Friday, January 22, 2010

The Judas Strain by James Rollins

Paperback 560 pages




From the depths of the Indian Ocean, a horrific plague has arisen to devastate humankind - unknown, unstoppable...and merely a harbinger of the doom that is to follow.

Operatives of the shadowy covert organization Sigma Force, Dr. Lisa Cummings and Monk Kokkalis search for answers to the bizarre affliction aboard a cruise liner transformed into a makeshift hospital. But a sudden and savage attack by terrorist hijackers turns the mercy ship into a floating bio-weapons lab.

Time is an enemy as a worldwide pandemic grows rapidly out of control. As the seconds tickcloser to doomsday, Sigma's commander, Gray Pierce, must join forces with the beautiful assassin who tried to kill him - following the trail of the most fabled explorer in history into the terrifying heart of an astonishing mystery buried deep in antiquity and in humanity's genetic code.

My Take:

It would be a crime if you deny yourself the pleasure of reading a James Rollins novel. This book is amazing. The cast of characters seem real, not fictional cardboard cutouts. The novel stands alone, but to truly appreciate the amazing creation of Rollins, you should start at the beginning of the Sigma series. Great read, great action. You will find yourself rushing out to buy or borrow the next book when you finish reading the last few words of this one.

I give it a 9.8

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Collectors by David Baldacci

Hardcover 436 pages




In Washington DC, where power is everything and the few have too much of it, four eccentric men with mysterious pasts call themselves the Camel Club. Their mission is to find out what is really going on behind the Capitol's closed doors.

The assassination of the US Speaker of the House has shaken the nation. And the Camel Club have found a chilling connection with the death of the Library of Congress's rare books room, whose body was found in a locked vault where seemingly no one could have harmed him.

Oliver Stone, the unofficial leader of the Camel Club, drawing on his experience while working undercover for the government under a different name and his acute deductive powers, discovers that someone is selling highly classified secrets to America's enemies.

My Take:

The prose is something you'd expect to find in a high school creative writing class. It is good enough not to immediately put down, but not so great you rush to the phone to tell everybody to buy the book.

The story saves the day. Actually, there are two stories. One is a very interesting, though somewhat unbelievable con perpetrated against a New Jersey casino owner, the other involves the Speaker's death and the selling of top secret information. The two story lines never connect directly. The con artist becomes involved with the Camel Club after meeting them at the funeral of the Library of Congress librarian. Only one of the story lines is resolved, the other is left as a cliffhanger for what I'm sure will be the next novel in The Camel Club series. Or so I hope it will be.

I rate it a 5.0.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Black Order by James Rollins

Paperback 541 pages




In Copenhagen...a suspicious bookstore fire propels Commander Gray Pierce on a relentless hunt across four continents - and into a terrifying mystery surrounding horrific experiments once performed in a now-abandoned laboratory buried in a hollowed-out mountain in Poland.

In the mountains of a remote monastery, Buddhist monks inexplicably turn to cannibalism and torture - while Painter Crowe, director of Sigma Force, begins to show signs of the same baffling, mind-destroying malady...and Lisa Cummings, a dedicated American doctor, becomes the target of a brutal, clandestine assassin.

Now only Gray Pierce and Sigma Force can save a world suddenly in terrible jeopardy. Because a new order is on the rise - an annihilating nightmare growing at the heart of the greatest mystery of all: the origin of life.

My Take:

Another great book in the Sigma Force series. This is a first class roller coaster ride reaching from one end of the globe to the other. You will wish some of these characters were real so you could meet them at the local bar for a beer or a beverage of your chose. James Rollins doesn't disappoint in this amazing book. As long as he continues turning out gems like this one, I will always be a fan.

I rate this book a 9.6

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Map of Bones by James Rollins

Paperback 560 pages




The crime is inhumanly cruel with horrific consequences both unthinkable and inevitable. During a service at a cathedral in Cologne, Germany, a band of armed intruders dressed in monk's robes unleashes a nightmare of blood and terror, ruthlessly gunning down worshippers and clergy alike. The killers haven't come for the church's gold and valuable artwork, but for a priceless treasure secreted within: the preserved bones of the Three Magi who once came to pay homage to a newborn savior. As they flee the carnage they have wrought, they carry a prize that could reshape the world.

