Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Enjoy the Silence by Depeche Mode.
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 one of several places, 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.
Spies. Part 1.
The Agency: A Spy in the House (The Agency series) by Y.S. Lee.
Mary Quinn, a young woman alone in Victorian London, is about to hang for thievery when she is whisked away and offered a new life in a women's academy. Eventually she learns the academy is a front for an all-female detective agency. Mary's first assignment takes her to the home of a wealthy merchant, where she is to gather evidence of wrongdoing while posing as a companion for his daughter. It is soon apparent that his household has more than its share of secrets. Mary finds herself forced to partner with James, the brother of her young charge's suitor, who has suspicions about the family. The first in a series, this volume sets up its premise in an unobtrusive manner. There is interesting chemistry between Mary and James as well as hints that they may reunite in a future volume. The descriptions of a crowded, smelly and unsanitary city are both well-drawn and important plot elements, as are the mores of Victorian life. Most intriguing is the unusual ethnic heritage Mary strives to conceal, which adds a fresh dimension.--Kirkus (February 15, 2010).
Perfect Cover (The Squad series) by Jennifer Barnes.
Barnes launches a teen spy series with this campy and thoroughly addictive read. Sixteen-year-old Toby Klein, a tough-girl loner who'd rather sit in detention than pump up a game-day crowd, is appalled but intrigued when she receives an invitation to join the super-popular varsity cheerleading squad at Bayport High. Then she learns the squad is a cover for a top-secret group of teen girl government operatives whose mission is to protect America at all costs. Readers will easily suspend their disbelief to follow the exploits of these party girls whose picture-perfect appearances conceal their skills as brilliant profilers, linguists, weapons experts and computer hackers. Barnes (Platinum ) handily blends scenes of mundane high school life with espionage as the girls sport necklaces with built-in microphones and bulletproof push-up bras. This over-the-top tale never takes itself too seriously, much like Charlie's Angels (to which Toby occasionally dryly refers). Despite a prolonged lead-up to the girls' first mission and an annoying younger brother who pops up too often, this is a terrific guilty pleasure.--Publisher's Weekly (vol 255, issue 5, p58).
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh.
Harriet M. Welsch is a spy. In her notebook, she writes down everything she knows about everyone, even her classmates and her best friends. Then Harriet loses track of her notebook, and it ends up in the wrong hands. Before she can stop them, her friends have read the always truthful, sometimes awful things she’s written about each of them. Will Harriet find a way to put her life and her friendships back together?--Barnes and Noble overview.
I'd Tell you I Love You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls series) by Ally Carter.
Set in a spy school for girls, this entertaining novel centers on 15-year-old Cammie, the headmistress's daughter, who must decide if she is cut out for a life of secrets. Though the plot takes a while to unfold, fun details and characters will keep readers engaged (Cammie and her friends speak 14 languages, take classes in Covert Operations, can rappel down buildings and plant tracking devices). But when Cammie, known as the Chameleon for her ability to disappear in public places, is spotted by a cute boy named Josh in the middle of the town fair, she begins a new mission: learning to be an ordinary girlfriend ("All these years I'd thought being a spy was challenging. Turns out, being a girl is the tricky part"). Cammie soon leads a double life, and must decide which one is right for her. Readers may find some details familiar (Cammie lost her spy father during a mission; her CoveOps teacher is a handsome, intense man who seems to get along too well with her mother) and wish that rich, bratty Macey, a new recruit who is "capable of cracking the Y chromosome code," had been developed more fully. But the author escalates the tension well, leading to the night of the final exam, where Cammie finds herself blindfolded, kidnapped and facing off against the retired spies of the faculty—and also confronting Josh. Readers will eagerly anticipate the next installment.--Publisher's Weekly (Publishers Weekly, vol 253, issue 20, p73).
Sirens and Spies by Janet Taylor Lisle.
Organized Elsie is trapped in a chaotic family. Her mother seeks out people who have mental problems or are homeless, much to her daughter's disgust and embarrassment. Elsie has no friends, but she is the darling and star pupil of Miss Fitch, the flamboyant violin teacher. But suddenly Elsie quits her lessons, sells her violin, and refuses to have anything to do with Miss Fitch. When the teacher is brutally attacked and hospitalized, Elsie reluctantly agrees to pay a visit. Elsie is very cold-hearted, for it seems that she has discovered a horrible secret about Miss Fitch that occurred years ago during the German occupation of France in World War II. Elsie's older sister Mary discovers the truth and convinces her sibling to listen to Miss Fitch's side of the story. Together the sisters learn about friendship, secrets, and forgiveness.--Laura Hummel.
The Boxer and the Spy by Robert Parker.
