Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Night Crew - John Sandford

In my opinion, The Night Crew is not as good as the Prey series, although it’s worth to read because it’s written by John Sandford. The Prey series were centered in MinneapolisSt Paul, and the description of the places were vivid, that I was tempted to visit the Twin Cities if only I had the money.

The Night Crew was set in Los Angeles. The heroine was Anna Batory, leader of the night crew. With an administrator (Louis) and two cameramen (Jason and Creek), Anna went around the city to capture video news and sold them to TV stations. In the beginning of the book, the crew got two stories: an animal rights raid and a jumper. The next morning, one of Anna’s cameramen, Jason, turned up dead on a beach, shot to death.

In the course of the investigation, Anna was told by the police that she had been being stalked and the stalker murdered anyone who had been closed to her. Guarded by Jake Harper, a lawyer, who believed that the Jason’s murder connected to the jumper (Harper’s son)’s death – and that the police was too slow – Anna tried to find who the stalker was.

Compared to John Sandford’s other works, I think the plot here was not very effective. Anna and Jake Harper went around investigating and got many false clues. I was also disappointed after the cuprit had been exposed. Anna was familiar with his voice and she thought he was someone she knew. The way he obsessed about her, it seemed he had been like that for a long time. It turned out he was someone she met at the beginning of the story. I read somewhere that John Sandford didn’t made the sequel because Anna Batory was too much like Lucas Davenport, his Prey hero. The reader could grasp this when they read how Anna killed her stalker in the end. Like Davenport, she could lost her mind and saw red. Like in Eyes of Prey, when Davenport kept hitting the killer’s face until they were separated. Jake Harper, who witnessed Anna’s rage, decided to end their relationship – like Weather decided to leave Davenport (although temporarily) in Sudden Prey after he manipulated her in order to kill the bad guy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Merlin - TV Series

I really loved watching this TV series and tried not to miss each episode, but the channel that showed it, Diva, usually changed the schedule when they showed the last episode of each season. Like last week, when I tried to watch the last episode of season 5 (the last season). It was supposed to be shown on Thursday at 6 pm. It was not shown. I found out later that it had been shown at 2 pm, while I was still at work. As this was the last episode, the conclusion, I sought the schedule and was finally able to catch it when it was re-shown on Sunday evening.

L-R : King Uther, Arthur, Merlin, Gaius, Morgana, Guinevere
Before watching this series, I only had known that Merlin had been a great sorcerer, with white long beard and a pointed hat. He worked along with King Arthur and his knights of the round table, one of them had been famous for his search of the Holy Grail. King Arthur had had this beautiful wife, Guinevere, who once had had an affair with one of his knights, Lancelot. Merlin had a powerful enemy, the high priestess Morgana. Also well known had been King Arthur’s sword Excalibur.

In this made-in-Britain TV series, I learned a lot about Camelot and Merlin’s relationship with King Arthur. When Merlin, as a young man, first arrived in Camelot, Uther Pendragon was the king. King Uther was very much against magic and he had punished those who practiced magic, condemned them to death. Merlin was sent to King Uther’s son, Arthur, as a servant. Merlin had to hide the fact that he could practice magic, although countless times he had helped Arthur without Arthur’s knowledge of Merlin’s gift. Merlin stayed with Gaius, the palace’s physician and became his apprentice. Only Gaius knew Merlin’s secret.

Sometimes Merlin has to drink a magic potion which can make him old, so no one
will recognize him
Meanwhile, Arthur’s half sister, Morgana, gradually found out that she could do magic; but she was afraid of her father. She was so bitter that she became evil. She wanted to be the queen of Camelot and in order to achieve that, she had to kill Arthur first.

The last episode showed Arthur’s death by Mordred after the battle of Camlann. Merlin had been told about this before and he had tried to kill Mordred first, but failed because Merlin was too kind. Merlin had been told that he could save Arthur if he acted quickly. Gaius had said that Merlin had to take the gravely wounded Arthur to Avalon, but Arthur died on the way. If Merlin had called the dragon the fly them away from the beginning, perhaps Arthur could have been saved. I must say that in his last hour, Arthur looked more drunk than dying.

I vaguely remember that Finna, a faithful servant of a sorcerer who had died in Morgana's hand, gave Merlin a little box, told him that it could be useful in a dark time. I think Merlin hadn't used this box yet.

So there goes the image of old Arthur and old Merlin worked together for the sake of Camelot, to unite the kingdoms.

