Monday, October 31, 2011

book review: The Tyranny of E-mail by John Freeman

The backstory: The Tyranny of Email is one of the readings this semester in a course I'm teaching on how technology impacts our lives and the world.

The basics: Aptly subtitled "The Four Thousand Year Journey to Your Inbox," The Tyranny of Email is one part history of email (and written communication) and one part fix for email over-dependency.

My thoughts: I didn't pick this book for my course, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I began reading it and planning to teach it. I'm fascinated by technology and its power to connect us, and I did not consider myself to think email is tyrannical (at least for me.)

In many ways, The Tyranny of Email is the tale of two books for me. I was fascinated by Freeman's history of written communication. The first chapter focuses on the evolution of the postal service from the pony express. As someone who finds such joy in receiving mail, it was fascinating to see its beginnings. I knew bits and pieces, but Freeman fleshed out the history beautifully. Next came the evolution of the telegraph, something I'm only familiar with through books and movies. It is hard for me to imagine the actual poles and wires being built to send messages, but again, I found it fascinating.

As the history shifted to the more modern means of written communication and computers, I was less fascinated, but more so because I'm so much more familiar with the history of computers and email. Once Freeman explained the evolution of written communication, he moved onto his manifesto for a slow communication movement. He thinks big, and his ideas stem from how severe he feels our use of email is.

Freeman's argument fell apart for me here because he failed to distinguish between home email and work email. While I have the ability to check my work email from my phone, I rarely do on nights and weekends. I have a healthy work-life balance. For me, email (and social networking) are a way to keep in touch with friends and family far away. Freeman urges his readers to invite friends over from dinner rather than email them. While I would love to have dinner with my friends scattered across the country, it simply isn't feasible on a daily basis.

I understand where he's coming from; he's drowning in email. I'm not. He advises readers to use the phone instead. My response? Phone calls are far more disrupting to my work than emails. Yes, I keep my work email open all day, but I don't get notifications. I check it as I need to.

One of the reasons I opted to review this book here (after reading it, discussing it and then reading students papers on it), is the very idea of book blogging. Freeman is so busy listing the dangers of email and technology disconnecting us, when I have found so many wonderful connections through technology and my blog. I love to read, and I read more than most of my friends and family. I prioritize reading differently. Through technology, I've found others who have the same priority of reading. I'm able to take one of my favorite activities, which is quite solitary by nature, and share it. Would I like to do so face-to-face with people in Des Moines? Absolutely. Would I still do it here? Yes, because so few of you, my readers, are in the same city.

The verdict: Despite my issues with Freeman's view of email as tyrannical, I found the historical context fascinating. The Tyranny of Email is not a book I agreed with, but it is a book I'm glad I read, and it is certainly not without merit.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Length: 221 pages
Publication date: October 20, 2009 (it's in paperback now)
Source: I bought it

Want to read it to see for yourself? Buy The Tyranny of Email from Amazon.

Now tell me: do you find email to be tyrannical?

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

graphic novel review: Habibi by Craig Thompson

The basics: Habibi is the story of Dodola and Zam, two orphans who find companionship in one another. It's also the story of Islam and Christianity's roots.

My thoughts: I had Habibi in my read-a-thon pile, but I didn't get to it. I did, however, make time for it last week and found it so compelling I read it in a single sitting. It's an epic graphic novel in scope, ambition, art, story, and of course, length. I'm sure I would find new parallels and meanings with future readings of it.

What makes it feel most epic, however, is how brilliantly Thompson uses the format to achieve meaning. The story is powerful, and often quite dreary, but it's a story I don't think any other format, including film, could replicate with equal power. As I read it I found myself concentrating more fully than I typically do while reading. I was fully immersed in the time and place. Still, I found time to marvel at the utter idea of this graphic novel. How did Thompson think of it? It's simply majestic.

To get a feel for the art, Amazon has a nice gallery of customer photos.

The verdict: Thompson is a master and has created an amazing story in Habibi. As I read it, I was captivated like a child by its magic. Highly recommended to both graphic novel fans and those unfamiliar with the form.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 672 pages
Publication date: September 20, 2011
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Habibi from Amazon.

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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, October 27, 2011

Loving the Des Moines Life: Book Club, take one

After a failed attempt to start a book club in Albany (we managed to meet twice before admitting defeat), I hoped to find a book club rather than start my own. I was thrilled to hear one of chapters of P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization) I was invited to visit also has a book club. The book club meets every other month and reads two books.

What we read
The September picks were Sister by Rosamund Lupton (my review) and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (my review). While I liked one much more than the other, they both made great books for discussion. As many so often say, discussions of books you don't like are sometimes more enjoyable.

What we ate
I admit, I didn't quite know what to expect when it came to food and drink. I was delighted to see a smorgasbord of mini-wrap sandwiches, cheese and crackers, fresh fruit, nuts, and brownies. Plus, there were four bottles of wine. I was in heaven: snack, drink wine and read.

The consensus
One sign of a good book club: there is no consensus. Everyone was positive about Guernsey, but many had read it previously and didn't remember many of the details. Unfortunately, not everyone read Sister because the lines at the library are still quite long. One question I posed about Sister was the age of the sisters. For some reason, I didn't realize how young they were until I had been reading awhile. When it began, I assumed they were closer to my age. As the youngest person in book club, I asked if anyone else misread their ages. We agreed Bee's age was a little ambiguous initially.

What made for the most interesting discussion, however, was noting both novels are epistolary, albeit in dramatically different ways. It was an unintentional commonality when the books were selected, but it provided some interesting discussion.

The joy of spoilers
I try hard to not give out more than basic plot details in my reviews here, let alone spoilers (except, of course, in rare situations that merit them). The biggest thrill for me was being able to talk so candidly about literature. I had forgotten how rarely I get to engage in discussions rife with spoilers. Sister, a thriller, had some fascinating twists and surprises, and it was fun to hear which ones others found most surprising, as their  reactions varied from mine.

