Friday, December 27, 2013

Donald Duck Christmas On Bear Mountain

The cover story "Christmas on Bear Mountain" is famous because it's where Scrooge McDuck made his first appearance. Those who are familiar with Donald Duck and his family's stories know how Uncle Scrooge's character had developed since. The most beloved stories of course the ones ala Indiana Jones style, where Donald and his nephews, sometimes with Uncle Scrooge himself (usually he only provides the funds), are in search of rare treasures.

This album also features long stories such as 'Volcano Valley' [Donald and his nephews are trapped in a country where its inhabitants love taking siestas], 'Adventure Down Under' [Donald and his nephews in Australia and catch a kangaroo named Mournful Mary], and 'Donald Duck and the Ghost of the Grotto' [my favourite in this album, perhaps because I hadn't read it again after so many years. Donald and his nephews solve a mistery.]. I prefer a clever, sensible Donald (and not an angry one like his early appearance with Mickey Mouse) with smart, helpful nephews (not those naughty little ones in early stories).

A panel from the Ghost of the Grotto
First appearance of Scrooge McDuck.
In later stories he lives in his money bin, not a mansion.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Leopard - Jo Nesbø

It took me a long time to finish this novel. Every night I could only read a couple of pages before falling asleep. This was a good novel, though. After I finished the novel, I thought the story in The Leopard was very sad.

Perhaps it was called The Leopard because the enemy was like one. With its feline moves, it observed its prey. The murder weapon in this novel was called Leopord's apple, a little metal ball, which was inserted into the victim's mouth and when activated, it sprung its needles.

Kaja Solness, a Crime Squad officer, tracked down Harry Hole in Hong Kong and brought him back to Oslo, where Harry would investigate the new serial murder case under Kripos (and not Crime Squad like before), led by Mikael Bellman. Kripos started to track the killer after the 3rd victim, a female MP, was found murdered in a public park.

As I mentioned before, The Leopard was a sad story. It was about a son whose own father had wanted to destroy, a son who wanted to revenge his mother's death, a shadow from the past who wanted to revenge his old enemy, a killer who removed every witnesses to secure his wealth, and a lover who loved blindly but received nothing. What wasted lives they had.

In this novel, Harry Hole got a scar on his face on his attempt to escape from the horrible Leopord's apple. In Snowman he lost his middle finger, and now he got a horrible scar.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Snowman - Jo Nesbø

This was actually Jo Nesbø's novel which I wanted to read very much, but I had to start from The Redbreast. Last night I finished this book, which turned out had everything I had hoped for. I like reading about serial murders, and even though the characters in this book said that there had been no such thing in Norwegia, if you read the Harry Hole series in order, you would find such case in 'The Devil's Star'.

The police didn't aware that a serial killer had been haunting Norwegia for years, because so far the bodies were missing; so what they had was missing person cases. Our hero, Inspector Harry Hole, happened to receive a letter which made him think that something horrible had happened to the missing women. Together with his new partner, Katrine Bratt, Harry tried to solve the puzzles [by now I believe that it's bad luck to be partnered with Harry Hole] which led them to wrong suspects four times.

It was exciting to read when the writer unmasked the Snowman (the killer) and realized that he had been in the previous book [The Redeemer] as a harmless character. The Snowman for me is the best book in this series -- so far.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Redeemer - Jo Nesbø

In my opinion, The Redeemer was not as good as previous books. Or it's because I choose serial murder over hitman. The story was about a hitman who went to Oslo and killed a Salvation Army officer. The hitman planned the killing in details, but it turned out that he killed the wrong man. [Never learn who the target is from a photograph!] As a professional, he determined to finish the job, even if it meant he had to live like a beggar in Oslo. The story got interesting because the hitman's face could change that even Beate Lønn, who never forgot a face, could not recognize him.

Our hero, Inspector Harry Hole, believed that the only way to stop the hitman was to know who had hired him in the first place. The plots seemed boring at first, but near the ending it got exciting. Another sad event happened when Harry Hole lost a partner again. I myself liked Halvorsen, who I thought was diligent and never complained.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Skyfall (2012)

I think Skyfall is one of the best Bond movies ever made, especially from the artistic point of view. I like the fighting scene in the tall building where we could see Bond and his enemy as silhouettes.

Country comes first, that's what good patriots do. In the beginning, we saw M made a critical decision which made Bond (almost) killed. [It's a beautiful scene. Bond was shot and his body fell into the river and Adele began to sing: 'This is the end."] Choosing between her country vs her most competent agent, M sacrificed Bond without hesitation. A crooked agent, who had also experienced this, swore revenge against M. If in other James Bond movies we usually see him fights a mad man who wants to rule the world, this time it's M's personal enemy. Also, in others we see Bond fights alongside beautiful women, in Skyfall, M gets that position. [I don't count Eve because she only has little parts.]

Bond enjoyed his holidays while M thought he had been dead. He returned when he thought his country needed him. To get back to his duty, Bond had to pass some tests. It's sad to see that he could not shoot straight again. Even sadder when this lack of skill made him lose in a sort of William Tell competition and caused a beautiful woman died.

Compared to Quantum of Solace, Daniel Craig's first Bond movie, I like Skyfall much better because in this one we don't get a scary torture scene.

I also feel like we get a pre-James Bond movie because female M died here and we get a new male M. If they don't make another James Bond movie again, I can think that after Skyfall, the next sequel could be Dr. No.

