Review: THE GUILTY and END GAME by David Baldacci (Grand Central / Macmillan)

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The fourth and fifth Robie & Reel novels see a shift in the series style

Will Robie is the government’s most professional, disciplined, and lethal assassin. He infiltrates the most hostile countries in the world, defeats our enemies’ advanced security measures, and eliminates threats before they ever reach our shores.

But now, his skills have left him. Sent overseas on a critical assignment, he fails, unable to pull the trigger. Absent his talents, Robie is a man without a mission, and without a purpose.

To recover what he has lost, Robie must confront what he has tried to forget for over twenty years: his own past.

Will Robie escaped his small Gulf Coast hometown of Cantrell, Mississippi, after high school, severing all personal ties, and never looked back. Not once. Not until the unimaginable occurs. His father, Dan Robie, has been arrested and charged with murder.
Father and son haven’t spoken or seen each other since the day Robie left town. In that time, Dan Robie–a local attorney and pillar of the community – has been elected town judge. Despite this, most of Cantrell is aligned against Dan. His guilt is assumed.

To make matters worse, Dan has refused to do anything to defend himself. When Robie tries to help, his father responds only with anger and defiance. Could Dan really be guilty?

I’m definitely a fan of Baldacci’s novels. After the Camel Club series ended, the author’s novels featuring Will Robie and Jessica Reel quickly became my favourites. However, these last two installments — while enjoyable and engaging thrillers in their own right — didn’t quite rise to the quality I have come to expect from the author. Nevertheless, they are well-written novels, and I was kept entertained and invested in the story. Continue reading

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Last Week’s Late DAILY SHOW Reunion…

Last week on the Late Show, Stephen Colbert hosted a reunion of The Daily Show correspondents and Jon Stewart. Here are some clips:

A great segment. If you like them, then I’d highly recommend The Daily Show: The Book, a fantastic oral history of the show (and one of my favourite books of last year).

Here’s the book’s synopsis:

The complete, uncensored history of the award-winning The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, as told by its correspondents, writers, and host.

For almost seventeen years, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart brilliantly redefined the borders between television comedy, political satire, and opinionated news coverage. It launched the careers of some of today’s most significant comedians, highlighted the hypocrisies of the powerful, and garnered 23 Emmys. Now the show’s behind-the-scenes gags, controversies, and camaraderie will be chronicled by the players themselves, from legendary host Jon Stewart to the star cast members and writers-including Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Steve Carell, Lewis Black, Jessica Williams, John Hodgman, and Larry Wilmore-plus some of The Daily Show’s most prominent guests and adversaries: John and Cindy McCain, Glenn Beck, Tucker Carlson, and many more.

This oral history takes the reader behind the curtain for all the show’s highlights, from its origins as Comedy Central’s underdog late-night program hosted by Craig Kilborn to Jon Stewart’s long reign to Trevor Noah’s succession, rising from a scrappy jester in the 24-hour political news cycle to become part of the beating heart of politics-a trusted source for not only comedy but also commentary, with a reputation for calling bullshit and an ability to effect real change in the world.

Through years of incisive election coverage, Jon Stewart’s emotional monologue in the wake of 9/11, his infamous confrontation on Crossfire, passionate debates with President Obama and Hillary Clinton, feuds with Bill O’Reilly and Fox, the Indecisions, Mess O’Potamia, and provocative takes on Wall Street and racism, The Daily Show has been a cultural touchstone. Now, for the first time, the people behind the show’s seminal moments come together to share their memories of the last-minute rewrites, improvisations, pranks, romances, blow-ups, and moments of Zen both on and off the set of one of America’s most groundbreaking shows.

There are more clips up on the Late Show’s YouTube page.

New Books (February)

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Featuring: David Annandale, Jo Baker, Mishell Baker, David Baldacci, Elizabeth Bonesteel, Pierce Brown, Christopher Charles, Jessica Chiarella, Dan Cluchey, Max Allan Collins, John Connolly, Don DeLillo, S.B. Divya, Rachel Dunne, Mark Andrew Ferguson, Hadley Freeman, S.L. Grey, Lauren Groff, A.J. Hartley, Noah Hawley, Katie Heaney, Patrick Hemstreet, Mitchell Hogan, Lee Kelly, Shane Kuhn, Joe R. Lansdale, John Lansdale, Tim Lebbon, David Levien, Brian McClellan, Claire North, Willow Palecek, K.J. Parker, Bryony Pearce, Victor Pelevin, Molly Prentiss, Andy Remic, William Shatner, Mickey Spillane, Jo Spurrier, Allen Steele, Stuart Stevens, Alex Stewart, Jack Sutherland, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Marc Turner, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Teddy Wayne

* Continue reading

New Books… (October/November)

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Featuring: David Annandale, Tim Baker, David Baldacci, Brett Battles, Matt Bell, M.L. Brennan, Jonathan Carroll, Jonathan Coe, Noah Hawley, Matt Hill, Michelle Latiolais, Tim Lees, Barbra Leslie, Jack McDevitt, Victor Milán, Clare Morrall, Jo Nesbo, Emma Newman, James Patterson, Susan Philpott, Rob Sanders, Ken Scholes, Maureen Sherry, Marc Turner, Matt Wallace, Robin Wasserman, Catherine Webb Continue reading

Review: THE DEAD LANDS by Benjamin Percy (Grand Central/Hodder)

PercyB-TheDeadLandsUSAn interesting, excellent dystopian novel

A post-apocalyptic reimagining of the Lewis and Clark saga, a super flu and nuclear fallout have made a husk of the world we know. A few humans carry on, living in outposts such as the Sanctuary-the remains of St. Louis-a shielded community that owes its survival to its militant defense and fear-mongering leaders.

