Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Muse News: Anne McCaffrey Has Died

A legend has passed. Anne McCafrey's Dragonriders of Pern series was one of my earliest experiences with science fiction and helped fuel my love of the genre. Blessed journey, Anne. You will be missed.

Anne McCaffrey Has Died - GalleyCat

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, November 1, 2011

Happy Birthday, Lupa!

Lupa modeling her Red Riding Hood ceremonial costume

Natal felicitations to Lupa, my friend and author of A Field Guide to Otherkin, DIY Totemism, Skin Spirits, and Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic.  Lupa is an environmental activist who practices therioshamanism and reviews books at The Green Wolf.  She is also an artist who creates ritual tools such as antler runes, fur pouches, and sacred jewelry.  The photo above is just one example of the stunning wearable art available on her Etsy page.

Lupa recently finished her fifth book, Neopagan Totemism.

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.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Book Review: Applewood by Brendan P. Myers

Hardcover: 234 pages
Publisher: By Light Unseen Media (May 15, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 193530318X
ISBN-13: 978-1935303183

Muse Reviews Rating: 3.5 Laurels

Publisher's Description:

When a mutilated body is found in the woods near the central Massachusetts town of Grantham, Scott Dugan comes home for the first time in more than twenty years. He returns to the decaying house where he'd grown up, one of many derelict homes in the long-abandoned neighborhood of Applewood.

More than two decades earlier, Dugan and his tightly bonded group of friends had been struggling with the same pains that plagued millions of teens like them--bullies in school, broken families, money problems, relationships. But the evil that revives to spread through Grantham confronts them with a far darker and more destructive adversary. In 1861, Grantham sent its own home town war hero, Colonel Alexander Pope, and a company of locals to fight for the Union cause in the Civil War. Marching through the isolated rural regions of Georgia, the Colonel and his soldiers discovered a horrible secret hidden behind the lovely facades of the plantation mansions. When the veterans of Grantham came home, they brought something else with them.

Now that something else has awakened once more to grow and feed, Dugan and his friends are among the few who realize what's happening to their town.  They band together to ferret out information about the history of the Colonel and to fight the threat.  But victory, if it's even possible, will come at a terrible cost.  Some, like Dugan, will never be the same.

I received a copy of Applewood by Brendan P. Myers from the publisher in exchange for an impartial review. In the interests of full disclosure, I have been acquainted with Inanna Arthen, the Editor-in-Chief of By Light Unseen Media, for several years. We met through our mutual love of vampire lore, so when I mentioned I had started a book blog, Inanna asked if I would be interested in reviewing any of BLUM's titles. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity!

Applewood opens with a body on the ground. When the local police sergeant recognizes the killer's M.O., he summons his friend and the novel's central character, Scott Dugan, back to Grantham, Massachusetts and Dugan's childhood home in the abandoned subdivision of Applewood.  I loved how quickly I was dropped into the action and Myers uses great foreshadowing to build tension from the first page. Based on the first two chapters, I was expecting a fast-paced thriller.  

However, the majority of the story is told in flashback and through entries in a Civil War soldier's journal. Applewood is divided into four sections. In Section One, the audience is taken on a stroll through Scott Dugan's ninth-grade year, where we're introduced to his friends, his alcoholic father, his uncle, his girlfriend, several school bullies and an array of minor characters. I confess, there were times when I needed a cast list to keep track of who was who.  

The high point of the first section is the disappearance of the three school bullies. Unfortunately, Myers attempts to weave this scene together with another scene involving Dugan, which is happening simultaneously in another part of town. The result is a lot of confusion that could have been avoided, either by focusing on one event at a time, or by cutting Dugan's scene altogether.  

As the story progresses, the number of missing people grows until Grantham is all but deserted. Dugan and his friends investigate local history as they search for a way to cleanse the town of the friends and neighbors who have joined the ranks of the undead. Myers regains his stride in Section Two and, from there, Applewood is a quick and easy read. Throughout the story, Dugan experiences intermittent flashes of deja vu or clairvoyance, which are never fully explained, but become central to Applewood's climax. Myers ramps up the tension as he drives the plot toward the finale.  

