Monday's Muse, 34th edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Life Won't Wait by Ozzy Osbourne.

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:

Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) by Sue Macy.

Take a lively look at women's history from aboard a bicycle, which granted females the freedom of mobility and helped empower women's liberation. Through vintage photographs, advertisements, cartoons, and songs, Wheels of Change transports young readers to bygone eras to see how women used the bicycle to improve their lives. Witty in tone and scrapbook-like in presentation, the book deftly covers early (and comical) objections, influence on fashion, and impact on social change inspired by the bicycle, which, according to Susan B. Anthony, "has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world."

Freedom's Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories by Ellen S. Levine.

The names of those whose voices are heard in these pages are not recorded in textbooks, yet their childhoods in Alabama, Mississippi or Arkansas were marked by acts of extraordinary courage that collectively altered the course of American history. They were among the participants, and in some cases the leaders, of numerous civil rights demonstrations in the 1960s, many of which had violent, tragic outcomes. These individuals, whom Levine doggedly tracked down, were some of the first black young people to attend formerly all-white schools; to participate in sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in stores; to become Freedom Riders, protesting illegal segregation on interstate buses; and to wage the arduous, bloody fight to secure voting rights for blacks. Chronicling all of these campaigns--as well as shocking incidents of senseless beatings, unjust jailings and murders--these first-person accounts are articulate and affecting. Representative are the words of Gladis Williams, repeatedly arrested for taking part in protests during her high school years in Montgomery: "So far as having fear, we didn't even know what fear was. We just had our minds set on freedom, and that was it." --Publisher's Weekly.

The Freedom Business: Including a Narrative of the Life & Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa by Venture Smith, Marilyn Nelson, and Deborah Dancy.

Poems in various forms parallel the reproduced text of A Narrative of the Life & Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa, published in 1798. Nelson's depictions and interpretations of scenes from Venture's account bring a musical, emotional, and inquisitive context to the true story of an enslaved African who eventually bought freedom for himself and his family. Similar in format to Fortune's Bones (2004) and Carver (2001, both Front St), the volume features poems on the right-hand pages, facing the ongoing narrative on the left (amazingly, the two keep pace). Text floats over abstract earth-toned art that lends qualities of light and texture to match the tone of each selection. The poems have both the sense of natural speech and of oratory, giving rhythmic majesty to intensely detailed physical and emotional landscapes. They are dense but rich, and encourage readers to approach the 18th-century narrative (which may seem oddly narrow-minded or stilted to today's youngsters) in a variety of ways. Respectful of both her audience and her subject, Nelson adds to her unique body of work connecting youngsters to history through a combination of primary-source material and verse. —Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA, School Library Journal.

Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins.

With authenticity, insight, and compassion, Perkins delivers another culturally rich coming-of-age novel. Two teens on opposing sides of ethnic conflict in modern-day Burma (Myanmar) tell an intertwined story that poignantly reveals the fear, violence, prejudice, and hardships they both experience. Chiko, a quiet, studious student whose medical doctor father has been arrested as a traitor, is seized by the government and forced into military training. Chiko is groomed for guerrilla warfare against the Karenni, a Burmese minority group living in villages and refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border. After he and his patrol stumble into land mines, Tu Reh, an angry Karenni and rebel fighter, must decide whether or not to save him. Tu Reh's home was destroyed by Burmese soldiers, and he struggles with his conscience and his desire for revenge and independence. Both Chiko and Tu Reh are caught in a conflict that neither fully understands. Family, friendships, and loyalty have shaped their lives. But as young soldiers, they face harrowing situations, profound suffering, and life-and-death decisions. Both boys learn the meaning of courage. Chiko and Tu Reh are dynamic narrators whose adolescent angst and perspectives permeate the trauma of their daily lives. Dialogue and descriptions are vibrant; characters are memorable; cultural characteristics are smoothly incorporated; and the story is well paced. Perkins has infused her narrative with universal themes that will inspire readers to ponder humanitarian issues, reasons for ethnic conflict, and the effects of war. The author's notes provide helpful background information on Burmese history and the ongoing military regime's repression of minorities.–Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC, School Library Journal.

Feature Fun Friday - Solstice Book Trailer by PJ Hoover

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Anumati by E.S Posthumus.

