Monday, September 3, 2012

In My Mailbox/Mailbox Monday


In My Mailbox is a book meme hosted by The Story Siren. Mailbox Monday is a floating meme created by The Printed Page. This month, Mailbox Monday is hosted by BookNAround.

This week, I received two books from Harlequin as part of their Tell Harlequin Reader Panel program. The first is More Than He Expected (Harlequin Desire) by Andrea Laurence, and the other is Impossible to Resist (Harlequin Desire) by USA Today bestselling author Janice Maynard. Impossible To Resist is part of the Men of Wolff Mountain series. Usually, I'm more of a Nocturne or Harlequin Historical gal, but I've enjoyed books from the Desire line in the past, and Impossible To Resist looks particularly interesting. 

Items described on The Muse Reviews may have been provided free of charge in exchange for an impartial review. Please refer to the Disclaimer for details.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Muse News: Banned Books Week Update


Re-posted from Shelf Awareness:

This year's Banned Books Week will once again feature an Internet Readout on YouTube as its centerpiece.

Read more at: Banned Books Week Update

Items described on The Muse Reviews may have been provided free of charge in exchange for an impartial review. Please refer to the Disclaimer for details.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Book Review: The Orphanmaster by Jean Zimmerman

Product Details
Reading level: Ages 18 and up
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Viking Adult (June 19, 2012)
ISBN-10: 0670023647
ISBN-13: 978-0670023646

The Muse Reviews Rating: 2 Laurels

Publisher's Description:

From a debut novelist, a gripping historical thriller and rousing love story set in seventeenth-century Manhattan

It’s 1663 in the tiny, hardscrabble Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, now present-day southern Manhattan. Orphan children are going missing, and among those looking into the mysterious state of affairs are a quick-witted twenty-two-year-old trader, Blandine von Couvering, herself an orphan, and a dashing British spy named Edward Drummond.

Suspects abound, including the governor’s wealthy nephew, a green-eyed aristocrat with decadent tastes; an Algonquin trapper who may be possessed by a demon that turns people into cannibals; and the colony’s own corrupt and conflicted orphanmaster. Both the search for the killer and Edward and Blandine’s newfound romance are endangered, however, when Blandine is accused of being a witch and Edward is sentenced to hang for espionage. Meanwhile, war looms as the English king plans to wrest control of the colony.

Jean Zimmerman brings New Amsterdam and its surrounding wilderness alive for modern-day readers with exacting period detail. Lively, fast paced, and full of colorful characters, The Orphanmaster is a dramatic page-turner that will appeal to fans of Hilary Mantel and Geraldine Brooks.

Historian Jean Zimmerman’s debut novel, The Orphanmaster, opens with two murders which take place on the same October day in 1663, thousands of miles apart. The first: one of the regicides responsible for the execution of Charles I of England who escaped to Switzerland after Charles II regained the throne. The second: an eight-year-old African-American orphan, Piddy Gullee, who lives on Manhattan Island in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. The two murders appear unconnected and this is where the myriad problems of this novel begin.

In the first few chapters, the audience is introduced to The Orphanmaster’s principle cast: 22-year-old Blandine van Couvering, a “she-merchant” who hopes to make a name for herself by trading with the local Native Americans for valuable beaver pelts; her servant, a seven-foot-tall freed slave named Antony; Edward Drummund, a former English soldier turned spy whose job it is to locate the remaining regicides so they can be executed; Martyn Hendrickson, the debauched youngest son of New Amsterdam’s wealthiest family; and Aet (prounounced “eat”) Visser, the orphanmaster who, in addition to taking charge of the colony’s orphans and finding them foster homes, also imports orphaned children from Europe to work as indentured servants in the wealthy households of New Amsterdam.

Slowly – and I do mean slowly, because the pacing of The Orphanmaster is closer to stereo instructions than a mystery novel – Ms. Zimmerman builds links between the disparate characters. Piddy Gullee and several other murdered orphans are connected to Aet Visser who is associated with Blandine, one of his former charges. Blandine is tied to the African community through Antony and through her friendships with two women, Mally and Lace, with whom she escaped after being captured by raiding natives. Since the local sheriff can’t be bothered to investigate a few missing orphans, especially Africans, Mally and Lace call upon Blandine for help. Their connection to Edward Drummand is formed through a budding romance between him and Blandine.

Over the course of 400+ pages, Ms. Zimmerman drags out the “mystery” of the murdered orphans. There are several suspects, including Blandine who is accused of witchcraft, Aet Visser, whose moral compass doesn’t always point north, and the witika – more commonly known as a wendigo – a cannibalistic Native American demon that infects its victims with a pathological desire to consume human flesh. The biggest problem is that the reader knows the identity of the killer halfway through the book. The rest is filler. The Orphanmaster could have been 200 pages shorter without losing anything. Instead, Ms. Zimmerman overloads the reader with inconsequential and occasionally annoying historical details while neglecting frivolous matters such as pacing or character development.

