Storm Cycle - Iris Johansen, Roy Johansen Unlikeable characters + Unbelievable circumstances + Insipid writing = Storm Cycle

NOTE: I received this book as part of the Amazon Vine Program

Another Vine choice, this one seemed interesting as a high-tech thriller based in Egyptian mythology.
Rachel Kirby is desperately trying to find a cure for her ailing sister using a computer called Jonesy. But not only is someone--John Tavak--siphoning off some of the computer's processing power but someone is out to kill her. Furthermore, John Tavak in Egypt needs her help. Together, they search the ancient history, hoping that Peseshet may give them the key to save Rachel's sister's life...and their own.

I Liked:
I enjoyed seeing a real life computer concept (combining the unused processing power of normal computers) in a fictional setting. I know that this is used by SETI (our home computer even ran the program for many years) and I think it is an incredibly neglected concept in the fictional realm. Also, Egyptian history has always been intriguing. Whether it's their ages old architecture still standing, their hieroglyphics or some other inexplicable draw, the Egyptians have always held an appeal.
I appreciated the affection for Rachel and her sister, Allie, which reminds me a lot of the relationship I have with my own sister.
Also, the very end was kinda exciting. Probably the most exciting in the book.

I Did Not Like:
I have not violently hated a book this passionately since probably Batman: Fear Itself or more likely, Deck the Halls. I wanted to throw this book so hard against the wall no less than half a dozen times...within the first 50 pages. Why? Let me expand...
1. Rachel Kirby. In the beginning, I liked her (despite her rather glowing physical description: petite, delicate, face "glowing with energy and life"). But then, she takes a one way nose dive into Mary Sue territory when she gets a PhD in Computer Science (a notoriously challenging degree) at the ripe age of 15 and a SECOND doctorate in Medicine when she is 20 (page 18). Yes, she somehow whipped through twelve years of elementary, middle, and high school and 12+ years of college in 15 years of her life. As if this in and of itself didn't make her a Mary Sue, then the fact that every time anyone tries to cross her, she treats him or her extremely rudely (even the investigator who is trying to find her killer starting on page 11) and gets away with it (which I could understand maybe occasionally, but all the time and with each person?). Despite her poor behavior, she has flocks of fans, is highly respected even by her enemies, and pushes around the NSA like a doggie chew toy. Right. Mary Sue anyone?
2. John Tavak. He's the Indiana Jones of the book and, proving that the authors think the readers are stupid, is spelled out as such on page 307. He is one of the most contradictory characters I've ever seen! One minute, he's "mocking, unscrupulous, reckless, and completely self-absorbed" (page 99), then the next he is charming, kind, and witty! More disgustingly, Tavak can steal, cheat, spy, invade privacy, kill, and more and it's not bad, but when the "bad guys" do it, it is? What kind of shady morality is this? Not to mention, he is described as so smart that his IQ couldn't be measured (page 75). Uh, hello, did no one take a brief jaunt to Wikipedia and look up the IQ test? Number one, there is no "maximum limit" for the IQ. Furthermore, since when did a high IQ mean that a person was intelligent? Then, as if things weren't unbelievable enough, he starts Harvard classes at 10! What is it with this authors and these super smart babies? Has no one heard of a normal childhood? The last nail in the coffin of this Gary Stu is that, while he "was not a handsome man" (page 79), he is described as having "dark hair ruffled by the wind", looking "younger than thirty-eight" with a "tall, muscular body [that:] possessed a sort of rough elegance", having a "high impact" presence whose "(sometimes described as "electric") blue eyes glitter with...vitality and intelligence...[that:] was almost mesmerizing". This flowery description is enough to make me gag the first time around, but A) he isn't supposed to be attractive and B) we are constantly inundated with this description!
3. Other characters are equally frustrating. Ben, Tavak's friend, is insulted at every opportunity, down to the fact that Tavak let his drag along only to make Ben feel needed (aw, thanks guys!). Allie, Rachel's sister, is supposedly so sick...but how does she get Russian customs to let her in? Hal Demanski, the casino owner that Rachel Kirby cheats in a boring theft of Ocean's Eleven, would be great were it not for his over-the-top "Galahad" romance with Allie (lasting all of a few hours) and being described constantly as having "undeniable wit and intelligence" (which is jammed so far down our throats, we are gagging; see page 247 for yet another clunker mention). Nuri and the Russian are heavily stereotyped. Norton has the bite of a neutered dog. Sorens and Dawson I easily interchanged, not even sure who was saying what most of the time (not that I ultimately ended up caring). Emily is almost exactly like Rachel, only older and drunker. Simon and Val have no personalities other than to worship and lick Rachel's feet (oh, and Val is also super hot too). The detectives are hideously stereotyped, particularly the computer nerd who would give his front teeth to see his goddess...yes, Rachel Kirby! I didn't even bother to remember their names. The college kid who helps the detective is so hideously portrayed as a weed head, it makes me sick. And this is only a spattering! Where are the Tums?
4. The plot. Firstly, sending an email that is nearly the length of a novel to a woman on the other side of the world while stuck in the middle of a tomb with a man about to die (page 47)? Talk about taking a HUGE risk! Just the other day, my mother, who lives all of 17 miles away from me, sent me an email at 10am and I didn't get until 12am! So, I hope that these guys have a better connection. Next, while I can believe much of the super-computer thing (using to find cures, searching for archaeological finds, and even decrypting to an extent) but using the computer to analyze data to find Peseshet's tomb in the first place? This really smart of making Jonsey (dumb name anyway) a Dues ex Machina. Not to mention, that in an obvious attempt to be Indiana Jones, National Treasure, Ocean's Eleven, CSI, the plot skips and belches all over the world, spending a page or two detailing the most important parts in each locale, e.g. finding the clues, forcing their information from their informants an,d gabbing about how Rachel and John feel about each other, and then whipping to the next location. I have never felt so jolted around in my life. It was as if the authors had ADD.
5. The romance. John and Rachel's romance is so forced, so over the top, I wanted to wretch. The authors force John Tavak down our throats, hoping we will forget that he has killed a man and committed arson, theft, breaking/entering, and is a rude, arrogant, self-centered thrill seeker (which is completely inconsistent with how he really acts) and will want to see him hook up with Rachel Kirby (who at least is consistent in her character!), with whom he has almost no chemistry. Then Allie and Hal's romance is strange. She is 32, and he is late forties. That right there is strange (not many will abide an almost 20 year age difference). From his over the top gentlemanly speech about being her Galahad to his buying a piece of her artwork, this relationship made me want to throw the book through a closed window.
6. This scene: "She was suddenly acutely aware of everything about him. The smell of a spicy aftershave, his long fingers on the glass holding the drink, the strength of his shoulders, the tightness of his stomach and buttocks." Uh, HELLO? "Buttocks"? EW! Too much information! "The desire to reach out and touch him..." Depeche Mode ought to try to sue for the use of these words. "...was dizzying in intensity. What was happening to her? Stupid, she knew what was happening. Sex." WTF? Sex was happening to her? How does sex happen to a person? Is something happening in this scene that no one is telling me? I so do not understand that wild comment in the slightest.
7. Travel to other countries, many of which are hostile, is way too easy. And where does all this money come from? Company card? If so, tsk, tsk.
8. The villains are straight from a child's book, stupid, dorky, and blurting their simplistic plans to any and all who are willing to listen. Also, a big red herring appears, which was annoying rather than clever.
9. Repetition. Need to describe someone? All else fails use the words "vitality", "intelligence" or "energy" or some derivative of the above. In fact, those words (or their forms) occur so frequently in the book, it would make a hell of a drinking game. Also, at least once a chapter, Rachel has to mention how she doesn't trust Tavak, yet still believes him (one example on page 99 and another on 275). I mean, come on, get over this already! Either trust the guy or don't but don't spend half the book waffling.
10. Why the hell is it okay to interrupt Emily's important project but to interrupt Rachel's important project is a sin? Come on, even if Rachel found a cure for her sister's ailment, it would be years before it could be used!
11. The conclusion was a little too over the top in its optimism.

