Not Gone.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Banquine by Cirque Du Soliel [Journey of Man soundtrack].

So as you've probably noticed, I've been kind of absent of late (and if you haven't, great! All the better. Keep not noticing). Here's the low down: I am editing my novel as furiously as I my smallish can't-reach-the-fourth-finger-on-the-viola-to-save-my-life fingers can blitz out. What that means is that I am inside my head a lot working out the details of the world, copying and pasting scenes, deleting scenes, rewriting or writing completely new scenes to fill in the gaps of the deleted scenes. And making a cool map*. And what THAT means is that I have less time for blogging, but only temporarily. Like literally, maybe a couple of weeks (I'm hoping less). Three max. I will still be doing Feature Fun Friday, because I don't want this blog to feel like a ghost town (ghost blog?), and besides, who doesn't love internet videos? :)

But the less I am thinking about other things like blogging, food, sleep, showering, etc., the more I can craft and hone this novel to the best it can be. And that means querying. And that means hopefully a very good book in your hands soon. So, do you think you can stick with me for a little bit longer with radio silence? Then I can come back and we can jiggy it down all night. And probably host some kind of cool contest to celebrate.

Until then, so you don't notice I am gone at all, I am going to distract you with... BABY ANIMALS**!

*I'm kidding about the map part. I hope. It hadn't occured to me until now. New ideas are always a dangerous thing with me.

**Because nothing says love and internet affection like baby animals. ^_^

Feature Fun Friday - Intro to Victoria Schwab

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Liz on Top of the World by Dario Marianelli [Pride and Prejudice soundtrack].

Awesome introductory video to the adorable, narwhal-loving Victoria Schwab, author of THE NEAR WITCH (which I've heard is creepy and all number of fantastic things. Can't wait to get my hands on it). So if you watch this, you know, you could pretend you were there, like, at the genesis of it all of her greatness. Just a thought. Have a great weekend everyone!

Monday's Muse, 38th edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Outside the City by Young Galaxy.

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:

The Shield Ring by Rosemary Sutcliff.

The story takes place in England shortly after the Norman Conquest. High up among the mountains of the Lake District is a secret valley where the Northmen (Vikings) have their last stronghold - or shield ring. The Normans want to crush this last group of Northmen and bring the whole country under their control. To this end they build a castle in Carlisle and send an army north.

Life goes on in the valley: lambing, shearing, spinning, harvesting, and singing and storytelling in the great hall in the evenings - as narrated by two young people. Frytha is a Saxon girl, who fled to the valley after the Normans burnt her home, and Bjorn, the Bear-Cub, is the foster son of the old harper.

As the people of the shield ring go about their lives, they stay ready for a Norman attack. Bjorn's foster father teaches him to play the Sweet-singer, a special harp that the old harper owns, and despite Bjorn's enthusiasm, a secret fear burns inside the boy: if the Normans capture Bjorn, he may succumb to torture and reveal the path to the hidden valley.

When the Northmen need to scout the extent of the Norman army, Bjorn volunteers: he speaks enough Norman to get by and a harper can go anywhere. The young man sets out for the Norman camp, not knowing that Frytha, an ally, follows him. He does know that if the Normans discover his espionage, though, he will be tortured, and his secret fear from childhood may become a reality.

Immortal by Gillian Shields.

Sensible Evie Johnson arrives alone to face her new life at the Wyldcliffe Abbey School for Young Ladies. Raised by her beloved grandmother, Evie never wanted to attend boarding school, especially one for spoiled rich girls. But Frankie has fallen gravely ill and Evie's father is away in military service, so off to Wyldcliffe she goes. It is as horrible as Evie suspected it would be. The girls mistreat her, the headmistress is a nightmare, and she keeps seeing a girl who looks just like her. Evie's only joy comes from her budding romance with elusive Sebastian, who tells her that he lives near the school. Why will he only meet her at night? What does he know about the mysteries surrounding the school? And who is that shadowy girl? Billed as the first in a paranormal romance series, this lightweight story is filled with romance, mystery, and suspense. The moors provide plenty of atmosphere and Wyldcliffe Abbey and its teachers are downright spooky.–Sharon Grover, Hedberg Public Library, Janesville, WI, School Library Journal.

Shield of Fire by Alice Leader.

A powerful historical adventure set in ancient Greece. Nyresa is forced to leave her island home when the Persians threaten to invade. As she starts a new life in the hustle and bustle of Athens, she begins to make new friends - and finds herself sucked into a dangerous new world of subterfuge, lies and treason. With her beautiful cousin Rhode and a young soldier called Cherson, she uncovers a plot to betray Athens to the Persian army - and as the two armies build up to an unforgettable battle at Marathon, the fate of Athens is in the hands of a 12-year-old girl.