By the time I got to Section Four, I didn't want to put the book down, and ended up reading until the wee hours of the morning just to finish. The ending wasn't what I expected and provides a nice set-up for a sequel if Myers decides to continue this storyline.  I don't normally enjoy horror novels, but Applewood has just the right amount of delicious creepiness without being over-the-top gory. It's well worth reading.

From Dracula and Varney the Vampire in the Victorian era to Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles and the Twilight Saga, the king of the undead continues to mesmerize and entice audiences. Brendan P. Myers carries on this tradition with Applewood. However, if you're expecting suave, seductive vampires or angsty, brooding vampires, you'll be disappointed. Without question, Myers' vampires are monsters.

Best of all, they don't sparkle.

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, June 21, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons I Love Being A Book Blogger

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This month marks TB&TB's one-year anniversary.  It's also the one-year blogoversary for The Muse Reviews.  Great minds, I tell ya!

The top ten reasons I love being a book blogger, in no particular order, are:

1. ARCs - Is there anything better than being one of the first to read what could become the next best seller? 

2. Education - I have a degree in English, with an emphasis on writing.  As part of my education, I had to read and analyze a lot of stories.  Blogging lets me exercise my writing and keep my analytical skills sharp. 

3. Sharing - I enjoy sharing my love of books with others.  Hopefully, they enjoy it too.

4. Broadening Horizons - One of the nice things about receiving ARCs is that they're free.  This has given me the opportunity to read books I probably wouldn't have purchased on my own.  In today's economy, I'm purchasing fewer books and only buying authors I already know and enjoy.  Blogging pushes me out of my comfort zone and I've discovered some new authors to add to my reading list.

5. Comments - Comments lead me to other blogs.  My RSS feed is getting out of control but I've found a ton of blogs I enjoy.  It's like cookies; I can't stop at a handful.

6. Recommendations - Comment love also leads to recommendations for new books/authors.  As if I needed more books.

7. Comparison - Reading other reviews of a book I just finished is always fun.  It takes me back to my writing workshops when I'd sit in a circle with other writers and compare our thoughts about the story we just read.  What did we like about the story?  Which parts work and which need improvement?

8. Nerdgasm - I'm proud to be a geek girl.  Blogging about books lets me get my geek on in a friendly and supportive environment. 

9. Creativity - I'm a writer.  Blogging allows me to exercise my creativity.  Now if only I could convince the kids to give me more time to do it!

10. Potential - I have a lot of goals for The Muse Reviews and I intend to make them happen.  Blogging is also a good resume builder, which has the potential to open doors for me on a professional level.

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.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Book Blogger Hop: Dying To Meet

”BookBook Blogger Hop

Jen at Crazy For Books is taking a break this week, so the hop is being hosted by Lori's Reading Corner.  This week's question is: Who is the ONE author that you are DYING to meet?

There are several authors I'd love to meet.  Among them are C. J. Cherryh, Orson Scott Card, and Jacqueline Carey.  However, the one author I want to meet more than any of the others, is Laurell K. Hamilton. 

I've been a fan since my ex-husband introduced me to Hamilton's Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series years ago.  I read her blog, follow her on Twitter, and I'm at the book store to purchase the latest novel within 24 hours of every release date.  Laurell K. has inspired me, not just in my writing, but in my personal life.  I love her voice as a writer and I aspire to be half as successful as she is someday. 

Though LKH has blogged multiple times on her writing process, I always get the feeling she's oversimplifying for novice writers.  Although I'm not a New York Times bestselling author, I'm not a novice either.  I'd love the opportunity to talk shop with her.  (I also want to know if her husband, Jon, went to my highschool or a different school with the same name.)

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, June 9, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Own or Borrow?

Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme about books and reading.  This week's question is: All things being equal (money, space, etc), would you rather own copies of the books you read? Or borrow them?

Hands down, I'd rather own.  I'm a collector and I've read most of my books at least twice.  There have been occasions when a random snippet of a conversation will remind me of a scene in a book and I'll dig it out just to reread that scene.  I like borrowing books by authors I haven't read before to see if I like their work.  If I do, I'll search out their books to buy. 

As much as I enjoy the library, there's just no substitute for owning books.

