Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

Image“In the realm of psychological suspense, Thomas Harris stands alone. exploring both the nature of human evil and the nerve-racking anatomy of forensic investigation, Harris unleashes a frightening vision of the dark side of our well-lighted world. In this extraordinary tale — which preceded The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, Harris introduced the unforgettable character Dr. Hannibal Lecter. And in it, Will Graham — the FBI man who hunted Lecter down — risks his sanity and his life to duel a killer called…

The Red Dragon

A quiet summer night…a neat suburban house…and another happy family is shattered — the latest victims of a grisly series of hideous sacrificial killings that no one understands, and no one can stop. Nobody lives to tell of the unimaginable carnage. Only the blood-stained walls bear witness.

All hope rests on the Special Agent Will Graham, who must peer inside the killer’s tortured soul to understand his rage, to anticipate and prevent his next vicious crime. Desperate for help, Graham finds himself locked in a deadly alliance with the brilliant Dr. Hannibal Lecter — the infamous mass murderer who Graham put in prison years ago. As the imprisoned Lecter tightens the reins of revenge, Graham’s feverish pursuit of the Red Dragon draws him inside the warped mind of a psychopath,, into an unforgettable world of demonic ritual and violence, beyond the limits of human terror.”

(summary from Amazon.com)

I grew up knowing about Hannibal Lecter but I had never seen the movies or read any of the books, for the simple fact that I was too young and the subject matter wasn’t age appropriate. However, I have older cousins who were old enough and at family gatherings I would overhear their conversations, plus Hannibal is part of our pop culture. My first brush with the famous fictional cannibal was with the NBC show Hannibal which is set before Dr. Lecter is captured by Will Graham. With the next season not premiering until April of next year I needed to fill the empty space that Hannibal and Will had created. I wanted to see how it was going to end for the two of them and to get better acquainted with Harris’ work.

These past few weeks I’ve been so busy with hardly any time to just relax but on those rare spare moments I could not put this book down. This book is way out of my reading comfort zone, I usually read YA Fiction with the occasional Sci-Fi novel, but murder mystery thrillers have never made my list. The style in which this book is written did, at times, confuse me. A chapter would start off with Will Graham as the main focus and then immediately changes to another character for a single sentence and then switches back. I settled into the style after getting into the meat of the book and found it to be mirroring the way Graham’s mind works, he sees a swinging pendulum when he enters the thought process of the psychopath and he is able to jump from one reality to the next. Graham enlists the help of Dr. Lector to help capture the Dragon but I was disappointed that Hannibal wasn’t more involved in the case. There was only one meeting between the two and a few letters from Hannibal to Will but he was scarcely used. I felt that there was a missed opportunity to use Hannibal in a more devious way in conjunction with the Dragon. Hannibal being resourceful, cunning, and manipulative could have played an interesting role in bringing the Dragon and Will together in a cat and mouse scenario.

That being said the evolution of the Francis Dolarhyde character was fascinating. I really enjoyed reading his backstory and how everything that happened to him from birth through his adolescence molded him into the Dragon. Getting into his head captured my full attention and I felt sorry for him after reading it. Nothing in his childhood excuses his killing of the Jacobi and the Leeds families but it was the neglect and abuse that he suffered that rewired his brain to kill and torture. After his mother abandoned him because of his disfigurement his grandmother raises him and his overwhelming need to not disappoint and ultimately protect her lead to his first kill, a chicken. He loses himself to the feeling of relief the kill gives him and he experiments with other pets. It was disturbing to read how he gets off sexually while reviewing the films of his kills and that of his future kill and I found myself having to pause while reading. When he meets Reba McClane everything starts to change for him but the damage has been done he is too far into his own sickness that he cannot escape.

I really enjoyed this book and was surprised as to how deep I dove into its’ pages. The ending caught me completely off guard even though I should have seen it coming. I am eager to read the rest of the Hannibal Lecter series to see what the cannibal is capable of.