Ben and Gran and the Whole, Wide, Wonderful World by Gillian Shields.

Ben's favourite person in the whole, wide world is Gran, and Gran's favourite person is Ben. There is only one problem - they live a whole, wide world apart. Now Gran is coming to visit. But with rocky rivers, scorching deserts and seasick cats to contend with, will she ever reach Ben's in time for tea? The split page design allows children to follow Gran's amazing journey at the same time as watching Ben busy making his preparations for her visit.

Viking Warrior: Book 1 of the Strongbow Saga by Judson Roberts.

In 9th century Denmark, a child born to a slave is also a slave, and the property of his mother’s master. Halfdan, the son of an Irish noblewoman and the Danish chieftain who captured and enslaved her, has grown up a slave in his own father’s household. But the Norns, the weavers of the fates of all men, have different plans for him, although rarely do they give a gift without exacting a price. The Strongbow Saga is an epic tale of one man’s unstoppable quest for justice and vengeance that carries him across the 9th century world of the Vikings. In Viking Warrior, book one of the Saga, a cruel twist of fate both robs Halfdan of the mother he loves and frees him, setting him upon the path to a new destiny. But a brutal act of treachery and murder upends Halfdan’s new life, sending him on the run with ruthless hunters hot on his trail.

Feature Fun Friday - Flying

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Ghost Story by Sting.

I will let my superman-like self be my own introduction this time around. It was - fantastic, like a dream and something very visceral. If you ever get the chance, I would highly recommend it. There's nothing quite like flying.

My Adventures in Skydiving - Almost.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Regarding the Incredibly Deadly Viper by Thomas Newman [A Series of Unfortunate Events Soundtrack].

You guessed it - AGAIN. You guys are way too cool and world savvy for my wiley ways. This one was a great adventure and one heck of a wild ride. I loved it.

I've always wanted to go skydiving. Don't ask me why, but the "fear of heights" gene was never properly installed in me. In fact, I've been literally pulled away from gulleys, backyard porches and cliff faces by friends and family members who were freaking out sufficiently on my behalf that they could not restrain themselves (imagine me blinking, totally (and genuinely) innocent as to why on earth all the color had drained from their faces). The only scary part about skydiving might be the actual act of throwing myself from an airplane. I can imagine a few gut wrenching stomach drop muscle spasms there--but in a good way. It's like the first drop off of a really good roller coaster. ^_^ (Yes, I may very well be a closet adrenaline junkie. I even like turbulence - so long as it is not inside a heavy thunderstorm in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with no islands in sight. *shudder*). Buuuutttt... skydiving is kind of expensive. And you have to go tandem the first time *grumbles* So there is this place called iFly.

It is a gigantic wind tunnel where stunt skydivers (even teams) can practice aerial acrobatics for performances, or just because it is oh so cool. Lucky for me, they also let the wee amateurs in.

(my face)

So my family and I got all geared up, suited up, and hair properly stuffed into helmets. That was amsuing. I'm pretty sure the hot guy behind the counter was laughing behind his friendly smile the entire time I was wrapping my hair around my pony tail and trying to keep all the stray pieces in before sucking my hands out. Let's just say those helmets were a tight squeeze.

The chamber was supercool. It's all plexiglass so you get to see every toss and tumble and move of awesome that was made. They even had mini bleachers just for regular people to watch (or the ones waiting in line. It was consistently busy there). I saw what looked like netting, the rope kind you see in playgrounds or jungle-gym parks, but it turned out it was a wire mesh that kept us from falling to our doom in case the wind got too low.

I'm totally kidding about that, by the way.

In fact, I couldn't even see the fan generating the air. But it was a long way down, at least twenty-thirty feet I'd say, and that was just meeting up to the mesh. There was at least another good twenty to thirty feet above us as well. And let me tell you, that was A LOT of air. But I am getting ahead of myself.

First came the orientation with the standard silly video with the over-smiling people. Cue practice round where demonstrated we'd been paying attention by responding to the visual hand signals because it is so loud in there you cannot talk. Earplugs were a part of the standard equipment. Then came the actual chamber.

There were about twelve people in our group, another family paired with ours, so we had to wait in line as we scooted our bottoms along the bench toward the open plexiglass doorway. But that only added to the excitement because you got to see each person try and get the proper balance and you just knew you were going to be a thousand times better. By the time it got to me, I was practally ready to leap into the tunnel. You have to, actually. Kind of like you're pretending you're superman. Which is totally okay with me, considering we're about to fly. :)

It is WINDY. Obvious, but still valid. All of my clothes whipped around me, showing my skinny form. And my hair? The one I so tightly wound up into that helmet and made hot guy laugh on the inside? Yeah, totally came out through the one tiny hole in the helmet.

