Thursday, 28 November 2013

A Tricky Game by Seraphima Bogomolova – Book Review

Publisher’s write-up:
A Tricky Game is a psychological novella telling the story of a young enigmatic woman, who finds herself involved in an edgy game of three men, whose genuine intents, second agendas, and secret longings become closely intertwined with her own destiny, creating unexpected twists that place her in front of challenging life choices.’
A Tricky Game is a psychological thriller novella written by Seraphima Bogomolova featuring a young woman, Angela Moreaux, who is facing too many uncanny incidents in her life.
It begins with Angela entering into a professional agreement with Kazimir Stankevitch, a Russian aluminium magnate, who fancies the former. Little does she realise the dangerous game she is entering into and gets shot in the very same evening.  On the other end, a certain person is concerned only about her security and brings in more players into the game by summoning one of her former business associates to keep an eye on her. Eventually, as events unfold in the most drastic fashion, Angela is left with difficult choices to make, regarding her life. 
The diversity of the novel was the first intriguing factor – a troubled woman in the world of business, a clash between two billionaires, a pro-communist regime housekeeper still reminiscing the Soviet era, and an element of romance in between all these and all other aspects which intensified the tricky game. The concise, yet complex nature of this novel is another aspect of this novel which could be appreciated for wherein an average reader can finish the book in in 90 minutes with full concentration (since you’d need it).
 Unfortunately, there are some disappointing aspects about this novel too and I’d start with Angela’s character – seemingly arrogant and too confident of herself; not the best of characteristics you’d expect in an ideal protagonist. Also, the length of the novel is also an enemy, considering how, I felt the ending, while it was beautiful, it was also a little abrupt, closing out only one aspect of the game. Another rather trivial issue I had was with editing; where it had some obvious typographical errors (which I’m sure would’ve been corrected by now for the subsequent editions). 
On the whole, I’d say that this story is ideal if you want some good, quick read and especially if you happen to be a fan of psychological thrillers, I’d say this would be an enjoyable read and could also be used to kill time while waiting for flight, or appointments or anything else.  On the whole, I’d say that this book was a good read, and I’d award it a solid six on ten.  
Rating – 6/10
Have a nice day,

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Killing Wall Street by Sanjay Sanghoee - Book Review

Publisher’s write-up:

Killing Wall Street is a timely thriller about the terrible consequences of corporate greed and the unimaginable power of working class rage.

Catherine is a working class single mother who is living on the edge of a breakdown. After the financial crisis ruins what little is left of her life, she decides that she has had enough, and plots a shocking revenge against the system that has victimized her.

FBI Agent Michael Sands barely comes off a big case and is immediately put in charge of a very strange investigation. Someone is killing high-profile CEOs, bankers and lawyers connected with a multi-billion dollar merger, and the agent must figure out how to stop the killer. But as Michael investigates, he discovers that the victims were all hiding a deadly secret.

The stakes keep escalating for both Catherine and Michael as they encounter the frightening reality of financial power and are confronted with impossible moral choices at every step.’

Killing Wall Street is a thriller novel written by the former investment banker, Sanjay Sanghoee. It features Catherine, a struggling single mother caught in the economic crisis and ends up facing a pay cut. Totally frustrated, she decides to direct her frustration on the system that has put her into this position, and begins by targeting a particular merger involving a series of frauds and vested interests. On the other side is FBI agent Michael Sands, who is investigating the murders of high profile people in the corporate world.

The author narrates Catherine’s story in first person, something that I liked as I could easily analyse her character owing to that. Her outburst at the present system expressed through excellent analogies was something that I particularly enjoyed in this novel. Moreover, the author had hidden so many aspects of her life brought out at the right time, adding to interesting twists in the tale. Michael Sands too, was an interesting personality who threw away an aristocratic life in order to create his own identity. The characters were my favourite part of the novel. Added to that, Catherine’s meticulous planning of her murders (a middle aged person learning technology particularly was described very well along with her increasing confidence and efficiency in execution following each murder.

On the other hand, it was a naïve notion from Catherine that killing those involved in ONE corrupt merger deal could reform the whole financial system and create a better tomorrow for her daughter. Moreover, a couple of important things were left unexplained, creating a loose end (I can’t reveal it; it’d end up as a spoiler). The ending of the novel was rather shocking (although not exactly abrupt or bad) and you’d lose all the respect that you had for Catherine all along (and yet again, I’m not at liberty to disclose why).

To conclude, I’d say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel and it is always good to read a novel from an author who is from the same field as you’d get the facts straight from the horse’s mouth. This book would be thoroughly enjoyed by those who love crime novels based on events in the financial circle. Weighing the pros and cons as stated earlier, I’d award this book a seven on ten.

