Monday's Muse, 66th edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Courier Heart by Eccodek [The Looking Glass Wars soundtrack].

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.

Today's random word:

Wonder Show by Hannah Rodgers Barnaby.

Fourteen-year-old Portia joins a circus freak show looking for the father who abandoned her, but she finds much more. Portia's odyssey takes place in a gothic, Depression-era Midwest. Her idyllic youth, surrounded by the stories of her extended family, ends when her widowed father leaves her with her stoic, thoroughly practical Aunt Sophia--who then turns her over to the distinctly un-homelike McGreavey Home for Wayward Girls, ruled by the sinister Mister. After her only friend commits suicide--an act Portia feels responsible for--Portia steals Mister's bicycle and runs away to the circus, where she hopes (with no real basis) to find her father. Her way with words wins her a place pitching the ballyhoo to the rubes who visit the titular Wonder Show. The languid, sensuous third-person account is periodically punctuated by the voices of Portia and the members of the Wonder Show, giving readers poignant insight into this fragile found family. The themes that delicately thread their way through the novel--of the power of story, of family and friendship, of seeking and finding--weave themselves together into a compelling depiction of Portia's very conscious act of self-definition: She can be, as her mentor in the ballyhoo says, whoever she wants to be. Infused with nostalgia and affection, this celebration of the deliberately constructed self will hold readers in its spell from beginning to end.--Kirkus (November 1, 2012).

Freaks: Alive on the Inside by Annette Curtis Klause.

Abel, 17, is the “normal” son of a legless father and an armless mother. He lives with other “oddities” in a midget village where they put on shows. He is restless and wants his own life. His romantic experiences have been limited to kissing the hairy Dog-Faced Girl. He runs away and joins a traveling circus, unaware that Apollo, 12, the hairy Puppy Boy, has followed him and stowed away aboard the circus train. Apollo is discovered and caged like an animal and Abel is thrown from the train by his fellow performers. Apollo escapes and they are reunited, working as servants in a brothel until Dr. Mink's Traveling Monster Menagerie arrives in town and Apollo is lured into joining them. Most of the show's “monsters” are children who were born with deformities and have been sold to or kidnapped by Mink. As Abel attempts to free them, he is plagued by dreams of a beautiful Egyptian woman who repeatedly throws herself at him. Somehow a ring he received as a gift allows this female mummy to come alive. Set in 1899, this gripping and sensual, but never explicitly sexual tale is a fascinating mixture of fantasy and reality. Abel's growth from an immature, irresponsible teen into a more mature, dependable young man ready to take charge is well done. The author never loses sight of the fact that despite their unusual appearances, all of the characters are human.–Sharon Rawlins, NJ Library for the Blind and Handicapped, Trenton --Sharon Rawlins, School Library Journal (January 1, 2006 vol 52, issue 1, pg. 136).

Tiger's Curse by Colleen Houck.

When 18-year-old Kelsey takes a job with a circus, she finds herself oddly attracted to the white tiger she has been hired to feed. Little does she know the animal is really a 300-year-old Indian prince who has been cursed and transformed by an evil wizard. She soon discovers the truth and, to her amazement, learns she may be the only one who can help. The next thing she knows, she is on her way, with the tiger, to India, where they embark on a dangerous quest to break the curse. The tiger can change into a man for 24 minutes during each 24-hour period. And what a man! “He’s like James Bond, Antonio Banderas, and Brad Pitt all rolled into one,” Kelsey thinks. Originally self-published as an e-book, Houck’s first novel is part Twilight, part Indiana Jones, and part fairy tale. Although her book—the first in a proposed series—is sometimes derivative, she tells a good story filled with chaste romance that will keep readers turning pages to the inconclusive ending. --Michael Cart, Booklist (Janurary 1, 2011 vol 107, number 9, pg. 100).

MirrorMask by Neil Gaiman.

Helena is about to embark on a most amazing journey. Raised in a family of circus performers, she's always dreamed of leading a more ordinary life. But when haunting music draws her into a strange and magical realm, one where anything can happen, herreal life is stolen by a runaway from the other side. Helena must rescue the realm from chaos in order to win back her own not-so-ordinary life. MirrorMask. is a breathtaking film written by bestselling author Neil Gaiman and brought to life through the vision of acclaimed artist and director Dave McKean. This original novella is Helena's tale in her own voice, written by master storyteller Neil Gaiman and accompanied by original art by Dave McKean and images from the film; it is a stunning and magical journey.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.

A carnival rolls in sometime after the midnight hour on a chill Midwestern October eve, ushering in Halloween a week before its time. A calliope's shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two inquisitive boys standing precariously on the brink of adulthood will soon discover the secret of the satanic raree-show's smoke, mazes, and mirrors, as they learn all too well the heavy cost of wishes -- and the stuff of nightmare.

The Unrivalled Spangles by Karen Wallace.

Though kids no longer dream of running away to the circus, teen girls may be lured to a vicarious escape via this 19th-century tale set in London's East End. Ellen, 16, and Lucy Spangle, 14, have been raised as star horseback riders headlining the family circus. When Lucy falls during a dangerous stunt, she fatally breaks her neck. The tragedy is only the beginning of a roller coaster of calamities. Ellen's yearning to leave the circus to become a governess drives the plot as two romances—a dreamy gentleman who charms her with visions of visiting Venice and handsome, honest Joe, son of the rival circus owner—entangle her feelings and complicate the family's struggles. Add to the mix a devastating fire that almost kills her father, Ellen's skill at healing and British upper-class snobbery. Readers will be way ahead of the author, and, like watching a melodrama, want to call out advice to the characters. Stiff-collar tone, some overly dramatic moments and plot fripperies keep the action tumbling but nick a few "spangles" off the appeal.--Kirkus Reviews (September 15, 2006).


Pica said...

Great list, but I have to add The Night Circus, my very favorite circus book. Have you read it?