Silva's silhouette leaving the burning mansion
This scene reminds me of Doraemon making a diorama for Nobita

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Eight years after the story in The Dark Knight (2008) ended, Batman became Gotham City's enemy, while the late Harvey Dent a.k.a Two-Face became a hero. Bruce Wayne seems to lose a will to live and no one has ever seen Batman since. A new character is introduced here: Blake, a young police officer who still believes in Batman, after seeing his heroic action when he was a kid.

The enemy in this movie is Bane. Before watching this movie, I really didn't see why Bane had been chosen. How dangerous could he be? In "Batman & Robin" (1997), Bane was only Poison Ivy's thug. Bane was strong, but stupid.

In this movie, when Batman and Bane meet for the first fight, Bane beats him and breaks his bones. I felt cheated. Why Batman fought him with empty hands? Where were his gadgets?

Here, Bane wants to destroy Gotham City with a nuclear bomb. We learn later that once a thug, always a thug. Bane is never the brain behind the attack.

The movie is so violent. Like the Joker in the previous movie, Bane and his gang kill people like they are nothing. The rating for this movie in the US is PG-13, which suprised me. Have we tolerated such level of violence for teenagers? But honestly, any movie with Batman in it, I bet little kids must be wanting to watch it. I hope in the future, any superhero movie won't be this dark.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Devil's Star - Jo Nesbø

In this third book (after The Redbreast and Nemesis), Inspector Harry Hole became a pathetic drunkard after the police force refused his case against Inspector Tom Waaler, whom Hole suspected as the real killer of his partner. When Harry Hole was sober, he was a great detective, though.

In this book, a serial killer was haunting Oslo by killing young women. He left behind a mark, a drawing of the devil's star and a diamond in the shape of a five-pointed star. The story reminded me of Agatha Christie's The ABC Murders. The killer wanted to kill B, but to throw off suspicion, he also killed A and C, so that the police would think that it was the work of a serial killer.

Compared to the two previous book, The Devil's Star was better, especially the plot concerning Hole vs Waaler. Waaler was a favourite in the police force - while Harry Hole was the black goat - and when Waaler wanted to crush Hole, he used every advantage an inspector police could use. It was clever how Harry Hole could escape from the trap and return the attack.

In the beginning of The Redbreast, the chapters ended abruptly before moving to new scenes. In Nemesis and The Devil's Star this didn't happen anymore.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Nemesis - Jo Nesbø

Nemesis is the 2nd Jo Nesbø book after The Redbreast. In The Redbreast, Harry Hole's partner was murdered and the police thought they had caught the murderer and solved the case. Case closed. Harry Hole was not satisfied, though. His boss sent him to help the robbery division concerning bank robberies in Oslo, where in the last case, the robber had shot a teller to death. Harry agreed to help if his boss let him work on his partner's murder case again after they caught the robber.

There was also a murder case of Harry's old flame. The police at first decided that it was a suicide and Harry went to investigate on his own without knowing that the real murderer wanted to frame him.

The book seemed boring and slow with predictable plots, but like in The Redbreast, our hero was following wrong trails. The robbery case's conclusion was a surprise - although Beate Lønn, their video evidence expert who never forgot a face - guessed right from the beginning; but the reason for Anna's murder didn't make sense to me.

In the end, Harry had found the real murderer of his partner - but no one believed him.

The Lone Ranger (2013)

I found this movie very entertaining and enjoyable. There was a violent scene concerning eating a heart, but it was not clearly shown, so I think The Lone Ranger can be watched by a whole family. It's by Disney after all.

Not much I remember about The Lone Ranger, except that he wore a mask and was accompanies by an Indian named Tonto. So as I was watching the movies, it was a bit surprise that at first he and Tonto didn't like each other very much and that he wore a mask because he was an outlaw. I had always thought that Tonto was an Apache - all good Indians are from Apache tribe - but in this movie he was a Comanche. Tonto was forced to work together with John Reid (The Lone Ranger's real name) because the white horse (apparently the Indians believe that that white horse was from the other world, a sacred horse) chose him. To Tonto, John Reid was not as brave as his brother Dan, the Rangers' chief. Dan and the Rangers were killed by Butch Cavendish and his gang. John was left alone, half-dead, and rescued by Tonto; thus the name 'The Lone Ranger' - although he was not alone with Tonto on his side.

This version is the genesis of the Lone Ranger, although not faithful to previous versions.

The band's stage is hit by the locomotive
Next appearance by the band, with bandaged members.
The stage is still in front of the locomotive.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Donald Duck: The Old Castle's Secret by Carl Barks

This album contains three long stories (about 30 pages):1) The Old Castle's Secret - where Uncle Scrooge and his nephews go to Scotland to find the family's hidden treasure; 2) Darkest Africa - Donald and his nephews in search of a very rare butterfly; and 3) Sheriff of Bullet Valley - Donald as a sheriff, helped by his nephews vs cattle rustlers.

There also eleven 10-page-stories: Wintertime Wager, Watching The Watchman, Wired, Going Ape, Spoil The Rod, Rocketrace to The Moon, Donald of the Coast Patrol, Gladstone Returns, Links Hijinks, Pearls of Wisdom, and Foxy Relations.
Plus 6 one-page gags.

Some of these stories I had read before - some recently, some a long time ago; some were new.

