Top Ten Tuesday – Favourite New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2021

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  The official topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday was 2021 releases I was excited to read but didn’t get to, however, I addressed that topic in my post last week.  So instead of covering that, this week I will look at my favourite new-to-me authors that I discovered in 2021.  This is a list I have covered for the last couple of years (make sure to check out my 2019 and 2020 versions), and it is one that I always have fun doing.

Each year I am lucky enough to read a great number of awesome novels and this often includes some that were written by authors whose work I was previously unfamiliar with.  2021 was a good example of this as there were an incredible collection of amazing novels written by authors who were completely new to me.  This included some debuting authors, as well as more established writers whose work I only got around to this year.  Many of these new-to-me authors produced some truly exceptional reads, some of which I consider to be some of the best books released in 2021, and I really feel the need to highlight them here.  As a result, this list may feature a bit of overlap with my top books, pre-2021 books and audiobooks lists of 2021 that I have previously published on this blog.

To appear on this list, the book had to be one I read last year and be written by an author who I was unfamiliar with before 2021.  If I had not read anything from this author before last year, it was eligible for this latest list, although I did exclude debut novels as I had another list prepared for them.  Despite this, I ended up with a massive list of potential inclusions on this list, as it appears that I read a ton of great new authors in the last year.  Despite my best efforts, I had a very hard time whittling this list down, so in the end I decided to face the inevitable and leave it as a top 20 list.  While I still had to exclude several great authors whose books I really liked, I think that I came up with a good overall list that represents which authors I am really glad that I decided to try out for the first time last year.

Top Twenty List:

William King – Trollslayer, Skavenslayer, Daemonslayer, and Dragonslayer

Slayers Coveres

Well, let us start this list off with an author I read multiple books from in 2021 with William King.  I was in a real Warhammer mood in 2021, and as part of the that I decided to check out the iconic Gotrek and Felix series that was initially written by King.  This great series follows a deranged dwarf Slayer and his reluctant human companion as they travel around the Warhammer Fantasy world looking for a monster bad enough to give Gotrek the heroic death he desperately wants.  I really love this amazing series and I ended up reading the first four of King’s Gotrek and Felix books in 2021, Trollslayer, Skavenslayer, Daemonslayer and Dragonslayer, each of which were a lot of fun.  I have even kept reading King’s books in 2022, having only recently read and reviewed the fifth Gotrek and Felix novel, Beastslayer.  I fully intend to keep reading this series this year when I get a chance, and I reckon I will finish off King’s entire run on this series extremely soon.

 

Jeremy Robinson – The Dark and Mind Bullet

The Dark and Mind Bullet Cover

The other new-to-me author who I read more than one book from in 2021 was Jeremy Robinson, an awesome author known for his over-the-top science fiction and horror books.  I was initially drawn to Robinson’s interesting dark horror read, The Dark, which sets a group of protagonists against a deadly demonic invasion, and which had a brilliant story to it.  I ended up enjoying it so much that I decided to check out any other books that Robinson had coming out in 2021 and that led me to his latest release, Mind Bullet, which follows a psychic assassin who finds himself being hunted by a cadre of unconventional and superpowered hitmen.  I had an absolute blast reading these cool books, and the both received easy five-star ratings from me.  Due to how much fun I had with these books I plan to read a hell of a lot more from Robinson this year, especially as he has some cool releases on the way.

 

Tess Sharpe – The Girls I’ve Been

The Girls I've Been Cover

One of the more interesting authors I checked out in 2021 was young adult author Tess Sharpe who wowed me with her cool novel, The Girls I’ve Been.  This fantastic novel followed a teenage former con-artist who is forced to revert to her old ways to save herself and her friends from vicious bank robbers.  Clever, compelling and deeply thrilling, I have so much love for this novel and I cannot wait to see what cool books Sharpe rights in the future.

