Books

Talking about books (when I have time to read for fun)

REVIEW: Goldfinger by Ian Fleming

After the Secret Service is informed that the Bank of England’s gold is being stolen, 007 James Bond is put on the case to track down the mysterious Auric Goldfinger and find out how he’s been accumulating so much gold. But as Bond delves deeper, he discovers Goldfinger’s dangerous connections and that he has much bigger plans when it comes to gold.

While I have watched the film version of Goldfinger a number of years ago, enough time had past that I didn’t remember much of the plot, and even if I had the book was it’s own unique thing compared to the film adaptation.

After having the physical book on my shelves for years, I listened to the audiobook narrated by Hugh Bonneville who did a great job. Goldfinger is a fast-paced story and Bonneville did a great job at getting inside Bond’s head. The action sequences were exciting but the slower, spy stuff was just as compelling.

I love the character of James Bond in this story. He’s a mess, and an argument could be made for him being depressed when we’re first introduced to him in the opening chapters. He’s sick of his job, the travelling and the killing and he’s so very tired of it all. The thing I loved about Bond is that while he is a good spy, he is human and makes mistakes. Also, when times are tough and he’s in real mortal peril, his inner-monologue is emotional and reflective. James Bond also has a sarcastic sense of humour which I loved and there’s so many times he uses either wit or sheer luck to get by. For instance, at one point he blames a cat for something in the hopes that Goldfinger doesn’t figure him out.

Goldfinger and his trusted bodyguard Odd Job are both intimidating foes in different ways. Goldfinger is very smart while Odd Job is deadly. The language used to describe Odd Job and the other Korean workers Goldfinger employs is definitely racist and can be sometimes uncomfortable to listen to. I guess that’s the sign of the time it was written in.

The same it can be said of the way women are presented. Pussy Galore is a lesbian and the book states this multiple times. However, by the end it’s alluded to that she was only a lesbian because she hadn’t met a real man like James Bond yet. It’s eye-rolling stuff. That being said, while Bond is a self-confessed womaniser, there are moments, especially at the start of the novel, where it does show he can and does respect women. There may be some rather outdated views of them, but on the whole there’s less than one might expect from a James Bond story when all you’ve seen previously are the film adaptations.

I enjoyed Goldfinger far more than I was expecting to, to be honest. It’s a fast-paced thriller and Bond is much more interesting, funny and layered character compared to the almost archetype that’s seen in the various film adaptations. 4/5.

If you’re interested, as a part of my Bondathon three years ago I watched and reviewed the film adaptation of Goldfinger, a long with every other Bond film. You can read that review here.

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Wildest Dreams Book Box: Female Voices

This week my first ever Wildest Dreams box arrived. Wildest Dreams is a UK based book subscription box that aims to be a more affordable option. Starting at £18 a month, the box contains a book, tea, a bath/body product and maybe a few extra little bits too.

Each month there is a theme and this month’s theme was Female Voices. I’d been meaning to give Wildest Dreams a go and this theme caught my attention. Without further ado, here’s what was in this month’s box.

I really liked how everything was packaged. Everything came in a smaller box compared to the other subscription boxes I’ve tried, but that didn’t stop it being all neatly presented. The contents was wrapped in tissue paper and the book itself was wrapped in brown paper – giving it that extra little bit of protection and making it more fun to open.

The first thing I saw was the tea. The tea is called Reset Yourself, it’s chamomile and lemongrass and is made by Rosie Lea Tea. It also came with disposable teabags which is always helpful as so often when you receive loose leaf tea in a subscription box, you don’t have anything to actually make it in if you don’t possess your own tea strainer. This tea was chosen by author Holly Bourne which is pretty cool.

The bath/body product included in this months box was Bone Season inspired soap. It’s a handmade dusky sole and almond soap, it’s blue, yellow and red, and it smells like sweets! I’ve honestly been sniffing it a lot as I’ve been writing this post like a right weirdo. The soap was made by the Glasgow Soap Company.

