Ex Machina (Volume 1) The First Hundred Days by Brian K. Vaughan

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“It may look like a comic, but it’s really a tragedy.”

— Brian K. Vaughan, Ex Machina (Volume 1) The First Hundred Days

    Set around the year 2000, Ex Machina (Volume 1) The First Hundred Days concocts a New York city politics-filled drama mixed in with a dose of realistic superhero vigilantism. Writer of countless renown series such as Saga, Y: The Last Man and Paper Girls, Brian K. Vaughan offers us the story of Mitchell Hundred as he randomly lives through a freak accident that presents him with never-before-seen superpowers. This volume collects issues #1-5 and gives us a glimpse into the origin story behind Mitchell Hundred and how he went from being a simple civil engineer to The Great Machine to the Mayor of New York City. Albeit a throwback to the early 2000s, this volume succeeds in capturing the atmosphere and social dilemmas that troubled NYC back in the day. The story also does a wonderful job in presenting readers with a protagonist who’s not exactly special in any way possible and who’s core personality remains genuine and unaltered, even when he’s gifted with powers.

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Blackwing by Ed McDonald

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“I don’t like things that don’t make sense. Not until I’ve put a knife in them.”

— Ed McDonald, Blackwing

    It would be a mistake to overlook this book. Ed McDonald’s debut novel, the first book in The Raven’s Mark series, is a phenomenal piece of literature. It glows with fiery passion and an inhuman mastery of creativity. There wasn’t a single moment to take a breath as it held a tenacious grip on my attention to the point of chocking me with fast-paced action. Blackwing is a beautiful and sinister fantasy story. Its ability to create a wonderful and unique world is astonishing and bleeds with a desire to seduce you into the mind of Ed McDonald. Reading this felt like the work of a genuine mastermind who’s penmanship has went through hell and high water. Forget about soft clouds and pretty rainbows. Blackwing will show you misery and demise melded around hope, reason and humanity. This novel deserves so much praise and absolutely needs everyone’s attention. So what are you waiting for?

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

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“Everything is true. Everything anybody has ever thought.”

— Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

    What is life? Such a mundane question, right? Philip K. Dick doesn’t think so. He sure as hell didn’t think so when he wrote Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. Although Blade Runner (1982) draws inspiration on this classic masterpiece, it definitely doesn’t tell the same story. This novel’s essence emanates from a desire to dive deep into the concept of life. To do so, there’s nothing more perfect than androids and electric animals to serve as a means to establish how simple existence is. In this novel, set in 2021, World War Terminus has sent mankind off-planet and introduced everyone to extinction. The remaining people now lay great importance to any remaining living creature, but each now go for great value. Those who can’t afford them are looked down upon, and to avoid such scrutiny, invest in electric simulacrum. The story however doesn’t solely focus on these creatures, but also on androids. These machines were so similar to humans, it is near impossible to tell the difference, hence forcing the government to ban them. Bounty hunter Rick Deckard however has the mission to find rogue androids and to “retire” them. In this journey, he’ll be enlightened in unimaginable ways that his life isn’t as easy as just buying himself his next big horse.

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Provenance by Ann Leckie

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“Oh, almighty powers, what had she just done?”

— Ann Leckie, Provenance

    All rise as bestselling author Ann Leckie enters the court with her new novel ProvenanceAfter her greatly appreciated Imperial Radch trilogy, kicked things off with Ancillary Justice, the author brings us this brand new space opera story filled with politics for fans to rejoice at. In Provenance, the story follows a young woman, Ingray Aughskold as she takes great means to get her hands on something that could help her make a name out of herself in her family. It doesn’t take long before you realize that her actions are risky and could put her in a sticky situation if not handled properly, especially if things don’t go exactly as she planned it. But when do things ever go as we plan, right? As you follow her around you’ll come to be submerged into a whole universe that takes a life of its own in a matter of seconds. Provenance is far from being anything like some of the debut novels out there. This is the work of someone who’s been there and done that.

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Brother by David Chariandy

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“But most looked the way you do when you’re being studied unfavourably. When you’re being watched but also trying to see.”

