Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice: Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes Series # 1

What do you think Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes detective stories lack of? I might say: a feminine aspect. Of course, Sherlock Holmes is very ‘masculine’ with his astounding logical reasoning talent. Most of his stories are about how to solve a complex mystery using logic, knowledge and some brave maneuvers. In short, it’s about brain and some muscles, which made it very masculine. But what about adding a small (just a small) portion of feminine touch in it? Wouldn’t it be interesting? Aren’t you wondering, how Holmes would react if he ever met a female who matches his talent? He has found one, Irene Adler, in Doyle’s stories, but she was his adversary and her appearance is less than sufficient to be paired with Holmes.

Now, Laurie R. King seems to know what few of us (including me!) have been wishing; she brings an orphanage Jewish-American teenage girl named Mary Russell to accidently meet the retired Holmes in a quiet little village of Sussex. Already passing the age of fifty, Holmes now busies himself with beekeeping when Mary Russell stumbles across him on a hill. At that instant Holmes realizes Russell’s rare intelligent brain, and decides to make her his apprentice as well as friend. When Russell does not go to Oxford to study theology and mathematic, she does her education and training with Holmes. During this apprenticeship, Russell and Holmes solve several cases, starting the partnership of their detective career.

Reading this book is immensely entertaining. The first book in the series acts as an introduction to Mary Russell’s personage—which I like instantly—and her apprenticeship with Holmes. It is of course quite awkward for Holmes—and for us too, who follow his actions in Doyle’s stories—to be in the friendly presence of a girl, but that actually makes this story more interesting. I always like characters from books that are presented humanly with emotion, and sometimes make mistakes. Holmes here seems to me more human, not a genius man-robot as Doyle wrote it.

Instead of writing another Holmes story; King writes how Holmes influences Mary Russell in her memoirs. It is how Russell sees Holmes from her point of view. Watson’s approach has been much influenced by his worshipping of Holmes’ genius talent, something that he doesn’t possess; but in Russell, she shares Holmes’ talents and that gives her a wider point of view of Holmes, because she can look at things beyond his genius brain. Or, is it simply because women can look deeper into men? :)

Besides the cases Russell and Holmes must solve—in fact they are not very interesting, except for the last one—King put more of her focus in building personal relationship between Russell and Holmes. And I must say that this is actually the most interesting part of this book. At their first meeting, Holmes even mistakenly think that Russell is a boy—which is not surprising, considering Holmes’ view on his opposite sex (and also because Russell dressed like a boy at that time). Before Russell entering his life, Holmes takes female as brainless creature. However, dealing with Russell forces him to make an exception; certain female actually HAS brain, and slowly but surely Holmes can see that Russell possesses a unique talent he had never seen before (except in himself).

It is also interesting to see Holmes’ way of accepting Russell into his life. He takes Russell as Russell, not as a female, by ignoring every aspect of her sex. It is simple at first, because Russell was 15 years old girl with boyish appearance at that time; but it becomes more complicated when she grows up to be a young woman. Then Holmes is forced to take her as a woman, and…really….it’s quite funny to see Holmes’ awkwardness with Russell feminine aspects, not mentioning that a man and a woman in the early 20th century could not spend much time alone without creating scandals.

Anyway, time flows, and I can see that Russell-Holmes relationship is leading to a more affectionate one. The question is now, what kind of love they are sharing? As friends? Father and daughter? Or more intimate than that, as lovers? From Russell, it is more clearly, for she confesses that her love for Holmes is growing. But what about Holmes? One thing is clear, his sharpness is slowly fading. After a bombing that wounded him, Holmes is disturbed by two things. First, that he is facing an enemy who knows him very well while he doesn’t have any clue of  him/her. Second, that this time, his brilliant logic is beaten by his emotion. Knowing that Russell is now in danger, his instinct could not follow his brain; and although his brain instructs him to stay, he rushes to Russell’s apartment. And this is happened to Sherlock Holmes! Who would even guess? So, what else can change him like that if not the power of love? It becomes more interesting, eh?.....

Apart from the sparkle of romance, I was touched too by the struggles Russell and the child she rescued must have shared. It’s lovely to see how Russell could cure Jessica because of her own struggle, but more than that, I was glad and relieved that it is Holmes who helps Russell with his wisdom and experiences. When one blames oneself for a tragedy, people keep saying that it’s not his/her fault. It’s true, of course, but it doesn’t work to confront when one is wounded. Perhaps Holmes’ approach is the best way, to make one accepts that it’s one’s fault, but it’s all over now, it’s time to move on and do better things to pay for the fault already done. I just realize, that might be the best argument. And that makes me love Mary Russell’s series more, because it is very entertaining and exciting, yet sometimes touching.

So I guess, Russell and Holmes deserve to earn four stars from me for their first collaboration. Special thanks to Melisa who gave me this book for my birthday last year, and of course, a bunch of thanks for Laurie R. King for bringing Mary Russell into my life :) Now I can hardly wait to read the whole series!


