Category Archives: Books

Moonraker (James Bond, #3)

Moonraker (James Bond, #3)
author: Ian Fleming
name: Matthew
average rating: 3.69
book published: 1955
rating: 5
read at: 2018/07/13
date added: 2018/07/14
shelves:
review:
If your only experience with Moonraker is the Roger Moore film, please drop what you’re doing and read this book! In every respect–characterization, action, stakes, and plot development–this is the superior work. Fleming takes an oddly innocuous assignment for Bond–more of a personal favor to M, discovering a card cheat at the club–and unravels a treasonous Cold War plot that becomes the first of the familiar “Fate of The World” high-stakes gambits that James Bond is known for.

The scenery is local, but the plot reaches from Dover to Berlin to Moscow as Bond teams up with the Special Branch of Scotland Yard to investigate a murder-suicide at a defense contractor’s plant building the most advanced weapon to date: a transatmospheric guided rocket capable of hitting any capital in Europe with an atomic warhead–the ultimate defense against Soviet aggression or even a re-militarized Germany!

Fleming’s Bond in this story is far from the superhuman sophisticate we see in the Moore film of the same name. This version of Bond has a normal office job when he’s not on assignment and a human’s sense of mortality. The literary Bond gets injured (badly), he contemplates death (as he embarks on a suicide mission), and he might not even get the girl!

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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
author: John Berendt
name: Matthew
average rating: 3.91
book published: 1994
rating: 4
read at: 2018/06/28
date added: 2018/07/04
shelves:
review:

As a Georgia native, I’ve always known of and had a fascination with the little jewel down at the end of I-16, but Berendt’s Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil brings the city and its eccentric inhabitants to life in such a colorful way that–had it been about any other city in the country–I would have thought it a work of complete fiction! The truth, it seems, is often stranger and more interesting than one could imagine.

It’s a long read, and one could get bogged-down in the many long-winded descriptions of settings, but pick up the audio edition for a truly dramatic reading that brings the wonderfully goofy cast of characters directly into your mind’s eye!

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The Blue Nowhere

The Blue Nowhere
author: Jeffery Deaver
name: Matthew
average rating: 3.97
book published: 2001
rating: 1
read at: 2018/07/03
date added: 2018/07/04
shelves:
review:

It’s so terrible that it’s unintentionally hilarious!

I’m pretty sure Deaver’s “research” for this book consisted of watching Hackers, The Net, and Lawnmower Man, then asking is 16-year-old nephew for an explanation on the jargon they used in the films. That’s about as “deep” as this book gets into understanding its subject matter.

If you love a cheesy, woefully dated outsider’s look into The Cyber filled with every generic trope you could imagine, you’ll likely enjoy this disasterpiece. Just don’t forget to burn your modem and encrypt your Garbage files!

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Live and Let Die (James Bond, #2)

Live and Let Die (James Bond, #2)
author: Ian Fleming
name: Matthew
average rating: 3.62
book published: 1954
rating: 4
read at: 2018/06/13
date added: 2018/06/13
shelves:
review:

Fleming’s second James Bond outing is a more mature affair than its predecessor. This one feels more of the James Bond we know and love from the films: exotic locales, megalomaniacal villains, alluring women. In fact, although much of the original plot points remain in tact when this book transferred to film with Roger Moore ascending to the role after Sean Connery’s final departure, many of the individual scenes eventually made it into the various films at some point or another (Licence To Kill’s “He disagreed with something that ate him” scene primarily comes to mind).

One thing for modern audiences to note, though, is Fleming’s obvious “gentleman’s racism” toward black culture in the United States and the Caribbean. Was it a product of its time and place (London society in the 1950s?) probably. Was it okay? Absolutely not. I cringed every time Fleming described scenes within the “Negro” clubs in Harlem (I’ll spare the details, but they’re not unlike reading a description of minstrel shows from the turn of the 20th century). I understand that Fleming was trying to convey a fascination and appreciation with this entire culture that his audience would likely be unfamiliar with, but he does so in a way that reiterates the idea that African Americans are a separate (and inferior) species (as he will eventually do with Germans, Eastern Europeans, and anyone else who isn’t an Anglo/Norman Caucasian). The stereotypes he portrays as being endemic to an entire race of people are appalling and indefensible, but he uses them to great effect to describe the antagonistic Mr. Big.

If you can stomach the racial bigotry (and it’s pretty harsh, especially when Bond overhears background characters talking among themselves), come for the high adventure and thrilling suspense. If you’re a fan of the films, stay for the myriad of scenes that you’ll recognize from the whole of the series.