Also posted on Books with a Past

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Otakon 2013

This past weekend Aug. 9-11, 2013 I attended the biggest anime convention on the East coast. This was my 8th year attending but each year it still feels like the first. I don’t know if any of you are familiar with the convention, Otakon, but its an anime convention that happens once a year in Baltimore in the Baltimore Convention Center by the Inner Harbor. Each year thousands of fans take over the city of Baltimore dressed up (cosplay) as their favorite characters and attend video panels, workshops and get autographs from their favorite voice actors. This year marked 20 years of being in the Baltimore Convention Center and with that Otakorp announced that in 2017 the convention will be moving to a new home in Washington D.C. It is a little sad to leave our home in Baltimore but frankly we have just out grown our space.

Not everyone cosplays and it isn’t frowned upon if you don’t either, in fact, this was my first year dressing up! On Friday I went as a human version of the Ravenstag from the NBC show Hannibal and on Saturday I went has a human version of the 1967 Impala, known as Baby, on the CW hit series Supernatural. As the Impala I went to a fan run photo shoot and met a lot of Supernatural fans. So as you can see you don’t have to be a fan of anime to attend or dress up as an anime character, there were many Marvel and D.C. comic fans and television show fans sporting their costumes.

Anyone who watches the SyFy channel recently saw commercials of a new show called “Heroes of Cosplay” that aired last Tuesday. While the show is great please do not think that every cosplayer competes or strives for maximum accuracy as the show’s participants. Many fans cosplay for pure enjoyment. All of my friends cosplay because we love the characters so much and identify with them so it makes sense to take the love a step further and cosplay. It’s all for the fun of it. Who doesn’t love having someone ask for their picture while in costume? It’s recognition for your hard more and dedication to the character and that’s enough of a prize for many of us. The show has stated that cosplays are expensive and for those of us who don’t have the luxury of a well paying job just don’t have the money to spend our rent money on competition worthy cosplays.

But back to Otakon! I had so much fun this year, as I do every year, but this year was particularly better than the previous years because I finally was able to meet my friend, of 3 years, from Oklahoma. We met through the internet, and before you scream “red flag”, it was through a third party who actually knew her in person. He traveled to Oklahoma and met her and knew that we would get along too and introduced us. For 3 years we had talked about meeting and attending Otakon together but either because of the timing of the convention or lack of funds she wasn’t able to come, that all changed this year. She had so much fun that she has decided to come back next year, no matter what. Between that and people recognizing my cosplays I had a fantastic time this year and I’m super excited about the next year.

If you would like to learn more about Otakon you can check it out here.   The dates for next year have already been posted and if you are interested in getting a hotel room I would suggest to book one ASAP because the convention holds specials and those room go extremely fast. The convention is a little on the expensive side, however, you get your money’s worth because all 1.3 million square feet of the convention center is take up by Otakon and the connecting Hilton holds panels and workshops. There are also concerts which are included, all you need to do is show your Otakon badge.

Here are some photos that I took while at the con this year.

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Companion Leela and K-9 from Classic Doctor Who

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R2-D2 from Star Wars

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Castiel from Supernatural

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Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones

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Loki and Thor from The Avengers

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Will Graham and Hannibal Lector from NBC’s Hannibal

 

The Vampire Diaries: Stefan’s Diaries vol. 1 Origins

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The Vampire Diaries Stefan’s Diaries vol.1 Origins. YA Fiction. 237 pages. image found on google

I apologize for such a late review. I’ve been trying to read The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling and I’m finding it very hard to pick up.

“A love triangle that will span eternity…

The year is 1864 and the Civil War rages on. But seventeen-year-old Stefan Salvatore is fighting a battle all his own. Engaged to marry someone he does not love, Stefan falls for a mysterious girl named Katherine. With her gleaming curls and mischievous brown eyes, Katherine is beautiful and seduction…but she also harbors a dark secret: She’s a vampire.

Based on the popular CW TV show inspired by the bestselling novels, Stefan’s Diaries reveals what really happened between Stefan, Damon, and Katherine—and how the Vampire Diaries love triangle began.”

Summary from the back of the book.