I remember when I first read Sheriff of Bullet Valley, I laughed at the scene where Donald's horse's hooves stopped the rolling log. The horse's expression was priceless.

Another favourite story I hadn't read for a long time was Foxy Relation, where Donald goes fox-hunting to help Uncle Scrooge impress his future business partner. Knowing the effort is useless, Donald's nephew plants a tame fox which will come if his name is called. Donald only remembers that the name is the name of a fish, so he calls every fish's name he can remembers. The fox's name is 'red herring', which means 'false clue' in detective stories. In bahasa Indonesia version, the name was translated to 'ikan asin', means 'salted fish'. So although it's some kind of fish name, it's not really a fish's name. It makes sense, then, if Donald cannot remember the right name.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Redbreast - Jo Nesbo

I had read synopsises of Jo Nesbo's books and couldn't wait to read The Snowman, but one of reviewers mentioned that the books should be read in order. So I picked up The Redbreast first.

I guessed that title had explained the killer and yeah, I was right. People said that the book dedicated many parts to the WW2, but as I read it, no, the proportion was okay. Since this was the first book of Jo Nesbo I read, it took me time to get used to his style. By the end of every chapter, the story ended abruptly; and in the next chapter it was another scene.

The hero, Inspector Harry Hole, tracked an illegal rare weapon, which he thought would be used to commit murders. The culprit was an old man, an ex-soldier from WW2, a Norwegian who fought for the Germans and thought that he was doing service for his country. Yet after the war, these kind of men were labelled traitors and punished by being sent to jail a couple of years.

The reason for the murders was not convincing, at least for me, because he had planned it carefully but look who the first victim of the rifle was. And the 2nd victim? Why waited so long?

There was an unsolved murder of a policewoman until the end of the book, so I am glad that I read The Redbreast first. I hope the murder will be solved in the next book(s).

Anyone can tell me why Harry Hole put his telephone in the fridge? It was not enough only by pulling the jack out?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Sleight of Hand - Philip Margolin

We have here Charles Benedict, a successful criminal defense lawyer, who was also an amateur magician. He could make an evidence disappeared in a court room, during a trial. Benedict murdered Carrie Blair - a prosecutor, framed her husband for the murder, and became his lawyer. No matter how innocent Mr Blair was, if the real culprit was his lawyer, the police would never find the truth and Blair would end in jail.

As the heroine, we have Dana Culter, a private investigation, a character had been used in Philip Margolin's books a couple of times. Dana would cross paths with the Blair case and helped the poor husband.

Among what I had read lately, this book came out as something smart. I didn't know how Dana would win against the clever Benedict, but she did. This book reminded me how I used to love reading Philip Margolin books.

The 9th Girl - Tami Hoag

The advertisement said: "“Kovac had seen more dead bodies than he could count: men, women, children; victims of shootings, stabbings, strangulations, beatings; fresh corpses and bodies that had been left for days in the trunks of cars in the dead of summer. But he had never seen anything quite like this. . . .”
Well, it sounded promising. I had read murder stories that made me sick and from the advertisement, I imagined some kind of cruelty beyond imagination. It turned out not so new or so scary, but this book was still a good read.

Police detective Sam Kovac and his partner Liska were in the middle of a serial killer investigation. The new victim, which the press called as the 9th or the zombie, fell down from a car's trunk during a road accident. As the investigation went, the 9th victim was identified as a friend of Liska's son. Perhaps half of the book was about how hard raising teenagers. I think in the end this book was as good as Prior Bad Acts and I finished this in 2 days, which was very fast.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Prior Bad Acts - Tami Hoag

After 'Ashes to Ashes', the next book I read was 'Dust to Dust', which I thought was quite boring. It was about a group in the police department which hated gay men.

The next in the series was 'Prior Bad Acts' which I finished last night. Now, this one was something I'd have liked to read. It started with gruesome murders in a family and a man with a prior bad acts was the only suspect. Everybody believed he was guilty that when a judge tried to give the suspect a fair trial, suddenly the judge and the defense attorney became public enemies.

Our hero, Detective Kovac, almost fell in love with the judge and chased the wrong man throughout the book, thinking with his emotions.

At the beginning of the story, the readers were told that the main suspect happened to be at the wrong place, at the wrong time - so we could tolerate the judge's decision even though the characters in the book could not. I could guess the culprit by the middle of the book, but this was still an interesting read and better than 'Ashes to Ashes' and 'Dust to Dust'.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Did You Miss Me?

After reading Allison Brennan's books, I enjoyed this new Karen Rose book very much. For me, Karen Rose's writing style is easier to read and understand. The whole thing in the book happens in only 4 days.

Our heroine is Daphne Montgomery, Assistant State's Attorney in Baltimore. Her 20 year-old son is kidnapped in the beginning of the story, but he actually has escaped even before his mother knows about the abduction. Daphne believes it's something to do with the case she has been handling, although the reader knows from the start that it's somebody else with an old grudge against her. The hero is FBI Special Agent Joseph Carter, whose father is Daphne's son's boss. Joseph is at first looking for the boy to please his father, but in the process he encounters murders, so his boss gives him a team to protect Daphne, whom he loves.

Joseph and Daphne are side characters from previous novel 'No One Left To Tell' and it's nice to welcome back Grayson and Paige, although they have small parts here.

The reason of the culprit to terrorize Daphne turns out to be silly, but it's still a good read.

