Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Neil Gaiman

Reviewed by Sesana
Five out of five stars

Publisher Summary (partial):
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

My Review:
I pre-ordered this one for my Kindle, because the thought of waiting a few days more to start reading it were unacceptable to me. Now, after reading it, I consider that a wise decision indeed.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is about the remembered adventure of a young boy (entirely unnamed) in a world he barely understood at the time and has less hope of understanding as an adult. It starts with an opal miner, who wishes unwisely and releases something old and powerful, cunning and malicious. Something that finds its way into the boy's life in a most frightening form: a beautiful babysitter everybody, especially his father, loves, but only the boy can understand the truth about her.

The boy's one hope are the Hempstock ladies from the farm at the end of the lane: Lettie Hemptstock, a girl a few years older than him, her mother, and her grandmother. Maiden, mother, and crone, a symbol Gaiman has used quite a bit in his work. They have an ocean, which is also a farm pond, and they've come from the Old Country, the one that sank. They are strange and powerful and mysterious in equal measure, and though they let the boy see and understand some of themselves, there's much of them that remains unseen and unknown and, I think, unknowable.

This is one of those books that's hard to classify. I'd call this an adult book, though the narrator is describing things that happened to him as a child. There's a level of nostalgia and remembering that I think adult readers will understand best. I think this would have been a very different book if the narrator had still been a child, and not an adult remembering his childhood.

My review should probably be taken with a grain of salt. Obviously, I love Neil Gaiman, I love his style and narrative voice. (And his reading voice, as well. I also ordered this as an audiobook.) It was a foregone conclusion that I'd love it, and I did. I had been in a bit of a reading slump before I picked up The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and I'm pleased to report that it woke me up, from the very first page. I love it when I can feel a book, even if it's scaring me. More than once, I realized only at the end of a scene that I'd been holding my breath. I think that's the best thing that I can say about this book, that it made me react physically to what I was reading.

Also reviewed at Goodreads.

Meet the Shelf Inflicted Staff - Stephanie

Today's guest is the Artist Currently Known as Stephanie.

How did you discover Goodreads?I was was working at a veterinary office with Heidi Henry and Carey. One day Heidi said to me "there's a new online social site called Goodreads, I know you're a reader so I thought you might like to check it out." And so I did. I only used it to keep track of my books and I even remarked to the girls "you know, some of the people on this site get down right serious about reviewing books." And now I'm one them.

What have been your most memorable Goodreads experiences?When I discovered the caliber of people you can find here and make good friends of, and when I first got on the top reviewer list

Name one reviewer not in the Forbes 25 that people should be aware of.Steve Kendall.....his reviews are beautiful, and he's a really nice person.

What was your initial reaction to Amazon buying Goodreads?Negative. But there is nothing I can do about it so there is no reason to stress over it.

How many books do you own?not many. I tend to give them away if I own them in print, I see no reason to leave them sitting around unloved when someone else could be enjoying them. And since I moved all over creation I have donated trunk fulls to local libraries when I moved (and those helping me move would bitch about lugging the boxes of books.) I do have quite a few on Kindle and audio.

Who is your favorite author?Margaret Atwood, Kurt Vonnegut and Stephen I could pick just one.

What is your favorite book of all time?The Handmaids Tale, The Dark Tower if you count a series as one.

What are your thoughts on ebooks?I love ebooks.....

What are your thoughts on self-publishing?It can be a good thing and a bad thing. Editing is sorely overlooked when one self publishes but I do admire people for taking the chance and going for what they want.

Any literary aspirations? No. None really, but I would be very proud of myself if I could write a book. Never say never.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Meet the Shelf Inflicted Staff - Terry

Today's guest is Shelf Inflicted's superintelligent infant Terry.

How did you discover Goodreads?

Wow it seems so long ago I'm not sure I remember. Sometime around 2008 I think I was practicing my Google-fu and came across a website that purported to be a great social site for readers, sort of Bookface, combined with a library catalogue system. I joined, and tentatively posted some reviews, but seeing as I had no friends or followers at the time not much happened as a result. I came back in 2011 and learned the ropes a bit reviews, threw around some likes, made some friends, posted reviews of my own and got the ball rolling until it became the number one web addiction in my life that it is today!

What have been your most memorable Goodreads experiences?

I think the first few reviews that got likes (and comments) and motivated me to keep on reviewing, as well as my occasional cracking of the top 10 reviewers from Canada have been the most memorable to me. You'd probably have to add to that invitations from others to join groups, contribute to blogs and the's nice to feel loved and the social element of GR is what keeps me coming back. I haven't really posted any controversial reviews so I don't get troll-wars or long-standing comment thread discussions that might add a bit more spice, but I do have fewer burn marks and battle scars than some as a result which I guess is a plus.

Name one reviewer not in the Forbes 25 that people should be aware of.

Only one? I guess I'd give a shout-out to ex-pat Canuck Ben Babcock who's got some great reviews out there.

What was your initial reaction to Amazon buying Goodreads?

Trepidation. Was I going to be censored (though I guess given my lack of controversial reviews as noted above that wasn't likely to be too much of a concern), or lose ownership of my reviews? Also, given that Amazon is a megacorporation that only cares about the bottom line I was worried. As far as I'm concerned they don't have a good track record: after all they are the ones who bought out Lexcycle (the makers of Stanza, the best ereader app out there) just so they could kill it, and given that they seem to think that an example of a good review is one produced by the Harriet Klausner-bot I was not happy.

How many books do you own?

Probably somewhere around 1200-1300

Who is your favorite author?

Are you really asking this? Do you expect a real answer? My heart says Tolkien...I have a long and storied history with old JRRT and while I would have to admit that he may not be the absolute best author on my list (though I think he is a great writer...far better than his detractors will often give him credit for), he will probably always be my favourite. I will cheat by saying that I must also include Sean Stewart, David Mitchell, and Alexandre Dumas, père in this answer!

What is your favorite book of all time?

*sigh* Ok, make it tough why don't you?! The Silmarillion (and by extension the LotR), The Count of Monte Cristo, Watership Down, and a new one: Islandia (thanks for the push Richard!) are all books I could not live without.

Oh, um, can I also add Dune, The Name of the Rose, and Riddley Walker to that list? And maybe Engine Summer, Moby Dick and....(you get the picture.)