This trailer took me by surprise. It is really well done and pulls you in just enough to make you curious and wanting more. It's an ebook only, but I must say, I've been eyeing ereaders with a lot more interest now, and this would have to be one of my first first purchases. And for less than $3, what do you have to lose? That's less than a happy meal. :) Mythology meets Dystopian? I'm in. :) (I'm just hoping there is more than Greek mythology in there. Me = Myth Geek).

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Another New Idea Bouncing Around....

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): White Shadows by Coldplay.

I'm thinking of doing something new. Again, I will just warn you straight out of the gate that this is one of those "mulling" ideas that tend to bounce around my head like a bouncey-ball you can't catch, and is thus prone to becoming erratic and random. Like me. ^_^ I am not so good with the strict follow-through in all aspects of my life (which is why I will profusely apologize to any emails sent to me. If you haven't heard back from me yet, send it again. Your email is likely all ready to be sent but is in the draft folder and I've forgotten about it, or I read it and thought I replied. Cupcakes are owed to a great many people, I think).


This new idea popped into my head once I discovered I have an immense propensity for finding fan-creations/mashups of works (especially book related. See here, here, and here for just a few examples. Click on the first one for sure, it leads to a free downloadable song.) :)

Since I love it so much, I'm thinking of making it a semi-erratic feature on here. Again (let's put up the user license agreement thingy beforehand), I don't know how often it will be, or on what. Probably as I find them. And I may move them over to my other, currently completely unused blog right now, who knows? But I think this could be a lot of fun. And I'm realizing more and more that that is exactly what blogging is supposed to be about. Not about the numbers or the secret "advantages" you can gain, but just having a ball. So I am. Because I think this is seriously cool.

Here is the first example. Look! It's Star Wars meets Where the Wild Things Are! How cool is that?! :D

Only thing is, I don't know what to call it...

Feature Fun Friday - Happy 100 Years NYPL!

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel.

What can I say that this video does not already say, and far more eloquently? And I think this may be said of all libraries, not just the New York Public Library. But it is their birthday, and it is a time to celebrate. Here is to 100 years, and let's hope it is just the beginning of many more.

New York Public Library Lions Tribute from Tim Miller on Vimeo.

Patience and Fortitude Rock.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Astrid Goes For a Spin by John Powell [How To Train Your Dragon soundtrack].

Gah! This is driving me nuts! I thought I had found THE PERFECT video for this week's Feature Fun Friday. The. Perfect. I mean, it is the 100th anniversary of the New York Public Library this weekend and lo and behold! There was a video talking about LEGO LIONS of Patience and Fortitude the library commissioned. How cool is that?! But of course - no embedding option. Grrr......


I'm copying a screenshot above, and then you can click said sir linky here to get to the video. So ha. I defeated the system. Somewhat.

Because I'm sorry, but Patience and Fortitude are really cool (those are the names of the two lions, by the way. Trivia you can stump your friends on!). They are icons for heaven's sake! When I went to NY and we could only pick two sites each to see (so we could see all of them), guess which one I picked straight out of the gate? Yeah. They are so cool, it is even my profile pic for this blog.

*waits while you look in upper left-hand corner*

See? :) (I'm next to Fortitude)

Like I said, Patience and Fortitude Rock.

One Way to Make Yourself Feel Really Good

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Meet Me at the Copa by Frank Sinatra.

I'm almost late again and I hate that. Okay guys, listen up and listen well. Guys Lit Wire, a fabulous blog if you haven't already been there, is holding their annual library charity drive. Each year they pick a library in sore need of help, and then create a wishlist of books the kids/librarians pick themselves (so you know they are getting books they want) for people like you and me to help stock.

I think it is an amazing idea and an absolutely wonderful endeavor.

And this year they have a high school library in Washington DC where there is less than 1 book per student. It breaks my heart. The list they have created is fantastic, with over 900 books to choose from. And the guys at Lit Wire have made it so it can fit into any budget. Used, new, they are all fantastic.