— David Chariandy, Brother

    There are novels out there that are strangely tagged fiction for simply being the result of someone’s imagination. This one however strives to show you that even fiction can break through its walls, goad its readers, and make us wonder if it isn’t a true story. Brother tackles on the story of Michael and Francis, two kids living in a Scarborough housing complex right in the heart of Toronto, Canada, in 1991. Weighed down by the expectations of their Trinidadian immigrant mother, these kids face countless obstacles in various forms and come to see the struggles they live with amplified by their cultural background. Their lives however bifurcate as they each find their own ways to get by under the pressure of their situation. Veiled in a stunning prose that sticks to the necessary details, Brother succeeds in telling a moving story about immigration, family, identity and society.

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A Legacy of Spies by John Le Carré

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“It’s over. I’ve fought to the last lie. I’m dead and I’m out of ammunition.”

— John Le Carré, A Legacy of Spies

    One of the godfathers of spy thrillers returns to the battlefield with A Legacy of SpiesIt’s hard to ignore the legacy of John Le Carré himself when brought to reflect upon the whole universe of espionage that he was able to bring to life, from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy to The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. His latest novel serves as a fantastic throwback to his greatest work and brings back one of his signature characters, George Smiley, in a story overflowing with tough moral decisions. As much as I would’ve loved to recommend this as a stand-alone novel which features one of the most charismatic, authentic and fascinating characters, Peter Guillam, also known as George Smiley top disciple, A Legacy of Spies will mostly please fans who have read his previous novels, notably the two mentioned above. Nonetheless, John Le Carré’s latest book continues to highlight his talent as a story-teller and immerses you in the world of spies like no other story.

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Robin: Son of Batman (Volume 1) Year of Blood by Patrick Gleason

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“I am Robin. Son of Batman. And that’s all you need to know!”

— Patrick Gleason, Robin: Son of Batman (Volume 1) Year of Blood

    Leave it to Patrick Gleason to transform some of the most unique character’s in the Batman universe into unrecognizable and typical individuals. Robin: Son of Batman is a series that rose from the dead after Damian Wayne went through a whole ordeal regarding his life. Collecting issues 1 to 6, volume 1 explores the story behind the Year of Blood, a trial that Damian went through during his earlier and darker days under the watchful eyes of his mother. After his reappearance into the game and his countless lessons under the wings of Batman, Robin seeks to undo the evil that he had unraveled by going through a phase of atonement/redemption. As he attempts to set things back to the way they were prior to his trial, he quickly runs into countless obstacles, including a girl with a vengeance, Nobody.
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Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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“Maybe there is a beast… maybe it’s only us.”

— William Golding, Lord of the Flies

    Them kids are crazy! William Golding really does dig deep into the soul of children to extrapolate human nature and all its ugliness. You’d think that children would be safe from all the evil that men are capable of. Let him tell you a story of kids surviving a plane crash and being stranded on a island. You’ll be convinced by the end of this one that there’s nothing pure and innocent in life when your life is at stake. With very little experience and only adults as a reference, these kids can only attempt to reproduce the safety of reason and the comfort of structure. Lord of the Flies is a story that will take these children deep into the wilderness, alongside the lush green trees and wide blue skies, and leave them with the colossal task of finding a way back to their lives, or even a safe path out of their predicament. However, this island has other plans for them. Can these boys come out of it all unscratched or stained by the vile behaviours that resides within us all?

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The Sandman (Volume 1) Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

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“What power would hell have if those imprisoned here would not be able to dream of heaven?”