Does the audience really need to know that “groot kamer” is the Dutch phrase for “great room”? Ms. Zimmmerman seems to think we do because she hammers her audience with it at every opportunity. And if you were hoping for a multifaceted villain with complex motivations, you’ll be disappointed. Ms. Zimmerman interrupts a scene that should have ramped up the tension for her novel’s climax to treat the reader to a page-and-a-half of info dump to cover her killer’s backstory.

Overall, The Orphanmaster reads more like a dry history book than the “gripping historical thriller” it claims to be. Unless you’re a history buff who enjoys novels laden with trivia, you may want to skip this book. At best, check The Orphanmaster out from the library and save your money for Starbucks. You’ll need the caffeine.

Items described on The Muse Reviews may have been provided free of charge in exchange for an impartial review. Please refer to the Disclaimer for details.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Book Review: Enticed By His Forgotten Lover by Maya Banks

Product Details

Mass Market Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Harlequin; First Edition edition (September 6, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0373731205
ISBN-13: 978-0373731206

The Muse Reviews Rating: 2.5 Laurels

Publisher's Description

"Have we met?"

Answer: a right hook! Because Bryony Morgan pulls no punches. Even when she's very pregnant and facing down the father of her unborn child. She fell for wealthy hotelier Rafael de Luca when he courted her for her beachfront real estate. Then he disappeared. Now, she's in New York for answers--and she won't accept a brush-off.

But selective amnesia after a crash has Rafael puzzled. How could he ever forget a combustible beauty like Bryony? Solution: return to the island where they met, and relive the unforgettable nights in question--until he remembers everything...

Thanks to amnesia caused by an airplane accident, Rafael de Luca can't remember the fiery, dark-haired beauty who just decked him with a wicked right hook at his own party. But Bryony Morgan certainly remembers him. It's hard to forget the man who seduced and left her four months earlier. Especially when she's carrying his unborn child.

Rafael isn't sure he believes Bryony's claim that he promised not to build a luxury hotel on the beachfront property she sold him. He's even less sure that he's the father of her child. But he can't deny that sparks fly whenever he gets close to her. What's a guy to do? Rafael is determined to return to the private island and retrace his steps until he regains his memory.

I received Enticed By His Forgotten Lover by New York Times bestselling author Maya Banks through the Harlequin Ambassadors program. Enticed By His Forgotten Lover is part of the Pregnancy & Passion series from  Harlequin Desire. This type of romance isn't my usual fare - I typically prefer Harlequin's paranormal line, Nocturne. But I couldn't resist a heroine like Bryony who, despite her pregnancy, doesn't pull punches (literally!) and isn't afraid to speak her mind.

Unfortunately, I felt the character of Rafael was not sufficiently developed. Maya Banks makes a point of establishing Rafe as a ruthless and occasionally unscrupulous businessman. Yet she also goes out of her way to drive home the fact that he is acting completely out of character by accepting Bryony's claims based on a gut feeling rather than hard evidence.  Even his friends think he's lost his mind.

As much as I wanted to love this book, I had a hard time suspending my disbelief. I would have liked for Ms. Banks to create a stronger motivation for Rafe's decision to trust Bryony and return to the island with her. His interest felt more like idle curiosity than a driving need to fill in the missing parts of his memory. Love conquers all is great if it's earned, but I felt like Rafe and Bryony didn't have to work hard enough for their happy ending.

Readers who like stories about estranged couples rekindling their relationships will probably enjoy  Enticed By His Forgotten Lover.  However, this book just wasn't for me.

Items described on The Muse Reviews may have been provided free of charge in exchange for an impartial review. Please refer to the Disclaimer for details.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Muse News: Cool Idea of the Day: 12/12/12


Whether we're reading as many as 100 books in a year or as few as 20 debut authors in our favorite genres, book bloggers and our readers are no strangers to book challenges.If you're new to this type of yearly meme or if you've always been daunted by the number of books you're called upon to read, here's an easy introductory challenge to help you get your feet wet.

Cool Idea of the Day: 12/12/12

Items described on The Muse Reviews may have been provided free of charge in exchange for an impartial review. Please refer to the Disclaimer for details.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Muse News: Literary Locavores: Booksellers As Publishers


How cool is this? I don't know of any bookstores in my area who are getting into the publishing business. However, we do have a couple of book publishers in the area - one for textbooks, a Christian book publisher and a literary press associated with one of the local universities. Are there any booksellers in your area who are breaking into publishing?

Literary Locavores: Booksellers As Publishers

Items described on The Muse Reviews may have been provided free of charge in exchange for an impartial review. Please refer to the Disclaimer for details.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays from The Muse Reviews

Items described on The Muse Reviews may have been provided free of charge in exchange for an impartial review. Please refer to the Disclaimer for details.
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