The Spy and the Traitor

May’s book choice was The Spy and The Traitor by Ben Macintyre. The Pick was brought by Hetal.

Book Synopsis:

The celebrated author of A Spy Among Friends and Rogue Heroes returns with his greatest spy story yet, a thrilling Cold War-era tale of Oleg Gordievsky, the Russian whose secret work helped hasten the collapse of the Soviet Union.

If anyone could be considered a Russian counterpart to the infamous British double-agent Kim Philby, it was Oleg Gordievsky. The son of two KGB agents and the product of the best Soviet institutions, the savvy, sophisticated Gordievsky grew to see his nation’s communism as both criminal and philistine. He took his first posting for Russian intelligence in 1968 and eventually became the Soviet Union’s top man in London, but from 1973 on he was secretly working for MI6. 

For nearly a decade, as the Cold War reached its twilight, Gordievsky helped the West turn the tables on the KGB, exposing Russian spies and helping to foil countless intelligence plots, as the Soviet leadership grew increasingly paranoid at the United States’s nuclear first-strike capabilities and brought the world closer to the brink of war. Desperate to keep the circle of trust close, MI6 never revealed Gordievsky’s name to its counterparts in the CIA, which in turn grew obsessed with figuring out the identity of Britain’s obviously top-level source. Their obsession ultimately doomed Gordievsky: the CIA officer assigned to identify him was none other than Aldrich Ames, the man who would become infamous for secretly spying for the Soviets. 

Unfolding the delicious three-way gamesmanship between America, Britain, and the Soviet Union, and culminating in the gripping cinematic beat-by-beat of Gordievsky’s nail-biting escape from Moscow in 1985, Ben Macintyre’s latest may be his best yet. Like the greatest novels of John le Carré, it brings readers deep into a world of treachery and betrayal, where the lines bleed between the personal and the professional, and one man’s hatred of communism had the power to change the future of nations. 

Book Discussion:

Instead of having a corona outside, due to corona, we did a zoom meeting 🙁
Joining was Amy (not the dead one), Karie (the lacksiedaisy one), Jen (the prego one), Stella (the one of good hair) and me (the late one)
We didn’t talk about the book for long since there were no questions, but we all agreed that it was “seriously, this really happened” account.  If it was a movie, we would have been like, this could only happen in a movie…but, it happened for real!  Is the CIA and MI6 that stupid for missing things for so long.  So many things to memorize, codenames and signals.  Safeway bags and chocolate bars aside, we agreed that it started out slow but became a great read.  We were all awed by the actual influence Oleg had with thwarting a nuclear war.  The big question was if Oleg had told his wife, would she have gone with him????  Some thought yes, some no.  Everyone gave a thumbs up.
Jen got her doordash so left the call…it’s ok, she’s prego.
On to book picks….Suhanthi, Suhanthi, suhanthi (think Bueller).  Ok, no Suhanthi, so backup was Amy and thank goodness she remembered because none of us did.  Our first vote was 1 vote for each pick, same with second vote!  Third time’s the charm where Amy decides to end the ties and vote for the pick someone else already did. So the book pick for this month is The Last Mrs. Parrish.  We can read about the Kentucky blue people on our own time.
After so much voting, topics veered to school (to remote or not to remote) then teen romance, so much drama!  Karie suggested a new way of picking books for next month, but don’t ask me what cause I was already a bottle of wine down by then.
Was nice to catch up and hope that we can do this outdoors, in-person next month!

The Kissing Quotient


The Kissing Quotient By Helen Hoang

Synopsis:

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases—a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice—with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan—from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but crave all of the other things he’s making her feel. Their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…

Book Discussion:

The Ladies of Dine & Opine met this month to discuss TKQ. We met on a lovely Tuesday evening at CO. If you remember how we choose our books and where we eat… you know that we try to match something between the book and the restaurant. If you have forgotten, or are new to this site, check out the FAQ’s of Dine & Opine. This was Amy’s Book pick- so she chose to eat at CO, inspired by the heritage of Stella’s hunk male escort. Quick restaurant write-up. And even though she was in Italy and unable to attend- she was thought of during the meeting) A few “Things to know” 1- they do not take reservations. Which was fine. A few of us ladies seem to always be early. This is a great moment to put your name in and grab a drink at the bar. 2- The food is good. I, Karie, heard no complaints regarding the food. 3- It was a bit noisy (We were surprised for a Tuesday- however A) we don’t mind as we can be loud and B) it didn’t last long, 4- The appetizers are a decent size. Not too big, enough for 5 people to have a bite and sometimes 1 person to get 2. Perfect so you don’t over eat.