 

John Gwynne – The Shadow of the Gods

The Shadow of the Gods Cover

One of the best new-to-me authors I read last year was legendary fantasy author John Gwynne.  Gwynne, who has written some very highly regarded dark fantasy books in the past presented The Shadow of the Gods last year, which was the first book in his new Bloodsworn Saga series.  I initially hadn’t planned to read this book but after hearing so many positive reviews about it I changed my mind and was extremely glad that I did.  The Shadow of the Gods was an epic and captivating read that featured action and adventure in an awesome, Viking-inspired fantasy landscape.  This was such an incredible book (with a really amazing cover) and it made me an instant fan of this author.  I cannot wait to see where this series goes next, and I really need to go back and read some of Gwynne’s earlier series.

 

Mara Timon – Resistance

Resistance Cover

I was also lucky enough to read the fantastic historical thriller Resistance towards the end of last year written by relatively new author Mara Timon.  Resistance was a sequel to Timon’s 2020 debut City of Spies and contains a great story about a female spy dropped into occupied Normandy shortly before the D-Day landings.  This was an excellent spy thriller and I look forward to seeing what other cool books Timon writes in the future.

 

Nate Crowley – The Twice-Dead King: Ruin

The Twice-Dead King - Ruin Cover

Another great new-to-me author of Warhammer fiction I read last year was the insanely talented Nate Crowley who presented his first The Twice-Dead King novel, RuinRuin followed a banished Necron prince as he attempts to save his former empire from internal corruption and destructive outside forces.  Breathing amazing life into essentially dead characters, this was a fantastic and intense Warhammer read that I had a great time with.  I cannot wait to see how the series continues in 2022 and I will also try to read some of Crowley’s other cool Warhammer releases.

 

Kotaro Isaka – Bullet Train

Bullet Train Cover

I was very excited to check out a book from Japanese thriller author Kotaro Isaka last year with Bullet Train.  A translation of his 2010 novel Maria Beetle, this book featured a complex and quirky tale about several assassins trapped on the same bullet train.  I had an incredible time with this book, especially as Isaka loaded it with some amazing twists and very unique characters.  Thanks to the success of this book, and the cool upcoming (if somewhat whitewashed) film adaptation of Bullet Train, several of the author’s other novels are being translated and I look forward to seeing what other crazy adventures he has come up with.

 

Kelly Rimmer – The Warsaw Orphan

The Warsaw Orphan Cover

Another great new author I found in 2021 was historical drama writer Kelly Rimmer whose latest book, The Warsaw Orphan, was an outstanding and powerful read.  Set in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation, this book follows a group of people who attempt to save Jewish children from the Ghetto.  A heartbreaking and riveting read, The Warsaw Orphan was an amazing book and I will be keeping an eye out for more of Rimmer’s stuff in the future.

 

Andy Weir – Project Hail Mary

Project Hail Mary Cover

One of the best books I had the pleasure to read in 2021 was Project Hail Mary, an impressive and clever science fiction novel by bestselling author Andy Weir.  I have been meaning to read some of Weir’s books for years, especially after seeing the movie adaptation of The Martian, but I never got the chance.  As such I was extremely keen to read his latest book when it came out last year and boy did Project Hail Mary deliver.  Containing an epic and brilliant story filled with realistic science, I loved every second I spent reading this book and I honestly could not put it down.  I am now a firm fan of the author and I fully intend to read the rest of Weir’s works as soon as possible.

 

Josh Reynolds – Kal Jerico: Sinner’s Bounty

Kal Jerico - Sinner's Bounty Cover

There was no way that I couldn’t check out fantastic author Josh Reynolds this year especially after I saw that he had brought back one of my favourite Warhammer 40,000 characters, Kal Jerico.  This cool new book, Sinner’s Bounty, sets the titular bounty hunter and his friends on an insane journey into the depths of their Hive City to retrieve a wanted man.  Forced to contend with rival bounty hunters, monsters, mutants, and gangs, this was an amazing read and I will be checking out more of Reynolds’ Warhammer books in the future, especially if they feature Kal Jerico.

