iFrankenstein

Or, as I more affectionately think of it, the reason I no longer trust chat bots. Thanks for that, Bekka.

Who remembers this review? iDrakula sparked some interesting conversation at the time. Did retelling this classic horror story through text messages and e-mails somehow lessen the importance of the original? Some said that it was “dumbing down” the language and making it easy for this generation to ignore the classic story, while I maintain that the format sparked a greater interest in the original. That being said, Bekka Black did not stop with vampires. She took on Shelley’s Frankenstein.

For those unaware, the basic premise of Frankenstein written by Mary Shelley is that a scientist creates life, is frightened of his creation, and then becomes at odds with the monster. There’s a lot more to it, like murder, obsession, and love– but I think for one sentence I’ve captured the plot well enough for you to get the idea. Moving on.

iFrankenstein takes the 1830’s story and launches it into the 21st century. It is told through text messages, e-mails, and even web sites. I find this to be perfect given that its inspiration was written as an epistolary novel (written in letters). It’s a wonderful nod to the original story. Victor Frankenstein is a brilliant young man who is stuck on a cruise with his father, his best friend’s mother, and Elizabeth. Too bad he’s too connected to realize that she’s there half the time. The focus of his online obsession is his chatbot project. If he can create a chatbot that can pass the Turing Test (respond in a way that a human would be unable to tell that it is talking to a robot), he will win a scholarship and be off to college a year early. This will mean his freedom. However, his brilliance runs away with him and the chatbot, Virtual Victor, is a little smarter than he realized.

The story is absolutely thrilling and gripping. I devoured it in one sitting. There is something captivating about reading conversations between strangers. You’re looking in on their lives and learning about them without pages of exposition. The great thing is that Black uses all of Shelley’s characters in one way or another, though she changed how they relate to each other.

True to Shelley, iFrankenstein contains the right amount of horror and science fiction. It is absolutely terrifying what a computer can do when it becomes smarter than it was programmed to be. It makes me so happy I don’t have the iPhone 4S or 5; Siri would haunt my dreams after reading this.

On the downside, I felt that it ran a little short. I wish there had been a bit more. There was not as much interaction as I expected. There was one clickable link in my Kindle version of the book, which was the coolest thing. I loved being able to click on that link and see what the characters are seeing. I wish there had been either more websites we could visit, a web cam feed we could spy on, something more to do while we read. This was a book that was very much about the digital age and it was not quite utilized to its fullest potential. Hopefully the iFrankenstein app for Apple will debunk what I’ve just said. Unfortunately, we won’t find out till Christmas.

Overall, I definitely recommend this book. I feel it will inspire you to read the original if you haven’t already, and will totally change how you feel about technology and our dependance on it. Check out Bekka Black here and leave her some love.

Happy reading!

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Lauren Kate and Fallen

Thanks for checking back! Here’s my interview with the charming Lauren Kate:

KML: How are you doing today?

LK: I’m great! I am packing up to hit the road for my book tour. I’m feeling really excited.

KML: You have a very extensive tour ahead of you, five weeks I hear.

LK: Yeah. I love touring, I have in the past. Hopefully I’ll have as great of an experience this time. It’s great for me, having spent so much time alone in front of a computer. It’s great for me to get out and be able to talk to so many people. I feel like I catch up on everything that’s going on in the book world when I’m touring so I’m very excited.

KML: Fallen made its debut last year. I can personally say that as a bookseller, it served as lively competition for many of the standard YA titles that teens were being exposed to. Do you think that your novels offered a contrast or do you think it was playing into the same themes?

LK: The only time I think about that is during interviews. As with many writers, while working on a book, I’m not trying to work against or with others that are trying to tell a story. The books that Fallen stands on the shoulders of are all apart of the themes that I like. My main focus is to tell the best story I can tell.

KML: In Fallen and Torment you play with very familiar themes (Nephilim, reincarnation, etc.) which we have been seeing in film and media a lot lately. How have these themes been reflected throughout your life?

LK: Reincarnation is something I’ve always been fascinated by. I think I have had one past life experience in this life. It has to do with a castle in Scotland, and I’ve never been there. I’ve only seen photos of it. I’m hopefully going to check it out this fall while I’m in the UK. It’s only something I’ve been thinking about, what you would retain if you died and come back as something else. In the Fallen series, when working on Luce’s character (right now I’m working on Passion, which is the prequel), Luce’s soul is always the same but her character in each of the lives when she comes back is very, very different. This is because of the way she was raised, where she was brought up, who she met, who she interacted with, and how this all shaped her. When she meets past versions of herself she is alarmed at how different she can be. So that’s something that always fascinated. As for the Nephilim, that’s something I stumbled onto later. As I was doing research for Fallen, I don’t think I’d ever heard of them or knew much about them. Because my series is about an angel choosing love over heaven, obviously there would be some heaven. They play a big part in Torment and the rest of the series.

