Thunderball is one of the best Bond novels that I have read. It features an exciting, intriguing plot that unfolds naturally (sometimes the plots can feel a little unreal). The characters all come alive, and I found myself continually wishing that my subway journey was a little longer so I could read more. It's really everything that you expect from a Bond story: action, intrigue, romance... It also has one of the best starts as Bond gets sent to a health farm by M. I would thoroughly recommend this story, and it certainly is one that I would want to read again.

Women are meticulous and safe drivers, but they are very seldom first-class. In general Bond regarded them as a mild hazard and he always gave them plenty of road and was ready for the unpredictable. Four women in a car he regarded as the highest potential danger, and two women nearly as lethal. Women together cannot keep silent in a car, and when women talk they have to look into each other's faces. An exchange of words is not enough. They have to see the other person's expression, perhaps in order to read behind the other's words or to analyse the reaction to their own. So two women in the front seat of a car constantly distract each other's attention from the road and four women are more than doubly dangerous, for the driver not only has to hear, and see, what her companion is saying, but also, for women are like that, what the two behind are talking about.

What's the good of other people's opinions? Animals don't consult each other about other animals. They look and sniff and feel. In love and hate, and everything in between, those are the only tests that matter. But people are unsure of their own instincts. They want reassurance. So they ask someone else whether they should like a particular person or not. And as the world loves bad news, they nearly always get a bad answer - or at least a qualified one.

A Little History of the World

A Little History of the World is exactly as it sounds, a history of the World. It was written for children originally, but it is an excellent read for adults too, anyone who wishes to read and learn about the different civilizations that have lived. Obviously a book such as this will only touch on things briefly, but written as it was by an Austrian, it has a view on Central European events that you may not find from a British or American book.

I found this book to be extremely interesting. It focuses on interesting stories, and would be something that I would love to read to my children one day (if I have some). I guess that means I am a geek! But the overview is great, and I came away feeling as if I had learnt some things, and revisited some other favourite tales from the past.

There was also one quote that caught my eye in the final chapter. I thought it rather poignant given the age that we live in. It reads as follows:

I know a wise old Buddhist monk who, in a speech to his fellow countrymen, once said he'd love to know why someone who boasts that he is the cleverest, the strongest, the bravest or the most gifted man on earth is thought ridiculous and embarrassing, whereas if, instead of 'I', he says, 'we are the most intelligent, the strongest, the bravest and the most gifted people on earth', his fellow countrymen applaud enthusiastically and call him a patriot. For there is nothing patriotic about it. One can be attached to one's own country without needing to insist that the rest of the world's inhabitants are worthless.


Goldfinger himself is one of the more famous Bond villains, and Goldfinger is one of the more recognisable Bond tales. I was looking forward to reading it, and as per normal, it did not disappoint, even with a few interesting twists that I was not anticipating. As par the course with a James Bond novel, there is action aplenty, as well as suspense and some masterful villains. Who could ever forget Oddjob, either his portrayal on the screen or in the pages of this story? That seems to be one of the secrets of a good James Bond story - outlandish villains who yet could exist in our reality.

This is not the best Bond book that I have ever read, but it is still very good. It's just making me sad that I am getting nearer and nearer, with every book read, to arriving at the stage where there are no new Fleming novels left. I will have to pack them away and 'forget' about them for 10 years and then renew my interest.

Quotes I liked:
  • Some love is fire, some love is rust. But the finest, cleanest love is lust.
  • The difference between a good golf shot and a bad one is the same as the difference between a beautiful and a plain woman - a matter of millimetres.
  • "You did well, Oddjob. I'm glad to see you are in training. Here -" Goldfinger took the cat from under his arm and tossed it to the Korean who caught it eagerly - "I am tired of seeing this animal around. You may have it for dinner." The Korean's eyes gleamed.
  • "I come from the South. You know the definition of a virgin down there? Well, it's a girl who can run faster than her brother."

Why Evolution Is True

Why Evolution Is True is a book that really concerns itself with showing the evidence for evolution, as well as trying to explain as delicately as possible as to why creationism and intelligent design are flawed theories that don't hold up to the evidence. I found it to be a very interesting read, maybe because I already think that evolution is the truth of the matter, but in any case, you can tell the author's enthusiasm. But it is not a sneery contempt for other mindsets; Unlike, say, Richard Dawkins, who seems to be outraged that people are not ready yet to believe in science and will go so far as to label them as stupid, Jerry Coyne just puts the evidence out there, weaving it together as we go along.