Being a huge fan of the hit television series I absolutely had to read Stefan’s Diaries to find out more about the brother’s trouble past. I think every fan has their favorite brother, although mine isn’t Stefan, he plays a key role in Damon’s past and how he became the vampire he is in the books and the show. I initially thought the entire book was going to be written as journal entries but that is not the case. There are a few entries scattered throughout the book but for the most part it is a retelling of Stefan’s human life, how he met Katherine Pierce up until he is forced to turn his beloved brother into a vampire. In comparison to L.J. Smith’s Vampire Diaries series the narrative isn’t as strong and is a very easy read. However, putting that aside, it was a very interesting read because the single episode in which the back story of the Salvatore brothers was told seemed to give just enough information to satisfy the audience before returning to the original plot line. I enjoyed getting inside Stefan’s head and understanding why he acts the way he does in the show. What I found interesting, and I wish was mentioned in the show, was that he was originally propositioned by his father to marry a girl, Rosalyn, to create a business alliance with her father, a wealthy banker. Even though he didn’t love her he wanted to try to find the qualities within her personality that would make him fall for her. The show made it seem like he was completely obsessed with Katherine and thought of no other woman, or cared about anything else. This showed a side of Stefan that I think the fans would have loved to have seen and for die-hard fans of Damon would maybe sympathize more with Stefan. I do see him from a different light now but I still find Damon to be my favorite. Another thing about this book that I loved is that you see how much he truly loves his brother and how he strives to do his best to please his father and make him proud. No one can deny that Damon is the rebellious type and is very strong willed and we see that their father put more weight onto Stefan’s shoulders to be an upstanding citizen and heir to their estate. Even when Katherine enters their lives and flips everything upside down Stefan is still cautious about his actions and tries his hardest to still be a good son in his father’s eyes.

I recommend this book to the fans of the show since it follows the storyline more closely to the series more than the books. However, fans of the show who haven’t read the original books by L.J. Smith, I urge you to go and read them they are fantastic and will keep you up late to finish the books. My advice is to not read them on a school night but we all know how well that works out. This series is written by a ghost writer but if you do a basic search of The Vampire Diaries series it should come up with the results.

Also posted on Books with a Past

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Vampire Academy by Michelle Mead. YA Fiction. 332 pages. Image found on google

Vampire Academy by Michelle Mead. YA Fiction. 332 pages. Image found on google

“St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school–it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s–the very place where they’re most in danger. Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi–the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires–make Lissa one of them forever.”

Summary from author’s website, http://www.us.penguingroup.com/static/packages/us/yreaders/vampireacademy/home.html

I don’t love this book but I don’t hate it either. I did enjoy learning about the two vampire species and how they differ, the Moroi are vampires who can handle indirect sunlight and are connected to magic whereas the Strigoi are your stereotypical vampires. Both however need blood to survive the difference is the source. I loved that the author used dhampirs in her novel and that they play a pivotal role in the protection of the Moroi against the Strigoi, rather than dhampirs being outcasted and hunted. The characters were relatable and I found myself sympathizing with Rose. She is passionate about protecting her best friend Lissa and is willing to drop everything on a whim for her. However she is into the party scene and is no stranger to causing mischief on and off the campus. This is where we depart in our personalities, besides all of that who wouldn’t want a friend like Rose?

Now for the bad news, unfortunately, but I have to add my two cents. This book is set in an academy and thought that I would get away from drama. This book is full of high school level drama. I’ve graduated college and suddenly I was hit in the face with petty fights over boyfriend stealing and who is more popular. I’m not saying this book is awful, it is not in the slightest, but I felt that the fights in between plot driving moments were undisguised filler. Another reason I only liked this book is more of a personal reason and I do warn potential readers to this subject matter. Lissa, a Moroi princess, suffers from bouts of severe depression after using her specialized magic and cuts herself. Please be aware of this before purchasing this book for yourself or someone else. Someone very close to me used cutting as an outlet for their depression and it was painful and heartbreaking to watch. This wasn’t a huge portion of the book but the few times it happened it was hard to read. I would recommend this book for vampire lovers but please take inconsideration the subject matter I mentioned above. There are six books in the series, including this one, and I’m interested to see where the journey takes Lissa and Rose. According to Richelle Mead’s website there is going to be a movie adaptation of this novel set for release Feb. 14, 2014.

