A mystery with so many turns you feel like you’re in a maze, but there is a satisfactory end. Two bigger-than-life personalities matched perfectly. An unforgettable wedding that will have people talking for years. Not because of the Gaelic island setting or the $3,000 wedding cake or hell-raising pranks of the groomsmen, among other memorable sights and events. But because a murder happened during the wedding celebration. Who done it? You will eventually know, as each chapter alternates primarily among four key characters – the bride, the bridesmaid, the plus-one, the wedding planner, and the best man. A few interspersed chapters are told in the third person. The lively writing and well-developed characters make for a good read as well. Of all the weddings that have been going on this year, this is one not to miss. No RSVP needed.
A surprisingly good film starring Johnny Depp as a college English professor, who finds out that he has cancer discovered too late. After treatment would buy him only one year to live. If left untreated, he would have six months at most. So, he feels F—-D. As he tries to process it, he goes back to feeling the same thing: F—-D. Soon after he’s learned his fate, he decides to share the news with his small family at dinner time. But, before he gets a chance to do so, his daughter says she has something to say. After her somewhat surprising news, his wife tells him something life changing as well. With news that seem to match the gravity of his situation, he decides to live out what’s left of his days a little differently. Make that a lot differently. The movie then builds on a series of life changing events in the classroom, campus, and home. There are both funny and sad moments that showcase Depp’s noteworthy acting abilities. It’s worth a view.
The story is driven by main characters making decision that lead you to throw out the notion of good guys vs. bad guys. Two detectives, played by Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn, are caught on a cellphone video arresting a drug dealer. The act of the arrest is perceived as overly aggressive by the media. As a result, they are suspended without pay for several weeks. Their unexpected furlough compounds financial concerns for Mel Gibson’s character who is forced to reconsider moving his wife — who has multiple sclerosis — and a daughter, who is being bullied – away from their rough neighborhood. His questionable plan to make ends meet somehow intersects with a smart, recently released neighborhood felon. He wants to begin living a straight life but is pulled back into crime. That’s because he is faced with having to take care of his mother, who has taken up hooking to subsist, and a wheelchair-bound younger brother, whose dream is to someday go to college and become a videogame creator. As may be expected with any S. Craig Zahler film with such a graphic title, the movie is gritty and intense, leaving viewers to gasp just when they thought they could sit back and eat popcorn.
I gave up my workout session to read the final chapters of this book and when I finished, I wanted more. Thankfully, this new book is the beginning of a new series, featuring Colter Shaw, a traveling survivalist whose job is to seek monetary rewards for, among other things, finding lost people. Based on his upbringing and his now-deceased parents’ rich assets, Shaw sounds like he could afford to choose which rewards to collect. The story starts with Shaw tracking a distraught father’s missing teen-aged daughter. The outcome leads to another missing person with the events mirroring a once-popular video game. True to Deaver’s style, this suspense story is one twist after another with subplots that are just as engaging as the main one. Additionally, the reader gets interesting insight about the gaming world and some survivalist know-how. Game on with this one!
Other books in the Colter Shaw series I’ve read and will update as I finish reading are listed below.
The Goodbye Man
The Final Twist
This is the second of a book series featuring Joe Ledger, a larger-than-life hero with amazing fighting skills. We are introduced to Ledger in Patient Zero, an action-packed thriller that hooked me to read more of the Ledger series. Although The Dragon Factory is only the second book I’ve read, I can see that the others will be just as fun because Ledger is a member of the “Department of Military Sciences,” a deep underground organization secretly sanctioned by the President of the United States. Ledger’s assignments basically result in saving us all from global destruction. What makes the series interesting are the kinds of evil created by misdirected geniuses. The Dragon Factory is about exotic transgenic monsters and cloning and the potential extinction of ethnic diversity.
I will update the Ledger book list below as I continue reading the series in the order written.
[Side note: My addiction to reading has intensified lately relative to writing and blogging. In time, I will get back to writing. . . I may sneak in a few posts here and there. . . but please keep checking in and reading prior content.]
