wake by R. J. Barker

The Bone Ship's Wake Cover

One of the best current authors of fantasy fiction, R. J. Barker, brings his exceptional Tide Child trilogy to a moving and captivating end with The Bone Ship’s Wake.  Perfectly following on from The Bone Ships and Call of the Bone Ships, this epic nautical fantasy perfectly wrapped up all the trilogy’s captivating story arcs and character development with some big, emotional moments.  I loved every twist and devastating moment in this novel and, thanks to this captivating conclusion, the Tide Child series ended up being one of the best trilogies I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

 

Colonyside by Michael Mammay

Colonyside Cover

Amazing science fiction author Michael Mammay continued his brilliant Planetside series (made up of Planetside and Spaceside) with Colonyside.  This latest novel dragged Mammay’s entertaining and gruff protagonist out of retirement once again to investigate a shady corporate mystery on an alien planet.  This book swiftly devolves into an exceptional conspiracy storyline, filled with twists and giant monsters.  I had such a wonderful time with this book that it was my one exception to the 2021 release date rule (it had a very late December 2020 release).  An impressive and clever read.

 

The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne

The Shadow of the Gods Cover

Another amazing new author I checked out this year was the insanely talented John Gwynne, who produced an incredible first entry in his Bloodsworn Saga, The Shadow of the Gods.  This amazing first novel contained a brutal and compelling Norse-inspired fantasy tale that followed three awesome central characters as they engaged in their own deeply personal quests.  Filled with some outstanding fantasy combat, amazing character moments and a deeply impressive narrative, this was an exceptional and addictive read that made me an instant fan of this author.  I have no doubt that the sequel, The Hunger of the Gods, is going to top this list next year and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

 

The Dark/Mind Bullet by Jeremy Robinson

The Dark and Mind Bullet Cover

2021 was the year that I first tried out some books from compelling author Jeremy Robinson.  I actually read two of his books, The Dark and Mind Bullet, both of which were amazing in their own way.  While The Dark was a darkly compelling and slick horror read that showcased a brutal invasion from Hell, Mind Bullet was a funny and entertaining science fiction thriller that followed a psychic assassin being hunted by the world’s most unusual killers.  Both were outstanding reads that got easy five-star ratings from me, so I had a very hard time choosing between them for this list.  Therefore, I decided to include both, as I had such a great time with them and are equally worth checking out.

 

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

The Man Who Died Twice Cover

Comedian Richard Osman followed up his 2020 debut, The Thursday Murder Club, with another fun and entertaining murder mystery book, The Man Who Died Twice.  This compelling and hilarious sequel thrust Osman’s elderly protagonists into another complex investigation, this time involving spies, stolen diamonds, and drug dealers.  This book had some amazing moments and ended up being another fantastic read.

 

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

Cytonic Cover

I have been waiting a couple of years for Sanderson to continue his Skyward series and I was very happy to finally get my hands on Cytonic.  The third entry in this impressive young adult science fiction series, Cytonic was an exciting and inventive read that continues the captivating tale started in Skyward and Starsight.  Taking his eccentric protagonist to a fantastic and unique new setting, Sanderson produced an epic and moving narrative that had me glued from the very first second.  There are some big, if sad, moments in this novel and I had a wonderful time listening to it.  I am a little miffed that I might have to wait another couple of years for this series to come to an end, but if it is anywhere as good as Cytonic, it will be worth it.

 

The Housemate by Sarah Bailey

The Housemate Cover

One of my favourite crime fiction books this year had to be the dark and exceptional Australian thriller The Housemate by Sarah Bailey.  This wonderful and intense read contains a complex and multifaceted mystery that keeps the reader guessing while they watch the central protagonist become even more unhinged by the revelations from her past.  I honestly could not put this great book down and I will be grabbing more of Bailey’s clever novels in the future.

 

Artifact Space by Miles Cameron

Artifact Space Cover

After wowing the world with his fantasy and historical fiction reads, author Miles Cameron had his science fiction debut this year with Artifact Space.  This powerful and deeply captivating read transports the reader to a massive spacecraft on a multi-year trading mission.  However, the protagonist, a girl with a past and a fake identity, soon finds that her ship is under attack from outside forces and must do everything to save her new home and friends.  This was a compelling epic which perfectly shows how talented Cameron is, no matter the genre.

 

Billy Summers by Stephen King

Billy Summer Cover

The master of horror and thrillers, Stephen King, had a great year in 2021 releasing two brilliant reads.  While I really must highlight his clever coming-of-age horror read, Later, his best book was the cool thriller, Billy Summers.  Billy Summers is a compelling, character driven read that follows a skilled hitman, as he attempts to engage in his last kill, only to run into a ton of surprises and complications.  A wildly enjoyable and captivating read that has convinced me to check out more Stephen King books next year.