Personally, I can't understand the furore about evolution. So what if we are descended from ancestors that are shared with monkeys? I guess some people just want to feel special. If you are someone who is appalled at this idea, you probably shouldn't read this book. If not, it is a highly readable introduction into one of the most fascinating topics out there. Plus it has interesting facts like a human fetus goes through four stages of development (fish, amphibian, reptile and mammal) and that genes which are 'switched off' can sometimes mutate back on for individuals, and lead to things like whales being born with legs. A very interesting read.

Quotes and passages I liked:
  • You can find religions without creationism, but you can't find creationism without religion.
  • It doesn't seem so intelligent to design millions of species that are destined to go extinct, and then replace them with other, similar species.
  • Friction produced by tides gradually slows the earth's rotation over time. Each day is a tiny bit longer than the last.
  • During development, the human embryo actually forms three different types of kidneys, one after the other, with the first two discarded before our final kidney appears. And those transitory embryonic kidneys are similar to those we find in species that evolved before us in the fossil record - jawless fish and reptiles, respectively.
  • When the hornet scout first arrives at their hive, the honeybees near the entrance rush into the hive, calling nestmates to arms while luring the hornet inside. In the meantime, hundreds of worker bees assemble inside the entrance. Once the hornet is inside, it is mobbed and covered by a tight ball of bees. Vibrating their abdomens, the bees quickly raise the temperature inside the ball to about 117 degrees Fahrenheit. Bees can survive this temperature, but the hornet cannot. In twenty minutes the hornet is cooked to death.

Of Mice & Men

Of Mice & Men is, I think, considered a piece of classic American Literature. After reading it, it is easy to see why. It is a well-crafted tale that throws up interesting questions about ethics. Does this book advocate the killing of those who do not fit in with society, or the mentally infirm? I'll leave that up to whoever reads it, but that is one possible meaning from the book (I'm not saying that I agree, however!).

I was surprised at how short the book was - I guess one supposes that Noble Prize for Literature winners be a little longer. But that does not detract from the quality of the story, set in a time when the US was still developing into the powerhouse that it is now. But it reads well, and I read it all in a day as I was intrigued to see how it would finish. It didn't disappoint, but I don't want to spoil it. The characters seemed lifelike and realistic, and it was overall a pleasant read - whilst I would not go so far as to suggest that this is a book that you simply must read, it is a book that if you happen to find yourself in possession of, you would not regret reading.


Catch-22 is a book that is always on those lists of books that you simply must read, or the 100 best books ever written. After reading it myself, I would have to agree.

My lover Hija (she said to describe her that way, although in truth she is, *wink*) got me a copy of this when we went to Strand bookstore in New York a month ago. It is a masterfully well written novel, mostly humourous albeit turning dark and baleful toward the end. It centers around a member of the US Airforce's Bomber Squadrons, Yossarian, as he is based off of the coast of Italy during the Second World War.

The main reason why I think this book is wonderful is because of the ridiculousness. But it is the fact that the ridiculousness is so true to life, that you could imagine it happening, that makes it so good. It is often remarked that "true life is stranger than fiction", well in that case this is a book in that fiction mirrors true life.

But it is also written very well. There are moments of laugh out loud hilarity, but also poignant, touching passages and tragic, pensive moments. One of my issues with books sometimes is that they don't always seem realistic, that you could not imagine these events happening to you or your best friends. But Catch-22 does seem like if you were on that island in the Mediterranean, you could have been through the events. It brings to life the events that everyday servicemen would have experienced during World War Two, the tragedy that they experienced with regularity but also the comradery they shared.

I really can't recommend this book highly enough. I would tell anyone that they should read it. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I would definitely include it on my list of books to re-read.

