Rapid Review: Black Mass (2015)

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“It’s not what you do, it’s when and where you do it, and who you do it to or with. If nobody sees it, it didn’t happen.”
– Whitey Bulger

SYNOPSIS: The true story of Whitey Bulger, the brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf. – via IMDB

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GRADE 7I watched this recently as it came back with some great reviews. Now, while I liked it, I didn’t love it (I feel there are infinitely better gangster movies out there). That being said, this is, without a doubt, the finest Johnny Depp has been in years. I was so stoked to see a movie where he was actually doing something again, wasn’t the same cut and dry quirky character we have seen him embody recently. I liked that, and was reminded why Johnny Depp was so insanely loved at a stage. He was a crazy Bulger, and those contacts he wore really freaked me out (they really looked unnatural). Edgerton was also, as is to be expected, a solid pick for John Connolly, and did a great job with his character. I have to say, the movie played it way too safe. It was formulaic, albeit carried by really good performances. At the end of the day, it used a tried and tested formula, and didn’t even try to push the boundaries, which is a pity considering the cast the film touts. So much more could have come from this. It stays within the bounds of “safe”, but never breaks through to “great”. The pacing is fine, not rushed, not too slow, but at times I wished more focus had been given to certain things and less to others. The characters were not as developed as they could be, and for a true story, I definitely think that more could have been done. Black Mass is certainly not a bad watch, and is absolutely, one hundred percent worth it if you want to see if Depp still has the goods (which he does, here, anyway), because the performances are definitely the highlight of this film.

Review: The Last Victim – Jordan Dane

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I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

Ryker Townsend #1

SYNOPSIS: When he sleeps, the hunt begins

When a young hunting guide from a remote island in Alaska is found brutally murdered, his naked body is discovered in the Cascade Mountains outside Seattle—the shocking pinnacle to a grisly Totem of body parts. Nathan Applewhite is the fourteenth victim of a cunning serial killer who targets and stalks young men.

With the body count escalating, FBI profiler Ryker Townsend and his specialized team investigate the gruesome crime scene. They find no reason for Nate to have mysteriously vanished from his isolated home in Alaska before he ended up in the hands of a sadist, who has been taunting Ryker and his team in a sinister game of ‘catch me if you can.’

But Townsend has a secret he won’t share with anyone—not even his own team—that sets him on the trail of a ruthless psychopath, alone. The intuitive FBI profiler is plagued by recurring nightmares—seen through Nate’s dead eyes—that slowly chips away at his mental stability. Is he burning out and losing his mind—becoming unfit for duty—or is the last victim reaching out to him from the grave?

Townsend sees horrific flashes of memory, imprinted on the retinas of a dead man, the last image Applewhite saw when he died. Ryker must piece together the fragments. Each nightmarish clue brings him closer to a killer who knows how to hide in plain sight and will see him coming, but when the dead man has the skills of a hunting guide, he has the perfect ally to track down a killer—the last victim. – via Goodreads

GRADE 7I decided to give this a read when I saw the cover and read the write up, I thought this could be interesting, and I was right. I always love reading about profilers and hunting terrifying killers, so this seemed like something that was right up my alley, and I was right – blood, guts, and gore is so my thing. Dane presents us with a new character, a little different, and Ryker is quite engaging. He is a character that has so much potential, that could bring us so many great stories, and I really hope we get some of those from him. The story is a little different, and I really liked how Ryker Townsend had some different ability or gift, and even though it is out there, Dane handles the telling of it very well. The characters, too, are quite interesting and they carry the story well, I just wish that they were fleshed out more as opposed to just presented as a few clichés. Some things that did irritate me, though, were how some things were repeated unnecessarily throughout the book, as though it had been written a few times and never been polished up, or not noticed how it was the same and rather annoying. I also wish that there had actually been more profiling in the novel, but it isn’t a dealbreaker as the story is engaging and keeps you interested. I did think, however, that the villain was totally predictable from the off, it was pretty obvious, but SPOILER: I did not like the fact that a partner was added in at the last possible moment. It absolutely did not fit with anything that had happened so far in the book, and felt like Dane was going for a forced twist.A lot of Ryker’s past is continually alluded to but I think it took way too much time to spill the beans, but it came together quite well either way. Some events that transpired were too neat and smooth for me to buy into, even with the psychic aspect to the novel, it was just too convenient. The Last Victim is a fast, fun read, has introduced me to a new author I think I will enjoy, and I will certainly be reading more books in this series.

Review: Rememberers – C Edward Baldwin

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 Rememberers #1

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: For 19-year-old Kallie Hunt, everyday moments began feeling all too familiar. She had a sense that she’d lived them before. But that was crazy, right? Deja vu. That was kid’s stuff, right? Been there, done that, impossible. You got one shot at this life thing. One shot. You lived. You died. End of story.

But if that was true, then why would the government be interested in her? Why would priests literally be stalking her? How could a small town girl possibly have anything to do with saving humanity from terrorists and demons? And pray-tell, what does any of it have to do with her first love?