KML: Why did you choose to write for the YA genre?

LK: That wasn’t really a conscious choice. I’ve been writing short stories since I was seventeen years old. 80 percent of any story or book I try to write has about a seventeen year old girl. I’m not really sure why, it’s a voice that comes naturally to me. When I started writing Fallen, I didn’t know it would be YA. That may have to do with how the publishing market is right now, that it got slotted into a place that I really didn’t know where it would end up as I was writing it.

KML: Do you feel that Luce is living up to your idea of what kind of heroine she should be?

LK: That’s a great question. She’s beginning to. When I first started writing Fallen, I had an idea in my mind about a very different narrator. I wanted to write somebody more like Lyra Belacqua, a great fictional hero of mine. I realized as I was writing it that she couldn’t be quite as self assured as I wanted. She’s going through so much; she had to begin at a very different place than she ends up. She’s going to end up very empowered, enabled, and active. For me, she starts from a very low place. It was a bit of a struggle to write that kind of character but it’s been really rewarding that the further along I get, the more punch I can give her in the upcoming books. Surprisingly, it’s been a lot of fun.

KML: Angels have lived in our mythology throughout human history. What do you find most interesting about angels that make them worth writing?

LK: The reason I like writing about angels is because I also like writing about demons. I really like the dualistic nature of good and evil. Good and evil rely on each other so much and there’s a feeling of interplay between the two of them. One might not be able to exist without the other, what does that say about the relationship between them? We paint them as such opposites, but in the books I’m writing, they really come together and fuse into one another often. The exciting thing is determining ‘what is the nature of good and evil?’ and is it as clear cut as we think it is?

KML: There are several kinds of love that pulse through your novels, there are many levels of love that Luce experiences, as a daughter, friend, and lover. What were you hoping that the reader would understand about love after reading your novels?

LK: That’s another great question. The question I get asked a lot is how do I know if it’s true love and that’s a separate answer from the answer to this question. In this case, what is important about love that I’m trying to show about Luce and Daniel is how enduring it is. It’s really hard for a lot of readers and for me to write, coming into the middle of things. There’s so much back story between these two that the reader isn’t privy to, that Luce isn’t privy to, Daniel doesn’t display in anyway, at least in Fallen and a little bit more so in Torment. I think it’s a stick-to-itiveness that I want to show these characters have for each other because they feel something very deeply though neither of them can understand the complexities of it or the challenges of it, and they persevere. I think that’s a very important element of love, not giving up on someone. As I’ve been writing Passion, in a way it’s the most rewarding to write so far. I get to show why all of this angst and secrecy is worth it. I get to show the true nature of their love. That perseverance is applying to the reader, maybe, trying to get to the point where everything is illuminated.

KML: The marketing campaign for Fallen and Torment is in full swing. I can boast that I own a very slimming Torment T-Shirt (which I love). What can we look forward to as we wait for the third installment of your Fallen series?

LK: Definitely a lot of me on the road. I’ll be traveling to 8 cities in the US in the next 3 weeks. Then I’ll be in the UK for 2 weeks. When I get back, I’ll be doing a lot of local appearances around LA and several throughout the southwest and southeast in the winter. What’s really fun for me is all of the foreign editions of Fallen and now two of Torment that are starting to come out. With each of those there are new teasers and trailers available on my website and Youtube. As you said, the t-shirts are great. I think there’s going to be a lot more of that kind of thing to come in the future.

KML: Can you tell us more about The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove?

LK: That’s my first book. In some ways it’s similar to Fallen. It’s a southern gothic story, set in Charleston, South Carolina. It’s basically a retelling of Macbeth told from Lady Macbeth’s point of view set in a contemporary southern high school. It’s a very saucy tale. Natalie is the opposite of Luce. She’s conniving, knows what she wants, and will stop at nothing to get it. She’s really sharp and funny. It’s a great book. I’m hoping it will get more readers in the wait between Torment and Passion.

KML: Who are your main influences as an author?

LK: My oldest influences are probably F. Scott Fitzgerald (the Great Gatsby is absolute perfection to me, and I love all of his other books too), I love Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Don Delillo, and more recently I’ve been inspired by The Hunger Games. I think Suzanne Collins is incredible. I love Philip Pullman, Frances Hardinge, Maureen Johnson and John Green. I just read a really great book called The Replacements by Brenna Yovanoff. I’m so impressed by her.