Rating – 7/10

Have a nice day,


Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Damian Garcia: PhD Drug Smuggler by Chris Mosquera – Book Review

Publisher’s write-up:

‘This is the story of Damian Garcia, and the international drug trade in opium and hashish, by PhD graduate students in New York City, circa 1972. It is about love, friendship, family, loyalty, and an extremely discreet and very lucrative international drug smuggling business plan, with the financial returns totalling in the many millions of dollars.

The business plan was a new combination of opium and hashish product, the family branded as O/H. The targeted demographics were graduate students, nurses, doctors, accountants and attorneys. O/H became the professionals’ drug of choice worldwide.

O/H grew to become the largest and most profitable international drug smuggling enterprise unknown to all but a few. Those that knew would never tell; that was the family code.

The book is through the eyes of Damian Garcia, looking back in another day, when life was more trusting, the social and political climates were more interconnected, and personal relationships truly mattered.’

Damian Garcia: PhD Drug Smuggler by Chris Mosquera features five PhD students in the year 1972 – Damian Garcia, Vash Gupta, Roger Rajiv, Howard Pavel, Maurgerite Nguyen and Lori Wilson, living together as a family in a dilapidated apartment desperately lacking funds. Suddenly, an idea strikes them – mixing opium and hashish into a single product and make quick money. This story is mainly about how they develop this business model which has the potential of dealing in millions and unlike traditional drug dealers, these five friends are intelligent students specialising in a particular field who don’t want to have anything to with ‘gangster stuff’.

What I liked about this book was the fact that highly educated people were in this business with each of them knowing what exactly they were talking about. The pace is also something to be appreciated as it got into the crux of the story within the first five pages. The characters were built well – bringing out how each of them value friendship and relationship and are willing to do anything to preserve that. I liked the diverse nature of characters in the book – with characters from India, Tunisia, Italy, Soviet Union, Canada and Puerto Rico and how Damian intelligently exploits for his drug business. The book is also well researched, considering that it involves facts about various countries, their culture, etc. People who enjoy reading about business models would like this book and since I fall under this category, doubtless, I had a good experience, and managed to finish the book fairly early, with respect to my standards (of being a slow reader). 

On the other side, I also felt that the group of friends had a very weak opposition, just the law and thus, managed to get on with what they wanted to do. Moreover, despite the name of the novel, till around page 150, it seemed as though, Vash Gupta was the most important character which is for more than half the novel. And Damian’s repeated use of ’360 degree view’ in nearly every sentence of his could be annoying for some readers. Historical fiction being one of my favourite genres, I’d have liked it better if the time of the novel (1972) had a greater relevance.

On the whole, I’d say that this is a good read – could satisfy many readers as it involves multiple elements: family, friendship, relationship, love, travel and business. I believe the author is planning a sequel which justifies the rather abrupt end of this novel and that is something I’d look forward to read. Weighing the pros and cons, to conclude, I’d award this book a rating of seven. 

Rating: 7/10

Have a nice day,

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Before Terror Strikes by William Michael Seddon Sr. – Book Review

Publisher’s write-up:

‘What would you do if you found yourself taking sniper fire in a parking lot? Or shopping in a crowded mall when someone begins spraying automatic weapons fire? What if you were picking up your luggage at the airport, and someone started throwing hand grenades… ? What would you do?

There’s no denying it – we live in an era of terror, but we can prepare ourselves for life-threatening scenarios. BEFORE TERROR STRIKES: Learn The Tactical Mindsets and Skillsets Necessary To Survive A Terrorist Event Before It Occurs is simply a necessity for this day and age. Written by a certified anti-terrorism specialist, this book is a concise but precise and incredibly educational guide that teaches anyone from an average citizen to an elite trained professional how terrorists think and how not to be their passive victim, frozen by fear. By learning how to act and react in life-threatening situations – whether you travel within or outside the country or are simply going about your daily business – you can help protect yourself from getting seriously hurt or even killed. This is a book that could save your life.’

‘Evil prevails when good people sit down and do nothing’
– Edmund Burke, Irish philosopher

We live in an era of terror – the publisher putting it up in an absolutely straighforward fashion but nevertheless, is the reality. The danger with terrorists is that they have no rules and there is no guarantee that you may not be the victim as they strike anywhere – airports, shopping malls, et cetera. Former US Marine, William Michael Seddon Sr. has written a guide on tactical mindsets and skillsets that we all need to learn in order to prevent ourselves from being victims of terrorist attacks, or once you are in it – what to do to protect yourself during one. Author goes over the mindset of a terrorist, of a victim, and extensively covers the antiterrorism preventive measures and countermeasures.

