Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Finished (E-Book) - "Revival" - Stephen King

I read a few Stephen King novels when I was younger (Cujo, Pet Sematary, The Shining, Carrie) and have sporadically read since ("11/22/63" being the most recent and best one in memory).
I picked up "Revival" after seeing it in the bookstores while Christmas shopping.

The story starts in the early '60's with a young boy in a small town playing in his yard when he meets the new town preacher, a young man on his first placement.  The story doesn't go in the necessarily obvious direction - the preacher isn't a child predator, but there are precursors to later weirdness.

The preacher has a wife and son, and has a hobby playing with electricity, which he uses to demonstrate lessons in his religious classes for the kids of the town.  He also uses electricity and placebo-psychology to cure a lost voice of the young boy's brother who was injured in a skiing incident.  A family accident and a loss of faith spell the end to the preacher's time in the small town.

All in all, the book builds across time - ends in the present time from the 1960's, with the young boy meeting the preacher in several different times and places over the next 40 years or so.

As with other King novels, you do get dragged into the story, and the characters are fleshed out enough to be interesting.

Unfortunately, I didn't find the climax of this book to be interesting enough to support the entire book - there is a few pages of occult-type action, but it doesn't explain the book incidents well enough to make the story cohesive.  What the "force" actually is, and why the narrator character is involved remains vague to me, partially to keep the force mysterious, but not in what I'd consider a consistent manner.

What I really found odd, was that the use of the "force" through the book was a cure for many ills (not all of them), with side-effects (depression and visions, enough to cause occasional suicides and incarcerations at mental institutions) in small numbers of the "cured".  The climax was using the "force" to bring someone back from the dead to see what was on the other side, which is substantially different.  It wasn't clear why this experiment caused the suicide-murder spree of the "cured" victims (except the narrator).

Maybe a more fleshed out explanation of the "banned" book might have helped, or some history of experiments in trying to bring back the dead would have rounded out the story (maybe some sub-plot of uncaught serial killer, all victims having terminal illnesses and bodies found with odd burns - a serial mercy-killer would have made great 24 hour news headlines).

Though I am not motivated to go back and look, it wasn't at all clear to me what the narrator's role was and why he was critical to the success of the experiment, not why (aside from greater understanding than the other "curees") he was able to survive.  I was quite disappointed in how "weak" the climax was and how relatively easy it was to stop.

Not high on my recommended list.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Finished (TV Series) - UK version of House of Cards (3 seasons, 12 episodes total)

I found the U.S. version of House of Cards a few months ago - liked it.  Looked for and found the BBC version (1990-1994) which was the first series based off a set of books.
Aside from the series being 20+ years old, the storyline is as compelling as the U.S. version, though, as some of the storylines are parallel, it is possible to guess some of the plot points.  The other issue is that the characters are, on the whole, older than the U.S. version, so it takes a little getting used to.

Definitely worth the watch, but you might want to wait until the conclusion of the U.S. series should there be other parallel outcomes.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Finished (Audiobook) - "Yes Please" - Amy Poehler

As a sucker for all things "SNL", I liked Amy Poehler's book.  Not that there were any huge relevations, but just a nice storyline about starting out and making SNL, and on to "Parks and Recreation".  The big bonus in the audiobook is that Amy reads it, but gets guest readers as well - Seth Meyers read a chapter that she coerced him to write for the book, her parents talked a bit, her producer from "Parks and Recreation" and random guests like Patrick Stewart and Kathleen Turner.
All in all, Amy comes across as a likeable person (no surprise) and provides a good role model for going after what you want.  Not much in the way of drug use (some passing use, and lots of opportunities given the world she lives in), but enough naughtiness to be and interesting and positive book for a late teenage girl as a keep trying story.
I did find it a very nice "listen" in the car - the last two books had bad Henry Kissinger impressionists, which grates after a while.  Amy was always easy to hear, interesting and relatively positive (even when she was re-visiting a poorly received SNL skit that caused her to feel guilty as it was a relatively low blow to a disabled young woman, though she didn't know it at the time of the sketch).
She referred to her ex husband as "Will", which I always thought of as Will Forte who was on SNL at the same time as Amy, though some really easy research shows it was Will Arnett, who I also find very entertaining ("Arrested Development" might be one of the all-time most excellent series).