The Vatican is in turmoil, and Lieutenant Rachel Verona of Rome's carabinieri is assigned to lead the investigation. But no ordinary police organization alone can deal with the bizarre theft and massacre. Sigma Force - an elite covert arm of the U.S. Defense Department - is called in under the command of Grayson Pierce. New to Sigma, Pierce assembles a crack team of scientific and Special Forces operatives to unravel the mystery of the stolen bones, and together they set out on a twisting trail through a labyrinth of clues and dark revelations that carry them to the sites of the Seven Wonders of the World - and to the doorstep of the mystical and terrifying Dragon Court.

An ancient, secret fraternity of alchemists and assassins, the master-adepts of the Dragon Court have plans for the sacred remains that will alter the future of humankind in devastating ways that only the maddest of zealots could desire - and they will let nothing and no one stand in their way. Suddenly Pierce, Verona, and the Sigma team are the hunted as well as the hunters, forced to use every skill they possess to survive as they follow the bones to the ultimate confrontation between darkness and light - in a lost place of history where science and religion will unite to unleash a horror not seen since the beginning of time.

My Take:

Put down what ever you are reading at this moment, buy this book, and read it. It will grab you right from the horrific beginning (what is more horrific than an entire church congregation being gunned down in cold blood?). The book is a wild roller coaster ride from beginning to end. The writing is top notch. Word of warning, reading this book will cause you to lose track of time. You will forget you are reading as you turn page after page late into the night. If you like Tom Clancy, Dan Brown, and Clive Cussler, you will love James Rollins.

I rate this book a 9.8.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Jake's Wake by John Skipp

Paperback 317




Pastor Jake promised his followers everlasting life, he just didn't say what kind. So when the small town televangelist and con man climbs out of his coffin at his own wake, it becomes Judgment Day for everyone gathered to mourn or celebrate his death. Jake is back in rotting flesh filled with anger and vengeance. And accompanied by demons even more frightening then himself. What follows is a long night of endless terror, a blood drenched rampage by the man not even death could stop.

My Take:

A very simple, fast read. I would have loved this book as a young teen-aged boy, as an adult, it loses some of its lore, but it is still a good read. It is meant to be a horror novel, but I couldn't help but chuckle at parts. It isn't scary, it is more like a slasher flick so full of blood and guts it becomes mundane. You are not shocked by all the bloodshed, but expect it.

If you are looking for the classic horror novel you don't dare to read alone at night, this book isn't for you. If you just want a fun read, you will like it.

I rate it a 6.7

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Pines by Robert Dunbar

Paperback 333 pages




Deep within the desolate Pine Barrens of New Jersey, a series of gruesome murders draws ever nearer to an isolated farmhouse where a woman struggles to raise her disturbed son. The boy seems to have a psychic connection to an evil presence deep in the dark forest. The old timers know the truth of the legendary creature that stalks the Pine Barrens, and how savage it can be.

My Take:

With very small print and long winded prose, the book reads a lot longer than its 333 pages. But don't let that stop you from picking up this book. Despite its short comings, the story is amazing from the start. Like only the best horror writers, Dunbar will cause you to keep your lights on for weeks after reading this novel. You will also be wary to step outside after dark. If, while traveling through New Jersey, I get a flat tire late at night, I will think twice about pulling off to the side of the road to change it. I would drive for miles looking for a well lit populated area to stop. And I still wouldn't get out of my car. I 'd call triple A and let them change it. Horror fans give this book a try. You won't be sorry.

I rate it a 6.2

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Executive Power by Vince Flynn

Paperback 512 pages




As special advisor on counterterrorism to CIA director Dr. Irene Kennedy, Mitch Rapp is ready to fight the war on terrorism from CIA headquarters rather than the front line. That is, until a platoon of Navy SEALs, sent to the Philippines to save an American family kidnapped by radical Islamic terrorists, is caught in a deadly ambush. The mission had been top secret -- so who told the enemy? All evidence points to the State Department and the Philippine embassy. But a greater threat still lurks. An unknown assassin working closely with the highest powers in the Middle East is bent on igniting war. Now, with the world watching his every move, will Rapp be able to overcome this anonymous foe and once again keep the flames of war from raging?