This tunnel can go up to 160 miles an hour. It. Was. AWESOME! I never felt like I was falling. It felt instead like a cushion of air was pushing me up the entire time, which in fact, it was, but this is supposed to mimic actual skydiving. Otherwise the real skydivers would never train in it. This was also confirmed to me by other members in my family who actually hate that gut-surging feeling in your stomach when you fall. Crazies.

We only had two minutes in there but it went by so fast. I couldn't stop smiling the entire time, which resulted unexpectedly with a completely dry mouth because of all the air rushing past. (This is why I love doing hands-on research. There are details that are so specific and real that you would never think of unless you are there).

The second round was even better.

But I'm not going to say why. Not yet.

Because while we weren't allowed to take cameras into the chamber for obvious reasons (wind + small, slightly heavy object + heads = bad idea) we were able to get video of it from a safe chamber where they did the controls for a small nominal price. Guess who totally bought one? :)

So look for it for this week's Feature Fun Friday!

All in all it was absolutely fantastic and I would throw myself into that chamber again in a heartbeat. Which I may just have to do, once my bank account can get its breath back. :)

Guess My Adventure

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Soul Meets Body by Death Cab for Cutie.

It's that time again, and this time I think I may actually win this round. At least, I hope so (considering I've never won in the past. Not once). Yes, I do look silly. I have one more picture that makes me look a bit better, but that's for tomorrow. Guess away!

Feature Fun Friday - Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children Trailer

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): She Is by The Fray.

This is one of the best suck-you-in trailers I have seen in a long time. So much that I put it on hold at my library the instant it finished. It probably ranks among the top ten best book trailers currently out there. But even better, the video below it shows how they made the video (including breaking into some abandoned houses). Have a great weekend, everyone!

Interview Double Take!

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Venice Rooftops by Jesper Kyd [Assassin's Creed 2 soundtrack].

Okay, I am deliriously excited about this when I probably shouldn't be, especially considering all the extra work Ms. George unwittingly put into this. Let me explain. She sent me the answers to the interview questions I sent over, but then thought her computer had nommed the email out of existence. And so she sent a new email answering them all again, apologizing profusely for not getting to them (sweetest thing ever). After a quick exchange about the mix-up, she delightfully agreed to let me re-post the interview with both answers side by side. How rare is that? You get the same author answering the same questions and seeing how the responses differ. It's a real peek into an author's mind you don't often get a chance at. And you'll see some of the answers are eerily similar, but others... let's just say a few new tidbits snuck in. :)

I hope you enjoy this second round interview as much as I did!

Today I have the honor and privilege to bring you a delightfully fun and funny author, whose writing just keeps getting better and better. Please welcome again for a very special double feature, Jessica Day George, author of many books, including her retelling of the "Twelve Dancing Princesses" - PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL.

[HZ] Hello! First off, let me say I loved Galen's character. He is fascinating as a soldier who does not (quite realistically) like fighting. But your sparse and fluid description in the final confrontation scene shows just how good he is. Any insider info into his head that you can give us during that key scene? :)

[JDG - Take 1] Galen doesn’t like fighting, but I knew he had to be good at it anyway: he grew up in the army, he survived countless battles, and all before reaching his 19th birthday. Fighting, like it or not, would come naturally to him in a dangerous situation, the movements of loading and firing would be pure reflex, or he wouldn’t be alive! I just thought, this is the moment where instinct takes over and he just does what he has been trained to do for eight years.

[JDG - Take 2] Galen may not like fighting, but he’s been trained to do it since he was a child. He knows what to do, and he’s obviously good at it- or he’d be dead by now. At the end of PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL, he knows what he has to do, and he just lets instinct take over. All the moves are there, now it’s time to use them.

In another interview you mentioned that you wrote six novels before selling Dragon Slippers (your first publication). What was that experience like? How did you keep moving from one project to the other and did you ever know when one would sell? What is your relationship/feeling toward those first six novels now?

[Take 1] It’s not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure! I always have at least two projects going, in my head if not on paper, so as soon as I finished one I would just move on to the next, and hope one of them would strike an editor’s fancy. 200+ rejections started to get a little depressing, but I knew that I didn’t want to do anything else, so I just kept going. I would like to see my earlier novels published, but I’m well aware (now that I’m older and wiser, ha!) that they need drastic rewriting!