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.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Book Blogger Hop: Summer Releases

Book Blogger Hop

Jennifer at Crazy For Books asks "Summer is coming quickly - what 2011 summer release are you are most looking forward to?"

My answer:  Hit List by Laurell K. Hamilton.  This is the newest installment in Hamilton's long running Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series. 

Last summer, I launched The Muse Reviews with my review of the previous novel in the series, Bullet.  At the time, I thought Hamilton was setting up the framework for a major story arc.  I'm very interested in seeing what she does with this in Hit List.  I'll be hitting the bookstore the day Hit List goes on sale.

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.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Book Review: The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor

Hardcover: 432 pages

Publisher: Hyperion (January 25, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1401302874
ISBN-13: 978-1401302870

The Muse Reviews Rating: 3 Laurels

Publisher's Description

1786, Jerusalem College Cambridge. The ghost of Sylvia Whichcote is rumoured to be haunting Jerusalem since disturbed fellow-commoner, Frank Oldershaw, claims to have seen the dead woman prowling the grounds. Desperate to salvage her son’s reputation, Lady Anne Oldershaw employs John Holdsworth, author of The Anatomy of Ghosts — a stinging account of why ghosts are mere delusion — to investigate. But his arrival in Cambridge disrupts an uneasy status quo as he glimpses a world of privilege and abuse, where the sinister Holy Ghost Club governs life at Jerusalem more effectively than the Master, Dr Carbury, ever could. And when Holdsworth finds himself haunted — not only by the ghost of his dead wife, Maria, but also Elinor, the very-much-alive Master’s wife — his fate is sealed. He must find Sylvia’s murderer or the hauntings will continue. And not one of them will leave the claustrophobic confines of Jerusalem unchanged.

I received an ARC of this novel through a banner ad in Shelf Awareness ezine.  I love historical novels and anything to do with the paranormal, so I was looking forward to reading The Anatomy of Ghosts.  This was my first experience with Andrew Taylor's work, but he's an accomplished writer, so my expectations were high.  Although I enjoyed The Anatomy of Ghosts, it didn't live up to those expectations. 

The majority of the story takes place in 18th Century England, in a fictional college on the grounds of Cambridge University and in the surrounding city.  On the plus side, The Anatomy of Ghosts is firmly rooted in the period.  The dialogue felt very natural to the characters and the era.  I could tell Andrew Taylor put a significant amount of research into his book.  At the same time, the story explores the idea that our "ghosts" have more to do with our own feelings than with the supernatural - a theme so universal that the action could take place at any time in any setting and still work.

Unfortunately, the prologue and first two chapters are disjointed and confusing. It's a good thing the front matter includes a map of the college and a character list, because I had to keep flipping to them to figure out who characters were and how they related to the rest of the cast.  Likewise, I had to study the map repeatedly because the description of the grounds doesn't quite match up to the sketch. 

The plot development of The Anatomy of Ghosts is slow.  Taylor spends way too much time on Holdsworth's family and financial situation before getting to the meat of the mystery. The main characters talk around issues when much of the conflict could be resolved with a straight-forward conversation. However, the languid pace of the plot is one of the devices that helps root the audience in the culture so I can forgive it.  Other quibbles I had with The Anatomy of Ghosts include some cliched minor characters, entirely too much time spent describing bodily functions in excruciating detail, and an ambiguous ending better suited to literary fiction than a mystery or thriller.

Fans of historical novels will enjoy The Anatomy of Ghosts but those looking for a thriller will be disappointed.  If you're a fan of Andrew Taylor, then buy the book to add to your collection.  Otherwise, I'd recommend borrowing it from the library before deciding whether or not to spend money on a copy.

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.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Book Blogger Hop: April Fools

Book Blogger Hop

Crazy For Books sponsors the Book Blogger Hop, a weekly meme similar to Follow Friday on Twitter.  This week's question is: "Since today is April Fool's Day in the USA, what is the best prank you have ever played on someone OR that someone has played on you?"

I don't typically play pranks on April Fools Day and I can't remember the last time someone played one on me.  Unlike my great-grandmother, I'm not much of a practical joker.  I think Mamaw passed that gene on to my cousin, Gary, but it skipped my branch of the family tree.  The oddest part is that I have more in common with Gary than the rest of my family combined.  (English majors, ftw!)  Maybe it skipped a generation and will resurface in my kids as they get older.  Maybe I should start looking for places to hide.