My take:

This is basically two short novels put together to make a longer novel. First we have the family rescue in the Philippines followed by a rogue Palestinian putting together a plan that he hopes will force the world to establish a Palestinian State inside Israel. Mitch Rapp is involved heavily in both scenarios. Normally, Flynn takes you on a wild fast paced ride. This time, the wild is ride, but the pace is not fast. Sometimes the action flows at a snails pace. Several times I checked to see how many pages I had left. Even the ending was lacking. The end seemed rushed and anti climatic, very un-Flynn like. Overall it is a good read, though not one I would read again.

I rate it a 5.7.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Seperation of Power by Vince Flynn

Paperback 544 pages




A changing of the guard at the CIA attracts some corrupt politicians with eyes on the White House. Unfortunately for the bad guys, upright CIA agent Dr. Irene Kennedy is tapped to replace her dead boss, thwarting their illicit fund-raising plans. Sen. Hank Clark enlists Irene's second in command to discredit her and the president. Clark and his cronies are also eager to deal with CIA special ops assassin Mitch Rapp, who's stuck on desk duty after nearly losing his life on a previous assignment and seems ripe to be taken out. Mitch accompanies his girlfriend, White House reporter Anna Rielly, to Italy, where he meets up with his former lover, freelance assassin Donatella Rahn. When Rahn is shot, Mitch uncovers a plot linked to the men behind the threats to Irene and the CIA. Meanwhile, reports surface that Saddam Hussein has acquired nuclear weapon components from North Koreans, who are assembling them in a factory buried beneath a Baghdad hospital. This calls for a gutsy mission, one that entails stopping Saddam while avoiding the PR nightmare that bombing a hospital would cause. Irene pulls Mitch into the plan to deal with Baghdad while she grapples with Congress.

My Take:

Great book from page one. You can't help but wonder if the politicians in Washington behave the way Flynn portrays them. Unfortunately, after seeing what is going on with the current Health Care debate, I have to say yes. You get it all in this book. Political intrigue, military suspense, and personal drama. A top notch read that I highly recommend. But with Flynn, you need to start with his very first novel. So if you haven't read Flynn before, don't start with this one.

I rate this novel a 9.1

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Third Option by Vince Flynn

Paperback 432 pages




The Third Option is the dark, dangerous world of covert operations where governments use agents to kill their enemies without sanctioning their activities. Mitch Rapp, a member of the Orion Team, has lived by the rules of the game for a decade. Now that he is in love, Mitch wants to resign after years as a patriotic universal soldier.

His last assignment calls for him to assassinate a German industrialist helping Saddam Hussein rebuild the Iraqi nuclear arsenal. After completing the mission, one of his peers tries to eliminate Mitch, but fails to kill the operative. Alone and hunted, Mitch manages to return to the States to attempt to uncover the identity of the individual paying the assassination bills. When his enemy grabs his beloved girlfriend, Mitch vows to kill everyone who might be involved, even if it means raiding the Halls of Congress and the White House.

My Take:

Fast exciting read from page one. A real page turner. This novel starts out on fire and gets hotter as it races to a top notch conclusion. And the conclusion is a cliff hanger which will cause you to run out and purchase the next novel in this amazing series. What do you get when you combine Tom Clancy with Clive Cussler? You get Vince Flynn.

I rate this novel a 9.6.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Transfer of Power by Vince Flynn

Paperback 592 pages




The stately calm of the White House is shattered in a hail of gunfire. A massacre leaves dozens of innocent bystanders murdered. Hostages are taken. Terrorists have descended on the Executive Mansion. The president is evacuated to a bunker. CIA counter-terrorism operative Mitch Rapp scrambles to save as many lives as he can.