[Take 2] Let’s see. I wrote six novels in nine years which were rejected a total of 190 times by every publisher and agent I could find an address for . . . I’m going to describe that experience as horrible. Yes, horrible . . . though it doesn’t really do it justice. There was a lot of crying. Some stress eating. A proportionate amount of swearing. I was basically just writing books as they came to me, because I do love to write for writing’s sake, and then I would throw them to the wolves and see if one bit. I am going back now that I have more professional experience and reworking a couple of them, with an eye to trying the rounds again now that I have an agent. They’re all adult books, though, and vastly different from what I’ve been doing.

Your first lines are fantastic throughout almost every one of your stories. How on earth do you come up with them? What is the hardest part of writing for you?

[Take 1] Well, sometimes they just come to you in a flash of inspiration, and sometimes you have to play around with them for maximum impact. It just depends on the story! The hardest part is usually the middle, when you know where you’ve been, you know where you’re headed, but you’re not sure how to get there!

[Take 2] First lines are my favorite! Even if something doesn’t just come to me in a flash of inspiration, like with DRAGON SLIPPERS (It was my aunt who decided to give me to the dragon.) I love to play around with them until I’ve got something that will hook the reader. First lines and last lines are always better than the middle, where you’re just desperately trying to get your people from A to B!

Your characters in general intrigued me. Take for example their mother, who, to stave off any spoilers, is not clean cut or perfect. What made you decide to take that route? How did you come up with her?

[Take 1] Well, someone had to make a deal with the devil, and it had to be someone who was both desperate enough to make the deal, and innocent enough to not fully understand what they were doing.

[Take 2] In the case of their mother, I needed someone desperate enough to make a deal with the devil, but na├»ve or perhaps simply hopeful enough to think it would be all right. She’s a very conflicted woman, and yet very strong: she is willing to lay down her own life to try and save her family, and her adopted country. The rest of the characters would take days upon days to discuss, since it took days upon days to create them!

One thing you did with this novel that I absolutely loved was how you brought in other countries and politics. Your kingdom did not act in isolation. This changed the entire flavor of your story because their choices bore serious and very real consequences. Was this a conscious decision, and how did you go about creating nations and their connection to each other?

[Take 1] I’m always irritated by fantasy books where there is only country in the entire world. In the real world, all our lives are affected in so many ways by the other countries around us: we go there on vacation, crises abroad affect our economy, so many products are imports, (I threaten to move to Canada during just about every presidential election), that I just can’t fathom writing about a world where these issues don’t also affect them. Westfalian is basically an alternate-world Germany, since MIDNIGHT BALL is my retelling of one of Grimm’s fairy tales, which means there would be an alternate France (Analousia), alternate Denmark (the Danelaw), and other countries bordering them. Their continent is called Ionia because Europe is named after Europa, one of Zeus’ lovers from mythology and Io was another. (Yes, this is probably cheating in some way. No, I don’t care!)

[Take 2] I have two world-building pet peeves with fantasy. One is when there’s only one country in the entire world, the other is not having a religion. You could get fifty Stone Age people in some caves, and they’d form varying alliances, not to mention start a belief system of some sort! But for Ionia (the continent of my PRINCESS books) I cheated a little: it’s Europe. (Io and Europa were both abducted by Zeus in Greek mythology.) Basically, I’m using an alternate early 19th century Europe. Westfalin is Germany, Analousia is France, Breton is England. A lot of times I’ve simple altered the name of the actual country, or I’m using some older form of the country’s name. Sorry. I’m a big cheater! Mostly because of laziness.

Another character question (last one, I promise!) Lily's creation. As a sister, she fascinated and captivated me the moment she so calmly and so accurately held that gun through the window. I was hooked. How do you create characters (and will there be any more featuring Lily, and if not, what happens to her after the end of the story?!)

[Take 1] To use a little Pride & Prejudice analogy: Lily is Jane to Rose’s Lizzie. Rose, as the oldest daughter of a widowed king would be the official hostess at state dinners, balls, etc., in addition to being the leader of the twelve sisters. But this wouldn’t give her a lot of time to be motherly, nor was it really in her nature to be soothing and coddle the younger girls, so I dropped that burden onto the next sister, who I imagined as the calm yet capable one who is quietly holding everything together. And I love the saying, “It’s always the quiet ones . . .” which I know usually applies to murderers, but I started to think, “What if this totally selfless, good-natured young woman had some past pain or secret?” I’d already started writing bits where Galen had had a cousin who’d enlisted in the army and disappeared, and I took it from there. There is mention of Lily in PRINCESS OF GLASS, and she is in the third book, which I’m working on right now.