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Casino Royale (James Bond, #1)

Casino Royale (James Bond, #1)
author: Ian Fleming
name: Matthew
average rating: 3.74
book published: 1953
rating: 4
read at: 2018/06/11
date added: 2018/06/11
shelves:
review:
The first literary James Bond outing is a psychological thriller taking place over the course of a high-stakes baccarat tournament. Dashing heroes, sinister villains, and exciting action set the stage for one of the most thrilling and famous popular fiction series in history. The plot plays out very similarly to the 2006 film, showing many similarities but eschewing many of the peripheral dramas that padded the run time of Daniel Craig’s debut as the tuxedo-clad secret agent. Fleming’s Bond is more reserved, human, and far more cold and sinister than modern audiences might enjoy, but he is–as Judi Dench’s M denounced–a relic of the Cold War. It’s a period novel that can be enjoyed as such–high fiction and a fun read!

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Tales from Margaritaville

Tales from Margaritaville
author: Jimmy Buffett
name: Matthew
average rating: 3.90
book published: 1989
rating: 4
read at: 2018/06/10
date added: 2018/06/10
shelves:
review:

Rum-soaked romance on the sandy shores of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, Buffett’s Tales from Margaritaville reads like the lyrics of any one of Buffett’s albums. It’s a must for any parrothead, so pull up a hammock, crack open a bottle of your favorite, and dream away!

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Prey

Prey
author: Michael Crichton
name: Matthew
average rating: 3.74
book published: 2002
rating: 3
read at: 2018/06/07
date added: 2018/06/07
shelves:
review:

One of the many technological anxieties of the late 1990s comes to life with Michael Crichton’s Prey, a lackluster science fiction romp through the speculative world of nanotechnology disguised as a middle-aged engineer’s retrospective account of his involvement in the nightmarish logical extreme of technology gone awry. One might call the plot  “Jurassic Park with nanotechnology” except that would be doing a disservice to Jurassic Park.

Prey is the literary equivalent of a 90s popcorn flick: bold imagery, an action-packed plot, and a cautious warning message about the dangers of emerging technology loosely slapped on top. It’s not terrible, but it is vastly improved if you pretend it was written by Chuck Palahniuk about a man’s schizophrenic delusions justifying the murder of those around him.

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Kiss of the Bees (Walker Family, #2)

Kiss of the Bees (Walker Family, #2)
author: J.A. Jance
name: Matthew
average rating: 3.72
book published: 2000
rating: 0
read at: 2018/06/03
date added: 2018/06/03
shelves:
review:
I picked this volume up as an advanced reader copy over a decade ago as the title seemed interesting. I’d never heard of Jance or the Walker Family series. I’m not even a particular fan of the genre, preferring the science fiction, fantasy, and adventure genres to the sprawling murder mystery. After finally reading the book, I was pleasantly surprised. The characters are well-developed and the action is tense–especially toward the climax of the story. Unfortunately, this volume in particular suffers through “extended universe syndrome” wherein every character has a complex back-story that could stand alone as its own novel and these back stories are often dropped into the middle of a scene, breaking up the action and making the casual reading wonder where the hell he was when the scene picks back up. I understand the need for believable characters with plausible motivations, but Jance takes it all a bridge too far. If you’re patient and have the time, go for it, but if you’re not emotionally involved with a well-to-do and politically-connected family in Tucson, AZ, you might ought to skip it.

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Think Like a Freak

Think Like a Freak
author: Steven D. Levitt
name: Matthew
average rating: 3.81
book published: 2014
rating: 5
read at: 2018/05/29
date added: 2018/05/29
shelves:

The gentlemen behind the bestseller Freakonomics series are at it again–this time with a collection of stories and studies to subvert “conventional wisdom” and encourage the reader to think “like a freak”. The titular freak, in this case, is one who looks at the world from the lens of an outsider. The freak is a data-driven student of human weakness that can understand that our most common sense understandings are inherently flawed and the best course might actually be the obvious one! The freak isn’t necessarily successful (in a monetary sense), but the freak is usually happier and more satisfied with life–unencumbered by the stigma of social pressures.

The freak doesn’t necessarily lead a better life, but certainly a more interesting one!

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Somebody’s Gotta Say It

Somebody's Gotta Say It
author: Neal Boortz
name: Matthew
average rating: 3.92
book published: 2007
rating: 4
read at: 2018/05/24
date added: 2018/05/24
shelves:
review:

Nationally syndicated radio talk show host Neal Boortz is here to stir up one last batch of puddin’ before retiring. Boortz’s conversational style and descents into political incorrectness entertain as well as infuriate within the span of a few sentences and is reminiscent of that one uncle that we all have–the one that so often gets mocked or mentioned with derision when having to confront at holiday gatherings. Personally, I enjoy the challenges that Boortz brings in his characteristic tone–there is a reason he is hated by conservative and liberal alike–and he ends his illustrious career on a high note. In this tome–equal parts political punditry and memoir–Boortz pulls no punches, explains the subtleties of his often complex political positions, and explains how he managed to get away with throwing cats out of airplanes.

No matter which side of the political spectrum you sit on, Boortz is always a fun listen or read. There’s always a surprise waiting somewhere in the middle of a Boortz rant, and you’re guaranteed to be insulted!

Somebody’s Gotta Say It is available on Amazon (affiliate link)