May through June 2010

This is part of a collection of posts to cover the books I read after I started keeping note of my ratings of books, and when I read them, but before I started writing reviews of them at the time.

Thank You, JeevesThank You, Jeeves by
Series: Jeeves #5
Publisher: Herbert Jenkins
Released:
Pages: 263
Goodreads
Rating: 4/5

The odds are stacked against Chuffy when he falls head over heels for American heiress Pauline Stoker. Who better to help him win her over but Jeeves, the perfect gentleman’s gentleman. But when Bertie, Pauline’s ex-fiance finds himself caught up in the fray, much to his consternation, even Jeeves struggles to get Chuffy his fairy-tale ending.

I’ve probably overused the expression “like sinking into a hot bath” a little too much when it comes to describing Wodehouse-books, but it’s still accurate. Thank You, Jeeves is a “standard” Wodehouse book. A frictionless, gentle, read full of the effortless humour (another phrase I’ve probably overused) that makes the Wodehouse-books close to the definition of “just good fun”.

Vanity FairVanity Fair by
Publisher: Bradbury and Evans
Released:
Pages: 867
Goodreads
Rating: 4/5

A novel that chronicles the lives of two women who could not be more different: Becky Sharp, an orphan whose only resources are her vast ambitions, her native wit, and her loose morals; and her schoolmate Amelia Sedley, a typically naive Victorian heroine, the pampered daughter of a wealthy family.

Vanity Fair is one of those books where my memory of reading the book is stronger than my memory of the book itself. I read large parts of it in the very sunny Edinburgh Meadows. The book itself goes into the category of classics that are actually rather good – I was pleasantly surprised by the book. It’s got some genuinely funny parts, and is another example of how books that were written a long, long, time ago can still feel relatively modern.

Shutter IslandShutter Island by
Publisher: William Morrow & Company
Released:
Pages: 369
Goodreads
Rating: 4/5

The year is 1954. U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new partner, Chuck Aule, have come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, to investigate the disappearance of a patient. Multiple murderess Rachel Solando is loose somewhere on this remote and barren island, despite having been kept in a locked cell under constant surveillance. As a killer hurricane relentlessly bears down on them, a strange case takes on even darker, more sinister shades—with hints of radical experimentation, horrifying surgeries, and lethal countermoves made in the cause of a covert shadow war. No one is going to escape Shutter Island unscathed, because nothing at Ashecliffe Hospital is what it seems. But then neither is Teddy Daniels.

Shutter Island appeared on a list of “best thrillers”, and was also, I believe, on offer at Amazon at the time. I enjoyed it a lot – it does just what it says on the tin: it’s a fast-paced, page turner with a satisfying story and ending.

Live and Let DieLive and Let Die by
Series: James Bond (Original Series) #2
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Released:
Pages: 229
Goodreads
Rating: 3/5

“Her hair was black and fell to her shoulders. She had high cheekbones and a sensual mouth, and wore a dress of white silk. Her eyes were blue, alight and disdainful, but, as they gazed into his with a touch of humour, Bond realized that they contained a message. Solitaire watched his eyes on her and nonchalantly drew her forearms together so that the valley between her breasts deepened. The message was unmistakable.”

Beautiful, fortune-telling Solitaire is the prisoner (and tool) of Mr Big—master of fear, artist in crime and Voodoo Baron of Death. James Bond has no time for superstition—he knows that this criminal heavy hitter is also a top SMERSH operative and a real threat. More than that, after tracking him through the jazz joints of Harlem, to the everglades and on to the Caribbean, 007 has realized that Big is one of the most dangerous men that he has ever faced. And no-one, not even the mysterious Solitaire, can be sure how their battle of wills is going to end…

Aaaand back to James Bond. Having quite enjoyed Casino Royale I had relatively high hopes for Live and Let Die. They weren’t met. This book solidly foreshadows the sexism and racism that has started bothering me more than I thought they would through these books. It’s not a bad book, and I understand that old books to an extend need to be read as works of their time, but there is a point at which the story is driven in a way which just makes me uncomfortable with reading it. This isn’t the worst of the bond-books, but after reading this I started properly understanding some of the objections people have to the Bond books.

MoonrakerMoonraker by
Series: James Bond (Original Series) #3
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Released:
Pages: 247
Goodreads
Rating: 4/5

‘For several minutes he stood speechless, his eyes dazzled by the terrible beauty of the greatest weapon on earth’

He’s a self-made millionaire, head of the Moonraker rocket programme and loved by the press. So why is Sir Hugo Drax cheating at cards? Bond has just five days to uncover the sinister truth behind a national hero, in Ian Fleming’s third 007 adventure.

…that said, Moonraker is a step back up into what I feel the Bond books should be. This feels more like a story about James Bond, and tells it interestingly – exposing weaknesses in Bond’s character and all that. Moonraker reads a bit like a Bond movie feels, in a good way, and feels much less old than Live and Let Die did.

Octopussy & the Living DaylightsOctopussy & the Living Daylights by
Series: James Bond (Original Series) #14
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Released:
Pages: 120
Goodreads
Rating: 3/5

Whether it is tracking down a wayward major who has taken a deadly secret with him to the Caribbean or identifying a top Russian agent secretly bidding for a Fabergé egg in a Sotheby’s auction room, Bond always closes the case—with extreme prejudice.

This new Penguin edition comprises four stories, including Fleming’s little-known story “007 in New York,” showcasing Bond’s taste for Manhattan’s special pleasures—from martinis at the Plaza and dinner at the Grand Central Oyster Bar to the perfect anonymity of the Central Park Zoo for a secret rendezvous.

I can’t remember why I read Octopussy as my third Bond-book rather than following the chronology, but there you go. This books was another drop for me after Moonraker, and just felt a little boring.

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