Book Haul – 12 April 2020

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done a book haul post, so I thought it would be a good idea to once again highlight some of the latest books I’ve been lucky enough to receive copies of.  I’ve actually picked up a few rather interesting reads in the last couple of weeks, and I am looking forward to getting through all of them.

Last Survivor by Tony Park

Last Survivor Cover

The first book in this post is the rather exciting sounding new novel from Australian thriller author Tony Park, Last SurvivorLast Survivor is the latest novel to feature Park’s recurring protagonist Sonja Kurtz, and should prove to be another fantastic thriller set in the wilds of Africa.  I am quite excited to read this book, and I was also rather happy to see that they included a quote from my Canberra Weekly review of Park’s last book, Ghosts of the Past, on the cover of the advanced proof I received (see below).

Last Survivor Cover - Uncorrected Proof

The Deep by Alma Katsu

The Deep Cover

Now this one sounds like it is going to be a rather cool book.  The Deep is a intriguing sounding mashup of the horror and historical fiction genres, that reimagines the events of the Titanic.  I actually got this book as a birthday gift, and I am curious to see how it turns out.

The City of Tears by Kate Mosse

The City of Tears Cover

This is the sequel to the 2018 historical epic, The Burning Chambers.  I love a good dive into intriguing eras of history, and I think that The City of Tears sounds like a rather fantastic read.

Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

Chosen Ones Cover

Chosen Ones is another book that should prove to be a fascinating read.  It is the adult fiction debut of bestselling young adult fiction author Veronica Roth, who is best known for her Divergent trilogy.  I actually really like the sound of the plot of this book, which focuses on a group of chosen ones after they succeed in taking down their big bad, and I am very interested in checking out what cool ideas Roth comes up with for this story.

The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey

The Satapur Moonstone Cover

The Satapur Moonstone is the second book in a fun, historical mystery series, and I am looking forward to reading it.

The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel

The Familiar Dark Cover

The final novel in this book haul is the dark and compelling sounding thriller, The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel.  This is another cool and interesting book, and I cannot wait to read it.
That’s it for my latest book haul.  Make sure to stay tuned and check out my reviews for this exciting reads.  Let me know which of the above books you like the sound of the most and I will try to get to it first.

Top Ten Tuesday – Unseen Library’s Top Australian Fiction

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 the assigned topic was a freebie associated with book covers; however, I decided to do something a little different. Because it was Australia Day on Sunday, I thought it would be good to highlight some of the best pieces of Australian fiction I have read in the last couple of years. To that end, I am raiding the Australian fiction category of the Unseen Library and presenting my Top Ten favourite entries from it.

Each year Australian authors produce a huge range of amazing fiction across the various genres, and I am usually lucky enough to receive copies of some of these from the local publishers. As a result, I tend to read a lot of Australian fiction (which I am defining here as either fiction written by an Australian author or fiction with an Australian setting) most of which turn out to be pretty awesome reads which I review either here on in the Canberra Weekly. I am happy to once again highlight some of the top pieces of Australian fiction I have reviewed since I started the Unseen Library, as several of these outstanding books might not have gotten the international attention they deserved.

Due to huge plethora of fantastic Australian fiction that has fallen into my lap over the last couple of years, this list actually turned out to be a really hard one to pull together. I had way too many choices when it came to the best pieces Australian fiction I have read from the last couple of years, so in a few places I have combined a couple of books into one entry. In the end, I was able to work out what my top ten favourite pieces were, although I did also have to include a generous honourable mentions section. So let us see how this list turned out.

Honourable Mentions:


In a Great Southern Land
by Mary-Anne O’Connor

In a Great Southern Land Cover


Aurora Rising
by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Aurora Rising Cover


Ghosts of the Past
by Tony Park

Ghosts of the Past Cover


Blood in the Dust
by Bill Swiggs

Blood in the Dust Cover

Top Ten List (No Particular Order):


Tomorrow
series by John Marsden

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There was absolutely no way that I could write a list about my favourite Australian fiction without having John Marsden’s Tomorrow series at the very top. Individually the books in the Tomorrow series are amongst some of the best pieces of Australian fiction I have ever read, and together they are a perfect series. Words cannot describe how much I love this amazing series (although I tried really hard in the review linked above) and I have no doubt that it is going to remain my favourite Australian series for a very long time.

Deceit by Richard Evans

Deceit Cover

Deceit is an extremely clever thriller revolving around Australian politics that came out in 2018. Thanks to its incredible realism and excellent story, I really enjoyed this book when it came out, and it ended up getting an honourable mention in my Top Ten Favourite Books of 2018 list. I absolutely loved this book and I have been meaning to read the sequel, Duplicity, for a little while now, especially as I suspect I will be just as good as this first fantastic book.

