Thursday, May 23, 2013

book review: The Intercept by Dick Wolf

The backstory: Dick Wolf, perhaps most famous for creating all of the Law & Order series, as well as my beloved Chicago Fire. The Intercept is his first novel, presumably of a series, given the subtitle: a Jeremy Fisk novel.

The basics: Jeremy Fisk is an NYPD officer who works in the Intelligence Division to combat terrorism. When a terror attempt on a commercial flight is disrupted days before July 4, when One World Trade Center is set to be dedicated, Fisk and partner Krina Gersten work to figure out who was behind the attack and what they might be planning next.

My thoughts: As much as I adore all things Law & Order (and Chicago Fire), I was somewhat skeptical about this novel. Does Wolf have novel-writing chops? Having brilliant ideas for television shows isn't easy, but it's also not necessarily the same skill set as writing a well-crafted terrorism thriller. My fears were soon put to rest, as Wolf skillfully developed characters and mixed it with a compelling and smart terrorism plot. The Intercept succeeds initially because it is so close to reality. Osama bin Laden is a character, and Wolf pulls the traditional "ripped from the headlines" stories you'd expect from the Law & Orders. The more you already know about these current events will likely heighten your enjoyment of this novel. Things are shocking and provocative, but they're logical, which makes it even more frightening:
"For every terror plot that arose organically, which is to say without domestic law enforcement interference--the underwear bomber in a jetliner over Detroit, or the planned attack on Fort Dix, New Jersey--two others originated with the prodding of undercover federal agents. Not unlike actual terror cell leaders, they radicalized vulnerable Muslim suspects by fomenting anti-American dissent and supplying the conspirators with dummy materials, such as fake C-4 explosive or harmless blasting caps. These paper conspiracies were then passed off as major law enforcement victories, vanquished threats to say that the FBI had instigated more terror plots in the United States since 9/11 than Al-Qaida."
Wolf also manages to write from the point of view of terrorists eerily: "They must be made to believe we repeat ourselves out of a desperation to act." My biggest problem Andre Dubus III's Garden of Last Days was that the voice of the terrorist wasn't believable. Wolf manages to bring understanding, if not quite empathy, to the mind of a terrorist. I said to more than one friend who pondered "who could do this?" after the Boston Marathon bombing: read The Intercept. It may not fully answer the question, but it gets quite close.

Favorite passage: "I have not lost God, Miss. What I have lost is the idea that I can ever know what God is. That is why religion has become a curse on the earth. Nobody can know. But everybody presumes. Many are willing to kill without knowing. Without even thinking."

The verdict: The Intercept is a confidant, smart, and thrilling debut. Jeremy Fisk is a fascinating and flawed character, and I eagerly await his next adventure.

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Length: 400 pages
Publication date: December 26, 2012 (it's out in paperback Tuesday!)
Source: publisher via Edelweiss

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Intercept from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version.)

 As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Thursday TV: On giving up satellite

When we moved into our new house, Mr. Nomadreader and I made the choice to get rid of our satellite television package. I love television, but the rising prices became untenable for me, particularly as more and more is available streaming for free or very reasonable subscription fees. There are certainly things I'll miss, but I'm actually enjoying the change.

Binge watching is like binge reading
I adore binge watching shows, just as I adore binge reading entire series of books in a short amount of time. Even with satellite tv, I frequently let 3-5 (or more) episodes record and then watched them in spurts. I love devouring entire seasons of shows in a few days. Given that I prefer to watch shows in large doses, it made sense to abandon an increasingly dated television system. Although I broke up with Grey's Anatomy years ago, I began watching it from the beginning the week before we moved. I started season 3 last night, and that's in two weeks I've been packing, moving and unpacking.

DVR anxiety should not be a thing
If you're like me, your TBR pile is filled with more books than you can actually read in a given year. I'm the same way with a DVR: I fill it with shows, documentaries, and films I genuinely want to watch, yet I can only spend so many hours a week watching television. Our DVR regularly hovered around 90% fill. Trips out of town meant tough decisions about what to delete unwatched. DVR anxiety is the ultimate first-world problem, and my DVR should not be a source of stress in my life.

Aligning my tv life with my reading life
Ultimately, it comes down to quality of my leisure life. Some nights, I feel more like watching tv than reading. Other nights I just want to read. Other nights I'm in the mood for movies. Giving up satellite means I can be more intentional about how I use my leisure time. Far too often I got in the habit of coming home, seeing what had recorded on the DVR, and letting that plan my night. Now I come home and ponder what I most want to do with my time. Most nights, it starts with a glass of wine and reading on my deck. When Mr. Nomadreader is home, we opt to grill out. Then I spend a little time unpacking (it's almost done!) and wandering around the house imagining the short term and long term changes I want to make. Then I end the night with a couple (or five) episodes of Grey's Anatomy and another glass of wine. This routine is nice, but I'm sure it will ebb and flow as the seasons change and I run through the lists of tv shows I've been meaning to watch that are also available streaming.