Next time...we spent almost as much time picking our next reads as we did discussing this month's reads, but I enjoyed the possibilities immensely. In the end, we couldn't narrow it down, so we picked three books:
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Winter Garden by Kristin Hanah
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

How is that for variety? Can you guess which one I suggested? Several of the members have already read Winter Garden and love it, and I'm trying to wait for the temperature to drop so I can enjoy the winter-ness of it. Unbroken is new to all of us, and I'm excited to have an excuse to read it. I often need a push to read non-fiction, so I'm glad to have this one. We meet the week after Thanksgiving to discuss these three titles.

Now tell me: Have you read Unbroken or Winter Garden? What do you think of them as book club picks?

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

book review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The backstory: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was one of the two selections for my new book club last month. I reviewed Sister, the other selection, yesterday. Tomorrow I'll opine about our joint discussion of the books, dish on my new book club, and tell you what we're reading for next month.

The basics: "As London is emerging from the shadow of World War II, writer Juliet Ahston discovers her next subject in a book club on Guernsey--a club born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi after its members are discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island." (I liked this description from my library's catalog.)

My thoughts: It's true, I never would have read this book if not for book club. I'm not quite sure why I have such a bias against it, but I did sit down expecting to enjoy it, as I adore epistolary novels. I quite enjoyed the beginning of this novel. Julia is a delightful narrator, and the history of Guernsey was intriguing. Despite these strengths, I soon found myself bored because it was telegraphed from the beginning. There was no surprise or intrigue, and in this case the letters began to impede character development.

The romance was fine. I enjoy a bit of romance sprinkled in, but it was clear from the first letter this serendipitous friendship would become more. In some ways, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is exactly what people say it is: a charming and sweet historical tale. I wasn't charmed, although I would call it charming. Incidentally, I do think the film will be good (it's tentatively set to release in 2013, but is currently in development.) The writing wasn't weak, but I didn't find it to be strong either. I didn't write down a single passage, and I didn't find the voices of the wide variety of letter writers to be varied enough. I frequently found myself forgetting who was writing the letter and had to flip back to its beginning (it's a rare novel I'm glad I didn't read on my Kindle.)

Overall, I found it to be a rather ordinary novel. The peek into Guernsey was lovely, and I enjoyed Juliet. I wished the other characters were more developed, and perhaps in this case the epistolary format should have been abandoned in the second part (or at least interspersed).

The verdict: Remember earlier this year when Jill reviewed Major Pettigrew's Last Stand with two sentences: "If I had to describe this book in one word, I'd say cute. In fact, I think that's all I say." I was tempted to do so here, as it sums up this one quite nicely. If cute and gentle are your thing, then go for it. (Ironically, Jill loved this book, and most people (except Ti!) seem to agree.)

Rating: 3 out of 5
Length: 290 pages
Publication date: July 29, 2008
Source: library

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

book review: Sister by Rosamund Lupton

The backstory: Sister was one of the two selections for my new book club last month. I'll review the other selection, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, tomorrow. Thursday I'll opine about our joint discussion of the books, dish on my new book club, and tell you what we're reading for next month.

The basics: As Sister begins, Bee learns her pregnant younger sister Tess is missing. Bee immediately flees her fiance, job and life in New York to return to London to find her sister.

My thoughts: Thriller isn't a genre term I often use, as mystery typically seems more appropriate for the things I read. When I think of thrillers, I think of pop fiction and admit to dismissing the genre too quickly as 'person in peril.' Sister, however, is a bona fide, character-driven, literary thriller. And it's creepy. The novel is written as Bee's letter to Tess, and it is as much about Bee as it is about Tess.

Soon after Bee returns to London, Tess is found dead. The police believe she killed herself, but Bee refuses to believe it. The police dismiss Bee partially because she claims to be so close to her sister, yet Tess didn't tell her she had the baby already. Bee seeks the truth of why Tess didn't tell her as well as the truth of her death.

The premise sounds depressing and creepy, but Lupton's observations keep the bleak in check: "maybe sangfroid is in the genes of the aristocracy." As Bee feels increasingly alone, living in Tess's flat, her letter take on a remarkable self-analysis: "I was conscientious about the minutiae of life, but in the important things I was selfishly and cruelly neglectful." The search for truth takes Bee, and thus the reader, to unexpected places.

Favorite passage: "I reminded you I studied literature, didn't I? I've had an endless supply of quotations at my disposal, but they have always highlighted the inadequacy of my life rather than provided an uplifting literary score to it."

The verdict: Sister is filled with intrigue and observation. It was a gripping read, and it's one I found I enjoyed even more in hindsight. I'm already eagerly awaiting Rosamund Lupton's next novel, Afterwards, which comes out in April.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 336 pages
Publication date: June 7, 2011
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Sister from Amazon in hardback or for the Kindle.

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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, October 23, 2011

Sunday Salon: I didn't read *all* day, but I did...

Happy morning after read-a-thon, everyone! I had a wonderful time reading and tweeting yesterday. Of my giant pile of 26 books, I managed to read three of them. I started with Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novel Lost at Sea. I tend to begin a read-a-thon with a graphic novel because it brings such joy and accomplishment early on. When I finished it, I also noticed #readathon was trending on Twitter, which is awesome. Before the second hour, I was onto book number two: I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn. I spent about three hours reading it, and it was fascinating. Plus, it brought me my favorite moment of the read-a-thon:
Cheer Bear as Amelia Earhart

The mini-challenge was to take a photograph of something that represents a character in the book you're reading. Yes, in only hour two, I was loopy enough to make flying goggles out of an index card (why an index card? I'm still not sure) for a Cheer Bear and stand on my dining room table to get maximum clouds. Also, it gave Mr. Nomadreader a hearty laugh when he got home.

