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.