(and this is where I really have to give myself a facepalm)

There is only one day left to the drive. It ends Wed the 18th. There are a ton of books left to pick. As of this posting, The Illustrated Man, Shiver, Eon/Eona, Hatchet, Pride and Prejudice, I, Robot, Seabiscuit, Tangerine, Odd and the Frost Giants (Neil Gaiman), New Moon/Eclipse/Breaking Dawn, Postsecret, The 100 Best African American Poems, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Road, City of Ashes/City of Glass/City of Fallen Angels, The Outsiders, Brave New World, The Secret Life of Bees, To Kill a Mockingbird, Beauty (Robin McKinley), A Conspiracy of Kings, Julie of the Wolves, Going Bovine, Rules (and a ton of others) have not been bought yet. There is sure to be a book you feel a child deserves to read.

The wishlist is here.

So, even if you can only spare a little, think about how much that little can make. You would be helping build a library, and that book would affect far more than a single person. And that is something very special.

All of the details are in this post. Post any further questions you have in the comments!

Beth Revis on Dystopian!

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Down by Safetysuit.

This is a fantastic article on dystopian from across the pond (ha. They thought they could sneak it by me. Again I say "ha!"). In it, the amazing Beth Revis talks about why she thinks dystopian is so big right now and why it is, more than anything, a genre filled with hope. She says her thoughts so succinctly and with such a beautiful simplicity.

THE HUNGER GAMES isn't about a world that is so broken it's willing to send children to a battle arena. It's about a girl so fed up with it that she's willing to fight back. THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan isn't about a world destroyed by zombies. It's about a girl who can still see beauty and love in that world. And my own novel, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, isn't about a society that wants to absorb the individuality of people to create a perfectly static society. It's about standing up and being yourself even when everyone else expects the opposite from you.

Click here to read the full article!
Source: Guardian UK

We Are Now Back and Everything Is Okay... So Far

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Let Love In by Goo Goo Dolls.

Grrr. Since Blogger's fail/epic demise, it looks like I have to start over with these posts. Sorry about not getting a Feature Fun Friday video to you, but it wouldn't let me in. Curse you, Blogger! *shakes fist*

Monday's Muse, 33rd edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Storm by René Dupéré [KA 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 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:

Mercy's Birds by Linda Holeman.

Mercy, her mother Pearl, and her Aunt "Moo" have been on a downward socioeconomic slide for some time. As the novel opens, the teen is adjusting to yet another new school and to the realization that her aunt's boyfriend, who made sexual advances toward Mercy and threatened to hurt her if she told anyone, is due to return from an overseas job. Like her mother, who has become clinically depressed, and her aunt, who has retreated into an alcoholic haze, the girl begins to withdraw. A new friend and her employer keep reaching out to her and, to her credit, she hangs on to the ropes they throw. When Mercy's mother is hospitalized for her depression and her aunt's boyfriend returns, Mercy finds the strength to stand up to him. The novel deals with issues of poverty, depression, suicide, molestation, and alcoholism with delicacy, but without glossing over the harsh realities. Aunt Moo and Pearl are unconventional yet believable. The situations at school, especially when Mercy is interacting with her peers or the school counselor, are painfully realistic. The only weaknesses are in a few minor details, including the bird image of the title that is awkwardly woven into several scenes. Even though there is no Hollywood ending, readers are left with the hope that this family will find ways to rebuild the unit they almost lost.--Lucinda Lockwood, Thomas Haney Secondary School, Maple Ridge, BC, School Library Journal

Broken Moon by Kim Antieau.

Scarred physically and psychologically by Pakistani traditionalists who avenged her brother's alleged assault on another girl by cutting his sister's face and body, Nadira accepts that she has been ruined. Now 18, she focuses her love on her 6-year-old brother, entertaining him with stories from A Thousand and One Nights. Her father is dead and she works as a servant in a Karachi household to support Umar and their mother, who live with cruel Uncle Rubel. When he sells Umar to kidnappers who take children to the desert to become camel jockeys, she disguises herself as a boy to follow him. In the Bedouin country she tames young bullies as well as the fastest camel, hoping to be allowed to go to the races where she might encounter her brother and win their freedom. Nadira's forbearance and skillful storytelling make her sad situation bearable, and the romantically happy ending will satisfy readers caught up in her life. The first-person account is presented as a narrative written for Umar to read at some later date. Details of Nadira's daily life are smoothly woven in, but they are not the sort of thing–descriptions of clothing and the ingredients for masala chai, for example–that would ordinarily be emphasized by a sister writing to her brother. Although this is clearly an outsider's view of life in Pakistan and on the Arab peninsula, it may entice readers to explore that world further.–Kathleen Isaacs, Towson University, MD, School Library Journal

Justice N Mercy by Min-Woo Hyung.