Now tell me: what tv shows should I rush to watch first?


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

book review: Relish by Lucy Knisley

The backstory: After adoring French Milk, Lucy Knisley's graphic memoir about traveling to France with her mother in 2004, I was eager to read her newest graphic memoir.

The basics: Relish is a memoir of Knisley's life told through food. As the daughter of foodies, Knisley traces her relationship with food from childhood to today.

My thoughts: Lucy Knisley has a wonderful ability to share the emotions she felt with her readers. It's not simply a matter of her signature art, although her visual aesthetic certainly contributes to it, particularly the way she uses space. At the heart of what I love about her work is her raw honesty. She doesn't hide, and that inhibition draws me right in. Knisley isn't just showing and telling her story, she's inviting her readers to share it.

Relish is obviously perfect for foodies. The images of Knisley tasting her first foie gras at a dinner party as a child and proceeding to ask every grown up at the table if they had any extra brought tears to my eyes. When she visited Alinea, I shared her excitement (and was filled with jealousy.) While I loved the food moments individually, collectively this graphic memoir is much more than simply a life of food. Knisley's journey, which she marks with food, is the real treasure.

The verdict: Relish is a more ambitious graphic memoir than French Milk, and it succeeds on more levels because of it. It's a graphic memoir I'll return to re-read again and again over the years, as I, too, form more new food memories.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Length: 176 pages
Publication date: April 2, 2013
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Relish from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version.)

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Monday, May 20, 2013

book review: The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout

The backstory: I read Elizabeth Strout's last book, Olive Kitteridge, for book club a few years ago. I liked it, but I didn't love it, mostly because I wanted more of a novel than interconnected stories. I was curious to see how I would far with her latest novel, The Burgess Boys. Update: It was also longlisted for the 2014 Baileys Prize.

The basics: The Burgess Boys is about three adult siblings from Maine. Jim and Bob now live in Brooklyn, but Susan remains in the town where they grew up. When Susan's son Zack gets in trouble, she turns to her brothers for help.

My thoughts: What I liked most about Olive Kitteridge was Olive herself. Strout has a way of developing characters beautifully, and The Burgess Boys begin with detailed glimpses into each of the Burgesses, plus Jim's wife. The set up was glorious. I devoured Strout's writing and character building and could not bear to put this novel down. After all this set up, I was ultimately disappointed. The last half of the book fell flat for me and was laborious to get through. The plot meandered and the characters who seemed so richly developed, complicated and intriguing in the first half became less fascinating and often dull. Although the second half was both unsatisfying and not enjoyable, I still am fond of the first half of this novel. I wish that charm and fascination could have carried through the rest of the novel too.

The verdict: Strout's beautifully detailed prose and richly developed characters weren't enough to salvage the meandering second half of this novel for me.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Length: 337 pages
Publication date: March 26, 2013 
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Burgess Boys from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version.)

 As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday Salon: I've Missed It Here!

Hi, y'all! I feel like I haven't seen you in ages. I've missed you and your comments. I've missed blogging. I've missed our Twitter conversations. I've missed reading other blogs. I've missed reading (or finishing) actual books. Here's what I've been up to in these far-too-quiet last few months:

Remember when I said Mr. Nomadreader and I bought a house? Well everything came through, we closed, and moved. FOR THE LAST TIME. EVER. (That tiny red triangle in the top right corner says SOLD!) I've moved six times in the six years I've been blogging. I've moved nine times since I graduated from college (just over ten years ago.) Sheesh. And as much as I love our house, and still find myself wandering from room to room marveling that it's ours, part of me is ready to resume 'normal' reading, blogging, Tweeting and blog reading. Hello, lazy days of summer, I'm so glad you're here! Once the last of the major things to do around the house are tied up this week (just in time for our first out-of-town visitors and our housewarming party), I'm looking forward to a summer full of Mondays off. Yes, Mr. Nomadreader and I will finally have a day off together each week (at least for two and a half months!) House pictures will come when more is put away. Sneak peak: we're arranging our books by color, and I cannot wait!

While I haven't been blogging or even reading other blogs, I have been spending thinking about why I blog and what I want out of my blog. I haven't reached many conclusions, but for now I want to once again make blogging a priority in my life, just as I want to make reading a priority. I always come back around to what I love most about blogging about books: I'm an extrovert who loves to read, so having an outlet to share my thoughts on books with other readers matters to me. I also want to return to blogging more about other entertainment media, specifically film and television. Look for more of those posts in the future.

I'm spending today unpacking, finishing up Michael Harvey's fourth Michael Kelly novel, We All Fall Down, and binge-watching Grey's Anatomy (I'm in the middle of season 2.) I find alternating house chores with relaxing makes me accomplish far more (or at least not resent chores interrupting my lazy Sunday nearly as much!)

I hope this week will be a return to my normal posting schedule and help me get caught up on reviews. Now tell me: what have you been up to? 

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!