[Take 2] According to my notes for MIDNIGHT BALL (which my husband read and found endlessly hilarious), Lily is the Jane to Rose’s Lizzie. (That’s a little Pride and Prejudice reference, for those of you wondering.) I knew that Rose would have a lot on her plate: she’s the official hostess since her mother’s death, oldest sister/surrogate mom, etc., and I wanted her to have someone who was her biggest supporter, who knew what they were going through, and who could help organize the younger girls when Rose was ill or just couldn’t take it any more. And, lest she be boring, I decided to give her a Big Secret. (It’s always the quiet ones!) Lily is only mentioned in PRINCESS OF GLASS, but look for more excitement in the third book, which I’m supposed to be writing right now!

What fairy tale frustrates you the most? Why?

[Take 1] Well, The Twelve Dancing Princesses! Depending on the version you read, the hero is a gardener or a soldier, and at the end it says, “And they never danced again, and they lived happily ever after.” But in the story, they LOVED dancing! It’s just baffling!

[Take 2] The Twelve Dancing Princesses, mostly because of the ending: And they never danced again, and they lived happily ever after. Um, what? So did they, or didn’t they like dancing? Also, in one version I have, the guy is a soldier, in another, a gardener. In one he marries the oldest princess, in another, the youngest. MAKE UP YOUR MINDS!

Through the writing process, is there anything you've had to cut out of your manuscripts, editors or otherwise?

[Take 1] Um . . . yes.

[Take 2] Yes.

Have you ever considered writing short stories to accompany/supplement the worlds you've created? For example I would love a story told from Rollo's or Shardas' point of view (or Lily's. *nudge nudge* You have no idea what I'd give to read her and her love interest's backstory). :)

[Take 1] Nope. But I might. You never know, with me!

[Take 2] Nope. But that could always change.

What is a favorite unknown book you love that few seem to know about?

[Take 1] Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. Utterly charming, and a literary exercise at the same time!

[Take 2] ELLA MINNOW PEA by Mark Dunn

And the most important question of all...

Ninjas or Pirates? ;)

[Take 1] Um, pirates, please!

[Take 2] Um, pirates, please!

Thank you so much, Jessica, doubly so! *bows*

Top Ten Underrated Books

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Whole Wide World by Mindy Gledhill.

Top Ten Tuesday is a Meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish. I have to admit, I've always secretly wanted to play along, but when this week's prompt came up, I knew there was no way I could not participate. Underrated excellent books are one of the core features of this blog and for me as a reader, writer, and undercover superhero. Now my only fear is that I've missed so many books (I've been wracking my brain for far too long on this post. See my tweet to prove it) and I still feel I've missed some important ones. But here is my not-set-in-stone-because-I-know-I've-forgotten-a-million-of-them Top Ten Underrated Books, in no particular order.

Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins

I love this story. Taking place in modern Burma (Myanmar), it is that much more potent when you read about soldiers kidnapping children to draft them into the army, and knowing it is real. The friendship between Chiko and Tai is so wonderful, as well as the growing friendship and understanding that comes from Tu Reh. Tai is now one of my favorite book characters.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

This wordless graphic novel is beyond stunning. The sepia tones and utterly fantastical creatures and buildings makes this place beautiful and foreign. We follow an unnamed immigrant father as he tries to establish his place in this new world and bring his family over. The wordless aspect is a powerful tool because we follow his confusion, fear, and every emotion every step of the way. I am not ashamed to admit I cried at the end.

Flight series, edited by Kazu Kibuishi

If you have ever been hesitant or outright skeptical of ever entering the world of "comic books" or graphic novels because of their simplicity of stories, crudeness of art, their taking away from "real" literature or another million reasons I've heard, this series will blow those arguments, and your mind, out of the water. They are beautiful. They are stunning. Each piece is a complete story--they are like short stories in graphic novel form. And the artwork is as varied and as beautiful as they come. The very last volume (#8) was just released, and that is the cover pictured here. Some of my favorites include "Message in a Bottle" by Rodolphe Guenoden, "The Maiden and the River Spirit" by Derek Kirk Kim, and "The Window Makers" by Kazu Kibuishi.

The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope

Talk about an oldie but goodie! I've reread this one several times and every time I am still swept away by the romance, dogged determination, and resourcefulness of Kate in this improvised and unique retelling/homage of Tam Lin. This is also the first historical fantasy I ever encountered and so for introducing me to a genre I did not know existed, it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Samurai Shortstop by Alan Gratz.