After the smashing success of the first two books, I began Crawling at Night by Nani Power. I'll save my thoughts until my review, but I will say I wouldn't recommend it as a read-a-thon pick next time. I managed to finish it, however, and was in the mood for something a bit lighter. I sat down with The James Joyce Murder by Amanda Cross only to discover it's the second in her Kate Fansler series. Thankfully the first novel, In the Last Analysis is available for the Kindle for only $5.99 (a bargain!) While I was enjoying it, my brain was also tired of processing new characters (one downside to the graphic novel/novella approach to read-a-thoning). I took a brief magazine respite and indulged in the new issues of US Weekly and Entertainment Weekly (my typical Saturday morning ritual). Then Mr. Nomadreader came home from work, and I decided three books in one morning was an accomplishment, so we left to go on a long walk and enjoyed a beautiful day (seriously, October is my favorite time of year: highs in 60's and lows in the 30's is the best of both worlds.)

I didn't meet my goal of reading until six, but I did a fantastic time reading, tweeting, tumbling quotes from I Was Amelia Earhart, and snacking. The organizers, cheerleaders and hosts did a fantastic job, and although I didn't win any prizes, I had fun. The best part of the read-a-thon is often the non-reading parts. In my typical fashion, I spent 10-15 minutes at the top of the hour reading the hourly post, tweeting and deciding if any of the mini-challenges spark my interest. Then I sit back and read for the next 45-50 minutes. It's a nice breakdown for me, although when I'm nearing the end of a great read, I'll wait to finish.

Hats off to those who read for far more hours than I did and those who volunteered their time to cheer, host mini-challenges or host the read-a-thon itself. I thoroughly enjoyed a day of no responsibility, and I have you all to thank! I'll look forward to the next one in April, but until then, I still have that pile of 23 other books to make it through.

Happy reading!

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Time to Read (All.Day.Long)

Remember a few weeks ago when I mentioned I was already stocking up on books for the read-a-thon? Well last night when I sat down to collect them all in one place, I realized I had gone overboard. Way, way overboard. Counting only the print books I've amassed from the libraries and my shelves, I discovered I had 26 books. More books than hours? Seriously, Carrie.

Still, as I looked at the shelf, I really liked the variety. I have a couple of non-fiction options (one a graphic novel and one a teen photo-heavy option), a few other graphic novels, a Newbery medal book, a couple of short story collections, a plethora of novellas, a couple of mysteries, and a veritable grip of short novels. The novels are mostly literary fiction, but there's a nice mix of authors, locations and time periods. Two check in over 300 pages, but only barely (316 and 322 respectively.) And I haven't even gotten to the choices on my Kindle (Zone One, I'm staring most longingly at you...)

In perfect read-a-thon form, the only book I'm currently reading is Anna Karenina (yes, I'm still behind the readalong). I opted to refrain from reading last night and enjoy wine, steak, and brussel sprouts (yum!) with Mr. Nomadreader. What will I pick up first today? Probably Zone One, but here's what else I have on my read-a-thon shelf:

  • Flesh & Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy by Albert Martin (a recent National Book Award finalist- a teen photo-heavy non-fiction pick)
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (a 2011 Newbery Medal book)
  • Radioactive Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love & Fallout by Lauren Redniss (another recent National Book Award finalist)
  • Lost at Sea by Bryan Lee O'Malley (recommended by Tasha at Truth, Beauty, Freedom & Books)
  • Superspy by Matt Kindt (graphic novel -- spied at the library)
  • Habibi by Craig Thompson (graphic novel--spied at the library)
  • Portraits of a Few of the People I've Made Cry by Christine Sneed (short stories)
  • Walks with Men by Ann Beattie (novella)
  • Train Dreams by Denis Johnson (novella)
  • The Master Key by Masako Togawa (novella)
  • The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (novella)
  • A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd (the latest Bess Crawford mystery I still haven't read--eek!)
  • The James Joyce Murders by Amanda Cross (recommended by Rose City Reader)
  • Property by Valerie Martin (2003 Orange Prize winner)
  • I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelshohn (from the 1997 Orange Prize shortlist)
  • Crawling at Night by Nani Power (from the 2002 Orange Prize longlist)
  • I Married You For Happiness by Lily Tuck
  • This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman
  • The Disappeared by Kim Echlin (recommended by Jill at Fizzy Thoughts)
  • The Professor's Wives Club by Joanne Rendell (recommended by Swapna at S. Krishna's Books)
  • The All of It by Jeannette Haien (recommended by Ann Patchett)
  • Firmin by Sam Savage (recommended by Nancy Pearl)
  • When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
  • Cross Currents by John Shors
  • The Train of Small Mercies by David Rowell

Crazy, right?

I'll be reading (on my couch) today until about dinnertime. I may participate in a few mini-challenges and updates, but they'll be on Tumblr. I'l probably check in on Twitter throughout the day too. Check back here tomorrow for my recap of what I read and for how long. Until then, happy reading!

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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, October 20, 2011

book review: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

The basics: The Marriage Plot is the story of a love triangle of sorts. Madeleine Hanna is an English major at Brown in 1982. She falls hard for Leonard Bankhead, while Mitchell Grammaticus falls hard for her. Madeleine's senior thesis addresses the marriage plot in classic literature and ponders if it's still relevant today: "in the days when success in life had depended on marriage, and marriage had depended on money, novelists had had a subject to write about. The great epics sang of war, the novel of marriage. Sexual equality, good for women, had been bad for the novel. And divorce had undone it completely."

My thoughts: This novel has three of my favorite attributes: an academic setting, travel, and it's character driven. I have a soft spot for novels set in academia, and The Marriage Plot utterly immerses itself in it:
"College wasn't like the real world. In the real world people dropped names based on their renown. In college, people dropped names based on their obscurity."
I found the lengthy descriptions of college course content in English, philosophy and religion fascinating, but they may not appeal to all readers. Given the large number of relatively obscure texts mentioned, I was amazed how well Eugenides integrated them into the story in ways that would not alienate a reader unfamiliar with some of them nor bore a reader who knew them well. As a reader who fell into both categories at different times, I still feel I got the same experience, which is truly impressive.