 

Sarah Bailey – The Housemate

The Housemate Cover

I was very lucky to grab a novel from amazing Australian author Sarah Bailey this year.  Her latest book, The Housemate, was a brilliant novel that saw a disturbed reporter attempt to solve a notorious crime that had been haunting her for years.  Incredibly powerful, compelling and intense, this was one of the best Australian books of 2021 and I will be very interested to see what other cool books Bailey writes in the future.

 

Steve Cavanagh – The Devil’s Advocate

The Devil's Advocate Cover

Easily one of the more entertaining books I read in 2021 was the fun and wildly addictive legal thriller by Steve Cavanagh, The Devil’s Advocate.  The sixth book in his Eddie Flynn series, The Devil’s Advocate was a great novel that saw its former conman turned defence attorney protagonist attempt to stop a murderous prosecutor determined to send an innocent man to death row.  I had an amazing time with this compelling and over-the-top read, and I now really want to go back and read the rest of the awesome novels in this cool series.

 

Anthony Ryan – The Pariah

The Pariah Cover

Another instant favourite new author I checked out last year was impressive well-established fantasy author Anthony Ryan.  Ryan is another author who I have been meaning to read for a while and it turns out I have been really missing out.  His latest book, The Pariah, was an excellent and compelling first entry in a great new series that follows a young scribe as he journeys around a fantasy world trying to find his purpose.  An epic first book, I cannot wait to see how this series continues and I know I am going to love it.

 

John Grisham – The Judge’s List

The Judge's List Cover

Perhaps one of the biggest names on this list is bestselling author John Grisham, who has been at the top of the crime fiction genre for decades.  Grisham is one of those massive authors whose work I have been meaning to read for a very long time but never got the chance.  Well, that all changed last year when I received a copy of his latest book, The Judge’s List, which sets some clever protagonists against a dangerous serial killer who is also a sitting judge.  I had an incredible time with The Judge’s List, and I am fully planning to check out the rest of Grisham’s catalogue to see what I have been missing out on.

 

Dan Abnett – First and Only

First and Only Cover

Wow there were so many awesome new-to-me Warhammer authors I checked out last year and one of the best was Dan Abnett.  Abnett has written a ton of awesome Warhammer novels over the years, but the first book of his I decided to check out was First and Only, the initial book of his iconic Gaunt’s Ghosts series.  Following a regiment of Imperial Guard soldiers as they fight through a gauntlet of traitors, rivals and conspiracies, this was an outstanding novel and I cannot wait to see what happens in the rest of this impressive series.

 

A. W. Hammond – The Paris Collaborator

The Paris Collaborator Cover

I had a great time checking out thriller author A. W. Hammond for the first time in 2021.  Hammond, who also writes under the name Alex Hammond, produced an exceptional and fun historical thriller last year with The Paris Collaborator.  Set in the last days of the German occupation of Paris, this cool book follows a French investigator who is hired to find several missing men around the city.  Filled with cool action, intense twists and some excellent historical moments, this was a great read and I will be keeping an eye out for more of Hammond’s novels in the future.

 

Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman – All of Us Villains

All of us Villains Cover

I am slightly cheating here by including two authors in the one entry, but as this was the first time I had read anything from either of them and they were collaborating on the same book, I think I can make an exception.  These two authors were Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman, a great team of established authors who collaborated for the first time to create the amazing All of Us VillainsAll of Us Villains was an excellent and entertaining young adult fantasy book that followed seven champions forced into a magical death tournament with the entire world watching.  Loaded with amazing characters and brutal magic, this was an awesome book and I am extremely glad I decided to check out this intriguing team of authors last year.

 

Max Barry – The 22 Murders of Madison May

The 22 Murders of Madison May Cover

I had been meaning to read something from talented Australian author Max Barry for a while, especially as he has written some great and compelling sounding science fiction reads.  I finally got a chance last year when I received a copy of Barry’s latest book, The 22 Murders of Madison May.  This was a cool book that saw a women attempt to stop a deranged stalker from killing every version of his obsession, actress Madison May, in the multiverse.  I deeply enjoyed this complex and entertaining story and I will have to grab some more stuff from Barry in the future.

