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text 2017-01-30 23:30
Bond Does Romance...
On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Ian Fleming

Bingo.

 

All right. I needed diversion and maybe this will make you smile, too. 

 

I'm not taking part in the Romance Bingo but I love reading everyone's updates and look forward to those fab bingo cards being filled in. Also, I keep wondering about whether whichever book I'm reading would fit into any of the categories. And then it hit me hard:

 

While reading the latest James Bond - On Her Majesty's Secret Service - I kept picturing the bingo card and kept filling in different categories, which leads me to this: 

 

On Her Majesty's Secret Service expressed in Romance Bingo markers.

 

 

Are you ready for some VERY tenuous links between the bingo categories and the book???

 

 

1. Insta-love - Check!

I'm not sure which one to give you here Bond or Tracey, but Tracey - in a suicidal mood - pretty much decides that Bond is the one man who can save her after they spend an hour (that is one hour) in bed together. Btw, that hour happens within a short time of them exchanging their first words with each other. I'm sure no one is shocked by this - this is Fleming after all.

 

2. TSTL - Nope.

(Inconceivable, I know, but there are no TSTL characters in this one. Apart from the girl with the chicken allergy maybe. I'm giving her the benefit of my doubt, tho. She may have had hidden depths. We never get to find out.)

 

3. "Headless" Woman - Nope.

(Again, chicken lady notwithstanding...)

 

4. Love is Murder - Check! Check! Check!

It's very dramatic and very sad. If you've seen the film, you'll know that there is no happy ending.

 

5. New Adult - Nope.

(Thankfully, the genre wasn't in vogue when Fleming wrote this.)

 

6. Young Adult - Nope.

(Again, thankfully so.)

 

7. Regency Romance - Nope.

(Although, the idea would have been fun...)

 

8. Eyeshadow and Heaving Bosom - Nope.

(Unless, I've missed this. Hm...)

 

9. Virgin - Best First Time - Check!

Ok, tenous, because as we know neither Bond nor Tracy are virgins but there is a bizarre scene where Tracy wishes she had been one for Bond. I cringed so hard at that but Fleming just was full of such lines...

 

10. Gothic Romance - Nope. 

(Again, this might have been fun.)

 

11. Blown Away - Check!

Most absolutely! There is action in this one and it is practically choc-a-bloc with "tremendous explosions", one of which has Bond hurl "forward and sideways in a Catherine wheel of sticks and skis."

 

12. Man in a Kilt - Check!

This one is tenuous again. This is the book where we find out that Bond is half Scottish. Also, he gets to impersonate a Scot. However, unlike in the film, there is no mention of Bond wearing a kilt. On the other hand, it is nigh impossible to read this book and not picture him wearing one. So, I'd say it qualifies.

 

13. LOVE - Check!

In their own stupid ways Bond and Tracy are in love. 

 

14. Rogue - Check!

Erm, Bond. You have met Bond, right?

 

15. Historical Romance -  Nope. 

(There is some genealogy and heraldry as part of the plot, but it isn't a historical romance as such.)

 

16. Secret Billionaire - Check!

 Ah, but you see this one is interesting. When Bond first meets Tracy, she's broke and in debt with the casino. This would make her a social pariah but Bond steps in just in time to save her from the social disgrace. A few pages later, we learn that Tracy's father is a millionaire and she wasn't broke after all. (It's more complicated but you get the idea...)

 

17. Twins - Check!

(Again, I am thankful that Fleming did not get to write about twins in this.)

 

18. Fairy Tale Retelling - Check! Check! Check!

Bond as knight in (and out of) shiny armor rescuing the princess (or, in this case,

Comtesse Teresa di Vicenzo) is the main theme of this book!

 

19. Wedding Bells - Check! Check! Check!

This famously is the book where Bond gets married.

 

20. Second Chances -Check!

The first encounter of Bond and Tracy does not go well. They do end up in bed together, but this means little. (This is Bond we are talking about.) It takes both of them a second encounter to warm to each other.

 

21. Key to my Heart - Check!

As we know, Bond loves a woman who can drive a car. In this book, it is Tracy's driving skills that instantly attract Bond to her. It is quite a cute scene. 

 

22. Pirates Argh - Check!

A little tenuous, but I cannot help picturing Draco's henchmen as pirates. They are Sicilian and connected with the mafia, but in my mind they are pirates. At least, they conduct their business affairs in a similar style to what pirates did.