The book included was I Stop Somewhere by T.E. Carter. First of all I love the cover, it’s such a beautiful colour and image of a broken moth (or it could be a butterfly) is striking, and second of all, it’s a book I’d never heard of before.

Reading the blurb, it sounds like a hard-hitting but important contemporary YA book. It’s about Ellie, who just wanted to blend in, but that’s until popular Caleb tells her she’s beautiful and makes her believe it. Ellie’s not sure if she actually likes Caleb because the way he treats her, showing her with love one minute then ignoring her the next, his possessive tendencies and harsh tone. Then one-night Ellie learns what kind of monster her boyfriend really is. She’s not the first girl Caleb rapes, but she as the first she murdered. Now Ellie’s trapped, unable to move on, and stuck watching Caleb do the same thing other girls. Ellie’s powerless and alone, and she just hopes that someone can help her.

I’m especially interested to see how the story presents Ellie being dead but still present, seeing Caleb’s actions. I think I Stop Somewhere has the potential to be a really sad story but I would like it to also offer a sense of hope to Ellie and the reader.

In this box there were also a couple of Holly Bourne-related stickers, some chocolate chip and vanilla biscuits (which I’ve already eaten, and they were very tasty), a bookmark, a letter from the author and signed bookplate.

I really liked the Wildest Dreams Book Box. It’s a simple but well put together subscription box. As someone who enjoys all the goodies you get in subscription boxes but very rarely uses them all, I think this box is great as the soap is something I will definitely use and, if I don’t like the tea, my friends at work love tea so it can find a good home with them. I don’t think I’ll be getting the Wildest Dreams Book Box every month, as while it definitely one of the cheaper subscription boxes, I don’t really have the money to pay for a subscription box every month – plus, I want to make a dent in my large TBR pile before I regularly get subscription boxes again.

Wildest Dreams’ June theme is Love YA and it’s always a good idea to follow their Twitter as they often give out discount codes to make the box even cheaper! They’re awesome like that.

READ THE WORLD – Kenya: One Day I Will Write about this Place by Binyavanga Wainaina

Kenyan Caine Prize winner Binyavanga Wainaina’s memoir about growing up in Kenya, his failed attempt at learning computer programming at university in South Africa, and the moving family reunion in Uganda years later.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Ivanno Jeremiah, and I found it to be very easy to listen to as Jeremiah was an engaging narrator. While it generally has a linear narrative, every now and then a word or event will take the story back to Wainaina’s childhood or to something that happened that was related to the current anecdote but was either years in the past or the future. This hoping through time did get a bit of getting used to.

This memoir spans decades, from Wainaina’s childhood in the 1970’s to him living and working in New York in the 2010. Through all that time you see through his eyes how Kenya, and the whole African continent itself, changes. The always shifting politics, the cultural changes, the various conflicts and how pop culture, both American and African, seep through into it all.

I learnt a lot from listening to One Day I Will Write about this Place, as many of the cultural and political events that Wainaina lived through in East Africa, were either events that happened before I was born, or before I begun paying just that bit of attention to the world news. It amused me how Wainaina and his friends would joke about Bob Geldof and Live Aid, and event I’d only ever heard about through a Western perspective.

While Wainaina lived through a lot of big historical moments, One Day I Will Write about this Place is at its heart about Wainaina’s family, his love of books and him learning to fins his place with ever changing Africa. Through a lot of his childhood and adolescence it seems like he doesn’t like his home and all the complications that come from being a part of various tribes. However, when he’s an adult and spent time away from his family, having his extended family reunite in Uganda is a big moment for him.

One Day I Will Write about this Place is a fascinating insight into one man’s experiences growing up in East Africa, and who struggles to find his own identity. It’s an insightful and thought-provoking memoir that has a lot of heart.