Dialogue/Sexual Situations/Violence:
Random spouting of profanities (h***, d***, b****, one instance of the F-bomb, etc.).
Rachel caves and sleeps with John. No details are shown other than Rachel cuddling with John after having sex (Gag!) and missing him when he disappears in the morning (Double gag!)
Someone attempts to kill Rachel Kirby and John Tavak several times. A man is found dead in the back of a vehicle. The end is particularly violent, as several men die brutally.

Overall:
A much better and shorter book would have been thus: The shooter is successful in killing Rachel Kirby. Harsh? Oh, yeah, but this book was harsh on the mind. It was like salt in a wound, like sand in your underwear, like eating rotten eggs. The torment that I went through just to read this book (and to finish!) was so great, I should get an award for it!
The characters are horrible and unbelievable, changing every two seconds to suit the authors' purpose. The plot is stupid and jerky, hopping from one end of the globe to the other in an attempt to show a huge, epic, thriling adventure. Then the romance...Lord have mercy, if I ever have to read about firm buttocks again and sex "happening", I think I will put myself out of my misery.
And thus a great concept is violently murdered. The pure atrocity of the book was so much, I could only read like 5 pages at a time, otherwise I would have thrown the book at the nearest wall and screamed in pain and agony. In fact, at the end, I could no longer contain myself (I was desperate to finish the dreck before I threw in the towel), I was literally yelling at the book. I wouldn't wish this book on my worst enemy. If I could, I would go 0 stars, but alas, I can only do 1.