Goldfinger by Ian Fleming: 52 in 52 Book #18

Goldfinger

My third Bond novel of this challenge was something I was looking forward to. As with the other Bond stories, I listened to audiobooks rather than reading them. As I’ve been travelling up and down the country during the Easter break I thought I’d spend the time wisely and catch up with my favourite secret agent.

As with all Bond novels, James is sent out to discover the misdemeanours of a villain. In this case his name is Auric Goldfinger, who as his name suggests is a gold merchant. However, as Bond discovers, things aren’t quite as simple as that.

Covering multiple locations from tropical Miami to rural Kent, Switzerland and American strong hold Fort Knox, this novel takes you on a world tour and an adventure just as exciting. There’s the usual dose of gun action, bond girls and the climatic scenes where Goldfinger and Bond come to blows. Oh, and this book contains possibly the best named Bond character of the series: Pussy Galore.

I enjoyed this as much as the last Bond novels. They are easy to get into and enjoy and happily kept me entertained for many hours. Bond fans will love this novel as it offers everything a good Bond should. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys spy and adventure novels.

 

Kat

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MINI Festival – Brayford Pool, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom

Red phone boxes, tea and scones and the Sunday Roast are all things that are quintessentially British. But none are arguably more iconic than the MINI. Built as a basic motorcar for the masses, this spritely little road runner is one of Britain’s most famous and most notable engineering feats. I have always loved MINI’s, be it from the humble original Morris MINI right up to the almighty BMW made Cooper and the world has held it in high regard too. Paul McCartney of Beatles fame owned one. Supercar company founder, Enzo Ferrari had one. Steve McQueen possessed the tiny car too. Three of them hurtled and screeched through the streets of Turin loaded with gold in the 1960’s car chase epic, The Italian Job. Mr. Bean was noted for owning a lime green one with a black bonnet. It was the offspring for many variants that included race cars, rally cars, vans, estates, saloons and pick-up trucks. This highly influential little car has created a huge following and today, MINI still continue to make high quality runabouts that are adored by many.

Brayford Wharf in Lincoln hosts the annual MINI festival organised by the Trent Valley MINI Owners Club and Lincoln’s Business Improvement Group and I was lucky enough to get a chance to finally go. Every time I have seen it advertised, I have always been busy and not able to make it. This time however, I was adamant on getting over there to check it because it was long overdue. I was not disappointed.

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Apparently more than two hundred different MINI’s ranging from the original right up to the brand new were on show along Brayford Wharf waterfront, just off the town centre in Lincoln. Lined up on the modern waterside, none of them looked out-of-place despite the majority of them coming from the swinging sixties. The sun was shining and the chrome gleamed and the paintwork sparkled.

Brayford Pool’s waterfront is fairly lengthy and MINI’s were stretched from the bridge at one end, to the bridge at the other. They came from all over the country with certain owners and enthusiast representing their respected clubs, showcasing their metal. We had the Lincs MINI Friends and Owners club, the Robin Hood MINI owners club, Bomber County MINI owners club and even the RAF’s own MINI club.

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The Royal Air Force show us their other mean machines

And because this was a free event, young and old alike could come and take in the sights as they pleased. The relaxed atmosphere of it all made it a pleasant event to witness. Take a long look under some of the hoods and revel in the finer details or simply dawdle through, the choice was yours to make.

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Big Engine, Big Wheels, Still a MINI

The calibre of MINI is staggering to say the least and the event had a good number of them. Vehicles ranging from those that had been restored to their former glory right to the over-the-top customised hot rods, there was something for all manner of tastes.  A lot of these motors clearly had hours of work and effort put into them and each and every one of them was different; none of them were identical with their full body kit conversions, extra foglights or simply chequered race flags, Union Jacks, and sports stripes. It was an amazing spectacle to see all these cars in one place at one time. 850’s, Coopers, Riley’s, Moke’s, Clubmans, Wosleley’s, Park Lane’s, a Marcos Mini, Metro’s – you name it – it was probably there. But not all of them had to be exuberant to be noticed. The MINI’s that had been well looked after were indeed just as eye-catching in their own right, slinked up next to ones that had chopped roofs or thick dragster tyres. Without sounding too poncy, there is something elegant about a MINI with smart aftermarket wheels, a white interior and a complete engine overhaul. It makes you think ‘wow. A car of this age can still hold its own to this day.’ It looks like a MINI in every detail but with some of the modern-day mod-cons splashed here and there; it verifies that this retro car can go on for what seems like, ever!

