What are your favorite types of books and beverages when you're in an autumnal mood?

What are your favorite types of books and beverages when you're in an autumnal mood?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

In the crosshairs

I'm sure the Kindle revolution helped fuel the creation of this entertaining little book. After all, would author Andrew McNess have actually sat down to write more than a hundred enthusiastic pages about a James Bond film that most people, even most Bond fans, consider second-tier or even third-rate among the long-running series, if he knew he'd only get the usual tiny readership of most self-published or small-press books?

He had to say to himself, "Well, I'll put the book on Kindle, too, so that'll make it worth writing."

Well, whatever got him going, I'm glad Mr. McNess wrote James Bond In Our Sights: A Close Look At "A View To A Kill". As I was never one of those Bond fans who dismissed the film out of hand, it was fun to read Mr. McNess put into words why I, and likely many others, have always perfectly enjoyed the movie, which features Roger Moore's 7th and final performance as Agent 007.

In six concise but meaty chapters (chapters 001 through 006-- how did the author resist not having a chapter 007?), the author discusses the movie's plot, characters, the master plan of the villain, the more laidback and paternal approach to James Bond provided by both the story and Mr. Moore's portrayal, and all sorts of other aspects of the film. Immersive from beginning to end, the book as a whole strikes a good balance between solid film criticism and a breezy, fun read.

If you are one of the people who never really liked this movie but- as a Bond fan- are thinking of reading this book anyway, Mr. McNess may just convince you to move 1985's A View To A Kill at least a couple of notches up in your personal ranking of Bond films. But even if he doesn't, you'll likely still enjoy his conversational approach as he tells you why he likes the movie so much.

You'll also enjoy the trip down memory lane, as the book brings up (at least once or twice each) every Bond film from 1962's Dr. No to 2008's Quantum of Solace (he even mentions 2012's Skyfall, though the movie wasn't complete and available for him to see at the time of the book's writing). I enjoyed how Mr. McNess bounced the various films' aims and approaches off one another, in service of further explaining why A View To A Kill made the choices it did.

I would say it's fairly easy to write a book about a movie everyone loves and reveres. I guess that's why there are so many books about Lawrence of Arabia, Vertigo, Pulp Fiction, and the original Star Wars trilogy. So kudos to Mr. McNess for thinking that he and he alone loving a film was reason enough to sit down and write a book about it. The freshness and audacity of his idea certainly pays off in the quality and readability of the final product.

And who knows, it may even turn you into a defender of the Roger Moore Bond films, even those later ones where spoilsports complained that he was "way too old" for the part. Yes, Mr. McNess may yet teach you to respect your elders!

James Bond In Our Sights: A Close Look At "A View To A Kill" is available on Kindle for $7.69.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Scars on the soul

While classifying this collection as part of the crime genre is probably accurate, Marcus Sakey's excellent Scar Tissue: Seven Stories of Love and Wounds is really a book of intense character studies that just happen to involve crimes. That's because the things that happen in this immersive book are fueled by the characters' haunted pasts, not so much the requirements of the genre.

I enjoyed the opening story the best, The Days When You Were Anything Else, which involves a father having to deal with a ransom demand for the return of his estranged daughter. The father's guilt and regrets regarding his past history with his daughter inform all his actions to rich and startling effect, leading to a gutsy, unpredictable, yet honest conclusion. But all the stories are very good: dark, emotionally complex, and satisfying.

I purchased this book when author J.A. Konrath promoted it on his blog, informing readers that not only was it a great collection of stories but that Mr. Sakey was seeing to it that major proceeds from the book would go to a worthy charity. So, the book didn't even need to be that good for me to feel positive about purchasing it. Of course, I was pleased to discover that it was indeed very good.

In addition to the seven stories here, there's an introduction at the outset by Mr. Konrath, individual introductions to each story by Mr. Sakey (which nicely illustrate the evolution of his writing career), and, at the close, a few brief previews of Mr. Sakey's novels. So, even with the inexpensive price, you get a decent amount of reading material here.

But, more importantly, it's good reading material. Give Marcus Sakey's haunted characters a chance to get under your skin. You won't regret it.

Scar Tissue: Seven Stories of Love and Wounds is available for $2.99 on Kindle, with the proceeds going toward the fight against pediatric cancer.  Amazon Prime members are also eligible to borrow the book for free.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fun pumpkin use

Presented here for your pleasure is a glamour shot of a Pumpkin-Tini, which Alison recently ordered at Kyma, a terrific seafood restaurant located just outside Adamstown, Pennsylvania.

The restaurant's Pumpkin-Tini contains (according to the Kyma menu) vanilla vodka, Kahlua, pumpkin spice liqueur, homemade pumpkin puree, and half-and-half, and is served in a martini glass rimmed with cinnamon sugar. 

Readers of this blog know that I'm more of a classic cocktail kind of guy, but I'm always amused by the flavored martinis Alison likes to order, and I have to say that my sample sip or two didn't taste bad at all.  Yes, it was more like a dessert than an adult beverage, but it was flavorful, not too sweet, and there was a nice autumnal air about the whole affair.

There was lots of extra drink left in the shaker, too, which is always a plus.  Alison was able to refresh her glass several times throughout the meal.