Favourite quotes from the text
  • Captain Flume spent as much of each evening as he could working in his darkroom and then lay down on his cot with his fingers crossed and a rabbit's foot around his neck and tried with all his might to stay awake. He lived in mortal fear of Chief White Halfoat. Captain Flume was obsessed with the idea that Chief White Halfoat would tiptoe up to his cot one night when he was sound asleep and slit his throat open for him from ear to ear. Captain Flume had obtained this idea from Chief White Halfoat himself, who did tiptoe up to his cot one night as he was dozing off, to hiss portentously that one night when he, Captain Flume, was sound asleep, he, Chief White Halfoat, was going to slit his throat open for him from ear to ear. Captain Flume turned to ice, his eyes, flung open wide, staring directly up into Chief White Halfoat's, glinting drunkenly only inches away.
"Why?" Captain Flume managed to croak finally.
"Why not?" was Chief White Halfoat's answer.
  • "Incidentally, do you happen to know why he was busted to private and is only a corporal now?"
"Yes," said Yossarian. "He poisoned the squadron."
Milo went pale again. "He did what?"
"He mashed hundreds of cakes of GI soap into the sweet potatoes just to show that people have the taste of Philistines and don't know the difference between good and bad. Every man in the squadron was sick. Missions were cancelled."
"Well!"Milo exclaimed, with thin-lipped disapproval. "He certainly found out how wrong he was, didn't he?"
"On the contrary," Yossarian corrected. "He found out how right he was. We packed it away by the plateful and clamored for more."
  • To Yossarian, the idea of pennants as prizes was absurd. No money went with them, no class priviled privileges. Like Olympic medals and tennis trophies, all they signified was that the owner had done something of no benefit to anyone more capably than everyone else.
  • One evening he felt the need for a live model and directed his wife to march around the room.
  • "Naked?" she asked hopefully.
  • Lieutenant Scheisskopf smacked his hands over his eyes in exasperation. It was the despair of Lieutenant Scheisskopf's life to be chained to a woman who was incapable of looking beyond her own dirty, sexual desires to the titanic struggles for the unattainable in which noble man could become heroically engaged.
  • "Why don't you ever whip me?" she pouted one night.
  • "Because I haven't the time," he snapped at her impatiently.
    • ...where he was wounded in the eye by a flower fired at him from close range by a seedy, cackling, intoxicated old man, who, like Satan himself, had then bounded up on Major ----- de Coverley's car with malicious glee, seized him roughly and contemptuously by his venerable white head and kissed him mockingly on each cheek with a mouth reeking with sour fumes of wine, cheese and garlic, before dropping back into the joyous celebrating throngs with a hollow, dry, excoriating laugh.
    • That might be the answer - to act boastfully about something we ought to be ashamed of. That's a trick that never seems to fail.
    • "Be glad you're even alive." "Be furious you're going to die."
    • "And don't tell me God works in mysterious ways. There's nothing so mysterious about it. He's not working at all. He's playing. Or else He's forgotten all about us. That's the kind of God you people talk about - a country bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed. Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of creation?... When you consider the opportunity and power He had to really do a job, and then look at the stupid, ugly little mess He made of it instead, His sheer incompetence is almost staggering."
    • "That will be all, men," he ordered tersely, his eyes glaring with disapproval and his square jaw firm, and that's all there was. "I run a fighting outfit," he told them sternly, when the room had grown absolutely quiet and the men on the benches were all cowering sheepishly, "and there'll be no more moaning in this group as long as I'm in command. Is that clear?"
    It was clear to everybody but Major Danby, who was still concentrating on his wrist watch and counting down the seconds aloud. "!" called out Major Danby, and raised his eyes triumphantly to discover that no one had been listening to him and he would have to begin all over again. "Ooooh," he moaned in frustration.
    "What was that?" roared General Deedle incredulously, and whirled around in a murderous rage upon Major Danby, who staggered back in terrified confusion and began to quail and perspire. "Who is this man?"
    "M-major Danby, sir," Colonel Cathcart stammered. "My group operations officer."
    "Take him out and shoot him," ordered General Deedle.
    • "I have a better idea," boasted Aarfy. "Why don't we keep the three of them here until after the curfew and then threaten to push them out into the street to be arrested until they give us all their money. We can even threaten to push them out the window."
    • Did it indeed seem probable, as he had once overheard Dunbar ask, that answers to the riddles of creation would be supplied by people too ignorant to understand the mechanics of rainfall? Had Almighty God, in all his infinite wisdom, really been afraid that men six thousand years ago would succeed in building a tower to heaven?
    • Yossarian really had no doubt about Orr's ability to survive. If fish could be caught with that silly fishing line, Orr would catch them, and if it was codfish he was after, then Orr would catch a codfish, even though no codfish had ever been caught in those waters before. Yossarian put another can of soup up to cook and ate that too when it was hot. Every time a car door slammed, he broke into a hopeful smile and turned expectantly toward the entrance, listening for footsteps. He knew that any moment Orr would come walking into the tent with big, glistening, rain-soaked eyes, cheeks and buck teeth, looking ludicrously like a jolly New England oysterman in a yellow oilskin rain hat and slicker numerous sizes too large for him and holding up proudly for Yossarian's amusement a great dead codfish he had caught. But he didn't.
    • The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them.

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