Thursday, 31 May 2018

Let it Bleed by Ian Rankin – Book Review

Publisher’s write-up:
‘In another bleak Edinburgh winter Rebus finds himself drawn into a web of intrigue that throws up more questions than answers. Was the Lord Provost’s daughter kidnapped? Why is a city councillor shredding documents that should have been waste-paper years ago? And why is Rebus invited to a clay pigeon shoot at the home of the Scottish Office’s Permanent Secretary? Sucked into the machine that is modern Scotland, Rebus confronts the fact that some of his enemies may be beyond justice.’
Let it Bleed is the seventh instalment in the John Rebus police procedurals from Ian Rankin. Rebus has broken up with his girlfriend Dr Patience Aitken and his daughter Sammy now has a job of her own that he has now entered into the ‘nothing to lose in life’ phase.
It starts with a car chase by Rebus and his superior, Frank Lauderdale, going behind the alleged kidnappers of the daughter of the Lord Provost. However, things turn as the police end up in a terrible car crash with Lauderdale being severely injured and Rebus escaping with a few bruises but the two alleged kidnappers committed suicide by jumping off the bridge. Add to that, while Rebus was recovering, there was one more suicide, with a man shooting himself in front of councillor Tom Gillespie during the surgery. Rebus is to prepare a report on the suicides but he isn’t entirely convinced that it was a mere suicide – he had a fundamental question – why did he need the councillor for a witness for his suicide? Everyone, including Rebus’ superiors were keen that he just closes the case with a simple suicide report, just that he refuses to budge.
Rebus substantially acts alone in this book, considering the trouble that he brings about in investigating powerful politicians, his superiors force him to go on a leave. He takes the occasional help from the two detectives under him, being Siobhan Clarke and Brian Holmes. He takes on the most powerful people in Scotland in this book, while uncovering the mystery behind these suicides, these include politicians and corporates and the nexus between them. Rebus, strangely is also on the opposite positions as against his daughter – who now has a job which involves interacting and rehabilitating prisoners and is often in contact with felons whom her father investigates.
This was also the book where I could see Rebus the most. He has always been the tour guide for the readers for Edinburgh. Here, in his ‘nothing to lose’ attitude, he was being equally snide and sarcastic with his superiors – Gill Templer and ‘Farmer’ Watson as well as the top politicians of the country. Moreover, Rebus’ moral convictions were brought out the most in this book wherein, he decided to go till the very end for what he believed was right but was also in dilemma as to proceed with his investigation as it could happen that if he did, a lot of ordinary people might be affected.
The author also managed to bring a lot of aspects into the plot involving characters from all sections of the society, the working class, the corporate, the politicians and the civil servants. This was also one of the Rebus novels where there was no distinct sub-plot and every page of the page-turner was connected to the main plot. In fact, there was no murder in the novel for a substantial part of the novel and was in fact, a mere suicide investigation, another point of difference between the usual books and the current book.
True to any other book of this genre though, this book was not entirely free from loose ends but I am willing to ignore those innocuous gaps considering the overall plot.
On the whole, one could say that this is the book where we could witness and experience Rebus’ evolution as character the most, the author’s witty dialogue crafting augmenting the brilliance of the plot, this certainly is one of the best books of the genre I have read so far and the best book from the author that I have read thus far.
Considering all of the above, I award this book a rating of nine on ten.
Rating – 9/10
Have a nice day,

Spanish Civil War by Hourly History – Book Review

When spoken about fascist dictators of Europe, two names that come to mind are Hitler and Mussolini. However, General Francisco Franco of Spain held power for a significantly more number of years and still, is not talked about as much. Franco was involved in a 3-year long power struggle against the ruling Spanish Republicans and in the civil war with estimated casualty starting from a minimum of 200,000 up to 2,000,000 people. This almost acted as a prelude to the Second World War and this is a short retelling of the history by Hourly History.