*I read Qanita translation edition in Bahasa Indonesia for:*

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince [Re-read]

The Half-Blood Prince is where Rowling prepared us to the final and most important mission Harry, Ron and Hermione must have in the Deathly Hallows. Here is also the end of the cheerful and playful atmosphere in Hogwarts that had captured our hearts from the very beginning of Harry Potter series. In fact, the class scenes are already very limited here. Maybe Horace Slughorn’s class is the only one we read quite often about in this book, because it’s related to this book’s title: The Half-Blood Prince. It is the half-blood prince’s old Potion text book that leads Harry to be the star of their potion class and the dearest student of Slughorn.

Speaking about the half-blood prince, I come to think that by giving this book 'The Half-Blood Prince' title, Rowling is actually indicating that Severus Snape has and would have an important key role in Harry Potter stories—although it would have been revealed only at the end, he actually had had it from the first time, undetected. In this book too, I realizes how Snape is really a very talented teacher from the beginning; his only flaw is his unreasonable hatred to Griffindor’s students—thanks to the history of bullying he received when he was a student! I think, rather than Slughorn, I would love Snape to teach me Potion if I was studying at Hogwarts. :) And see how he taught Defense Against Dark-Arts class! I think he is the most suitable teacher to teach this particular subject because of his own passion in the Dark Arts--in this case, I must say that Snape has overshadowed Lupin in this subject.

My respect for Snape has also been growing since this sixth book—of course, it’s after I knew on whose side he really is. For one thing, Severus Snape is a man of steel nerves! Maybe it is an advantage—if you are a double agent—to be lacked of emotion. Snape is always cool, even in front of Voldemort, and that’s why he can cheat on him for years—imagine, cheating on Lord Voldemort! In the early part of this book, Snape is also forced to make an unbreakable vow by Narcissa Malfoy. I don’t know (forget, actually) whether Snape has learned Dumbledore’s secret plan or not at this point; I don’t think he has. And that made him very tactful to act accordingly in that situation.

It is in this book too that Rowling provides us with Voldemort’s history, an adequate background of what created a heartless dark wizard like Tom Riddle. Well…again, it was his childhood and family background that has made young Tom Riddle lost his humanity and emotion. I begin to see the big picture Rowling wants to show us; Harry Potter series turns out to be all about love—or the lack of it. Harry Potter survives from the Killing Curse because of his mother’s love shield; Tom Riddle turns up as Voldemort because his mother suffered from a tragic love; Snape betrays Voldemort because of his love to Lily Evans. Now I realize that Rowling is so genius in building her figures’ characters; she wants us to see that every person—good or bad—doesn’t come from nowhere, he is built by family and society, woven by thousands of small incidents and circumstances.

This sixth book also brings us to the first hint of Voldemort’s horcruxes; and Dumbledore's adventure with Harry which finally leads to his death. Just as my first read, and although I know the truth about it now, I was still touched by Dumbledore’s death scene. Not only because he died tragically—it is his plan, it turns out—but more because it means that Harry’s last hope of safety and comfort has gone forever, and now he is forced to do what the wizarding world expected him to do; whether he likes it or not, whether he’s ready or not.

Ah, last but not least, this book also marks the more solid friendship of the trio: Harry, Ron, Hermione. The love between Ron and Hermione is more distinguish now, and how deep is their friendship with Harry that they vow to accompany Harry searching for horcruxes rather than returning to Hogwarts. Coming from Ron, it’s quite understandable; but imagining Hermione sacrificing her school is very surprising. But then, it is not just a friendship, it’s doing what they could for their lives, the lives of people they care for, and for the (wizarding) society. In short, they do it because it’s the right thing to do.

Four and a half stars for the Half-Blood Prince, and I am torn between going directly to the Deathly Hallows after this, or keeping it as long as possible, because… it’s not comforting to realize that it will end up soon, and it might be a long time before I can go back to Harry Potter again; and at that time, I might find Harry Potter slightly different than it is now. What a dilemma!


*I read Bloomsbury hardback edition for:*

6th book for Hotter Potter

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wishful Wednesday (20)

It has been quite a long time since my last post for Wishful Wednesday! But today, there is one particular book that I have been craving for….

The Divine Comedy
By Dante Alighieri

Lately I have read the first part of The Divine Comedy: Inferno from my e-reader. Although I got through it quite difficultly, still I was interested in it. Following Inferno, I grabbed The Dante Club (a historical fiction by Matthew Pearl, a psycho-thriller based on the translation project of Dante’s Inferno by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow). I think it is this latter book that has brought my full interest in Dante. I feel that in the second (or third) reading, I would understand and appreciate Inferno more. And now, I’m determined to read the rest of The Divine Comedy: Purgatorio and Paradiso. I might still read from e-reader, but I really dream on having the physical book, as I suspect, I would be reading this one more than once.

But why the above particular edition? Because it is leather bound hardback with a beautiful cover!! I really wish I could win a giveaway to buy this book. Or…anyone would like to send me one copy for next Christmas? ;)

Ikut yuk Wishful Wednesday!