City of Lies by Sam Hawke

City of Lies Cover

Another book that featured on my Top Ten Favourite Books of 2018 list. City of Lies was an incredible fantasy debut which featured a superb story about a family of poison experts trying to keep their king alive during a siege. This was an awesome read, and I cannot wait for the sequel to this book, which is hopefully coming out later this year.

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

The Escape Room Cover

The Escape Room was the second book from rising thriller star Megan Goldin, who has gotten a lot of positive attention over the last couple of years. The Escape Room was a very compelling novel that contained a clever revenge plot against a group of ruthless Wall Street traders. Goldin did a fantastic job with The Escape Room, and her upcoming book, The Night Swim, will hopefully be one of the reading highlights of the second half of 2020.

Restoration by Angela Slatter

Restoration Cover

Restoration was the third book in Slatter’s Verity Fassbinder series (following on from Corpselight), which follow the titular character of Verity Fassbinder as she investigates magical crimes in modern day Brisbane. Restoration was a really fun read that got an easy five stars from me due to its incredible story, great use of an Australian setting and fantastic humour. Slatter outdid herself with Restoration, and I hope we get more Verity Fassbinder novels in the future.

All-New Wolverine series by Tom Taylor

All-New Wolverine Volume 1 Cover

Tom Taylor is an Australian-born author who has been doing some amazing work with some of the major comic book companies over the last few years. While I have read a bunch of his stuff (such as his run on X-Men Red), my favourite piece of his work has to be the All-New Wolverine series. All-New Wolverine was a deeply entertaining series that placed one of my favourite characters, X-23, into the iconic role of Wolverine. Not only did this series do justice to both X-23 and Wolverine’s legacy (before his inevitable resurrection) with some well-written and heavy storylines, but it was also a lot of fun, especially thanks to the introduction of Honey Badger.

The Queen’s Colonial and The Queen’s Tiger by Peter Watt

Peter Watt Covers

Peter Watt has long been one of the top authors of Australian historical fiction, and I have been a big fan of his work for a couple of years now. While I was tempted to include his Frontier series (make sure to check out my reviews for While the Moon Burns and From the Stars Above), in the end I thought it would be better to feature his current Colonial series. The Queen’s Colonial and The Queen’s Tiger are excellent pieces of historical fiction containing an exciting and compelling story.

After the Lights Go Out by Lili Wilkinson

After the Lights Go Out

After the Lights Go Out is one of the few pieces of Australian young adult fiction which I feel matches up to the Tomorrow series in terms of quality and substance.   This book about a family of survivalists being thrust into an actual doomsday scenario was extremely captivating, and I loved this extraordinary novel. Really worth checking out.

Half Moon Lake by Kirsten Alexander

Half Moon Lake Cover

Half Moon Lake is an amazing historical drama that was one of my favourite debuts from 2019. This book is a clever historical drama that was inspired by the real-life historical disappearance of a child and the tragic events that followed. A gripping and memorable book that comes highly recommended.

The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold

The Last Smile in Sunder City

The most recent addition to my Australian fiction category, The Last Smile in Sunder City is another impressive debut which I had an incredible time reading. Arnold has come up with an excellent mystery set in an inventive new fantasy world with a conflicted central protagonist. This was an amazing first book from Arnold and I will hopefully be able to read his follow-up books in the future.

Well, that concludes my list. I am so happy that I got the chance to highlight some of the great pieces of historical fiction I have been fortunate enough to enjoy over the last couple of years. Each of the above books are exceptional reads, and I had a wonderful time reading all of them. While I was a little disappointed that I had to leave a few great books off this list, such as Greenlight by Benjamin Stevenson, DEV1AT3 by Jay Kristoff and The Secret Runners of New York by Matthew Reilly, I really like how my list turned out. I think that I will come back and update this list in the future, probably close to next year’s Australia Day. I am highly confident that this next version of my list will contain some new books from 2020, and I look forward to seeing which pieces of upcoming Australian fiction I am really going to enjoy next. In the meantime, I hope all my fellow Australians had a great long weekend and please let me know which pieces of Australian fiction are favourites in the comments below.

WWW Wednesday – 7 August 2019

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?

Spaceside, Howling Dark Covers.png


Spaceside
by Michael Mammay (Ebook)

Spaceside is a book that I have been wanting to read for some time, and so far it has not disappointed.  I only just started this last night, but I am powering through it pretty darn quickly and it is already an incredible sequel to Planetside, which was one of my favourite books from last year.

Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio (Audiobook)

I am still going with this audiobook and I am really enjoying it.  It is a very dark follow-up to Empire of Silence and I am very curious to see where the story goes next.  I should be able to finish this by the end of the week but I still have a bit to go.


What did you recently finish reading?