Also posted on http://bookswithapast.com/archives/531

Movie cover or original cover?

While browsing goodreads.com I stumbled upon a discussion asking whether people preferred to purchase books with the original cover art or the movie tie-in cover. The majority of  the comments agreed that the original cover was best and therefore they would purchase only the original cover art. Personally I don’t discriminate because the story behind the cover hasn’t changed, just the cover. How does the saying go? “Never judge a book by it’s cover.” One of the arguments on goodreads said that the original cover art is the artist’s interpretation of the content of the book, to which I agree but, to my understanding, the author has little to no say about the cover of their book. There are plenty of books out there that have a model posing on the front simply to grab the attention of a potential reader and having nothing to do with the main character or plot. I do agree that putting the actors on the front of the cover puts a face to the character in the book and prevents that reader to create their own image of the characters. I admit to imaging the actors when reading certain books, Harry Potter and Twilight, however I owned these books before the rumors of the movie adaptations and overtime these actors became the perfect image of the characters. For example, Alan Rickman, will always be Severus Snape for me, but I’m able to bounce back and forth between his image and the author’s description.

I don’t have a strong opinion on this matter but I can see both sides of the issue. My bookshelf is full of books with both covers. I read for the escape not for the cover art. Just my opinion. I would love to hear what you have to say, leave a comment below.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

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Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. Fiction. 256 pages. Image found on google.

R is having a no-life crisis—he is a zombie. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he is a little different from his fellow Dead. He may occasionally eat people, but he’d rather be riding abandoned airport escalators, listening to Sinatra in the cozy 747 he calls home, or collecting souvenirs from the ruins of civilization.

And then he meets a girl.

First as his captive, then his reluctant house guest, Julie is a blast of living color in R’s gray landscape, and something inside him begins to bloom. He doesn’t want to eat this girl—although she looks delicious—he wants to protect her. But their unlikely bond will cause ripples they can’t imagine, and their hopeless world won’t change without a fight.

Summary from the back of the book.

I never thought that I would fall for a zombie and R has captured my heart. I’ve only just recently become a fan of zombies. I mentioned in my review of World War Z that I watched The Walking Dead, all 3 seasons in 2 days, and as simple as that I was hooked. However I didn’t think I would care so passionately about R and the other zombies in this book. I would say that R is the zombie equivalent to Wall-E from the Pixar film. R is different from the other zombies inhabiting the abandon airport, he wants more out of life but he is the undead and unable to express himself other than grunts and moans. His inner monologues give us a unique insight into the life of a zombie and his worries and curiosities are so human. What I found so endearing was his collection of souvenirs that fill every space of his 747, which reminded me of Wall-E. I it found interesting how Marion gives new life to the contemporary myth. It is common knowledge that zombies eat brains but it’s never explained as to why that particular part of human anatomy is their prime target. R explains that when he consumes the brain of a human he gets all the memories of the person and it makes him feel alive, even if it’s only for a moment. Zombies also don’t smell humans the way that we smell each other, they smell the essence of life not sweat or blood and that the hunger hits them all over. The zombies also have created an imitation to the lives they use to have. The zombies have pushed the staircases that lead up to the planes into the shape of an amphitheater and call it a “church” where the Boneys “preach.” Needless to say that it’s nothing but groaning but they are trying to create a sort of semblance of the life they once lead. This is echoed by the living as they try to rebuild and create a sense of normalcy out of the apocalypse.

Julie is the human girl that R takes back to the airport after a hunting trip. She’s at first weary of R and keeps up her guard, she attempts to escape a few times but R rescues her each time. I love their relationship. It’s adorable. After Julie realizes that R isn’t going to hurt her, she starts to open up and relax around him. The humor in this book is genius. Teaching a zombie how to drive a car is hilarious and couldn’t stop laughing at the images floating through my head while reading. Julie also gets R drunk later and being a zombie certain bodily functions cease when turned, his inner monologue expresses his panic about not remembering how to go to the bathroom and among other things. He is a guy despite the fact of being a zombie and he likes Julie so of course he wonders if he could one day be intimate.

