Best of 2018: From Reading with My Eyes

This year I read 76 Books.  20 that were released in 2018.

Top 5 Best of 2018: 

  1. The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager – I was floored by some of the twist, and just a really fun novel that keeps you guessing until the very end, and this novel is one of the better follow ups to a debut (Final Girls), In quite some time.
  2. Circe by Madeline Miller  – This is an interesting character piece that it takes a through a the decades long life of Circe, as she grows as a powerful goddess and also develops her humanity. First Madeline Miller read but will not be my last.
  3. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin This novel ask an interesting question, how would you live your life if it was foretold to you the day of your death? Four siblings are foretold their death date and we see how they live their life and if the predictions are accurate or not. I didn’t like all the siblings stories but this novel really made me think.
  4. The Book of M by Peng Shepherd A fantastic debut for Peng Sheperd with Book of M. This book was a grippy bloody post apocalyptic nightmare, that also at it’s heart is a love story full of magic. This book was a ride with a jaw dropping twist.
  5. Vengful by V.E. Schwab Vengeful the sequel to Vicious  continues the dark story of the Victor Vale and Eli Evers feud. It wasn’t your standard good Vs. evil it was kind of evil thinking he was good Vs. evil that still has some good in him. I love what does for the super hero genre.

Honorable Mentions – The Outsider by Stephen King, Vox by Christina Dalcher, The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay, The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, and  Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

 

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Book Review: Wings of a Flying Tiger by Iris Yang

Wings of a Flying Tiger takes place just before American involvement in World War II up to full involvement. It’s a story I haven’t read before about the invasions of Japan into China and all the bloodshed and murder that was caused. The writing is brutal and does not hold anything depicting acts of violence you hope are fiction. The story is a modern day tragedy about Japan’s superior force dismantling China’s forces and American forces stepping in to even the score, with a love story thrown in to tell the real tragedy. A special thanks to Open Books who gave me a free Copy of Wings of a Flying Tiger in exchange for an honest review. This could be a perfect book for the YARC from Shut up, Shealea  (Year of Asian Reading Challenge) 2019 really strong in family and tropes.

Plot: Jasmine is very beautiful Chinese girl who grew up learning English, from her parents who are both educators she lives in Chungking with her Uncle who are safe from the Japanese invasion, but her parents reside in Nanking which is the next city set for Japanese takeover. Jasmine is going in a last ditch effort to convince them to leave for safety. The train she’s on in taken over by Japanese forces, she manages to escape with her life as the war forms amongst her. When she reaches her parents house they’ve been killed and the two teenage servant girls are all that’s left. They fight for they’re lives and with Jasmine’s English skills are taken in at an American mission, she is eventually reunited with family after a series of loss, her cousin Daisy and her Uncle, everything is nice and peaceful as the war still rages on but the Japanese don’t pay attention to the remote village, until Danny a fighter pilot is shot down near the village, do they save him and risk becoming a causality?

What I Liked: The plot moves pretty fast, the brutality is written really well, you feel every bullet whizz by and feel it even more when it hits it target. The Chinese language is used really, there’s a reason the author switches to a different language, and often times it’s powerful. The novle flows really well. The author did the historical research and it shows. I questioned how many rapes or threat of rapes there were, but in the Author Q and A there was 300,000 deaths and 20,000 rapes through out the War.

What I Disliked: I thought the development of Jasmine stopped after Danny was introduced, and I wanted to hear more of her voice. I also feel this novel would have worked as a duel character novel we get a tease of Danny at the beginning then it’s Jasmine’s story until the half way point, where Danny gets most of the focus. I thought we could have got adventures with Danny and Jack before the War to when he was gunned down. I also felt cheapened that Danny had a thing for Asian girls before he meets the cousins, I felt that information wasn’t needed.

Recommendations: I’m a huge fan of World War II stories and this was a new one for me, in location and story, if you’re a fan this is a good one. This recommendation does came with a trigger warning: Rape is pretty heavily through out, and described graphically, so if that does effect you in anyway I would skip this one for that matter. I rated this novel 4 out of 5 stars

Book Review: Vengeful (Villains #2) by V.E. Schwab

Vengeful continues the dark story of the Victor Vale and Eli Evers feud. This story was pretty epic I did not like it as much as the first one, but it is still pretty amazing story, and captured the tone of the first novel while adding new characters you will loath and love, and keeping the theme of revenge.

