Review: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
by John le Carré
Format: Kindle (AZW)
Price: $9.99

If you’re looking for the fast-paced spy thriller, le Carré isn’t the writer for you. If, however, you are more than a bit tired of the James Bond gadget-fests where the spy is the dashing fellow who seduces plenty of ladies along the way, all in the services of HRH the Queen, you will quite enjoy this slow-burn psychological thriller.

As per the recently released film, I was picturing Gary Oldman as George Smiley (despite le Carré’s description of Smiley as an overweight, unsexy middle-aged man; Oldman could never NOT be sexy!), and enjoyed following his quest to unravel the mystery of the mole within the Circus (aka the British intelligence agency).

This is a great spy book because of its decidedly psychological aspects, without the tiresome psychoanalyzing of characters that many equate with “psychological thrillers.” We don’t need Hannibal Lecter offering his professional opinions to see what makes these characters tick; le Carré gives us all the facts as Smiley discovers them, and we work the puzzle at his side. More Sherlock Holmes deduction and careful recreation of the inner workings of the Circus help to unravel the mystery here, showing what real intelligence and spy games actually look like — and cost their participants.

While we may never be secret agents living double lives, le Carré assumes we’ve all got secrets of our own, and therefore intrinsically understand the nature of double dealing, on some level. More interesting is the way that these men lead quiet lives of desperation, each struggling with their own versions of official history, particularly after many of them have been thrown out of the service to which they’ve dedicated their lives.

A compelling read, and highly recommended for those interested in the spy/thriller genre. I look forward to reading more of le Carré’s work in the future, as well as a Graham Greene novel in a similar vein (The Human Factor–unfortunately not currently available in Kindle format in the U.S.) recommended to me by a fan. (LR)

Kindle Fire fails to spark

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According to a Dec. 12 report from PC World about the new Kindle Fire, customers are giving the latest installment mixed reviews. Early adopters aren’t satisfied with a variety of issues concerning the new e-reader. The biggest problems?

lack of external volume controls, awkwardly placed off switch, slow web browser, heavy weight, minimal storage space, and inconsistent touchscreen responsiveness

So basically a laundry list of complaints that will have to be fixed in the second generation of the device. We’re glad we waited on this one, and look forward to a lighter, faster-browsing Fire with a consistent touchscreen response.

Then again, we hate to ask the obvious question: why use a touchscreen at all? The Kindle’s previous incarnations have keypads and forward/back buttons which work great with no user complaints. Seems like the only reason to move to touchscreen is the urge to compete against the iPad, but since that wasn’t what the e-reader was intended to do in the first place, it’s a bit misguided.

Your thoughts?

Review: Maynard Soloman and the Job-Nabbin’ Illegal Immigrants

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Maynard Soloman and the Job-Nabbin’ Illegal Immigrants
by Benjamin Sobieck
Format: Kindle (AZW)
Price: $0.99

Today we must recomend some sweet Kindle shorts for those that love freedom, old-timey talk, and the private dicks that solve all the world’s problems.

At 99-cents a pop, even the broke-est bastards among us can afford these penny pulps.

Written by crime fictionist Benjamin Sobieck, the Maynard Soloman shorts are worth every penny. Check out Maynard Soloman and the Job Nabbin’ Illegal Immigrants for a taste of this saucy P.I. and his mobile crime-solving Winnebago, and then collect ‘em all, including:

With a satirical take on everything from America’s war on drugs to immigration law to social security, Maynard Soloman is a mobile home-dwelling crime-fighting dynamo. He may not be the brightest bulb in the box, but he sure is amusing. Don’t miss his burger recipe, which may or may not cause you to snort your beverage. (LR)

Review: The Flinch

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The Flinch
by Julien Smith
Format: Kindle (AZW)
Price: Free
Genre: Nonfiction/Self-Help

This book didn’t live up to the hype. I say that more because of what Seth Godin is known for than what Julien Smith is known for, but I think the criticism is relevant.