It's no secret I love to travel and often enjoy fiction that takes me on a traveling journey. As with the literature and theory in the first part of the novel, Mitchell's post-college travels took him to places I've visited and places I haven't, and yet I enjoyed them equally. It was a fascinating journey to be a part of.

Although I certainly enjoy plot, character-driven novels remain my favorite. While Madeleine is ostensibly the main character, so much of her story was tied up with the stories of Leonard and Mitchell. It was mostly successful, but the one quibble I had with the novel was the redundancy of his depression. Initially, the insight into depression and mental illness was all-encompassing and illuminating. As time went on, however, I began to grow tired of its focus. Of course, this device mimics the story itself, which I presume was intentional, but it began to hinder my enjoyment, albeit not my appreciation, of this novel. When Madeleine was able to take center stage, however, I most enjoyed the novel. Her thoughts and perspective were delightful and moving:
"You were supposed to feel bad about missing the sixties, but Madeleine didn't. She felt as if she'd been spared a lot of nonsense, that her generation, while inheriting much that was good from that decade, had a healthy distance from it as well, saving them from the whiplash that resulted from being a Maoist one minute and a suburban mother, in Beverly, Massachusetts, the next."
I especially loved the irony of this statement in a character-driven novel: "'Please,' Rudiger said dismissively. 'Let's not try to understand each other by autobiography.'"

While I do believe The Marriage Plot is one of the best novels of the year, it fell a bit short of becoming one of my favorite novels of the year. Eugenide's brilliance as a writer and auteur is utterly apparent. Yet Leonard's domination of the novel reduced by enjoyment. If Madeleine were able to shine more, the novel would have been more enjoyable, although not more brilliant.

Favorite passage: "Whereas Madeleine was perfectly happy with the idea of genius. She wanted a book to take her places she couldn't get to herself. She thought a writer should work harder writing a book than she did reading it. When it came to letters and literature, Madeleine championed a virtue that had fallen out of esteem: namely, clarity."

The verdict: In many ways, I think of The Marriage Plot as I do Freedom (my review). It's brilliant in conception, scope and theme. My enjoyment as a reader comes as much from enjoying the mechanics of the novel as it does the character. It isn't a novel that swept me away with its characters and events, but it is a novel I will continue to respect, analyze and ponder for the years to come.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 418 pages
Publication date: October 11, 2011
Source: I bought it for my Kindle

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!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Saturday Salon: Long Reading Weekends

Saturday Salon: because sometimes I feel like salon-ing on Saturday.

I really love my job. I find it challenging, yet satisfying. It's intellectually stimulating but rarely stressful. I look forward to going to work every day, but I also look forward to time away from work. I'm incredibly lucky to work at a university that values work-life balance. I get four weeks of paid vacation each year, and I have to use it or lose it each year. In addition, the university closes for almost two weeks for Christmas and New Year's. As someone who started this job in June, I didn't use very much of my vacation in the summer. I didn't want or need much of a break yet. So here I am, with most of my vacation time unused. I needed a plan to use these days before the end of May, and genius struck: long reading weekends.

Sure, they're called vacation days, but I'm planning to use one day a month to make a long reading weekend staycation. After a month of hectic but exciting travel on weekends, I'm thrilled to spend today, tomorrow and Monday (!) reading (and catching up on my DVR.) Bring on the relaxation.

More specifically, I'm planning to spend the next three days finishing up The Marriage Plot, which I'm really enjoying. I'm about half-way through it now and will dive back in as soon as I finish this post. I also need to finish Jamrach's Menagerie. I'm enjoying it, but it's one of those books I don't miss when I'm not reading it and often found myself picking up something else. It's perfect for the long reading weekend. I didn't finish it before The Marriage Plot came out, but it's next in line. Then, I need to start (and finish) Half-Blood Blues to round out my Booker reading before the announcement of the winner Tuesday. I'd like to get caught up (and ahead) in my Anna Karenina reading too, but that's less urgent.

I hope to bring you reviews of Jamrach's Menagerie and Half-Blood Blues before Tuesday too.

Now tell me: what are you reading this weekend? 

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fridays with Anna: Week One

Remember last week, when I swooned about how reasonable the reading schedule for Anna Karenina is? Well, I suppose I still think it is reasonable, but I didn't quite manage to make it to Chapter XX though.

I am, however, greatly enjoying my dates with Anna. Here are the things that stick out to me thus far in my adventure:

1. The sentences are really long, but it works. I don't get lost in the sentences. In fact, I find them to be lovely. They're ridiculously descriptive, and thus far I think these long, comma-filled, descriptive sentences provide fascinating insight into the characters, both past and present.

2. It's not a good book to read in public. I read on the go a lot, but it doesn't work for me with Anna. I need the quiet focus of my apartment. This week has been ridiculously busy, and I just haven't had as much time to read as I like. It's especially annoying when I'm loving The Marriage Plot, enjoying Anna Karenina, and eager to start reading the National Book Award finalists (p.s. it's Friday!)

3. The Oprah bookmark is helpful. I'm not confused about characters yet, but I am using it to jot down some of the character descriptions. I may be reading on my Kindle, but in terms of character mapping, I still keep it in print. The rest of my notes for future Friday posts and the eventual review stay on the Kindle. Speaking of the characters...

4. I like the characters (and they feel like people.) I realize from my surprise at liking the characters how many preconceived notions I had about this book. Obviously, I'm not very far into my reading yet, but like so many great novels, the years and miles are immediately erased through the shared experience of human emotions.

5. It's even kind of funny. Again, my pre-conceptions have me shaking my head. While the humor may not be the driving force of my enjoyment thus far, I did not expect Anna to be funny. At all. To be fair, I haven't found her to be terribly funny yet, but her brother makes me giggle in a very proper way.

Next week: I'm playing catch up this weekend, and I'll be (back) on track for next Friday's post (through Part 2, Chapter VIII. Until then, you can follow all the action at Wallace's blog.

