2023 Books, Part 1

At the end of last year I decided to post about the books I’d read in 2022. In that post I said: “… for 2023, I plan to read even more.”

Six months in and I’ve already surpassed last years count, so why not do two entries for 2023?

As a fun aside our family did the Book Advent Calendar again this year but I bag I chose, for some damn reason, was Popular Thrillers. I first book I unwrapped was The Davinci Code, which I hadn’t read as I’d been led to believe that it was shitty and not worth my time. Undaunted I decided to give it a go…

… only to find that it was shitty and not worth my time. I put it down after three chapters. It’s just so eye-rollingly bad in every way a book can be bad.

The rest of the books that came out of the Popular Thriller Advent Calendar were more of the same: Tom Clancy, John Grisham, and a couple more Pat Browns. I read only one of them and donated the rest.

Anyway, here we go…

Surrender – Bono (4/10)
I like U2 and I like Rock autobiographies so I was excited to read this. I don’t know what kind of paper and cardboard was used but this book literally weighs a metric tonne. Maybe it’s symbolic considering I’m sure the weight of Bono’s ego can be measured in metric tonnes. He is the king of the humble brag and always has been. He kind of just babbles on about… whatever he’s done that impresses himself, which is pretty much everything. He’s like a more famous Bob Geldof; he has done good things, but has sainted himself and really thinks we all see him like he sees himself. I gave this a 4 because there are some good bits about the other band members and the music in general sprinkled in here and there. All in all it’s overly religious (yet he never discusses his own infidelities), about 100 pages too long, and the last 50 pages seemed to drag on forever.

Forever And A Day – Anthony Horowitz (7/10)
The only Advent Calendar book from my bag that I read. It’s a Bond “prequel” and while I tend to not enjoy books written by others after an authors death, I have a soft spot for Bond (even though I’m super tired of the movie franchise). I was also in the mood for something light; I needed some mental Listerine after reading Bono’s book.  In the end it was pretty decent and it made me realize that I hadn’t read the original Flemming Bond books at all. My mother had them and I remember her telling me years ago that the movies were not even close to the books… (yeah, you know where this is eventually heading).

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn (7/10)
The people who love this book, LOVE this book. The people who hate this book, HATE this book. Me? I thought it was quite good. The writing was good, the twist(s) were decent, and the ending was not what I was expecting. Could have done without the lawyer, and some of it was eye rolling but a quick, not terrible read. At some point I’ll check out the movie.

Casino Royale – Ian Fleming (8/10)
After Forever And A Day I decided to give the Flemming Bond books a go. This was a great start. Quick, to the point, no fancy gadgets, Bond isn’t super human and gets beat up pretty good. I did need to remember these take place in the 50s where “men were men” and all that.

The Painted Bird – Jerzy Kosiński (DNF)
I couldn’t finish it. It’s not the darkness or the theme, it wasn’t even the brutality. It was the repetitiveness that did me in. It stared out rather engaging but then from one chapter to the next it became just more of the same, more of the same, more of the same. I wasn’t even numbed. I was bored. Maybe that was the point? I’ve head it said that this book was supposed to show the horror of war but maybe it was supposed to show how we can become desensitized to it? I don’t think that’s it either. American Psycho is one of my favorite books and every time I read it, it works me over and stays with me. But The Painted Bird? Maybe I’m missing something but, meh.

Live And Let Die – Ian Fleming (7/10)
Decent, but somewhat awkward read in that 50’s casual racist way; docked a few points for that even though I understand that was the way of thinking back then. I can say that I’m enjoying the books as Bond is not the super duper spy he’s made out to be in the movies.

Moonraker – Ian Fleming  (7/10)
My god was I was worried about reading this one considering the movie is so fucking ridiculous. Thankfully there was no stupid space shit. It was a good, tight story about a missile and a Nazi agent.

Diamonds are Forever – Ian Fleming (7/10)
Quite liked this one. Good plot, quick read. Again, the book Bond is not a super hero with fancy gadgets saving the day. He takes beatings, is tortured, and relies on friends to save his ass. My hope was that this doesn’t change in the later books.

From Russia, With Love – Ian Fleming (9/10)
Fan-fucking-tastic. The first part of this book is some of the best shit I’ve ever read. The rest is mildly preposterous but you end up buying it. And the end is *chef’s kiss*. Fleming could have called it quits with this one and it would have been perfect.

Dr. No – Ian Flemming (5/10)
This one was somewhat shitty. Started out good but managed to turn lame as it went on. Considering that this was also the first Bond book to become a film, I can see how the movies turned out like they did. This was the first time, to me anyway that the villain was a complete cartoon character, complete with monologues, who had a super duper, ultra fancy Private Island Lair®™ where he puts Bond in a death trap/obstacle course rather than just kill him and wow, the giant squid is completely absurd. Weh weh.

Exit Stage Left: The Curious Afterlife of Pop Stars – Nick Duerden (8/10)
Excellent read overall even if it started to lag a little near the end. It is interesting to read about those who touched fame and then were cast aside for whatever the reason. I can say that this book made me a little glad I never “made it” in music or art.

Goldfinger – Ian Fleming (4/10)
Ehhhhh. Didn’t think too much about this one. Like Dr. No, this is the movie Bond. The villain was meh. The big crime was eye rolling. And wow, is the racism ever ramped up. Oh, and the homophobia. I know it was the 50s but, GODDAMN.

Thunderball – Ian Fleming (6/10)
Felt like this one was getting back to the earlier Bond. All in all pretty ok. Not much to say past that.

The Spy Who Loved Me – Ian Flemming (10/10)
Fucking LOVED this one. It was apparently not well received when it came out because it was such a drastic change from the previous books but that’s exactly what I liked about it.

Requiem For A Dream – Hubert Selby Jr (10/10)
Whew. Holy hell this one beat me up. I actually tried starting with Selby via Last Exit To Brooklyn, but I couldn’t penetrate his prose and put it down after 10 pages. Decided to try this and it was simply excellent. Dark, hopeless, uncomfortable, and really hitting the mark when it comes to dreaming about the perfect life America advertises while it simultaneously suffocates you to death. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read and I will most likely never read it again. (Will probably watch the movie though.)

Less Than Zero – Bret Easton Ellis (9/10)
As mentioned in my rant about The Painted Bird, American Psycho is one of my favorite books. Strangely haven’t read Ellis’ other works. I decided to start at the beginning. It was a little slow moving at first, but the chapters are short and by the end I was hooked; simultaneously intrigued and uncomfortably horrified. Needed to take a couple of days to digest what I’d just read.