The author exhausts nearly all the common possibilities by giving practical ‘what if’ situations which you and I come across everyday. Useful illustrations were also given regarding avoiding shrapnel injuries, gunfire and safety in subways. The book provides the insight on how terrorists think, it teaches not just to avoid terrorist attacks, but to think tactically, which is useful anywhere. Author mentions some very interesting facts about the human mind and some enlightening quotes from famous people across centuries. This book is a must read before any travel, as it provides sufficient details regarding identifying a terrorist and measures to take in order to prevent yourself from getting into a life-threatening situation, and if you are in the middle of it – measures to take to protect yourself from terrorists. It is even more useful for US citizens as the author has given some specific US related tips such as the services provided by the embassy.

The best part about the whole book is that it is concise – 165 pages within which most common situations are exhausted. A good reader might need less than an hour to go through the entire book and it would provide her / him a basic idea on how to protect themselves. I think this book could also be a useful guide if someone has some project to do on terror attacks and safety during a terrorist attack.

This is one of those books where it doesn’t end with reading it. After reading it, you have to take it into real life situations and act accordingly. Only then you can claim that you have understood the contents of the book.

I don’t think it is all that appropriate to rate non-fiction, especially something of this nature, but I have this to say – it is an excellent guide and is a must read in the era that we live in because, counterterrorism is a life or death matter.

Have a nice day,

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Yes, Prime Minister by Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay: Season 1 (2013) – Review

Yes, Prime Minister was a popular British sitcom of the 1980s written by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn. Now, after all these years, it has been revived and finally, the Yes Prime Minister fans get to see Hacker, Sir Humphrey and Bernard again.

In this: Prime Minister James Hacker is portrayed by David Haig; the Cabinet secretary, the sly Sir Humphrey Appleby is portrayed by Henry Goodman and the Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, Bernard Woolley is portrayed by Chris Larkin. The character of Dorothy Wainwright, the Prime Minister’s political adviser in the earlier series, has a higher role in this revival, under the name Claire Sutton, played by Zoe Telford.

From left to right: Claire Sutton (Zoe Telford), Sir Humphrey Appleby (Henry Goodman), James Hacker (David Haig) and Bernard Woolley (Chris Larkin)

Jim Hacker is facing the biggest challenge as Prime Minister – a divided coalition, a plunging European economy and is also heading an EU meeting which is going nowhere. Hacker is desperate to arrive at some compromise in the EU conference and win public confidence. A former Soviet state, Kumranistan (fictitious) comes to their rescue, offering a $10 trillion loan secured against future oil purchases but, there are a lot of negotiations to be done before the deal could be arrived at and this is what the first season is about.

I’m a BIG fan of the Yes Minister/ Yes Prime Minister series that was shown in the 80s and when there was news of an attempted revival, it got me very excited. It was good to see Hacker, Humphrey and Bernard back in the screen, although done by different actors and it was initially difficult to even accept the new actors in the old roles. There was good comedy in throughout the show, but it was nowhere close to what the previous show had and some of the dialogues were even repeated, from the earlier show. The issues that Hacker was dealing with, was also contemporary, such as the EU debt crisis, Scottish independence referendum, the debate of Britain joining the Euro, etc.  One thing that I particularly liked about the revived series is that it had continuity and had the flow of a story, something that was lacking in the erstwhile series (in fact, I had started watching that from season 2).

That said, I’d also have to say that I was thoroughly disappointed with this, where I doubt whether there is any scope for a Season 2. While Humphrey and Bernard retained their respective personalities, it was terrible of them to change Hacker’s attitude and behaviour where he very frequently blows the top whereas in the earlier series, despite Humphrey stalling policies and avoiding answers, Hacker never got angry at him or screamed. Then, I found the TV interviews highly unprofessional and artificial –they hardly gave an impression that Hacker was actually doing a formal interview for a television channel. Then, the season was short, with just six episodes – while it is true that the original series too had only seven episodes per season, it lacked continuity but when you’re trying to create a story of this sort with six episodes of half an hour each and every episode connected to each other, it would inevitably lead to an abrupt end this was no exception.

As a purely individual series, without drawing any comparisons with its predecessor, the series wasn’t bad per se and it had its good moments and if anyone who has watched the new series after having watched the previous one – one suggestion – treat this is an independent series and that the names are a mere coincidence because when you are going to set standards based on its predecessor, you’d end up being disappointed.

I’m looking forward to the second season, if there is one and I hope there is an improvement. Despite my suggestion viewers who are planning to watch based on this review, I did the exact mistake of comparing this with its predecessor and because of that, I’d only award it a four on ten.