 

Grady Hendrix – The Final Girl Support Group

The Final Girl Support Group Cover

One author I have been hearing a lot of buzz around over the years is Grady Hendrix, who has written several intriguing and unique horror hybrid novels.  Due to all the positive stuff I have heard about this author I decided to check out one of their books last year with their 2021 release, The Final Girl Support Group.  Set in a world were the survivors of iconic slasher scenarios have formed a support group, this cool novel follows these paranoid and damaged protagonists as they attempt to survive a new monster who is determined to kill them.  An impressive homage to iconic slasher films that cleverly deconstructs the genre, this was a very fun read and I am extremely glad I decided to check out Grady Hendrix last year.

 

S. R. White – Prisoner

The Prisoner Cover

The final top new-to-me author I read last year was Australian author S. R. White, who released their second novel Prisoner.  This was an enjoyable and captivating Australian murder mystery novel that had a very gritty and realistic feel to it, especially in some impressive interrogation scenes.  An excellent novel from a great new author I will have to read more of in the future.

 

 

Well, that’s the end of this latest Top Ten list.  I think it turned out rather well and it encapsulates some of the best new authors I checked out in 2021.  I look forward to reading more books from these authors in the future and I have no doubt they will produce more epic and incredible reads.  Make sure to let me know which new authors you enjoyed in 2021 in the comments below and make sure to check back next week for another exciting list.

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Books from the First Half of 2021

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

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

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

 

Honourable Mentions:

Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz

Prodigal Son Cover

 

The Warsaw Orphan by Kelly Rimmer

The Warsaw Orphan Cover

 

Later by Stephen King

Later Cover

 

The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe

The Girls I've Been Cover

 

Top Ten List (no particular order):

The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell

The Two-Faced Queen Cover

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

 

Star Wars: Victory’s Price by Alexander Freed

Star Wars - Victory's Price Cover

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

 

Relentless by Mark Greaney

Relentless by Mark Greaney Cover

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

 

The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne

The Shadow of the Gods Cover

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

 

Artifact Space by Miles Cameron

Artifact Space Cover

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

 

Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 35: Homecoming by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo - Homecoming

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

 

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Project Hail Mary Cover

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

 

The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst

The Bone Maker Cover

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

 

Colonyside by Michael Mammay

Colonyside Cover

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

 

Protector by Conn Iggulden

Protector Cover Final

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

 

 

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

The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe

The Girls I've Been Cover

Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books (Trade Paperback – 9 February 2021)

Series: Standalone/Book One

Length: 361 pages

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

From bestselling young adult author Tess Sharpe comes an outstanding and deeply impressive new novel, The Girls I’ve Been, an extremely clever and emotionally rich young adult thriller that is easily one of my favourite books of 2021 so far.

When young teen Nora O’Malley started her day, she thought that the worst thing she would have to deal with would be an awkward chance meeting with her ex-boyfriend at the local bank with her new girlfriend in tow.  However, things get decidedly worse when two armed men storm the bank, shooting wildly and demanding the manager.  When their plan goes awry, the two robbers take the staff and customers hostage, locking them in and barricading the doors.  With only a small police force in town, the nearest SWAT team hours away and the gunmen getting more and more antsy, things look grim for the hostages until Nora takes the lead.

Despite only being 17, Nora has a complicated and terrible past.  Born the daughter of a self-centred and manipulative con artist mother, Nora spent the first 12 years of her life helping her mother run her dangerous cons, first as a prop, then as an active participant, learning everything there is about lies, deceit and becoming a whole different person.  However, after their final job went terribly wrong, Nora eventually left her mother behind to escape and become Nora.  Despite living a relatively quiet life for the last five years with her long-lost sister, Nora is prepared to dive back into her past lives as a conwoman to ensure that everyone gets out this dangerous situation alive.

Using every trick and subtle deception at her disposal, Nora must try to manipulate the two robbers into letting them go, while also attempting to distract them from her friend’s escape attempts.  But as conditions in the bank get even worse, Nora begins to realise that these robbers have their own deadly plan, and that the only chance to survive is to reveal her true identity to her captors.  Nora has a deadly secret in her past, one that she has been running from for years, and which may prove to be far more dangerous than anything the robbers can throw at her.