Are you starting to see a small trend with this list and some of my reviews? I didn't intend to, but these keep bubbling to the surface for a reason and this one is no exception. I read this the year Catching Fire came out and in my review I said it was the best book I'd read that year, and might even give Suzanne Collin's book a run for its money. It did, and I may even dare say it outclassed it. This story is so rich and unique in time, setting and characters. Who would have thought to combine samurai culture with baseball? Certainly not me, but I am so glad he did, because this remains one of the shining jewels in my collection and one of the most underrated. Add to this a son who is trying to prevent his father from committing suicide (seppuku) after teaching him how to be a samurai and you have one complex, beautiful story on yours hands.

Crown Duel/Court Duel (now paired as Crown Duel) by Sherwood Smith.

I've reread this story more times in Jr. High than I care to count, and I still love it to this day. If you like an awesome, spunky heroine, a swoon-worthy but misunderstood love interest that clashes with the main character more often than not (but man does that single scene pay off in the end), if you like political intrigue, and an immersive, different fantasy world, go get Crown Duel now. It has all of that and a bag of chips more.

Little Sister/The Heavenward Path by Kara Dalkey

This book duet is out of print and I still mourn their loss. This book takes place in a world that ignites the imagination. It follows Mitsuko, a daughter of a high nobleman in Heian (medieval) Japan as she tries to go to the underworld to save her sister's soul and of the people and immortal beings she meets, and her adventure afterwards. It has some of the most unique and wonderful mythical creatures you've never heard of before (this is why I loathe the fact that we don't learn of hardly any history/culture outside of Europe. Loathe). Read on to The Heavenward Path. The romance alone is well worth it. The language is sparse yet evocative, and it is meant to be that way, very much mimicking a haiku and other forms of poetry. And I will tell you this right now, Goranu is one of my top 20 favorite characters of all time. It is so worth the used book price you can buy them for now. This book series is a personal favorite of mine and probably the most underrated book on this list.

Motel of the Mysteries by David Macaulay

Okay, this is a fun one. What if, after some cataclysimic event, an average American town is abandoned/wiped out of human life, and some time in the future archeologists come in and try and interpret what our life was "really" like? This is that story, and it is hilarious. :)

Leaving the Bellweathers by Kristen Clark Venuti

This one is far more lighthearted, but I love it all the same. A crazy family that lives in a lighthouse on a hill? The dutiful but exhausted butler who takes care of them because of a contract his ancestor wrote 200 years ago? A contract which is about to expire, after which he will write a tell-all memoir and garden in a place Far Away? The adventures that follow to show him how much he is loved and needed? Check. Yep, I love this story.

Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood by Meredith Ann Pierce.

I'm sticking this one out on a limb. I have not read it for years and honestly, I can barely remember what it is about, but all the same, it has stuck with me. I keep coming back to it, some fragment in my mind whispering the word "tanglewood" and knowing the ending was something very special, but not being able to remember exactly what it is. This is one I know I have to get my hands on again, just to find out.


The Missing Piece Meets the Big O by Shel Silverstein. - Not to be confused with his earlier work "The Missing Piece" this picture book is quite unknown of his work, and it perhaps one of my favorite picture books of all time.

Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell. - Written in verse, this historically-based Arthurian retelling is told from the perspective of Elaine (aka The Lady of Shallott). Beautifully drawn, beautiful language and an excellent story I recommend highly.

Chime by Franny Billingly. - This one came out just this year and for the life of my I cannot understand why it has already slipped below the radar. The setting is so cool (I've only read of one other story that takes place in a swamp), the characters are vivid, the language is different and wonderful. It is utterly fantastic.

And so many more, but I have to stop.

Monday's Muse, 37th edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Stereo Love by Edward Maya.

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:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Daughter of Xandadu by Dori Jones Yang.

Athletic and strong willed, Princess Emmajin's determined to do what no woman has done before: become a warrior in the army of her grandfather, the Great Khan Khubilai. In the Mongol world the only way to achieve respect is to show bravery and win glory on the battlefield. The last thing she wants is the distraction of the foreigner Marco Polo, who challenges her beliefs in the gardens of Xanadu. Marco has no skills in the "manly arts" of the Mongols: horse racing, archery, and wrestling. Still, he charms the Khan with his wit and story-telling. Emmajin sees a different Marco as they travel across 13th-century China, hunting 'dragons' and fighting elephant-back warriors. Now she faces a different battle as she struggles with her attraction towards Marco and her incredible goal of winning fame as a soldier.

Lady Macbeth's Daughter by Lisa Klein.