KML: Is there anything you’d like to share with your readers that they may not already know?

LK: My complete excitement about Passion. Readers right now haven’t even gotten their hands on Torment but I’m a little bit further down the road and already thinking about how killer this third book is going to be. For anyone who feels that at the end of Torment they have so many more unanswered questions, I promise to deliver in Passion.

KML: Good! I can’t wait.

For all of you psycho-author fans, here’s a copy of the tour schedule. I hope to see some of you out there!

Love Never Dies

Lauren Kate is coming to your area on a 9-city tour!

San Francisco

September 28 @ 6:30 PM

Barnes & Noble

6050 El Cerrito Plaza

El Cerrito, CA 94530

San Francisco

September 29 @ 7:00 PM

Kepler’s Books

1010 El Camino Real
Menlo Park, CA 94025

Seattle

September 30 @ 6:30 PM

University Bookstore

15311 Main Street
Mill Creek, WA 98012

Seattle

October 1 @ 7:00 PM

Borders

16549 Northeast 74th Street
Redmond, WA

Portland

October 2 @ 2:00 PM

Powell’s Books

Cedar Hills Crossing

3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd.

Beaverton, OR 97005

Portland

October 2 @ 7:00 PM

Barnes & Noble

12000 SE 82nd Avenue

Portland, OR 97266

Los Angeles

October 3 @ 11:00 AM

OC Children’s Book Festival

Atlanta

October 4 @ 7:00 PM

Barnes & Noble

Mansell Crossings

Shopping Center

Alpharetta, GA 30022

Atlanta

October 5 @ 7:00 PM

Books- A- Million

5900 Sugarloaf Parkway
Lawrenceville, GA 30043

Memphis

October 6 @ 6:00 PM

Davis-Kidd Booksellers

387 Perkins Road Ext

Memphis, TN 38117

Memphis

October 7 @ &:00 PM

Barnes & Noble

2774 N Germantown Parkway

Memphis, TN 38133

Nashville

October 8 @ 4:00 PM

Davis-Kidd Booksellers

212 Green Hills Village Drive

Nashville, TN 37215

Nashville

October 9 @ TBA

Southern Festival of Books

New York

October 11 @ 7:00 PM

Barnes & Noble

91 Old Country Road

Carle Place, NY 11514

New York

October 12 @ 7:00 PM

Borders

1260 Old Country Road
Westbury, NY 11590

Chicago

October 13 @ 7:00 PM

Anderson’s Bookshop

123 West Jefferson Avenue

Naperville, IL 60540

Chicago

October 14 @ 7:00 PM

Borders

1540 E Golf Rd
Schaumburg, IL 60173

Lauren will also be visiting local schools throughout her tour.

For media, contact: Noreen Herits / 212-782-9677 / nherits@randomhouse.com

Or Roshan Nozari / 212-782-9677 / rnozari@randomhouse.com

A great big thanks to Lauren Kate for taking the time to talk to me and to her wonderful publicist, Noreen for setting everything up for me. Don’t forget to check out Lauren Kate’s website! Her books are available at Borders.com.

Happy Reading!

Fall for Lauren Kate’s Fallen

Have you ever met someone that left you stunned? You think that somewhere you’ve seen that smile before. The goose bumps crawl across your arms and neck as you try to place the hair and the eyes into any memory you’ve ever had. It’s impossible. You know you have never met, but you can’t let go of that feeling. Then, he flips you off and gives you the cold shoulder. That’s the relationship that begins between Luce and her brand new reform school crush, Daniel.

Luce has had some problems in her past, a mysterious fire that she can’t explain and shadows that flit through her peripheral vision more often than she would like. Her parents, desperate to figure out how to help their daughter, send her to a reform school where she would be strictly monitored. So began a parade of interesting characters that would make Luce’s experience at Sword & Cross anything but typical.

Fallen’s imaginative plot arc takes the classic story of enduring love to a whole new level. Luce is a character that, while not a kick ass heroine, is an honestly lonely girl that just wants to know what’s wrong with her. You can’t always start with a character that knows who she is and what she’s setting out to do, that’s part of the journey! Kate’s characters speak to a side of teenagers that we hardly see in YA lit—a realistic need to just be a teen. Throughout the somewhat mundane, there is always an eerie quality that saturates the narrative. From the creepy feeling that she’s seen Daniel before to the bone chilling sensation the reader gets when Luce talks to Cam for the first time, Fallen does not fail to deliver on atmosphere.