What are your thoughts on ebooks?

Love 'em. Keep 'em coming! How great is it to be able to port a 1200+ library in your pocket? I can safely say that I have done more reading in the last few years with my ereader than I ever did in any single period before. I still love the look, feel and esp. smell of dead-tree books, but my go-to version these days is of the e-variety.

What are your thoughts on self-publishing?

I think it's great that this exists as a viable option in our day and age given the technology to produce them and ubiquity of the web to promote and distribute them that we have. I don't read much (if any) self-published stuff, but I am not averse to it in theory...just make sure some kind of editor was involved and avoid rookie mistakes like spelling errors, punctuation and the like.

Any literary aspirations?

Don't we all? But I'm afraid my laziness and lack of self-confidence have had a strangle-hold on my throat (and writing arm) for most of my life. Now that I have two kids I have another excuse for why it's too hard to write. I think reviewing is filling some of that void, but I still mean to write a 'real book' one of these days! I will, damn it!

What is your ideal super villain lair?

Wow, so many choices? How does one choose? The classic panache of the abandoned castle on the moors? The accessibility and subterfuge of the volcano/hollowed out mountain? The mobility of the submarine? I think I will cheat and claim all three: an abandoned castle built on the edge of a hollowed out volcano located on a tropical island and accessible only via secret submarine!

Sookie, Sookie......Now

Reviewed by Stephanie
3+ out of 5 stars

So here we are at the end of Sookie Stackhouse and I for one am sad. 

This review WILL have some spoilers….be warned, but if you are looking any other review, everybody and their mother wrote ‘photo’ and/or ‘gif’ reviews of this book and all give it away, so…..don’t blame me.

Sookie is a slow learner. 

Sookie Stackhouse has been through the wringer with all her supernatural lovers.  For thirteen books she has been close to death numerous times.   This girl has compiled so many enemies I don’t know how she sleeps at night; it would take me two Xanex with and a 'half a bottle of wine' chaser to ever sleep again.   But not Sookie, she cooks, cleans, dresses (badly), puts her hair in a pony tail, takes it out of a pony tail, worries about the ‘dent’ and puts it back in a pony tail,  goes to work at her bar.....narrowly escape death,  does her makeup, waters the plants, sun baths, makes lunch, narrowly escape death……business as usual.

And that’s the ultimate charm of this series.  One day vampires come out of the closet, then the two natured….. Add in a fairy or two, a few witches.  But why let any of that upset your daily routine?  Just go about living your daily lives and almost die in the process. 

Now I know ya’all are upset that Sookie did not end up with Eric ‘the hot’ (if that’s possible being dead and cold and all) vampire.  Come on, he nearly got her killed about ten times!! And he was a complete ass to her the whole time. The only reason women like this guy is because he’s easy on the eyes….the whole reason women got all gooey over Christian Grey in those 50 shades books…..(sure he is a psychopath, but he’s a HOT psychopath, which makes it all okay.)  Bill, her first vampire boyfriend, almost got her killed as well.  Step away from the vampire Sookie.

Then there were her baby pangs.  I for one have never had them, ever, but many women do.  You can’t get pregnant by a vampire…..just not possible.  So, she turns to her best friend (who’s not dead…yay!!).   I don’t see the problem here; your best friend is the person you should end up with. 

Am I Right?

I’ve said this before, but it needs repeating……Charlaine Harris, STOP writing sex scenes!!!  For all that is holy and all that is not, don’t do this to us ever again!!!

“He rolled on the condom and plunged in.”

That’s not sexy……That’s NOT sexy!!!!  Plunged in?  Charlaine!!  I ought to put you in a time out.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Big Reap

Chris F. Holm's The Big Reap
The Big Reap
Chris F. Holm
Angry Robot Books
Available July 30th (North America) August 01st (UK)

Still reeling from the effects of The Wrong Goodbye, Sam Thornton is tasked by his handler Lilith to take out the mysterious Brethren, a group made up of former Collectors who have severed their ties with Hell.

I received an ARC of The Big Reap from Angry Robot in exchange for a fair review. Thanks to our literary robot overlords!

The opening scene of The Big Reap will have a spot among my favorite openers ever. Not only does Chris bring you up to speed if this happens to be your first Thornton novel (and seriously, who starts on the third book of any series - go read those first two!), he also takes us back and tells the story of Sam’s first collection. That particular story is told over the course of the novel as Chris presents it side-by-side with Thornton’s crusade against the forces of the Brethren. Both stories are equally compelling so when he switches back and forth, you’re not exactly dying to get back to the other.

Like the first two novels, Holm continues with his excellently choreographed action scenes. There’s some high octane stuff here involving Thornton having to use his environment to gain advantages. It’s a wonder how Holm can make the character so damn confident when he always seems to just barely come out on top. Sam never seems to have a solid game plan and often relies on thinking in the moment – something that keeps the action moving swiftly with consistently unpredictable results. All of these factors leave us with a story that is a real blast to read.

Sam is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters. While he carries with him the attitude of a blockbuster movie action star, he’s also a tragic character at heart. As his journey progresses, he realizes just how hopeless his future really is. It would be easy for Holm to give us a character with big bravado who constantly comes out on top but instead gives us a character that learns, develops and grows with each story. He's like John McClane from the first Die Hard movie – not the John McClane that developed over time and became an indestructible superman.

In my opinion, this is Holm's finest work yet. Taking nothing away from the first two books in the series, The Big Reap has raised the bar for any potential sequels.

Dead Sea

Brian Keene
Leisure Books
Reviewed by: Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


With zombies taking over the cities, a group of humans escapes the carnage by taking a small Coast Guard ship out to sea, but there's no getting away-even in the wide ocean.

My Review

Brian Keene’s Dead Sea is a little different from his earlier zombie stories. In The Rising and City of the Dead, the zombies carried rifles, were intelligent, and drove cars. In Dead Sea, they are the more traditional shambling, empty-eyed, mindless variety. The end of the world began in New York City, when people were attacked by swarms of undead rats. The infected died and came back to life. Once the infection (known as Hamelin’s Revenge) spread to the city of Baltimore, Lamar Reed, Mitch and two orphaned children flee the city and escape on a ship with a handful of survivors.