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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, October 13, 2011

Thursday TV: First Thoughts on Homeland

The basics: Homeland, a new program airing on Showtime, features Claire Danes as Carrie, a CIA analyst who is also bipolar.  In a CIA briefing, Carrie hears that a U.S. POW, long presumed dead, had been discovered and rescued in Iraq. She immediately leaves the room and goes to consult Saul (Mandy Patinkin). When an Iraqi prisoner told her an American POW had been turned, she initially dismissed the claims because there were no known POWs. Now she fears Sergeant Brody (Damian Lewis), who is welcomed as an American hero will pull off a terrorist attack on American soil.

My thoughts: The first episode of Homeland is brilliant. It's intelligent, thrilling, and wacky in the best ways. At the crux of the show is the tension between paranoia and reality. Carrie wants round-the-clock surveillance, which is a clear violation of Brody's privacy. He hasn't yet done anything. Does the word of an Iraqi prisoner trump an American hero? When the CIA won't bug Brody's house, Carrie does it herself and makes her apartment surveillance central. She has eyes and ears in every room of his house.

Meanwhile, Brody and his family are struggling to find normalcy. He was presumed dead years ago, and his wife was close to telling their two children about her new boyfriend. Their son is young enough to not even remember his father. It's a tragic and fascinating family dynamic.

The acting is superb across the board. I've been a huge fan of Claire Danes since the blessed days of My So-Called Life. She portrays the crazy and the smart brilliantly. It's clear she's never forgiven herself for not catching (and stopping) the terror events of 9/11 and refuses to let it happen again. Is her bipolar disorder wrapped up in these fears? It's too early to tell.

Homeland is intense. The details matter, which makes the audience feel like Carrie. We're helping her look for clues about Brody. Where will we draw the line in the sand? Which one will we trust? Will we be right?

The verdict: It's too early to tell, of course, but based on the first episode, Homeland could well be the best show on tv (watch out, The Good Wife). It's a reminder that episodic television can tell stories visually in ways books cannot. The little details and clues of Homeland would be too obvious if inserted in a novel, but on the screen they dazzle.

Now tell me: what do you think of Homeland so far? 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

2011 National Book Award Finalists: First Thoughts

The five finalists for this year's National Book Award in Fiction are:

The Sojourn  by Andrew Krivak
The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht (my reveiew)
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka (my review)
Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories by Edith Pearlman
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

My thoughts
I've read two of the books. I thoroughly enjoyed Julie Otsuka's The Buddha in the Attic, and I'm thrilled to see it honored here. Although I think Tea Obreht is brilliant, The Tiger's Wife fell flat for me as a novel.

I've heard wonderful things about Salvage the Bones from both Wendy at Caribou's Mom and Audra at Unabridged Chick. I was in the library holds line for it, but I opted to buy it for my Kindle instead.

The other two titles are new to me. The Sojourn by Andrew Krivak comes from the revered Bellevue Literary Press. Somehow it wasn't on my radar, but it looks outstanding. I ordered it for my Kindle and will likely pick it up after I finish The Marriage Plot. The last title is the only collection of stories. I've never read Edith Pearlman, but I welcome this opportunity to explore her short fiction in Binocular Vision.

The winner will be announced November 16, 2011. I'll be reviewing the three titles I have not yet read over the coming weeks, and I'll weigh in with my prediction on the 16th. 

Now tell me: which title are you rooting for?

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

book review: A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear

The backstory: A Lesson in Secrets is the eighth Maisie Dobbs mystery novel. Here are links to my reviews of the first seven books: Maisie DobbsBirds of a FeatherPardonable LiesMessenger of TruthAn Incomplete Revenge, Among the Mad, and The Mapping of Love and Death. (There may be some minor spoilers from earlier novels in this review.)

The basics: The British Secret Service recruits Maisie to work semi-undercover as a professor of philosophy at a small college in Cambridge. Maisie is qualified, but she must apply and actually get the job. Her goal: see if anything is amiss at this college, whose founder and president wrote a pacifist children's book during the war that was suppressed. When he soon ends up murdered, Maisie has trouble distinguishing between her duties as a mole and her driving need to solve the crime.

My thoughts: After The Mapping of Love and Death, which was my favorite of the Maisie Dobbs novels, I was eager to see where Winspear took the story. There were many references to the numerous developments in that book, but I was pleased to see the mystery take center stage in this book. It was a pleasure to see Maisie as a professor of philosophy. She loved working with students, and provided a nice way to discuss the war, pacifism, and the impending fear some have for Herr Hitler:
"A man who stands up for what he believes instead of fighting for what someone else believes in is a threat--people cannot bear someone who has that sort of strength and fortitude."
With Maisie in Cambridge during the week, however, she was away from the action in London. This distance allowed Billy to work more independently. Maisie increasingly encourages him to use his instincts, and he seems to be gaining in confidence.

The mystery itself was quite intriguing. As an academic librarian, I have a predisposed fascination with academia, and this novel provided a fascinating glimpse into this institution. Having a murder take place at this small college was a shock to its people, and it provided Maisie with many possible suspects.

When I started this series at the end of December, I intended to follow the read-a-long and finish much sooner. In the end, I'm glad it took me ten months to complete the series. March seems so far away to wait for the next Maisie Dobbs novel. Like so many characters in a series, she's become a friend, and I already miss knowing I can simply pick up her next adventure to read. To tide me (and millions of others) over, Jacqueline Winspear has started a wonderful blog, Maisie Dobbs: Inspiration from an Extraordinary Generation. It's a joy to read, and it helps me wait a little more patiently for the next Maisie Dobbs novel.

Favorite passage: "She missed the twin aspects of his character she enjoyed--an ability to accept whatever the day had to offer, along with a need for his own quiet interludes, when he rode out on one of his hunters across the lands of the Chelstone estate."

The verdict: Although I didn't enjoy A Lesson in Secrets quite as much as The Mapping of Love and Death, it was an engaging read and a welcome addition to this series. The mystery shined brighter than Maisie's personal life in this novel, but there was enough intrigue in it to carry this novel. When Maisie's personal life did take center stage, it feels like seeing an old friend.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 336 pages
Publication date: March 22, 2011
Source: I bought it for my Kindle

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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, October 10, 2011

book review: The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

The backstory: Tom Perrotta is my favorite author. I eagerly awaited the release of his newest novel, The Leftovers, for months.