Featuring sketches that Mr. Hyung had stashed away, he was convinced to make this artbook.

I couldn't be happier.

His art style isfresh and gives a breath of life into a foreign comic economy that seems to be filled with too many big eyed anime creeps.

His style is often harsh, and gives a since of surrealism in it's details. If you are fan of his currently published comic "Priest" you will love this artbook.

Featuring over 100 pages of amazing art, this is a truly wonderful buy whether you just like Min-Woo Hyjng or just enjoy artbooks. --Jacob Kohl ( review)

Mercy Lily by Lisa Albert.

A poetic, moving story about a teen who must make an unimaginable choice

Mama has slowly been losing herself to MS. After traditional treatment fails, she takes bee sting therapy, administered by Lily, to alleviate her pain. Lily is trained as a veterinary assistant, so she can easily handle the treatments. What she can't handle is what happens when the bee sting therapy fails and it becomes clear that Mama wants to die.

One beautiful spring day, Lily's mother asks her for the most impossible thing of all—mercy. They live in Oregon, where the Death with Dignity Act allows a patient to make the decision to end their own life.

While navigating first love, friendship, and the other normal worries faced by high school sophomores, Lily also has to choose: grant Mama's request, or cling to Mama's fading life for all it's worth.

Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials by Stephanie Hemphill.

Hemphill follows her Printz Honor Book Your Own, Sylvia (2007) with another bold verse novel based on historical figures. Here, her voices belong to the “afflicted” girls of Salem, whose accusations of witchcraft led to the hangings of 19 townspeople in 1692. Once again, Hemphill's raw, intimate poetry probes behind the abstract facts and creates characters that pulse with complex emotion. According to an appended author's note, unresolved theories about the causes of the girls' behavior range from bread-mold-induced hallucinations to bird flu. In Hemphill's story, the girls fake their afflictions, and the book's great strength lies in its masterful unveiling of the girls' wholly believable motivations: romantic jealousy; boredom; a yearning for friendship, affection, and attention; and most of all, empowerment in a highly constricting and stratified society that left few opportunities for women. Layering the girls' voices in interspersed, lyrical poems that slowly build the psychological drama, Hemphill requires patience from her readers. What emerge are richly developed portraits of Puritanical mean girls, and teens will easily recognize the contemporary parallels in the authentic clique dynamics. An excellent supplementary choice for curricular studies of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, this will also find readers outside the classroom, who will savor the accessible, unsettling, piercing lines that connect past and present with timeless conflicts and truths.--Gillian Engberg, Booklist

Story With Holes Winner!

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Romei by Michiru Oshima [Fullmetal Alchemist soundtrack]

Wow! That was so crazy and cool! I am so glad there was so much excitement and anticipation over the story with holes. *sends out warm fuzzies to everyone*

And we DO have a winner! Kimberly, you pieced it all together first! If you will email me, we can figure out which book you would like. But really, you guys, it was very close, within just a few hours (and great job on the consensus!). I want to do this again sometime. This was a whole basket of fun. You were seriously creative. Would you be up for another one of these in the future, nor or far-ish? :)

Feature Fun Friday - Interview with Scott Westerfeld

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): All The Right Moves by OneRepublic.

We haven't had an interview on here in far too long, so here is a little gem I uncovered with Scott Westerfeld all about his illustrations on his steampunk Leviathan. :) It is a fun and fascinating interview. Have a great weekend, everyone!

A Story With Holes - (and a contest)

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Fidelity by Regina Spektor.

Considering my last post, I thought we needed something more upbeat and I've been wanting to share it for quite a while. I started this a long time ago and forgoet that I never finished it. Some of the questions in the comments were "awaiting moderation" and I never received them. This is long overdue for a resurrection.

This is an adventure that literally hearkens back to my elementary school days. I was in a... unique class. I don't know what else to call it. We took a test (I was bribed with doughnuts to take it. I'm not kidding. That was the only way I agreed since it was optional. That and they said I didn't have to catch up on any of the work I missed during the test so it was bonus points for me).