— Neil Gaiman, The Sandman (Volume 1) Preludes & Nocturnes

    This definitely showcases the broadness of Neil Gaiman’s imagination. It’s boundless, colourful, enigmatic and complex. It’s simply impossible to reproduce, and infinitely beautiful. I do want to be that guy who raves and raves about this first volume of The Sandman, but then I wouldn’t be honest with myself. Preludes & Nocturnes introduces readers to Morpheus, Lord of Dreams, and transports us on an intimate journey alongside this mythical and mysterious being as he explores worlds like none other. The story is ignites when an occultist attempts an uncalled-for ceremony in the dishonest and mischievous intention of capturing Death, and then to bargain for eternal life. It is by accidentally capturing Death’s younger brother Dream that things go haywire and leaves Dream imprisoned for over 70 years. Being captured and stripped of his powers for countless decades, you can only imagine what his desire for revenge drives him to do as soon as he finds himself free of his predicament. Driven to recover his precious belongings that behold his powers, The Sandman (Volume 1) Preludes & Nocturnes brings fans to explore dream lands and hellish landscapes in all of its glory.
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The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

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“This is something I know: no matter how far you have run, no matter how long you have been lost, it is never too late to be found.”

— Rene Denfeld, The Child Finder

    Every once in a while you’ll come across a novel that’ll succeed in doing the impossible. For me, Rene Denfeld’s latest novel The Child Finder does exactly that. After her successful and mesmerizing debut novel The Enchanted, she now continues to tackle similar themes through a mystery thriller like none other. There are subjects in life that will always remain grim and unbearable, but then there are authors out there with a never-before-seen skill with words who will find ways to charm and maintain a relentless grip on you while tackling some of the darkest and most painful incidents that could occur in the lives of some. The Child Finder is my first sighting of a book that harmoniously brings together the beautiful and the horrible this year. Through raw and magical writing, Rene Denfeld offers us a hypnotizing look into what entrapment, survival and redemption is all about. There’s nothing pretty in the world that she disentangles for us, yet she still somehow manages to tinge this story with warmth, light and hope. This is a story that strives in showcasing the very foundation of human survival.

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The Child by Fiona Barton

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“You can bury the story… But you can’t hide the truth.”

— Fiona Barton, The Child

    Fiona Barton unleashes a phenomenal new mystery starring Kate Waters in The ChildDrawing upon her own personal experience as a journalist, readers are treated with an impossibly addictive story that will keep you immersed and alert till the very end of this adventure. Set in London, The Child thrives in digging into and unearthing questions and answers that have paralyzed and traumatized individuals countless years ago. It all begins when a workman unintentionally discovers the skeleton of a buried baby. Who is this Building Site Baby? While the story kicks things off with Kate Waters pursuing this story, convinced that it is one that merits the attention of the world, Fiona Barton tosses in a couple more point of views and succeeds in building up the intrigue like no other story. In this suspense-filled psychological thriller, Fiona Barton continues to show great promise by delivering another wonderful book for fans to indulge in, especially those who’ve enjoyed The Widow and are looking for more refined stories to read.

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The Defenders Season 1 Episode 1 First Impressions

Summary: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist team up to fight crime in New York City.

Director: S.J. Clarkson (for this episode)

Writers: Douglas Petrie (creator and writer for this episode) and Marco Ramirez (creator and writer for this episode)

Stars: Charlie Cox, Kristen Ritter, Mike Colter, Finn Jones, and more.

    Marvel’s neighbourhood-level superhero team has finally arrived on Netflix and they aren’t here to mess around. Or are they? Ever since the success of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and the build-up to the ever so successful Avengers, we have been bombarded with superhero movies who end up being connected to other movies only to reunite together for a bigger threat later along the line.  While the Avengers showed us the potential of a connected universe, Netflix has been slowly putting together the pieces to creating it’s very own team of get-down-and-dirty superheroes with their own special skills in order to fight crime and save the one thing they all have in common: New York City. Taking place directly after Daredevil Season 2, Jessica Jones Season 1, Luke Cage Season 1 and Iron Fist Season 1, The Defenders slowly but surely ties things together in order to face a common threat. Fans can now squeal in joy with the arrival of their next superhero TV show binging experience.
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Batman: Detective Comics (Volume 4) Intelligence (Rebirth) by James Tynion IV

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“The Holy Sword of Dumas no longer needs to be wielded by an imperfect man. It can be the weapon all on its own. Faith given body in shining metal. It does not doubt. It does not waver.”