Ashes to Ashes

Kate Conlan, the main female character, is a former FBI agent who now working as a victim-witness advocate in Minneapolis. She is to take care of an eye-witness, who has claimed to have seen The Cremator's face. The Cremator has tortured and burned 2 women, and when the witness saw him, he was burning his 3rd victim, who perhaps was the daughter of Peter Bondurant, a rich and important man. The FBI's top serial killer profiler, John Quinn, is sent from Quantico to help the case. The problem comes when the young witness is either a liar - she didn't see the face, or too scared to describe him. Meanwhile, like in most fictions, the killer targets our heroine, Kate Conlan, to be his next victim.

This is Tami Hoag's first crime book I have read and I found there were too many narrations.I read many of the sentences fast without grasping its meaning, hoping to be back to the plot, back to the investigation. The killer's identity is a surprise and from the reviews I've read I know that many readers could not guess it either. I also found the killer's reason made sense, which is rare in such genre.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Lucy Kincaid Series

I enjoyed Lucy Kincaid series very much. As the youngest in the Kincaid family, Lucy was very much loved by her parents and siblings, and she was carefree, until the day when she was kidnapped and abused in 'Fear No Evil'. Supported by her family, Lucy was gradually building her life again. She wanted to join the FBI.

1. Love Me To Death
Six years after Lucy was attacked, one of her kidnappers was released from jail and got murdered in Washington, D.C., where Lucy now lives with her brother and sister-in-law. Lucy now works for Woman and Children First!, an organization which investigates illegal sexual exploitation of women and children. Special Agent Noah Armstrong, who investigates the murder case, at first doesn't believe that Lucy had nothing to do with it. But when more murder victims turn up, Noah Armstrong realizes that there has been a bigger scheme going on. In this first book, Lucy begins to have a romantic relationship with PI Sean Rogan, who works together with her brother Patrick. Sean Rogan first appears in 'Cutting Edge', where he was always in the shadow of her brother, Duke.

2. Love is Murder
This is a light novel and it's a bonus, so I can't complain about it. Took place a year before 'Love Me To Death', Lucy and her brother Patrick spend four-day weekend in the Delarosa Mountain. There is a murder in the lodge where they are staying and because of snowstorm, the sheriff cannot reach them. This is a situation where you know that one of you is the killer.

3. Kiss Me, Kill Me
Sean Rogan is looking for his missing cousin, who perhaps has become a victim of a sexual predator and he asks Lucy to come to New York to help him. FBI Agent Suzanne Madeaux and NYPD Detective Panetta work together on the Cinderella Strangler case. Fourth victim has been found and Sean's cousin is a witness. I like the investigation in this book and they don't reveal the culprit until near the end. There is also the story how Lucy is accepted to the FBI after being turned down first.

4. If I Should Die
Sean Rogan takes Lucy for a holiday to the Adirondack Mountains. However it isn't really a holiday because Sean's friend has a resort there and someone is sabotaging the place. Sean promises his friend to find the person(s) responsible. While he chasing a kid who set fire to the resort, Sean falls and breaks his leg. Lucy goes down to help Sean and sees a dead body. After reporting the events to the police, the body is gone. Meanwhile, Sean's life is in great danger at least twice here in this book and its' when Lucy sees that life is not the same without him. 'If I Should Die'... the title of this book is very appropriate. It's like: if I should die, I didn't want to die without telling you that I love you. This book is okay, but compared to others in this series, this is the least interesting.

5. Silenced
While waiting for her FBI training to begin, Lucy helps her boss Noah Armstrong to investigate a murder of a high-priced call girl. Although still young, Lucy's analysis proved very helpful. I think this book is called 'Silenced' because the investigation leads to the hints of blackmails (where the victim should pay if they want the blackmailers to keep silence), and there is a second plot about a young girl who is afraid of her father and she keeps silence, she doesn't tell anybody because nobody will believe her.

6. Stalked
Now training in the FBI Academy in Quantico, Lucy helps Special Agent Tony Presidio to solve the murder of a reporter who wanted to write a book about the Cinderella Strangler case (Kiss Me, Kill Me). Soon they find that the murder doesn't have anything to do with the new book, but with one of her old books, where she wrote about a kidnapping, rape, and murder of a young girl 15 years ago. The brother of the victim had been stalked throughout his life that he had to disappear. Meanwhile, in the FBI Academy, a few believe that Lucy was accepted because of her high connection. This book is a good read, although I think the reason for the murders are a bit silly.

7. Stolen
Lucy has lesser part in this book. Sean Rogan works undercover for Noah Armstrong to infiltrate a hacker group led by his old friend, who Noah believes, has been hired by Senator Jonathan Paxton. Noah also believes that the Senator is behind the murders in book #1 Love Me To Death, but there is no proof. Unknown by Sean, there is a second gang who also infiltrate the hacker group to take vengeance against him for what he did years ago. I read this book quite fast and enjoyed it very much.

There is a new book coming out, I hope to be able to read that one as well.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

F.B.I. Trilogy

I wrote in my previous post re: Prison Break Trilogy that Allison Brennan's writings had been getting better, but this FBI Trilogy was published after and I think this is the worst compared to previous books. Or maybe it's I who don't like the plots she had chosen this time. I think this trilogy lacks of plot twists, it's banal. Published in February, May, and July 2009, this trilogy each featuring a female FBI agent - except Sonia Knight in book 2 who is an ICE agent - and the case she investigates will lead to someone from her past who targets her as the final victim.