 

23. Guy/Girl Next Door - Nope.

 

24. Interracial Couple - Nope.

 

25. Urban Fantasy Romance - Nope.

(Again, it would have been fun...)

 

I kinda wish the card had been around when we started the Bond Buddy Read, but it may have given the impression that I was not taking Bond seriously. Which, erm, of course, I am. 

 

Btw, I am still stewing over the actual review of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It just needs a little more thought...

 

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text 2017-01-22 23:05
OHMSS: Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 259 pages.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Ian Fleming

I am a tiny bit excited. 

 

This is the book in the Bond series that I have been looking forward to the most, and now finally, we have reached the stage in the Buddy Read where this book is next.

 

In celebration of finally getting to read On Her Majesty's Secret Services, I have cleared my currently reading shelf, which in itself is a first!

 

I hope the book lives up to my expectations. No, sorry, let me rephrase in view of my previous Bond experience...

 

I hope the book is not crap. I hope the book is not crap. Please book, DO NOT BE CRAP.

 

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review 2017-01-15 04:44
The Spy Who Loved Me
The Spy Who Loved Me - Ian Fleming

I WAS RUNNING away. I was running away from England, from my childhood, from the winter, from a sequence of untidy, unattractive love-affairs, from the few sticks of furniture and jumble of overworn clothes that my London life had collected around me; and I was running away from drabness, fustiness, snobbery, the claustrophobia of close horizons and from my inability, although I am quite an attractive rat, to make headway in the rat-race. In fact, I was running away from almost everything except the law.

That is not a bad start for a book, is it? It's intriguing. It tells of a backstory that is about to be revealed, and it foreshadows whatever else is going to happen whilst the character is on the run. 

 

To be honest, when I started the book, I was really looking forward to reading this. Not just because it was the beginning of another fun buddy read, but also because I had not read The Spy Who Loved Me before. I knew the film, of course, but the film, I was advised, bears no resemblance to the book. Not even close. So, after a few decent Bond stories that followed the abysmally bad From Russia With Love, I thought Fleming had maybe found his template. That maybe From Russia With Love was him scraping the bottom of the barrel, and that surely ANY other book had to be better.

 

Well, I was wrong. I was so wrong. 

 

Also, when reviewing that hot mess that is From Russia With Love, I did mention that it would have been helpful if Fleming had provided a bit more insight into the internal monologue of the books female lead. Yes, I bemoaned that Fleming did not write any part from the female perspective. 

 

Well, folks, it goes to show that I should be careful what I wish for because Fleming did exactly that in The Spy Who Loved Me, and it does not work. What Fleming gives us is Viv, a young Canadian whom we again learn very little about other than she's been in some seriously messed up relationships. Yes, Fleming defines her through the relationships she's been in, mostly being taken advantage of.

What doesn't work about this is that Viv's own account is just dripping with Fleming's misogyny. At one point, he has her describe an abortion as follows:

It was as mentally distressing but as physically painless as I had expected, and three days later I was back in my hotel.

That is all Fleming has Viv say about it. Doesn't sound convincing, does it. 

 

Fleming tries to sell her history as a tough backstory and which is supposed to set Viv up for a resolution to stop being a push-over, be more confident, and not be groped at every turn.

Well, that was the end of that! From now on I would take and not give. The world had shown me its teeth. I would show mine. I had been wet behind the ears. Now I was dry. I stuck my chin out like a good little Canadian (well, a fairly good little Canadian!), and having learnt to take it, decided for a change to dish it out.

So, Viv ends up "on the run" in rural New York, stuck in a short-term motel job, where again she first falls prey to the husband of the owner and then ends up being held for five hours by two thugs who beat her up and threaten her with rape every five minutes. And for a large chunk of the book, this is all the plot there is. Until Bond turns up and saves the day, upon which Bond claims Viv as his reward. 

 

Let's recap: Viv had just undergone severe beatings, rape and death threats, and the one thing on Bond's mind is to have sex with her.

 

The idiotic thing - well, another one, is that Viv, who previously had resolved to escape from abusive relationships, feels she had to go along with Bond's request.

