Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Stephen King needs no introduction and so I won't bother with it. However, as for my personal experience with the author I have never read a book from him that I loved. Just liked. Or didn't like too much. I have finally found the one a thoroughly enjoyed. I present, his newest release: Revival


Hardback copy
In a small New England town, over half a century ago, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls feel the same about Reverend Jacobs—including Jamie’s mother and beloved sister, Claire. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond based on a secret obsession. When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.

Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from the age of thirteen, he plays in bands across the country, living the nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll while fleeing from his family’s horrific loss. In his mid-thirties—addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate—Jamie meets Charles Jacobs again, with profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings.


I can finally say that I have found a Stephen King novel that I truly, truly love. Not liked. The novel's conclusion is terrifying. I was left thinking about my own destiny for several days after finishing it. What happens after it all ends? Jamie discovers the answer to this question and it's one that I dreaded so much, maybe because these thoughts plague everyone from time to time. People like to think that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe there's not. What made this novel utterly terrifying was not any monsters or psychos or any other 'horror' tropes. What made this novel terrifying was simply not knowing.

Who knew?

I'm very much aware that many King fans were disappointed thinking this story would be a straight horror novel, and if that's what you are expecting, don't bother with reading it. We don't get anything 'scary' until the last act. Let me give you the gist:

The story centers on Jamie from the age of six all the way into his sixties. You are introduced to his family, his town back in the 'good' old days, and life around a religious town and the new pastor in the neighborhood church. Charles Jacob. The man is fascinated with electricity and whenever he can, he applies his discoveries to his preaching. He has a wife and small child. Our main character loves him and so does the rest of the town until the TERRIBLE SERMON.

The terrible sermon was one of the reasons I enjoyed this novel. The thoughts and conclusion the Rev. states in the midst of grief are very similar to my own. I also grew up in a very Christian home and had a lot of questions. I enjoyed his speech but was saddened by the reason he came to it. Tragedy does make us see the world a lot differently. I won't reveal more than I have to in this review. I hate spoilers. Just know that the pastor ends up leaving town but also leaves a mark in little Jamie's heart and life.

Later, Jamie grows up to be a musician and is deep into drugs. A theme Stephen King uses a lot. You know what they say, draw from life experiences. However, this here is where the story lost a tad of momentum. Jamie's drugs and musical life turned the story into a whole different one. Not at all the novel we started out with, the one that had me reading the first act in a single night. The second act sat too long in secrecy and Jamie went on and on discussing old musicians and bands and you know, all that shit that starts in E. It got a tad tedious after a while. I was almost let down until Rev. Danny came back into the picture.

Throughout the novel we are hinted at the strange electricity Charles Jacobs is working with. One that has cured and been curing people for decades, but leaves aftereffects that in some cases can be fatal. Jamie grows more curious as he himself gets a volt dosage and well, Something Happened. The last act concentrates on finding out all the answers and the conclusion is one you are either going to love or hate.

The book as a whole had its ups and downs. Mostly ups. There were so many passages that I loved. The characters intrigued me. I would have liked to have seen more of the family instead of the musical people in Jamie's life. And I'm not completely convinced that Jamie would have gone out of his way to help Jacob at the end. But overall, the novel was a great read that I deeply recommend.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Culling

Robert Johnson is an Okie who moved to California later in life. He's studied film and became a screenwriter. He's won plenty of awards. The Culling is his first book.


Hardback copy
Carl Sims, a young virologist, discovers a plot hatched by a group of international scientists to cull, in a matter of weeks, two-thirds of the world's population - some 4.5 billion people, by releasing a deadly virus that kills two thirds of those it infects. Their goal is to reduce Earth's population from an unsustainable seven billion to two billion. What is he to do? Try to stop the conspiracy, or join it?

Horrific, yes, but what if this culling could prevent the extinction of some forty percent of our planet's flora and fauna? Or if he was certain it was the only way to prevent an even larger human die-off, incurring significantly more suffering, by the end of this century? Or if he were convinced it represented the only hope for humanity surviving at all? This is at the heart of this thriller, for these viruses do, in fact, exist.


The title alone drew me in to this little gem of a novel. Yes, some of us are very aware of how overpopulated the planet is, but culling the herd is most def an inhumane way to go about it. This novel takes a look at scientists who are looking at the bigger picture. Save the earth by taking out a good percentage of the reckless population who can't seem to stop breeding.

This actually got me thinking about deer. How every year we have a season where hunters are allowed to bring down the deer population. If we culled the human herds one has to admit we would be of a manageable size. One: people would stop having so many children if the fear of them dying this or the next year was eminent. Two: we would have a smaller population if a lot of us got wiped out yearly. TIs it more humane or inhumane than dying from a deadly virus? Okay, I got a little carried away there. Back to the novel.

Carl Sims is a virologist who works for the CDC. He gets sent on a mission to investigate a potential outbreak of the flu in China. Jenna, epidemiologist, and two interns have to figure this out while not getting contaminated and not getting killed. The first half of the novel has us dealing with the Chinese outbreak, and I enjoyed the facts the novel tries to tell the reader through Carl and Jenna's discussions with the interns. Yes, it was not as subtle as it could have been, but I enjoyed it, nonetheless.

Later, Carl gets sick and travels back to the USA and decides to leave quarantine and go to Alaska to find out about a deadlier strain of Influenza. This part had me a little annoyed with Carl. He is a virologist. He knows how important it is to take safety precautions. His delusional belief that he wasn't sick was a little too unreal for someone who knows how his job works.

The other half of the novel gets to the reveals, and I can't expand on them because of spoilers. I understood the motives and the reasons for the scientists wanting to do what they did and I was not surprise with who the scientist were because the novel doesn't try to hide much. What you see is what you get all the way until the ending which was  sad but so real. I enjoyed this novel.