  • Silakan follow blog Books To Share – atau tambahkan di blogroll/link blogmu =)
  • Buat posting mengenai buku-buku (boleh lebih dari 1) yang jadi inceran kalian minggu ini, mulai dari yang bakal segera dibeli, sampai yang paling mustahil dan hanya sebatas mimpi. Oya, sertakan juga alasan kenapa buku itu masuk dalam wishlist kalian ya!
  • Tinggalkan link postingan Wishful Wednesday kalian di Mr. Linky (klik saja tombol Mr. Linky di bagian bawah post). Kalau mau, silakan tambahkan button Wishful Wednesday di posting kalian.
  • Mari saling berkunjung ke sesama blogger yang sudah ikut share wishlistnya di hari Rabu =)

Friday, June 14, 2013

My Open Letter To Albus Dumbledore: Hotter Potter June Meme

Dear Professor Dumbledore,

…wherever you are right now…. I know you must be wondering how a muggle like me could ever think of writing a letter to you. Well, I don’t even know whether this letter would ever arrive at your perusal, since—you know—muggle world doesn’t have any mail service to reach wizarding world, least of all the place where you might be occupying right now after the most unforgivable curse had hit you. Still….I must write to you anyway, and tell you how your wisdoms have once changed my life, because it really did!

Oh, I almost forgot, allow me to introduce myself first; my name is Fanda, I’m a hardcore reader—and that’s how I came to know you and the wizarding world, thanks to Mrs. Rowling. Apart from that, I am also the only daughter of my dear mother and father—two humble persons in muggle world. In the last three weeks our family is facing the hardest crisis we have ever had—at least during my life—and the nature of the crisis has instantly reminded me of your wisdoms you have often shared with Harry. Now, how could I think that our family’s crisis has any relation with the wizarding world? you might wonder.

Dear Professor, Dark Arts does exist in muggle world too, just as in your wizarding world. The only difference is that not everyone here can perform it; but the dark arts—allow me to call them—performers used to sell their services to people who want to hurt their opponents. In short, my dearest father—an ordinary man who works hard for his family his entire life, always honest, honorable and religious—had been attacked by the dark arts by someone who hates him. Really Professor, when I read about Cruciatus curse in your world, I don’t usually think more than that it is cruel and wrong to torture another human being. But, when I was forced to witness my own father—one of two persons I love the most on earth—was tortured by a kind of Cruciatus curse, well… was really horrible! You wouldn’t imagine how it bled my heart to see my father curled up in pain, while I couldn’t do anything to ease it. Once I really wished I was a witch who had studied in Hogwarts and had learned one or two jinxes to heal it, at least to reduce the pain. Oh….if only I lived in your world, Professor!

Anyway, I am very grateful now to have read your wisdoms for almost seven years. Few things that are always stuck in my head: that love is the only magic which can protect us from evil, and “it was agony to touch a person marked by something so good” (from the Sorcerer’s Stone). Really Professor, although I am a muggle, I do believe in the most powerful magic ever exists in the whole universe: LOVE. Here we don’t call love as magic, but it’s magic after all for me because I can’t really explain what has happened in the last three weeks in my family. You see…every time my father had these attacks—he felt as if his right ribs were squeezed by a pair of invisible ‘hands’—what do you think we’d done to stop or ease the seizure? Some powerful medicines or ointment? We—my mom and I—could not think of anything like that, of course. We just do what was natural for us, to gently caress the painful part, because we love him and the only thing we can do is just love him, letting him know that we care, that if we could, we’d be willingly to share the torture to ease the pain a little.

And….believe it or not, Professor, our gently caresses DID ease the pain; the attack would subside little by little before finally be gone right after our caresses. Yes, it was absurd, right? But the three of us believe that it is not just a physical caress, because in it is our great LOVE. And as you always say, love is an ancient kind of magic and the most powerful weapon to fight evil; that only love can beat the evil, and it was a mother’s love too which had shielded Harry Potter from Lord Voldemort’s killing curse when he was a baby.

Oh, how I am very grateful for your teaching, Professor Dumbledore, although you never meant to teach me personally. Because of you, I now possess a strong faith that no evil power would ever destroy us, because we possess the strongest weapon—Love—within our bodies, flowing in our veins. We have neither learned nor practiced it; our Creator had planted it since we were born. And so we know, that it is most importantly at this particular crisis, that we must strengthen our love bound to be able to fight the evil as one solid family. And at the end, we know that we are going to win!

That is, Professor, my family’s story. Of course, love is not the only cure for what happened to my father; but the flowing of love showed by friends, families and relatives has been creating a series of helps, which I believe will cure my father completely at the end.

Once again, I want to express my sincere gratitude to you, Professor Dumbledore. But—no offense, please—above all, I must be grateful to our God for His abundant mercies for our family. You might not know Him—or do you?—but He is our Creator, and there is no more powerful magic on earth than His miracles in our daily lives.

With sincere regards,

Muggle, your admirer


I wrote this letter based on my own personal experience, for Hotter Potter June Meme's task: 

"Write a letter to one of Harry Potter series' characters"

This meme is sponsored by Loona Lovegood's blog, and I am a following there by email: fanda[dot]surabaya[at]yahoo[dot]com