Monday's Muse, 30th edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): The Plant-Boy's Song by Phillip Glass.

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:

Jane and Air by Angela Berrio.

Jane is plagued by disturbing thoughts—thoughts so terrible she doesn't dare reveal them to anyone. She performs needless rituals to distract her mind from these unwelcome, intrusive thoughts.

"Jane and Air" is the story of one unlucky girl’s rise above mental illness. The story begins near the end of Jane’s life. A therapist has suggested Jane work on overcoming her fear of water by spending time near large bodies of water. Jane misinterprets the advice and decides to start swimming at night in a reservoir near home. At this point in the story, she is obsessed with recovery more than she is afraid of death.

Then, in a flashback, we learn about Jane’s childhood. She was raised in an active, but atypical religious family. Jane’s mother obsesses about alternative health trends, and has indoctrinated Jane and her brother with fears of sin and disease. Her father lived overseas with the military for seven years, though, strangely, Jane does not remember meeting him until after his return, and now that he is back in her life, he does not speak to her. During a youth rafting trip, Jane almost drowns, spurring a lifelong obsession with dangerous bodies of water. Jane credits divinity for sparing her life and promises to never tempt God again by risking her life in any size of water larger than a bathtub. After graduation, and a particularly harrowing experience with her reclusive father, Jane decides to move away from home and attend college in another town. Jane becomes involved in an unlikely relationship with a college professor, fifteen years her senior, who, impressed by her intelligence, hires her as his teaching assistant.

When Jane becomes a mother, her intrusive violent thoughts lead her down a path of destruction and self-loathing. Jane struggles to preserve the integrity of her marriage and save the life of her child. Her diagnosis is simple. She has OCD. In an attempt to uncover the catalyst of her disease, her therapists encourage her to discover that nature of an early abusive episode which she remembers only vaguely. In a therapeutic attempt to forgive herself, Jane must first forgive her husband, and then she is forced to confront the darkest period of her life and walk in a child molester’s shoes.

The Balloon Boy of San Francisco by Dorothy Kupcha Leland.

This lively tale of Ready Gates, a teenaged boy growing up in 19th century San Francisco, is based on historical fact. Ready and his struggling family have recently arrived from the East coast with an eye toward making their fortune in the gold fields of California. But first, they must raise some money. Ready's father works in a brick factory, his mother is a seamstress and keeps boarders and Ready helps by selling daily newspapers on the streets. San Francisco is a rough and tumble city at this point in history, and the author does an excellent job of portraying the diversity and excitement of a bustling port city. Ready's dream is to go to the gold fields with his father, but his dream is delayed when his father is injured on the job. Ready must work harder and begins his career on the inside of the newspaper business. In the meantime, he meets a young girl, Lydia, searching for the brother from whom she has become separated. Ready spends his time between working and helping his friend search for her brother. When he notices an advertisement about a balloon ascension, Ready convinces his brother they should sell oranges at the event to make money. On the day of the event, the balloonist has difficulty launching the balloon. Ready, being lighter, offers to take the balloon up. The balloon takes off and does not come down until it reaches Sacramento. Ready is famous as the boy in the balloon and through his travels back to San Francisco locates Lydia's brother. Middle-school students will enjoy this fast-paced adventure with its descriptions that provide a lively look at being a teenager 150 years ago in America. -- Meredith Kiger.

Fever Crumb by Phillip Reeve.