Rating – 4/10

Have a nice day,

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Doctor Bob by Lodewyk H.S. Van Mierop – Book Review

Publisher’s write-up:

‘This is the true story of “Doctor Bob”, who was born in Java from Dutch parents, and grew up fascinated by nature and science. As a teenager during the Pacific War, he and his family – and all Dutch nationals – were interned in concentration camps for over two years by the Japanese, suffering beatings, starvation, and other physical deprivations. He was not allowed to continue his education, except for a requirement to learn Japanese, which none of the internees had any interest in and thus sabotaged. After the war he was able to complete high school and medical school in Holland and spent the next seven years on a visitor’s visa in Albany, New York, having been accepted for a surgical residency.

From there, Doctor Bob faced a bureaucratic nightmare. With a Dutch passport, blond hair, and green eyes – and no visa – he was considered Asian under US law, and the US had no immigration quotas for Asians. Despite a series of immigration hurdles, which included emigrating to Canada, he was finally able to settle in the United States, where he became a researcher in cardiovascular embryology and the pathology of congenital heart disease. As a board-certified pediatric cardiologist, Doctor Bob witnessed the birth and growth of cardiac surgery in children’.

Doctor Bob is an autobiography written by the world-renowned physician Lodewyk H.S. van Mierop. I don’t usually read autobiographies but this person had an interesting and inspiring story to tell – a life that has revolved around Japanese concentration camps in the Far East, college in Europe and fame and career in the US.

The author begins by describing his place of birth and where he spent his early days – the erstwhile Netherlands East Indies (present day Indonesia). That was one good thing about this book – before going deep into a place, the author gave a full introduction about the place – its history and culture (be it Indonesia or Japan) making it much easier for the reader to understand and visualise.

Being in India, I’ve read countless accounts from natives of former colonies but this is the first time, I’m hearing something from a settler, something that I found really interesting – giving me a different perspective into the whole thing. Another equally interesting aspect of is that you get a first-hand account of the World War II and concentration camps rather than the partially fabricated articles you’ve from journalists. Moreover, the author too has other interests which he describes in detail – on collecting butterflies, breeding fish, maintaining snakes as pets – one can learn a lot about each one of them. I liked the occasional reference to politics – it reminded of the time the author was talking about.

Then comes the difficulty for a person whose knowledge on the author’s profession is next to nothing. Till the 330th page (approximately), it was mostly about the events surrounding his life but then, it completely shifted focus to his profession. Surely, the author’s inputs on thoracic surgery or paediatric cardiology would’ve been informative to any medical students or doctors, I could hardly understand a word of it (something for which the author could hardly be blamed) and hence, couldn’t notice the gradual changes in practices and the technological inputs in the medical profession.

On the whole, I’d say that reading this book was a good experience – I came to know about a very interesting person, the author that is and; I’ve a lot more information now than what I had before I had read the book. This book would be particularly enjoyed by people who are related to the profession (not excluding others) and if they also happen to be interested in history, it would be a delightful reading experience.

I wouldn’t rate a book describing real life incidents but I’ve this to say – it is well presented and the author has compiled his life events very well.

Have a nice day,

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Interview with Charles L. Fields, the author of The Molina Curse

I got the chance to interview Charles L. Fields, the author of The Molina Curse - the fifth book in the Charles Stone mystery / thriller / travel series. This is the conversation we had and I hope you enjoy going through the interview.

Andy Anderson: Before going into the interview, can you tell us about yourself, for our readers?

Charles L. Fields: I am 77 years young. My wife and I have an ocean front home in the the fishing community of Gloucester, Massachusessts and winter in Sun City West, Arizona. My careers have been varied,bizarre to say the least, and include being a Marine Engineer.Lobster Dealer,Sculptor and Author as well as a World Traveler. This has provided a deep well of experiences.

AA: What inspired you to create Charles Stone thriller series?

CLF: After writing my memoirs, Many Lands Many Hearts I realized much was left out,so I created an alter-ego in Charles Stone. Through this protagonist I can fill the voids and create fictional excitement.

AA: What was your basis for creating the characters in the series – pure imagination or based on people you’ve met or was it a combination of both?

CLF: They are a combination, but mainly pure imagination.

AA: What do you think separates the Charles Stone series from the rest of the novels in this genre?

CLF: It is obvious to the reader this series is multi-genre in that it incorporates Mystery/Thrills/Suspense/Travel and Dining experiences.  

AA: Do we get to meet Charles Stone again, or, in other words, are you planning a sequel? If yes, would it also involve Charles’ legal profession? 

CLF: Yes. Charles Stone will be retained again by the Franklin Life Insurance Company. This time it will involve encounters with extreme survialists and terrorists in the Northwest area of the Unites States.

AA: What is the advice that you’d like to give to aspiring authors (including myself)?