For Kallie Hunt, there would be no simple answers. Besides, nothing in life is ever really simple. Not good. Not evil. Not even love… – via Goodreads

GRADE 4This book had a description that sounded mildly interesting (note, I didn’t get the synopsis on Goodreads) and I thought that it had possible potential. It started off and wasn’t particularly engrossing, but I trudged along anyway. Soon there was a possibility that things would look up… we had the church, hidden secrets, some weird agencies with their “soldiers”, dead terrorists and all that, I could even start dealing with the stunted dialogue. But then, just as quickly, that was lost. I honestly wanted to enjoy this more than I did. When Kallie was introduced, there was nothing I found even remotely likeable or identifiable about her, and that is most likely what kept me even more distanced from this book. Exploring this whole déjà vu thing was something I was looking forward to. Admittedly, the memory biology and the majority of the psychology discussed and presented in this book was well researched, accurate, and explained in a fantastically simple manner, so as not to lose any readers, and I appreciated that. As a psychology student, I hate it when some books drag in some slap dash psychology and then they are either wrong or so complicated that it doesn’t make sense to the average reader eventually anyway. So things were on an even level, nothing too amazing, nothing too bland, just average, and I was alright with that. But before I could blink my eyes and adjust to the next thing, Kallie was actually the goddess Kali or otherwise the First Woman, her boyfriend was silly and not fleshed out, FBI agent Bennett was basically stalking Kallie for answers to terrorist plots, the whole religious secret society petered out, there was no real explanation as to Rememberers and demon possession all over the show. Johnny Swag never had me convinced about his religious ties and was creepy from the off, Seth was such an annoyance, and I found Josh to be the most entertaining character of the lot. I think the end also just did it in for me, and I couldn’t stop myself from rolling my eyes. It was just a tad too over the top. Rememberers was ultimately incredibly flawed and I was a little let down when all was said and done. The book came across as very preachy, the writing didn’t always flow (sometimes it did and other times not at all) and the dialogue was not something that interested me, it didn’t come across as natural. The book was also much longer than it needed to be. Also, every time that things start to get interesting, you are ultimately disappointed because Baldwin teases with all these brutal things going down but never delivers. I suppose this book will be much more enjoyed by younger teens and people who haven’t read much, but it wasn’t my cup of tea, sadly.

Review: Red Dragon – Thomas Harris

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Hannibal Lecter #1

Will Graham is retired, out of the psychopath game and living with his wife, Molly, and her son, Willy. Dr Hannibal Lecter almost killed him when they came face to face years ago when Graham was searching for a specific killer. His life now is serene and perfect, which is quickly disrupted when FBI agent Jack Crawford turns up on his door, pleading with him for help. There is a serial killer butchering whole families at random during full moons. Graham is not interested, but Crawford pushes. Graham has a deeper understanding into the mind of a psychopath. Graham himself is a little different. After much debate and rancour, Graham agrees to go see the houses where the families were killed.

The cops are calling the killer the Tooth Fairy, though Graham is not comfortable with it. Going through the evidence of both murders and the homes of the Leeds family in Atlanta, Georgia, Graham is reconstructing the family for himself as well as the events. He is having a hard time zeroing in on everything, though, and feels that the only way he will be able to fully slot back into the role of profiler, of hunter, is to come face to face with the evil that drove him from the industry – Dr Hannibal Lecter. He thinks that Lecter could possibly help him find the Tooth Fairy killer, or offer an insight that the rest of the team has missed. Will doesn’t really get much from the meeting, though Lecter is thrilled to have his “plaything” back, as it seems. Dr Alan Bloom is consulting on the case, but is having issues with Crawford, who wants a psychiatric analysis of Graham that Bloom is unwilling to provide.

As though the police did not have enough issues as it is, slimy reporter Freddy Lounds is on a mission to make waves, and paints Graham in a terrible light. There is no love lost between the men, and they have a sour history. On the other hand, Francis Dolarhyde is the Red Dragon, and despises the name of the Tooth Fairy. He is a production chief at a St Louis film processing firm, and on the hunt for a new family, which he finds through the film that he processes. Graham is hunting an unknown man, yet Dolarhyde has a clear view of who is after him. Dolarhyde has some serious family issues, and an unnatural obsession with William Blake’s painting “The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun”. Dolarhyde has terrible vicious sexual urges that he cannot control, and that is when the Red Dragon assumes control.

Soon the Red Dragon makes contact with Lecter, and the FBI needs to find a way to trap him. All the promises that Crawford made Graham are thrown out of the window when Lecter manages to find out where he lives. Graham’s relationship with Molly becomes very strained, and he is angry. Another family somewhere is being hunted, and the FBI has no insight on how they are being chosen and what makes them unique. Freddy Lounds proves to be a massive problem when he interferes heavily in a sting that they FBI was rushing to set up to capture the Red Dragon. Graham needs to find a way to capture the Red Dragon, even if it means laying aside his pride to work with a snake like Lounds. In the meantime, however, the Red Dragon grows restless, and Francis Dolarhyde falls in love with a blind co-worker named Reba McClane. Though his life is taking on a new direction, Graham is still determined to find and catch the Red Dragon, who is still intent on continuing to follow his dark urges.

Will Graham be able to find out who the Red Dragon is? Will he be able to stop the man? How much of himself is Graham going to lose while hunting down another psychopath? What will Lecter do with the knowledge now that he knows where Graham is staying? Will Graham’s family be safe of any and all fallout that comes from this deadly case that he is working on?

GRADE 8.5I was duly impressed with this novel. I am a huge Hannibal Lecter fan, though I have never gotten around to reading the books. I thought it was high time to change that, especially seeing as the series turned out to be so impressive. Let me tell you, I cannot believe that it took me so long to get to this. The book was well written, the story was nice and streamlined, put together well. There were instances where the writing style annoyed me a little bit, but overall I really liked this book, and as much as I feel I should have read it earlier, I am glad that I had something fresh and good still. Good authors with good books are pretty rare. Will Graham is a psychologically in depth character, and his relationship with Hannibal is so damn odd. I found Will to be a very compelling character, too, who has quickly become a favourite of mine. Jack Crawford is a brash and no-nonsense kind of man, though he does feel some sort of affiliation for Will Graham. The story paced at a decent speed, and the book flowed nicely. It was a nice thriller with plenty to make you think. Definitely something that I would read again, and something I could tell you to check out.