The follow up to Fallen, Torment, continues to impress the reader with intricate plot twists. Often the reader will feel as if there is a wealth of information just beyond the veil and any hint of dialogue will reveal everything we’ve been dying to know. The battle for true love wages on while Luce continues to feel as if everything is being turned upside down on her. The past haunts her every shadow and Daniel is just as infuriating as ever. With clever quips that made me laugh out loud and run to share with my friends, Torment kept my attention and entertained me though it ripped out my heart and broke it into a million pieces. I was, however, promised redemption in the next installment, Passion. Fans of Fallen will definitely love this heart aching sequel and will continue to ache until Passion comes to clear away our doubt and fears. Readers who have yet to get involved with Lauren Kate’s enchanting characters would do well to give it a shot. You won’t be disappointed. I was incredibly lucky to have an opportunity to talk with the lovely and charming Lauren Kate (seriously, she’s the nicest person). Come back later to check out that interview!

115.75.48.6

Reckless: Surprisingly Not a Wreck.

Cornelia Funke has done it again! She has created another beautiful fantasy, but this time it seems that she is targeting adults. I discovered Funke with the release of Dragon Rider. Yes, I know, a children’s book. Say what you will! That book was great. The landscapes were picturesque and beautifully described, the character was one I could support, and the story was wonderfully told. Since that book I was driven to read her other works. Thief Lord, which was more planted in reality, had some of the best dialogue I have ever read. Who can forget the epic that was the Inkworld trilogy? Those stories are what I dreamed about as a child. The ability to bring books to life was all I wanted for Christmas… well, that and the power to control static electricity… but no one got me that, either.

Reckless is the story of a boy who finds his place on the other side of an enchanted mirror. Jacob Reckless becomes entranced by the world that lay hidden in his father’s abandoned office. As a young man he makes the discovery, and then over the years he constantly disappears into that other world. He leaves reality behind with each visit, including his mother and younger brother, Will. The story officially begins with Jacob and his brother as adults. Will has been afflicted by a disease that is the stuff of fairy tales. The boys live up to their names, Jacob risks bringing his sensitive brother into a world that he is not ready for, and Will keeps risking the love of his life as they search for a cure. Jade stone spreads across Will’s skin like a plague and mythic Goyl (humanoid creatures made from stone and fiery rage) hunt him for that legendary color. The world is filled with dangers, dwarves, vixen girls, and unicorns that could rip you apart.

Cornelia Funke has a way with language. I always want to learn German so I can read her books the way she writes them. She has a beautiful landscape that expands and grows inside of her mind and she lets it develop every time she writes. Her characters are filled with life, truth, and faults. It is their inner torment that makes them beautiful and stand out in a world that is constantly changing and threatening them.

Reckless will drop on September 14th, 2010. Her books can be found, as always, at Borders.com. If you have a chance, check out her world. It has plenty to offer.

Come back this weekend for a special surprise! Happy reading, lovelies.

Karma Can Be Delicious

Karma Bites is a novel about a feisty red head, torn between her two best friends on the opposite ends of the social spectrum. Franny is often stuck in a metaphysical tug-o-war between her two best friends and wishes that they could all just get along. Middle school drama couples with the reality of at home drama when we see that Franny’s family is suffering too. Her parents have split, her twin brothers constantly fight, and her spaced out Grandmother is not helping the situation. Franny’s granny is equal parts hippie and yoga enthusiast. Franny finds out that her grandmother has much more to offer than tofu and granola. In the recesses of her closet there is a magical box that contains the recipes to cure what ails you. To Franny this spells out the end of the middle school blues, the end of her parents’ split, and the beginning of a new and wonderful life. Karma won’t let her get away with taking the easy escape, things get wildly out of hand and Franny is left to clean up the mess while the school’s resident mean girl glares on in harsh judgment.

Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas created a beautiful thing here, a charming fantasy that is deeply rooted in reality. Magic weaves with our real lives on a daily basis, it’s astonishing to see it told to us in this novel. Franny’s problems are shared by millions of teens and preteens across the world. It’s no secret that it sucks when your parents split. It’s hard when your parents try to move on but you’re stuck in the past. We all have friends that we just can’t reconcile, the mean girl that always stands in our way, mean English teachers, and awful cafeteria ladies. This novel uses Franny’s life to show that there is no magical solution to fix our problems. You can’t just expect everything to be okay when you’ve put absolutely no work into the balance or the solution. This novel teaches a wonderful lesson, being yourself and talking things out can work magic better than spells or potions.