Though the gore factor is high, Dead Sea is not a story about hungry, mindless zombies. The story is told by Lamar Reed, a gay black man who grew up in a bad section of town, yet resisted a life of drugs and crime and was gainfully employed at a car parts manufacturer. Once he got laid off from his job, he had to resort to desperate measures in order to pay his bills. When Hamelin’s Revenge strikes, this becomes the least of his worries. Lamar is now faced with the task of survival amidst the slaughter of Baltimore’s population and with the responsibility of caring for two children.

Like Keene’s earlier zombie novels, the author puts his characters through myriad horrors. During his struggle to survive and ensure the safety of the children in his care, Lamar changes, grows, and becomes a better person. Keene, a white hetero male, portrays Lamar’s character with respect and sensitivity and without resorting to stereotypes. Unfortunately, Lamar lives in a world where there is little hope for the human race.

Dead Sea was gripping, suspenseful, gory, bleak, and impossible to put down. Despite the characters’ strength and will to survive, there is a sense of hopelessness that pervades the novel. A must-read for zombie fans!

Also posted at Goodreads.

Meet the Shelf Inflicted Staff - Anthony Vacca

Today's guest is Anthony Vacca, the result of C.W. Sughrue and Nick Stefanos mating successfully.

How did you discover Goodreads?
A friend of mine told me about it back in 2009. I joined the site as mainly a way just to catalogue what I read so I could impress myself with how many books I read. My plan didn’t work out though and I am still hoping we can work things out.

But then about a year ago I had a lot more time to stare at a computer screen while at work and realized that there was actually whole communities of people who actually read the different kinds of books I like. And the rest is your typical story of a downward spiral into addiction.

What have been your most memorable Goodreads experiences?
Realizing how many poor suckers—I mean, wonderful people on this site actually think I am pretty good at reviewing books. It’s a very rewarding experience and one of the few forms of vanity I allow myself.

But really, one of the coolest experiences was realizing that there is such a thriving community of people discussing books on here. It's kind of a funny story. Dan and Kemper were two of the first real friends I made on this site. At the time I kept seeing their reviews pop up on a lot of the crime and mystery novels I was reading, and was like, oh cool here’s some people I can finally talk to about crime novels.(I know like one person in the real world who actually reads these kinds of books. The rest are snobs about the genre.) So I started harassing their reviews trying to talk to them. It was like another month before I even realized that there was apparently a whole ranking system for reviewers and, within that, a hierarchy. And thus I was so totally like, "Oh, I am only trying to make friends with people who have like a thousand followers and are some kind of royalty on here. Way to shoot for a humble start, Anthony."

But they have been great friends on here, along with so many others whose kindness and passion about books is what makes this place special for me.

Name one reviewer not in the Forbes 25 that people should be aware of.
I’ll name you two. Aubrey and Stephen M. Both are fellow Generation Y-er’s on the site and both write the kind of reviews I wish I could. And both tenaciously tackle such long and difficult works and their excitement about them make me want to be a better reader. Whatever the hell that means in my head.

What was your initial reaction to Amazon buying Goodreads?
Does this mean I can make some money? If so, how do I make more than others?

How many books do you own?
Somewhere in the upper triple digits. The real question is how much money would I have if I hadn’t bought all those books? I work at a library for chrissakes! Why do I keep buying books?

Who is your favorite author?
Nice try. I don’t do one favorite author. Since I love different kinds of literature for the different kinds of things they can do, I will give you two separate and appropriately pretentious lists:

Crime fiction: James Crumley, James Lee Burke, Elmore Leonard, George Pelecanos

Super-I-am-so-cool-for-reading-them literary authors: Ernest Hemingway, Denis Johnson, Martin Amis, Thomas Pynchon, T C Boyle, David Foster Wallace, Virginia Woolf.

Plays: William Shakespeare, David Mamet, Samuel Beckett

Poetry: Sylvia Plath, T S Eliot, William Blake, Walt Whitman

Graphic novels: Garth Ennis, Alan Moore, and Jason

Both these lists I am sure will change. I have a hard time not falling in love too quickly.

What is your favorite book of all time?
You poor bastard. This was a mistake to ask me. I’ll try to limit it to a top ten.

The Last Good Kiss, Infinite Jest, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The BoysMrs. Dalloway, The Great Gatsby, 1984, The Information, A Winter’s Tale, Endgame.

What are your thoughts on ebooks?
As far as I am concerned a book is something you hold in your hands that has a cover and a back and inside there are sheets of paper held together with glue to this thing that resembles the spine of an animal in function. Ever heard of something like that?

What are your thoughts on self-publishing?
I think it is certainly a thing that booksellers are going to have to reckon with, and I have seen a few quality works released this way; having said that, I think a gatekeeping process is important. There is a reason why books like Fifty Shades of Mommy Porn are not picked up by a publisher. But clearly, what do I know. I am  already a dinosaur of a snob.

Any literary aspirations?
Yes, but as much as I can blather on (as you have clearly seen if you actually read this far into my answers), I operate more on a “put my money where my mouth is” type-deal when it comes to writing. When I have something to show for it, then we can talk literary aspirations.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Jay Lake Pre-Mortem Readathon, review the first


Fairwood Press
$12.99 trade paper, available now

Reviewed by Richard, 3.75* of five

The Publisher Says: In ROCKET SCIENCE, Jay Lake's first novel, Vernon Dunham's friend Floyd Bellamy has returned to Augusta, Kansas, after serving in World War II, but he hasn't come back empty-handed: he's stolen a super-secret aircraft right from under the Germans. Vernon doesn't think it's your ordinary run-of-the-mill aircraft. For one thing, it's been buried under the Arctic ice for hundreds of years. When it actually starts talking to him, he realizes it doesn't belong in Kansas--or anywhere on Earth. The problem is, a lot of folks know about the ship and are out to get it, including the Nazis, the U.S. Army--and that's just for starters. Vernon has to figure out how to communicate with the ship and unravel its secrets before everyone catches up with him. If he ends up dead, and the ship falls into the wrong hands, it won't take a rocket scientist to predict the fate of humanity.