The plot: After the events of Vicious, Victor is back but soon he realizes he is not whole. He keeps dying then reviving himself. He wants this fixed and hopes some other EO can eventually fix him, He starts tracking them down and kills them when they can’t help to not lead them away from the new organization who is tracking down EO’s. Little does Vale know that Eli is helping them track this EO down while in his prison cell in an agreement that they will not experiment on him anymore. Eli doesn’t know Victor survived there last battle but clues start pointing to his old foe, which he keeps secret from Stell, who started the organization after the events of Vicious which track EO’s and imprison them and perform studies. A new EO Marcella who can erode anything, craves power, and quickly starts taking over the city. Stell makes a deal with Marcella that he won’t go after her if she can lead him to the EO killing healers. Sydney is against the killing but agrees she has found out that Mitch has killed her sister and doesn’t know what to do with the information. Sydney has met a new EO that can shapeshift named June and not told Victor or Mitch about it, it’s unaware if June’s intensions are genuine or if she has a plan involving Sydney.

What I liked: The dark tone is set early. The characters we love or loathe are all added upon and grow. The structure is the same as Vicious where it jumps around in time but leads up to an event. This one adds characters to the same structure but it manages to still make sense and not confuse the reader like Paula Hawkins’ Into the Water did as the follow up to The Girl on the Train. The conclusion was really epic and wrapped up a lot of individual story lines. This novel gets pretty gory and described so well. The ending was complete with room for expansion.

What I disliked: I think a little too much time was spent on Marcella and not on other characters especially Victor, at the end of the novel I couldn’t figure out what he even wanted to live for, it seems like death would’ve been more preferable.

Recommendations: If you’re a fan of the first book you must continue this epic story. A fan of the superhero genre and what this book adds to it. This is a good step up novel from Young Adult to Standard Fiction. I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars, it was almost a five for me.

Book Review: Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer

“There’s this old joke: A man had two sons. One went out to sea, and the other became vice president. Neither were heard from again.”

Hope Never Dies was a very subtle humored book, there’s not big laughs but here’s a lot of little ones. This book expands upon the relationship of Biden and Obama. Hope Rides Again was a Giveaway from Quirk Books through Goodreads in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Obama is kind of the cooler older brother that Biden wishes he could be. this book does make you imagine if Biden really does miss hanging with Obama and if it is mutual. This book does use facts about both men and expanded them. There’s political talk but it is like the humor subtle, there’s little talk of the Trump presidency, a couple of political jabs about healthcare, and talk about Biden and Obama not doing enough about the opioid crisis.

The Plot: An Amtrak conductor was found dead by an apparent suicide on the train tracks, he was found with uncut heroin and a map with former Vice President Joe Biden’s address circled on it. The police tip off the Secret Service, and Joe is pulled into a wooded area while on on a jog and brought to Obama who tells Joe about the case and what the man had on him. Joe knows the man and was his former conductor on the Amtrak he would take from Delaware to the Senate. Joe had once called the man a friend had not seen him for some time, and does not believe he was a junkie or would commit suicide. Joe decides he must make things right, Obama worried can’t let him do it alone, so he and the Secret Service agent Steve follow Biden. They meet a femme fatale, a Biker Gang, an old almost retired cop, the conductor’s wife and daughter and a hungry young detective looking at her advancement, all lead to the conclusion of the Biden and Obama mystery.

What I Liked: We stay in the POV of Joe Biden and even in his dreams. Obama was used really well, we don’t get him all the time, but just enough. The scene where Obama explains global warming to the teenage counter girl and wont go away until she gets it. The lame uses of disguises that don’t fool anyone. The Joe Biden descriptions are a treasure, his awe shucks, way of describing thing would continuously make me chuckle. I learned a lot of facts about Biden.

