Review: ‘Hannah Vogel’ series by Rebecca Cantrell

In honor of “A Time of Night and Fog“, which is a re-release of the “Hannah Vogel” series by Rebecca Cantrell in one e-book, I would like to revisit these stunning books and their unique heroine.  (The author generously sent me an ARC of “A City of Broken Glass” in exchange for an honest review of the entire series.)

It is a challenge to summarize what makes this series the best historical fiction series on the market today because each book has so many merits.  Cantrell’s ability to fashion a female character, one who exhibits vulnerability and strength in equal measure while maintaining her femininity and humanity amid complete chaos, is unparalleled among the modern adult literature I’ve read.  Hannah Vogel’s characteristics are not incredible; in fact, it is how realistic she is that contributes to the power of this series.  The World War II references are well researched, and the author adds detailed layer upon layer in her settings until the reader feels like he/she is walking in pre-war Berlin alongside Hannah, breathing the same smoggy air.  I was and am still floored by how intellectual and profound these books are during every single perusal.  The author truly understands her characters and knows exactly how to write them out so that others can be fully submerged in the world she introduces — the revolutionary state of Nazi Germany.  She has created some of the best supporting characters of all time, like good-natured Anton and complicated, conflicted Lars.  There really are not enough words to describe how much I admire and recommend this series.

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You can read all my reviews for the “Hannah Vogel” series at my book blog, Around the Bend of the Book.

Review of “iFrankenstein” by Bekka Black

Reading Bekka Black’s iDrakula changed my life.  It opened me to two whole new series of novels that are now my favorites.  Naturally, the minute I opened iFrankenstein, Black’s latest addition to her iMonsters series, two things happened: 1) I read her retelling of the classic in one sitting, my eyes glued to my PDF reader; 2) I became immediately fascinated by the world of Frankenstein and what the original novel represents as a whole.

iFrankenstein is uncommonly inventive and shrewd.  The minute I realized the author’s modern twist on the horrific creation by the young genius protagonist, I had to smile.  First, the author planted a fascinating idea in her novel, reminiscent of the thriller plot in the 2008 film Eagle Eye.  Victor Frankenstein is no longer a very young scientist in training in the midst of an eighteenth-century Swiss backdrop — he’s a teenage tech whiz on holiday with his parents, simultaneously developing a computerized, self-sufficient chat machine that’s alive only on the Internet.  Or so he thinks.  However, his electronic creation quickly becomes a technological terror that threatens the lives of his best friends Henry Clerval and Elizabeth Lavenza.  But how can you stop an out-of-control computer program from destroying your life?

The European cruise, with Iceland as its penultimate destination, cuts the story to a time period of about a week.  This is a suspenseful change, as Shelley’s tale spans nearly a decade.  Victor himself is an American tourist, Elizabeth is a close best friend, and Henry makes a bold comrade-in-arms.  The romantic twist is insightful, as is the reason for Henry’s special empathy for V.V.   Black’s main characters are very human and recognizable, their plight and family problems serving as a helpful, realistic standpoint in order to make the incredible a more plausible theory for today’s audience.

Unlike in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this Frankenstein monster has no feelings at all.  From the moment of its existence, there is absolutely no reason to even sympathize with this cold-blooded, “pure energy” mechanism.  The e-monster Frankenstein, “V.V.”, has no emotion — it is incapable of human sentiment.  Like the computer system in Eagle Eye, V.V. is unleashed for initially helpful purposes.  Unfortunately, the program’s creator unwisely ignores the possibility that an automated device could gain unbridled power over the dependence human society has on electronic communication.  The result is absolute chaos.  V.V. is a terrorist without a conscience or any morals, inflicting pain and selfish judgment on its creator purely because it has grown too strong and self-reliant as an online entity.  I had compassion for the monster’s neglect at the hands of Victor Frankenstein in the original, but Black makes the good and bad sides in her version of the story as clear as transparent glass.  Victor still has his faults, but the e-monster is never abandoned or rebuked; it simply turns into a vision of pure evil on its own, mercilessly wreaking havoc without any real motives for its newfound “hatred.”  Furthermore, the perplexing idea of creation and the responsibility surrounding such an act is, ironically, even more dangerous now (and deadlier) than Shelley ever imagined.  Especially the way this Frankenstein monster could be immortal as well.