Book 1. Sudden Death
Here we meet FBI Supervisory Agent Megan Elliott, ex-wife of Mitch Bianchi from previous book 'Playing Dead'. She works together with Jack Kincaid, the renegade in the family. Jack is a mercenary in Hidalgo and hired by the FBI as a consultant because the prime suspect has a military background. The case becomes personal to Jack when one of his friends was also murdered and another friend a target. The title is not very creative, imo, because it's about serial murders, and in murders there are sudden deaths (yes, in plural) if we don't count the tortures. The story of how and why the killers choose the victims seems flat (basically they are just crazy) and uninteresting.

Book 2. Fatal Secrets
This is the most boring book among all Allison Brennan's works. ICE agent Sonia Knight, who was sold by her father for prostitution when she was 13 - but escaped, works with Assistant FBI Director Dean Hooper to prove that human trafficker Xavier Jones is laundering money. Dean Hooper is the older brother of Detective Will Hooper from Killing Fear. Again, the title seems not right. The secrets in this book are not fatal. Dean Hooper spends many pages to explain about money laundering and I lost my interest.

Book 3. Cutting Edge

Here we meet FBI Agent Nora English, who spent her childhood with domestic terrorists. Her specialty is catching environmental activists who turn arsonists, bombers, murderers. She works with Duke Rogan from a private security company to solve a series of murders, starts with the death of Duke Rogan's good friend in a fire. Compared with the previous 2, this book is better because the killer is still mysterious until 1/3 of the story, so we learn the progress of the investigation from the protagonists's point of view.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Astérix et Obélix: Au service de Sa Majesté (2012)

Based on 'Astérix in Britain' and 'Astérix and the Normans', this movie shows how Astérix and Obélix helps the British people to defend themselves against the Romans and helps Goudurix, the village chief's nephew, to become a man.

Jolitorax from Britain comes to the Gauls to ask for a barrel of their magic potion so the British soldiers can be strong and drive the Romans away. Jolitorax here is a bit like a secret agent, if we look at the title: 'In Her Majesty's (Secret) Service'. Astérix and Obélix escort him to return to Britania safely, and they drag along Goudurix, who actually wants to be a bard, but in the eyes of the Gauls, a man should be able to fight - and chase wild boars.

What follows is more or less like in the books, with some new characters, notably Ophélia, Jolitorax's fiancée, and her governess.

Show me your ID

Jack The Giant Slayer (2013)

Many of us are familiar with H.C. Andersen's version of Jack and The Beanstalk, but when I saw the trailer of Jack The Giant Slayer on TV, I knew I would enjoy this movie.

And I did. Basically it was the same story, but I never knew that the giants really walked on our earth and did massive damage. In the Andersen story, the giant ran after Jack in his land in the sky and fell to the earth to his death when Jack cut down the beanstalk.

In this new movie version, the giants came to earth and were driven away to the land in the sky, waiting for their opportunity to return. One greedy man from earth is enough to make their return possible. Jack also gets a princess as his wife in the end.

Jack and the Beanstalk is a British fairy tale, and it's interesting to see how the magic crown used to defeat the giants here were cast into the royal crown.

Brave (2012)

Brave is not as good as I've expected. I expected it would be great because it was made by Pixar. It's not bad, either, because to me, any Pixar movie is still better than animations by other companies.

The Scottish accent in Brave is so heavy, there is even a character who cannot be heard clearly what he is saying. Without subtitles, it would be hard for me to understand the dialogues. The story itself reminds me of Brother Bear and The Emperor's New Groove.

The main character here is Princess Merida, firstborn of King Fergus, who must choose among her 3 suitors - none is what we call a typical Prince Charming. She refuses to choose, of course, and asks a witch to change her mother. Instead of changing her mother's opinion, the witch changes her into a bear. Now Princess Merida must find a way to change her mother back.

Actually, when I read the title, I imagined the heroine here would somehow lead her people against the enemy or something like that. Well, the plot is nothing like that. She is a spoiled child, who refuses to listen to her parents, and finally has her mother bewitched.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Prison Break Trilogy

Having read 2 previous trilogies, I think Allison Brennan was getting better in her writing. Although I don't enjoy the 2nd book, the 1st and the 3rd books are very good. This Prison Break Trilogy, each published in Jan, May and September 2008; begins with the earthquake in San Quentin State Prison, which causes several inmates escape.

Book 1. Killing Fear
One of the inmates who has escaped from San Quentin is Theodore Glenn, who killed three of Robin McKenna's friends, but was caught and sentenced after murdering the 4th, which he never admitted. When she hears that Theodore Glenn has escaped after 7 years in jail, Robin knows that he will come after her. Detective Will Hooper, who investigated the case then, promises to protect Robin. Hooper is Carina Kincaid's partner from previous trilogy, and in this book, he finally gets a major part. The title of this book is very appropriate: Theodore Glenn wrote to Robin while in jail and for years Robin has been living in fear. Allison Brennan's main female characters are all strong women, and Robin is no exception. She determines to overcome the fear, whether Theodore Glenn could be caught or not. I think this book would be more inetresting if Theodore Glenn could punished the person who had framed him for the 4th murder.