What I Disliked: The mystery was overall not that strong, and was a little let down. I want to see more of the Jill and Joe Biden relationship, it was really interesting. I did want a really big laugh but it never came.

Recommendations: People that liked the team of Obama and Biden and don’t mind them being made fun of definitely Biden more than Obama. I you like mysteries. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: Black Hammer Vol. 2: The Event by Jeff Lemire

This volume of Black Hammer answer’s a lot of the questions I had in the first volume, mainly since the comic is called Black Hammer, what happened to Black Hammer? this is answered and we get a really good flashback of how he became the hero Black Hammer. I picked this graphic novel up because I was looking for something new too read and this volume was nominated in Goodreads Reader’s Choice awards where it made it to the semi finals.

The Plot: Five heroes are stuck in a small town, after a hellacious battle to save Spiral city. The heroes don’t know why they are placed out in a rural town and spend most of there days on the farm, the ones who can be seen act like a family to not have suspicion arise. When we meet the heroes they have been trapped for 10 years. Abraham Slam is the leader and a hero of the bygone era He is over fifty and still strong as an ox he is the father figure, Golden Gail has the power of regeneration and flight, the purgatory of the town has stopped her regeneration, leaving her a fifty year old trapped in the body of a 12 year old, Colonel Weird comes straight from pulp as he is a former astronaut stuck between two vortexes, leaving his body and mind like a ghost not familiar with dates or time since they are relative to him. Madam Dragonfly is a witch that took a bad deal to save her daughter, and watches over a mysterious cabin, that was also transported to the town. Barbalien is a shapeshifting alien from Mars, and Walkie Talkie a female robot that Colonel Weird met on a mission. At the end of the first volume the Black Hammer’s daughter joins the heroes in purgatory, Madam Dragonfly erases her memory quickly before the other’s arrive, and just like the left she is stuck and can not remember how she got there. She ask important questions that gets some of the members of the team motivated to find a way out of there, but another member sabotages when to many questions are asked, but did the member do it out of malice, or did they preserve the event they’re going to witness soon?

What I liked: the Black Hammer backstory about how he became the hero and what happened on the farm that they can not escape. We got Walkie Talkie’s origin which was surprisingly very captivating. There’s two really good twist in the story lines, both that will involve the next volume. I liked the reveal that the majority of the heroes gave up on humanity and were ready to give it all up be for they were sent to purgatory.

What I disliked: It was too short! I wanted so much more, I still have so many questions about the town they live in, because I’m watching The Good Place it makes me think of that. I felt this volume took too much teasing the cliffhanger than exploring the characters. A little of the originality was gone as it borrowed plot lines from Marvel’s Inhumans.

Recommendations: I liked this volume a lot more than the first one, so if you read the first one you should definitely pick up this one, it’s a very easy read I read this volume in an hour. If you like the art form of graphic novels then this should be on your TBR. I rated this 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: The Book of M by Peng Shepherd

Wow, what a fantastic debut for Peng Sheperd with Book of M. This book was a grippy bloody post apocalyptic nightmare, that also at it’s heart is a love story full of magic. This book is a wonderful journey that Shepard masterfully takes the reader on, I questioned where this book was going and couldn’t imagine how it is going to end. The final twist is super powerful and took me a second to figure out, then was blown away with what the author chose and how mush I was wrecked inside. As the character’s move forward on their physical journey so do their ideas as they constantly evolve. This book reminded me of the best moments of Stephen King’s The Stand mixed with Joe Hill’s The Fireman, which is great company in my opinion.

The Plot: People all over the world are losing their shadows, and with that they start forgetting things, little things at first then big things. The forgetting leads to magical powers that can change reality. Know one knows how it happens or why some are selected and others are not but it sweeps the world like a plague, putting shadowed people against the shadowless. We meet the married couple Ory and Max, who after a friends wedding have been hiding out and surviving at a resort and are the only ones left. Max has just lost her shadow, they know she will soon start to forget and she starts caring around a small recording device . As Ory goes for food Max decides she can no longer be a burden and runs away joining a traveling group of shadowless like her. Ory is then determined to find her, and starts heading to there old apartment in DC, but Max is heading to a rumored sanctuary in Neo Orleans. Max originally set out to not be a burden, then she journeys for a hope for a cure, before she forgets the love of her husband Ory. This is the heart of the story the bounds that this couple will go for a chance. We meet two other figures Naz who is an archer from Tehran on a work visa to train for the Olympics in archery, and we meet a car crash victim who can’t remember his past at all and doesn’t regognize his name and refers to himself as the visitor and later as the one who gathers, he seems to be immune to the shadowless because he has no memories to take away. It’s a very cool story that is about love, paranoia, and memories.