Tony Park, Collaborator Covers.png
Ghosts of the Past by Tony Park (Trade Paperback)

This was an exceptional novel from Australian author Tony Park that does a fantastic job combining two historical fiction storylines with a modern thriller.  I will hopefully get a review up for this soon, because it was a really good book.

The Collaborator by Dianne Armstrong

Another great piece of historical fiction from another amazing Australian author.  I have done a review of this book for the Canberra Weekly, which will be published in next Thursday’s edition.

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Bone Fire by S. D. Sykes (Hardcover)

The Bone Fire Cover

I am hoping to read The Bone Fire next.  It sounds like it will be an outstanding historical mystery with a really cool concept.

I have not decided which audiobook I am going to listen to next.  There are a ton of great options out there, and I probably will not make up my mind until after I finish listening to Howling Dark.

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 – 31 July 2019

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?

Ghosts and Howling Dark Cover.png

Ghosts of the Past by Tony Park (Trade Paperback)

I am about half way through this book at the moment and I am really enjoying this complex and multi-layered tale from history.  Make sure to check out my review for Park’s previous book, Scent of Fear.

Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio (Audiobook)

I am only a few hours into Howling Dark, but already it is shaping up to be a pretty epic piece of science fiction.  I really loved the previous book in the series, Empire of Silence, and have been looking forward to getting Howling Dark for some time.  I did get a physical copy of this book a couple of weeks ago (with my blog mentioned in the acknowledgements!!!), but decided to try out the audiobook version instead, as it was honestly the only way I could read this book any time soon with my current reading schedule.

What did you recently finish reading?


The Lost Ten
by Harry Sidebottom (Hardcover)

The Lost Ten Cover


Star Trek: The Captain’s Oath
by Christopher L. Bennett (Audiobook)

Star Trek - The Captain's Oath Cover


Graveyard Shift in Ghost Town
by Michael Pryor (Trade Paperback)

Graveyard Shift in Ghost Town Cover


Dark Blade
by Steve Feasey (Trade Paperback)

Dark Blade Cover
Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden by Stan Sakai (Trade Paperback)

Usagi Yojimbo The Hidden Cover.jpg


What do you think you’ll read next?

Collaborator, Blue Rose Cover.png

The Collaborator by Diane Armstrong (Trade Paperback)

The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth (Trade Paperback)

I am currently planning to pull together a historical fiction column for the Canberra Weekly, featuring the above two novels and Ghosts of the Past.  All three books sound really interesting, and they are all from talented Australian authors.  This column should published in two weeks and I will post it up when it comes out.

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 – 14 June 2019

Wow, what a week for books.  I got an amazing selection from a variety of publishers that I am really excited to read.  I also got a couple of books I bought online that I have been looking forward to for a while.  This is a fantastic collection and I hope I get to read and review all of them.

Blood in the Dust by Bill Swiggs

Blood in the Dust Cover.jpg

This is an excellent sounding Australian adventure story, which I have just started to read. Already 40 pages in and really enjoying it.

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

The Grace Year Cover.jpg

This is an intriguing novel that is already getting a lot of interest.  I am looking forward to checking out this book’s curious story.

Cold Storage by David Koepp

Cold Storage Cover.jpg

A compelling techno-thriller from one of the screenwriters of Jurassic Park, should be pretty epic.

Ghosts of the Past by Tony Park

Ghosts of the Past Cover.png

Another intriguing sounding piece of Australian fiction.  I quite enjoyed Park’s last book, Scent of Fear, and this sounds like it will be an interesting historical adventure.

Angel Mage by Garth Nix

Angel Mage Cover.jpg

The latest book from bestselling author Garth Nix.  I absolutely loved Nix’s Old Kingdom series when I was younger and I a very keen to check out his new series.

The Unforgiving City by Maggie Joel

The Unforgiving City Cover.jpg

Another book that dives in Australia’s history.  This one should be a really good political thriller.

Graveyard Shift in Ghost Town by Michael Pryor

Graveyard Shift in Ghost Town Cover.jpg

Not sure if I’ll get a chance to read this one, but it still sounds like it could be a lot of fun.

The Lost Ten by Harry Sidebottom

The Lost Ten Cover

This is an excellent sounding historical fiction novel that I have been looking forward to for a while.  I really loved Sidebottom’s last book, The Last Hour, and this one should hopefully be just as awesome.

God of Broken Things by Cameron Johnston

god of broken things cover

Yet another one that I have been looking forward to.  I really enjoyed Johnston’s debut novel, The Traitor God, and cannot wait to see where Johnston takes this story next.

Scent of Fear by Tony Park

Scent of Fear Cover.png

Publisher: Macmillan

Publication Date – 27 November 2018

 

Australian author Tony Park returns with a blast, as he once again dives into the heart of Africa to present his latest high-octane and deeply captivating novel, Scent of Fear.