My Review: Jay Lake, author of this fun and funny romp of a book, is dying of cancer. Quite publicly. He blogs about it, posts on Facebook about it, and generally has made no secret of the fact that he's "on the last plane out, just have to see if the flight's a long one or a short one." (Yes, I'm quoting.) He's even having a "Jay Wake". His blog invites us as follows:
You are invited to my pre-mortem wake and roast, a somewhat morbid, deeply irreverent, but joyous celebration of me. This is a time for celebrating my life, loves, and dark, twisted sense of humor.

It's on 27 July...and there's just enough time beforehand for me to, once a week or so, post reviews of the books I've read that have given me so many grins and thrills over the years since I discovered him in 2006. With this book, which I bought at ArmadilloCon in Austin.

As first novels go, this one's a solid effort. It's got thrills and it's got chills...several times I wondered if the narrator was going to survive...and it's got a thinking, relativistic-speed-capable machine that speaks German and learns English from the gospel radio stations it "hears." How it learns to make sense out of that nonsense....

It's got two characters I like a lot, Vernon the narrator and Floyd his sociopath buddy. It's got some right awful baddies, a daddy who's a drunk, and absolutely no sex, to Vernon's lasting dismay. It's also got pacing problems and there's no sense not talking about the doormattiness of Vernon's long-term fixation on Floyd. But it's a first novel! And, even before I got sucked in to the real-life Sturm und Drang of Jay Lake's life, I knew that the mind that created this book was inside a head that laughs at everything.

My kinda guy!

So here's me, laughing along, enjoying the view out the tumbril on the way to the guillotine. It's morbid, you protest? Yeah well, the man is dying and a hushed respectful eyes-cast-down Appreciation would go over like a fart in church with him. I've had a lot of fun reading his books. I'm going to tell the world that BEFORE he dies. I urge the SFnally inclined, even modestly so, to buy this book and smile along with the writer, and me!, in some haste. No knowing when the doorbell will ring.

And how many times do you read a book that *ends* with a round trip to Mars about to begin?

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Magic in the Wild, Wild West

Native Star

by M. K. Hobson

Published by Spectra

4 Out of 5 Stars
Reviewed by Amanda

Take a pinch of the Wild West, a dollop of whimsy, just a dash of romance, and a heaping helping of magic and you apparently get the perfect summer read.

On the surface, The Native Star is fairly formulaic. There's the Austen-esque dynamic of the stubborn and headstrong (but always proper beneath it all) woman who finds herself at odds with a pompous and equally headstrong jerk (who remains, fundamentally, a gentleman beneath it all). I have to admit that I'm a sucker for this dynamic because nothing triggers my gag reflex quicker than a simpering and whiny heroine, unless it's the "here I come to save the day" uber-perfect hero. Circumstances arise that force these two into unwelcome proximity to one another for the duration of the novel and witty banter between crises ensues. This is pretty standard stuff and even the less sophisticated readers among us can probably make accurate predictions as to where this plot is headed, but . . .

. . . holy shit, was this fun! While the basic narrative is standard, the world building is delightful. Set in the west during the Reconstruction, the United States has always relied on magic to grease the wheels of commerce. There are three primary types of magic practitioners: sangrimancers (who rely on gruesome blood rituals to tap into their power), animancers ("earth" magicians who draw upon nature to heal), and credomancers (faith magicians who draw upon the beliefs of others to make the impossible, well, possible). There's much in-fighting amongst these magical traditions, as well as opposition to magic in the form of religious zealots and the increasing threat of science as a replacement for magic. Several reviews have labeled this as "steampunk," which is misleading as there are no gimmicky, steam-powered gizmos and gadgets. Everything is fueled by magic (as one reviewer said, this is "witchpunk"--a term that seems much more accurate). There are zombies, Native American holy women, murderous spirits, fantastic magical devices, as well as witches and warlocks of every stripe and color imaginable. There are quirky little details (my favorite being the idea of a "squink," a word created by the combination of the words "squid ink" and meaning to lessen the power of a credomancer by clouding his ability to believe in himself).

The Native Star is clever, witty, and intelligently written light reading when you just want to reconnect with the joy of a rollicking journey whose only destination is to enchantment. There are no deeper meanings, no pompous literary preening, no need to bust out the theory books to figure out what is up with the symbolism. It's just fun. And sometimes that's more than enough.

Meet The Shelf Inflicted Staff - Brandon

Today's guest is the bearded beast from the east.. of Canada, Brandon!

How did you discover Goodreads?

I was looking around online for a website that I could use as a database for my books.  I stumbled across Library Thing and toyed around with that for a few weeks before finding my way over to Goodreads.

What have been your most memorable Goodreads experience?

I can't really think of anything specific but I can say that if not for Goodreads, I wouldn't have been able to discover a lot of the books and authors that I've had the pleasure of reading.  It also gave me the confidence to start my own book blog after I've been voted into the Top 20 "best" book reviewers in the great nation of Canada.

Name one reviewer not in the Forbes 25 that people should be aware of.

The first name that comes to mind is Aerin.  She wrote a review for Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves that totally blew me away.  I've been following her for a while and she's a fantastic writer!

What was your initial reaction to Amazon buying Goodreads?

I was worried at first.  There wasn't a specific change that I was fearing but just the fact that the overall vibe of the site could drastically change worried me.  Goodreads has become an online home of mine and I've grown to love it.  I hope they institute a hands-off approach to the site and allow it to operate in it's own fashion.

How many books do you own?

Surprisingly, not that many.  I've got one book shelf filled with what I consider my absolute favorites.  Most of what I read now seems to be an e-book or something I grab from the library.  Considering that there's so much out there to read, I want to be more selective on what I buy judging by whether or not I can imagine reading it again.

Who is your favorite author?

This honestly changes a lot.  However, I have no reservations in naming John Connolly.  His Charlie Parker series opened a lot of doors for me in terms of crime fiction.  If not for him, I wouldn't have searched out authors like Lawrence Block or Raymond Chandler.  There's also Stephen King.  He's easily the author I've read the most and I've still got lots of his work to consume.

What is your favorite book of all time?

In the past 3 years, nothing has been able to knock The Stand off of its perch - though many have come close.  It was a book that I was intimidated by in its size but when I turned the last page, I wanted more.  Luckily for me, there's a Marvel series and some further mentions/visits in the King universe.