This book was a great read and I’m excited to hear about a possible sequel still in the works. I love this book and I’ve already lent my copy out to a friend after she heard me praising it. I do recommend this book for Teens and up. However do be aware of strong language and gore. R is a zombie and there are depictions of him eating humans and Julie and other humans swear throughout the book. If you are not a big zombie fan I urge you to give this book a chance, it’s a unique tale and it’s nothing what you expect.

I recently bought the movie and loved it (I’ve watched it at least 4 times this weekend). The movie follows the book pretty well, there are things omitted and changed, but I wasn’t upset with them. A very good movie adaptation and the actor playing R, Nicholas Hoult, did a fantastic job giving life to the character.

Also posted on http://bookswithapast.com/archives/506

Inferno by Dan Brown

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Inferno by Dan Brown. Fiction. 480 pages. Images found on google.

Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science. Drawing from Dante’s dark epic poem, Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust . . . before the world is irrevocably altered.

Summary from the author’s website, http://www.danbrown.com/inferno/

Our favorite Harvard Professor of Art History and Symbology is back!

Robert Langdon awakes to find himself in a hospital recovering from a concussion caused by a grazed bullet. When he glances out the hospital window he makes a startling discovery; he is in Florence, Italy.  Worse yet, he doesn’t remember how he got there. Events start to unravel fast as a woman clad in black leather shoots and kills one of the doctors attending to him. Sienna Brooks, the other attending physician, reacts fast and helps Robert escape the armed woman and the soldiers marching up the stairs. Suffering from retrograde amnesia Robert’s memories appear as flashes of disturbing images; legs protruding from the ground, hordes of dead people, mask of a plague doctor and a veiled silver haired woman telling Robert to “seek and find.” Hidden in a secret pocket in Langdon’s jacket is a tiny canister, inside is a Faraday pointer that projects La Mappa dell’Inferno by Sandro Botticelli. The painting is a tribute to Dante’s Inferno and depicts Dante’s travels through the nine circles of Hell. Langdon is quick to see that the painting has been altered and deciphering the message leads Sienna and Robert all over Florence. The disturbing codes are the work of a brilliant scientist who is deeply influenced by Dante and creates his own hell on Earth. Racing against the clock and the authorities Robert and Sienna dive head first into a raging inferno.

I absolutely love this book! This is, without a doubt, the best book in the Robert Langdon series yet! Being a fan of the previous novels in the series and the two standalone novels, Digital Fortress and Deception Point, I patiently awaited the arrival of this novel. I enjoyed learning more about Dante and his famous epic poem through the labyrinth of cryptic messages and codes. Having touched on The Divine Comedy when I was in school I was never fully immersed in his life or the true, or hidden, meanings of his work. It’s hard to grasp something so complex when you’re so young. Many of the art and architecture mentioned in the book that help guide Langdon on his journey of discovery I studied while in college. I recommend that as you read to search for the works of art, the author gives a detailed description of the artwork, however the pieces are stunning. This made it easier to picture in perfect detail the paintings or sculptures so I could try to piece together what was going to happen. I attempt but Langdon is always out smarts me. What I love about his novels is the journey through the historic cities and the suspenseful chase. The novel flows easily and is brimming with information but you are not weighed down by the facts. I recommend this novel to avid Dan Brown fans, you will not be disappointed! To those who are picking up a Dan Brown novel for the first time I suggest starting from the beginning of the Langdon series with Angels &Demons, but Inferno makes no references to the previous novels.

Review is also posted on http://bookswithapast.com/archives/485

Below are a few of my favorite works of art and architecture mentioned/visited in the book:

Hagia Sophia. 532-537

Hagia Sophia. 532-537

Hagia Sophia (Interior). 532-537

Hagia Sophia (Interior). 532-537

Il Duomo by Brunelleschi. 1446–1461

Il Duomo by Brunelleschi. 1446–1461

Ghiberti, Baptistery Northern Doors, 1401-1424

Gates of Paradise, Northern Doors by Ghiberti. 1401-1424