Monday's Muse, 68th edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Lacrimosa Dominae by The Immediate.

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:

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale.

Hale's novelization of the relatively obscure Grimm Brothers' fairy tale "Maid Maleen" is quite an improvement over the original. Rather than merely adding flesh to the Grimms' skeleton, the author has taken a few of the prominent bones (a love match thwarted by an autocratic king, the princess and her maid condemned to a tower for seven years, the country a wasteland when they finally escape) and constructed a new and far more appealing body. Lady Saren loves Khan Tegus, who rules a lesser realm, and she refuses to marry the evil man whom her father has chosen for her for political gains. The narrator, Dashti, is the princess's maid, immured in the tower almost as soon as she's found employment in the royal household. Bound to obey her mistress, Dashti is ordered to speak in her place when Tegus comes calling on their prison. Many readers will guess how that will eventually turn out, but they won't predict how Dashti and Tegus will overcome physical, political, and social obstacles to recognize their mutual love and defy convention in order to marry. Hale has created a richly imagined, mythical land something like medieval Mongolia, replete with magical song and touch therapy for spiritual or corporeal ailments, intuitive animals, and a sort of Faustian werewolf. It's a highly successful romance.—Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY--Miriam Lang Budin, School Library Journal (October 1, 2007. vol 53, issue 10, pg. 152).

The Darkangel by Merideth Anne Pierce.

The servant girl Aeriel must choose between destroying her vampire master for his evil deeds or saving him for the sake of his beauty and the spark of goodness she has seen in him.

The Silver Bowl by Diane Stanley.

Veteran Stanley concocts a delicious blend of familiar fairy-tale motifs and intriguing, well-rounded characters to create an engaging fantasy.Young Molly's mother is ill and her father uncaring, so she learns early how to take care of herself. Her resourcefulness pays off when she goes into service at the palace. Resilience and intelligence allow her to thrive, and they stand her in good stead when she gets swept up into a series of dangerous adventures. Molly encounters an enchanted artifact that reveals (only to her) the threat that hangs over the royal family. Aided by Tobias, a fellow servant who befriended her from the first, Molly rescues young Prince Alaric from certain death. The three then flee the castle and face a series of challenges both mundane and magical before Alaric can claim the throne. Stanley's writing is smooth and compelling, making her characters come to life and ensuring that readers can easily follow the twists and turns of the inventive plot. While there is indeed a villain as well as some not-so-nice characters, Stanley's nuanced portraits encourage readers to consider motivation as well as actions. Touches of humor lighten the tone at times, while suspenseful sequences heighten the tension.A most worthy and enjoyable entry in the "feisty female" fantasy genre.--Kirkus Reviews (May 15, 2011).

Wisdom's Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock.

At the start of this delightful fairy tale, Princess Wisdom is betrothed to Duke Roger of Farina. After she and her grandmother set off for her royal marriage ceremony, though, she finds herself falling madly in love with a circus acrobat. Complicating matters, the circus performer has already professed his love to another: Wisdom’s lady-in-waiting. Oh, the scandal of it all! This tongue-in-cheek tour de force follows multiple characters; as the book’s epigraph states, “Truth requires many voices.” Included among the captivating cast are Rudy, the forsaken lady-in-waiting; Princess Wisdom, better and appropriately known as Dizzy; Sir Felis el Gato, a master swordsman; Tips, the Circus Primus acrobat; the evil Wilhelmina, Duchess of Farina and mother of the bridegroom; and the Queen Mother Ben and her cat, Escoffier. Readers will find themselves rooting for a happy, if fantastical, ending for all of Murdock’s deftly drawn characters, with the exception, of course, of Duchess Wilhelmina, who refreshingly meets her just desserts. Interwoven with the straightforward narration are passages in inventive forms, such as letters and diary entries, a play within a play, and excerpts from The Imperial Encyclopedia of Lax, 8th Edition. Packed with double entendres, humorous dialogue and situations, and a black cat that will capture the reader’s imagination, this is a joyful, timeless fantasy that teens will savor. --Bradburn, Frances, Booklist (August 1, 2011. vol 107, number 22, p45).

The Agency: A Spy in the House 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 Reviews (February 15, 2010).

Beneath My Mother's Feet by Amjed Qamar.

Fourteen-year-old Nazia is a good Muslim girl. She lives in Karachi and keeps busy attending school, helping with her younger siblings and preparing for an arranged marriage, when her father is injured. Nazia doesn't know it at first, but everything in her life has changed. First, she leaves school to work as a maid with her mother, which is kept secret, since this would make her unsuitable for marriage. Then the unthinkable happens: Nazia's dowry is stolen. Her father remains unemployed while his wife and daughter work, and as his behavior becomes more unpredictable, Nazia and her mother realize they must assume responsibility for the family. Nazia's hopes for the future are dashed. But when she is offered the opportunity to marry a man who will rule over her, she must decide exactly what she is willing to sacrifice. Reminiscent of Suzanne Fisher Staples's Shabanu (1989), this beautifully written depiction of life in modern Pakistan offers readers a painful and stirring view of a girl with limited choices but great inner strength.--Kirkus Reviews (May 15, 2008).

Newes from the Dead by Mary Hooper.

"Newes from the Dead" was the name of a pamphlet that circulated in England in 1650 after a teenage housemaid, hanged for the crime of infanticide, awoke on the dissecting table. Hooper uses this case as the basis for a historical mystery that is creepy in the best Edgar Allen Poe tradition, as well as thought-provoking about sexual harassment and abuse. The story opens in a coffin, as the reader listens in on poor Anne's frantic coming-to-terms with where she is and how she got there: her days as a servant, her seduction by a young lord, the accusation of murder. Anne's thoughts, from coffin to dissecting table, are juxtaposed with a third-person narrative, centering on a nervous young surgeon who is on hand to witness and assist in the young woman's dissection. Hooper explains that surgeons were allowed to conduct autopsies on criminals, and it's just such intriguing tidbits of Cromwellian history that add heft to this suspenseful novel. Give this to readers who prefer their historical mysteries straight up—without an overlay of fantasy.--Fletcher, Connie, Booklist (May 1, 2008. vol 104, number 17, pg. 48).


Meg said...

Just finished Wisdom's Kiss..very cute,and I loved Ben making a reappearance!
and of course Shannon Hale always rocks :)

Meg said...

Oh, and Happy New Year's!!

Pica said...

From this list, I've only read Book of a Thousand Days, but it's one of my favorites. Happy New Year!

Pica @ Pica Reads

mimi said...

Hi Heather and Happy New Year! I'm just a lurker who had to come out of lurkerdom for a moment when I spotted a few gems in this post.

Book of a Thousand Days - an enjoyable read.

The Agency series - YES. Absolutely. There's three out so far and a fourth (and final) one coming out this fall. So. Excited. You will love it, I am sure.

Beneath My Mother's Feet - I haven't read this one yet, but if it's anything like Shabanu (and its sequel Haveli (YES. Again.)), as stated in the blurb, it's a keeper.

Happy reading! :)