What are your thoughts on ebooks?

I love ebooks!  I was resistant at first because I was a big fan of holding an actual book.  When I received my first e-reader 3 years ago, I took to it pretty quickly.  However, over time, I've split my reading between the two formats.  Since starting my blog, a lot of authors/publishers have been able to send me their book through email rather than mailing me a physical copy.

What are your thoughts on self-publishing?

I think there's a stigma associated with it just for the fact that many seem to avoid the editing process.  I can't say for certain if I have an opinion on it but I did read a self-published book a few weeks ago and rather enjoyed it.  On the other hand, I'm a blogger - would I expect people to avoid reading my thoughts because it's not appearing in a magazine or major website?  I can certainly see the reasons behind it.

Any literary aspirations?

I'm actually working on something at the moment.  Who knows if it will ever become anything but I'm certainly enjoying myself.  It's something that I've wanted to do for a few years so taking the plunge and giving it an honest shot is something that I need to do for myself.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Can you weather the storm?


Sean Stewart


Reviewed by: Terry

5 out of 5 stars


This may be Sean Stewart's best novel, though I have to admit that it is not quite my favourite. Here we see Stewart displaying full mastery of his prose, his characterization, and his depiction of a fully realized magical world. Be warned though, neither the characters, nor the world presented, are always pleasant to behold.

We follow the story of Josh Cane, a young man with a chip on his shoulder due to the constrained circumstances of his life that are the result of his father's loss of a pivotal game of poker. Add to this the fact that Josh lives in a world after the occurrence of a magical apocalypse wherein everyone has to work hard to survive, not only due to their physical circumstances, but also due to the perilous proximity of the magical Otherworld, and you have the makings of a pretty downbeat story. Stewart himself has described this book as: "...your Basic "Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Everything, Girl becomes her Own Evil Twin, Boy Is Framed For Murder and Sent Along With Sidekick To Be Eaten By Cannibals, and Things Get Worse When The Weather Turns Bad" story." That about sums it up.

Of course there's more to the novel than a simple encapsulation, even one given by the author, can provide. First of all we have, once again, Stewart's excellent characters: Our main character Josh is by turns repulsive and worthy of pity; a man who had expected a life of much greater comfort than the one he ended up with and who is unable to let go of the bitterness he feels as a result of his circumstances. The only person who seems able to stand Josh is his best friend Ham Mather, the gentle giant who loyally accompanies Josh in his exile that is brought about by Josh's infatuation with the third of our heroes: Sloane Gardner, the heir-apparent to both the political and magical leaders of Galveston whose desire to escape from her responsibilities leads to disaster. Standing in the background of the story like a looming spectre is the distorted and eternal carnival otherworld presided over by Momus, a godlike trickster who will give blessings to mortals courageous, or foolhardy, enough to pay the price. As always, be careful what you wish for.

As noted, Josh's story goes from bad to worse and his circumstances, both physical and personal, can become hard to stomach. You think George R. R. Martin can put his characters through the ringer? He could pick up a few tips from Sean Stewart here. There are also no easy resolutions. Stewart always avoids the easy answer or pat conclusion. Our characters do get resolutions of sorts, and they certainly grow and change as people, but nothing is exactly as one might have expected and nothing follows the standard Hollywood paradigm for such things. This is all to the good I say and for all its difficulty, you'd be hard pressed to find a better told story than the one you'll find in _Galveston_.

I wouldn't recommend this as a starting point for Stewart: go to _Resurrection Man_, or _The Night Watch_ for that. Both take place in the same world deluged by magic, though at different points in its history. They are a bit more friendly to their protagonists, though they never quite let them off the hook either. No matter where you start though, you're in for a real treat with Sean Stewart. He's truly an excellent writer of great talent.

 Also posted at Goodreads 

Meet the Shelf Inflicted Staff - Carol

Today's guest is Carol, the alien terror that sleeps dead and dreaming at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.  She also posts at Book Reviews Forevermore.

How did you discover Goodreads?
My parole agent suggested it as part of the restraining order obtained by certain brick-and-mortar booksellers.

What have been your most memorable Goodreads experiences?
The time I stayed up all night instant messaging one of the top 25 reviewers, we fell in love, met up in Vegas to be married by fake-Elvis, but lost our money for the license at a poker game.

Name one reviewer not in the Forbes 25 that people should be aware of.
Me, clearly. And she'll probably be shocked, but Carly's reviews are amazingly analytical and often lend me insight on my reading. She's one of my checkpoints.

What was your initial reaction to Amazon buying Goodreads?
Blasé, blasé. Soon everything will be owned by seven different multinational corporations. It had absolutely nothing to do with my buying a Kindle Paperwhite. Really.

How many books do you own? 
More than can fit in a breadbox. I know you are only asking to case my fantasy collection. Forget it--I have a large Rottweiler.

Who is your favorite author? 
From A to Z: Ben Aaronovich, Ilona Andrews, Peter Beagle, Steven Brust, Guy Gavriel Kay, Catherynne Valente, Roger Zelazny. Non-fiction: David Quammen.

What is your favorite book of all time?
If I say Connie Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog, will you delete my interview? Seriously, it’s one of my favorite comfort reads. Adrienne Rich’s Dream of a Common Language. I also re-read Kate Daniels series. Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead.

What are your thoughts on ebooks? 
Ambivalent. They are my new late-night addiction and I’m thankful they have no calories. I find myself perusing on-line sources looking for deals. I do love being able to go anywhere with a library in my purse. However, I am now even worse at human interaction.
I also enjoy the feel of a book in my hands, and the way each book can individuate itself physically-the texture of the paper, the shape of the font, the heaviness of the book, stiffness of the binding. E-readers lose that part of the reading experience.

What are your thoughts on self-publishing?
Again, I'm ambivalent. One one hand, not enough self-publishers take time to thoroughly examine their material. I don't enjoy reading books that read like something I wrote in high school, and its annoying to have to sort through a lot of chaff to find the value--rarely will I read a self-published work. On the other hand, I like that there is an avenue available that circumvents the big publishers.

Any literary aspirations?
Only after I get fired from my current job.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Forbes 25 Reviewers - #1 Karen

Today's guest is Karen.  Karen has been the reigning queen of Goodreads for the last few years.