Book 2. Tempting Evil
The main female character here is Joanna Sutton, a romantic writer and lodge's owner in snowy Montana. The main fugitive here is Aaron Doherty, a killer who is obsessed with her. Doherty dreams that he has a romantic relationship with Joanna. He doesn't come to Montana alone, but drags along a dangerous killer named Doug Chapman. Sheriff Tyler McBride, who loves Joanna, is our hero; and he gets help from 2 FBI agents: Hans Vigo and Mitch Bianchi. I don't like this book very much. There are not many plot twists and the story is quite predictable.

Book 3. Playing Dead
The best in this trilogy. We meet Mitch Bianchi again from previous book. Bianchi has been assigned to send back the last fugitive from San Quentin: ex-cop Tom O'Brien. So far Tom O'Brien has been helping the authority to catch the escaped inmates from San Quentin. Tom O'Brien has spent 15 years in jail and soon to be executed - was charged with the murders of his wife and her lover, a prosecutor. Claire O'Brien, Tom's only daughter and a PI in Sacramento, always believes all this time that her father is guilty. Before the earthquake, a student visited Tom in jail and said that soon he would prove that Tom had been framed. Later, the discovery of the student's dead body in the river opens Claire's eyes that her father perhaps didn't kill her mother after all. The Feds and Claire start to investigate the old case again, now focuses on the fact that the prosecutor was the real target. Conspiracy, a hit man, a perfect frame - make this book the best of Allison Brennan I've read. Too bad the conspirators die too soon and too easy. I believe the title of the book refers to Frank Lowe, a witness with whom the dead prosecutor made a deal. It was said that Lowe was dead soon after the prosecutor was murdered.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

No Evil Trilogy

No Evil Trilogy by Allison Brennan was published in January - March 2007. Each book can be read separately. They all feature strong woman as the lead character, and the connection among the three is each also features at least a Kincaid.

The first book is Speak No Evil, starring Carina Kincaid, a police detective in San Diego. The connection from the previous trilogy (Predator Trilogy) is Sheriff Nick Thomas from 'The Hunt' book, where he lost his love, so here the writer gives him a new one. Carina is investigating a murder and Nick's brother is the prime suspect, and after his experience with a serial killer in 'The Hunt', Nick believes he can help local police to solve the case.

The second book is See No Evil, starring Julia Chandler, a deputy district attorney in San Diego. Julia's niece is accused of brutally murdering her step-father. Julia hires the best lawyer, and the best PI she knows: Connor Kincaid, Carina's brother from book 1. I don't like this book very much. It's about a group of unstable teenagers who like to self-mutilate.

The third book is Fear No Evil, starring Kate Donovan, a renegade FBI agent. This book is very fast paced, or perhaps the story is about a countdown to murder, so we race with the character to save Lucy Kincaid, the youngest of the Kincaid. 18 year-old Lucy is kidnapped and when her family sees her again, she is being raped, live on the internet, and she has 48 hours before getting execution. Her brothers: Connor, Patrick, Jack, and Dillon; go to Mexico to ask Kate Donovan's help. Kate is the only one who knows a lot about Lucy's kidnapper. Among the 3, without a doubt, this book is the best.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Predator Trilogy

Published in December 2005 - February 2006, this trilogy can be read separately. First Allison Brennan books I've read and I enjoyed them because I love this genre, but personally I think Karen Rose books are better because I prefer the way Ms Rose delivers. Allison Brennan stories are more brutal and the sentences are not as well written. The three books in this Predator Trilogy each has a strong woman as the central character and in then she will find her true love. The crimes are getting crueler from book 1 to 3.

Book 1 is The Prey. The main character is Rowan Smith, a former FBI agent turned a successful crime writer. A killer uses her books to stage crime scenes: from choosing the victims to the way of the murders. Not long for the police to realize that Rowan Smith is the real target.

Book 2 is The Hunt. This one features Miranda Moore, the head of search and rescue team, who survived a torture and escaped from a serial killer 12 years ago. Now he strikes again and Miranda must help to catch him. The title is so because the killer kidnaps his victim and keeps her in a deserted hut for days, then release her so he can hunt her.

Book 3 is The Kill. FBI lab technician Olivia St.Martin witnessed her sister being abducted. The body was found later. 5 year-old Olivia's testimony sent the killer to jail. Thirty two years later, a DNA test proved that  they had had the wrong man. Olivia's research shows that the real killer has been raping and murdering little girls since. Believing that the same man has struck again in Seattle, she goes there and introduces herself as a field agent to help the local police catching the monster.

Rowan Smith, Miranda Moore, and Olivia St. Martin are friends. They went together to the FBI academy in Quantico. Rowan Smith quit the job because she had a breakdown after seeing a crime scene which reminded her of the past. Miranda Moore never made it because she only had one case in her mind and could not work on others. Olivia St. Martin once a field agent, but didn't work well in a team unit, so she joined the lab.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Collector's Box Set (Volume 3 & 4)

Like the previous volume 1-2, volume 3-4 also come in hardcovers at 280 pages each. It took me a while to finish both comics which I enjoyed immensely. The originals were first published in the 1930's so I had never read them before, except 'The Seven Ghosts' which was printed in a Donal Bebek magazine in late 80's or early 90's. The Seven Ghosts features Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Donald Duck as ghost-busters.

I include here a strip from The Captive Castaways which made me laugh. Mickey often does dangerous stunts in his adventures and here, when he suggests to a local to catapult his plane, with Mickey and Minnie in it, using a big pine tree, the local tells Mickey to use his gun instead if he wants to commit suicide, because it's more practical!