The basics: One day in Mapleton, a typical suburban community, a hundred people suddenly disappear. Is it the Rapture? If so, many who are left behind wonder, why was I not taken when so-and-so was? The novel focuses on the impact of the Sudden Departure on one family. Kevin becomes mayor (at the request of many locals) and aims to foster community and healing. Meanwhile his wife, Laurie, joins the Guilty Remnant, a local cult that forbids speaking and contact with loved ones. Their son Tom drops out of college and begins following the sketchy prophet Holy Wayne. Their daughter Jill was with her best friend, who disappeared during the Sudden Departure, and struggles.

My thoughts: In short: I loved it. Tom Perrotta has often written about suburbia, and this novel maintains many of those hallmarks. This novel also incorporates religion and belief in beautiful, haunting ways. Although I want to believe if I survived the Sudden Departure I would remain sensible, it's impossible to say. By focusing on the prolonged aftermath rather than the departure and its immediate aftermath, Perrotta writes a more thoughtful novel. Although the subject matter borders speculative fiction, Perrotta's concern is the people, not the event itself. In this sense, it's classic Perrotta: an exploration of the details and emotions of life in a suburban town. Another way The Leftovers didn't often feel like speculative fiction was its firm rooting in the world as we know it:
"The coverage felt different from that of September 11th, when the networks had shown the burning towers over and over. October 14th was more amorphous, harder to pin down: There were massive highway pileups, some train wrecks, numerous small-plane and helicopter crashes--luckily, no big passenger jets went down in the United States, though several had to be landed by terrified copilots, and one by a flight attendant who'd become a folk hero for a little while, one bright spot in a sea of darkness--but the media was never able to settle upon a single visual image to evoke the catastrophe."
One of the reasons I love Tom Perrotta's novels is the balance of humor, intelligence and simply beautiful prose.  He makes me laugh, but he makes me think more. His writing is filled with insight, but his characters truly shine. The ensemble in The Leftovers was magnificent. The alternating narrators worked. Although some characters narrated more than others, they were just as well-developed. I don't think of this novel as the story of Kevin and Laurie, even though they are its focus. The scope of Perrotta's writing has always been larger than its characters, and that trend continues.

I'm still convinced Tom Perrotta is an under-appreciated literary genius, and The Leftovers may be his best work yet. With an author I love this much and whose work I've read for more than ten years, it's difficult to pick a favorite, but it's even more difficult to accurately assess quality. When I think of his past novels, I also think of where I was in life, both literally and figuratively, when I read them.

Favorite passage: "Laurie Garvey hadn't been raised to believe in the Rapture. She hadn't been raised to believe in much of anything, except the foolishness of belief itself."

The verdict: The premise of The Leftovers is as impressive as its execution. It's thoughtful and intelligent, but laughter and humanity make it not only impressive but incredibly relatable. It's a literary novel that can very well appeal to fans of popular fiction.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Length: 368 pages
Publication date: August 30, 2011
Source: I received a copy for review from the publisher, but I also bought it for my Kindle

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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, October 9, 2011

Sunday Salon: literary excitement

Happy Sunday! Despite the unseasonably hot weather (I am not a fan of having the air conditioning on in October!), I am starting to feel the anticipation of fall I adore so much. Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming in a few months, and I adore both holidays. But first, the next two weeks are filled with literary excitement. 

1. The Marriage Plot comes out Tuesday, October 11. Since I read The Virgin Suicides in high school, I've been a fan of Jeffrey Eugenides. Somehow I've never gotten around to reading Middlesex (I know, I know), but I'm eagerly awaiting The Marriage Plot. I've pre-ordered it for my Kindle, and I'm planning to wake up early Tuesday and get a head start on it before work. I'm fascinated with stories of academia and marriage, so the plot of this book coupled with its author makes it one of the fall releases I'm most excited to read. I'm carefully planning my reading to coincide with its release, so I'll be spending this afternoon and tomorrow night finishing up Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch.

2. The National Book Award finalists are announced Wednesday, October 12. You know you're awards-obsessed when you plan your lunch hour around their announcements. The announcement is coming at 11:06 Des Moines time, and I'll be ready. The field is wide open this year, and I'm eager to see what fiction titles will make the list. Last year brought numerous surprises, and I won't be making predictions. There are a few authors I'm hoping get some NBA love, but I also love discovering new authors with prize lists, so I'll find happiness either way, I'm sure.

3. Zone One comes out next Tuesday, October 18. Although I haven't read any of Colson Whitehead's earlier novels (for shame, I know), I love literary fiction writers switching to genre. The description of this novel is intriguing enough, but I'm curious to see where a writer of Whitehead's quality can take it. I've pre-ordered it for my Kindle too and plan another early morning reading session next Tuesday. 

4. The Booker Prize winner will be announced next Tuesday, October 18 too. I'll finish Jamrach's Menagerie tomorrow if all goes as planned. I plan to squeeze in the last of the shortlisted books, Half-Blood Blues after I finish The Marriage Plot. I certainly had my doubts that I'd be able to finish the shortlist this year, so it's quite affirming to be so close to completing the goal. I'll weigh in with my final thoughts before the winner is announced.

5. Dewey's Read-a-thon is Saturday, October 22 - Sunday, October 23. I haven't been able to participate the last few read-a-thons, so I'm excited to be at least a partial participant this year. I've been stocking up on graphic novels (a read-a-thon favorite), novellas, short story collections, Newbery winners, mysteries and a few carefully chosen young adult novels. I like variety during read-a-thons, and I will have plenty of it. I aim to get up for the starting point at 6 a.m. and read for at least twelve hours. I'll probably bow out around dinner time. I greatly admire those who can read for twenty-four hours (or even eighteen), but it tends to stop being enjoyable for me around hour twelve. Want to join the fun in reading for up to 24 hours? You can sign up here.