The Girls I’ve Been is an impressive and captivating young adult thriller that I was lucky enough to receive a copy of a few weeks ago.  This is the latest novel from Tess Sharpe, an author who specialises in novels with strong female protagonists, including Barbed Wire Heart, Far From You and the Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom tie-in novel, The Evolution of Claire.  I must admit that before receiving her latest novel, I was a little unfamiliar with Sharpe’s work, although I did hear good things about her Marvel Comics tie-in book, Captain Marvel: Liberation Run.  However, the moment I received The Girls I’ve Been, I knew that I had to read it as I really liked the cool synopsis and the fantastic-sounding plot.  I ended up powering through it in a few short days as I quickly became engrossed in the excellent and complex narrative that Sharpe weaved around her damaged protagonist.  I had an outstanding time reading this book and, considering how engrossing and powerful I found it, I have no choice but to give it a full five-star rating.

For this amazing book, Sharpe has come up with an exceptional story primarily told from the point of view of the book’s protagonist and narrator, Nora.  The author starts the story off quick, pushing the protagonist and her friends, the dramatic pairing of her hurt ex-boyfriend and her long-time crush turned recent girlfriend, into the midst of a violent and dangerous situation when the bank they are in is stormed by two gunmen.  After this explosive start, Nora quickly slips into action, plotting her escape while trying to find some way to manipulate their captors into letting them go, which in turn reveals her past as a conwoman’s daughter.  The author then starts layering in a series of fantastic flashback sequences or chapters loaded with details about the protagonist’s past or her relevant skills and experiences.  Not only do these become relevant to the current crisis that the characters find themselves in, but they also provide more context for Nora’s actions, as well as containing hints about her troubled past.  These flashbacks fit seamlessly into the main narrative, and as the book progresses and the situation in the bank gets worse, the reader becomes more and more aware of just how dangerous and messed up Nora’s childhood.  The depictions of the character’s past are exceedingly fascinating, and this entire flashback narrative proves to be an awesome addition to the plot, especially as some of her previous actions have severe consequences on current events.  Both the past and present come together extremely well to form an impressive conclusion, which also leaves open the potential for sequels in the future.  I really enjoyed this awesome overarching narrative, due to its fast-paced intensity, clever humour (I particularly liked the inclusion of text at the start of some chapters describing the progress of Nora’s various plans), and impressive character development, and it really did not take me long to get invested in the story.

Easily the best thing about The Girls I’ve Been is the extraordinary amount of character development that Sharpe puts into her point-of-view protagonist, Nora.  Nora (not her real name) is a character who has a unique outlook on life due to her past, which she is constantly haunted by.  When we are first introduced to Nora, the reader is shown a seemingly normal girl, albeit with a complex love life, but it does not take long for the reader to understand just how different she is.  Not only do we witness her immediately take control of the situation inside the bank, but soon the reader sees a powerful series of flashbacks showing the character’s chaotic early life.  Each of these great flashbacks help to produce a layered and captivating figure and it was truly fascinating to see how Nora was born and raised as a criminal conwoman.  Sharpe really dives down deep in Nora’s psyche, allowing you to see how messed up she is and how her past shaped her.  I particularly enjoyed the various flashback chapters that show her committing cons when she was younger, each time with a different name.  With each of these cons, the protagonist learns a whole new set of skills and personality traits, either because her mother demanded it to make the con work or because the trials she underwent during this job required her to learn them.  The protagonist attributes each of these traits to the distinct person she was during the job, and she calls on each of these personalities to shape her into the mostly stable and capable person that she is today.  The author pulls no punches in showing the reader all the terrible things that Nora experienced as a child, and I think she did an outstanding job capturing the lasting impact painful events would have on a young person.  Despite this trauma there is a noticeable strength to Nora that drives her to survive and help others, even if it means sacrificing herself or taking a more lethal approach to solving a problem.  Naturally, all this impressive backstory helps to produce a truly compelling protagonist who the reader cannot help to pull for, especially as Sharpe also imbues her with a sarcastic and clever sense of humour that really appealed to me.  It will be interesting to see if Sharpe continues utilising this unique character in the future and I for one would love to see what happens to her next.