My take:

This is Mitch Rapp's debut. It is an incredible read, Flynn's best book so far even though this is only his second novel. Flynn's novels must be read in order, so please don't start with this one. His characters go from novel to novel. To understand fully what is going on, you must read them in order of publication.

The novel reminds my of one of the many television seasons of Fox's 24. However this novel came long before the 24 series and is much better. Be prepared to read this in one sitting. If you don't have the time to do so, then you will find yourself sneaking away as often as you can to get in a few minutes of reading. The action is that good. You won't be able to stop turning the pages to see if Rapp can save the hostages and the President, or if he has to sacrifice the President's life for the hostages or vice versa.

I rate this novel a 9.5. Go read it (after you have read his first novel that is).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Under The Dome by Stephen King

Hardcover 1072 pages

Science Fiction



On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester's Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener's hand is severed as "the dome" comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when — or if — it will go away.

Dale Barbara, Iraq vet and now a short-order cook, finds himself teamed with a few intrepid citizens — town newspaper owner Julia Shumway, a physician's assistant at the hospital, a select-woman, and three brave kids. Against them stands Big Jim Rennie, a politician who will stop at nothing — even murder — to hold the reins of power, and his son, who is keeping a horrible secret in a dark pantry. But their main adversary is the Dome itself. Because time isn't just short. It's running out.

My Take:

Despite the length, this book is a fast and easy read. It made me wish I owned a kindle or a nook, the book was heavy! This is not your typical Stephen King novel, there is no bogeyman hiding in the closet or beneath the bed that will cause you to keep your bedroom light on for weeks after finishing it. I classify this as a rehashing of his blockbuster 1978 novel The Stand. Instead of a superflu that kills almost the entire planet, you have one small Maine town cut off from the world by an invisible globe that perfectly follows the town's boundary. It is your classic good guy versus bad guy plot. In this case it is the concerned citizens (the good guys) versus the town's politicians (the bad guys). The corrupt politician's don't believe in letting a crisis go to waste (sounds familiar) decide to force their own agenda on the town by manufacturing and arranging further calamitous events. (Again, does this sound familiar?)

King grew up in a small Maine town, but he seems to have lost his feel for what it is like living in a small Maine town. I have lived in a small Maine town nearly my entire life. Unlike the fictional Chester's Mill, my town does not have a full time police force. We couldn't afford one even if we needed one. Our police protection comes from the state and county. Nor do we have our own hospital. We don't even have a small clinic. Only the big cities like Lewiston, Augusta, Bangor, and Portland have hospitals. Some of the smaller cities up north will have a hospital, but no town in Maine with a population under 2500 would have one. It is a stretch to give Chester's Mill a police department, and a hospital, but both are vital to the plot.

The end was a little weak as well. After investing time in a nearly 1100 page book, I expected a more imaginative ending. I wasn't dissatisfied with the ending, a little disappointed perhaps, but it seemed like he wasn't sure how to end it and took the easy way out.

Overall, a good read. I think all King fans will enjoy this one. I give it a 6.5

Monday, January 11, 2010

Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven

Paperback 640 pages


Science Fiction


A gigantic comet slams into Earth causing earthquakes a thousand times too powerful to measure on the Richter scale and tidal waves thousands of feet high. Cities are turned into oceans; oceans turned into steam. It is the beginning of a new Ice Age and the end of civilization. But for the terrified men and women chance has saved, it is also the dawn of a new struggle for survival--a struggle more dangerous and challenging than any they had ever known.

My Take:

This novel was co-authored by Jerry Pournelle. It is a slow read until the comet strikes the earth about a third of the way into the novel. But hold on for a fast heart pounding ride to the end after the strike. I have read this novel several times and would love to see this made into a movie. The events after the strike are what I imagine would actually happen in such an event, or a global crisis like a nuclear attack or other man made/terrorist related incident. You will see both the best humanity has to offer, and the worse. If you like this book, and I guarantee you will, you should read Stephen King's The Stand next which is in the same vein. If you already have read The Stand but haven't read Lucifer's Hammer, then by all means read this book. You won't be sorry. I rate this book a 7.5. I would give it a higher rating if it wasn't for the novel's slow start. But stick with it. You will be glad you did.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Paperback 384 pages



Rock musician Judas Coyne was a collector. The bizarre, the uncanny, the grotesque. A cookbook for cannibals. A used hangman’s noose. A snuff film. Many of these objects were gifts from the black-clad fans who made his metal band a legend and made him rich.

