Monday's Muse, 6th edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Isabella by Mediaeval Baebes.

This was originally an idea from Au Courant started in March, an idea she has graciously let me run with.

The idea is to introduce you to unknown, forgotten, or overlooked fiction that has been lost from regular radar. I am WriterGirl. I am in the business of saving lives, one book at a time.

What I do is go to amazon, narrow it down to a YA field and type in a random word, any word that comes to mind. I then take a sampling of some I have never heard of before, or only vaguely heard of (and hopefully you as well). No infringement is intended for any description I take for the books. It's purely for promotional reasons. I will try and cover as many genres as possible that are fitting for the random word. Simple but it really uncovers some incredible gems. I will be doing this every other Monday. If there are any words you want to prompt me with, go ahead and fire away.

Today's random word:

East by Edith Pattou.

Rose has always felt out of place in her family. So when an enormous white bear mysteriously shows up and asks her to come away with him, she readily agrees. The bear takes Rose to a distant castle, where each night she is confronted with a mystery. In solving that mystery, she finds love, discovers her purpose, and realizes her travels have only just begun.

As fresh and original as only the best fantasy can be, East is a novel retelling of the classic tale "East of the Sun and West of the Moon," told in the tradition of Robin McKinley and Gail Carson Levine.

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare.

When his father returns East to collect the rest of the family, 13-year-old Matt is left alone to guard his family's newly built homestead. One day, Matt is brutally stung when he robs a bee tree for honey. He returns to consciousness to discover that his many stings have been treated by an old Native American and his grandson. Matt offers his only book as thanks, but the old man instead asks Matt to teach his grandson Attean to read. Both boys are suspicious, but Attean comes each day for his lesson. In the mornings, Matt tries to entice Attean with tales from Robinson Crusoe, while in the afternoons, Attean teaches Matt about wilderness survival and Native American culture. The boys become friends in spite of themselves, and their inevitable parting is a moving tribute to the ability of shared experience to overcome prejudice. The Sign of the Beaver was a Newbery Honor Book; author Elizabeth Speare has also won the Newbery Medal twice, for The Witch of Blackbird Pond and The Bronze Bow.

Locked Inside by Nancy Werlin.

Sixteen-year-old Marnie Skyedottir is totally addicted to the computer game Paliopolis, where in the guise of the Sorceress Llewellyne she competes avidly with the clever but pesky Elf to escape from labyrinths and dungeons and evade the blind Rubble-Eater. Paliopolis feels safe to Marnie--not like real life, where she is flunking out at her exclusive boarding school, her famous mother Skye is dead, and her guardian Max stubbornly refuses to let her have the millions she will inherit at 21.

Skye, a mysterious former gospel singer who came from nowhere to become the beloved founder of a near-religion, has taught her daughter to fear intimacy. When the Elf, who turns out to be a senior at a nearby school, manages to figure out who Marnie really is and where she lives, she recoils. But later, when a crazed chemistry teacher acts on her delusion that she, too, is Skye's daughter and imprisons Marnie in a cellar room, the Elf's concern for her brings him crashing into the situation in a bungled rescue attempt. Now, locked securely away in a windowless basement, they face a very different problem from the virtual dungeons of Paliopolis. There the Sorceress and the Elf had a cloak of invisibility, truth glasses, and a spellbook to help them outwit their enemy, but here they have only a blanket, a half-empty bottle of seltzer, and a sand bucket... and the Elf has a gunshot wound in his leg. --Patty Campbell.

Afrika by Colleen Craig.

Growing up in Canada with her white South African mother, Kim van der Merwe does not know who her father is. Now, at 13, she goes to Cape Town for the first time, shortly after independence in the mid-1990s, because her mother, a journalist, is going to report on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Visiting and meeting her family for the first time, she decides that her mission will be to discover her father's identity. When Kim becomes involved in a friendship with the family who works for the van der Merwes', especially Themba, whose father was murdered by the police during apartheid, her life becomes more closely entwined with South Africa's political and social realities. As she gets closer to the answer she seeks, her mother becomes more and more unhinged by the horrors she hears about in her work. The climax packs a powerful emotional punch as the author dovetails Kim's personal odyssey with the pain, contradictions, and hopes of the country as it carries its devastating history into the future. The realities of the society are carefully and skillfully portrayed, so that Kim's story is truly the emotional heart of the book, and not a vehicle for ideas. Kim herself is a believable and likable character, and her relationship with Themba is tender and realistic. The author does not sugarcoat the realities of South Africa, or the details of torture that are revealed at the Truth Commission. Not just another multicultural title, by any means, this novel will really grab readers who appreciate realistic fiction about young people searching for their place in the world.—Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City.

Wishing Moon by Michael O. Tunnell.

Aminah is an orphan living on the streets of Al-Kal'as. When she appeals to the princess for help, the black-hearted wife of Aladdin throws an old lamp at her head. The lamp holds an obstreperous jinni who informs Aminah that she can make three wishes after each full moon. With the jinni's magic, Aminah regains security and comfort, and she even assembles a makeshift family. Still, Aminah cannot achieve true happiness until she has improved the lives of the people she left behind. Meanwhile, the power-hungry princess hunts down Aminah and the lamp. Will Aminah's good deeds lead to her demise? This fanciful yarn about what happens to the lamp after Aladdin will enchant readers who relish action, adventure, fantasy, and humor.


Lauren said...

I've been thinking about reading East since I saw a review of it the other day. I'm taking this as a sign. Locked Inside sounds like a book I'd definitely check out too. Thanks for sharing. I love hearing about lesser-known titles.

Kirthi said...

These sounds like great books! East was awesome!

Simon C. Larter said...

An interesting idea, good lady. A true public service. Brava!

PJ Hoover said...

Very cool concept, Heather! And all these books look great!

Juju at Tales of said...

Fantastic list :)

Tere Kirkland said...

Once again you introduce me to books that sound so amazing that I've never even heard of.

Thanks, Heather.

Heather Zundel said...

I'm so glad people like this feature! I can't tell you how happy that makes me.

Lauren - I've read East and found it to be a wonderful read. It's a good retelling.

Kirthi - They do, don't they? :)

Simon - Yay! A life goal is accomplished. You called me 'lady' on my own blog. :)

PJ - Thanks, I'm glad you like it.

Juju - Why thank you. Still loving your blog to death.

Tere - Isn't that one of the coolest feelings in the world? It's like finding buried treasure. It's my pleasure. :)