The Flinch has its moments. I think many of Amazon’s 1-star reviewers are correct in saying that the primary point of the book can be summed up in a few sentences. It’s about not letting fear get the better of you. Or, better yet, when you want to step back, step forward.

Fight Club was also a book about stepping forward, rather than stepping back. I think we all know what happens when you let yourself be dominated by the mindset of fighting over fear.

Yes, oftentimes we modern North American types are too afraid of what *might* happen, versus what *will* happen. We allow unreasonable fears to control us. But Julien suggests that ALMOST ALL risks we take are non-fatal. I fundamentally disagree with this premise. Just look at the psychos cutting people off left and right and skidding across the freeway without checking their mirrors and you’ll see what I mean. There are definitely fatal risks in our cushy lives, and while they may not be as numerous or as dire as those on the plains of the jungles our forefathers and mothers fought against, tooth and nail, that doesn’t make these fatalities and maimings any less real.

Also, there are worse things than death. I don’t feel this important distinction was sufficiently (or even remotely) addressed.

This is a book for children of privilege to feel empowered by vague talk and calls to arms that involve taking cold showers and “examining” empty lives.

For me, this book rings hollow. Perhaps it appeals to those who’ve never had any exposure to philosophical thinking, to the deeper examination of their own dreams and goals. But for someone who has spent a great deal of time pondering what is right and true, and how to best live my life with respect to those ideals, this book falls short.

On a possibly unrelated note, the inclusion of so many other Domino Project book excerpts was highly irritating, as it greatly inflated the page count of this book. Fully half of the pages in this book are actually excerpts. Good thing it’s free, eh? (LR)

Review: Incredible Sex (52 Brilliant Little Ideas)

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Incredible Sex (52 Brilliant Little Ideas)
by Marcelle Perks and Elisabeth Wilson
Format: Kindle (AZW)
Price: Free

We were set to slam this freebie from the Kindle store for its ho-hum take on human sexuality and tips for spicing up your love life (seriously, don’t ever tell us to spice up our love lives, like we are missing a dash of cayenne pepper or a note of cumin, all right?), but surprisingly enough, this book doesn’t entirely suck. No, not entirely.

Yes, it’s written by a duo (Marcelle Perks and Elisabeth Wilson) who have no ability whatsoever to convey the sexiness of sex, and instead prefer to cover as much ground in as flavorless a writing style as possible. Yes, the British term “snogging” sounds far more hilarious than sexy to American readers. But some of the tips are still useful, in a remedial way, such as the suggestion that when it comes to oral sex, men should almost always slow down and avoid direct contact with the clitoris until the woman is bucking her hips like mad. An obvious suggestion, to those who’ve had sex more than twice, but a good tip for beginners to keep in mind if their love lives are falling short.

Terminology like “get your rocks off,” however, do not help these writers’ in their cause. And the suggestion “Have a bowl of cold yoghurt and one of warm peas nearby and dip your bare feet into them” is not only bizarre but disturbing, thanks to its location in the anal sex chapter. No, honey, we would NOT like to have any yogurt or peas inserted into our asses tonight, but thanks for asking first!

Finally, ending a book with Marilyn Monroe’s signature move should be the high point, the literal climax. Ending, instead, with the summary phrase “The bloke probably quite enjoyed it too” is quite the opposite of hot. You’ve just turned consummate sex fantasy Marilyn Monroe into a crappy ending, you twits. -10 points for killing our lady boners, and the boners of men everywhere.

Is it wrong to complain about a free book’s sex tips being too pedestrian? Perhaps. But why anyone would want to write such a book is the real question. If you’ve got a burning desire to set the world’s sex lives on fire, then by God as a burning bush, DO IT! But for the love of cocks and cunts, please stop with the poorly-written advice that you are trying to pass off as “brilliant ideas.” (LR)

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