— James Tynion IV, Batman: Detective Comics (Volume 4) Intelligence

    After a slightly messy and tumultuous story arc, James Tynion IV comes back strong with Batman: Detective Comics (Volume 4) IntelligenceCollecting issues #957 to #961, this volume kicks things off with a quick reminder of Spoiler’s solo adventure and then dives into a solid and well-executed story around Jean-Paul Valley, also know as Azrael, as well as Zatanna. While there has yet to be an update on the subject, issue #962 is actually the finale to the Intelligence story arc, but seems to have been excluded so far in the collected edition’s blurb. I doubt this is an intentional and cleverly thought-out marketing ploy by DC Comics since you’d be left with no closure and a huge cliffhanger if you end things at issue #961; the logical way to go will be to include issue #962, the final part of Intelligence into this trade paperback. In this volume, James Tynion IV explores the lore behind Azrael and his infamous sword and armour as science bursts through the front gates of religion. Reinventing Azrael by adding a technological explanation to the sword and suit of Azrael in order to explain his radical beliefs and his enhanced combat, James Tynion IV brings forth an original story that blends science and religion in a very riveting compound. The story is also enhanced with a touch of magic and nice past and present narrative as Zatanna is finally introduced into this universe.
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The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark

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“Why we march and why we die, and what life means… it’s all a lie. Death! Death! Death!”

— Anna Smith Spark, The Court of Broken Knives

    It’s always refreshing to dive into a pool of murky grimdark water after a long thriller swim. With fantasy books, the world alone transports you to unimaginable places filled with impossible people and creatures. Set in environments that take a life of its own, you’re bound to find yourself chained to the details of the land and to lurk in the shadows of its people. Anna Smith Spark brings us a new and gripping debut story that swears to have everything you’d want, from blood and betrayal to magic and dragons. The Court of Broken Knives, book one in the Empires of Dust series, offers us four different and unusually fascinating point of views to tell a story filled with back-stabbing decisions and rightful ownership. Although each character (mercenary captain, mercenary recruit, politician and high priestess) all have their own goals and slowly discover the harsh reality of the decisions they are to make, Marith, the latest recruit to the company of soldiers, remains the center of attention as his uncommon background resurfaces and takes a hold of his life.

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Yesterday by Felicia Yap

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“How do you solve a murder when you can only remember yesterday?”

— Felicia Yap, Yesterday

    The memories we have can play some sneaky tricks on us. Two individuals can remember completely different things about the same event. Based on their experience, their angle, their perspective and their intentions, everything can be seen differently. It can get quite complicated when you realize that some things last longer than others. The mind can go ahead and retain information that you never thought you’d remember and then decide to forget the things that you so desperately need to know. Felicia Yap however has something much more simpler, yet so much more devastating to offer us with Yesterday. In this parallel universe or alternate reality, the world is classified into two categories: Monos and Duos. The difference, you wonder? Monos can only remember up to 24 hours, while Duos have the blessing to remember up to 48 hours. In this world, Monos are seen as an inferior, although numerous, class compared to the elite Duos. It is thanks to their unique little iDiary that everyone is able to remember their past. Or at least what they want to remember.

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Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

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“The only thing more dangerous than a lie… is the truth.”

— Kathleen Barber, Are You Sleeping

    Imagine leaving behind a huge chunk of your past in order to start fresh, to unburden yourself and to look forward rather than behind. This is the dream that every person chases after when they realize their lives have hit rock-bottom. But the past has other plans for them. Never does it truly disappear or leave you alone. It rather lurks around in the shadow until a golden opportunity arises. Are You Sleeping is Kathleen Barber’s debut thriller and already receives praise as being a harmonious mix between hit podcast Serial and best-selling author Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood. As inaccurate as these comparisons often end up being, this is one that definitely highlights this books strengths. Are You Sleeping is the story of Josie as one of her family’s tragedy is dragged out of the darkest corners of her life by investigative journalist Poppy Parrell through her new sensational podcast Reconsidered. The question that now haunts both Josie and the readers is: What will be brought to light after so many years of silence?