CLF: Be free and loose. Tap into your self consciencious and let the creative juices flow. Write about people and places you know. Avoid long descriptive passages.

Thanks a lot for sparing your time and doing an interview with Astute!

Have a nice day,

The Molina Curse by Charles L. Fields – Book Review

Publisher’s write-up:

The Molina Curse is the sequel to Tainted Dish and the fifth book in the Charles Stone Travel / Mystery / Thriller series. The protagonist faces several assassination attempts and a life threatening encounter in Australia’s Outback. His dog, Daisy is reintroduced along with characters from previous stories. The reader will be reminded of our country’s history through walks on Boston’s Freedom Trail. The Molina Curse provides tantalizing moments “Down Under”, as well as aboard a cruise ship from Sydney to New Zealand, Tahiti, Fiji and Hawaii. A love affair is tested and Charles Stone’s life is in peril throughout until the curse is lifted by complying with mysterious forces within the Vatican. Stone’s final act of involvement with the dark side of the Papacy is one of the most bizarre in all works of fiction. Unfortunately The Molina Curse ends on a sad tragic note.’

The Molina Curse is the fifth novel in Charles L. Fields’ Charles Stone series. It is not ideal when you choose a book off the shelf, and it happens to be the sequel to some book, especially if it is as far as five. Unfortunately, that is exactly what I did, falling for the global and historical elements in the publisher’s write-up without paying attention to the fact that it was the fifth in a series.

Nevertheless, I can assure you, that this could pretty much be a stand-alone and I enjoyed the challenge of imagining a prologue, which I believe isn’t too difficult. Coming to the plot, Charles Stone, an advocate who has had several adventures across the world in the past, is finally beginning to put it all behind him and concentrating on his love affair with Janice – with whom he has planned a trip to Australia and New Zealand. But, he lures trouble again – with Charles having a role in Frank Molina’s assassination, the latter’s associates are desperate for revenge and chase him to ensure that his trip Down Under would be his last.

As a history enthusiast, I loved conversations during the walk in Boston’s Freedom Trail – highly informative, especially for a foreigner like myself. This book could also be intriguing for travellers – as the story goes across several picturesque locations in the world such as the Ayers Rock, Great Barrier Reef, and Tahiti among various others. And for those who’ve already read the series, you may enjoy Daisy’s return. The food lovers too, might enjoy the description of the various cuisines that is described in this book (unfortunately, I happen to be a vegetarian). The last, it had the thriller element too, with a good cat and mouse game between the deceased Frank Molina’s associates and Charles Stone.

The pace of the novel might be the only demotivating factor for those who are reading this as a stand-alone because till page 100, the story was going nowhere and was only concentrating on characters from the previous books. The other issue is not the story but the publisher’s write-up which effectively is a short summary of the whole story and if you plan to read this book, don’t read too much into that write-up.

From what I could understand, I guess there is still room for a sequel and it’d be interesting to see Charles Stone again.

For its thriller plot mixed with other diverse elements such as history / travel, I’d award this book a seven on ten.

Rating – 7/10

Have a nice day,

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Cadaver Blues by J.E. Fishman – Book review

Publisher’s write-up:

‘When smoking-hot Mindy Eider walks into the office with a foreclosure notice directed to her elderly Uncle Gunnar, cynical debt man Phuoc Goldberg at first sees her as little more than the source of this month’s rent payment. But beguiled by Mindy’s beauty and innocence – not to mention her breasts – Phu gets sucked into playing detective, venturing from a small town near Wilmington, Delaware, to the snow-choked Pocono Mountains to dank mushroom farms closer to home. At every turn, his unkind prejudices are proved wrong: his assumptions about young blacks, about beautiful women, about fat people, and about his own demons. And before long, Phu finds himself seeking much more than debt relief for Mindy’s wayward uncle. In fact, the debt man won’t end this fiasco looking for cash relief, but for cadavers.’

Cadaver Blues is the first book featuring J.E. Fishman’s character Phuoc Goldberg (Phu) – an American of Vietnamese origin, debt consultant by profession based in Delaware, someone who is very sensitive about his name, owing to its actual Vietnamese pronunciation and also has a problem in controlling his temper. He is approached by Melissa Eider (Mindy), who drove all the way from Minnesota in search of her elderly uncle Gunnar Karlson – who has defaulted on his debts and his bank is about to acquire his house. Phuoc initially is only interested in his consulting fee to fulfil his obligations regarding the rent but eventually, he gets more involved and even starts playing detective, with him trying to find Karlson along with Mindy.