Albia has grown up with no knowledge of her mother of her father, the powerful Macbeth. Instead she knows the dark lure of the Wychelm Wood and the moors, where she’s been raised by three strange sisters. It’s only when the ambitious Macbeth seeks out the sisters to foretell his fate that Albia’s life becomes tangled with the man who leaves nothing but bloodshed in his wake. She even falls in love with Fleance, Macbeth’s rival for the throne. Yet when Albia learns that she has the second sight, she must decide whether to ignore the terrible future she foresees—or to change it. Will she be able to save the man she loves from her murderous father? And can she forgive her parents their wrongs, or must she destroy them to save Scotland from tyranny?

In her highly anticipated follow-up to Ophelia, Lisa Klein delivers a powerful reimagining of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, featuring a young woman so seamlessly drawn it seems impossible she was not part of the Bard’s original play.

Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen and Bahija Lovejoy

In an ancient Arab nation, one woman dares to be different.Buran cannot -- Buran will not-sit quietly at home and wait to be married to the man her father chooses. Determined to use her skills and earn a fortune, she instead disguises herself as a boy and travels by camel caravan to a distant city. There, she maintains her masculine disguise and establishes a successful business. The city's crown prince comes often to her shop, and soon Buran finds herself falling in love. But if she reveals to Mahmud that she is a woman, she will lose everything she has worked for.

The Professor's Daughter by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert.

Two of France's best graphic novel talents, the ever-prolific Sfar and the subtle illustrator Guibert, collaborate. The result is a fun—if slight—effort, as much a love letter to Victorian London as a story unto itself. Very simply, a mummy, somehow alive and walking around London, has a charming romance with a professor's daughter. The logistical complications involved are comically dismissed, and the pair have a grand old time together. That is, until the mummy's father appears to complicate matters. Sfar has written an utterly engaging romp comparable to a fine 1930s romantic comedy. His dialogue is snappy, and he moves from thrills to chills to humor without missing a beat. The whole book is silly, and it seems to know it. But Guibert's work is the real treat. His deft brushwork and spectacular sense of color bring the places and dramas to life. In his hands, otherwise stock characters gain a real presence and liveliness, and he has a filmic sense of drama, describing the characters with detail and wit. A section of Guibert's sketches stashed at the end of the book is extraneous, but otherwise this is an excellent little volume.--Publisher's Weekly.

The Twin's Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logstead.

Up–Lucy Sexton lives a charmed, but relatively boring, life in Victorian London. Her writer father provides her with books to read and money to spend while her mother, a true lady, dotes on her only daughter with love and affection. Then a knock comes at the door that changes her life forever. Standing on the other side is a woman who is the spitting image of her mother. Helen Smythe is her name, and she is the long-lost twin of Lucy's mother, Aliese. After being separated at birth, the sisters grew up in totally different situations. Aliese was raised by a family with wealth and promise while Helen lived in an orphanage and was forced to work. After the initial shock wears off, Aliese welcomes Helen into her family. After months of coaching, training, eating, and tailoring, Helen truly becomes Aliese's double. All seems well until one cold winter day when Lucy comes home to find Helen and her mother in a bloody room–one dead and one alive. Lucy is sure it is her mother who has been spared, but as years pass, her certainty wanes. This suspense-filled story starts out as a basic mystery but quickly turns into a fast-paced thriller filled with murder and intrigue. Readers will also enjoy a love story as Lucy falls for Kit, her new neighbor. This riveting story will keep readers guessing until the very end.–Traci Glass, Eugene Public Library, OR., School Library Journal.

The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir by Cylin Busby and John Busby.

On August 31, 1979, tough cop John Busby was shot at close range while driving to work on Cape Cod. Bleeding profusely with the lower half of his face blown off, he realized that somebody wanted him dead, and identified a brazen local bully as the culprit, an arsonist with whose family Busby had clashed on the job. John and his daughter, Cylin, who was nine at the time of the shooting, recount the year that followed in alternating chapters, incorporating candid commentary and sometimes-disturbing detail about a crime that never resulted in arrests. With the entire Busby family under 24-hour police protection, John began the reconstructive surgeries that would stretch for years, while Cylin and her two brothers tried to cope with guards accompanying them to school and the resulting social isolation. John Busby is frank about the corruption in the local police department that let his attacker intimidate anyone he chose, and bluntly describes his frustration and need for revenge in the months following the attack. Cylin speaks with a voice of innocence shattered as she struggles to comprehend what happened to her family and why her friends have abandoned her. When the town balked at the continuing expense of providing personal protection and the constant fear brought the family to the breaking point, the Busbys went into hiding, seeking a return to some semblance of normalcy. The page-turner pace is frequently interrupted by awkwardly placed flashbacks to moments in John's police work, but, ultimately, this is a story of survival and triumph.—Joyce Adams Burner, Hillcrest Library, Prairie Village, KS., School Library Journal.