 

Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: Lesser Evil by Timothy Zahn

Star Wars - Thrawn Ascendancy - Lesser Evil Cover

The other really good Star Wars novel of 2021 was Lesser Evil, the third book in Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Ascendancy series.  Set before his impressive Thrawn trilogy (made up of Thrawn, Alliances and Treason), Lesser Evil perfectly wraps up the Thrawn Ascendancy series (made up of Chaos Rising and Greater Good) while also exploring the early history and greatest victory/defeat of Zahn’s iconic Grand Admiral Thrawn.  Featuring excellent characters, cool universe expansion and some of the best tactical space battles you are likely to see, Lesser Evil was an exceptional read and I really hope that Timothy Zahn has some more Star Wars novels in the works.

 

Relentless by Mark Greaney

Relentless by Mark Greaney Cover

Last, but definitely not least, was the latest epic Gray Man novel from Mark Greaney, Relentless.  This awesome novel sets Greaney’s dangerous protagonist on another intense spy mission as he attempts to stop a terrorist attack in Germany.  I deeply enjoyed this fast-paced, action-packed and captivating spy thriller, especially as Greaney went out of his way to produce a clever and realistic narrative.  I had such a blast with Relentless and I cannot wait to see what deadly adventures occur in his next Gray Man novel.

 

 

Well, those are my 20 favourite books of 2021. It turned out to be quite a good list in the end, and I am very glad that I was able to highlight so many fantastic books.  2022 is set to be another excellent year for amazing reads, and I will be examining some of my most anticipated books for the first half of the year next week.  In the meantime, let me know what your favourite books of 2021 were in the comments below, and make sure you all have a happy and safe New Years.

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.

Billy Summers by Stephen King

Billy Summer Cover

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (Trade Paperback – 3 August 2021)

Series: Standalone

Length: 433 pages

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Stephen King returns with another exceptional read, Billy Summers, an awesome and memorable character driven thriller that has proved to be one of the best books of the year so far.

2021 has been quite an amazing year for Stephen King, who has released two outstanding and impressive novels in a short period of time.  His first book of 2021 was the interesting horror novel, Later, which followed a child who can see and talk to the recently deceased.  While I have not had a lot of experience reading Stephen King novels in the past, I really got into Later due to its likeable characters and thrilling narrative, and it ended up being one of the best audiobooks I listened to in the first part of 2021.  Due to how much I liked Later, I made sure to keep an eye out for any additional Stephen King releases, and I was extremely intrigued to see that he had a second book coming out with a great-sounding plot.  As a result, this second novel, Billy Summers, was one of my most anticipated reads for the second half of the year, and I was excited when I received my copy, especially as it contained a really cool story.

Billy Summers is an assassin and gun for hire.  A maestro with a sniper rifle and a master of elaborate escapes, there are few killers better than him.  However, for all his skills, Billy has one unusual quirk: he has a conscience and a moral code which limits him to only taking out contracts on targets he considers to be bad guys.  After a lifetime of killing, as both an assassin and a soldier, Billy wants out, and he is willing to take one final job to retire.  Luckily, his employer has a job that fits all his criteria.

Taken to the small city of Red Bluff on the East Coast of America, Billy is hired to kill a notorious gangster and killer who is currently locked up in Los Angeles but due to be extradited back to Red Bluff.  Billy’s boss wants the target dead the moment he arrives to stop him making a deal with the authorities ahead of his murder trial.  With a massive pay cheque on the line, Billy accepts the job, despite some odd stipulations.  As part of their plan to take out their target, Billy will need to take on the identity of an author working in the office complex overlooking the courthouse and maintain his cover for as long as it takes the extradition process to go through.

Despite misgivings about the job, Billy dives into the role as required and soon establishes himself as a regular figure in the office block.  As he waits for his target to arrive, Billy begins to get to know the people around him and takes the opportunity to write a memoir about his life and the decisions that led to him becoming a killer.  However, the closer he gets to the conclusion of the job, the more he suspects that nothing involved with this assassination is on the level, and that his bosses intend from him to die as well.  Making his own plans in case things go sideways, Billy prepares to end his career as an assassin on his own terms.  But then he meets Alice, and everything changes.