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But of course, there was room for the purists complete with original fittings and fixtures from the engine to the interior were an impressive insight on how much people hold these cars to high acclaim. Keeping each one to a near-mint condition for any number of years is an arduous task in itself and to these owners, I doff my bowler hat. Owners and Lincoln’s own ‘Soper’ dealership showed off their newer MINI’s such as their John Cooper Works and Cooper Coupé powerhouses up to the not-so-mini Countryman to show that even though the MINI has moved into the 21st Century; the original cars are just as influential and the heritage (albeit covered in Germanic overtones) is still buried deep inside the heart of each of these cars. They send out a clear message; they are still just as fun and as vibrant as they used to be; something that I don’t see changing anytime soon.

I have always liked MINI’s and I don’t really know why. Perhaps it’s the fact that they’re small and cute yet have that quirky British charm. Or maybe it’s the fact that each one can be tailored to anyone’s personal preference because they were cheap, affordable cars and bits and pieces could be added and taken away when the mood seemed right. It could even be that they are just great little cars that are fondly remembered in the same league as great Aston Martin’s or great Lotus’ of the era. It could be that the MINI is ageless and that it will never grow ‘old’ per se. It will age but it won’t become old-fashioned. Or possibly (with the exception of maybe the Fiat 500 or the younger Volkswagen MK1 Golf) it’s that there hasn’t really been another car like it. Maybe it’s all the above, but what’s more, it proves that no matter how small or simple things can be, they can rub shoulders with the big boys and be just as incredible!

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The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: 52 in 52 Book #17

The Kite Runner

Before reading this book, I had very little prior knowledge of Afghanistan beyond there were quite a few wars that had happened there and it was, at one point, a stronghold of the Taliban. I am pretty ignorant of the intricacies of Islam and the different sects within it. I did not know of the deep and detailed history of the country. I’m not entirely sure about where half the places mentioned in the book are within Afghanistan. These are all things I plan to address as a result of reading this book.

The Kite Runner is a very emotional book. There guilt by the ton, happiness, jealousy, innocence, fear. All these feelings weave as if worked on a loom to form the backdrop in which the books events occur. The main character, Amir, narrates the tale of his childhood with his servant and friend Hassan, how their friendship is changed due to one painful event and the subsequent guilt and life path Amir takes afterwards.

The book is almost explicitly violent. There’s rape, executions, brutality and attempted suicide which does make certain parts of the book very dark to read. The happier sections benefit from these disturbing events as it gives the book contrast and makes the joy of events like marriage, kite flying and forgiveness all the more poignant.

The Kite Runner is a very popular book, having been positively reviewed by many and a best seller for several years. There is a reason it is popular, probably the same reason I managed to read over three hundred pages in under twenty-four hours: It captures the reader’s thoughts and holds them hostage until the last sentence. Then, like a kite with its string cut, you are set free on the winds of the story to ponder, flutter and spread the wonder of this book to others.

 

Kat

Sound Bites by Alex Kapranos: 52 in 52 Book #16

Sound Bites

Back in mid-March, Jim and I took an excursion to London for the day. We went for two reasons. The first reason was to celebrate Jim’s birthday and have a day out of the dreary setting of Medway. The second was to see Franz Ferdinand, one of our favourite bands, on the London leg of their tour.

The concert was amazing. We were right and the front and screamed, sang and cheered until we sound like frogs that had eaten sandpaper. We watched Alex strut and meander across the front of the stage and mesmerise with his vocals. Jim eyed up Nick’s guitar and watched him play like a puppy idolising his master. I stared at Bob’s left hand slide up and down the neck of his Rickenbacker bass, trying to force my memory to permanently store how he played. We watched Paul too, but he was a bit further back. He seemed to be enjoying himself.

After a train journey through London and Kent, I made a beeline for the bookshelf when I got home. There, tucked behind a copy of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was a little book with a picture of the Franz Ferdinand frontman on the cover. This book was Sound Bites by Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand.

This books started life as Articles Alex wrote for The Guardian newspaper back when touring with Franz Ferdinand in 2005-2006. These articles were a commentary on what he ate on the tour in various locations around the planet. These have then been compiled into a little book and illustrations added. It reads autobiographically, flicking between the present and what Alex is eating in a particular location and flashing back to his life before Franz Ferdinand.

The descriptions are amazing, as is to be expected from a man who co-writes some of my favourite lyrics. Not only is the food described impeccably, but the location, the people, the feel of where he is and who is with him. Alex paints a picture of everything around him and it makes for a truly engaging read. Also, for those who wish to experience these things for themselves, there is a small glossary of all the places he mentions in the book situated at the back.

The style is rather Marmite in style. I love it, as does Jim, but it might not be to everyone’s tastes. But that’s okay; that is what books, like food, are supposed to be like. You might enjoy some bits and not others. Personally I would recommend this book to Franz fans, foodies and those who wander the globe but I’m not sure whether it would have a wider appeal. I hope it does though.

 

Kat