How did you discover Goodreads?
my friend dana sent me an invitation waaaaay back in 2007, because she thought it was something i would be into, since i love the books so much. the rest is history...

What have been your most memorable Goodreads experiences?
ooh. well, you always remember the trolls, the meltdowns, the rivalries, the goodreads-memes, the gossip in the secret groups, the really controversial reviews; and it's all small-potatoes-cliqueishness, but honestly, most of my social life occurs here on goodreads, as sad as that is. i have met some amazing people on here, and been exposed to so many books and reviewers, and i think that is my most memorable realization: that this site could be more than a place to catalog books; it could be a place where a real community could form. i never thought it would be anything more than a place to chat about books with people i already knew,so it's pretty amazing how it has opened up for me.

Name one reviewer not in the Forbes 25 that people should be aware of.
i love blair's reviews. she is always one step ahead of me - finding and reading books before i have even heard of them. there have been so many times i have heard a whisper about a book and come on here to check it out only to find her with her flag already in the soil - BOOM! she's great, and we have very similar tastes, and a shared love of secret history, so she is invaluable to me.

What was your initial reaction to Amazon buying Goodreads?
honestly, it was "oh, fuck." i work for bn, so i was concerned i would have to leave the site which would be devastating for me. i was also concerned about how the reviews/reviewers would be treated because amazon has certain...priorities when it comes to their reviewer guidelines that, if implemented here, would seriously ruin everything that makes this site special, and i abhor the way the steamroll small publishers.i mean, so far, so good, but i am still a little wary. i liked that this place was "just" a place for booknerds to talk about books, and now there is this corporate shadow over it, but we'll see how it goes.

How many books do you own?
that number has not yet been invented. which is glib, but i honestly don't know. it's kind of a problem, actually. well over 5,000, which was where it was at the last time i counted, years and years ago.

Who is your favorite author?
ugh. the dreaded question. i will say donald harington, because i love him like candy and kittens smooshed together, and he could really use the exposure.

What is your favorite book of all time?
another dreaded question! i'll say jude the obscure. today.

What are your thoughts on ebooks?
heh. okay, well, i used to be so opposed to them. like, up-in-arms-frothing-at-the-mouth opposed.i even wrote a review wherein i bemoaned their existence. but then i started realizing that a lot of authors were publishing little novellas and things within the universe of their print novels only as e-books, and it really started to make sense as an alternative to publishers allowing backlist titles to go out of print (for example, child across the sky, one of my favorite books ever, is available on nook, but not in a print edition),and i discovered netgalley and edelweiss, and now i actually work for, making booklists for nook. so, it's kind of a complete 180 for me.

What are your thoughts on self-publishing?
i think it is extraordinarily difficult sometimes for authors to get their foot in the door with major publishers, and i applaud anyone with the balls to forge their own path and take the initiative and make their dreams come true. i mean,i have read a l ot of really crappy self-published books, but also some real gems. but that's true of all publishers.i think it is a wonderful option, particularly since the e-book option makes it so much easier and cheaper.

Any literary aspirations?
nope. i am a reader. reviews are all i have in me.

How does it feel to be queen?

oh, it's good to be queen.


ThreeThree by Jay Posey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When he runs into a woman and child on the run, gun-toting bounty hunter Three finds himself escorting them across a post-apocalyptic wasteland and protecting them from genetically altered warriors, brain-hackers, and the Weir, glowing-eyed ghoul-like creatures that stalk the night. Can Three stop the people following Wren and his mother and get them to safety or will they join the ranks of the undead?

Official Business: I got this print ARC from Angry Robot in exchange for reviewing it. Thank you, Angry Robot!

When I first saw the cover of Three and read the description, I knew I had to read it and I was not disappointed. Three is a post-apocalyptic adventure tale in the vein of The Road Warrior, only with fewer vehicles and a higher tech level and body count. Actually, it feels more like a Western than anything else, despite cybernetics, mutants, and things of that nature.

Three, the hero of the tale, is cast from the Man with No Name mold, a deadly man hiding a secret. Cass, is a chemic, a drug-dependent fighter who is running on fumes. Wren, her son, is a six year old with some pretty amazing abilities. The men hunting them, Asher and his crew, are a power-hungry bunch of brainhackers and fairly colorful to boot. Dagon was by far the most interesting and well rounded of the antagonists. The lesser characters like jCharles, Mol, and Jackson were memorable enough for me to remember their names and mannerisms, long after there time in the story had passed.

The story goes from wasteland to wasteland, ruined city to ruined city, and the world is revealed gradually with not an infodump in sight. There are enough twists and secrets to keep things interesting, even when the good guys aren't hiding in the dark or getting into bloody battles. The world feels lived in, not like a collection of movie sets strung together.

The writing is a notch above what I expected when I picked up the book, a step beyond the workmanlike prose one normally gets in genre fiction like this. Posey knows how to pour on the tension, what with the Weir wandering the night and bad guys always on Three and gang's heels.

I may sound like an old softie but my favorite part of the book was Three's relationship with Wren, going from uncaring loner to a surrogate father figure to the boy over the course of the book. There were a few touching moments between the two.

4.5 stars. Now I'll twiddle my thumbs until the next Legends of the Duskwalker book comes out.

Also posted on Goodreads

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Resurrected Classic from Dan J. Marlowe

Reviewed by James L. Thane
Four out of five stars

His name might be Roy Martin; it might be Earl Drake; it might be Chet Arnold, or it might be something else altogether. In the end, we never know and it doesn't really matter. What counts is the fact that he's a classic pulp fiction criminal--a bank robber in this particular case--in a book that's one of the best examples of the genre.

Martin/Drake/Arnold is the creation of Dan J. Marlowe, a writer who began his career relatively late in life and whose career ended all too soon in 1977, when he contracted a mysterious case of amnesia and was no longer able to write. For a brief span, though, from the late 1950s through the mid-1970s, he produced a number of pulp novels, some of which he wrote alone and others which he wrote with a co-author.

The Name of the Game Is Death is generally considered to be his best book, and it's a terrific read--a lean story, stripped to the bone that pulls you in from the opening page and races through to the startling conclusion. It starts with a bank robbery in Phoenix that goes bad, although "Martin" and one of his partners manage to escape with $178,000--a pretty good haul in 1962.