Among the actors, Colin Morgan (Merlin) and Katie McGrath (Morgana) stood out. Angel Coulby (Guinevere) perhaps was the worst, and I think the part was just not for her.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Watch Your Back - Karen Rose

Karen Rose usually makes supported characters - one male & one female - in previous book(s) into main ones, and it's the same formula in Watch Your Back. I think this book has been written with one obvious reason: to create a romance between policewoman Stevie Mazzetti and Private Investigator Clay Maynard. The plot itself is quite good, but I think it's not as complicatedly woven like the writer's latest works.

Usually one can read Karen Rose's book on its own, but I strongly suggest that you read No One Left To Tell first. Watch Your Back is from the Baltimore Series: (1)You Belong To Me (2) No One Left To Tell (3) Did You Miss Me? (4) Watch Your Back. Actually there is one little work between (3) and (4) called Broken Silence which is only available as e-book, but if it's printed it would be a thin book, and personally I think you can left this one out, unless you care about the characters in the Baltimore series.

In No One Left To Tell, there was a corrupted police named Silas Dandridge, Stevie Mazzetti's former partner. Silas was dead at the end of No One Left To Tell and in Watch Your Back, Stevie tried to right the wrongs. As Silas Dandridge's partner, she had  not known all the evil things he had been doing; and after his death and Internal Affairs declared that she was clear, she dug into his cases and investigated them again, and found innocent men in jail while the real culprits were free.

The antagonist in this book was a businessman and a philanthropist named Todd Robinette. He had murdered his previous wife (and several others) and framed his son, thinking that his son could survive in jail. However, when Stevie Mazzetti, had tried to question his son, his son had run and shot the police. So Stevie Mazzetti had to shot him back and the son had been dead. Todd Robinnette had been waiting for a chance to avenge his son's death.

News about Stevie digging into old Silas Dandrige's cases was not a secret. Early in the book she had survived a couple of murder attempts. Todd Robinette then hired hitmen to join the excitement. Stevie always managed to survive any attack, though, either because she was lucky or because Clay Maynard, who had been in love with her through previous books, was always at her side guarding her. Even the hitmen realized that Robinette was crazy that they left him, and so Robinette must try to silence Stevie himself.

Another Ms Rose's book that I suggest to read before this one is Nothing To Fear from the Chicago series, although it's not a must. It's because there's a small reference to the house owned by Clay Maynard's father in Watch Your Back, which was used to hide Stevie Mazzetti and her 7-year-old daughter. The house was the scene of abduction and murder in Nothing To Fear, and Maynard's parents bought the house without knowing anything about those.

I must say that I like Ms Rose's characterization of Cordelia, 7 year-old daughter of Stevie Mazzetti. Her father and brother had died before she was born so she was only with her mother. They took care of each other and as a result she was more mature than her age. She sounds real to me because I know someone like her. And I also hate if children are portrayed like they know nothing and the adults refuse to tell them anything.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Hanged Man's Song - John Sanford

First time I read the titles of these Kidd novels, I thought they were sophisticated; but since the 1st book I have known that they are only tarot card's names.

This is the 4th book in the series and the last. Among all 4, I think this is the best and I like this very much. There was more criminal investigation than computer stuff.

Kidd's hacker friend, Bobby, who had helped him a lot in databases, had been brutally murdered in his house in Jackson, Mississippi. The killer was 1) meticulous - for able to track down the mysterious Bobby, while the FBI and NSA not 2) evil - for killing Bobby, who was crippled, and 3) crazy - for sending stuffs from Bobby's laptop to the news (and destroyed several politicians' careers) and claimed that it was Bobby's undoing.

Afraid that the missing laptop contained informations about him (and his friends), Kidd tried to get it back, helped by John Smith (from The Empress File) and his burglar friend LuEllen. Among Bobby's ring, perhaps they had chosen Kidd by acclamation, to do the physical works. Hackers usually sit in front of their computers and rarely go out, but Kidd went across country chasing bad guys.

The FBI didn't realize that Bobby had been died. Kidd and John Smith's effort to attract their attention to the murder case was unfruitful. So Kidd, Smith, and LuEllen must play detective to catch Bobby's murderer and get the laptop back. Near the end, there was a critical moment when LuEllen got caught and John Smith's 'foster kid' got kidnapped.