Now tell me, what are your literary excitements in the coming weeks?

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Announcing my first date...with Anna Karenina

Let me tell you about the hot date I had last night. With Mr. Nomadreader out of town this week (he's home in a few hours--hooray!), I opted for a Friday night date night of epic proportions (literally, she's an epic.) It may have only been our first date, but I think we'll be together until the new year. We won't be monogamous, of course, as many other readers are courting Anna too and I have so many other books to read, but I promise to take her out weekly and spend Friday mornings telling you about our dates. Who is this bewitching lady I'm courting?
Have you met the lovely Anna Karenina? She's lovely. I'll save my thoughts on her for next Friday, but here are some things you might find interesting about her. Although we think of her as one of the most famous Russian novels, she was originally published in serial installments (from 1873-1877), so our weekly dates are almost how Tolstoy intended. She is long. Epically long. Approximately 872 pages. I'll be reading her on my beloved Kindle so I can sip my wine and turn the pages at the same time.

I didn't dream up this idea on my own, of course. I usually need a little push to actually read the big old books I've been meaning to read for years. I place full blame on Wallace from Unputdownables for hosting a read-a-long and providing me with such a reasonable schedule. 63 pages a week? Sold! If all goes according to plan, I'll finish on December 30.

Rather than read a 9 pages a day, I'm aiming to read each week's section in its entirety. It will supplant my short fiction reading somewhat, as I find myself turning to short stories when in between books. Each Friday I'll post my thoughts on that week's readings (with spoiler warnings if needed.) 

Want to join the fun? It's not too late to sign up and all readers are welcome!

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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!

Friday, October 7, 2011

book review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The backstory: The Night Circus is one of the most buzzed about fall debuts and everyone seems to be loving it.

The basics: There's a black and white circus. It comes at night. It's magical. People love it.

My thoughts: I confess the premise of a magical circus didn't grab me, but the opening pages certainly did. Morgenstern creates a fascinating, magical, historical world. I was utterly absorbed for the first one hundred pages. I stayed awake late to read more.

About half-way through the novel, I sensed it plateauing. Descriptions of the circus still abounded, as new tents were added and different people experienced them. I became restless because so little was actually happening. The circus appeared in fascinating cities around the world, yet the setting wasn't incorporated in any way. Knowing it was in Paris or Egypt didn't add anything, which disappointed me.

I'm a huge fan of character-driven novels, and much of what I loved in the first half of the book were the character descriptions. My favorite description was of the Burgess sisters:
"The Burgess sisters arrive together. Tara and Lainie do a little bit of everything. Sometimes dancers, sometimes actresses. Once they were librarians, but that is a subject they will only discuss if heavily intoxicated."
Moregenstern also played with time, which I initially enjoyed. This early musing from Bailey is divine:
"He reads histories and mythologies and fairy tales, wondering why it seems that only girls are ever swept away from their mundane lives on farms by knights or princes or wolves. It strikes him as unfair to not have the same fanciful opportunity himself. And he is not in the position to do any rescuing of his own."
We meet Celia and Marco as children, and I was eager to see them grow up and duel. Despite promising beginnings, I didn't feel either character was terribly well developed. I longed for more descriptions of their thoughts and feelings rather than the magic each contributed to the circus.

While the magic of the circus captivated me for two hundred pages, the lack of character development and plot hindered my enjoyment of the book as a whole.

Favorite passage: "There are no longer simple tales with quests and beasts and happy endings. The quests lack clarity of goal or path. The beasts take different forms and are difficult to recognize for what they are. And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise."

The verdict: Despite a strong beginning, The Night Circus failed to live up to its early promise. I longed for more adventure in plot and more development in the characters I found so intriguing. Ultimately, this passage reflects my thoughts on the book as a whole:
'You are not taking this as seriously as you should.'
'It's a circus,' Celia says. 'It's difficult to take it seriously.'
'The circus is only a venue.' 
The circus was a lovely venue, but it wasn't enough to sustain this novel.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Length: 400 pages
Publication date: September 13, 2011
Source: publisher, via Edelweiss

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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, October 6, 2011

Thursday TV: First Thoughts on New Network Dramas

So Many New Shows!
I have a habit of sampling almost all new scripted shows on the major networks each fall. It doesn't always work. My DVR can only record two shows at once, and we are a one television family. I do my best. Some I'll watch until they go off the air. Some I'll watch for a few episodes. Some I only make it through a few minutes.

My thoughts
Given the range of both premiere dates and my somewhat limited television time, some shows I've seen several times, while some shows I've only seen once.

Shows Still Rocking My World (with links to their official websites so you can catch up on episodes you may missed if you're so inclined!)

RingerI adore Ringer. Yes, it's improbably, ridiculous, over-the-top and cheaply produced, but it's entertaining. Sarah Michelle Gellar plays estranged twins Siobhan and Bridget. Bridget is down on her luck living in Wyoming while Siobhan is married to a man who doesn't know she has a twin and living a financially fabulous life in Manhattan. Bridget now thinks Siobhan is dead. Siobhan is actually in Paris and pregnant. Bridget is pretending to be pregnant. It's a campy send-up to the prime time soaps of the 1980's, and I cannot get enough. Also refreshingly the plot moves along at a quick pace. Some have compared it to The Lying Game, a show I loveand yes, it involves twins switching places and one fantastic lead actress, but they're not terribly similar. I love them both, but I confess to loving The Lying Game more.

RevengeI love Revenge for similar reasons to Ringer, but quite frankly, Revenge is a better quality show. In many ways, it's also done in the vain of prime time shows of the past, but it has far less camp and more, well, revenge. Emily Thorne arrives in the Hamptons at the beginning of the summer as a mysterious young wealthy blonde. We learn through some crucial flashbacks that she is actually Amanda Clarke, and she has returned to a house she once lived in. Her father, wronged by his best friends in ways that are also slowly unfolding, has died, and she has returned to exact revenge. Madeline Stowe, her next door neighbor and mother to a very good-looking son smitten with Emily, is suspicious. It's a lovely duel of powerful women. What I love most about Revenge is Emily Thorne. Yes, she's driven by revenge, but she's a smart, powerful woman going after she wants. She's in control in a refreshingly feminist way for network television. Revenge is a guilty pleasure show, but it's an incredibly smart one.