This story was narrated by Phuoc – from a first person perspective and I enjoyed that, as I don’t come across such books too often. Moreover, I found this to be a different kind of detective story, with hardly any professionals involved which was rather interesting. Like in any other good mystery novel, it had a fair share of twists and turns, very good ones, if I may say so. The most enjoyable part of the whole thing was Phuoc’s character – his sarcasm and cynical approach did contribute to lighter moments, even during the more serious phases of the novel. The change in Phuoc’s attitude was shown well – one significant thing I found, as mentioned by the publisher – ‘his assumptions about young blacks’, I’ve always believed that nobody is going to change just because you tell him /her to dismiss their racist thoughts, instead, they certainly would, if they’re pleased with the attitude of even one member from the community / race. Apart from that, I enjoyed the description of the various settings in the story, especially the mushroom farms.  

However, on the other side, the starting in this book was slow. Yes, Mindy was introduced immediately and Phuoc also tried his best to retrieve the house but, for the first 150 pages, I felt that it was going nowhere. I don’t know whether changes have been made in the subsequent publications but I did find a couple of editing mishaps in my edition. Moreover, I found Mindy to be a way too compassionate, which at times, didn’t sound very practical. 

Cadaver Blues has laid a strong foundation for the Phuoc Goldberg Fiasco. However, I’m not sure whether in the sequel (Ruby Red Dead), Phuoc is going to have a challenge in his profession or again, somewhere outside the scope of his work. I’d just have to wait.

I award good books, or sometimes even average books, a six but since I enjoyed this book far more than so many of those books for which I’ve given a six rating, I’d give it a seven on ten.

Rating – 7/10

Have a nice day,

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Borgen: Season 3 by Adam Price – Review

(Couldn't find a better picture, probably because the BBC is yet to release it)

Here is the review of the much anticipated finale of the Danish political drama, Borgen. If you haven’t watched the previous seasons, the reviews of season 1 and season 2 are available in this blog.

Birgitte Nyborg loses the election; Lars Hesselboe is the prime minister. She is back in the corporate world and Jacob Kruse is now the head of the Moderate Party. However, she is not satisfied with the policies of the current government and is unable to stay away from politics for too long. She challenges Kruse for leadership in the Moderate party, unsuccessfully and then, floats her own party with some MPs, with Katrine Fønsmark as her spin doctor. 

[The New Democrats (excluding Erik Hoffman and Bent Sejrø) - From left to right: Jon Berthelsen, Katrine Fønsmark, Nete Buch, Søren Ravn and Birgitte Nyborg]

This is an angle that I had been longing for, in Borgen, for the reason that the viewers have had the opportunity of seeing Birgitte only as the prime minister and never as a member in the opposition and so, finally, we have it. The New Democrats, as her party was called, attacked the government with regards to several policy decisions and towards the end, also had a good election campaign. Torben Friis had a far more significant role in this, and the focus was on the squabbles with the new young programme director, Alexander Hjørt. I liked the fact that it had a lot more TV interviews, lot more confrontations and focus on personal lives of individual politicians became less in this season of the series. 

However, I wanted to see more of Laugesen in this season, but yet again, he had such a trivial role, even less than what he had in the previous seasons. Episode six was very disappointing, and it was more like filler as all it had was Søren Ravn, an economist and a former communist joining the New Democrats and the media hounding his past. Moreover, I never understood as to why the writers wanted to make Birgitte Nyborg more and more like Helle Thorning-Schmidt – first female prime minister of Denmark (though, Thorning-Schmidt achieved it after Nyborg did) and with a British partner (Jeremy Welsh and Stephen Kinnock, respectively). But the most significant drawback of the whole thing is the lack of Kasper Juul, whose role was minimal, with only his thirty second appearances in the programme of TV1, ‘Juul and Friis’ and also, Katrine wasn't even half as good as Kasper at the job of being a spin doctor. 

The finale, to summarise, had good content in its episodes (barring 6), with Nyborg leading a small party, trying to have a say in Danish politics. The finish was not exactly noteworthy but it wasn’t abrupt either, and every important character was given a closure barring Kasper Juul and to an extent, Philip Christensen. 

I’d put this at the same level as season two with a rating of eight on ten. I’d also be writing a summary on the whole series, soon, which would naturally contain spoilers.


Rating – 8/10

Have a nice day,


Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex by Eoin Colfer - Book Review

Publisher's write-up:

'Criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl has summoned an elite group of fairies to Iceland. But when he presents his invention to save the world from global warming, he seems different. Something terrible has happened to him.

Artemis Fowl has become nice.

The fairies diagnose Atlantis Complex [that's multiple-personality disorder to you and me] - dabbling in magic has damaged his mind. And now the subterranean city of Atlantis is under attack from vicious robots and nice Artemis cannot fight them.

Can fairy ally Captain Holly Short get the real Artemis back - before the mysterious robots destroy the city and every fairy in it?'

Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex is the seventh and penultimate book in the Artemis Fowl octet written by Eoin Colfer. The reviews of the previous six books are available in this blog (check 'List of Reviews').

In this, Artemis Fowl has invented with a device to save the world from global warming and invites an elite group of fairies to Iceland, to present his device. However, disaster strikes, Artemis Fowl is not being himself as he has been diagnosed with Atlantis Complex; symptoms of which are that he doesn't trust anyone, including Butler, starts counting numbers and is obsessed with the number five. Added to that, they come under attack from dangerous amorphobots, designed by Foaly, reprogrammed by someone else into devastating killing machines. To top it all, there is no Butler to protect them, Artemis is crazy and his alternative personality is just a crazy teenager madly in love with Holly.

For a start, this book's humour element was higher than the other books in the series owing to the fact that all along, it was only Mulch, who was the comical relief but now there is Orion Fowl, Artemis' alternative personality (although, Orion is just crazy, and not witty like Mulch). But for that, this book was disappointing. The plot was dull, had no content and the language of the author has had a clear deterioration over the years which is getting more and more colloquial. Despite this being my second reading of the same, it still took a long time and sometimes, this book lulled me to sleep in no time. I see this book as nothing more than a filler just to elongate the series and I hope, the finale is not as disappointing as this.

I'd rate this book a poor four on ten.

Rating - 4/10

Have a nice day,

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Interview with J.E. Fishman, author of The Dark Pool

I've the author of The Dark Pool, J.E. Fishman as my interviewee; Astute's first. I've enjoyed several thriller novels, and The Dark Pool too was one of them - a book which I particularly loved for its characters, the plot, the writing style and the financial element in the book and inevitably, ended up with a high rating in my review.

I hope you enjoy going through the interview! 

Andy Anderson: Before going into the specific questions, I’d like to ask you what sort of books you like to read – just to see whether there is any correlation between your interests and your creations.

J.E. Fishman: I read pretty widely. Although, of course, I read mysteries and thrillers, I don’t stick to one genre. I’m more of a grazer. Recently I’ve been reading a bit of science fiction and historical fiction, for example. I’m sure there’s some kind of correlation between my interests and my creations, but it’s not based upon what I read, per se. It’s more based upon my interest in the human condition, the challenges regular people face or can be made to face.

AA: The Dark Pool is your third novel and from what I understand, it is not the first thriller that you’re crafted but, it seemingly is the first novel of yours centered on investments, securities and some dark elements of the financial markets largely unknown to the outside world. What inspired you to write a novel based on this theme?

JEF: A few things. First, like so many people, I was appalled at the way the financial meltdown happened, beginning with financial machinations and ending with so many regular folks feeling pain. Second, I’ve followed the stock market for a long time as an investor, and it intrigues me. Finally, for two decades I lived in the Hudson Valley in an area that was rife with Wall Street traders and hedge fund managers. I saw some of these people around socially, and I got to know a bit about what makes them tick. All these things came together to pique my interest in the subject.

AA: The Dark Pool cartel and the Q scores formed a significant part of the novel – did it also take an equally large amount of time for you to research deeply on the same to put into a novel?

JEF: I should emphasize that putting dark pools and Q scores together is my own fictional conceit, but each of these elements is quite real in its own right. The research wasn’t hard. These things are out there. What a storyteller does is use real-life elements as a point of departure to explore larger truths.

AA: The main protagonists of the novel, Shoog Clay and the young running back, Antwon Meeps, both are involved in American football, and it is more than just a hobby for both of them. But the sport hardly had any role in the novel but for Clay’s analogies, though it serendipitously turned out to be an advantage for someone who doesn’t follow the sport, nevertheless, I’d like to ask you, was it a part of the original script or was it merely a conscious decision to ignore it?

JEF: The book isn’t about football. It’s about two guys who are having their lives manipulated by powers that are unknown to them and initially beyond their comprehension. I had to give Shoog a profession that held the prospects of future fame, so I made him a successful coach at a level where there were great prospects in front of him – if only he would take them. Once I made him a football coach, however, he had to think as a football coach. So that’s how he interacts with his player and that’s the frame of reference he uses sometimes in trying to communicate.

AA: I’ve heard many say that character building is what makes a novel and it also happens to be the most difficult part of it. The characters of The Mean, Clay, Meeps, Sark or Jagus, how did you go about creating them – an allusion to your own acquaintances, plain imagination or is it a combination of both?

JEF: Character is not the color of someone’s hair or even his or her personality quirks. It’s the choices we make as people. Once I establish basic characterizations, the character comes from the actions those characters must take in a given situation. The key to that is creating conflict that tests them. They must react to that conflict in a way that is unique to them. This is what novelists mean by the character taking over the story. Once you get into the narrative, you can tell if a decision that occurs to you will ring true or not, because of the decisions that character made up to that point.