But three people are dead, including the third robber and a couple of bank guards. Worse, from Martin's perspective, is the fact that he's been shot in the arm and can't travel. With their plans shot all to hell, Martin will lay low and attempt to heal while his remaining partner, Bunny, takes the loot to a small town in Florida. Martin will catch up when he can and in the meantime, Bunny will occasionally send him money to live on care of General Delivery.

Briefly, things go as planned, but then one day, there's no envelope at General Delivery on the scheduled day, and none appears thereafter. Martin trusts his partner implicitly, which means that something has gone badly wrong in Florida.

Once recovered from his wound, Martin makes his way cross country to Florida where he becomes Chet Arnold, a tree surgeon. Having established himself in the community, he begins searching for Bunny and the missing loot. Inevitably in a book of this sort, he will have to contend with brutal, crooked cops; sexy, treacherous dames and a host of other obstacles. But what sets this book apart from so many others of its day and genre is the skill that Marlowe brings to the effort. The plot is compelling; there's plenty of action; the characters are fully realized, and you once you start the book, you can't put the damned thing down until you reach the climax.

It's very unfortunate that Marlowe's career was cut so tragically short, and because his career was relatively brief, he's largely faded from view. But crime fiction fans owe a huge debt of gratitude to Charles Kelly who has done a great deal to resurrect Marlowe's reputation.

Kelly has recently written an excellent biography of Marlowe, Gunshots in Another Room: The Forgotten Life of Dan J. Marlowe, and he has provided an introduction to a new edition of The Name of the Game Is Death which has just been re-released by Stark House in a double volume alone with another Marlowe classic, One Endless Hour. As a result of Kelly's efforts Dan J. Marlowe is enjoying another moment in the sun, and those who love classic hard-boiled pulp fiction will certainly want to find the new Stark House edition of these books.

Zombies Vs. The World

World War Z

Reviewed by Kemper
3 out of 5 undead stars

I’m scratching my head as to why Hollywood even bothered buying the rights to the World War Z novel by Max Brooks because the film version bears so little resemblance to the original that there really wasn’t any reason to call it an adaptation. Since it’s written as the collected accounts from many people all over the world after the zombie war, it seemed like making some kind of Ken Burns style faux-documentary would be the way to go, but instead they went with the more traditional structure of a single movie star as the hero.

If they didn’t want to use the style that made the book unique, then why even associate the two?  It’s not like a movie featuring Brad Pitt fighting zombies would be a tough sell so it seems odd that they’d risk alienating fans by making a movie that doesn’t use the elements that made the book stand out.  Reports of extensive reshooting with a revised script after the film was supposed to be done weren’t inspiring a lot of confidence either. However despite these issues, the movie is actually pretty good.  Go figure.

Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) used to be an investigator for the United Nations who spent time in some of the most dangerous places in the world.  Now he’s living in Philadelphia with his wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and their two daughters.  As they start their commute on an ordinary day, a traffic jam suddenly turns into chaos as hordes of dead people start attacking and biting the living.  Lane and his family barely manage to escape the city, and his old boss at the UN (Fana Mokoena) arranges to have them brought to a US naval ship in the Atlantic

The zombie outbreak is worldwide and the living people are losing the fight. Communication is breaking down and entire nations are being quickly overwhelmed.  The best guess is that a virus is to blame and finding its origin is the key to stopping the zombies. The only clue is an email that came from a US military base in South Korea before everything went to hell, and Gerry is recruited to go with a young doctor (Elyes Gabel) and a team of soldiers to track the source of the virus.  Gerry’s mission takes him around the world, and the zombies are a constant danger everywhere he goes. 

Zombie movies usually focus on a small group of people dealing with the threat and while the breakdown of society is a constant factor, this is the first time we’ve had a big budget movie trying to show the scope of what that would be like.  World War Z succeeds in this for the most part with big action sequences during Gerry’s travels that highlight the panic and chaos.

One thing that really sells the threat is how the zombies are done.  The movie uses the fast type instead of the more traditional slow ones, and they attack in swarms.  These zombies come at their victims with snapping teeth and will throw themselves off a building to get at someone.  They’re genuinely scary and when hordes of them start to overrun a location, it’s easy to believe that even the various military forces can’t hold them off for long.

Pitt’s performance also helps anchor the movie in a recognizable reality.  Gerry’s background in various hotspots makes it credible that he knows how to work his way through a collapsing world without making him seem like an unbelievable bad-ass, and since he only went on the mission because his family would be kicked off the ship if he didn’t, it makes him a reluctant hero we can relate to.

Unfortunately, the movie lets down a bit in the last act when we go from the large scale segments in places like Jerusalem to Gerry playing a cat-and-mouse game in a laboratory complex that’s infested with zombies.  It’s a tense segment, but it’s anti-climatic after we’ve seen wholesale carnage around the globe.  Reducing the ending to just Gerry and a few others in a confined space feels much less ambitious than the rest of the film, and I wonder if the extra filming had to limit the scope for time and money reasons.  It’s also odd that the zombies can suddenly tell that any random noise is made by living people and not the undead when they’re bumping into walls and squawking all over the building.

While it’s still disappointing to not get a more faithful version of the book with its comprehensive view of a world at war with zombies, this is still an entertaining action horror movie that gives at least some flavor of what that fight would look like.

Meet the Shelf Inflicted Staff - Amanda

Today's guest is the notorious book pimp, Amanda.  She also posts at This Insignificant Cinder

How did you discover Goodreads?
Oddly enough, through My Space. I was trying to find something that would display what I was reading on my profile and stumbled upon Goodreads. The rest (including My Space) is history.

What have been your most memorable Goodreads experiences?
The positives have been e-mails from authors thanking me for my reviews, as well as bantering and biblio-bonding with the ragtag band of misfits who eventually became the Shelf Inflicted staff. The negatives have been the trolls, who are apparently legion and skulking in the dark reaches of cyberspace, just waiting for someone to take a poke at Orson Scott Card. On the plus side, it’s fun to verbally swat at them.

Name one reviewer not in the Forbes 25 that people should be aware of.
If you’re looking for insightful and honest reviews about science fiction and urban fantasy, Carol’s your gal. I love how she breaks a story down and thoughtfully evaluates the positives and the negatives. She calls them as she sees them, with no apologies. I’ve dodged many a bad book because of her and discovered many a treasure.