Parker makes his second foray into YA literature with this tale of a 15-year-old aspiring boxer trying to solve the murder of one of his classmates, deemed a suicide by the authorities. As in his adult "Spenser" books, the question is not so much who committed the crime as how the protagonist will catch him (it is apparent pretty early on who the bad guys are). Terry Novak battles a group of powerful, evil individuals with only his wits, toughness, and a few loyal friends to help him. He has a personal code that requires him to avenge wrongdoing against innocents and will use violence only when forced to. In many ways it is Terry himself rather than the solving of the crime that is the main focus of the novel: haltingly, and often inarticulately, he begins to explore what it means to live honorably, with moral purpose. In this he is aided by George, the wise, elderly black man who is teaching him to fight, and by Abby, the sassy beauty whom Terry hopes to make his girlfriend. As in any Parker novel, the dialogue is delightful. Character is revealed in a word, a phrase, or sometimes even a gesture. (Has any writer ever conveyed more meaning through a shrug?) While some may object that the fight scenes are a little too graphic or the resolution a little too neat, few could question either the quality of the writing or the book's undeniable appeal to teen readers.--School Library Journal (School Library Journal, vol 54, issue 5, p136).
The Shalamar Code by Mary Louise Clifford.
In a post-9/11 world, Pakistan is an uneasy place to live, let alone become involved in political intrigue and drug trafficking. However, that is exactly what Mumtaz and her friend Rashid do, putting both of their lives in danger. When Mumtaz becomes aware that her older brother is in trouble with a drug-running, political spy, she devises a plan to rescue him. Being a headstrong 15-year-old, she does not realize the danger and the sacrifices that have to be made because of her actions. The novel reflects a time in Pakistan when cultures and ideologies collide. Mumtaz is from a privileged background; her friendship with Rashid, the assistant to the tennis coach at her club, defies generations of cultural traditions. Since her father is a member of the outlawed opposition political party, she must learn to live under constant governmental surveillance. Her courage and character are admirable.—Sharon Morrison, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Durant, OK, School Library Journal (School Library Journal, vol 53, issue 1, p124).
The Counterfeit Princess by Jane Thomas.
There's nothing like the mess Henry VIII left his children in to produce captivating historical fiction. Intrigue, politics, spies, princesses, noble and ignoble folk alike are all grist for the mill. Thomas's heroine Iris is an appealing young Protestant noblewoman whose parents, sympathetic to the princesses Mary and Elizabeth, are rounded up and murdered as part of the Duke of Northumberland John Dudley's plot to subvert Edward's throne. Pressed into service by Elizabeth's ally William Cecil, and hoping for revenge against Northumberland, Iris is trained in stealth and camouflage. The story calls to mind something of Cap O'Rushes—the noblewoman in disguise, the lost wealth and rank, the restoration of status in a royal house. And there's a handsome knight, as well.Iris is well-drawn as a self-composed, strong-willed and capable girl who evokes sympathy for her plight and admiration for her courage. Conscientious readers may be bemused rather than enlightened by glimpses into royal relationships and conspiracies, the religious conflict of the age could have been put more firmly into perspective, and there actually are too many Cooks—but overall, a fine read with spirited escapades.--Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2005).
LoveSick by Jake Coburn.
After driving while drunk, crashing his truck into a tree, and wrecking his knee, Ted York no longer has a basketball scholarship to NYU or much of a future. He attends Alcoholics Anonymous on a judge's orders and has been sober for 90 days. When a stranger offers him full tuition if he'll keep an eye on a bulimic freshman for her billionaire father, the teen accepts the deal, expecting it to require little effort. But he hadn't counted on falling in love with Erica, and he finds himself forced to decide whether his loyalty is to her or the man paying his bills. Coburn skillfully balances the issues of alcoholism and bulimia with the fragile love story of two lost teens. Ted and Erica are surprisingly mature and aware of their faults, and their dialogue, including obscenities, is realistic. Erica's father is sympathetic in his genuine but misdirected concern for his daughter. The fast-paced narrative is helped along by frequent e-mails between characters. Part Ellen Wittlinger's Heart on My Sleeve (S & S, 2004), part Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now (Random, 2004), LoveSick will keep readers rooting for these teens.–Jane Cronkhite, Cuyahoga County Public Library, OH, School Library Journal (School Library Journal, vol 51, issue 12, p143).
River Secrets by Shannon Hale.
Razo, this winning novel's endearing protagonist, first brought to life as a minor character in Hale's The Goose Girl , here gets his own story. Now a confidante of Queen Isi, Razo was originally a simple forest boy whose major skill is using a slingshot to hunt squirrels. Short in stature and low in confidence, he is asked to join a mission of peace between his own kingdom of Bayern, and the enemy kingdom of Tira. Razo is then selected to become a spy because of his unassuming nature and powers of observation. He soon discovers that traitors in the Tiran army are trying to re-ignite the war, literally, by leaving charred remains of bodies—an act they hope to pin on another envoy from Bayern—Razo's friend Enna (from Enna Burning ). This mystery unfolds along with charming friendships among Razo and his comrades, who lovingly tease him when he is the last to realize he has fallen in love with Dasha, the striking orange-haired daughter of the Tiran ambassador to Bayern, and has grown in height as well as self-assurance. This novel will be a special treat for readers of Hale's other two companion books, but it also stands on its own as a unique and tender coming-of-age story.--Publisher's Weekly (Publishers Weekly, vol 253, issue 35, p69).