But not all. When his personal assistant told him there was a ghost for sale on the Internet, Jude knew he had to have it for his private collection, didn’t think twice. He should have. Jude has spent a lifetime evading ghosts -- of an abusive father, of the band mates he betrayed, of Anna, the suicidal girl he loved and abandoned. But this spirit is different. This one means to chase him to the edge of sanity.

His new acquisition -- delivered to his doorstep in a black heart-shaped box -- is the restless soul of Anna’s vengeful step-father. Craddock McDermott swore he would settle with Jude for ruining his daughter’s life. Soon, everywhere Jude turns, Craddock is there: behind the bedroom door; in Jude’s restored vintage Mustang; outside his window; on his widescreen TV. Waiting -- with a gleaming razor blade on a chain dangling from one bony hand.

My take:

You don't have to look at Joe Hill's picture on the inside back cover to know this is Stephen King's son (he looks just like his father at that age), all you need to do is read the first page. The writing is first rate. The characters are well developed. The story flows smoothly from scene to scene. If only Stephen King could write like this again! If you are a Stephen King fan, you will love this novel. I rate it a 9.5

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Reach by Nate Kenyon

Paperback. 276 pages.

Synopsis: Jess Chambers is a star student in Psychiatry... she has come to the attention of her professor, Dr. Jean Shelley. Dr. Shelley decides to put Jess to the test on a very special patient... a little girl by the name of Sarah who has spent her entire life in an institution, the girl is diagnosed as schizophrenic and has not spoken in months. "Just try to befriend her, see if she will open up to you" Dr. Shelley tells Jess. What they didn't count on was the door they opened by inviting Jess into Sarah's life, and what it would lead to in the end. After a series of twists and turns we come to an explosive ending.

I read this book in two days. It was an amazing read. Nate Kenyon reminds me of Stephen King. And it isn't because Kenyon is also from a small Maine town (Dresden, Maine which is also my wife's hometown). Like King, Kenyon brings his characters to life and, as only the great authors can, makes you forget you are reading. You feel like Jess Chambers is your best friend who you meet once or twice a week for coffee. And you wish you could jump into the pages to help her help Sarah. This is horror at its best. It has elements of King's novels Carrie and The Firestarter. While King has strayed away from horror with his last few novels, Kenyon jumps in and grabs the reigns.

I rate this novel an 9.5. Go buy it, rent it from the library, steal it. Just get the book and read it. You will love it.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Term Limits by Vince Flynn (spoiler alert)

Paperback. 640 pages. Published 1997

This is Vince Flynn's first published novel and only non Mitch Rapp novel to date.


In one bloody night, three of Washington's most powerful politicians are executed with surgical precision. Their assassins then deliver a shocking ultimatum to the American government: set aside partisan politics and restore power to the people. No one, they warn, is out of their reach -- not even the president.

And then things get very interesting. A leak in military intelligence causing soldiers to lose their lives caused former Navy Seals to conduct the assassinations and demand changes in the way the United States conducts business. Not wanting to let a good crisis go to waste (where have we heard that before), white house officials without the President's knowledge launch an operation to rid the country of a few more politicians they felt were hindering their own warped agenda believing the assassinations will be grouped with the original three. Freshman Congressman Michael O'Rourke learns the leader of the former Navy Seals is his good friend Scott Coleman. Torn between his loyalty to his country and his friend, O'Rourke quickly finds himself in a battle to prevent his friend from being framed for the murders he didn't commit.

This is an excellent first novel and a very fast read. I found the book very hard to put down and kept wanting to glance ahead to see if things worked out. If you like conspiracy theories, cloak and dagger, and military thrillers, you will like this book. I give it an 7.8. The score would be higher but in spots you can easily tell this is Vince Flynn's first novel.