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.