Spain had a liberal centre-left republican government in 1930s and they had just had a transition of power from military back to a civilian government post the Great Depression. Before too long, Spain plunged into another crisis and a large section of public felt once again that the military needs to be in power to resolve the same. However, even the military was divided, half of them supported the Republican Government and the other half supported the rebellion led by the trio – General Mola, General Sanjurjo and General Franco. Post the ‘mysterious’ deaths of two of the Generals, General Franco became the sole leader of the rebellion. The book focused on the manner in which the two factions organised themselves, the brutalities committed by both sides, the reasons for the failure of the Republicans and the foreign interests in the civil war.

The book was balanced in bringing out the perspectives of both sides of the war. It also explained an interesting fact that this is more documented than most civil wars especially because of Spain’s extremely cautious efforts to forget the event and I read in the book that children in Spain are not taught about the civil war. The book focused a lot on bringing out the various factions on the Republicans whereas, the Nationalists had united under a common cause. The aspect as to how the Germans, Soviets (for the Republican side) and the Italians used the Civil War as means to test their military power before the Second World War was also brought out well.

One could however point to the fact that the book perhaps over simplified the fall of the Republicans and ignored the fact that while the Nationalists were supported by surrounding fascist governments with similar ideologies to that of Franco (being Germany, Portugal and Italy), the Republicans were not supported by the neighbouring liberal powers such as France or the United Kingdom.

This is a very good compilation on the Spanish Civil War and should you want to know more than what is stated in this book, you can always research more starting with this as the base to establish your interest. I award the book a rating of seven on ten.

Rating – 7/10

Have a nice day,

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Luka and the Fire of Life by Sir Salman Rushdie – Book Review


you are Luka, a twelve-year-old boy who has to save the life of the storyteller father you adore.


you have two loyal companions by your side: a bear called Dog who can sing and dog called Bear who can dance.


you must now embark on a journey through the Magic World to steal the Fire of Life, a seemingly impossible and exceedingly dangerous task …’

Luka and the Fire of Life is effectively a sequel to the Haroun and the Sea of Stories written by Sir Salman Rushdie. This is also a novel targeted at younger readers and is dedicated to his younger son Milan, whose middle name is Luka.

Thus, it can be seen that this follows a model very similar to that of the author’s earlier aforementioned book. Similar to that, there is a young boy Luka who enjoys his father, Rashid’s stories. However, on a fine day, Rashid is struck by a coma and has his life threatened by a genie named Nobodaddy. To bring Rashid back to life, Luka must bring The Fire of Life from the world created by his own father through his stories. Nobodaddy, his two pets – a dog named Bear and a bear named Dog would be companions in Luka’s journey.

Unlike the author’s previous book with a similar theme, this time it was made a lot more personal, wherein, here Rashid could possibly die whereas the last time around, he was just unable to tell stories. It started very well, when it went inside Rashid’s world – filled with witty riddles to cross various paths, interesting enemies on the way – elephants, a group of abusing otters, etc.

However, midway through the book, I felt the author lost the plot, he tried to make it into some kind of a game wherein Luka had to save his ‘progress’ in the mission. His writing was not as simple for a younger reader to understand nor were some of the themes within and at the same time, the plot was not too interesting to keep other readers engaged. The rules of the adventure were highly malleable and were constantly changing as and when Luka goes into a dire situation. While I certainly liked the way in which he described the setting, there was nothing else that was noteworthy about the novel.

My expectations on the author are always quite high and while I understand that this was targeted at younger readers, I used a similar book as yardstick to set my expectations (Haroun and the Sea of Stories) and as compared to that, this book is a terrible disappointment.

On that note, I would award this book a rating of four on ten.

Rating – 4/10

Have a nice day,

French Revolution by Hourly History – Book Review

One of the most iconic revolutions that has shaped the Modern World is the French Revolution. People keep talking about it all the time, references are made, but with all that said, how much do we actually know about the revolution? This is a short history about the 18th century event from Hourly History.