What I liked: The scope of the Book of M how it starts so small and expands to the whole world. The love Ory and Max have is beautiful. The One Who Gathers is my favorite character so mysterious and did not except where his story was going. There a really good twist that we’re given hints of but when it happens I was blown away, I noticed some details that felt off but after reading the twist i put them all to together and was blown away. Actually all the little twists in story telling are written really well, and there are a few. The author makes the novel international with staying mainly in America, with a very international cast of characters. The history of the elephant pack and the elephant that paints was really interesting and made sense the the story.

What I disliked: After one twist we only get one perspective, we see how the others act though one persons eyes but I wanted to hear the thoughts of others. That’s it there’s a couple nit picky things, but for a debut author this is strong.

Recommendations: For people who love post apocalyptic stories, love stories with separated loves. If you want to read a great debut author, for a book that makes you think. This book made it to the semi finals in the goodreads choice awards for horror in 2018, but not to the finals. I don’t know if horror was the right category horrific events occur but the novel is almost more Science Fiction in nature. I rated this book a rare 5 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: Black Hammer, Vol. 1: Secret Origins by Jeff Lemire

Black Hammer by Dark Horse Comics is a throw back to pulp in style and characters, but it takes these characters into the modern world through ideas and feelings. I read this because I saw the second volume of Black Hammer get nominated for Goodreads best of 2018 in the Graphic Novel and Comics section. I enjoyed this first novel a lot of off the surface references that will surely add up to tension.

The Plot: Five maybe six heroes are stuck in a small town, after a hellacious battle to save Spiral city. The heroes don’t know why they are placed out in a rural town and spend most of there days on the farm, the ones who can be seen act like a family to not have suspicion arise. When we meet the heroes they have been trapped for 10 years. Abraham Slam is the leader and a hero of the bygone era He is over fifty and still strong as an ox he is the father figure, Golden Gail has the power of regeneration and flight, the purgatory of the town has stopped her regeneration, leaving her a fifty year old trapped in the body of a 12 year old, Colonel Weird comes straight from pulp as he is a former astronaut stuck between two vortexes, leaving his body and mind like a ghost not familiar with dates or time since they are relative to him. Madam Dragonfly is a witch that took a bad deal to save her daughter, and watches over a mysterious cabin, that was also transported to the town. Barbalien is a shapeshifting alien from Mars who is accompanied my his robot that looks very pulp, they work to send probes to try to find some way out of this hell. Black Hammer the name that the series is named for is not really explained, the hammer is seen in the rural town but no mention of him currently existing, there’s a lot of underneath tension and questions of what happened to Black Hammer?

What I liked: The art is great, I will say I did not like the way faces are drawn but it fits with the era the artist was going for. Madam Dragonfly’s background story is really great and heartbreaking, her character is mysterious and I can’t wait to learn more. The romance between Abraham Slam and the waitress seems really real and well done. The Gail and Barbalien love tension was done well. Colonel Weird’s background and how he see’s the world was really interesting, and I can’t wait to see more.

What I disliked: too many thing were teased not enough was concrete, with get glimpse of the epic battle that lead them to the town but it was too fast. We get no flashbacks to the first days in the town and how they even know they’re trapped. I hope the next volume answers these questions and more.

Recommendation: To people who enjoy comics of today and appreciate the pulp comics that got us here. This is a throwback to those characters, but this comic attempts to give them the three dimensions that they always needed, and for the most part it succeeds. I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars, I think it was a great debut and now that the introductions are out of the way looking forward to the second volume.