Well damn, how the hell does King do it?  After nearly 45 years of writing, you’d think the man would run out of unique and compelling ideas, but that apparently is not the case, as his latest book, Billy Summers, turned out to be quite an exceptional read.  King has produced an impressive and powerful story that follows a complex and well-established protagonist as he experiences life for the first time.  With some outstanding characters, a deeply thrilling storyline and some intriguing insights into the human condition, this was an outstanding read that was easily one of the best books I read in 2021 and which got a full five-star review from me.

Billy Summers contains a pretty addictive and powerful story that I found to be really cool.  The book is primarily told through the eyes of the titular Billy and shows him as he prepares to take on his final job.  King does a great job of introducing the character and the scenario, and you are soon placed into the midst of a very cool storyline as Billy moves into suburbia under an assumed identity to build his cover.  This results in some compelling character interactions, as Billy simultaneously prepares for his assassination mission with his employers while also getting close to some of the people he encounters and starts to see what a normal life feels like.  At the same time, he also builds up a third identity to use after the job is completed, which requires him to assume a different disguise and create some additional personal connections.  He also starts writing a personal memoir which tells a slightly altered version of his life story, including his rough childhood, his military career, and his early contract work.  This mixture of intriguing and fascinating story threads come together extremely well in the first half of the novel, and you get quite a unique and compelling narrative which perfectly blends thriller excitement with personal character growth.

After a big moment halfway through the novel, the entire storyline dramatically changes, especially as Billy is introduced to a key character, Alice.  While there is still a large amount of focus on the job from the first half of the novel and its consequences, the story noticeably morphs at this point, really diving into the relationship that develops between these two characters.  The storyline also moves away from some of the prior relationships that were introduced, and moves into a road trip, with Billy now accompanied by Alice.  There are some really good sequences in this second half of the novel, as well as a continued exploration of Billy’s past.  King does a fantastic job morphing the various story threads and plot ideas into a cohesive and captivating narrative, and I really enjoyed the powerful combinations.  The set pieces are a series of awesome action sequences, which help tie up several of the main story threads and lead up to the book’s epic conclusion.  While King is often criticised for his endings, I felt that Billy Summers had an exceptional and incredible conclusion that I deeply enjoyed.  This great conclusion is both tragic and memorable, and it ties together the entire novel extremely well, helping to turn Billy Summers into one of the best stories I have read all year.

I really enjoyed King’s writing style in this novel, especially as it focused a lot on character development and interactions between unique people.  The entire novel has a very philosophical bent to it, as King and his characters take time to explore the human experience, especially those aspects of life that people on the outside, such as BIlly, miss out on.  While you wouldn’t think that this would pair well with a thriller story about an assassin, it actually works extremely well, especially when combined with Billy’s journaling scenes, and readers are guaranteed to fall in love with this distinctive form of storytelling.  I also liked the author’s great use of various settings which help to show off the uniqueness of America’s landscapes.  King features several different locations, including suburbia, the inner city, the wide open road, the isolated Colorado mountains, and even some more famous locations, like fabulous Las Vegas.  Each location offers the reader and the characters something new to enjoy or appreciate, and King makes sure to capture both the beauty and the ugliness of these various settings.  While King does move away from some of his more extreme murder sprees in this novel, there are some dark moments in this book.  Not only are there some very graphic action sequences, but readers should also be warned about the sexual violence content, especially one scene where Billy enacts some justice.  I’m also slightly concerned that King might end up getting sued by Rupert Murdoch for a certain facsimile character who does some bad things.  Overall, though, I really enjoyed the way King told his latest unique story, and there is something for everyone in it.

As I mentioned above, I don’t have the most experience reading Stephen King novels, with only a few of his more recent reads under my belt.  Despite this, I was easily able to enjoy Billy Summers, especially as it is a standalone thriller with one-shot characters.  As a result, this is a book that any reader can easily pick up and get into, and I really liked how open the author made Billy Summers.  However, fans of King, as well as those people generally aware of his work, will probably have fun seeing the references to some of King’s previous books.  One of his more iconic works is referenced several times, especially as the protagonists end up spending time near a pivotal location.  While this is not particularly essential to the plot, it was a nice callback, and I think that most people will appreciate the fun self-homage.  I also found it interesting that both of King’s novels of 2021 had a compelling focus on writing, which becomes a key part of the plot.  While Later focused more on the publishing side of things, Billy Summers contains a fantastic examination of the difficulties of putting your ideas to paper as a writer, with the protagonist attempting to write his life story in his downtime.  While there are several fantastic advantages to the writing subplot, such as it being a great way to introduce the protagonist’s backstory in a compelling and episodic manner, I also quite enjoyed seeing the depiction of the writing process, and the various difficulties of telling a story.  It very much felt that King was pouring some of his own experiences with writing into these sections of the novel, and it was incredibly fun and insightful to see one of the world’s greatest authors depict the difficulties of writing in one of his novels.