Pluto The Racer is the funniest, in my opinion. I also like Editor-in-Grief very much. "Mrs Van Buzem just canceled her subscription," says Minnie to Mickey. "Mrs Van Buzem? Didn't we give her bridge party a big spread - photograph an' all!" says Mickey. "The photograph was all right-" says Minnie, "but the caption belonged on the sport page!" HEAVYWEIGHTS WILL BATTLE TONIGHT [Mrs Van Buzem & her friends are over-weight].

The stories in these 2 volumes are:

The Captive Castaways
Pluto's Rival
The Bat Bandit of Inferno Gulch
Bobo The Elephant
The Sacret Jewel
Pluto The Racer
Race For Riches
The Pirate Submarine
The Secret of Mars (starring Donald Duck)

Oscar The Ostrich
Mickey Mouse Joins The Foreign Legion
The Seven Ghosts
Island in The Sky
In The Search of Jungle Treasure
Monarch of Medioka
The Mystery of Preefer Hall (A Mickey Sequel)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

36 Quai des Orfèvres (2004)

The title is the address of police HQ in Paris. This film reminds me of the golden era of Alain Delon police movies in the 80's.

Daniel Auteuil stars as the good cop, Vrinks, and Gérard Depardieu as the bad cop, Klein.
Vrinks, the head of BRI (Research and Intervention Brigades a.k.a Anti-Gang Brigades), and Klein, the head of BRB (Banditry Repression Brigade) are in competition to arrest a gang of money-transport-vehicle robbers who have terrorize Paris. Whoever wins will be promoted to be Chief. Thanks to his informer, Vrinks knows where to find the robbers; but during the operation, drunken Klein [he is desperate because it looks like Vrinks will get the promotion] ignores orders, causes the death of Vrinks's best friend. Klein is investigated by Internal Affairs, but in the end is free to go, because the lead witness, Vrinks, has been thrown to jail after refusing to tell where his informer is. This informer has implicated Vrinks in a murder case. Vrinks rots in jail for 7 years (I find this hard to believe because Vrinks is a good cop. However I bear in mind that France is the land where a man could be jailed for 19 years for stealing some bread.) while Klein gets his promotion. In the end, happy ending is still for the good cop.

The movie is very enjoyable. It's fast paced and not hard to understand. The director, Olivier Marchal, is a former police officer; so the inside story depicted here must be close to reality.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Les Misérables (2012)

As a musical film, this version of Les Misérables is rather disapponting. When I see a musical film, I expect to see the songs sung properly: the melody are sung well(some spoken parts here and there to enhance the acting are understandable) and the lyrics can be heard clearly. However, in this movie, acting is put first; it's okay to sing and weep at the same time, with the result that the singing is weak and the dialogues cannot be heard clearly (unless you are a fan of the musical and know the lyrics by heart). I think this is something between regular drama movie and a musical movie, where the writer is too lazy to write dialogues for the characters and borrow them from the musical.

I am even disappointed with Hugh Jackman. I know he could do better than that. I watched him in Oklahoma! and I knew the guy could sing. Russell Crowe was also disappointing. I am not a fan of him, but I was impressed with him in Virtuosity and I watched several of his movies and knew he was a wonderful actor and that he had a band. Perhaps the director told them to play it that way? Colm Wilkinson as the Bishop of Digne almost didn't sing either. Of the main actors, I think Samantha Barks did the best job, and the guy who played Grantaire.

It is not that hard to sing properly and act at the same time.

At first I thought Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter did a good job, but the song 'Master of the House' apparently had been shot and edited many times. It was hard to see what was going on (unless you have the DVD to pause again and again) and in the end it looked unnatural to me. It's over the top.

I like the additional parts, which are not in the original musical, such as: Marius's grandfather appearance, Fauchelevent's opportunity to return Valjean's kindness, Valjean buys a big doll (Catherine) for Cosette, Javert's chase at the city gate, Gavroche brings Valjean Marius's letter.

After Fantine sells her hair (I prefer that she is a blonde. The book says 'The gold was on her head and the pearls in her mouth'), she sells her teeth. I believe 2 of her front teeth were taken because it's said she was ugly after. However, when she sings 'I Dreamed A Dream' I see all her teeth are there.

The ending is so ordinary. I hoped that because this was a movie, special effects could be used. Couldn't they make the spirit of Fantine look better than that? And after that, when 'Do You Hear The People Sing' was sung, I hoped to see Valjean and the deads in heaven... They will live again in freedom, in the garden of the Lord. ... not in the streets of Paris.

Jesus Christ Superstar - Live Arena Tour (2012)

This musical has grown on me. When I first listened to one of its recordings I thought it was so noisy --> it's a rock musical. Then I watched the version on video, the one with Jérôme Pradon as Judas, and I started to like the songs. This new version is even better.