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, March 31, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Cereal (and other Odd Reads)

This week's question from Booking Through Thursday is: What’s the oddest thing you’ve ever read? (You know, something NOT a book, magazine, short story, poem or article.)

I had to think about this one because I don't consider anything "odd" reading.  I've read everything from road signs to soup cans.  It's just a matter of how bored I am.  I'll even read the dumb little politcal and religious tracts that come attached to/written on the rebates and other marketing mail I process at work if I'm bored enough.  Occasionally, they're good for a laugh. 

I think the strangest thing I've read - meaning it was a weird thing to post or publish - was a Craigslist ad from a guy who was looking for a Rabbi versed in "dark Kabbalistic rites" to help him create some type of magical creature.  I don't remember the details, just that the ad was good for one of those head-scratching "WTF?!?" chuckles.  I'm still not sure if the guy was serious or if it was meant as a joke.  I hope he was joking, but considering some of the odd things I've seen people send through the mail, I'm afraid he wasn't.  Eek!

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, March 29, 2011

Micro Musings: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Audio CD
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio; Unabridged edition (October 17, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0743564413
ISBN-13: 978-0743564410

The Muse Reviews Rating: 2 Laurels

Publisher's Description:
The quintessential novel of the Lost Generation, The Sun Also Rises is one of Ernest Hemingway's masterpieces and a classic example of his spare but powerful writing style. A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-World War I generation, the novel introduces two of Hemingway's most unforgettable characters: Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley. The story follows the flamboyant Brett and the hapless Jake as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. It is an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illusions. First published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises helped to establish Hemingway as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.

In The Sun Also Rises, a group of Americans and British ex-patriots spend most of their time getting drunk in Parisian cafes, attending bull fights in Spain and swapping sex partners faster than they change underwear.  Unless you're required to read The Sun Also Rises for a class, skip the novel and spend a couple of hours skimming the Cliffs Notes.  If it's required reading, borrow the audio book version from the library and listen while you're doing housework or putting in an hour at the gym.  You'll need the physical activity to keep you awake for this exercise in tedium.

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, March 5, 2011

Micro Musings: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstooy

Paperback: 1008 pages
Publisher: Bantam Classics (June 1, 1984)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0553213466
ISBN-13: 978-0553213461

The Muse Reviews Rating: 2 Laurels

Publisher's Description:
A magnificent drama of vengeance, infidelity, and retribution, Anna Karenina portrays the moving story of people whose emotions conflict with the dominant social mores of their time. Sensual, rebellious Anna falls deeply and passionately in love with the handsome Count Vronsky. When she refuses to conduct the discreet affair that her cold, ambitious husband (and Russian high society) would condone, she is doomed. Set against the tragic love of Anna and Vronsky, the plight of the melancholy nobleman Konstantine Levin unfolds. In doubt about the meaning of life, haunted by thoughts of suicide, Levin's struggles echo Tolstoy's own spiritual crisis. But Anna's inner turmoil mirrors the own emotional imprisonment and mental disintegration of a woman who dares to transgress the strictures of a patriarchal world. In Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy brought to perfection the novel of social realism and created a masterpiece that bared the Russian soul.

In Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy waxes pastoral amid scenes of insipid women pining over egotistical, lack-witted men. Second only to Tolstoy's previous novel, War and Peace, in length, Anna Karenina is just as dull. This book is great for killing time at the gym or curing insomnia.

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, February 3, 2011

Book Review: Discord's Apple by Carrie Vaughn

Product Details
Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (July 6, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0765325543

The Muse Reviews Rating: 2.5 Laurels

Publisher's Description

When Evie Walker goes home to spend time with her dying father, she discovers that his creaky old house in Hope’s Fort, Colorado, is not the only legacy she stands to inherit. Hidden behind the old basement door is a secret and magical storeroom, a place where wondrous treasures from myth and legend are kept safe until they are needed again. The magic of the storeroom prevents access to any who are not intended to use the items. But just because it has never been done does not mean it cannot be done.