OK- Now time for the book. If you have read the book- we used the questions at the back of the book. The discussion began with the conversation regarding whether or not we knew of any Highly -Functioning Autistic adults and if Stella met what we would have imagined a HFAA would react/act. Many of us (I do believe none of us) have knowingly known a HFAA. So that part of the question was hard to answer. I was able to share that personally, I have experience with autism in younger family members and a teen (Who now is an adult). I have been able to see the difference that arises out of those that have/are understood and have a self awareness earlier on than those that receive counseling later in life. In my experience those that (not only themselves, also the family) recognized Autism and worked with it are much more self aware and are able to adjust/take in daily environments.

The conversation then moved onto Stella’s reaction to an intern asking out her co-worker Philip. The overall consensus was that Stella, being brought up by her parents who (Appeared in the book) to be old school. Stella’s response was appropriate. It seems, through clues in the book, that her mother was about being proper, in a 1950’s sort of way… not the 70’s free love way. We discussed whether that might have been a point where Stella saw a social norm (What is acceptable now) and how that helped her realize that she can take charge of that area of her life.

Before diving into the SEX. Let’s discuss Micheal. The idea of his profession came into question and BOY did that start a discussion. Pretty Woman (Yes the movie) was brought to the table as an example. A discussion on Escorts VS Prostitutes was promptly visited. With a divided table we argued the pros and cons of each. One outcome, which I am sure will begin a conversation, was that Men make better clients than women. This being that tendency of women getting attached. I know, I know. It sounds so sexist, so juvenile, so…. so…. yeah… history shows that women have a harder time to separate sex and emotions. Well First off- that just sucks. We all can agree that we love a good romp in the hay. Statistically speaking, many can’t leave the hay and until those statistics change (Which they are slowly).. we are left with that.

The next Michael question was “Throughout the book, Michael worries he’s inherited his father’s “badness,” that it was passed down in his blood. Do you think this is illogical? Are you able to empathize with him? If so, how? ” Well this is was a no-brainer for this group. It is a Nature vs Nurture discussion. Almost. A twist was proposed. When you grow up with a certain behavior around you, even if you are not even in line with that behavior. It does cause a pause. A moment where one is, every once in a while, looking over one’s shoulder. Wondering if they are in the clear or if it is just part of who we are… what we are made of… who we will eventually end up being. Whether it is correct or not… it lies on your mind like a paper weight.

The SEX.. The question asked was “Does it surprise you to see an autistic person exploring a sexual relationship? If so, why?” A few said yes. I said not really. Knowing that Stella was wanting to make her mom happy and she did want to get married, she wanted to, what she thought, was “get better” at sex. She understood that sex is part of a loving relationship and quite frankly needed for reproduction. I think she wanted to learn how to be comfortable with sex. In reality, she learned that sex just isn’t physical, there is a connection that is needed. That no matter how many check lists she made and completed; without that connection and understanding, she would never think that she was “Good” at sex.

Speaking of SEX… We, I do believe unanimously, decided that we would want a Michael over a Christian Grey anytime. That brought up a conversation of a “battle of the books” sort; 50 Shades of Grey vs The Kiss Quotient. I will say that we all agreed that the sex scenes of The Kiss Quotient were better written and, well I will just say it, definitely left the reader wanting more, than 50 shades of grey. The scenes in 50SoG felt repetitive and old after awhile.

Voting: And so it was time to vote. The Kiss Quotient received a:

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The main reason was that even though most enjoyed the book and it was a very easy read… It might not be a book that will get rereads. It is a book that we might pass along (To those 50 shades of grey fans) however it is not one that we believe would come up in conversation.

Next Book: The next book is from a list brought by Susan. The Passenger by Lisa Lutz. Pick up your copy, start reading and check back for the next blog soon!