In addition to Nora, Sharpe has also included several other great supporting characters who help to turn The Girls I’ve Been into a first-rate novel.  While none of these characters get as developed as Nora, Sharpe has ensured that each of them is just as complex and nearly as damaged.  The main two supporting characters are Iris, Nora’s quirky current girlfriend, and Wes, Nora’s ex-boyfriend, both of whom are trapped in the bank with her.  While you would assume that this combination of characters would result in petty drama, Sharpe has come up with an intriguing relationship dynamic between the three of them which becomes a fantastic part of the narrative.  They prove to be quite supportive of each other, as all three have experienced various forms of neglect or abuse in the past, and together they are able to face their demons and become more stable people.  I really liked the way that Sharpe utilised Iris and Wes in the story, especially as both characters have some interesting characteristics, and it was amazing to see them all develop them throughout the course of the novel.

In addition to her friends, there is also a significant focus on Nora’s family, her sister Lee, and her mother, both of whom have had a major impact on her life.  I enjoyed both characters for very different reasons.  Lee is the strong older sister who, after experiencing a similar traumatic childhood like Nora, dedicates her life to saving Nora, even if she must ruin everything she loves.  Their mother, on the other hand, is a selfish, manipulative creature, who lives for the scam and is willing to drag her children through hell to get what she wants.  Both characters are great additions to the narrative, and it was fascinating to see what motivated them and what terrible things they are willing to do for different reasons.  All these characters add so much to The Girls I’ve Been, and I was really impressed with Sharpe’s excellent work on them.

Like several of Sharpe’s previous novels, The Girls I’ve Been is marketed as a young adult fiction novel for a younger audience.  I would say that this is an exceptional novel for teenage readers, as The Girls I’ve Been contains a complex and powerful story that features a young girl forced to endure amazing hardships and overcoming them in an intelligent way.  There are some deep and emotional issues that are hit on throughout this book, including children forced to deal with abusive parents, as nearly every parental figure in this novel is either abusive or complicit through negligence.  I think the author addressed these issues in an excellent way, especially as she did not try to talk down her intended audience, and I have no doubt that these elements will strongly resonate with some readers.  In addition, Sharpe also discusses some other important issues in this novel, such as endometriosis, as well as depicting some very positive LGTB+ relationships, all of which I think a lot of teenagers will also really appreciate seeing.  The novel does contain some more mature themes and elements, which might not be appropriate for younger readers, but which make it a great teen read.  This is also one of those young adult novels that can be quite easily enjoyed by an older audience, and I think that a wide range of readers will deeply enjoy this amazing novel.

The Girls I’ve Been is an outstanding and exceptional novel that I cannot give enough praise to.  Tess Sharpe has come up with a truly impressive young adult thriller, containing an amazing story and some exceedingly compelling characters.  I had an awesome time with this book, and I cannot recommend it enough.  I look forward to seeing what Sharpe will come up with next and I can certainly say that this is an author that I will be keeping a very close eye on.  I hope that she considers a sequel to The Girls I’ve Been in the future, although this great novel already has a pretty fantastic self-contained story to it, still it might be interesting to revisits the cool characters again.  There is apparently a movie adaptation of The Girls I’ve Been in the works, starring Millie Bobby Brown.  I think that this book would make for a really good movie, and Millie Bobby Brown is a fantastic choice to play Nora (I only just watched her in Enola Holmes).  In the meantime, do yourself a favour and check out The Girls I’ve Been, because you really will not be disappointed.

WWW Wednesday – 3 March 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?

The Art of Death by David Fennell (Trade Paperback)

The Art of Death Cover

I have made some serious progress on this cool new murder mystery novel from debuting author David Fennell and so far I am very much enjoying it.  The Art of Death is a great book that sees a murderous artist pose his kills throughout the streets of London as part of a twisted exhibition (think evil Banksy).  I am about halfway through The Art of Death at the moment and it has a pretty cool mystery to it that should be really fun to unravel.