Then a rider comes from the wasteland beyond its walls. She reports on the outside world: west of the Cascades, rain falls, crops grow, civilization thrives. But there is danger too: the rising power of an army that pillages and enslaves every community they happen upon.

Against the wishes of the Sanctuary, a small group sets out in secrecy. Led by Lewis Meriwether and Mina Clark, they hope to expand their infant nation, and to reunite the States. But the Sanctuary will not allow them to escape without a fight.

Red Moon was one of my favourite reads of 2013 – an epic commentary on politics, society and race of the post-9/11 America, it was gripping and superbly written. The Dead Lands is a great follow-up: a post-apocalyptic reimagining of the Lewis & Clark expedition, it is a story of hope, oppression, and fear. Anything written by Benjamin Percy really is a must-read. Continue reading

Quick Review: CROSS MY HEART and HOPE TO DIE by James Patterson (Arrow/Grand Central)

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Catching up with Detective Alex Cross…

Alex Cross’s whole world is crashing down around him.

He has been hunted, stalked like prey, his predator priming himself for the kill.

Cross has devoted his life to protecting others. Now he’s unable to protect even those closest to him.

As a police detective, he has made many enemies, but never like this.

Everything he loves is being taken from him.

Soon he will have nothing and no one left.

These two novels are linked, which is I think the first time Patterson has chosen to make consecutive novels a single story (not including the cross-book storyline featuring the Mastermind from the earlier books, although this is a similar idea, if shorter). Cross My Heart ended on quite the cliffhanger, with Alex Cross distraught and lost, so I was very eager to get my hands on Hope to Die. The 22nd and 23rd installments in the series, it’s a little tricky to figure out anything new to write about the series.

Patterson still has a knack for writing fast-paced, engaging thrillers that have readers gripped from the first page. He still sometimes veers a little too far into the schmaltzy. His villains remain as deliciously evil and colourful as always, complete with hapless henchmen. In Cross My Heart, Cross is investigating a string of murders, but also being stalked and provoked by an elusive other psychopath fixated with him and determined to torment him by getting to his family, which forms the plot for Hope to Die. Given Patterson’s usual style, which always seems to include over-emoting characters, Cross is surprisingly unemotional following the events of the first couple of chapters in the second novel. They unfold quickly, somewhat conveying Cross’s slight disassociate state. The introduction of Ava into the story added a nice new twist on the family dynamic, and her street-learned skills prove invaluable in Hope to Die. Other new characters are welcome additions, too, creating some variety in perspectives.

Both of the novels were quick reads, and I zapped through them. It’s not difficult to see why Patterson is so successful. The novels weren’t perfect — in particular, with Hope to Die, I couldn’t help but think the tornado and psychic could have been dispensed with. Minor quibble, though, really. If you’ve been reading and enjoying the Alex Cross series, then Cross My Heart and Hope to Die should appeal as they very much offer more of the same quality and crime thriller suspense. Solid continuations of the series, I look forward to reading the 23rd.

Published in the UK by Arrow, and in the US by Grand Central Publishing.

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Upcoming: THE DEAD LANDS by Benjamin Percy (Grand Central)

PercyB-TheDeadLandsI thoroughly enjoyed Benjamin Percy’s previous novel, Red Moon, and have been eagerly awaiting his next book ever since. Now (via SF Signal), here are the details of that novel, a re-imagining of the Lewis & Clark saga in a post-apocalyptic setting:

A super flu and nuclear fallout have made a husk of the world we know. A few humans carry on, living in outposts such as the Sanctuary – the remains of St. Louis – a shielded community that owes its survival to its militant defense and fear-mongering leaders.

Then a rider comes from the wasteland beyond its walls. She reports on the outside world: west of the Cascades, rain falls, crops grow, civilization thrives. But there is danger too: the rising power of an army that pillages and enslaves every community they happen upon.

Against the wishes of the Sanctuary, a small group sets out in secrecy. Led by Lewis Meriwether and Mina Clark, they hope to expand their infant nation, and to reunite the States. But the Sanctuary will not allow them to escape without a fight.

Benjamin Percy’s The Dead Lands is due to be published in the US by Grand Central Publishing, in April 2015. Red Moon was published in the UK by Hodder, and they will be publishing The Deadlands as well, in May 2015.

Also on CR: Interview with Benjamin Percy