Prime Suspect: A remake of the British series starring Helen Mirren, I was skeptical but excited about the Maria Bello version. Instead of solving one case a series as Mirren's character did, this version was Americanized to the case-a-week procedural that is so popular. I was curious, too, how the rampant sexism would translate to 2011. I'm incredibly impressed with Prime Suspect. It's raw, gritty and honest. The crimes have been intriguing, and Maria Bello is excellent both on the job and at home, as she struggles to be a step-mother to her boyfriend's young son (she isn't the most maternal) and deal with his ex-wife (who is comically cautious). It's a fantastic show that happens to be a procedural drama, and I hope its ratings improve so it lasts awhile.

A Gifted ManI wasn't expecting to enjoy A Gifted Man. The premise is a bit hokey: brilliant brain surgeon runs into his ex-wife and realizes they both live in New York. He calls her again and discovers she's dead. He is not one to enjoy the emotional or gray areas of life and (realistically) freaks out. It's description even has me questioning why I like it. The acting is superb, which helps. The characters are strong, and there's the right balance of realism with paranormalcy. There's the right balance of humor (his sister, played by Marin Ireland, is amazing) and stress. The medical aspect has been interesting so far. Most importantly, it's not schmaltzy. I'm curious to see how I feel about this show at mid-season, but for now, it's earned a spot in my weekly rotation.

Shows I Already Gave Up On

Hart of Dixie: I wanted to like this show. It seems quaint, fun, and it stars Rachel Bilson and Cress Williams. It's just too much for me. Bilson plays Zoe Hart, who aspires to be a cardio-thoracic surgeon but lacks any sort of beside manner. She takes the one job offer she has, a general practioner in Bluebell, Alabama that was offered to her several years ago at her medical school graduation. When she gets there, she discovers he has died. Then she discovers she is actually his daughter.
    • What goes wrong: with small-town charm, quirks, medical problems and Rachel Bilson, it should be a hit, but it simply tries to hard. It doesn't feel honest or organic.
    • I stopped watching in the middle of the second episode.

The Playboy Club: I had low hopes for this show based on reviews, but I was curious enough to tune in because sometimes I love a show so bad it's good.
    • What goes wrong: almost everything. Instead of treating sexual assault seriously in the age, when a bunny is attacked in the opening minutes she kills the man with her high heel. Seriously. 
    • I stopped watching seven minutes in. The shoe killing did me in.

Unforgettable: I was a huge fan of Without a Trace and Poppy Montgomery was excellent on it. I like the concept of this police procedural: she's a detective who remembers everything. I'm a detail-oriented person who loves trivia, and I was hoping for obscure details helping solve crimes. The pilot was bogged down with far too much backstory (she was a cop--and obviously will be again soon--and her ex needs her help because she just happens to be the only witness.)
    • What goes wrong: The writing wasn't strong enough for me, in dialogue or in the case of the week. 
    • I stopped watching 45 minutes into the pilot.

Charlie's Angels: I had low expectations here too. I thought it had the potential to be campy fun, but when I heard ABC was switching the order of episodes on the schedule, I saw red flags. Even campy fun shows should have a story arc that builds episode-to-episode. Still, I thought it might be a light-hearted program with smart women kicking butt. I hope it gets cancelled soon so Minka Kelly can come back to Parenthood.
    • What goes wrong: Instead of embracing the possibilities of being a fantasy, Charlie's Angels takes itself far too seriously. It's not believable, and it shouldn't try to be. 
    • I stopped watching 20 minutes into the pilot.

The Secret Circle: I only managed to survive the first half of the first season of The Vampire Diaries, so I was skeptical with this one because it's also based on a series of novels by L.J. Smith. It's about witches, and I'm sure fans of The Vampire Diaries will like it, but it fell flat for me. I'm not adverse to the paranormal (Buffy is one of my all-time favorite shows), but I like a carefully constructed world playing with notions of good and evil.
    • What goes wrong: It simply didn't grab me. I can't pinpoint why, but I was bored.
    • I stopped watching about ten minutes into the pilot.

Pan Am: I thoroughly enjoyed the pilot of Pan Am. It introduced a lot of characters, backstory and intrigue. It's a good show and many will enjoy it immensely. I have many of the same problems with it I have with Mad Men, which I also think is a good show, but it's a show I choose not to watch. Pan Am is a relatively authentic look at life at that time. The sets are impressive, especially given the number of cities depicted in a given episode. The second episode wasn't as strong as the first, and I fear it's a show without much trajectory. Male pilots saying sexist things, passengers mis-treating the flight attendants and traveling to different cities doesn't seem novel enough for me. Perhaps there are too many characters, as the pilots somewhat blend together, as do the flight attendants. As a story of a time and profession, it succeeds. As a story of compelling individual characters, it does not.
    • What goes wrong: Nothing. It's good. I like it. I simply don't love it, and there are enough shows I do love (some not as good as Pan Am, arguably). It comes down to time. The episodic nature of television watching necessitates a personal and emotional engagement for me to carve time out each week. I don't have that with Pan Am.
    • I stopped watching after two episodes.

Shows I'm Still Waiting to Watch:
  • Terra Nova: I have high hopes for this one, as I have an odd fascination with dinosaurs. As soon as Mr. Nomadreader gets home from his vacation, we'll be watching!
  • Person of Interest: I'm intrigued by this show, but I'm hedging my bets it's one I'll want to watch a few episodes of at once, so I'm waiting for four episodes to air before digging in.
  • Grimm and Once Upon a Time: I'll give both fairy tale shows a chance once they premiere later this month.
What new dramas are rocking your world this fall? Have you already given up on more shows than you're still watching like I have?