Relentless by Mark Greaney (Audiobook)

Relentless by Mark Greaney Cover

I finally got a chance to start reading Relentless, one of my most anticipated releases for the 2021Relentless is the 10th book in Greaney’s outstanding Gray Man series and follows it’s assassin protagonist as he attempts to identify a new enemy threatening the CIA for their own nefarious reasons.  I have a lot of love for this series after deeply enjoying the previous two entries in the series, Mission Critical and One Minute Out (one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2020), and this latest novel is so far pretty epic, full of cool espionage and intense action.

What did you recently finish reading?

The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe (Trade Paperback)

The Girls I've Been Cover

Kal Jerico: Sinner’s Bounty by Josh Reynolds (Audiobook)

Kal Jerico - Sinner's Bounty Cover

The Hunting by Stephen Leather (Trade Paperback)

The Hunting Cover

Storm Front by Jim Butcher (Audiobook)

Storm Front Cover

Star Wars: The High Republic: Into the Dark by Claudia Gray (Audiobook)

Star Wars - Into the Dark Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Three Paradises by Robert Fabbri (Trade Paperback)

The Three Paradises 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 – 17 February 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?

The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe (Trade Paperback)

The Girls I've Been Cover

I managed to start reading The Girls I’ve Been this week and I am extremely happy that I did.  The Girls I’ve Been is a young adult thriller that follows a former teen con artist who must utilise her unique set of skills to escape a deadly bank robbery.  I was deeply intrigued by this cool sounding book when I first heard about it and so far it is living up to its hype.  This amazing book has a lot of fascinating layers and I am having an outstanding time reading it.  I am about halfway through this book at the moment, although I am hoping to finish this it off in the next day or so.  If it keeps being as awesome as it currently is I am probably going to give this book a full five-star rating because it is pretty damn incredible.

 

Kal Jerico: Sinner’s Bounty by Josh Reynolds (Audiobook)

Kal Jerico - Sinner's Bounty Cover

I was in the mood for something a little different the other day, so when I came across this intriguing book I missed last year I just had to grab a copy to check out.  Kal Jericho: Sinner’s Bounty is an awesome science fiction novel that is part of the extended Warhammer 40,000 universe.  Set deep underneath a massive hive city, this book follows the notorious bounty hunter, Kal Jerico, as he attempts to capture the biggest prize of his career.  Filled with fun action, magnificent depictions of a chaotic underground world, a wildly entertaining protagonist and an inordinate amount of backstabbing, Sinner’s Bounty is an extremely entertaining read that is an absolute treat to read.  I have been powering through this audiobook pretty quickly and hopefully by the end of tomorrow I will know how this twisty and captivating novel ends.

What did you recently finish reading?

The Last Convict by Anthony Hill (Trade Paperback)

The Last Convict Cover

 

Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz (Audiobook)

Prodigal Son Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Hunting by Stephen Leather (Trade Paperback)

The Hunting 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 – 10 February 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?

The Last Convict by Anthony Hill (Trade Paperback)

The Last Convict Cover

 

Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz (Audiobook)

Prodigal Son Cover


What did you recently finish reading?

City of Vengeance by D. V. Bishop (Trade Paperback)

City of Vengeance Cover

 

The Imitator by Rebecca Starford (Trade Paperback)

The Imitator Cover


What do you think you’ll read next?

The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe (Trade Paperback)

The Girls I've Been Cover

 


That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

Book Haul – 5 February 2021

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.  As I am anticipating getting a few more books in the near future, I thought I would take this opportunity to highlight some of the recent releases I have received before my new book pile got too big.  These novels include some truly awesome new releases, several of which I have been eagerly awaiting for some time.  I am extremely keen to read all of the books below and I cannot wait to check them out.