Sean Bourke, former contractor in Afghanistan, has returned to his native South Africa and now works for his ex-wife’s company, which provides security dogs and handlers for the country’s game reserves to help stop the spread of poachers.  Out on a routine anti-poaching patrol, new recruit Tumi Mabasa is almost killed in an explosion and her dog sufferers severe injuries.  Someone has been rigging IEDs in the game preserves specifically to target the dogs and their handlers, and for Sean, the war he has spent years trying to escape from has suddenly followed him home.

Teaming up with Tumi and his best friend and former war colleague Craig Hoddy, Sean attempts to hunt down the bomber targeting them.  As more attacks hit close to home and several members of the team are caught in the crossfire, Sean must go above and beyond to stop a sinister poaching syndicate and save his friends.  But can Sean overcome these outside forces in addition to his own demons?

Tony Park is an interesting author.  A former member of the Australian Defence Force, he has spent significant parts of his life in Southern Africa, where he sets most of his novels.  Park has been writing since 2003, and his novels often feature modern militaristic protagonists adventuring in African wilderness.  Scent of Fear is Park’s 16th novel, although he has also produced several non-fiction books, including the 2009 release War Dogs, which Park wrote with former Australian Army dog handler Shane Bryant.

Scent of Fear is a fast-paced and action-packed novel that explores the horrors of the poaching business in Africa in the midst of a thrilling adventure.  Park creates an exhilarating novel that sets his damaged protagonist against a ruthless and at times hidden group of antagonists.  The story makes good use of multiple perspectives to tell this tale from many different angles, which not only throws a new light into the conspiracy surrounding the main plot, but which also enhances the book’s many action sequences.  The multiple perspectives also allow the histories of the book’s various characters to be explored in greater detail, to create a fuller and more intense narrative.  The various motivations of the book’s protagonists and antagonists are displayed for the reader, and I was particularly intrigued by the deep examination of Sean’s inner issues, including a crippling gambling addiction that plays into the story extremely well.  Overall this is quite an enjoyable storyline that has some surprising twists and excellent action sequences.

One of the most noticeable features of Scent of Fear is the excellent portrayals of the African landscape throughout the course of the story.  Park is obviously very keen to show off the incredible locations that are a feature of his adopted homeland, which is a massive boon to his storytelling.  There are a number of scenes set deep in the African bush, and the author does a fantastic job highlighting the beauty and danger contained out in these magnificent locations.  In addition to the landscape, Park has also tried to show off various points of South African culture and lifestyles throughout the course of the book’s narrative.  While the story is mostly set within the game preserves, there are a few city scenes, and the characters spend time discussing their lives and their pasts within South Africa.  There are even a couple of scenes set within neighbouring Mozambique that may prove intriguing to various readers.  I liked the way that Park constantly utilised South African phrases, greetings and slang throughout his dialogue, which gave the whole story a sense of authenticity.  The background location is definitely a highlight of this book, and I hope to explore more of Africa in Park’s future novels.

It is probably important to note that this is not a great book for animal lovers, as Park takes a deep look at the horrors of the poaching trade and issues created by this destructive hunting.  Poaching is obviously an issue dear to the author’s heart, as he presents a dark, no-punches-pulled look at the illegal trade in African wildlife and the lengths that some people will go to get the money associated with it.  This is an intriguing centre to the book’s plot, and Park is clearly knowledgeable on the subject, discussing motivations for local and international poachers, details of the types of protections game reserves utilise and the various tricks and techniques poachers utilise.  Scent of Fear initially focuses on the hunt for rhinos and their horns, but Park also spends time to explore a current epidemic in lion skeleton trading, which is an alternative to tiger bones in some cultures.  The examinations of the human costs of poaching are examined throughout the book, as Park highlights the fact that anti-poaching patrols are frequently coming under attack in Africa.  All of this serves as a grim backdrop to the story, but one that helps create a story with more social conscience.

I also really enjoyed the continued use of dogs throughout the book, as Park goes out of his way to sing the praises of the anti-poaching dogs that are currently being utilised successfully throughout Africa.  There are several canine characters throughout the book that play a significant role in the book’s action and investigative scenes and I really enjoyed seeing how the dogs are helping to save the African wildlife.  The author really invests in the utilisation of the dogs, and the reader gets to see their training and their full operational capacities, and the story is sprinkled with the protagonists calling out the dogs various commands.  As I mentioned above, Park has previously written about dogs used in warzones, and this becomes an important part of Scent of Fear, with the poachers utilising explosives to attempt to take out the protagonists.  This is another fascinating element of this book, and one that many readers will find incredibly interesting.  Be warned, some dogs do get hurt in this book, so it might not be for everyone.

This is another wonderful addition from Australian author Park, who once again takes his readers to the very heart of modern Africa.  With some interesting concepts, varied characters and a thrilling story, Scent of Fear is a great book to check out.

My rating:

Four stars