Monday's Muse, 16th edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): My Girl's Ex-Boyfriend by Relient K.

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:

The White Darkness by Geraldine Mccaughrean.

Symone, 14, narrates McCaughrean's (Peter Pan in Scarlet) tale about the trip of a lifetime gone horribly wrong. Hearing-impaired and unpopular, Sym appreciates the attentions of "Uncle" Victor, her dead father's business partner and the family's seeming benefactor. Victor, an eccentric genius obsessed with proving the discredited Hollow Earth theories of John Symmes, has fostered in Sym a lifelong fascination with Antarctica. Indeed, Sym's only companion is an imaginary friend, Lawrence "Titus" Oates, who perished in 1912 during Captain Robert Scott's ill-fated expedition to the South Pole. Sym is thrilled when Victor spirits her off for an impromptu trip to Paris, which morphs—incredibly—into a trek to Antarctica, as the two join a crowd of rich tourists for a guided look at "The Ice's" astounding landscape. Victor aligns with Manfred Bruch, a purported Norwegian filmmaker, and his son. Guests and guides alike become mysteriously ill, and the tour is cut short, but the plane intended to return the group to safety explodes. After Victor's "nice cup of tea" induces sleep in everyone else, the four abscond on Victor's mad quest for Symmes's Hole. The heroine's relentless self-deprecation, a necessary element of her unconditional acceptance of Victor, is nonetheless somewhat overplayed. But the ratcheting terror, thrilling double-crosses and gorgeously articulated star character—Antarctica itself—combine for a girl's adventure yarn of the first order. --Publisher's Weekly.

Moriboto: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi.

This newly translated 1996 Japanese fantasy has spawned nine sequels, a radio drama, a manga comic book and an anime television series in Japan. In New Yogo, a magical land that vaguely resembles medieval Japan (as a typical Western fantasy vaguely resembles medieval Europe), children and adults work together to save the nation from ravenous demons. The wandering spear-fighting heroine Balsa is hired as a bodyguard for the Mikado's 11-year-old son. Prince Chagum is possessed by a water demon, and his mother is afraid that the Mikado will have the boy killed. Balsa spirits the boy into the woods where she spends a winter teaching him independence and martial skills. Balsa, 25, with her tragic past and love story, is the real protagonist here, with Chagum's coming-of-age playing second fiddle to her heroic adventure. While the disparate ages of the protagonists might seem unusual to Western fantasy fans, seasoned manga readers should be less surprised. Jam-packed with monstrous combat, ethnic conflicts and complex mythologies, Balsa and Chagum's story will win many new fans for this series. (Fantasy. 10-12) --Kirkus.

An Acquainance With Darkness by Ann Rinaldi.

The chaos in Washington, D.C., after the Civil War is reflected in this story of fourteen-year-old Emily Pigbush. But the chaos and trouble surrounding Emily are nothing compared to her personal problems. Her father has perished in the war, and her mother has just died of a long and debilitating illness. Emily's plans to live with her best friend Annie Surratt are ruined when Annie's mother is arrested and jailed for taking part in the assassination of President Lincoln. Emily has no choice but to move in with her Uncle Valentine, a respected doctor in Washington but a man her mother despised. Emily is immediately suspicious of her uncle when she hears rumors that he is involved in body snatching, stealing dead bodies for local medical schools. In an attempt to shield her from this nasty business, Uncle Valentine keeps the true nature of his research a secret. Confused and feeling betrayed, Emily nearly betrays him to the authorities and learns that right and wrong are sometimes not easily defined. Rinaldi has effectively mingled fact and fiction in this story about the growth of the medical profession after the Civil War. The setting of this easy read is authentically described and skillfully intertwined with the story. For those interested in the history behind the story, an author's note and bibliography are included. -- VOYA.

Darkness Creeping: Twenty Twisted Tales by Neal Shusterman.

To borrow a phrase from this collection, Shusterman's writing can "scare a gargoyle right off its foundation." And that is precisely why fans of the author, particularly followers of his popular short story series that includes Mindquakes (1996), will reach hungrily for this title, which includes tales both new and newly available (in the case of entries culled from earlier, hard-to-find collections). The best entry, published here for the first time, depicts a teen referee who gradually realizes that "the fate of the world is about to be decided by a suburban peewee soccer game." Another features a character who receives his own skull—postmarked from the future—as a birthday gift. All will further Shusterman's reputation for penning reluctant-reader–friendly stories in which Twilight Zone twists, creepy poetic justice, and normality turned inside-out are the order of the day. New introductions explaining each story's inspiration will fascinate readers and perhaps prompt their own tales in which mundane reality bumps against the scary and the strange. --Mattson, Jennifer.

Darkness Under the Water by Beth Kanell.

Molly and her Abenaki family get caught up in a government eugenics project set to rid Vermont of "weak links" in the genetic code. Although the teen and her family are largely accepted in their small 1920s community, outsiders come to enforce the governor's decree that Vermont is only for "real" Yankees. Amid this turmoil, Molly must also cross into womanhood, leaving school to help her pregnant mother with the washing and having her first experiences with boys. Throughout the story, the river rages in the background, and Molly hears the voice of her dead sister, Gratia. The day her mother gives birth, two nurses from the project show up at her house, and Molly believes they purposely kill the baby and cut her mother to prevent her from having more children. Kanell infuses her story with imagery and metaphors. Although the true history of the Vermont Eugenics Project looms in the background, the story really centers around Molly's coming-of-age. The author has created many disparate threads, most of which she has woven together into a subtle, richly drawn historical novel, though some elements, like the voice of Gratia, fail to reach a satisfying conclusion. However, fully drawn characters, beautiful use of language, and an interesting topic will be enough to draw in many readers.—School Library Journal, Kim Ventrella, Ralph Ellison Library, Oklahoma City, OK.


Beth Kanell said...

Connecting these books with the word "Darkness" was a great idea! Hope you get a chance to add The Darkness Under the Water to your summer reading list. My next book, out there on a few publisher/editor desks, is The Long Shadow and I'm thinking "Shadow" might also be a good word for your connection process.

Tere Kirkland said...

Oooh, these all sound good!

PragmaticMom said...

I wanted to share my list for reluctant boy readers at


Pragmatic Mom
Type A Parenting for the Modern World
I blog on children's lit, education and parenting