And there are certainly those who will give anything to find a way in.

Evie must guard the storeroom against ancient and malicious forces, protecting the past and the future even as the present unravels around them. Old heroes and notorious villains alike will rise to fight on her side or to undermine her most desperate gambits. At stake is the fate of the world, and the prevention of nothing less than the apocalypse. 

In Discord's Apple, New York Times bestselling author, Carrie Vaughn, introduces her audience to an eclectic cast drawn from a mélange of Greek, Celtic, Arthurian, Latin American and even Judeo-Christian mythology. Ms. Vaughn’s dystopian United States is caught between its allies, Russia and China, who are on the brink of nuclear war. To make matters worse, the rest of the world is poised to self-destruct at any moment. Hera, the last surviving goddess of Olympus, plans to manipulate the conflict to destroy the world and remake it to her own satisfaction. That is, if she can get her hands on Discord’s Apple – the same golden apple marked “kallisti” (for the fairest) that started the Trojan War.

Evie Walker’s father is dying. He’s been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and has decided to forego treatment. Evie leaves her job as a comic book writer in Los Angeles to drive to her hometown of Hope’s Fort, Colorado and stay with him until he passes. For generations, Evie’s family has guarded the Storeroom, which houses a collection of magical artifacts, including Discord’s Apple. As her father draws closer to death, Evie feels the mantle of guardianship settling on her shoulders. The last thing she wants is to be stuck in the tiny town of Hope’s Fort, living in the house her grandparents built. But when Hera comes looking for Discord’s Apple, Evie is forced to take on the role of Guardian sooner than she expected.

Hera isn’t working alone. She’s building a new pantheon comprised of wizards drawn from every corner of the world, including Robin Goodfellow, the fairy trickster who readers may recall from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Wanderer, whose identity is never explicitly stated. However, another character recognizes him as “he who is cursed to walk the Earth until the second coming of Christ,” so anyone familiar with Judeo-Christian mythology will identify him as the Wandering Jew.

On Evie’s side of what is shaping up to be an epic battle are King Arthur and Merlin who, true to their legend, have returned to the world in a time of great need, and Alex, formerly known as Sinon the Liar, who convinced the Trojans to bring Odysseus’s horse inside the walls. Although Alex isn’t a wizard, he wears an enchanted chain around his neck, placed there when he was taken prisoner by Apollo and which conveys immortality. Alex comes to the Storeroom looking for something that will kill him and ends up taking on the role of Evie’s protector.

Unfortunately, between her hand-wringing over her father’s deteriorating health and her complete lack of curiosity about the Storeroom, Evie didn’t do much to earn my sympathy. Despite writing a comic book with a strong female protagonist, Evie acts more like a stereotypical damsel in distress. She ignores a basement full of magical items, including weapons, in favor of trailing along while the men make all the decisions. Unless you count whacking Robin Goodfellow over the head with a cast-iron skillet while he’s dueling with Alex, the only time Evie takes any initiative is when Hera captures Frank Walker to use as a hostage to force Evie to bring her Discord’s Apple. Even then, Evie lets the men do the fighting while she drives the getaway car.

I also wasn’t crazy about Ms. Vaughn’s mythological mash-up. Although the premise of building a new pantheon from the few surviving magicians with enough power to rise to godhood could have worked, Arthur, Robin Goodfellow and the other legendary characters felt like they were hastily tacked on to what is primarily a Greek-based mythos. In addition, the end of the book was anticlimactic and some significant loose ends were left hanging. Discord’s Apple may appeal to fans of Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series, but the only feeling it evoked in me was a resounding “meh.”

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.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

It's Friday and time for the Book Blogger Hop, hosted by one of my favorite blogs: Crazy For Books.  This week, the BBH question is, "Why do you read the genre that you do? What draws you to it?"

I'm drawn to more than one genre for more than one reason.  My favorite genre is urban fantasy.  It combines the world as we know it with elements of fantasy such as vampires, faeries, or lycanthropes.  My favorite author in this genre is Laurell K. Hamilton.  I've been a fan of fantasy since childhood when I read The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis.  However, I got bored with the Medieval/Renaissance setting common to most high fantasy novels.  Urban fantasy is usually set in the modern world and often contains elements of other types of speculative fiction such as horror, dystopian fiction, or science fiction.  It's all the best things about the genres I enjoy rolled into one.