Laurence Connor, the director, did this very well. It seems like it happens in recent time. The scene opens with young people wearing hoodies in protest versus the police, and they hope that Jesus will lead them, which made me think I had more understanding about the situation in that era. Later, when Jesus explained that he was not going to lead them against the government, I could understand Judas's disappointment. This musical, anyway, was made to make us have more sympathy for Judas. Tim Minchin, who played Judas, did it so well. In The Last Supper, he was still torn about giving Jesus up; but Jesus challenged him to do it, so he went. We could see how much Judas loved him and thought he was doing it for Jesus's good. Now, if someone could tell me the trick in Judas's suicide scene, I will be very grateful ;-)

The big screen on the stage was used efficiently (better than in 25th anniversary of the Phantom of The Opera in the Royal Albert Hall). We see the kids use modern technology to spread words about Jesus in What's the Buzz (on the screen we can see the text messages they send) and in Herod Song (Chris Moyles who played King Herod was a famous DJ in the UK), we see King Herod as a TV Quiz Show presenter who creates a poll about Jesus.

Ben Forster as Jesus was also good. His Gethsemane was very powerful. His Jesus was bitter, resentful, and for a moment I thought he was challenging God.

If I had to say something bad about this version, I'd say there were too many people in The Last Supper, not only Jesus and the twelve. Then I would ask 3 disciples to accompany Jesus, while the rest could move away, in the end of the song. The lyrics say: "Will no-one stay awake with me? Peter? John? James?" Yet these 3 were among the crowds, in different places, too.

"Now why'd you choose such a backward time and such a strange land? If you'd come today you could have reached the whole nation..."After watching this version, I think no matter when he comes or where he comes to, people will still be denying him.

Some things in this are against my believe, but it's still a very enjoyable musical to watch. Glad it's on DVD!

Andrew Lloyd Webber's Love Never Dies

Finally I watched the DVD last night. This is not a film of a live show, I think, but some parts were shot live in Regent Theatre, Melbourne, Australia; because you can hear the audience's applause. The costumes are great. The sets are wonderful: I like the harbour and the room with prism/pyramid shapes. The songs are not very memorable, though.

What I dislike most is the story. When I read the Gaston Leroux's novel I had this impression that Christine and Raoul were in love with each other and that she was only mesmerized by the Phantom's talents. Many fans of  ALW's the Phantom of the Opera don't agree with me and they believe that Christine's true love is the Phantom. It's understandable because the musical was written to make us sympathize with the Phantom. I  myself felt the same when I watched the show in London back in 2004. We had then John Owen-Jones as the Phantom versus Ramin Karimloo as Raoul--> I vote for John Owen-Jones anytime.

Now, in this sequel, 10 years later, the Phantom, Madame Giry, and Meg join a traveling circus and they arrive in Coney Island, New York. Meg is now a leading lady and has been trying to impress the Phantom, who in return never notices her. The Phantom lures Christine, now Madame de Chagny, to sing in the circus. Raoul is now in gambling debts and needs the money. This couple comes with their 10 year old boy, Gustave. It seems Raoul never loves Christine and he only wanted to win her from the Phantom then. Later, it turns out that Gustave is the Phantom's son. Apparently, after 'Music of the Night', Christine made love to the Phantom.

Apart from the story, I think this musical still needs more work. It's perhaps not that bad if it's not called the sequel of the Phantom of the Opera. About the cast, I think Anna O'Byrne (Christine), Sharon Millerchip (Meg), Maria Mercedes (Mme Giry), and Jack Lyall (Gustave) were wonderful.

El secreto de sus ojos (2009)

Not as good as I thought it would be, because I had expected a serial killer story. "The Secrets in Their Eyes" is about a retired Argentinian federal justice agent Benjamín Espósito, who is writing a book about an old case, where a beautiful young woman was raped and brutally murdered. It seems the case possessed him then that he and his assistant Sandoval followed a lead, against their boss's advice. Meanwhile, Espósito fell in love with his new department chief Irene Hastings, but stood back as she was out of his reach.

They could catch the killer eventually, thanks to Espósito's sharp eyes; but the killer was free because he had been working for the government as an informant. The release of the killer made Espósito's life in danger, especially after Sandoval had been killed. Espósito decided to leave: leave the city, his work, and Irene.

20 years later, he is back, and finds that the thing that haunts his life for the last 20 years, was actually taken care of then. It's very sad, really.

The scenes move back and forth, with the same cast, but with the superb make-up, we won't have any difficulty to tell if the scene is telling the recent time or the past.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

I Can See You

By now I have read many Karen Rose books. I really enjoyed her works and am looking forward to getting the newest one. I like how she used main characters from previous book(s) in the next one as supported cast and vice versa, so it's like getting to know a big family better and better. It's easier to love characters when we have known them before.

In 'I Can See You' we meet Eve Wilson (a.k.a Evie Wilson) again, a girl who almost died in 'Don't Tell' and was kidnapped in 'Nothing to Fear'. The dark past makes her decide to leave Chicago, go to Minneapolis, and work as a bartender and a grad student in psychology. In the bar where she works, she meets Detective Noah Webster from the Hat Squad, who I think is too good to be true. Eve has a faint scar on her face, yet Webster sees her as she is the most beautiful woman in the world. Meanwhile, a serial killer taunting the city and mocking the Hat Squad. The death toll in this book is the highest in Karen Rose's book, I think. The killer did his first murder 30 years ago and has been doing it again and again because he can. It was not hard to guess whodunit, but the book was still very enjoyable. There is also a side plot about another bad guy who wants to avenge his brother who died while being chased by the Hat Squad.

The title 'I Can See You' is very appropriate. The killer is closer than what the detectives think and he knows the progress of the investigation.

From all heroes in Karen Rose books, my favourite are: Daniel Vartanian, Noah Webster, and Abe Reagan. The men in the real world are not like them, but we can dream.......