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October 2014

Book Review: DEADLINE by John Sandford

This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers and is reprinted here with permission.

deadline sandfordAs a favor for a friend, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Virgil Flowers looks into multiple dognappings that have occurred in the small town of Trippton, where his friend lives. Someone is stealing the residents’ pets, and rumor has it the canines are being sold to medical labs.

Before Flowers can make much headway in the investigation, he also stumbles upon a meth lab and some school board members who have been stealing millions of dollars of school funds. When a local reporter comes close to exposing them, he’s murdered. Turns out it’s only the first murder in a string of them, as Virgil takes up where the reporter left off and the crooked board members resort to extreme means to cover up their corrupt activities.

There’s a lot going on in Deadline, John Sandford’s eighth Virgil Flowers outing (after 2013’s Storm Front). The biggest joys of this series are Flowers himself (his boss is Lucas Davenport from Sandford’s Prey novels), the cast of eccentric supporting characters, and the humorous dialogue. In one conversation, one of Flowers’s fellow BCA agents observes that since “half of all shoot-outs are inside buildings,” he’d get rich if he invented “office camo,” so “you’d look like a cabinet, or maybe a water cooler.” Readers familiar with Flowers’s profane nickname will appreciate the name he gives a new friend at the end, but the uninitiated can also enjoy this installment without having read the previous books.

Nerd verdict: Lively Deadline


Nerdy Special List October 2014

We have books to recommend this month! So, just sit back with your cider and throw blanket and…oh, who am I kidding? I’m running the A/C right now because it’s hotter than Colin Firth in a Tom Ford suit around here. Hope it’s more fall-ish where you are.

Here are the October books my blogger friends and I found noteworthy.

From Jen at Jen’s Book Thoughts:

Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado (Putnam, October 2)

hand to mouthLinda Tirado made waves around the world when she responded to a question one night in an online forum. The question was “why do poor people do things that seem so self-destructive?” As a member of the working poor, she felt qualified to answer. Her response went viral and now she’s telling the world in a full-length book what it’s like to be living near or below the poverty line in the United States.

Tirado pulls no punches in this frank self-portrait. She debunks many myths and stereotypes about the poor, starting with the idea that they are ignorant and lazy. Tirado is extremely intelligent, caustically witty, and very hardworking. Entertaining and informative, Hand to Mouth is likely to make many readers look closely at their own preconceived notions about this ever-growing segment of our nation’s population.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (Spiegel & Grau,  October 21)

just mercyBryan Stevenson is the director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit organization in Montgomery, Alabama, that works to provide legal assistance to those who are most in need: poor death-row inmates, children, the mentally ill, etc. Just Mercy is a product of his work with EJI.

Written in the style of a fictional legal thriller, Stevenson tells the true story of Walter McMillian, a young black man wrongly sentenced to die in—of all places—Monroeville, Alabama, the childhood home of Harper Lee. As Stevenson unfolds McMillian’s tragic story, he also highlights other equally horrifying cases he’s encountered.

This is a moving tale, written with superb storytelling skills, about the injustice overwhelming the current American legal system. In the newest book from Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Think Like a Freak, the authors advocate using story as a tool to convince people to change their views. Stevenson has done just that. Just Mercy is a riveting, suspenseful, emotional story readers won’t be able to walk away from without knowing our justice system is horribly and life-threateningly flawed.

From Rory at Fourth Street Review:

Brood by Chase Novak (Mulholland Books, October 7)

broodI’m happy to admit that I’m the type of person who looks forward to October every year—pumpkins, cooler weather, and ALL the scary books I can read. In this case, it’s the sequel to Chase Novak’s Breed, a disturbing and gruesome tale of a couple who go through great lengths to conceive their twins, Adam and Alice. Brood, the follow-up, is the story of the now adolescent children and what they must go through to live a moderately normal life.Reading this book is like giving yourself permission to tune out of the grim reality of the world. It’s fun, disturbing, and perfect for those looking for an autumnal read that’s not too scary. Brood is not for everyone (squeamish readers beware!), but for those looking for a lighter alternative to Stephen King, this is a good option.

From PCN:

maliceBestselling Japanese author Keigo Higashino’s latest mystery, Malice, is about a bestselling Japanese author who’s found murdered in his locked home office. Detective Kaga zeroes in on a suspect right away and the suspect surprisingly confesses without much coercion. But the confessed killer refuses to give a motive, and some of his story doesn’t align with the evidence, forcing Kaga to dig deeper to discover the truth. Malice is twisty and psychologically complex, and will keep you guessing about its dark secrets until almost the last page.

Which October books are you looking forward to?



last days in vn posterAs I headed out to see Rory Kennedy’s latest documentary, I stuffed a few tissues in my pocket, preparing for a “sit and sob,” my term for moving cinematic experiences. I was correct about the sobbing, but I couldn’t have predicted the deep emotional impact of this film.

The title is self-explanatory. Last Days in Vietnam details the final evacuations of American military personnel before the fall of Saigon in April 1975. Well, they were supposed to be evacs of American military.

Many servicemen refused to leave behind their Vietnamese colleagues who had risked their lives to help Americans. These American soldiers decided to go against US policy and committed illegal acts to get their Vietnamese associates (and the associates’ families) out of Vietnam.

Whatever you think you know about those last days, you won’t know many of the stories told in this film. I was there during those days, my family and I were eyewitnesses to some of the events being recounted on screen, and we still didn’t know much of what Kennedy uncovered. That’s because a lot of the footage and photos have never been seen before, the films sitting undeveloped in a vault for almost 40 years before Kennedy unearthed them.

This docu is not political. It’s about humanity, people doing the right thing, commiting selfless actions at great risk to their own safety. And the film doesn’t just feature the American point of view (Henry Kissinger is one of the interviewees). It includes the Vietnamese perspective, allowing civilians to add their voices to the story.

uss kirkThe result is more suspenseful than many thrillers I’ve seen, more heartrending than Hollywood tearjerkers, with everyday people becoming real-life heroes in impossible situations. I wouldn’t have believed some of the stories if I hadn’t seen the photographic and videotaped evidence right there on screen. A woman throwing her baby out of a helo, hoping people on a US Navy ship below would catch her? For much of the film I was agape, wondering, “How much courage did that take? How did someone get that shot?”

If you have any interest in this part of history, or just in a real story about the worst of times bringing out the best in people, check out Last Days in Vietnam. It’ll have a limited run in select cities throughout October, with a handful of dates in November and December.

Cities include Los Angeles, DC, Nashville, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, and Seattle. Visit the official website for a full listing. While there, you can also see interviews with Rory Kennedy on various programs, including Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show.

Nerd verdict: Immense Days