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The Lost Ones by Sheena Kamal

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“His desperation is so fresh and raw I can almost taste it.”

— Sheena Kamal, The Lost Ones

    The lies we tell each other will always be followed by the truth. If there’s one thing that seems to be inevitable, it’s the past that forged us into the person we are today. Sheena Kamal’s debut thriller demonstrates her ability to develop a greatly flawed protagonist in Nora Watts as she is thrown into a dark road to the truth. In The Lost Ones, Nora Watts receives an unexpected call from desperate parents who claim their daughter has gone missing—a daughter that is also Nora Watts’. Drawn by a compelling urge to seek out a child that she had given away years ago in order to sever ties with a past that no mortal would want to hold onto, Nora Watts finds herself drifting down lanes that never make any sense until the pieces finally fit together and unveil the danger that remained in the shadow for far too long. Told in first-person, Sheena Kamal has succeeded in creating one of the most fascinating protagonist that easily reminds us of Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

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The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

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“I need you.”

— Ruth Ware, The Lying Game

    After In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10, Ruth Ware brings us a character-oriented thriller with The Lying GameUnlike her previous stand-alone stories, this one focuses a lot more of the bond that lies tie together between friends and family. All grown-up, Isa Wilde is now a mother to her little girl Freya and a wife to Owen. She contemplates a typical life of adulthood, balancing both her new responsibilities as a mother but also as a lawyer. However, The Lying Game wouldn’t be much of a thriller if it didn’t suddenly shift gears and raced head first into danger. In fact, that is exactly what happens as Isa Wilde receives an unexpected text from a friend she hasn’t heard of for over 17 years: “I need you.” Left clueless to what kind of history compels an individual to rush back to a dark place from the past, readers are kept at the edge of their seats as Ruth Ware slowly but surely unravels the lies that have kept a couple of friends connected together, whether they liked it or not.

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Batman: Detective Comics (Volume 3) Leagues of Shadows (Rebirth) by James Tynion IV

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“She is Cassandra Cain. She is Orphan. And she knows that ghosts are very real.”

— James Tynion IV, Batman: Detective Comics (Volume 3) League of Shadows

    If I had to bet money on the Batman-related Rebirth series that would thrive first between James Tynion IV’s Detective Comics run and Tom King’s Batman run, I would’ve thought Tynion IV was on track to delivering the better content. While his run is still highly entertaining and generally much more intriguing than what Tom King has to offer, there just seems to be roof that his run can’t seem to burst out off in order to place a mind-blowing story arc out in the market. Batman: Detective Comics (Volume 3) League of Shadows is the third main story arc by James Tynion IV within the Rebirth era. Collecting issues #950 to #956, the story explores one of the most well-known group of villains within the Batman universe: the league of shadows. Unfortunately, this secret organization remains a myth to the eyes of most individuals until now. Presenting us a rabid introduction of the league of shadows, James Tynion IV also places Cassandra Cain, also known as Orphan, at center stage and dives into her origin story with sheer brutality.
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The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old by Hendrik Groen

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“Another year, and I still don’t like old people. Their walker shuffle, their unreasonable impatience, their endless complaints, their tea and cookies, their bellyaching. Me? I am eighty-three years old.”

— Hendrik Groen, The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old

    There’s nothing like jolting down your daily activities and thoughts on a piece paper and be able to look back on these logs to reflect on life. Journalistic entries can also serve as a great method to create structure and routine into ones life. Through them, as personal as they can be, you can learn a lot about a person’s way of life, about the people around them and about the time period they’re in. After all, values, beliefs and practices change over time. But what’s truly beautiful is that once you get used to writing a diary, it sort of becomes an instinct that’s hard to detach yourself from as the pros overshadow the cons. And so, Hendrik Groen explores the world of diaries by writing one of his own as an octogenarian. This book is his uncensored exposé in which he offers us « a year in the life of the inmates of a care home in North Amsterdam ». Embodying cynicism, Hendrik Groen gives us a humour-filled look at his surroundings, the people he meets and his precious rebellious thoughts as a man who sees it all.

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