 

The Three Paradises by Robert Fabbri

The Three Paradises Cover

The first entry in this Book Haul post is one of my most anticipated books for 2021, The Three Paradises by the always amazing Robert Fabbri.  The Three Paradises is the second entry in the Alexander’s Legacy series, which explores the brutal civil war that occurred after the death of Alexander the Great.  The first entry in this series, To the Strongest, was an outstanding read and I cannot wait to see what chaos and bloodshed happens in this latest book. 

 

The Kaiser’s Web by Steve Berry

The Kaiser's Web Cover

Next up we have another book I have been looking forward to for a long time, The Kaiser’s Web by bestselling author Steve Berry.  The Kaiser’s Web is 16th entry in the long-running Cotton Malone thriller series, which follows the titular character, Cotton Malone, as he gets swept up in a series of history-based conspiracies.  Due to how much I enjoyed the last two novels in the series, The Malta Exchange and The Warsaw Protocol, I am extremely keen to check this latest book out, especially as it has a very cool sounding plot to it.

 

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Project Hail Mary Cover

I only just did a Waiting on Wednesday article for Project Hail Mary a couple of days ago, but I have already received an early copy of this book.  Project Hail Mary is the highly anticipated latest release from acclaimed science fiction author Andy Weir and features a fantastic space-based plot that sounds really impressive.  I have heard some great things about this book and I am looking forward to checking it out before its release date in May.

 

God of Night by Tom Lloyd

God of Night Cover

The next book on this list is God of Night by the fantastic Tom Lloyd.  God of Night will be the fourth book in The God Fragment series, which follows a group of rowdy and dangerous mercenaries armed with powerful magical guns as they sell their services across a chaotic fantasy continent.  I loved Lloyd’s third book, Knight of Stars, and I am really keen to see how the series progresses.

 

The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe

The Girls I've Been Cover

The Girls I’ve Been is a rather cool sounding young adult thriller that I am extremely keen to check out.  This latest book from up-and-coming author Tess Sharpe follows a young, former con-artist, who is forced to revert to her old persona when she is held hostage in a bank robbery.  I really like the sound of this fantastic concept and it looks set to be an amazing and clever read.

 

The Art of Death by David Fennell

The Art of Death Cover

This next book is another entry on this list that I am particularly keen to read as soon as possible.  The Art of Death is an excellent sounding crime fiction novel that sees a deranged killer leaving the bodies of his victims around London, posed as unique art exhibitions.  This sounds like a really fantastic and compelling novel and I am really looking forward to seeing how this story unfolds.

 

Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

Winter's Orbit Cover

This next novel is a captivating and enjoyable science fiction debut filled with murder, intrigue and politics, as two aristocrats attempt to keep two planets from going to war.  This sounds like a very interesting read and I look forward to seeing what this new author has come up with.

 

Run for Cover by Michael Ledwidge

Run for Cover cover

Bestselling thriller author Michael Ledwidge returns with the captivating Run For Cover, which follows a former Navy Seal as he investigates a series of murders while being hunted by a sinister cabal of powerful men.  This sounds like a particularly awesome and thrilling read and I cannot wait to check it out.

 

Inscape by Louise Carey

Inscape Cover

Next up we have a gritty and impressive sounding science fiction thriller set in a dark dystopian future with InscapeInscape is the debut novel of Louise Carey and looks set to be an excellent and exciting novel that I am very keen to try out.

 

The Mask of Mirrors by M. A. Carrick

The Mask of Mirrors Cover

Next up we have The Mask of Mirrors, the first book from the fantasy team of Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms, who are writing together under the M. A. Carrick pseudonym.  The Mask of Mirrors is an impressive sounding fantasy thriller that has a lot of buzz surrounding it.  I am going to make a real effort to get to this book soon and I am extremely interested in seeing what sort of captivating tale these two authors have come up with.

 

The Hunting by Stephen Leather

The Hunting Cover

The final entry in this Book Haul post is the very fun sounding book The Hunting by Stephen Leather.  The Hunting follows a doctor who, after being mistaken for a terrorist, is captured by a big game hunter with a grudge and set loose in his personal reserve as human prey.  I absolutely love the sound of this outrageous novel and I already know I am going to read this in no time at all.

 

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.