I also love hard science fiction and romance - especially paranormal romance.  Romance is what I read when I need a light, entertaining pick-me-up.  It's good to be reminded that people can be noble and to feel as though love will win the day by the end of the story, especially when nobility and integrity are sorely lacking in modern society and love doesn't conquer all in real life.  Romance novels are a dose of optimism in a world that is all too often brutal, bloody, and cruel.  Paranormal romance mixes in that dollop of fantasy I love. 

I have a strange relationship with hard science fiction.  I'm very picky about it and stories about ships hurtling through space or close encounters with terrifying aliens don't cut it for me.  My favorite author in this genre is C. J. Cherryh.  Her writing almost always centers around a human who engages in close interaction with an alien/alien race or an alien struggling to fit in with the humans.  In many cases, her protagonists must sacrifice a little of their humanity to be able to assimilate into the alien society.  However, in doing so, they become a vital bridge between worlds.  Cherryh's work plumbs depths of the psychological and philosophical questions of what it means to be human and where the line is or should be drawn between Human and Other.  I discover things I missed every time I reread one of her books and sometimes the implications of her ideas give me chills.  Cherryh's work isn't light reading but it's always gripping.  These are the elements I look for in hard sci-fi and what draws me back to it again and again.

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 11, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish/Blogging Resolutions

More resolution memage via The Broke and the Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday.  I covered this already in my recent Booking Through Thursday post so take a peek! 

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, January 9, 2011

Book Review: Girl Stolen by April Henry

Product Details

Reading Level: Ages 12 and up
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); First Edition edition (September 28, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805090053
ISBN-13: 978-0805090055

The Muse Reviews Rating: 2.5 Laurels

Publisher's Description

Sixteen year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of a car while her mom fills her prescription at the pharmacy. Before Cheyenne realizes what's happening, their car is being stolen--with her inside! Griffin hadn’t meant to kidnap Cheyenne, all he needed to do was steal a car for the others. But once Griffin's dad finds out that Cheyenne’s father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes—now there’s a reason to keep her. What Griffin doesn’t know is that Cheyenne is not only sick with pneumonia, she is blind. How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare, and if she does, at what price?

Girl, Stolen is the third YA novel from New York Times best-selling author April Henry. Inspired by the 2005 carjacking of 18-year-old Heather Wilson, Girl, Stolen relates the story of the uneasy alliance that grows between Cheyenne and her accidental kidnapper, Griffin.

On the surface, 16-year-old Cheyenne seems like a typical adolescent girl: She loves dogs, books and chatting on the phone. She gets along with her stepmother most of the time and occasionally chafes under her father's over-protectiveness. But Cheyenne isn't average. Three years ago, Cheyenne lost her mother to a hit-and-run driver. She also lost her sight. Since then, Cheyenne has fought to regain her independence. Now she's fighting again - this time, for her life.

On a snowy day in December, Cheyenne is waiting for her stepmother, Danielle, to come back from the pharmacy. Cheyenne has pneumonia, so she elects to wait in the car while Danielle picks up a prescription for antibiotics. Cheyenne persuades Danielle to leave the keys in the ignition so she can turn on the heat if she gets cold.

Griffin is a 16-year-old high school dropout and petty criminal following in the footsteps of his father, Roy. Griffin has been stealing shopping bags from cars in the mall parking lot all morning. When he sees the keys in the ignition of Danielle's SUV, he thinks he's hit the jackpot. It should be easy to drive the car back to his house where Roy and his cronies will strip it for parts. In his haste, Griffin doesn't notice Cheyenne laying down in the back seat until he's already on the road.

Confused and scared of his abusive father's reaction, Griffin dumps Cheyenne's cell phone and takes the most indirect route he can think of back to his house. Roy is predictably angry with his son's blunder until he learns Cheyenne is the daughter of a wealthy businessman. At that point, he decides to demand a ransom.

