Monday's Muse, 26th edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Crack the Shutters by Snow Patrol.

The idea of Monday's Muse 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 Joys of Love by Madeleine L'Engle.

Just after college graduation, Elizabeth joins a summer theater troupe where she finds elusive love with Kurt, a pompous director, and deep friendship with her lanky, goofy colleague Ben. L'Engle revisits her own theater experiences at the beach in the 1940s, making this novel's salty breezes, musty shared quarters, and boardwalk burgers vivid. Beautifully unadorned language and fluid dialogue recall a bygone era that might feel foreign to modern teens. Even dated colloquialisms and social mores, however, cannot diminish L'Engle's magnificent rendering of a smart girl's guileless romantic missteps. Teens will cringe as Elizabeth swoons over Kurt and ignores the clear chemistry that she shares with Ben. They will quickly forgive her, as the young woman's unwavering sense of self, her heady belief in acting, and grounded acceptance of life's inequities make her a powerful, appealing character. The wonderfully simple, economic prose allows Elizabeth's revelations to shine with glimmering clarity, like moonlight on the ocean.—Shelley Huntington, New York Public Library, School Library Journal.

Sell-Out by Ebony Joy Wilkins.

NaTasha’s parents’ decision to raise her in an all-white suburb doesn’t sit well with grandmother Tilly, who thinks the African American teen is trying to squeeze into a persona that doesn’t fit. After a disastrous ballet recital, the teen still doesn’t quite agree, but embarrassed by her clumsiness, she sees the merit in spending time in Tilly’s Harlem neighborhood during the summer. NaTasha reacquaints herself with a childhood friend and flirts with a boy at the local bodega. But it’s her relationships with the girls at a crisis center for troubled teens in a rough area of the Bronx that truly engender her growth. Although the story opens up room for discussion about self-loathing and exactly what being a sellout entails, it does strain belief at times, especially when Tilly, a longtime center volunteer, knowingly exposes NaTasha to a group of girls who are brutal, even violent bullies. Still, NaTasha’s budding realization that appearances and expectations often mask a person’s true nature, and that even bullies have a story, signals an important adolescent journey. --Karen Cruze, Booklist.

The Complete Novels (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) by Jane Austen.

Few novelists have conveyed the subtleties and nuances of their own social milieu with the wit and insight of Jane Austen. Here in one volume are her seven great novels: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, and Lady Susan. Through her vivacious and spirited heroines and their circle, Austen vividly portrays English middle-class life as the eighteenth century came to a close and the nineteenth century began. Each of the novels is a love story and a story about marriage—marriage for love, for financial security, for social status. But they are not romances; ironic, comic, and wise, they are masterly evocations of the society Jane Austen observed. This beautiful volume covers the literary career of one of England’s finest prose stylists of any century.

The Machineries of Joy by Ray Bradbury.

This is vintage Bradbury - no punk, obscenity, fantasy, horror or sex. Just beautiful, succinct, wonderfully constructed short stories that give new meaning to the term "American Genius".

The stories range in subject matter from religion to space to family to war but through it all Bradbury explores the meaning of being human in all its wondrous degrees. There is more poetry in this prose than in most English books of poetry. Every single story - I mean every one! - is excellent, thought provoking and haunting. What a writer! (by Avid Reader - review)