When Kidd and LuEllen was going to go to pick up John Smith, Kidd did two tarot spreads, and the final resolution card was, in both cases, The Hanged Man. "The Hanged Man indicates a kind of suspended animation, a suspense between two states - a waiting state. Transition, maybe. Okay, so Bobby's dead and everything is in transition."

Kidd and LuEllen would appear again 10 years later in Silken Prey - to help State Cop Lucas Davenport in a case. Kidd then was very good in databases, because he had inherited the contents of Bobby's laptop. I read Silken Prey first and knew that Kidd had a hot wife named Lauren and a 5-year old boy named Jackson. Until near the end of The Hanged Man's Song (the last book in the series) he still hadn't met a woman named Lauren. It turned out Lauren was LuEllen's real name. In all 4 books in the Kidd series, Kidd never found out LuEllen's real background; but in Silken Prey, Lucas Davenport successfully tracked her down to her hometown (after pulling out her maiden name from the marriage certificate) and to a local old man who remembered her.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Devil's Code - John Sandford

Jack Morrison, Kidd’s fellow hacker, had been shot to death during a break-in at a software company called AmMath in Dallas. Morrison had sensed that something had been going wrong and sent a message to his sister that if something happened to him, she was to see Kidd.

AmMath had hired Morrison to straighten out the operating software and they thought that he had seen something he shouldn’t. The reader knew from the beginning that the bad guys were the AmMath guys: the CEO and 2 security guys. The same bad guys also spread a rumor about a group of hackers who called themselves Firewall, complete with names of its members, including Kidd’s online name. Firewall later attacked the IRS website, so Kidd and his friends were chased by the FBI.

Kidd had to find a proof that Morrison was innocent, that there was no Firewall, and lead the FBI to the real bad guys.

On the first trip to Dallas with Morrison’s sister, at the airport, Kidd did a spread of his tarot cards. The key card was The Devil, which represented a force of evil, usually from the inside. "He sits on top of you, controlling you, without you even being aware of it". The forbidden file Morrison had opened (while he shouldn’t) was a reference to this. The file’s name was OMS, stood for ‘Old Man of the Sea’, whom Sinbad the Sailor met on his fifth voyage. The Old Man tricked travelers into carrying him on their shoulders while tranporting him to a pool of water, then forcing them to carry him all the time until they died. However, Sinbad got him drunk with wine and was able to shake him off and kill him. This tale was also a metaphor of AmMath’s crime.

There was a scene in a hotel room in Radisson, where LuEllen (Kidd’s partner) and Morrison’s sister watched Emma on HBO and asked the guys (Kidd and the sister’s bodyguard) to shut up. I believe that this is the 1996 version. There was this description: “Emma and her friend were standing under a spreading oak”
Kidd: “That woman’s got a long neck.” --> that’s Gwyneth Paltrow
LuEllen: I don’t think they did a very good job with Frank. They needed to make him more attractive in the beginning and worse in the end, and show why Emma was attracted to him.
Morrison’s sister: I didn’t think he was very attractive at all. I don’t see how he could possibly compete with…
I think Ewan McGregor is attractive enough. He only needed a decent hairdresser in Emma.

EwanMcGregor as Frank Churchill. Worst rival in a romance movie.
The spreading oak in Emma (1996)
Gwyneth Paltrow and her long neck

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Komik Terbaik Disney Karya Carl Barks Bundel 1 & 2

I decided to buy these bundles from Gramedia Online because 1) I didn't have to go out and 2) I got 15% discount. Sold at Rp 170.000,- each (retail price), I think they are very expensive. Each bundle is soft covered and has 404 pages (incl. covers). I made the order and payment on Tuesday (before noon) - both books were 'in stock' - and received them on Friday afternoon.

I have collected the 12 series and perhaps the bundles are only compilations. I am not sure because I don't have the 1st and 2nd series. Also, there are stories from the 12 series which are not included in the bundles. Perhaps there will be the 3rd bundle? Bundle 2 comes up with a binder and there is a space for 1 more bundle there.
There's still a place for 1 more bundle in the binder
Here are the contents of both bundles. I compare them with the contents in the 12 series (minus 1st & 2rd):