What was your initial reaction to Amazon buying Goodreads?
I believe my initial reaction was, “Holy shit snacks!!!" . . . and then I went back to reading my book. I’m not as anti-Amazon as a lot of people, but I do have concerns with how my data is used and censorship/creative control of my reviews. However, so far, so good.

How many books do you own?
Roughly 1,000, give or take a few tucked away into nooks and crannies I've forgotten about. Fortunately, I'm married to a man of many talents--among them being the ability to build sturdy, kick ass bookshelves to my specifications.

Who is your favorite author?
For fantasy, Neil Gaiman. For modern literature, Tim O'Brien. For all time, Ernest Hemingway (with apologies to Stephanie).

What is your favorite book of all time?

I know that for most readers this is the equivalent of asking, “Who is your favorite child?” But I can say without hesitation: The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. It was the first time I read a book that took me into the heart of an experience so utterly outside of the tiny little life I lead. Before that, literature was just escapism or dealt with issues that I at least had a touchstone for understanding. However, O’Brien’s exploration of the fear, the courage, the brotherhood, the awe, and the horror of the war in Vietnam was the first time I read something and thought, "This. This matters." It's not just a story--it's a visceral experience.

What are your thoughts on ebooks?
To paraphrase Community’s Jeff Winger: To me, e-readers are like Paul Rudd. I see the appeal, and I would never take it away from anyone. But I would also never stand in line for it.

What are your thoughts on self-publishing?
I like the freedom it gives writers to put themselves out there without waiting to be discovered, but my experience with reading self-published hasn’t exactly been pleasant. It’s probably given me a better appreciation for what a good editor can do for a writer.

Any literary aspirations? 
Zip. Zero. Zilch.

What is your ideal super villain lair?
It’s not a super villain lair, but I remember that, even as a small child, I thought, “If I ever rule the world, it shall be from Castle Grayskull.” I completely understand Skeletor’s desire for it—that place oozes sinister.

The Rook by Daniel O'Malley

Daniel O'Malley
Reviewed by Carol
Recommended for: people who like all those movies I mention
read count: twice, sure to be more
Finally! First great read of 2013. Admittedly, that's because I'm hoarding Days of Blood & Starlight and The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There like a survivalist with canned goods, or a chocoholic with a secret stash of Toblerone in the back of the freezer (not that I'm speaking from experience). And while I tempered down my five stars to a more reasonable four, the fact is this was a perfect read the first time through.I'll save the detailed summary; this is one time when the blurb gets it right. It starts rather hard-core action movie: woman coming to consciousness in a midst of a circle of bodies, no memory of self or events, dripping from the rain and blood. She discovers an envelope in her pocket from the Myfanwy-That-Was. Soon it evolves into a James Bond-style government agency spy thriller crunched with identity disorientation of The Bourne Identity. Halfway through I realize O'Malley is channeling The Hitchhiker's Guide, or at least Men In Black, and that the flashbacks felt a lot like X-Men. (I'm finding it disturbing that I'm describing a book by referencing movies. Is that acceptable in a book review?)
Narrative shifts between letters from Myfanwy-That-Was to the current scramble of Myfanwy-That-Is to solve the mystery of who is trying to kill her. While that had the potential to become a tiresome device, O'Malley uses it well, giving context to Newbie just before she needs to use it, cuing the reader at the same time. Sometimes Senior relates an incident, sometimes she lays out structure and organization, or gives a dossier on other characters. For the most part it was able to maintain pace and tension through the shifts. At times, O'Malley is tongue-in-cheek: right as Myfanwy thinks, "I suppose I should do some more homework on how this organization actually works," the next section is from one of the letters, under the title of "How This Organization Actually Works." I actually found it rather delightful, highlighting the mental similarities in how they process information.

As the story develops, Myfanwy starts to take on her own personality, more abrupt and direct than the prior, who she now thinks of as "Thomas," their last name. I thought the transition between the two was handled well, and as the story developed, I cared just as much about what happened to Thomas and wanted to know her story, even though I knew where it would end (here's where my habit of peeking at the end of books comes in handy; it's kind of like the book is a spoiler for it's own self because we know Thomas is 'dead,' or at least, gone). I enjoyed Myfanwy's character breaks, and it set the stage for gentle humor as she responded almost--but not quite--in character:
"An emergency has emerged, and both you and Rook Gestalt have been summoned to an interrogation," the secretary replied in an unruffled manner.
"Oh. Okay." Myfanwy looked down and her desk, thought for a moment, and then looked up. "Are we getting interrogated, or are we doing the interrogating?" she asked.
Then there is:
"It's time for your dinner with Lady Farrier."
"Oh, crap," she sighed, then noticed Clovis's shocked expression. "I mean, oh, good, this should be delightful."

The humor isn't out front in the beginning, which now strikes me as one of the delightful parts about the writing. Tightly wound around an action core at the start, O'Malley sneaks in humor one subtle comment at a time, gradually becoming more absurd. The first hint that we aren't in London any more comes about three chapters in when we meet Rook Gestalt, really one of the more innovative creations in sci-fi/fantasy literature that I've happened upon. One mind, four bodies. I found myself trying to wrap my head around that one (somewhat distracted by comparing it with Zaphod and his two heads) and just got rather smacked with the possibilities. By the end, the absurd veered out of control at a couple of points, but for the most part O'Malley was able to maintain the balance between chuckles and tension.

Before too long, the American version of the Court comes to call, and the subtlety gloves come off when the American Bishop Shantay and Myfanwy take on some fungus--after lunch, of course.
"'That is experience talking,' said Shantay. 'In these situations the glass is always half-empty.'
'Always,' confirmed the Bishop. 'Right until it fills up with some sort of spectral blood that grows into a demon entity.'

'I'll kill you first,' promised Myfanwy in a cold voice. 'I'll kill you twice if I feel like it.'

Truly riveting fun, exactly what I needed after an awful start to the week--it was the ideal book experience of immersion and diversion. Highly recommended to anyone who likes a dose of humor with their surreal action-spy-mystery thriller.

Four out of five stars. Or are they?