About the characters, I liked them all. They were all diverse and all had their own reasons for doing what they were doing. No, they were not likable. Not all. But they were real. Even Carl's ex girlfriend, when she lost her cool and wanted to make the antiviral so bad that she does something seen as evil, its explainable. I saw her point. Her reasoning. The novel does spend time with a few folks at the CDC that I didn't know enough or cared enough to remember, but they were crucial as well. Everyone had a purpose in this story. No characters wasted. From the interns who needed to be imparted knowledge, to the wheelchair bound friend who helped get Carl out of a lot of bad situations.

About the plot, first, I loved the narration. I love the pan in and pan out feel of every spot Carl finds himself in. The first chapter, the intro, was perfect and it set the tone for the rest of the novel. A mosquito comes down to poor village in South America and bites our host, our MC. From there on we go on a trip from country to country and scenario to scenario. All at a great pace.

Good book.

Monday, December 8, 2014


Robin Cook, again...

My last review was my first introduction to the doctor/writer. It was an old eighties novel: Outbreak. The back cover had the picture of the prolific man and his optimistic smile. Although Outbreak was not as good as I expected or wanted, it was not bad, either. I also happen to be one of those readers that if by chance discovers a 'new' author and their style or themes interest me, I will give it another go, or three, or four or...oh Dean Koontz. But I digress, point is, if I liked you a first time, I will read you a second. And so here I am again with the New York Times Bestselling Author. This time I picked a newer book: Nano


Hardback copy
 Intrigued by the promise of the burgeoning field of medical technology and the chance to clear her head, Pia takes a job at Nano, LLC, a lavishly funded, security-conscious nanotechnology insititute in the picturesque foothills of the Rockies. Nano, LLC is ahead of the curve in the competitive world of molecular manufacturing, including the construction of microbivores, tiny nano-robots with the ability to gobble up viruses and bacteria.

But the corporate campus is a place of secrets. She's warned by her boss not to investigate the other work being done at the gigantic facility, nor to ask questions about the source of the seemingly endless capital that funds the institute's research. And when Pia encounters a fellow employee on a corporate jogging path, suffering the effects of an apparent cardiac arrest and seizure, she soon realizes she may have stumbled on a possible Nano LLC human guinea pig. Is the tech giant on the cusp of one of the biggest medical discoveries of the twenty-first century—a treatment option for millions—or have they already sold out to the 
highest bidder?


I finished reading the book a week before I started this review. Why? I had mixed feelings and wanted to sit on it for a while, let it marinate. In the mean time I finished another book that was quite good, and solely because I want to get to that review, I finally decided to finish this one...or start it. Either way, here I am.

What initially intrigued me about Nano was the topic. Nanotechnology happens to interest me. Maybe because the field hasn't been explored enough--or maybe I just haven't read enough books on the subject. Intrigued as I was, I was even more drawn to this book because the author is a doctor. I figured Cook would explore the topic in depth and maybe even teach me something I didn't know. Wishful thinking, I guess.

I did enjoy some scenes and the science aspects. Yes, there were great scenes and mysteries early on that captivated me enough that I kept reading, but ultimately I was disappointed.

Let me start with the plot, Pia is a young woman employed by a corporation working on new treatments and technology in an unethically manner. Pia is like a dog with a bone and once she discovers something is off, she goes to incredible lengths to find out what exactly happened, which reminded me of the character in the last Robin Cook book I read who pretty much did the same thing. Except that Pia was ridiculously hard to like. Everyone loved her. Everyone wanted to be in her company. But she was a loner and not a social person. They explain the reasons for her detachment, and still I found it hard to believe everyone would want to be friends or even have in their life some girl who didn't like anyone. I was not a Pia fan. I did not root for her and more than once I wanted something terrible to happen to her, or better yet, have George--her friend--tell most of the story.

George, her doctor friend, disappeared after the first few chapters and didn't return until the end when Pia needed him and then another time in the middle where she needed him again. That was his whole character, coming in for the rescue. Pia used everyone in her life to get what she wanted. Her boss, her friend, her other friend who seemed to have been set up to be a love interest and later we discover that not to be the case, and the reason for this was not as much a surprise but an unnecessary twist. There was no plot requisite for us not to know sooner or for Paul to have had a great interest in her. Pia also put herself in dangerous situations in order to discover facts that were not crucial to her life. I had the same problem with Cook's last novel. I didn't really understand the MC's motive.

The other characters were not very rounded or interesting except Berman, the CEO. Essentially, the bad guy. He had a great motive for everything he did. His research would eventually lead to a the cure to Alzheimer or so he was aiming for that goal, which ran in his family. He had some rich, book, movie, man flaws. He wanted to conquer and dispose. Not the most original, but believable. He kept me intrigued.

Paul and George were one in the same. Two doctors. Two friends of Pia. Two men concerned with finding her when she put herself in one dangerous situation after another. They gave her sound advice. She didn't listen, and yet, they still blamed themselves when the ultimate bad happens--again. George recruits the help of her father who had never really been in her life only once before. In another book. This was not Pia's first book. She was kidnapped in the last book and her father tried to help her get out of that situation, too. Same plot here.

The ending was the most disappointing part of the story. We have a new setting. London. Great. We have new characters--last minute--but cool and so many opportunities for a kind of ending like the ones Cook is known for, rapid fire, a real thriller. But no. The ending had the main villain as nothing more than an incompetent fool. New villains took his place, and Pia became utterly useless as all the 'smarts' she had used thus far were thrown out the window when she again and again refused to cooperate after having no leverage. I was surprised she didn't die sooner or in the book that came before Nano. The ending was fuzzy. You are supposed to guess if our MC made it or not. I didn't care.