Those who tested high enough were put in an accelerated program of sorts. In my fifth and sixth grade year, we were put on an experimental program (it may have been a grant. I'm not sure. Kids really don't pay attention to that kind of thing) where we got to do all sorts of projects to stretch our minds and creativity and stuff like that. We did a lot of art projects, and we also played a stock market "game" where we actually bought real stocks, tracked the figures and figured out each week whether we had made or lost money (that was one of our math assignments). We researched the companies ourselves and tried to guess which ones would make the most money. (I know we had Disney. I mean, how could it not make money to us?) :) We ended up taking second place both years and the money we received bought us a bus, pizza, and a day exploring museums and parks downtown. We each had a bus row to our selves. It was most posh by our elementary school standards.

I remember the art projects the most. We did them everywhere. It was fun and to me, in every what, they stimulated my creativity and stretched my mind. I don't know what the results of the test said at the end of those two years, but I know it had a huge impact on me. Our teacher also read to us everyday for a half an hour after lunch. I think that was absolutely critical to my development as a reader.

I know my curiosity and passion for life increased because of that. This is something I hope for. I really hope that kids are still being taught these "non-essentials" in school and given every opportunity to see the possibility of their own limits. It was one of the best times I can remember. I know I started reading books on my own and questioning life and wanting to find out answers myself because of those experiences.

But one of the things I remember and loved best was another "game" we played. It happened every day right after lunch (right after reading). It is called a Story with Holes. The story is a mystery and you have to solve it by asking yes or no questions. Once you fill in all of the holes, you see the whole story. I loved it, as did everyone in my class. It kept us busy and guessing for upwards of an hour. I loved them so much and think they are fantastic to this day. And now I'm going to share them with you.

Remember - it's a short story (very short story) and you have to fill in the holes. Ask any yes or no question and I will answer with a "yes," "no," or "irrelevant" to the story. And to make this more fun, first person to get the entire story right wins a book. :)

Are you ready?

Here is the story*

When the music stopped, she died.

Aaaaaannnnnd - go!** :D

*and incidentally, this is the first story with holes I ever heard too. Seems appropriate. :)

**and yes, I've already deleted the first post, so you can't go back and cheat. The only ones with a distinct advantage are the ones who were hardcore participants the first time. :)

I Hate Spiders and Other Things That Go Crunch.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): You Drop Manna by Jocelyn Pook [The Merchant of Venice soundtrack].

I hate killing things. I really do.

When I was little I was UBER spider killer extraordinaire! As a toddling, rambunctious four-year-old my mom had to physically pluck me off the ground when we were in the garden because I would see an eight-legged foe and shout "SPIDER!" and strike before my mom had a chance to blink, let alone turn around to try and stop me. Ninja skills, I tell you.

But then, somewhere around seven or eight, I stopped. I learned that spiders could be scary. They had tiny fangs I couldn't see, some of them laced with poison. That was a new concept for me. A seven-year-old doesn't think that there could be a smaller world than theirs.

But in a new and gradual turn, I am starting to like spiders again. Slowly. It has happened because of two reasons.

Case Study #1. Howl's Moving Castle. As you know from my post to honor Diana Wynne Jones, I have loved Howl's Moving Castle for a long time, especially the main character Howl. One of his unique and admiring qualities is that he loves spiders. At first I thought it was just different, but then the idea started to grow on me…

Case Study #2 Beth Revis. This girl LOVES spiders. Don't ask me why. I'm still trying to understand it (and trust me, she has tried to explain it multiple times). And I figured if there was an actual living, live, SANE person who loved spiders, they couldn't be all the spawn of evil. It was time to get back in touch with my inner child (minus the mass-murdering part).

Don't get me wrong. I still kill spiders. Far more often than I save them. But I am getting better at the whole putting-them-under-a--jar-and-releasing-them-into-the-wild-to-live-better-lives part. It's a work in progress. It's hovering around 80/20 right now.

But I still hate killing them. It makes me sad, ESPECIALLY if they are on a soft surface like carpet and I can't give them an instant ticket into arachnid heaven. But ants are worse. Even if they are Carpenter Ants and are eating my house from the inside out so that it will collapse on me someday with me inside and they don't have an ounce of mercy in their chomping jaws. Because they have exoskeletons and they crunch so much more. I hate it. I wince and want to cry every time.

There is no real point to this story. But you can guess what I've been doing lately.