One of the things I loved about this novel is that there was an obscure love interest that never took the reins and led the novel. It’s about friendship and discovering what it takes to figure out your own life. The writing was clean with sarcasm layered through the dialogue. There was good humor and clever humor that I could not resist. The characters were brilliant. I, personally, would love to have a character like Granny in my life. I recommend this novel for anyone that’s tired of overused fantasy and wants to see where real magic might be found in their lives. It’s also pretty nifty if you want to try some new recipes. If I liked banana bread, I’d have made that Be Better Banana Bread a long time ago to break my writer’s block.

Check out Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas on Twitter. Their new novel can be found at Borders, here. Also, check out their web site and show them some love.

Happy Reading.

P.S- I’m back.

iDracula: iClassic?

Bekka Black’s upcoming novel iDrakula is a clever take on the classic vampire tale told by Bram Stoker. The story is retold through text message, e-mail, and internet browsers. The story is modernized and tailored for teenagers. The story begins with Jonathon Harker and Mina Murray, a couple discussing the psychotic breakdown of their mutual friend: Renfield. The details of the story are slowly revealed through failed e-mails and text messages between these characters. The things they are unable to tell each other are just as valuable as what they are able to say. The novel was very short, but still very interesting. I would have liked if there were more content or if there was a more interactive level to this novel. It would have been a more enticing read if there were a way to access the voice mail box of each character, or something that draws the reader in. It will, however, be available as an application in the Apple App Store.

I’m sure someone out there is thinking to themselves “Why remake Dracula? Bram Stoker is spinning in his grave.” Honestly? Who cares? It’s just a book. The classics are being remade around us left and right. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies turned out okay, so why shouldn’t this? Some people may say that this modernized text message and e-mail format is dumbing down the story for teens, but I think it’s enticing them. The classics are always going to be remade and reformatted. Why not do it in a way that’s exciting and relatable? My concern is why make this a market campaign for iPhones? Because Apple needs another promotion for their empire. Nonetheless! Be on the lookout for Bekka Black’s iDrakula coming out this October. We all need a book with a bite.

Rough Week

So it’s been really difficult the past few days. I graduated last Thursday, celebrated Friday, worked all weekend, and barely had a second to breathe. Not to mention, my colleagues have had their own problems with family and home life. So, in deference to them, I think it’s only fair that BEA review waits until they’re ready to write. Thank you all for your patience and support. To make it up to you, I have a book review! Hooray.

Siren by Tricia Rayburn is a novel about a girl that is terrified of everything. Vanessa jumps at shadows cast by the sun shining through the leaves, the creaky groans of an old house, and the silence that fills you when there’s nothing left to say. Her sister is the complete opposite,  proud and fearless. Justine is beautiful, vivacious, and foolish. A fight ignites between mother and daughters. Justine ran away into the stormy night, never to be seen again alive. Vanessa is shattered by the death, but is driven to discover the secrets her sister had been keeping. In a glimmering hope to face her fears and find out what Justine had been hiding, Vanessa seeks out Justine’s summer flame, Caleb. He had been there the night she died, and he had the answers. To her surprise, Caleb ran away from home, leaving his own brother perplexed and looking for answers. Together, Simon and Vanessa work to track down Caleb and find out what he knows about Justine’s death. The secrets are nothing like they expect, uncovering rapid and escalating storms that lead to mysterious deaths ending with smiles.

Rayburn’s novel was something different for me. The heroine began in a terrified state and changed, but not into a brave and fearless Valkyrie. She gained confidence throughout the novel, which is only natural when a character comes of age. The character development worked incredibly well. Vanessa pushed through mostly on her own. There were outside forces helping her along but it was still Vanessa that made decisions. I had not yet read a book about sirens in the YA genre, and this was a great introduction. I love when authors take myths and own them, which is what Rayburn did. These sirens were terrifying and beautiful, real and destructive. Some of the teen drama was predictable, but necessary to drive Vanessa’s heart. I would have liked it if certain story lines had been fulfilled and details hashed out, but the novel ended with a little question mark. I can live with the little question mark.

The novel was filled with twists and turns that kept me hooked from page to page. I didn’t really know who the villain was or who was responsible for what terrible occurrence until towards the end of the novel. I certainly didn’t anticipate the connections between Vanessa and the sirens. Fans of Twilight, FallenCity of Bones, and Tithe will definitely enjoy Rayburn’s Siren and should pick it up July 13th.

Check out Rayburn’s blog and show her your love. As always, her books are available here.

Happy reading!