But I knew in my heart that I had to. He would go on alone and I would have to, too. No woman had ever held this man. None ever would. He was a solitary, a man who walked alone and kept his heart to himself. He would hate involvement. I sighed. All right. I would play it that way. I would let him go. I wouldn’t cry when he did. Not even afterwards. Wasn’t I the girl who had decided to operate without a heart? Silly idiot! Silly, infatuated goose! This was a fine time to maunder like a girl in a woman’s magazine! I shook my head angrily and went into the bedroom and got on with what I had to do.

WTF??? Why???

 

This is the point in the book when I no longer asked myself if Fleming lost his mind, but whether he had one in the first place. 

And as if this wasn't sick enough, it actually got worse:

I think I know why I gave myself so completely to this man, how I was capable of it with someone I had met only six hours before. Apart from the excitement of his looks, his authority, his maleness, he had come from nowhere, like the prince in the fairy tales, and he had saved me from the dragon. But for him, I would now be dead, after suffering God knows what before. He could have changed the wheel on his car and gone off, or, when danger came, he could have saved his own skin. But he had fought for my life as if it had been his own. And then, when the dragon was dead, he had taken me as his reward. In a few hours, I knew, he would be gone – without protestations of love, without apologies or excuses. And that would be the end of that – gone, finished. All women love semi-rape. They love to be taken. It was his sweet brutality against my bruised body that had made his act of love so piercingly wonderful.

Seriously, what utter bullshit! I have not felt so nauseated and enraged by a book since

From Russia With Love. I had hoped Fleming got his act together in the books that followed, but clearly he was a leopard that could not change his spots, which is a shame because the premise of the book was great. It is just that a misogynist dumbass writing from a point of view he has no interest in understanding or even exploring will inevitably end up with a book full of misogynist dumbassery.

 

Avoid at all costs.

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text 2017-01-13 23:18
The Spy Who Loved Me: Reading progress update: I've read 49 out of 164 pages.
The Spy Who Loved Me - Ian Fleming

I'm currently googling where I can find some brain bleach at this time of night and whether they deliver!

I have a feeling this is going to be as horrible as From Russia With Love.

Gads min. If this weren't a buddy read again, I'd bail.

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review 2017-01-09 00:43
Thunderball
Thunderball - Ian Fleming

"This is a silly plan. This is the sort of melodramatic nonsense people write about in thrillers."

....and that criticism straight out of the mouth of the "bond girl" in this installment is probably one of my favourite lines in the series so far. Whoever said they were all shallow?!

 

In fact, Domino is another kick-ass leading lady, who first stumps Bond with her driving skills - yeah, between Domino, Ms. Galore, and  Tilly Masterton, Bond may have a thing for women drivers -, calls him out on bullshit, engages with him on her own terms, and finally saves his hide.

 

Of course, Bond is still Bond, and the sexist, chauvinist comments are there (in abundance) throughout the book, but one wouldn't set out to read a Bond novel without a bucket of salt at hand, and this one is nowhere near as horrible as other Bond novels. However, the story is still a bit tepid - bad guys steal nuclear war heads and threaten the world. I'm sure this was thrilling stuff in 1961 when the book was written, but it has worn off a bit since. And if it weren't  for the "nerdy" tid bits like M's opinions about processed food, the technical details about the Polaris missiles, and the descriptions in the book of everything that surrounds the plot - i.e. the development of characters, the depiction of fight scenes, the dialogues, the sea life are just great - the book would be utterly forgettable.

 

I mean, I must have watched Thunderball about a gazillion times since I was a kid and I still couldn't say what the film was about. It took reading the book twice - most recently as part of the Bond Buddy Read with Troy - to take in that Fleming describes SPECTRE as a well-functioning corporation, to recognise that he set up Blofeld as this puppeteer that pulls the strings behind the scenes rather than engaging with Bond one on one (even tho this will come later in the series).

 

What was interesting on this latest read was how ridiculous the whole premise of the threat of nuclear missiles being stolen is in the context of the ongoing Cold War at the time the book is set. The unquestioned premise of Bond being on the side of right, stepping in to return the missiles to one of the sides rather than to allow a profit-oriented organisation to hold the world at ransom, shows why Bond novels are first and foremost adventure stories. Fleming does not question whether Bond's missions have a moral justification. Or whether there are any doubts about the point of propagating that the nuclear arms race kept the world at peace.

 

Unfortunately, we don't get to know in the Bond novels whether Fleming believed this. We only get the boys own adventure story. 

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