Reeve's "Hungry City Quartet" (HarperCollins) remains a landmark of visionary steampunk imagination, with a future where traction cities roll about chasing down smaller cities, which they devour for parts in an exercise called Municipal Darwinism. Returning to this future, Reeve gives readers a story that takes place decades before the rise of the traction cities and examines the social and political milieu that led to that major societal change. Fever Crumb is the adopted daughter of Dr. Crumb, and the only female member of the Order of Engineers. Taken from the safety of the Order into the streets of London, Fever discovers a world where bands of Skinners have virtually exterminated a mutant race of people with speckled skin known as the Scriven. Suspected of being a Scriven herself, Fever must elude capture while she searches to find out who she really is. The answers she finds have far-reaching implications for the future of the world. Reeve is not just an excellent writer, but a creator with a wildly imaginative mind. The future London setting of this story is well imagined and feels like a place Charles Dickens might have described had he been a science-fiction writer. Plot details such as the origin story of the resurrected cyborg Stalker Shrike will resonate with fans of the earlier titles, but this book can also be read independently by those who are new to Reeve's work. A must for any fantasy collection.—Tim Wadham, St. Louis County Library, MO, School Library Journal.

Death in the Air: The Boy Sherlock Holmes (#2) by Shane Peacock.

After the harrowing experience of losing his mother while solving a brutal murder in London’s East End, young Sherlock Holmes commits himself to fighting crime … and is soon involved in another case. While visiting his father at the magnificent Crystal Palace, Sherlock stops to watch a remarkable and dangerous trapeze performance high above, framed by the stunning glass ceiling of the legendary building. Suddenly, the troupe’s star is dropping, screaming and flailing, toward the floor. He lands with a sickening thud just a few feet away, and rolls up almost onto the boy’s boots. Unconscious and bleeding profusely, his body is grotesquely twisted. In the mayhem that follows, Sherlock notices something that no one else sees — something is amiss with the trapeze bar! He knows that foul play is afoot. What he doesn’t know is that his discovery will put him on a frightening, twisted trail that leads to an entire gang of notorious criminals. Wrapped in the fascinating world of Victorian entertainment, its dangerous performances, and London’s dark underworld, Death in the Air raises The Boy Sherlock Holmes to a whole new level.

B for Buster by Iain Lawrence.

Set during the spring of 1943, Lawrence's novel is a harrowing account of combat told from the perspective of 16-year-old Kak. Like Jack in Harry Mazer's The Last Mission (1979), Kak lies about his age in order to join the air force. But Jack, a Jewish American, wants to fight Hitler; Kak, nicknamed for his tiny Canadian hometown, just wants to flee his loveless, abusive parents and "like Captain Marvel . . . change [himself] from a boy to a hero." After his first "op," though, Kak is deeply shaken. Bert, who cares for the pigeons, finds a way to comfort the boy by putting a prize pigeon in his care. The dense mechanical specifics of planes and equipment may slow some readers, but the tender lessons of courage that Kak learns from Bert and his bird are captivating. In Kak's young, raw voice, Lawrence writes a gripping, affecting story about the thrill of flying, the terrifying realities of war, and the agony of reconciling personal fears and ideals with duty and bravery. --Gillian Engberg, Booklist.

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel.

Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a huge airship that sails hundreds of feet above the ocean, ferrying wealthy passengers from city to city. It is the life Matt's always wanted; convinced he's lighter than air, he imagines himself as buoyant as the hydrium gas that powers his ship. One night he meets a dying balloonist who speaks of beautiful creatures drifting through the skies. It is only after Matt meets the balloonist's granddaughter that he realizes that the man's ravings may, in fact, have been true, and that the creatures are completely real and utterly mysterious.

In a swashbuckling adventure reminiscent of Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, Kenneth Oppel, author of the best-selling Silverwing trilogy, creates an imagined world in which the air is populated by transcontinental voyagers, pirates, and beings never before dreamed of by the humans who sail the skies.

Midnight Blue by Pauline Fisk.

Bonnie, a girl torn between the harsh reality of her mother's weaknesses and her grandmother's strong will escapes her home one day by sneaking into her neighbor's hot air balloon. But instead of flying into the clouds and back down, she lands in another world, something like her own, but both kinder and somehow much more terrifying. She's not sure if she can ever leave this nearly parallel world and return to her own. And if she did, she isn't sure she'll be able to bring back with her the sense of warmth and love she has grown to cherish. Amazingly, she does both.