REVIEW: Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Best friends Charlie, Taylor and Jamie are heading to SupaCon! Charlie is a blogger and actress promoting her first film at SupaCon and it’s her chance to show the fans she’s completely over her breakup with co-star Reese Ryan. When she meets super famous online personality Alyssa, Charlie begins to think her long-time crush isn’t as one sided as she thought. Taylor’s more reserved than Charlie. Her brain is wired differently making social situations often terrifying and a fear of change makes her constantly re-evaluate what she wants from her best guy friend Jamie. But when she enters a fan contest to meet her favourite author, Taylor begins to rethink her lifelong goal of always playing it safe.

Queens of Geek is a super quick read, I flew through it. It’s all set during one weekend at a fan convention called SupaCon so there are a lot of geeky references to comics, cosplay and fandom in general. It’s kind of a love letter to fandom, and how people can find safety and comfort in fandom and the TV shows/films/books that people can bond over. It’s a nice looking into the world of comic cons and how they can be very overwhelming but also be a place to meet likeminded people and make new friends.

The story is told in alternate perspectives, Taylor and Charlie’s. Taylor has anxiety and Asperger’s and it’s insightful hearing her explain how she feels in certain situations and about life in general. She’s almost constantly struggling but still loves her friends and her fandom. Taylor is bisexual and has had a past relationship with a boy and during her time at SupaCon gets to know Alyssa. Their romance is really sweet and they both talk about how their past relationships have affected them and what they’re looking for going forward.

The amount of communication between Taylor, Jamie, Charlie, and Alyssa (and all combinations of thereof) was extraordinary. Any misunderstandings are more likely to last a couple of paragraphs than a couple of chapters. It’s both great to see a solid group of friends or a potential love interest be so open about their thoughts, feelings and fears with one another, but also a bit disconcerting as it’s something that is (unfortunately) so unusual in fiction, and often in real life as well. So often one character gave an encouraging speech to another character that it felt unrealistic.

Queens of Geek is definitely a character driven book. There’s not really any plot twists or big moments, instead it highlights various important diverse topics like sexuality, mental health, body image and unhealthy relationships. All these topics are handled well but the story sometimes felt like it had been put on the backburner in order for a character to say their piece about a certain topic.

Queens of Geek is a cute, quick read with some great characters who really support one another. Jamie, Charlie and Taylor have a solid friendship and each of their personalities shines through. However, it’s not a memorable read for me as it felt like it was trying so often to tick as many important, diversity boxes as possible that it didn’t end up grounded in reality. 3/5.

REVIEW: Othello by William Shakespeare

The tragedy of Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army, who is misled by his disloyal officer Iago leading to suspicion and revenge.

Othello is a Shakespeare play that I never read during my school career – for me it was Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet, Henry V and Hamlet that I had to study in either school or at university. I knew nothing about Othello before starting it except that the titular character is usually played by a black man.

I really enjoyed Othello. While it is certainly a Shakespearian tragedy – miscommunication and death abound – but there’s also this very dark thread of humour running through it that I loved. I did find myself wondering if I was classed as a comedy because from the outset Iago is being sneaky and telling lies to different people to get a reaction, but pretty much every other character says at some point how loyal and trustworthy he is. It made me laugh out loud a couple of times because it’s that obvious to the audience watching/reading what Iago is doing but everyone else is so obtuse.

You never really get why Iago has decided to pit all these people against one another. There’s certainly some jealousy there but even he sometimes questions his actions and the consequence he may face. But that still doesn’t get him to stop. He reminded me of the trickster archetype as he uses his wits, and other people, to try and achieve his goals while misleading everyone around him. He’s definitely one of my favourite Shakespeare characters.

Othello is a play I enjoyed reading and found it relatively easy to understand from the outset. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for performances of Othello in the future, and it’s a play I’d recommend to people who may usually be put off by Shakespeare’s work as it’s easy to follow and features some interesting characters. 4/5.

READ THE WORLD – Wales: Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl

The story of Roald Dahl’s childhood in his own words. Each of the things he writes about are not earth-shattering, but they did make a great impression on him, so much so that he could remember them sixty years later.

