Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Green Island Serenade by Vienna Teng.
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.
(though this is more a celebration of some really good ones with unknown ones mixed in) :)
Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon.
Ai Ling can see into other people's minds and reach into their spirits. But she doesn't know why this power has awakened inside her. She only knows that it is growing. It leads her on an epic journey—one that brings her to the edge of the deepest evil.
Chen Yong has a quest of his own, but then his path crosses Ai Ling's. And there's a connection so strong that neither can ignore it.
Now they must face terrifying demons determined to kill them, and battle through treacherous lands. It is their destiny. But can destiny keep them together?
Huntress by Malinda Lo.
Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasn't shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The people's survival hangs in the balance.
To solve the crisis, the oracle stones are cast, and Kaede and Taisin, two seventeen-year-old girls, are picked to go on a dangerous and unheard-of journey to Tanlili, the city of the Fairy Queen. Taisin is a sage, thrumming with magic, and Kaede is of the earth, without a speck of the otherworldly. And yet the two girls' destinies are drawn together during the mission. As members of their party succumb to unearthly attacks and fairy tricks, the two come to rely on each other and even begin to fall in love. But the Kingdom needs only one huntress to save it, and what it takes could tear Kaede and Taisin apart forever.
The exciting adventure prequel to Malinda Lo's highly acclaimed novel Ash is overflowing with lush Chinese influences and details inspired by the I Ching, and is filled with action and romance.
Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins.
Chiko isn't a fighter by nature. He's a book-smart Burmese boy whose father, a doctor, is in prison for resisting the government. When Chiko is forced into the army by trickery, he must find the courage to survive the mental and physical punishment meted out by the training facility's menacing captain.
Tu Reh can't forget the image of the Burmese soldiers burning his home and the bamboo fields of his oppressed Karenni people, one of the many ethnic minorities in Burma. Now living in a Kerenni refugee camp on the Thai border, Tu Reh is consumed by anger and the need for revenge. He can't wait to join his father and the Karenni resistance in the effort to protect their people.
Chiko and Tu Reh's stories come to a violent intersection as each boy is sent on his first mission into the jungle. Extreme circumstances and unlikely friendships force each boy to confront what it means to be a man of his people.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer.
Sixteen-year-old Cinder is considered a technological mistake by most of society and a burden by her stepmother. Being cyborg does have its benefits, though—Cinder’s brain interface has given her an uncanny ability to fix things (robots, hovers, her own malfunctioning parts), making her the best mechanic in New Beijing. This reputation brings the Prince Kai himself to her weekly market booth, needing her to repair a broken android before the annual ball. He jokingly calls it "a matter of national security," but Cinder suspects it’s more serious than he’s letting on.
Although eager to impress the prince, Cinder’s intentions are derailed when her younger stepsister, and only human friend, is infected with the fatal plague that’s been devastating Earth for a decade. Blaming Cinder for her daughter’s illness, Cinder’s stepmother volunteers her body for plague research, an “honor” that no one has survived.
But it doesn’t take long for the scientists to discover something unusual about their new guinea pig. The surgeons who turned Cinder into a cyborg had been hiding something. Something others would kill for.
Inside out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai.
No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.
For all the ten years of her life, HÀ has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by . . . and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.
But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. HÀ and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, HÀ discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of her very own family.
This is the moving story of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.
Little Sister/The Heavenward Path by Kara Dalkey.
As a girl in the Japanese imperial court of medieval Japan, Mitsuko is shielded from reality. But when Mitsuko’s family is attacked by outlaws and her brother-in-law is murdered, she alone finds the courage to venture into the netherworld to find her sister’s wandering spirit. With the aid of Goranu, a shape-shifter, and other magical creatures from Japanese myths, Mitsuko journeys across a landscape transformed by legend and by her own growing sense of power to become an unwitting hero.
