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  • Writer's pictureHannah R. Palmer Author

5 Best Novels of 2021 so far...(according to me!)

And just like that, we’re over half way through 2021. In the blink of an eye, it’s the end of July, August is fast approaching and I’m feeling very introspective and like I’m in the mood to recommend some books that I have personally loved this year.

FYI - these are all books that I have read in 2021, they have not necessarily been released this year!

So first up, my first favourite novel of this year, and a new, firm favourite in my top 10 best reads of all time. High praise indeed!

This novel is large and, on first sight, quite intimidating. But don’t let the weighty, cuboid shape of this one put you off. Battle Royale is a fast paced, dark, gory dystopian look at a country that forces its children into a battle to the death as a reminder of the power of the government. If this sounds familiar, that's probably because it is. It inspired Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, but actually I’d say this is different enough to be read without the shadow of Katniss Everdeen in the way.

For fans of: The Hunger Games & anything anime!

Next up, something a little slower paced.

Where Battle Royale packed punch, speed and many, many pages, Rumaan Alam’s New York Time’s bestseller Leave the World Behind is short, slow and left me stewing on the ideas for days after finishing. I was first advertised this book as a thriller and, I shan’t lie, I do question whether that is truly what it is. It’s one of those novels that lives between genres, mostly literary fiction, though it certainly has some elements of thriller, horror and dystopia in there.

Leave the World Behind follows the story of a busy family off for a summer vacation (one can dream!) in a beautiful house in the countryside, far from the city and the buzzing mobile phones they’ve become almost surgically attached to. The peace they experience is quickly broken down by the arrival of a couple who claim to be owners of the holiday home who say something terrible has happened in the city, and they’ve fled into the rural hills to escape from it.

From the get go, the reader questions what is real, who is right and really, what is actually happening. And none of those questions are truly answered.

If you like thought-provoking, head-scratching, cerebral fiction, this is one for you.

For fans of: Kazuo Ishiguro and Jeff Vandermeer

In at 3rd, not that this is a race, is C J Tudor’s 2021 thriller.

I read C J Tudor’s debut The Chalk Man back in 2018 and, the second I placed the book down, I knew I’d read everything she wrote going forward. Tudor’s writing is sharp, short, to the point and often quite witty. She has a way of creating such well developed characters that I could imagine them months after having finished the novels.

The Burning Girls tells the story of a mother and daughter starting a new life in a tiny, rural village in England. The mother is a vicar who ends up tangled in some dark goings-on in the village and spends her time either running from danger, or being stuck right in the thick of it.

I’d say of all Tudor’s books, The Burning Girls is the closest to a straight-up thriller, but it has a wonderful relationship between the two main characters that underpins the entire work. If I had a pool to sit by and a cocktail in hand, I’d be delighted for this book to keep me company.

For fans of: any of C J Tudor’s previous novels; Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins.

The penultimate book for today’s list is an Argentinian dystopia. Don’t read this one on your lunch break.

Tender is the Flesh is one of those novels that truly sucker-punched me. It’s been one of my quickest reads of 2021 and, no pun intended, it certainly left what I can imagine to be the desired sour taste in my mouth. Fair warning - if you have a weak constitution, you won’t like this book one bit.

I shan’t mince my words on this one (again, no pun intended): this book is about cannibalism. It’s about cannibalism as if cannibalism was the accepted, normal way of life following animal meat becoming infected and poisonous to humans. There are human abbertoirs, human butchers, specialist breeding grounds and specific cuts at specialist prices. The reviews for this one are split, as you can imagine, but if you want something daring and unafraid to push the boundaries, maybe give the blurb a go.

Last, but by no means least, a dystopian novella that is perfect for devouring in one sitting.

2021 is the year that I dive into novellas and boy, was this a great one to have as one of my first. The Test is a dystopian tale of a man named Idir sitting the British Citizenship Test, but the test he is taking is not quite as it seems.

I honestly didn’t expect a single turn in this novella. It was complex, the characters were wonderful and it left me wanting more - which is always a good sign! If you’re after a book that packs a serious punch but is over in little more than an afternoon, The Test should be at the top of your list.

Another novella that will undoubtedly grace one of these lists once it’s released at the back end of this year is Tracker by Bethany Votaw. I can hardly contain my excitement for this one’s release!

So there you have it: my top 5 reads of 2021 so far. A real mixture of dystopia, thriller and horror. It strikes me that maybe I need to read some happier books...

What are your thoughts? What’s the best book you’ve read so far this year?

If you are in the market for a snappy beach read, my debut thriller novel Number 47 is available now on Amazon for £5.99, or free as part of Kindle Unlimited.

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