I read quite a few of Roald Dahl’s books when I was a child (my favourite was The Twits) so when I heard about this semi-autobiographical book about his childhood I thought it would be an interesting read. And that it was! Born in Cardiff in 1916 to Norwegian parents, Dahl was a part of a large family and it was fun to see what kind of scrapes he got into with his siblings and at school. It wasn’t just interesting to see what Dahl’s life was like but realising that his childhood was probably very similar to my grandparent’s childhood.

One thing about Boy that stood out was how it really highlighted how the past is indeed a foreign country. Kids tonsils were removed without any form of anaesthetic, headteacher’s beat children with a cane and when motor vehicles came to be more common place, it was perfectly natural to start driving after a thirty-minute lesson. The way Dahl talks about these events is almost blasé, though he does state how times were different then, in the early 1900’s, and how these things wouldn’t be accepted today.

Boy: Tales of Childhood is a quick read and I think it’s a great book as it’s a little snapshot into the past as you follow Dahl’s school life until he’s 20, spanning the years 1922 – 1936. The writing isn’t fancy, but these little incidents in Dahl’s are told in such a way that they are charming and a great way to introduce non-fiction to children. The pages are sprinkled with photographs of Dahl’s family and illustrations from Dahl’s long-time collaborator Quentin Blake which is fun, and you get a little insight into how Dahl got the inspiration for probably his most well-known book – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

REVIEW: The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

Grace is the preacher’s daughter and the new girl in school. Rosina is bold and outspoken and dreams of music rather than working at her family’s restaurant. Erin is often misunderstood but her love of science and order doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel. The three of them are brought together by the idea of changing things, of justice for Lucy Moynihan – a girl who was run out of town for accusing the popular guys at school of gang rape. Together, Grace, Rosina and Erin form the Nowhere Girls, an outlet for their rage and a place of strength and decide to avenge the rape of a girl none of them knew.

The Nowhere Girls is a phenomenal book. It’s like Asking For It meets Moxie but it’s its own thing and what a powerful, heartfelt thing it is.

The Nowhere Girls is told in alternating perspectives, so you get to be inside Grace, Rosina and Erin’s heads, as well as see glimpses of what other girls at their high school think and feel. Having these moments from other characters points of view, some of which are unnamed characters, shows the wide scope of feminism as one black girl muses the movement must’ve been started by white girls because if a black girl did it they’d be seen as disruptive, while a trans girl wonders whether or not she’d be included in the group or would be seen as a spy.

All three main protagonists are well-rounded characters with their own problems at home, whether that’s an over-bearing parent or a family member with dementia, but they form a unique bond over their passion to change things. They are also a diverse group of characters. Rosina is Mexican-American and a lesbian, she’s comfortable with her identity but she’s not sure if she’ll ever tell her mum about her sexuality, Grace is fat and has a lot of faith in God but not necessarily in people and Erin has Asperger’s and is reserved but smart and is trying to live her own life.

What Grace, Rosina and Erin do together is start a movement in their school for the girls. It crosses the boundaries of normal high school cliques, as girls come together to talk openly about sex and boys and how both make them feel – the good and the bad. It’s a very open and honest take of girls’ sexuality and it’s refreshing to see girls talk to one another about it and share their experiences. Through this movement, the girls at the high school become empowered and have a sense of unity that crosses social circles like they never had before – it’s wonderful to see.

The ending of The Nowhere Girls made me cry because it was so hopeful, emotional and inspiring. Grace, Erin and Rosina start something amazing but it’s every other girl in the school, and some boys too, who stand up and stop letting the boys who say sexist or racist or homophobic things getting away with it.

The Nowhere Girls is so great I read it in three days. I couldn’t put it down as I longed to give these girls a hug and to tell them how amazing they are, seeing the strength of the solidarity between young girls was just brilliant. It is one of those books that everyone, especially young people, should read. The Nowhere Girls does deal with a tough topic, but it’s handled well and sensitively, and shows there is hope that justice can prevail. 5/5.