Natal di Gunung Beruang (Chrismas on Bear Mountain)
Rahasia Kastil Tua (The Old Castle's Secret)
Voodoo Hoodoo
Jejak Unicorn (Trail of the Unicorn)
Mengangkat Kapal Karam (The Sunken Yacth)
Lomba ke Laut Selatan (Race to the South Seas)
Menyusut Ke Lubang Semut (Billions in the Hole) - seri 7
Hilang di Dasar Laut (Lost Beneath The Sea)
Sejuta Wajah Mimi Hitam (The Many Faces of Magica de Spell)
Pulau di Angkasa (Island in the Sky) - seri 3
Di Istana Ratu Putri Duyung (Hall of the Mermaid Queen) - seri 3
Hanya Pria Tua yang Miskin (Only A Poor Old Man) - seri 4
Kembali ke Klondike (Back to the Klondike)
Di Sungai Emas (The Golden River) - seri 4
Di Dunia Bawah Tanah (Land Beneath the Ground!) - seri 5
Gudang Besar di Bukit Killmotor (The Big Bin on Killmotor Hill) - seri 5
Tujuh Kota Cibola (The Seven Cities of Cibola)

Kisah Batu Bertuah yang Hebat (The Fabulous Philisopher's Stone) - seri 6
Mahkota Genghis Khan yang Hilang (The Lost Crown of Genghis Khan!) - seri 6
Negosiasi Dingin (A Cold Bargain)
Berburu Mutiara (Deep Down Doings)
Mencari Mahkota Suku Maya (Crown of the Mayas) - seri 6
Membuat Sumur Uang (The Money Well) - seri 7
Mesin Paul Bunyan (The Paul Bunyan Machine) - seri 7
Anjing Jadi-jadian Whiskervilles (Hound of the Whiskervilles) - seri 10
Pencari Status (The Status Seeker)
Robot Pencuri Raksasa (The Giant Robot Robbers) - seri 8
Di Tralla La (Tralla La) - seri 9
Kota Beratap Emas (City of Golden Roofs) - seri 9
Misteri Mitos (Mythic Mystery) - seri 9
Si Juara Uang (The Money Champ) - seri 10
Serangan Safari (So Far and No Safari) - seri 10
Harta Karun Kuno (Oddball Odyssey)
Demi Keping Tua (For Old Dime's Sake) - seri 11
Pulau Angsa Emas (Isle of Golden Geese) - seri 11
Valentine Sepuluh Sen (Ten-Cent Valentine) - seri 11
Kedok Kalkun (Turkey with All the Schemings) - seri 12
Pencarian Kapal Cuspidoria (Search for the Cuspidoria) - seri 12

Bulan Dua Puluh Empat Karat (The Twenty-four Carat Moon) - seri 3
Kisah Keuangan (A Financial Fable) - seri 5
Gudang Uang Bundar (The Round Money Bin) - seri 5
Di Gua Ali Baba (Cave of Ali Baba) - seri 8
Misteri Rel Kota Hantu (Mystery of the Ghost Town Railroad) - seri 8
Untung-untungan di Musim Salju (Wintertime Wager) - seri 10
Gagak Gila (Raven Mad) - seri 11
Liburan di Kota Bebek (Holiday in Duckburg) - seri 12
Boros Tapi Hemat (The Thrifty Spendthrift) - seri 12

A shot from Mesin Paul Bunyan. I don't like the edges decor. Looks dirty.
Previous series. I own 3 to 12 (10 out of 12).

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Empress File - John Sandford

The Empress File is the 2nd book in the Kidd series, previously published under John Sandford's real name.

Kidd's friend, Bobby - a hacker specialized in databases - asked for his help. A friend of Bobby in the town of Longstreet, had been accidentally shot to death by the police, and his family didn't get justice because they were black. John Smith (not real name) - an investigator for a legal services company, together with local activist Marvel and Harold, and Kidd as the 'technician'; they made a plan to bring down the corrupted city council for revenge. In the center of the city council was the female mayor: Dessusdelit. Taking along his burglar friend LuEllen, Kidd didn't miss the opportunity to secretly rob the bad guys.

Compared to the first book The Fool's Run, I say The Empress File was less exciting - but only a little bit. Near the ending, Kidd was almost beaten to death by his enemies before LuEllen saved him, and although I kind of prefer the hero gets beaten (a nice difference from a neat hero in tidy hair and smooth suit), I think LuEllen should had arrived much sooner.

Kidd was a tarot reader, and like the first novel, this 2nd book also took a tarot card for its title. After Bobby called, Kidd got the tarot deck out and did two spreads. The Empress dominated both of them. "In my interpretive system The Empress represents women, new enterprises, new creations, new movements. There's an overtone of politics and a suggestion of s3x." In this case, The Empress card could have pointed to Marvel.