However, Roy could easily star in an episode of "America's Dumbest Criminals." In a drunken stupor, he manages to lose the phone numbers Cheyenne gives him to contact her father and doesn't bother to disguise his voice when he finally does make the ransom demand. To top it off, he puts his buddies TJ and Jimbo - who would more aptly be named Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber - in charge of keeping an eye on Griffin and Cheyenne.

Although April Henry is a New York Times best-selling author and her work has won several awards, I was underwhelmed by Girl, Stolen. While the premise of the novel had the potential to be a fast-paced thriller, the plot drags in several places while Henry gives lengthy explanations of Cheyenne's particular type of blindness, her struggle to regain her independence by learning to use a cane and then a service dog, and what a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is and how it works. Maybe Henry thought a young adult audience would need these details to understand the story. However, if the sections dealing with these minutiae are slow enough to bore me, I can't image a teenager being remotely interested.

I also found April Henry's depiction of Griffin to be inconsistent and implausible. This is a boy who has been abused by his father most of his life and has the scars to prove it. I had a hard time believing he would risk provoking Roy by defying him in even the most trivial way, let alone risk his life to help Cheyenne escape. In addition, I consider Girl, Stolen inappropriate for children under the age of 16 because of the liberal amount of obscenities, a murder and an attempted rape scene. Although I liked the idea of Girl, Stolen and had high hopes for the story, the execution left much to be desired.

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 4, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Resolve To Read in 2011

When I first started The Muse Reviews, I knew one of the things I wanted to do was share my love of books with others.  I went looking for other book bloggers, in part to see how they approached an already-saturated niche, but also to find other blogs I wanted to read because I enjoyed them.  One of the blogs I discovered was The Broke and the Bookish.  If you haven't read it, you should.  Top Ten Tuesday is a featured meme on TBB.  This week, the topic is the Top Ten Books I Resolve To Read in 2011.

It's no secret I'm behind on my reading list.  Come to think of it, I'll probably always be behind on that list because there are so many books I want to read and hundreds of new books are published every day.  Unless I win the lottery and become a millionaire so I can hire a housekeeper, nanny, landscaper, and pay someone to clone me, I'll never have time to read everything on my list.  However, in 2011 I vow to read the following books (in no particular order), and at least get caught up on my review list.

Discord's Apple by Carrie Vaughn - I started this book in 2010, but got waylaid by the holidays.  I'm bound and determined to finish it and post a review.

Cat the Vamp by Christina Martine - Vampires, you know I love 'em, but between Twilight, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, Being Human, and the plethora of vampire books, movies, and television shows, the market is getting a bit over-saturated.  However, Cat the Vamp is a YA novel that promises a fresh take on the vampire myth.  I've been dying (pun intended) to read this book for months.

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff - From the cover description, this book looks like a new twist on the classic "changeling" folktale.  Except it's from the point of view of the changeling.  I love psychological thrillers and anything with paranormal overtones.  I'm looking forward to this one.

Girl, Stolen by April Henry - Blind and kidnapped, sixteen-year-old Cheyenne Wilder fights to survive and get back to her family.  I'm all about the strong female protagonist and Girl, Stolen looks like a winner.

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer - I'm not usually a huge fan of stories that focus on werewolves, but I've heard good things about Nightshade.  I'm eager to see if it lives up to the hype.

Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane - I'm always leery of reading books in a series out of order.  Moonlight Mile is a sequel so I'm not sure how I feel about reading it but maybe I'll get lucky and discover a new series to read.

Matched by Ally Condie - My oldest son is in fourth grade but reads at a significantly higher level.  Just like his mom did.  I'm always on the lookout for YA novels he might enjoy.

The Anatomy of Ghosts - I requested the ARC for this months ago and though I'd manage to review it before the January 2011 pub date.  So much for that goal.  I still plan to review it, even if it's late.

Wither by Lauren DeStefano - This is the first book in The Chemical Garden Trilogy.  I'm amazed at how sophisticated YA novels have grown since I was in the "right" age group.  Heck with it, if it's good, it's good. 

Hit List by Laurell K. Hamilton - The new Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter novel is due to hit shelves in June.  I've been a LKH fan since my ex-husband introduced me to Anita in the mid-1990s.  These days, I usually read an Anita book in 24 hours or less.  You can be sure I'll post a review.

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.