AA: The antagonist, Jagus dies in the end of the novel and Antwon’s dreams are realised, but coming to the other end, Shoog lost his godchild, Antwon lost his friend and teammate (the previous and the current case, both being Romero), Shoog also happens to be the only surviving Clay sibling now – would you consider the ending of your novel to be a happy ending? 

JEF: A happy ending doesn’t require that every character has a happy outcome. What makes it a happy ending is that a measure of justice prevails and order is restored in the world. So, yes, it’s a happy ending.

AA: Many authors try and bring about social issues through their stories – such as Ian Rankin, a crime novelist whom I like, says that he brings out all the social problems in Edinburgh through his John Rebus novels. The issue you’ve chosen too, is very relevant, with financial markets playing a significant role in anybody’s lives today, did you also have a motive of throwing some light on social issues through The Dark Pool?

JEF: Ian Rankin’s novels probably do it with a lighter touch than I did in this novel. I definitely was looking for a way to dramatize the fact that in the modern financial system the actions of traders have consequences for regular people – people that the traders may not ever meet and almost certainly don’t really care about. The trader is focused on his trade, not on outcomes for society.

AA: To conclude the interview, I’d like to ask you, what sort of advice would you like give to the aspiring authors (includes myself), particularly the genre which is your forte, the thriller genre?

JEF: The advice is the same for thrillers or any other genre. Distinguish between the style of writers whom you admire – which is unique to them – and the techniques they use, which are universal and available to us all. In other words, seek to write fresh but learn the craft.

Thanks a lot, J.E. Fishman, for sparing time and helping Astute get its first author interview.

More about the author - click here

Have a nice day,

Artemis Fowl and the Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer – Book Review

Publisher’s write-up:

‘Artemis is no stranger to trouble. In fact, he is a magnet for it. Man-eating trolls, armed and dangerous (not to mention high-tech) fairies, flame-throwing goblins – he’s seen the lot. He had decided to forego criminal activity of the magical kind. However …

Now his mother is gravely ill. Artemis Fowl must travel back through time to steal the cure from the clutches of the young criminal mastermind … Artemis Fowl.

That’s right. With fairy ally Captain Holly Short by his side, Artemis is going back in time to do battle with himself.

Let the misadventure begin.’

Artemis Fowl and the Time Paradox is the sixth novel in the Artemis Fowl octet. This review might contain spoilers to the previous books and in case you haven’t read them, the reviews of Books: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 are available in this blog.

Artemis is back from the limbo, the world has moved on, by three years, but there is no change in Artemis. He is now the elder brother of the twins; Myles and Beckett Fowl. But, his mother is suffering from a disease with severe symptoms, and Artemis makes her condition worse, by using his stolen magic on her. It is found out that she is affected by spelltropy, as fairy plague and for obtaining the cure; he had to travel back in time. Eight years ago, when the Fowl finances were struggling, he sold the last silky sifaka lemur to a group of extincitionists to fund his Arctic expedition and Artemis has to go eight years back in time, to retrieve the lemur from … Artemis! His younger self. Artemis who has considered only himself to be a worthy opponent for him, now has a chance to battle it out, with the younger one fighting for money and the elder one fighting for his mother.

The book’s plot, as such was good, especially having Artemis’ schemes working both ways is a highlight in this novel. Moreover, the gradual transformation in Artemis’ character is seen quite clearly in this novel, with Artemis willing to undertake something which doesn’t involve any monetary profits. I loved the way in which Colfer described Morocco; and living in a developing country, I could easily relate to the strange scenario where a shepherd wears a Manchester United shirt. The author could also be appreciated for maintaining his witty writing style and brining in strange elements to the plot of the novel, as always.

However, I felt that it is getting repetitive, for one, going back in time is no new idea and there is absolutely nothing unusual to expect innovation from Colfer, making it somewhat disappointing. Moreover, this is the second time Colfer is playing with time, considering that The Lost Colony, the prequel, was also in a way related to time, being static in the demon island. Similar to The Lost Colony, the author has yet again, ruined a good story in an attempt to just elongate the story, making it far more confusing (to be frank, I didn’t have much idea on what happened after the three hundredth page after my first read and this being my second time, now I do have some clarity) and sometimes boring.

On the whole, the Artemis vs Artemis clash was interesting, and like other books, here also, the digressions were minimal, but for the second chapter, as always, which deals only with a fairy situation. But coming to the rating, the repetitive nature of the whole thing pulls the rating down a little, from eight to seven.

Rating: 7/10

Have a nice day,

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