Another area that Billy Summers excelled in is the fantastic central and supporting characters.  King does a remarkable job of introducing a diverse cast of characters, each of whom affect the character in various ways, either by showing him what his missing, or showing him what he is better than.  The most focused character is naturally the titular protagonist, Billy Summers, a brilliant contract killer who only kills bad people.  Billy is a remarkably complex figure, who builds several different personalities and personas around himself for professional reasons and protection.  I really enjoyed the intriguing portrayal of this character, mainly because you got to see at least four different versions of him in the first half of the book.  While the narrator is the calm and collected lover of classic novels who is basically a good guy, despite being an elite professional killer able to see every angle and work out the best way to kill someone and escape, that is a viewpoint that only the readers sees, at least at the start of the novel.  Billy hides this real side of himself from the rest of the world, effecting a less intellectual personality to his criminal associates, which he calls his “dumb self”, to fool them and think he’s less of a threat.

While his dumb self is usually enough to get by, his new assignment requires him to take up the identity of a struggling author who moves into a suburban neighbourhood and a local office block to focus on his upcoming bestseller.  Billy is forced to integrate into these social systems to keep his cover, and he soon makes friends amongst the people he meets, many of whom have an impact on him due to their honesty, innocence, and normality, all of which Billy has long given up.  He also builds up yet another identity to rent an additional house, which he plans to use as a safe house if the job goes wrong, which forces him to deal with additional normal people.  On top of that, he also takes the opportunity to write a memoir of his life, not only to maintain his cover but to satisfy his own curiosity about the writing process.  This proves to be a delicate balancing act, as he attempts to give an honest account of his past while also trying to keep up the charade of being dumb in case his employers read the story he writes.  This results in a unique, multifaceted character, and you get hints at the true nature of Billy, not just from the narration, but from seeing the similarities and differences between the various versions he presents to the world.

Billy’s life changes even further when he meets Alice, a woman who he meets at the very worst time of her life.  Saving her initially to maintain his cover, Billy soon finds himself drawn to protecting Alice, who has no-one and is having trouble getting over her trauma.  Billy soon works in a fantastic and touching relationship with Alice, as the two become close and help each other see the world in other ways.  Not only is Alice a great character in her own right, especially as King presents a very real and moving portrayal of a damaged and lost woman, but she also brings out the best in Billy.  While Alice does imprint on Billy due to her trauma, she also encourages him and gets him to continue writing his book.  This powerful bond they form soon becomes a central part of the book’s plot, and it is extremely fascinating and compelling to see what happens to them.  These exceptional characters and deep personalities really turn Billy Summers into an exceptional read, and I become severely invested in their story, even though I knew it was likely to end badly.

Stephen King has once again shows why he is the premier fiction author in the world today with another intense and exquisite read in Billy Summers.  Featuring a deep and captivating narrative about a complex character, Billy Summers was an absolute treat to read, and comes highly recommended.  Readers will swiftly fall in love with the unique narrative and compelling leading figures, and I guarantee that you will have trouble putting this excellent novel down.  Easily one of the best books of 2021, I cannot praise Billy Summers enough.

Billy Summers Cover 2

WWW Wednesday – 11 August 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?

Blood Trail by Tony Park (Trade Paperback)

Blood Trail Cover

I just started the latest exciting thriller from Australian author Tony Park, Blood Trail, who once again sets a compelling story within the nature reserves of Africa.  This novel is pretty cool so far, and I am enjoy the interesting tale of anti-poachers who are up against local witchcraft and the negative impacts of COVID-19.  I am hoping to get through this book pretty quickly and it should be a fun read.

 

Starlight Enclave by R. A. Salvatore (Audiobook)

Starlight Enclave Cover

One of my favourite authors, the legendary R. A. Salvatore, returns with another exciting and complex fantasy novel Starlight Enclave. This is the start of a brand new trilogy from Salvatore and it is so far off to an intriguing start, with some of the main characters engaging in two separate quests.  I am already enjoying this awesome audiobook and I have high hopes it is going to turn into an overall exceptional read.

What did you recently finish reading?

Billy Summers by Stephen King (Trade Paperback)

Billy Summer Cover

 

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix (Audiobook)

The Final Girl Support Group Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Star Wars: The High Republic: Out of the Shadows by Justina Ireland (Audiobook)

Star Wars - Out of the Shadows 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.