The book starts mentioning the class system in France and how it is designed in a manner in which the Clergy and Aristocracy would always be in a position to oppress the working class. Moreover, the lavish lifestyles of the royalty and their decision to live in the far off Versailles rather than the city kept them even further away from the reality of the lives of ordinary people. Added to that, with the renaissance in Europe augmented by philosophers such as Rousseau, Marat and Robespierre, a revolution to overthrow the regime was just beginning.

The book covered all the aspects that were necessary for the reader to understand a gist of the French Revolution – starting with the events leading to the revolution, the alienation of the king, the success of the revolutionaries, the brutalities of the succeeding government and the eventual takeover by Napoleon. This book also covered the reaction from the other kingdoms of Europe. I also liked it as to how the book did not try to absolutely glorify the revolution and brought out the misdeeds of the revolutionaries as well.

However, they could have been a little more elaborate about the philosophies that inspired the rebellion. This book was in fact a few pages shorter than the normal length of books that comes from Hourly History.

Overall, it is a good read for those who want a glimpse of the French Revolution and I award the book a seven on ten.

Rating – 7 / 10

Have a nice day,

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Lucky Luke: Oklahoma Jim by Morris, Pearce et Jean Léturgie

This is a comic by Morris, Pearce et Jean Léturgie. It is about the character ‘Lucky Luke’ when he was young. He is a cowboy and he travels the American Wild West during the 19th Century.

His guardian ‘Old Timer’ puts him into a school in ‘Mushroom City’, a fictitious place in the American West. Luke hates school but is given the task of adding more students to the school by his teacher (Miss Zee) in exchange for rewards. Luke is very good with the catapult and is extremely accurate. A bandit, Oklahoma Jim arrives at Mushroom City and he shows his skill with the revolver to the students of the school. But Oklahoma Jim also robs a bank and leaves Mushroom City. Luke and an old Marshall have to find Jim.

In this comic, there are too many characters. I haven’t read the earlier editions of this series and hence, I could not understand the history between Luke and ‘Dalton Brothers’. Also, it does not have a clear theme: at first Luke is in a school, then, there is a bandit, and then there is an old Marshall who has a history with the bandit, there is also a romance sequence between the bandit and Miss Zee, etc.

The only thing good about this comic was the illustrations in it. The story as such was extremely boring.

Maybe Lucky Luke is a good series but, this is a very bad story and because of this book, I may never try another book in this series. I give a rating of three on ten for this comic.

Rating – 3/10

Have a nice day,

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Reaching new heights!

Pour lire en français,cliquez ici s’il vous plait

While I gave it a miss for a few years in between, I have restarted the habit of wishing Astute on its anniversary every Seventeenth of May last year (2017). But then, I didn’t set myself any targets to be achieved within one-year and the only target that remained was to continue writing.

On that note, 2017 was my most well-read year, surpassing the previous record holder (2016) by a significant margin. I had written over 70 book reviews and two TV series reviews. I am no longer bothered about whether my TV series review are more popular than my book reviews. There was also something I realised about my TV series reviews, my Scandinavian drama reviews are more popular because the number of people who have written full-fledged reviews for it in the English speaking world is very less which gives me the attention. However, that is not so in the case of the Netflix series Narcos, which has had lesser readership than even a lot of my obscure book reviews. But that is hardly an incentive for me to manufacture more views for my blogs.

With that said, I have finally achieved the long stated objective of expanding the blog beyond English, and thus, the new French blog is open (click here to read the blog). While I am reading books meant for kids at the moment, I shall soon expand to reading slightly more complex texts in French.

My Facebook Page finally has a logo, cover picture, etc. and thus, it looks more like a proper page for a blog. Moreover, the favicon has changed, and as of now, that shall be the logo of Astute. Talking more about my other writing, I have been awarded the ‘Top Writer’ for the year 2018 by the Q&A website Quora wherein I have been writing on politics, economics, sports and international relations and I shall add a link to my Quora profile here.

To all my readers, thank you for reading and supporting my blog, which started off as a mere hobby. There is a lot more to come in the future years and Astute shall continue to reach new heights!

So, happy birthday to the seven-year-old blog!

Have a nice day,
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