Swift and determined, the plot of iFrankenstein has the power to completely capture your attention from the moment you scroll through the Interpol investigator’s mysterious preface until the novel’s even more mysterious ending.  All events are detailed by journalistic iPhone entries in the form of text messages, emails, and web browsing.  As a sequel to iDrakula, iFrankenstein proudly ups the artistic stakes (no pun intended) by including snapshots of selected paintings and quotes.  Just like with its iMonster predecessor, I had a thrilling time from beginning to finish with this visual roller coaster of dark, albeit scintillating amusement.

Natalie Gorna

[NOTE: An endless “thank you” to Ms. Rebecca Cantrell, a.k.a. Bekka Black, for sending me a special ARC e-book copy of iFrankenstein prior to its release — I was honored to be its first reader!]

Brooding on Frankenstein

It’s been almost a month since I last posted here.  During that time, things have obviously happened.  No, nothing big — no major changes in my life, which is sad.  But I’ve read new things, seen new things, and heard new things, which changes a person minimally, but the difference is still there.

I’ve been fiddling around with Goodreads and my reading list, both of which are expanding nicely.  Meaning I definitely will read circa 25 books for 2012, some of which I didn’t expect to pick up.  One of them was Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.  It’s always been on my to-read list, but I never considered going through it until…one of my favorite authors, Rebecca Cantrell (a.k.a. Bekka Black), asked me about reviewing iFrankenstein, her upcoming novel.  I felt very flattered that not only did she want me to read her book and asked me personally if I’d like to review it, but she also made me the first reviewer in the WORLD to read through an e-book ARC of iFrankenstein.  Obviously, I just had to dive into the original afterwards, because…iFrankenstein was so amazing that I read through 200 pages in one sitting (my review will be posted here promptly on the novel’s release date!).

The moment I opened Frankenstein, I knew I’d found another writer to admire.  Mary Shelley’s language and the formulation of her thoughts in print are mind-blowing.  I mean, this lady had no formal education and no actual experience as a writer, but she wrote her novel like a professor with doctorates in several subjects.

As Shelley pointed out, although humans still dream of scientifically finding out what is the very essence of life and the process of creation (they’ve already tried cloning), humanity could never handle the responsibility of creation.  Look at Dr. Frankenstein (though he’s never referred to in the novel as a “doctor” — did he even graduate from university?): he is driven by his desire to uncover scientific secrets and the mysteries of the universe, but when he arrives at the answers, he’s ultimately horrified by where his discoveries have taken him.  To my horror, he abandons his helpless creation, the “monster” Frankenstein, and runs away from his responsibility to guide his unwanted “child.”  And he doesn’t feel guilty about this at all.  The only thing he feels guilty about is creating the monster in the first place.

As for Frankenstein the monster, he is NOT a monster.  Like his creator, he is driven to certain actions, although murder was too extreme to be credible, in my opinion.  He was disregarded by the very being who made him and brought him to life, not to mention rebuked and scorned by every living person he meets.  It’s very brutal, the way everyone judges Frankenstein based on his looks before he even says one word to them.  As Alex Flinn mentioned in Bewitching, somehow people automatically associate ugliness with evil and beauty with good…and they take this assertion for granted.  Plato would say this is a logical deduction, but…human nature makes everything on earth more complicated.  Especially when you’re distinguishing between the surface and what lies beneath.  The essence of a person, that is to say.  Frankenstein was modeled in the shape of a human, and his soul was human too.  But his character was shaped by neglect and rejection.  Would a normal human have acted in a different way after such experiences as Frankenstein had?

Victor Frankenstein…I can sympathize with what happens to him after his mistake, but he is so…whiny…spoiled…and he complains so much.  Also, I couldn’t understand how this scientist could not have noticed Frankenstein’s physical appearance when he was putting him together.  It’s just so incredible, that this highly intelligent student could have been so blind and so obtuse in regards to his occupation and his objective.  Which is why I’m sorry about how he loses all those whom he loves, but not his personal suffering.  Victor is a very selfish being.  And by ignoring the outcome of his experiment, the result of his studying, he causes pain and anguish for all those connected to him.  Did he not even consider the repercussions of trying to be God?

iFrankenstein is…a biting and eye-catching twist on the story.  Of course, it’s set in modern times.  But…well, let’s just say the novel reminded me of the film Eagle Eye.  No more details, though…I’m bound to silence.  But you’ll hear all about it very, very soon… 😉

Naturally, there’s always more to say, more to write…and believe me, once I finally break the chains of this writer’s block, I’ll be live here on my blog more often. 🙂

Natalie Gorna