The Dragon Factory
This is the second of a book series about an emotionally damaged savant, Dante Torre, who is unlike any other hero. The first book, Kill the Father, is when we are introduced to Dante, who as a child was abducted and spent much of his years growing up isolated in a silo. While there, he developed his skills and sharpened his senses, as means to survive and eventually escape. The second book has an antagonist whose years from birth to puberty resemble Dante’s early isolation. Unlike Dante’s, the antagonist’s fate takes an evil turn that results in multiple tragic events. Through Deputy Police Chief Colomba Caselli, a traumatized law enforcer who experienced her own share of violence earlier on, Dante finds himself once again helping solve a crime that begins with a train full of dead bodies. Set in Europe, the story is full of fascinating characters and twists that make you want to skip sleeping.
The list below is in the order I’ve read Dazieri’s books. Expect this to grow as I enjoy more of his work.
Kill the Father
Kill the Angel
The writer of this book has also written and directed two movies – Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99. His treatment of the book is not much different in how he evokes images of jarring violence and graphic gore. Here, such intensity is combined with snappy writing and colorful characters. The book tells a story about a disgraced detective, Jules Bettinger, who is transferred to the “armpit” of America. This is a place where crime is the mainstay; it’s safe to say the ratio of crime-fighters to criminals is comparable to one person’s chances of winning the lottery. Not wanting to see his family live in the same city where he works, Bettinger suffers daily through an 85-mile one-way commute from home to his “new” police headquarters. But his work is even worse. He soon finds himself in trying to solve a double homicide that causes a string of events of increasing violent consequences and shocking climax.
This is a heist movie directed by Steve Soderbergh, who also directed the well-known Ocean Trilogy heist films (Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen). Although there’s a formula to this genre, the characters, their situation, and the sprinklings of comedy are ingredients that make each one different. Set in West Virginia and Charlotte, North Carolina, this story is about two down-on-their-luck brothers played by Channing Tatum and Adam Driver. Channing decides to plan a robbery soon after he is let go from his construction job at the Charlotte Motor Speedway because his limp from an old football injury is considered a liability at work. They bring in their hairdresser sister to help. To round out their crew, they recruit an imprisoned explosive expert, Joe Bang, played by Daniel Craig, whose British accent is replaced by a good ‘ole boy twang. As a condition of Joe Bang joining the group, he asks to have his two hilarious hillbilly brothers join the heist team. The film is enjoyable to watch as we see how the colorful characters plot, ply, and plow through such a convoluted, but clever undertaking. Although there are underlying tones of injustice within our society—think haves vs. have-nots mixed in with a bit of Robin Hood–there is nothing preachy about the movie. Just grab a box of popcorn and watch the story unfold amidst the rural settings and classic American stock car action.
This book is the first of a series about an orphan who is raised and trained to be a lethal agent to handle covert missions for the U.S. government. After years of stealthily assassinating so-called dangerous people, our hero, Evan Smoak, starts to question if he’s really killing “the bad guys” and decides to leave the program. By doing so, he puts his handler, Jack Johns, into a precarious situation. An older man, turns out Johns is more than Smoak’s handler; he’s also the one who raised Smoak since childhood, growing fond of him along the way.
Smoak successfully escapes anyway and transforms himself into an undercover “fairy-tale godmother” by helping one desperate individual a year. Usually, the help involves ridding the bad forces that have made the individual’s life impossible. A bigger-than-life hero is what makes a thriller thrilling, and this story delivers such a character in spades. Prepare for all kinds of action and twists. The second book in the series is now available, The Nowhere Man, and I’m on it! (I just finished reading The Nowhere Man and it is even more action-packed than ever. Our hero finds himself close to being “no more man.”)
I must mention another book similar to this in many ways, and just as thrilling: Kill the Father by Sandrone Dazieri. For a full book review, read Bookidote. (This book is also the first of a new series.)
4/23/17: Subsequently, I’ve gone on to read more of Hurwitz’s books, as listed below.
Minutes to Burn
Don’t Look Back
The Nowhere Man (2nd of Orphan X series)
The Crime Writer
Trust No One
Don’t Look Back
Hell Bent (3rd of Orphan X series)
Into the Fire (4th of Orphan X series)
This film caught my attention because of the all-star cast ensemble: Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Woody Harrelson, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, and Kate Winslet. The characters they play are flawed and except for Affleck’s character, they’re all cynical or corrupt to a certain degree. Set in Atlanta and complete with graphic scenes, this film is violent and gritty about dirty cops and dirty deeds with links to Russian organized crime . Lots of twists, action, and raw pain. Feels too much like real life in these turbulent times. There’s no escapism here.