Paper Daughter by Jeanette Ingold.

In the month after 16-year-old Maggie Chen’s father, a respected journalist, was killed in a hit-and-run accident, a basement flood destroys his notebooks. As she searches through the sodden paperwork, Maggie discovers puzzling inconsistencies. Had her father lied about his family history? Maggie, an aspiring journalist herself, is just beginning an internship at a Seattle paper, and in one of her first assignments, she uncovers a story that links directly to both the circumstances of her father’s death and to the truth about his origins. At the novel’s outset, Maggie tells readers that her story is also about a man named Fai-yi Li, who shares the narration in heartrending historical passages that connect to Maggie’s family secrets and introduce readers to life during the Exclusion Era, which sharply restricted the number of Chinese immigrants allowed into the U.S. Ingold relies on some contrivance to link her plot strands, but the open-ended conclusion feels realistic and highlights Maggie’s elemental questions about how family history influences personal identity and how life moves forward after impossible loss. --Booklist.

The Glass Maker's Daughter by V. Briceland.

In the medieval canal city of Cassaforte, all noble children between the ages of 11 and 16 are tested, once every 6 years, to determine which school they will attend to learn the enchantments that make the craft work of their families so valuable. When 16-year-old Risa Divetri, a cazarra of one of the seven most important families, is not chosen for either school, she is convinced the gods have abandoned her. Only after those who can crown a new king are kidnapped does Risa begin to realize that the gods may have something greater in store for her after all. Cassaforte is a beautifully drawn city of piazzas, gondolas, beauty, and magic. The rules of magic Briceland introduces are clear, and enough hints are present at the beginning of the novel to make Risa's rise to importance natural. Though the quickly paced plot drives the narrative, Risa's musings (and occasional bouts of temper) are never cut short. Her relationships with her parents, the glassmakers who work under her father, her treacherous uncle, and the beggar she rescues with the help of young guard Milo are well drawn. Each of the characters has the feel of greater depth than readers are allowed through Risa's eyes, and the romantic thread between her and Milo is subtle enough that it does not derail the narrative, but still tugs the heartstrings of romance seekers. Readers will find much to love in The Glass Maker's Daughter and its stubborn and strong-willed heroine.–Alana Abbott, James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford, CT., School Library Journal.

Daughter of the Flames by Zoe Marriott.

Inside an ancient temple in the mountains, fifteen-year-old Zira trains in the martial arts to become a warrior priestess who can defend the faith of the Ruan people. Bearing a scar on her face from the fire that killed her parents, the orphaned Zira is taught to distrust the occupying Sedornes. Terror strikes when the forces of the tyrannical Sedorne king destroy the only home she knows. To survive, Zira must unravel the secrets of her identity, decide her people’s fate — and accept her growing feelings for a man who should be her enemy.

The Archived Adventures - Book Spine Poetry, Part 5

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Aragorn's Quest by Chris Bouchard [The Hunt For Gollum soundtrack].

A kiss in time,
the valley of secrets.
Breaking Dawn.

Heaven looks a lot like the mall.

The Archived Adventures - Book Spine Poetry, Part 4

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Perfect Day by Hoku.

Worlds Apart
Reaching Out
Breaking Through

season of ice,
the silver kiss
outside beauty.

The Archived Adventures - Book Spine Poetry, Part 3

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Within Tolerance by Slowblow [Screaming Masterpieces soundtrack].

The Walls have eyes,
always watching,

Girl, hero,
born for adventure.

The Archived Adventures - Book Spine Poetry, Part 2

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Umlahi by Mediaeval Baebes.

If I knew then,
reaching out,
...would you?

Before I die -
How I live now,

The Archived Adventures - Book Spine Poetry, Part 1

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Swing Life Away by Rise Against.

Has anyone heard of book spine poetry? Apparently it's a fairly new art form that is taking off and is pretty self-explanatory even if it isn't nearly as easy as it sounds. Simply put, you create a poem from the titles of book spines. Like magnetic poetry - sort of. It has some really cool (and sometimes bizarre) results. But dang is it fun. So this entire week, you get to see my early attempts of spine poetry in action. I did this all at my local library and I got some really funny looks for it, too.

And if you decide to hop in on the fun, send me a link and I will post it back here.

The girls next door
always watching...
...Carter finally gets it.

After the moment,
One whole and perfect day---
Everything is fine.