Mitsuko is being haunted by ghosts and bad luck. An angry spirit commands her to keep a forgotten promise and assigns her a series of impossible tasks. She turns to the mischievous shape-shifter Goranu for help. Together they journey through a landscape of Japanese myths and legends made real. This sequel to Little Sister is a mythical tale of adventure and star-crossed love set in twelfth-century Japan.
Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle.
DeLisle's (Pyongyang) latest exploration of Asian life is probably the best possible argument against the ruling junta in the embattled (and now nearly obliterated) nation also known as Myanmar. Readers will find themselves initially shocked and surprised at the country's differences, then awestruck by the new traditions and finally in love with and yet enraged by Burmese daily life. DeLisle's wife is a French aid worker with Medecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), leaving DeLisle alone with their son, Louis, and his cartooning. DeLisle's style is simple but highly eloquent, and he tells more about the depth and breadth of the Burmese experience in the book's little nonfiction vignettes than he ever could in an artificially imposed narrative. Burma Chronicles is not merely a neat piece of cartooning but a valuable artifact of a repressive and highly destructive culture that curtails free speech with unparalleled tenacity. Like Joe Sacco's The Fixer and Safe Area Gorazde, DeLisle uses cartooning to dig into a story that demands to be told.--Publisher's Weekly.
Sign of Qin by L.G. Bass.
This book, a multistranded opener to a trilogy, is teeming with monsters, dragons, deities, tricksters, and demons–drawn largely but not exclusively from Chinese myth–plus an array of larger-than-life heroes and villains of both sexes. Readers are propelled from the lush opulence of the Emperor's palace to the filthy slums outside it, from misty swamps to the Gobi's desolation, from Heaven to the Netherworld dominion of Yamu, god of death. In the tradition of both classical Chinese epics and modern kung fu films, the relentlessly episodic plot takes frequent wrenching turns into set-piece comic or battle scenes, punctuated by eye-popping feats of derring-do. Young Prince Zong, born bearing a birthmark that presages a glittering destiny, grows with magical speed in the care of whiny, capricious Monkey, as his mother, Silver Lotus, flees into exile under a sentence of death. She travels with General Calabash, a monk covered in mobile, prophetic tattoos, and Yamu dispatches a lurid corps of demonic minions to prepare the way for a cataclysmic invasion. Along with bands of colorful outlaws, all eventually converge for a climactic skirmish that leaves Yamu poised to make his move. The action scenes are compellingly wild and woolly, and if, as usual, Monkey steals the show (along with everything else that's not nailed down), all of the main players are equally strong, vivid characters–which bodes well for future installments.–John Peters, New York Public Library, School Library Journal.
The Eye of Jade by Diane Liang.
Present day, Beijing. Mei Wang is a modern, independent woman. She has her own apartment. She owns a car. She has her own business with that most modern of commodities -- a male secretary. Her short career with China's prestigious Ministry for Public Security has given her intimate insight into the complicated and arbitrary world of Beijing's law enforcement. But it is her intuition, curiosity, and her uncanny knack for listening to things said -- and unsaid -- that make Mei Beijing's first successful female private investigator.
Mei is no stranger to the dark side of China. She was six years old when she last saw her father behind the wire fence of one of Mao's remote labor camps. Perhaps as a result, Mei eschews the power plays and cultural mores -- guanxi -- her sister and mother live by...for better and for worse.
Mei's family friend "Uncle" Chen hires her to find a Han dynasty jade of great value: he believes the piece was looted from the Luoyang Museum during the Cultural Revolution -- when the Red Guards swarmed the streets, destroying so many traces of the past -- and that it's currently for sale on the black market. The hunt for the eye of jade leads Mei through banquet halls and back alleys, seedy gambling dens and cheap noodle bars near the Forbidden City. Given the jade's provenance and its journey, Mei knows to treat the investigation as a most delicate matter; she cannot know, however, that this case will force her to delve not only into China's brutal history, but also into her family's dark secrets and into her own tragic separation from the man she loved in equal parts.
The first novel in an exhilarating new detective series, The Eye of Jade is both a thrilling mystery and a sensual and fascinating journey through modern China.